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The Apparatus

The Apparatus

John Steppling

December 29, 2019

 

 

Jose Luis Cuevas, photography.

“First, at an ideological level, any movement away from social explanations, particularly wider economic and political ones, moved the debate away from looking for causes and solutions, particularly revolutionary political ones, in that area. Economic and political solutions, it could be argued, were not relevant where the problem is biological and individual weakness.{ } Second, the biological approach elevated the status of doctors and chemists as authorities and experts and undermined the standing of sociologists, psychologists, journalists and others with a more social and less individual approach. At the same time, doctors and chemists were just what the rising industrial power of Big Pharma, the major drug companies, needed to develop, test, trial and prescribe their drugs.”

 

Peadar O’Grady (Stop Making Sense, Alienation and Mental Health)

 

“The empire relies on its organs—popular media that includes but is not limited to print, broadcast, and online newspapers, the Hollywood entertainment industry, and generally the policies of the handful of companies that own all media in the world. These organs continually repeat discourses to incite fear, such as the use of chemical weapons. Control of discourses is crucial, which is why US policing apparatuses like the NSA must monitor, retrieve, and store all personalized electronic communication.”

 

Geoffrey Skoll (The Globalization of American Fear Culture)

 

“…according to one meta-analysis, you are seven times more likely than the general population to be diagnosed with schizophrenia if you are born from a deprived economic background, and four times more likely with regards non-schizotypal disorders.”

Peter Sedgewick (Psychopolitics)

 

“Americans have come to believe that science is capable of almost everything.”

 

Dr. Louis M. Orr (J. Young, The Medical Messiahs)

 

“…the meaning of fairy tales can only be fully grasped if the magic spell of commodity production is broken.”

 

Jack Zipes (Breaking the Magic Spell: Radical Theories of Folk and Fairy Tales)

Giuseppe Penone

It is increasingly important to breakdown and examine the elements of delusion and irrationality that seem ubiquitous today in the West. To do that, however, requires a clear picture or historical frame for how the U.S. became the global Imperialist power and how it sustains that role.

“The United States relied on local elites for day to-day control after military pacification had ended armed resistance. US companies used the Philippines to gain a commercial foothold in the western Pacific. The islands also provided a station for US naval forces. To the degree that pacification was needed shows that the Philippine War was a less successful imperial enterprise than US imperialism elsewhere, especially in its own hemisphere, where only occasional displays of force have been applied in Latin America to keep those countries in line. The Philippine War is understandable as the first model of the United States beginning to take over from Britain as the lead governmental administrator of world capitalism.”

 

Geoffrey Skoll (Ibid)

Today, discussion, especially on the left, seem to exhibit near total amnesia regards the employment of comprador assistance and native elites who are exhibited by mainstream (corporate, ruling class) media. Think of Syria, of the DPRK, or Iran. Think Venezuela and Bolivia and Brazil. If there are Syrian voices denouncing Assad, you can bet your pink slip that they are western educated and members of an affluent class.

Ziad Antar, photography (Mecca).

“In the Reich everything could be interrogated for its propaganda potential, every surface inscribed with polemical meaning, every building block of public consciousness from typeface and newsprint to the expression of military communique?s to the architecture to the very design and deployment of weapons themselves. Every medium carried the propaganda, not just art or film.”

 

Nicholas O’Shaughnessy (Selling Hitler, Propaganda and the Nazi Brand)

So much like the Nazis, the contemporary West (by which I mean the ruling class and its organs of mass communication) cannot create anything that is not propaganda, even if they tried. Not every surface is an advert, but most are, and even if some of this commodification or marketing is actually unintentional, the result is largely the same.

In Robert Whitaker’s book Anatomy of an Epidemic (mental illness) he sites a statistic …. for Schizophrenia the number of patients in 1955, in mental hospitals, was 28,482. In 1987 the number was 267,603. The same enormous leap in manic depressive cases. I want to return to this, but it is worth keeping in mind just how dramatic that leap in mental illness was. And Whitaker goes to pains to make clear it is not simply a matter of labeling or definition or access to treatment, because its not. Then of course from 1987 till today there is an even more dramatic increase in the numbers of mentally ill, and the numbers being treated with SSRI drugs or the like. These are pretty well known numbers.

Francesco Vezzoli

But before breaking those numbers down more I want to return to the ideas of propaganda and how they work.When Adam Curtis made Century of the Self, it created a good deal of discussion in educated circles. And that was fair, and it was a pretty singular piece of filmmaking, Today it doesn’t look or feel nearly as good. And his later work is paleo-conservative rubbish. But the point is that film made a good many people aware, or more aware of the concept of marketing. Of persuasion. And the real serious first wave of advertising employing Edward Bernays theories occurred after WW2. And on into the early and mid fifties. In other words, in a simplistic sense, the marked increase in mental illness diagnosis coincided with the rise in advertising and then marketing.

Geoffrey Skoll in his book (Globalization of American Fear Culture) notes (and quotes others observing the same thing) that 1968 (really 64 through 70) a significant turning point in western culture. In what C.Wright Mills called the cultural apparatus (Skoll quotes Mills). And I have written before not dissimilar things about the *sixties*. There was a conscious concerted counter revolution against that apparatus. It was the ruling class, essentially, redirecting ideology. But not just the ruling class, per se. There was already the built in tendencies of American history and capitalism, and a movement toward destroying unions and crushing dissent. The working class were already indoctrinated by the apparatus. After the Chicago 68 Democratic Convention there were polls taken that indicated nearly 60% of Americans approved of Mayor Daley’s handling of the protest. The police actions were approved, and validated. The backlash against the sixties social revolution was already in place.

Nixon and Elvis, Dec 1970.

When Reagan became president the counter revolution began to globalize. Now U.S. foreign policy was already operating at a global level, but under Reagan, as Skoll notes, the actions were really no longer secret. Partly this is connected to the evolution of the marketing/cultural apparatus. And Hollywood was already playing a significant part in this propaganda effort.

“During the 1980s the Reagan administration oversaw three innovations in imperial control: counterinsurgency warfare; a shrinking national military with increased reliance on mercenaries and increased dependence on technology to replace military personnel; and application of a broad-spectrum public relations campaign to transform the cultural outlook of national populations. These three innovations developed at different rates, but by the twenty-first century they converged to form the main enforcement apparatus for the new empire.”

Geoffrey Skoll (ibid)

Among the top grossing films of the 1980s were Sixteen Candles, The Terminator, Die Hard, The Breakfast Club, Raiders of the Lost Ark and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. If you look at the most popular films of the 1970s there is an evident shift. The 70s saw Apocalypse Now, The Godfather, Taxi Driver, The Deer Hunter, Rocky, Serpico, Five Easy Pieces, Three Days of the Condor, Annie Hall, Being There, and The Conversation. It may well be that the pivotal moment for Hollywood was the failure of William Friedkin’s Sorcerer (1977). Released the same week as Star Wars. The Friedkin film, a remake of Wages of Fear (Henri-Georges Clouzot, 1953) and its lack of box office signaled the end of studio willingness to back auteur projects. The George Lucas stamp bled into everything in the 80s.

Matthias Bitzer

The Friedkin film remains a singular achievement however, and an epitaph on serious work from Hollywood. It was much like Herzog’s Aguirre, The Wrath of God (1972) and Fitzcarraldo (1982). Perhaps what Friedkin lacked was a Klaus Kinski, but in any event the bloated budgets and tortured location filming, all in developing countries (all Latin American) suggests something additional, as well. These were the guilt films of European and North American imperialism.

The rise of neo-liberalism is worth a footnote of sorts here and Skoll devotes an entire chapter to it. The key element for the purposes of this post is that it formally introduced that Ayn Randian version of individualism into the bureaucratic and institutional sphere.

“An interesting aspect of neoliberalism is its connection with philosophical individualism (sometimes called methodological individualism). What makes the connection interesting is how this philosophy sustains scientific public relations and professional advertising. It is also linked to political and legal theories via the works of Gary S. Becker (1974) and Richard A. Posner (1981) who combine methodological individualism with marginal utility theory. What they all have in common is the positing of an abstract homo economicus as an eminently rational actor who makes decisions about how to spend money, what politics to support, and the degree to which s/he follows the law according to strictly rational calculations. Of course such people do not exist, but their importance lies not in their correspondence to reality, but to their atomism.”

 

Geoffrey Skoll (ibid)

Rafael Coronel

Neo liberalism, or neo-conservatism essentially ratify inequality as natural. It is also the purest expression of instrumental thinking. And that hyper rationality that not only influenced institutional thinking but infected western consciousness and the cultural apparatus. So, one relationship worth looking at is between this neo-conservative ideology and a cultural apparatus infused with, saturated with (by the 80s) marketing. The individualism of the Ayn Randian neo con and the individualism of the Puritan and frontiersman, and the individualism of the savvy consumer all merged.

The 80s saw the dramatic increase in diagnosis of mental illness. The Prozac generation was sitting down to watch Ferris Bueller’s Day Off or The Terminator, and trusting in the Reagan dream. The individualism of the consumer. An individualism that carries with it the residue of the frontiersman and the Randian selfish businessman (business man of action).

Henry Kissinger and Shah of Iran, Zurich Hotel.

The 80s was also the escalation of the war on drugs. And a globalization of that war and a refinement of the propaganda terminology (the appearance of “narcoterrorism”).

“That is, the new fascism is not confined to a few centers of capital, as it was in post–First World War Europe, but to the entire world system. It is this world systemic fascism that the globalization of fear culture supports and represents in symbolic form.”

 

Geoffrey Skoll (ibid)

A quick survey of 80s TV shows reinforces that sense of a shift: Dallas, The A-Team, Cagney & Lacey, The Cosby Show, Who’s the Boss, The Wonder Years, Family Ties, Cheers, and Magnum P.I. There is a profoundly reactionary core to all of this stuff. Much of that reaction traffics in a nostalgia for fantasy landscapes of the American dream. It also marks the beginning of a pronounced growth of infantalism. And the signal event that gave birth to this was the fall of the Soviet Union. It is interesting how the U.S.S.R. worked as a defense against a wholesale unregulated violence of capitalism, but also against the intensification of racism and xenophobia seen since that time. The fall of the U.S.S.R. also opened the flood gates to the new infantilism. It was the fall of seriousness in a sense.

Aguirre, The Wrath of God (Werner Herzog dr. With Klaus Kinski). 1972.

The counter-revolution that began in the 60s was complete by the beginning of the 1990s. The cultural apparatus was now devoted to a new level of jingoism (which also spiked, rather obviously, after 9/11) and a new version of rank sentimentalism. The sentimentalism of a Norman Rockwell was repurposed and expressed in a post modern style code. This new post modern sentimentalism was also increasingly infantile. And here one runs into the promotion of the apolitical solipsistic theory of writers like Derrida, and Lyotard. But this is not a simple equation at all. The salient point is that most radical French theorists (and there were good ones in this period) self identified as left wing, but were nothing of the sort. This led the way toward the ultimate embodiment of the new fascist posing as socialist in the figure of Zizek.

But not to get ahead of myself here. The Hollywood product of the 80s was the real watershed for the cultural apparatus. The best films out of Hollywood in the preceding twenty years were now impossible to get made (think Boreman’s Point Blank, Penn’s Nightmoves, Karel Reisz’s Who’ll Stop the Rain). It is worth noting that in American TV the counter-revolution was underway already in the 1960s. The half hour dramas of the 1950s (some of them taped live) were replaced with network kitsch. Film caught up with this counterrevolution in the 80s. And the post modernist theory went along in subtle ways (and sometimes obvious ways) to reinforce this and to validate a camp aesthetic that overvalued junk, an exaggerated appreciation of the bad.

Tomma Abts

The problem with much of the anti-post modern critics is that they end up both exhibiting a tacit anti-intellectualism and a deep strain of conservatism. It is why Adorno and Horkheimer’s Dialectic of Enlightenment remains so useful and important. It is also problematic that while Foucault was indeed, in the end, reactionary, he was also often not, and often very insightful. Baudrillard was mostly rather good, I think. But what haunts all of them in a sense is the spectre of Nietzsche and even more that of Heidegger.

The additional problem is that the critics of post modernism are almost unfailingly ignorant of Marxism. There is never a class analysis to their complaints about post modernism. Helen Pluckrose wrote a much circulated piece at Aero that derides Edward Said’s Orientalism and then quotes Andrew Sullivan. Pluckrose is a moron, essentially. Maybe we should leave it at that. But the important and relevant factor here is that the CIA was clocking and following French theory and saw it as a way (correctly or not) to get students to stop reading Marx and Gramsci, and hence to stop thinking in terms of revolution. To stop thinking in anti Imperialist ways. But much like the exaggerated CIA attempt to co-opt Abstract Expressionism (which I have written about twice on this blog)

http://john-steppling.com/2014/04/revisiting-the-new-york-school/
http://john-steppling.com/2018/05/the-dying-light/

Esther Bubley, photography. (Greyhound Bus Station, 1940s).

This didn’t necessarily invalidate the work. It certainly didn’t with Ab-Ex. But it no doubt had an effect. I suspect there were a whole array of other factors that contributed to the popularity of post modern French thought. Students were already not reading Marx, and in fact were already not reading — not as they had twenty years earlier. But French theory can also be set against this backdrop of counterrevolution in the apparatus. It was both effected by it and part of it. The influence of Heidegger was unquestionably pernicious.

Gabrial Rockhill wrote about this (the CIA and French theory), too, at the LA Review of Books (which might suggest the first problem) and it contains some useful info on the cultural encouragement given to anti Soviet interest and by extension anti Marxist thought by what undercover operatives were about. However one tweezes this apart the effect of the worst of Post Modernism was only part of a general propaganda effort to demonize socialism (something that had gone on for forty years already) and stigmatize dissent overall. The problem again is that most of the criticisms of French Theory is itself either reactionary or just bad and ill informed. And the reflexive embrace (uncritical embrace) of science (and again by extension instrumental thought and positivism) is unfortunate but blends seamlessly with the ascension of the unserious and the applause and valorizing of kitsch and camp. To explain this, at least in a short hand manner here, requires a quick trip back to the German Positivist dispute of the 1960s. One cannot give it too short a treatment however, for that is the problem itself — the tendency to short coded equations or formula. But the Karl Popper side of the dispute is, in a sense, the precursor for a kind of neutralizing rationality in later politics. The lesser evilism of the Democratic Party liberal is directly connected to Popper and to ‘critical rationalism’ (in opposition to Adorno and the Frankfurt School and critical theory). But that lesser evilism is also connected to the psychology of adjustment (and resentment) that fuels the personality disorders of advanced capitalism. The notion of maturity is one that is guarded and reactive, it is unyielding (in a Reichian sense) and it is anal sadistic in extreme cases. The clear political expression of the positivist rationale is that of incremental reformoism. Popper himself was not really a positivist (he certainly denied being one) but his position was one closely tied into instrumental thinking, and was at pains throughout his life to conflate fascism and communism.

Eko Nugroho, installation, various media.

“The French social sciences we are familiar with now were thus a postwar invention, and in all aspects of French modernization after the war their ascendency bore some relation to U.S. economic intervention. To a certain extent the turn to this kind of study was funded and facilitated by the United States in a kind of Marshall Plan for intellectuals. A review of the literature makes a convincing case that the foremost American export of the period was not Coca-Cola or movies but the supremacy of the social sciences. { } A grant from the Rockefeller Foundation in 1947 helped finance the founding of the VI section of the Ecole pratique des hautes etudes under the directorship of historian Lucien Febvre, who had seized the initiative from a rival group of sociologists headed by Georges Gurvitch. Home to Fransois Furet in the early 1960s, this institution would be central to the future of the social sciences in France: in 1962, when Febve’s successor Fernand Braudel gathered all the various research laboratories scattered around the Latin Quarter and housed them in a single building on the Boulevard Raspaid, the Maison des sciences de l‘homme, the Ford Foundation helped finance the operation.”

 

Kristin Ross (Fast Cars, Clean Bodies: Decolonization and the Reordering of French Culture)

Torkwase Dyson

Without belabouring this point, one needs to note that Ross herself is part of the counterrevolution — is a part of the anti-communist agenda launched directly after WW2. It is subtle, in a sense, but her critique is by clear implication anti-Marxist and anti-communist. Michael Barker wrote a piece at Counterpunch that touches on something perhaps even more to the point here. Discussing John Krige’s book American Hegemony and the Postwar Reconstruction of Science in Europe and the role of the Rockefeller Foundation in shaping post war French thought and science…

“…and the foundation were not simply interested in supporting good science and new directions in France. They wanted to use their financial leverage to steer French scientists along quite definite lines. Weaver in particular believed that the French were parochial and inward-looking. He wanted to transform them into outward-looking, “international” researchers, using techniques and tackling questions that were current above all in the United States. It was a vision inspired by the conviction that, without a radical remodeling of the French scientific community on American lines and the determined marginalization of Communist scientists in the field of biology, the country could never hope to play again a major role in the advancement of science.”

 

John Krige (ibid) { quoted by Michael Barker, Counterpunch 2017}

Jane Alexander

What seems more important here is that the Ford Foundation and the Rockefeller Foundation very consciously worked to undermine any working class unity, both nationally and internationally. It also marked the beginning of ruling class purchases of media. And the consequent erasure of leftist voices in that same media. The apparatus was being intentionally shaped to discredit communism and the working class itself.

It is important to note the co-opting of French science. I say this because of the direction taken by the climate discourse today. There is a countless appeal to the authority of “science”. The idea that somehow, in this landscape created by the apparatus, science exists in a pure clear plastic bubble that is unaffected by the events of the world around it. Science is never simply science. And the positivist debate in Germany in the 60s is, at least symbolically, a pivotal moment in the critique of society — the defining of the word “society” and the (then) growing mystification of class, technology, and those loaded words “democracy” and “freedom”. The Frankfurt School critique of the Enlightenment, and especially in their critique of the Odyssey, remains stunningly relevant today.

One could spend some time untying the various and myriad knots of influence in philosophy that would give birth to an Agamben (Italian), who is close to fascist once one looks more closely. Or to publications such as Jacobin that are the step children of Rockefeller Foundation influence, or the Grand Mufti of post modern fascist thought, Slavoj Zizek. And the manufactured culture wars and media hype that give us the preposterous figure of a Jordan Peterson. Such things are not accidental. Nobody who suddenly appears in mainstream media, which is ruling class media, is there by accident. Nobody is there who is not vetted, as it were. Just as nobody becomes a well funded Presidential candidate without vetting, or becomes Pope.

Audrey Casalis

But back to life under the sign of the apparatus.

“Phenothiazines had first been synthesized in 1883 for use as chemical dyes, and Rhône-Poulenc’s scientists were trying to synthesize phenothiazines that were toxic to the microbes that caused malaria, African sleeping sickness, and worm-borne illnesses. Although that research didn’t pan out, they did discover in 1946 that one of their phenothiazines, promethazine, had antihistaminic properties, which suggested it “might have use in surgery. The body releases histamine in response to wounds, allergies, and a range of other conditions, and if this histaminic response is too strong, it can lead to a precipitous drop in blood pressure, which at the time occasionally proved fatal to surgical patients. In 1949, a thirty-five-year-old surgeon in the French Navy, Henri Laborit, gave promethazine to several of his patients at the Maritime Hospital at Bizerte in Tunisia, and he discovered that in addition to its antihistaminic properties, it induced a “euphoric quietude…. Patients are calm and somnolent, with a relaxed and detached expression.”

 

Robert Whitaker (ibid)

This marked the birth of today’s chemical warehousing. What the surgeon discovered subsequently was that promethazine disconnected different parts of the brain from each other. It also partially inhibited memory, and most importantly, the patient felt no anxiety. The patient was tranquil, slightly dim and slow to respond, but mostly content. Viola!! The potential was immediately apparent. One doctor at the time described it as a medicinal lobotomy. Clearly it would inhibit a good deal of mobilization, initiative, and impulses to organize. In a sense it was the indifference drug.

Reagan and Donald Trump, 1987.

I have written before, several times in fact, on the evolution of psychoanalysis and psychiatry once they crossed the Atlantic to the U.S. That psychiatry saw potential in Thorazine and soon after a host of other related drugs, is telling. This might, they thought, be useful for depressive patients. But think on that a moment. The very idea of a cure for depression is diabolical, and is something that might only make sense in the shadow of the apparatus.

Whitaker’s chapter on the history of schizophrenia is particularly good, and it is useful today because of the role eugenics played. That eugenics has never left the contemporary Imperialist mind set has to be pretty obvious by now, but the story of pharmacological treatment of mental “illness” is something from which it cannot be separated.

“According to the conventional wisdom, it was Thorazine that made it possible for people with schizophrenia to live in the community. But what we find is that the majority of people admitted for a first episode of schizophrenia during the late 1940s and early 1950s recovered to the point that within the first twelve months, they could return to the community. By the end of three years, that was true for 75 percent of the patients. Only a small percentage—20 percent or so—needed to be continuously hospitalized. Moreover, those returning to the community weren’t living in shelters and group homes, as facilities of that sort didn’t yet exist. They were not receiving federal disability payments, as the SSI and SSDI programs had yet to be established. Those discharged from hospitals were mostly returning to their families, and judging by the social recovery data, many were working. All in all, there was reason for people diagnosed with schizophrenia during that postwar period to be optimistic that they could get better and function fairly well in the community. It is also important to note that the arrival of Thorazine did not improve discharge rates in the 1950s for people[…]“get better and function fairly well in the community. It is also important to note that the arrival of Thorazine did not improve discharge rates in the 1950s for people newly diagnosed with schizophrenia, nor did its arrival trigger the release of chronic patients. { } “The discharge of chronic schizophrenia patients from state mental hospitals—and thus the beginning of deinstitutionalization—got under way in 1965 with the enactment of Medicare and Medicaid. In 1955, there were 267,000 schizophrenia patients in state and county mental hospitals, and eight years later, this number had barely budged. There were still 253,000 schizophrenics residing in the hospitals.9 But then the economics of caring for the mentally ill changed”

 

Robert Whitaker (ibid)

There was money to be made by keeping people sick, and keeping them in hospitals. That’s the short version but it pretty well sums things up. And this is to not even mention that defining schizophrenia is perhaps impossible.

So how do all these threads connect. Fascism, Imperialism, the anti communist ruling class reshaping of western culture and mental health and mental illness? I want to suggest that the shift seen in popular entertainment, mostly from Hollywood, is actually a sort of key to reading the apparatus.

“Judged overall, however, the current expansion of private therapeutic practices, although often framed within a non-medical or even anti-medical rationale, amounts to a trend very similar to that contained in privatised, fee-for-service medicine itself; it funnels money, skills and careers away from the severe and the chronic personal problems of the lower socio-economic orders (who cannot foot the bill or speak the language of the more affluent private sector) and into the less chronic, less severe but financially rewarding and culturally voguish difficulties of the well-heeled.”

 

Peter Sedgwick (ibid)

The shift in entertainment narratives to stuff like Sixteen Candles ushered in the post modern Rockwellian kitsch ethos. It was infantile, intentionally so, trivial and sentimental. It was also broadly applauded and reviews were almost unanimously positive. The flip side of this was The Terminator. Equally childish but more narrowly targeting a specific audience; young white (mostly) males. It got a good deal of white feminist (mainstream version) affirmation because of the ‘bad ass’ Linda Hamilton, but overall it was another cartoon, but one in which a great deal of money was spent. Unlike Sorcerer or Fitzcarraldo, this was studio product. Cameron is the anti-auteur. It was paint by the numbers calculation. But the point here is that the 80s saw the front wave, in diluted form, of the later and far more acute jingoism of the 2000s. Today there is almost not a single TV drama (sic) that is not overtly an advertisement for the military. But not only that. It’s something else, something more complex and illusive. The military advert aspect is even weirder than earlier versions of the same. It is now strangely infused with a sacrificial nihilism, a glamorous mutilation awaits.That the child of a Nazi policeman and a body builder was the star of Terminator only adds to the overall fabric of uncanniness here. All of these films, the studio work of the 80s (and TV) are representing an ersatz reality but one with almost hidden embedded elements. And these elements are almost the unintended uncanny, the spillage from the marketed message, an unconscious remnant from the half-life of capital.

Boris Kossoy, photography. (Brazil, 1970 State of Sao Paulo).

The films of the 80s were very markedly different than those of the 70s, or before. And perhaps this has to do with the absence of personality of the mise en scene. Look at Yates Bullit, from 68, or Friedkin’s French Connection (which now seems far better than it did upon release, though it looked good even then) from 72, or Don Siegal’s Dirty Harry from 71. The fingerprints of the director (or whoever the real author was …though usually the director) are inseparable from the overall experience. Friedkin was one of the most visibly suffering filmmakers of his era. Yates was a UK product dissecting American culture and style, and a style that contained an always latent violence, and Siegal as the mouthpiece for Eastwoodian fascism. But each was authored. The films of the 80s are not, largely, personal. By the 90s Hollywood stopped pretending films were anything other than the creation of robots.

The mass shootings that are so astoundingly common now feel increasingly like small media narratives that combine in their total exposure to feel as if meant for aesthetic appreciation. The number one cause of gun death in the U.S. is suicide. Mass shooting account for only ten percent or something, depending how you count. And mass shootings in public spaces account for even less. Most of these shooters are young and white (the curious case of Stephen Paddock, the Las Vegas shooter and the one responsible for more deaths than any other was in his 60s) and a good many are on anti-depressants. The causality here is by necessity, I think, muddy. People with histories of violent fantasies and anti social behaviour tend to get prescribed medication. But I’m not sure that solves the question. One of the problems with such discussions is that of defining many of these terms. What does ‘doing better at work’ actually mean? Just as the U.S. government finds new euphemisms to describe invasion and occupation (humanitarian intervention, et al) the mental health industry seems to work to mystify the parameters of what success or failure mean in terms of treatment.

Ed Atkins

“Antidepressant drugs in depression might be beneficial in the short term, but worsen the progression of the disease in the long term, by increasing the biochemical vulnerability to depression…. Use of antidepressant drugs may propel the illness to a more malignant and treatment unresponsive course.”

 

Giovanni Fava (Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics, quoted in Whitaker, ibid)

Anti depressants, antipsychotics and benzodiazepines all cause permanent changes to the brain. The longer they are used, the more acute the depression and psychosis when they are stopped. So, with all the available treatments today one has to ask why more people are diagnosed with depression?

Lives led in an ocean of propaganda, in a culture mired in screen habituation, with information streamed to the brain pretty much constantly, and with a growing economic precarity, the effects of a adumbrated narrative system, a system that is increasingly impersonal, childish, and artificial (see CGI as an example) the loss of a sense of humanness has reached a critical state.

Celso Brandao, photography.

“To many people the theory of alienation is still unfamiliar (Marx ironically also called it the ‘estrangement’ of labour). While our lack of control over work is arguably the most important social factor in the cause of human misery it is also the most potentially politically explosive and therefore suppressed. It is remarkable how, when financial worries are ranked the most common; and workplace stress is also very common and distressing; and that stressed parents are such an important factor in mediating fear and mental health problems in children; we hear so little of work as the cause of mental illness and distress but often hear of the concern of the effect of mental health problems on someone’s ability to work (it is possible even to view the choice of use of stimulating or sedating drugs as reflecting whether or not there is pressure on a person to go to work or not). Even though effects on ‘Social and occupational function’ are a defining feature of mental illness in official classifications, most discussion is on immediate social relations but very little if any thing is said about wider social, economic and political factors in causing mental illness.”

 

Peadar O’Grady (ibid)

Alienation today includes an alienation from meaning. It is said that when Confucius was asked what he would do if he were a governor, he responded “I would rectify the meaning of names”. This has been translated different ways but the point remains. In a society of severe insecurity, of mass surveillance and increasing privitazation of everything, the loss of meaning is the final piece of the puzzle for ruling class ownership of the planet. The transference of wealth is nearly complete now anyway. The 1% own most everything and now have near complete control of information and image circulation. One has to ponder if mental health is to be defined by adjustment to this system of what now resembles a new feudalism. The counterrevolution in culture began in earnest in the 1980s, and is now at a point where diminishing returns have set in for the owners of the apparatus. The inability to read even simple narrative has created an acute state of anxiety. But it also has not reached everyone. And one feels it is possible that resistance to the apparatus is increasing. That resistance is being disciplined, punished, and made invisible (when possible). But that resistance is beginning to be collective. The climate crisis is being commodified and co-opted and nature is being bought (as Cory Morningstar keeps pointing out). It is the final bastion of ruling class control and it has taken advantage of the latent desires for escape from the apparatus. Hence the cultic thinking and reflexive responses of a new class of true believer. And the selling of urgency, or emergency even, is being dispensed by the climate clergy. These are the new Vichy green *experts*. My final thought at the end of this decade is that anyone denying skepticism is to be distrusted and called out. To not distrust corporate media is suspect and a sign of one form or another of this cult like thought. The climb back to autonomy is not going to be easy or quick, but it is not impossible.

 

[John Steppling is an original founding member of the Padua Hills Playwrights Festival, a two-time NEA recipient, Rockefeller Fellow in theatre, and PEN-West winner for playwrighting. He’s had plays produced in LA, NYC, SF, Louisville, and at universities across the US, as well in Warsaw, Lodz, Paris, London and Krakow. He has taught screenwriting and curated the cinematheque for five years at the Polish National Film School in Lodz, Poland. Plays include The Shaper, Dream Coast, Standard of the Breed, The Thrill, Wheel of Fortune, Dogmouth, and Phantom Luck, which won the 2010 LA Award for best play. Film credits include 52 Pick-up (directed by John Frankenheimer, 1985) and Animal Factory (directed by Steve Buscemi, 1999). A collection of his plays was published in 1999 by Sun & Moon Press as Sea of Cortez and Other Plays. He lives with wife Gunnhild Skrodal Steppling; they divide their time between Norway and the high desert of southern California. He is artistic director of the theatre collective Gunfighter Nation.]

 

State of the Empire: Reviewing 2019

State of the Empire: Reviewing 2019

Zero Anthropology

December 31, 291

 

Listen: Highways of Hegemony: Reading Act VI of Cory Morningstar’s Series on Green Capitalism

Listen: Highways of Hegemony: Reading Act VI of Cory Morningstar’s Series on Green Capitalism

Ghion Journal

November 4, 2019

By Stephen Boni

 

 

Over the course of six lengthy pieces of investigative journalism, Canadian activist and writer Cory Morningstar forces us into a recognition of how deep social engineering efforts can go, how patient they are—and how effective they can be.

After recording a reading of this final piece of Morningstar’s Volume One, her penetrating gaze into the nonprofit industrial complex (and the huge amounts of capital that sit behind it), I went back and listened to it several times, in part just to see what jumped out.

While listening for the second time, a small snippet grabbed me. At one juncture in the piece, which takes a look at how a variety of interlocking pieces of a manufactured climate movement were assembled over 10 years ago, she mentions briefly how the upper level managers of major NGOs essentially share the same values and priorities of the wealthy government bureaucrats and financiers they work with to advance their organizations.

Essentially, they are all fellow travelers on a “highway of hegemony”, a choice phrase Morningstar drops in the piece.

After taking this aspect of her article in and ruminating on it for a minute, my mind drifted to two things:

  1. Matt Taibbi’s recently published book “Hate, Inc.”, in which he explores the change in the class background of many journalists from a blue-collar orientation to a haute-bourgeoisie orientation—which, as a matter of course, impacts the way the corporate news media covers (or omits) the concerns of everyday citizens and aligns with the concerns of the well-to-do.

And

  1. The frequently embedded video of Noam Chomsky deconstructing the authority subservience of a BBC reporter to his face.

It makes absolute sense to me that this is where my mind went, because woven throughout Morningstar’s series is that, while so much of the patient drive to rescue the current faltering economic system through the financialization of nature is determined by the ideology of finance capital, this imperative is deeply connected to an expression of class.

Whether it’s Al Gore or Ingmar Rentzhog (head of advocacy NGO ‘We Don’t Have Time’) or Jennifer Morgan (head of environmental NGO Greenpeace) or Jean-Claude Junker (head of the European Commission), their respective nationalities, areas of expertise, and even genuine concern for the future of people and planet are not so divergent as to overcome their shared class interest—an interest that leads them to apply a set of market and money-based solutions to a problem that eclipses by many magnitudes, the pursuit of wealth.

Before I go on too long, here’s the reading:

The other place my mind went while re-listening to Morningstar’s piece, is how deeply implicated a colonial mentality is in all of this. Because, all these market-base solutions, whether they be green energy or land use or “natural capital investment vehicles”, will hinge on the expropriation of resources—particularly those that sit in developing nations where the majority of citizens are poor and not white—by elites in powerful, semi post-industrial nations.

All we have to do to understand this fusion of class and ethnicity (race is a construct, but ethnicity at least is real) is to look at what’s been happening in Bolivia over the past few weeks. Coup leaders are generally ethnically different from the indigenous citizenry empowered by socialist leader Evo Morales. They are largely light-skinned descendants of previous western colonialists, just as opposition leaders in Venezuela happen to be. And they’re not only “ethnically” angry about indigenous emancipation, but about how the natural resources of Bolivia under Morales have been used for social uplift rather than profit (their profit of course).

If the coup holds, we will in all likelihood see the expropriation of Bolivia’s massive expanses of lithium for the West’s various “Green New Deals” and the seizing of Bolivia’s natural gas to feed the West’s unending hunger for energy to fuel markets to fuel energy to fuel markets to fuel mansions to fuel private jets to fuel power.

Class, markets, profit, material wealth, ethnic supremacy, colonialism. It really is all one thing and that is why, as Morningstar underlines, the omission of imperialism, militarism and capitalism from the concerns of these environmental NGOs and their partners, is so telling.

In the words of rapper Ice-T: “Ain’t a damn thing changed”.

That is, unless we start supporting a completely different kind of environmentalism.

As always, thanks for reading and listening.

Greta Thunberg, Green Barbarism and #ClimateStrike

By Azhar Moideen

Greta Thunberg,
Image Courtesy : Twitter/@GretaThunberg

 

Every few years, in a crisis situation, a child captures the attention of the world and plays a huge role in convincing nay-sayers, silencing critics and seemingly ties the hands of the global ruling establishment into taking swift action. It happened in Afghanistan more than once, in Iraq and recently in Syria.

Now it has happened all over the world thanks to the passionate and compelling Greta Thunberg. In a world devoid of real adult heroes, children become unlikely superheroes to look up to. In just about a year after Thunberg began striking school to protest, alone, outside the Swedish Parliament, she has appeared on the cover of Time, featured in a Vice documentary, addressed climate and political conferences including the World Economic Forum and the United Nations (UN) Climate Action Summit, published a collection of her speeches (under the Penguin catalogue), won praise from world leaders, influenced the European Union’s budget and she has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. All this, for spearheading a global climate strike, which included protests in India.

‘India’s Greta Thunberg’: Seven-year-old Licypriya Kangujam from Manipur

In most respects, mobilising millions of people the world over, including trade union representatives, for what became the largest climate protest ever, is no mean feat. However, if the past be our guide, the working class should be cautious while extending support. Instead of being carried away by the number of people mobilised and the positive media coverage Thunberg got, the Third World needs to ask whether the movement has their best interest in mind. After all, even Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai was used by Western imperialist interests and discarded when she spoke against them.

Alongside the meteoric rise of Thunberg, last year bears witness to dubious new environmental NGOs such as Extinction Rebellion and We Mean Business. Over the same period, ideas like the Green New Deal also captured new ground. Investigative reportage (such as by Cory Morningstar) exposes the non-profit-industrial complex that boosts and benefits from the popular surge of interest that ‘influencers’ gain.

The coterie managing Thunberg’s media appearances include the world’s biggest philanthropic foundations, whose contributions to the climate debate have essentially weakened plans to mitigate the effects of climate change. Their interests controlled the negotiations that led to the Paris Agreement, which treats worst-case scenarios as an acceptable 50:50 chance. Dire warnings of negotiators from developing countries were conveniently forgotten.

These handful of philanthrocapitalists, despite contributing 0.1% to climate finance, have significantly influenced the climate debate: developing and promoting voluntary, market-based and bottom-up approaches can only be deemed a failure. They have erased the radical nature of grassroots environmental movements and propped up capitalist-friendly solutions such as carbon-trading instead. They call for “net-zero” emissions by pushing technologies such as Carbon Capture and Storage, which have delivered poor results so far and only offset fossil fuel emission—or burn even more fossil fuel through Enhanced Oil Recovery.

If this is not enough, they now plan to implement “negative emissions” technologies such as the unproven BECCS, which, apart from uncertain benefits and large known nitrous oxide emissions, also requires vast tracts of land, fertilizer production and freshwater consumption. One scenario, for example, would require land three times the size of India. Such requirements have already led to large-scale land grab. Researchers are already talking of a new type of appropriation of nature called ‘green grabbing’. No wonder, the likes of Extinction Rebellion pit themselves against established climate activist groups.

The Green New Deal is another new buzzword, advertised through glitzy ad campaigns and supermodels. It is well known that funding NGOs such as Extinction Rebellion helps corporates mobilise people into backing a consensus created by them. Political leaders such as Elizabeth Warren and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in the United States (US), whose plans amount to Climate Imperialism, will end up forcing debt onto poor countries to purchase US-manufactured climate tech.

These “clean” technologies demand large amounts of minerals, which are currently being mined from Third World countries in unsafe environmentally-hazardous conditions. This is social engineering under the guise of action against climate change. And Greta Thunberg is their figurehead.

Thunberg famously was invited to make a speech at the World Economic Forum in Davos and what she said was replete with the talking points and keywords these organisations use. She later appeared on a video sponsored by the WEF, along with David Attenborough and Jane Goodall, who frequently espouse neo-Malthusian ideas such as blaming over-population for climate change—a debunked racist myth being revived in climate-mitigating talks. They also raise fears over migrants and climate refugees, which later popped up in banners during the Climate Strike. All this, when the average American’s annual carbon footprint is around 2,000 times that of a Chad resident, and the average Briton’s carbon dioxide footprint in a day matches that of a Kenyan in an year.

The WEF, composed of big capitalist firms from all over the world, recently announced a Strategic Partnership Framework with the UN—a move roundly criticised for weakening of the role of nations in global decision-making. Apart from the Paris Agreement, they have dipped their toes into collaborations with Bill Gates’ Mission Innovation to develop instruments for public-private investment in clean energy.

Their promotion of “nature-based” climate solutions got a big boost when Thunberg and George Monbiot ran a campaign endorsing it. The list of “allies” they mention include the main promoters of the UN’s REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation) programme as a carbon-trading mechanism, including The Nature Conservancy, Wildlife Conservation Society, Conservation International, and Nature4Climate.

The businesses which are planning to use these solutions to drive indigenous communities from their sources of livelihood and mint a seven-fold return on an annual investment of US$320 billion include Unilever, whose CEO is on the record that such climate action is the only way to grow the economy. No wonder, Shell has announced $300 million for it while burning fossil fuels. And the UN quietly complies.

Gone are the days when equity and common but differentiated responsibilities were integral to climate negotiations. Thunberg advocates that elected representatives “listen to the scientists”, but the background paper of the UN Climate Action Summit, United in Science, prepared by a “scientific advisory committee” abandoned any references to equity and common but differentiated responsibilities, thus placing the major burden of future mitigation on India and other developing countries.

The Climate Strike that led up to the Summit backed the call to declare a Climate Emergency, a move that could pave the way for governments to dig into public money to support green big business under the pretence of taking urgent action. Urgency has replaced equity as a basic element of climate action, poorer nations be damned.

It should not surprise that in all these plans, there is no talk about anti-capitalism and anti-imperialism, the bedrock of the radical environmental movement. No understanding that the exploitation of labour and nature go hand in hand. No mention that the US military is the biggest institutional polluter, producing more greenhouse gas emissions than most countries on the planet. No denunciation of war, an inevitable corollary of Imperialism, as a significant cause of environmental damage. No account for the colonization of the atmospheric space that is needed for the use of fossil fuels for the development of the global South. No acknowledgement that the effects of climate change exacerbates already existing global inequality, and environmentalism itself delivers enhanced revenue streams for corporations under this system. No space for indigenous people who fought for the cause, nor people’s agreements on climate change (which they led) that recognised that what was needed was the end of capitalism.

Capitalism is “in danger of falling apart” and the bourgeoisie are here to save it. This is environmental activism brought to you by the captains of the industry. The ‘NGO-ization of resistance’ ensures that there is a manufactured consent for the ruling class agenda – the ‘unlocking’ of public money to finance huge capital investments. Class consciousness has been erased and the oppressed are made to identify with the oppressor. It is no different in India.

The people organising the protests claim most Indians lack awareness about the issue and that the only ones conscious are the middle and upper class elites. They hide the fact that the poor, organised by progressive and democratic mass movements, are fighting for some measures required for mitigation—provision of public transport, prioritising basic needs over luxuries, and radical redistribution of wealth. They forget that adivasis are at the forefront of the fight against capitalism and its destruction of the environment.

Thunberg was one of the favourites to win the Nobel Peace Prize this year. It did not happen. But there will be more of her and #ClimateStrike in the near future. “We already have all the facts and solutions. All we have to do is wake up and change,” says she, but what we see is capitalist “solutions” that demand our acquiescence. The rhetoric of the Left, of women’s empowerment, poverty-reduction, fighting inequality, rights of the disabled, and so on will all be used.

The  should not be distracted—it will not be long before imperialist attacks are sold under the name of the environment and, closer to home, authoritarianism is greenwashed. It is either Socialism or Climate Barbarism.

 

[Azhar Moideen is doing his Masters in Humanities at IIT Madras.]

To Adapt to the Escalating Climate Crisis, Mere Reform Will Not Be Enough

To Adapt to the Escalating Climate Crisis, Mere Reform Will Not Be Enough

Greanville Post

October 16, 2019

“To Adapt to the Escalating Climate Crisis, Mere Reform Will Not Be Enough”

By Rainer Shea

 

 

As I’ve watched young people around the world take part in the climate actions of the last month, I’ve gotten the sense that I’m watching a spectacle which has been orchestrated to create the illusion that we’re still in an earlier, more stable time for the planet’s climate. Legitimate as the passion and commitment of this generation of teen climate activists is, their efforts are being packaged by the political and media establishment in a way that encourages denial about our true situation. These ruling institutions neither want us to recognize the real solutions to the crisis, nor do they want us to see the irrecoverable and massive damage that’s already been done to the climate. We’re told that if we restructure capitalism with the help of the “green” corporations and NGOs that are backing Greta Thunberg and Extinction Rebellion, a catastrophic outcome can be prevented. Supposedly radical politicians like Bernie Sanders promise that by making an appeal for corporations to partially reduce emissions within a capitalist framework, we can save the world. People want to believe the claims of these “green” capitalists because they want to believe that our living arrangements won’t fundamentally need to change in order for humanity to survive.

 

Sustainable Brands website, August 30, 2019 [Source] [Extinction Rebellion website]

These sources of false hope let Western capitalist society continue to ignore the primary role that imperialism and militarism have in the climate crisis, to view the capitalist governments as legitimate, and to not try to break away from the philosophy of capitalism and endless growth. The lifestyle tweaks that we’re told will save the planet—eating less meat, carpooling, flicking off the light when you leave the room—won’t be able to solve the problem even if society were to largely adopt them. The climate solutions that the capitalists present to us are designed to make us feel better while we keep letting the system move us closer to apocalypse.

To survive, we must recognize two truths about this crisis: that it’s no longer possible to avert a substantial catastrophe, and that global capitalism must be toppled in order for the human race to have a future. Once we understand the former fact, it becomes easy to accept the latter.

When you examine the state of the world, it’s not hard to see that something needs to drastically change. Extreme inequality amid neoliberal policies and rampant corporate power has made the Western countries in many ways part of the so-called Third World. As American power declines, the imperialist wars are continuing and tensions between the most powerful countries are escalating. Another global recession looms at the same time as a stable and comfortable life has become impossible even for most Americans to attain. Refugees are fleeing the worst dangers in their home countries, and are being met with inhumane treatment by the reactionary governments of the core imperialist nations. All of these capitalist crises are intertwined with the climate collapse that’s threatening the foundations of civilization.

The goals of the Paris climate agreement, which require reducing emissions by around 45 percent before 2030 so as to avoid a 1.5 degree Celsius warming, most definitely aren’t going to be met. Global greenhouse gas emissions hit a record high in 2018, indicating that we’ll be at 1.5 by 2030. The climate feedback loop will quickly turn this into 2 degrees in the following years, which will turn into somewhere between 3 and 5 degrees by 2100. It’s estimated that with just 2 degrees of warming, sea level rise will engulf 280 million people, earthquakes will kill 17 million, and over 200 million will die from droughts and famine.

Just ten years from now, this transition will be far enough along that the basic structures of capitalist society will no longer be stable. In June, the U.N. Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights issued a report which said that more than 120 million people could be forced into poverty by 2030 due to the destroyed property and resource scarcity that climate change-related disasters will cause. In response, more social services will be cut, society will become more militarized, and more immigrants will be deported, imprisoned, or left to die in disease-riddled concentration camps.

Such cruelties against the victims of climate change are realistic, and are all already being carried out because in a world that’s falling to pieces, the feeling of desperation drives a survival instinct that makes people devalue the lives of their fellow human beings. Capitalism, with its fixation on competition, is a key driver behind this impulse to exclude and eliminate the immigrants who seek to share in the West’s relative stability. This is why Philip Alston, the author of the U.N.’s June report, said that barring radical systemic change, “Human rights might not survive the coming upheaval.”

As the warming continues, increasing food and water scarcity, flooding, deadly heat waves, epidemics, and inequality will set off wars and civil unrest. Where stable states still exist, the prevailing paradigm will range from heightened government vigilance to outright martial law. Otherwise, borders will become less clearly defined and the existing governments will lose their power, making for a global version of the Middle East in the wake of the wars in Iraq and Syria. The vacuum will be filled with militant groups. In the Arab world these new monopolies on violence have been ISIS and Al Qaeda, and in North America they could easily become white supremacist paramilitaries.

None of this can be prevented by voting for Democrats, or changing one’s personal lifestyle, or participating in climate demonstrations that are sanctioned by the corporatocracy. The momentum of the climate’s destabilization is unstoppable, and the fascistic political forces that have emerged amid the crisis aren’t going away. However, my message with this essay isn’t to become apathetic in the face of what’s happening to us, but to embrace a worldview of realism that allows us to actually combat the problem.

We in the Western world must take guidance from the colonized people who are struggling for their liberation from imperial control and the capitalist carbon economy. Our goal should be not to reform capitalism, but to overthrow the capitalist centers of government and replace them with ecosocialist power structures. This is what the Chavistas are trying to do in Venezuela, which is moving towards an ecosocialist revolution where the country weans itself off from dependence on oil markets. Bolivia, whose socialist president Evo Morales has given the environment legal protections that are equivalent to human rights, provides further inspiration for the new systems that we’re capable of building.


The path to taking over the power of the state and seizing the means of production, as the socialists in these countries are trying to do, requires building mass movements that aren’t co-opted by the influence of the capitalist class. Our objectives need to be unambiguous: an end to capitalism and an end to all forms of imperialism, which entails decolonization.

The people of Venezuela and Bolivia are lucky to have been able to use electoral means to install a government that attempts to pursue these goals. In the U.S., where electoral politics are rigged against third parties and a deadly police state has been created, freedom will only be gained by working to usurp the authority of the capitalist state. India’s Maoist gurriellas (or the Naxalites) are doing this by taking territory away from their region’s government, as are Mexico’s communist Zapatistas. These groups are building strongholds for the larger movements to take down capitalism, which gain greater potential for victory the more that capitalism’s crises escalate; capitalist regimes that are under threat of being overthrown can already be found in Haiti and Honduras, whose U.S.-backed governments may well soon be ousted through sustained proletarian rebellions.

To replicate these liberation movements worldwide, we must stop denying the extremity of the crisis and fight capitalism with the knowledge that we’re fighting for our survival. To commit to their battle against India’s corporate-controlled government, the Naxalites have had to experience the desperation of living in a severely impoverished underclass that’s increasingly suffering from water shortages amid the climate crisis. We Westerners can’t be kept complacent by the fact that our conditions are marginally better than theirs.

In the coming years, we’re not going to be living out a scenario where capitalism changes itself into something sustainable. We’re counting down to the collapse of civilization’s current configuration and, in my view, all that can save us now is the construction of a new ecosocialist civilization in its place.

 

[Rainer Shea uses the written word to deconstruct establishment propaganda and to promote meaningful political action. His articles can also be found at Revolution Dispatch]

In Defense of Cory Morningstar’s Manufacturing for Consent Series

In Defense of Cory Morningstar’s Manufacturing for Consent Series

September 20, 2019

By Hiroyuki Hamada

 

 

 

Good investigative journalism doesn’t only reveal hidden mechanisms of our time; it also exposes those who refuse to confront the mechanisms. Remember when the late Bruce Dixon courageously and cogently called Bernie Sanders “a sheep dog candidate”? Remember when Eva Bartlett, Vanessa Beeley and others truly stood with Syrian people in opposing the western intervention? I do. Those who could not face the reality came up with all sorts of profanities and ill conceived theories to demonize the messengers.

Cory Morningstar has been a dedicated environmental activist with a sound track record, who has closely worked with various NGOs. She is a mother. She is an avid gardener. She is an honest person with empathy, passion, love for people, love for our fellow creatures and love for nature. Her human character and sense of justice has culminated in her keen insights, observations and analyses. Her writings have inspired many of us to see the depth and scope of capitalist institutions as part of the social dynamics affecting our consciousness. Her meticulous pursuit of facts in illustrating mechanisms of our world evokes a sense of awe. She is a respected colleague in our struggle toward a better tomorrow.

While her latest series, The Manufacturing of Greta Thunberg—for Consent: The Political Economy of the Non-Profit Industrial Complex Volume I and Volume II, has been wildly praised as a ground-breaking milestone in depicting the vast mechanism of exploitation and subjugation involving the Non-Profit Industrial Complex, it has been also maliciously misrepresented.

One of the very common, yet blatantly erroneous criticisms, centers around the series’ focus on the young activist Greta Thunberg. Why do they attack the author as a child abuser? The series does not attack the 16-yearold activist at all. It points out those organizations and individuals which closely surround her in forming a momentum for their agenda. It delineates how the mobilization fits within the larger framework of corporate “environmentalism”, colonialism, global capitalism and imperialism. The trickery of the accusation that the work attacks a child and smears the youth-led activism follows the same pattern of lies and deceptions unfolding against serious journalism for some time. It reflects how the establishment successfully dominates our minds as it dominates the hierarchy of money and violence. The ruling class actually abuses children by making them pawns for lucrative business projects—such as carbon capture and storage, “renewable energy” schemes, carbon trading and so on (the series discusses why they do not work extensively). They trick the innocent youth into digging their own graves while making profits out of it. Remember people called you racist, when you pointed out President Obama’s drone killings? Remember people called you misogynist when you criticized Secretary Clinton’s colonial policies? Those who did didn’t mind brown people blown into pieces, and didn’t mind the colonial oppression of women in colonized lands. The capitalist hierarchy structurally forces us to embrace the values, norms and beliefs of the ruling class, as it trains people to climb the social ladder as expected. The momentum to accuse Morningstar’s work as a child abuse stems from the same psychological projection of accusers’ own complicity in consecrating a teenager as an invincible saint of their movement.

Then there is the most typical argument to condone obvious institutional tendencies of inhumanity: “things aren’t always black and white”. Of course there are good environmentalists doing good work as well. We have gone through this in so many incarnations. When we point out police brutality, we hear “not all police officers are bad”. When we point out obvious racism among us: “not all white people are racist”. Those are certainly true. But could we also say “not all slave masters were evil”, “not all Kings and queens were evil”, “not all colonizers were evil”, and so on? Well, sure. But does that mean we can bring back slavery, feudalism or colonialism? No. Refusal to talk about the systematic inhumanity inflicted by the system tolerates the status quo as acceptable.

And please do stop with the “but the movement gives us hope” nonsense. What happened when we were sold “hope”, “change” and “forward”, and received colonial wars, big bank bailouts, global surveillance and loss of legal protections during the Obama presidency? We got Donald Trump. When the system squeezes already oppressed people while shuttering their hope and making them embrace fear, people try their best to hold onto whatever they have. They embrace an illusion of salvation in authoritarian lies and hatred against “others”. It is extremely important that we strive to discuss such a mechanism among us instead of jumping into the same momentum. We must discuss the true hope of building a momentum moving beyond the lies and deceptions coming out of the destructive hierarchy.

Morningstar states in The Manufacturing of Greta Thunberg—for Consent: The Political Economy of Non Profit Industrial Complex Volume II Act IV:

“Consider that collectively, the populace appears to believe that not only is it possible to colonize another planet, but that we will do so in the not-so-distant future. This is incredible considering the massive odds of and colossal barriers to such an endeavour succeeding. Thus, it is alarming, that this same populace appears not to believe it is not possible to create new societies where necessity is detached from want (superfluous consumer goods). This begs the question – have we been fully conditioned to believe only those that represent hegemonic interests? It is a sound question considering the billionaires of the world are currently petrified of the capitalist system collapsing – while those oppressed by the capitalist system believe it cannot be dismantled. Yet we can dismantle institutions. We can dismantle the capitalist economic system devouring what remains of the natural world – but not if we identify with our oppressors and the very system that enslaves us. It is our natural world and her living natural communities that sustain us. Not industrial civilization – not technology.”

Hopelessness and cynicism do creep up to justify the status quo. But we also must recognize that such a position does away with putting our efforts toward standing with the truly oppressed ones.

Morningstar’s series meticulously documents how powerful global organizations seek ways to cultivate a consensus for their trajectory. And it carefully states, with facts, why the trajectory does not lead to achieving their promises—preventing climate change and other environmental calamities. The illustrated mechanism has been revealed over and over through their past crimes—the co-ordinated actions of industries, bankers, politicians, NGOs, UN, global financial institutions and media have culminated into colonial wars, cover-ups of nuclear disasters, regime change, and other corporate, colonial and imperial policies. There is nothing speculative, coincidental or conspiratorial about the series. It is based on careful research, honesty, courage to face the real issue and true love for humanity. It is again curiously indicative that those who engage in a conspiracy to mobilize the people according to their agendas accuse those who see through the attempt as “conspiracy theorist”. The use of the derogatory term invented by the US intelligence agency to label dissidents as tin-hat wearing nuts jobs hardly proves their legitimacy.

Moreover, I must say that it is extremely odd and disingenuous that the series has been portrayed as a refusal to take any action, instead insisting on ideological purity. Such an attack has been coming from those who have been pointing out the same moneyed network in forwarding corporatism, colonialism and militarism by manipulating popular opinions. What is the difference between opposing destructive colonial wars and opposing colonization of nature/co-optation of activism? More specifically, what prompts some of them to say “what is your solution?”, “we can’t wait for capitalism to be overthrown to solve climate change” and so on. The obvious falsehood of such an angle is the stark absence of solutions within their own “green momentum”. Morningstar’s research does not talk about the necessity of establishing a communist statehood or overthrowing capitalism in order to solve the impending crisis. It simply states facts in a cohesive manner. Consequently, it certainly indicates the systematic structural issues presented by the hierarchy of money and violence. The research clearly names individuals and organizations that are involved in mobilizing the population in installing government policies that are lucrative to the associated corporations and beneficial to the imperial framework. Capitalist hegemony does present itself as a source of predicaments of our time. But is that new to us?

Needless to say, for those of us who believe in the Marxist perspective, the solution amounts to a structural transformation of our society into one that doesn’t monopolize the means of production for the ruling class.  Economic activities must be subservient to harmonious existence of the people, environment and other species. And our social interactions must be under a control of such aims, instead of financial and social power of the ruling class. But make no mistake that that is simply an ultimate direction. Just as we voice our objections against any form of inhumanity regardless of our systematic problem, when we see certain environmental policies being subservient to the corporate agenda, likely to result in worsened conditions for the people, we discuss them. There shouldn’t be anything different about pointing out the US military aggression and the fallacy of US environmental policies, especially when they are forwarded by the same western establishment. When we find the carbon capture schemes to be disingenuous, for example, we simply point it out. We demand an answer to why corporate “solutions” are upheld as people’s “solutions”. And people who buy into false narratives should be noted as not credible leaders in people’s movement. So the question “what is your solution?” really should be directed at those who subscribe to those erroneous “solutions.” They need to be asked how those solutions would be a worthy cause at the first place, and why cogent criticisms against implementations of destructive schemes cannot be embraced because “we can’t wait for a socialist revolution”.

What people desperately need today is good investigative reports like those presented by Cory Morningstar, along with our educational efforts to reveal the mechanisms of our time. We must learn how the unprecedented wealth accumulation among the very few ends up protected by layers and layers of moneyed social institutions co-ordinating to perpetuate the system, while progressively oppressive financial pressure and state violence against already oppressed people keep herding people into the capitalist framework. When we face the sad reality of people embracing policies that allow the powerful minorities to exploit and subjugate them over and over, what we need is not a popular mobilization guided by vague slogans easily subsumed by the imperial framework. Such a method would lead to draconian enforcement of corporate “solutions” according to their definition of “problems”. It is a recipe for bringing about a fascist order. What we need is openness and willingness to learn how we are domesticated by the authoritarian framework so that the actions are guided by the interests of the people in forming a society that allows true liberation of the people in a mutually respectful and harmonious manner.

Please do read The Manufacturing of Greta Thunberg—for Consent: The Political Economy of Non Profit Industrial Complex Volume I and II. It gives us an excellent starting point in learning how to build a better tomorrow for all of us.

 

[Hiroyuki Hamada is an artist. Exhibiting widely in gallery and non-commercial settings alike, Hamada has been the recipient of a Pollock-Krasner Foundation grant, twice received New York Foundation for the Arts Fellowships in sculpture, and was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship. Alongside his career as an artist, his writing can be found at various outlets online.]

 

WATCH: Selling Extinction

WATCH: Selling Extinction

Prolekult Films

Published April 26, 2019

“Selling Extinction is a short introduction to the capitalist notion of a “Green New Deal”, the NGOs that support it and the recent Extinction Rebellion protests in London.” [Running time: 23:43]

 

[Prolekult is a Marxist film, writing and culture platform based in Birmingham, England. The project is presently run by James Bell (writing and narration) and Alex Bushell (editing and filming). The purpose of the project is to provide high-quality film content looking at world politics, culture and economics from a Marxist perspective. You can support them on Patreon and follow them on Twitter.]

Scurrying Fascist Cockroaches

Dissident Voice

February 25th, 2019

 

 

Suppose it was discovered tomorrow that the greenhouse effects has been way underestimated, and that the catastrophic effects are actually going to set in 10 years from now, and not 100 years from now or something. Well, given the state of the popular movements we have today, we’d probably have a fascist takeover-with everybody agreeing to it, because that would be the only method for survival that anyone could think of. I’d even agree to it, because there’s just no other alternatives right now.
— Noam Chomsky, Understanding Power, 2002

 

We’re under attack from climate change—and our only hope is to mobilize like we did in WWII.
— Bill McKibben, The New Republic, 2016

 

…the survival of National Socialism within democracy (was potentially more dangerous than )the survival of fascist tendencies against democracy.
— Theodor Adorno, quote by Enzo Traverso, The New Faces of Fascism

The question of the appropriation of Environmental movements by Capital is one that has been resisted even more than I had anticipated. So, right off the bat I encourage you to read Cory Morningstar and Forrest Palmer’s Wrong Kind of Green…especially now, part four.

Now this stuff links directly with the rise of the newest wave of sheepdogging Democratic Party hopefuls. Alexandria Ocasio Cortez and now, Ilhan Omar, are the darlings of liberal media and punditry. Omar read (haltingly) from a prepared text as she questioned war criminal Elliot Abrams. She essentially called him a liar, which he is, but which is also what the US government itself already calls him. And she mentioned El Mozote. But, when push came to shove, as they say, Omar like Ocasio Cortez, signed on for regime change in Venezuela.

Now, Ocasio Cortez is floating something she calls the Green New Deal (which, in another form, was already promoted by Green Party candidate Jill Stein) and which is a nakedly pro capitalist bit of three card monte that will provide a boost to the nuclear power industry and line various corporate pockets. It’s capitalism. Omar and Ocasio Cortez also signed the odious Code Pink letter condemning US involvement in coups while at the same time slandering and fabricating stories about Maduro. The logic of the letter was that US proxy forces and covert activities had a counter productive effect and only helped to shore up the credibility of the Maduro government. In other words, fascism is OK, is just fine, only please do it in ways that will not bruise my delicate sensitivities.

Now please note: Ocasio Cortez and Omar are nearly identical physical types. Both are wildly telegenic (until they open their mouths, but maybe that’s not as a big problem as I make it out to be) and both are sort of pixie like, lithe and slender. When I point this out I am told there is nothing wrong with being slender. At which point I silently scream and tear the flesh from my face. The point is only to describe the similarities in presentation of these two political products. In other words, they are manufactured political commodities. And as Madison Avenue knows, such marketing works, even when everyone is on the manufacturing process.

The spectacle is capital to such a degree of accumulation that it becomes an image.
— Guy Debord, Society of the Spectacle

All life is theatre, to some degree of other. I have written before that theatre did not come out of religion but rather religion came out of theatre. And the short explanation is that our psychic formation is tied to a self narration that must take place on stage…even if just in our heads. The scene of the crime. It is Ur-theatre. So in contemporary life I am constantly reminded of just how caught up in the spectacle.. or rather…in the streaming of the spectacle, is everyone, and that it is one that occurs 24/7. And even when the smarter among us notices this facsimile existence, nothing happens. For it is ever harder to crawl up and out of capital. Out of accumulation. Out of the spectacle.

And set against this is the rising tide of Fascism. Global fascism. Chomsky, long a suspect figure and sort of the honorary chair of political gate-keeping emeritus, openly and none too timidly advises fascism as perhaps (!) the solution to “getting things done”. As in, the environmental crises — let’s use that term for now — is dire and suddenly (as they say in Hollywood story conferences) there is *a clock on it*. Meaning there is exactly no time to spare. In fact, it’s too late. Etc. I read recently a headline that said insects were going extinct. That struck me as, I don’t know, unlikely on the face of it. And sure enough it was a pure sensationalized headline for a sensationalistic article. Bugs are the most diverse creatures on earth. There are more kinds of just one variety of wasp than there are kinds of mammals. And, yes, Monsanto is killing honey bees. And it’s pretty dire. But it’s not led to honey shortages yet, at least that I have noticed. But it has raised prices! And colony collapse disorder (CCD) is the result of a number of factors, including pesticides and fungicides, which among other things render bees susceptible to the Nosema ceranae parasite. Capitalism kills life. Socialism protects life. But in general the bugs are not going extinct in thirty years. Still, what is driving this apologia for fascism? And why would Chomsky equate fascism with ‘getting things done’? Socialism…as in Cuba, for example, gets things done. Ask earthquake survivors around the globe. Ask whose doctors are first on the scene. But the rehabilitation of fascism is gaining momentum.

Now, there is a clear necessity for western societies to change how they live. Just a ban on the manufacturing of plastics, or pliable plastics even, would do an enormous amount of good. But that means a lot of very big and rich plastic manufacturing businesses would go out of business. Hence there is no movement toward that. Instead you get The Green New Deal. And what, you might ask, is this going to really achieve?

Today’s climate emergency mobilization must be recognized for what it is: a strategically orchestrated campaign financed and managed by the world’s most powerful institutions – for the preservation of capitalism and global economic growth. This is the launch of a new growth industry in the Global South coupled with the creation of new and untapped markets. Leading up to this precipice, The B Team, the Open Society Foundation, Oxfam, and many others that serve as the human face of capitalism, have moved their offices or set up new divisions in both Africa and Latin America.
— Cory Morningstar and Forrest Palmer, “Wrong Kind of Green”, Part IV

and…

the above plan and language mirrors that in the strategy document “Leading the Public into Emergency Mode: A New Strategy for the Climate Movement” being led by organizations whose affiliations with the Democrats, the Sanders and Ocasio-Cortez campaigns are publicly disclosed. Second, we must recognize that behind large institutions and media outlets such as Grist, branded as both “left” and “progressive”, are power structures subservient to capital. Grist CEO is Brady Walkinshaw. Prior to his role of CEO in 2017, Walkinshaw a former US State representative, worked as a program officer at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Before his tenure at the Gates Foundation, Walkinshaw, a Fulbright scholar of the US State Department, worked as a special assistant to the World Bank. Within the Grist board of directors is 350.org founder, Bill McKibben – defacto foot soldier for Bernie Sanders and the Democrats in general.

Read the entirety of the breakdown here….

The same fingerprints are always found. The Gates Foundation, 350.org, the US state department and an assortment of varied NGOs of the moment (all based in the West). Western capital is in transition phase. And riding along in the propaganda wing is a clear new focus on fascist iconography and symbol, and on metaphors of war and the military. Getting things done!!

The rehab of fascism is laying the groundwork for various states of emergency to come. Most will be given a token coat of green paint. The worst thing you can be…even worse than an apologist for Harvey Weinstein or something, is a climate denier. It has already superceded Conspiracy theorist as most toxic appellation available today. Pedophile, Conspiracy Theorist, and at the top…Climate Denier.

“School children hold portraits of Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates in front of a giant picture of Gates during celebrations to mark his 60th birthday inside the school premises in Chennai, India, October 28, 2015.”

In a society in which public education is a shell of its former mediocre self, and one in which science is not much emphasized, it is amazing how many times I have had complex statistics and calculus quoted in regard to global warming or rising sea levels or methane bubbles etc. It has become a kind of incantatory recital of belief. And it is about shaming and stigmatizing. And about self righteousness. And again, the trouble with all this is that there IS a climate crisis. There is massive environmental decay and pollution. And there is, in the U.S. certainly, a crumbling material infrastructure. Clean water will be ever more of a problem. There is ample but very general evidence for all of this. But I am not a scientist. And I have to say I have a healthy suspicion of professional science overall. The planet is very very very complex. And again, I may have missed it, but where are the scientists pointing fingers at the military? I ask that one sincerely. I’d like to know. For there is one thing I do feel pretty confident about: And that is..the military produces pollution, kills sea life, poisons the ground and humans both. And on a massive massive massive scale. So why is that never a target do you suppose?

As a major turning point in the history of Europe, total war introduced mass violence into everyday life, ‘brutalized’ societies, and accustomed them to industrial massacres and anonymous mass death. As a nationalist political movement, fascism grew out from this trauma. Mosse sees it as a product of the ‘nationalization of the masses’ that was powerfully accelerated during the war. In fact, anti-communism characterized fascism from the beginning to the end of its historical trajectory. It was a militant, radical, aggressive anti-communism that transformed the nationalist ‘civil religion’ into a ‘crusade’ against the enemy.
— Enzo Traverso (The New Faces of Fascism)

The rehabilitation of fascism cannot find traction without a concomitant anti communist platform. And the spike in anti-communism has been acute. I wrote on my blog about Liam Neeson…

The normalizing of fascist mythology and sentiments preceded what is now open expressions of fascist ideology. And it appears in codes appropriate to the celebrity driven individuality of the Marvell Comix era of entertainment. Liam Neeson’s recent comments (as part of a marketing tour for his next film… a *revenge* thriller..{sic}) about having once wanted to find a black man to beat to death is a rather good example. There is no moral to Neeson’s story, interestingly, beyond it taking him a week, in his words, to figure out “what the fuck am I doing”. This is a form of white masculine bragging now. It’s another celebrity search for authenticity. Oh, he also was thrilled as a lad to listen to the speeches of Ian Paisley. Not much more is said about this beyond it inspired him to take up acting. So again the fascist rehabilitation is open. And again, there is a racist underpinning, as Paisley actively campaigned against the civil rights movement and organized gangs of club-carrying thugs to block pro civil rights protestors. The inherent acceptability of fascism. No celebrity A-list actor would ever admit to having been thrilled by the speeches of Fidel Castro.

When Trump said “Make America Great Again”, what he meant, of course, was make America white again. But not just white, but a fascist white. For the very idea of *greatness* resides in that exceptionalism that is connected at its roots to manifest destiny and slave owning. The appeal to a manufactured nostalgia of greatness is an appeal to a white hierarchical martial heroism that is today reflected in Marvel and DC comic super hero movies. And this rehabilitation is neo-colonial as well. Communism fought against the colonial European powers, while the US and western capital fought on the side of apartheid and colonial powers. Make America colonial again. Make America a land of plantations, again. Make it a land of *Indian killers*. All of this is running through popular culture today. The masculine panic of Liam Neeson is the same one, on a cruder level aesthetically, found at Trump rallies, but also found on Wall Street and in the industrial usage of escort services those brokers are known to indulge — and in fraternities at universities across the U.S. It is tied to a virulent misogyny. And it is, indeed, tied to Harvey Weinstein — though, problematically, it is also found in much of the lynch mob mania of #metoo.

…fascism comes to power in stages, beginning with attacks on the democratic rights of working people, the imprisonment of communists and trade unionists, hostility to national minorities and immigrants, and the gradual erosion of democratic institutions. It relies on its mass supporters, mostly from the middle class but also including workers and intellectuals, to carry out these policies. Once fascism has consolidated power, it begins to build up the fascist state and engages in expansionary imperialist wars. The terrorist dictatorship of finance capital is only fully established when all opposition has been outlawed and a fascist state machinery has been completely developed.
— Fabian Van Onzen, Monthly Review, February 2019

There is a constant drum beat that compares communism to fascism. And it has taken a quality of desperation. So insistent are the authors of this familiar trope of “totalitarian” societies ‘all being the same’ that it is sort of now in another phase that might be labeled *secondary conflations*. And it is important to observe the liberal and urban educated bourgeoisie and their emotional connectivity to Green ideas and policy. This is the collaborationist class Gramsci wrote about so trenchantly. But the level of emotional attachment and reaction to questions of Climate Change or Global Warming (and related environmental issues) needs to be explored a bit more.

For it is as if suddenly the bourgeoisie deeply “cares” about Nature and mother earth. About the planet, about saving mankind. The emotional responses one finds here are not only disproportionate to the specific issues that arise, but they are psychologically prophylactic mechanisms that seem to keep actual political analysis buried. There are knee jerk responses that look to stigmatize those now demonstrating insufficient environmental awareness. Those not invested enough, or in the right way, with Green policy. These are going to be the people who line up behind Ocasio Cortez and The Green New Deal. This outrage is almost never displayed against US bombing “errors” when, say, a wedding party is olbiterated and a half dozen children are killed. But maybe it’s a genuine personal fear. Maybe this is a class now afraid and that is a new experience for them.

What haunted them {the Frankfurt School thinkers} was the evidence, everywhere to be found in the Federal Republic of Germany to which Adorno returned in 1949, that the fascist era was being airbrushed from history, erased from collective memory in an act of repression. The fear was not only that it was being forgotten in itself, but that if not remembered, it was likely to resurface in unpredictable forms.
— Stuart Walton, “Theory from the Ruins”, Aeon Magazine 2017

The Democratic field is forming for the 2020 run at Trump. Think about who is running. I mean, let’s do a quick survey…very quick.

Bernie Sanders is another glaring example of the cognitive dissonance operating at the collective level. Sanders who famously referred to Hugo Chavez as “that dead communist dictator” was also the guy who demanded the Saudi’s “get their hands dirty”. One of the things that seems not to register on the public, both pro Sanders and contra Sanders, is that Bernie just isn’t very smart. He is not a particular fluid speaker nor does he do very well off script. But Bernie has never seen a defense contract he didn’t want a piece of. Never.

Paul Street wrote back in 2015 {from an article in 2017}….

U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders (“I”-VT) is not the independent left politician many progressives claim he is. He’s a Democratic Party company man. That has been clear from his long Congressional record of voting with the neoliberal, dollar-drenched Democrats and accepting their seniority-based committee assignments. [1]

But Bernie is, again, not in it to win (I don’t think). He is too well fitted to his one specific role; sheepdog for the DNC. But Beto O’Rourke, another youthful Democratic pseudo leftist who, like AOC is telegenic and comely — his hair alone is pure Madison Avenue stuff. Vote for the hair! Which might be a useful slogan for O’Rourke because his voting record is appalling and deeply reactionary. But Beto is looking to find traction as the new JFK or RFK, and is in it to win.

O’Rourke has also gone out of his way to praise Israel and promise fidelity to “our shared values”. None of this is any sort of surprise. At some point the public has to learn being a Democrat means being pro war and an Imperialist.

The Fasci di combattimento were born in the aftermath of the war. They were imbued with the petit-bourgeois character of the various veterans associations which arose at that time.

 

Due to their trenchant opposition to the socialist movement they obtained the support of the capitalists and the authorities. This aspect of the Fasci was inherited in part from the conflict between the Socialist Party and the ‘interventionist’ associations during the war years.

 

They emerged during the same period when the rural landowners were feeling the need to create a White Guard to tackle the growing workers’ organisations. The gangs that were already organised and armed by the big landowners soon adopted the label Fasci for themselves too. With their subsequent development, these gangs would acquire their own distinct character – as a White Guard of capitalism against the class organs of the proletariat.

 

Fascism still conserves this trait of its origins. But until very recently, the fervour of the armed offensive kept a lid on the tensions between the urban cadre – who are predominantly petit-bourgeois, orientated on parliament, and ‘collaborationist’ – and the rural cadre, which consist of the big and medium landowners and their tenant farmers.”
— Antonio Gramsci, The Two Fascisms, 1921

Now O’Rourke is another supporter of the Green New Deal. Quelle surprise.

Kamala Harris is the former DA from San Francisco, and later AD for the state. She used to date (his words) Willie Brown. And she is married to attorney Doug Emhoff, formerly of Venable LLP — a firm whose lawyers included Asa Hutchinson (former Governor of Arkansas, former Undersecretary of Homeland Security and former head of the Drug Enforcement Administration). Also a number of former state’s ADs and a couple other governors (John Marhsall Butler for one). Just sayin’. Kamala no doubt has the deepest rolodex of anyone who has so far declared (unless you count Gentlemen Joe Biden, and I don’t because Joe has almost ZERO chance to go anywhere in this thing).

Margaret Kimberley wrote of Harris….

One of her more disgraceful policies was to victim shame black mothers for their children’s school truancy. They were fined and when most of them could not pay, were put in jail and separated from their children.This action is the epitome of modern day chattel slavery and Harris cannot be given a pass.{ } Harris has spent her career locking up Black and brown people. She should not be allowed to shake hands, kiss babies or walk into black churches without being taken to task. [2]

Kirsten Gillibrand will likely declare. A favorite daughter of Wall Street and the tobacco industry Gillibrand is heavily entrenched in the bowels of the DNC. She once authored a bill that would criminalize ‘boycotts’ by individuals or groups seeking to express disapproval of Israel. Gillibrand’s stance against protests and ‘boycotts’ included her co-sponsoring the Israel Anti-Boycott Act (S 720). Her parents are both attorneys. She attended Dartmouth and her maternal grandmother Polly Noonan was a key player in Estes Cornings powerful political machine in Albany from the 40s through the mid-80s. One of the last great political machines in the United States, in fact.

Tulsi Gabbard is the *identity* candidate. A pacific islander, and a Hindu. On the plus side she spoke positively about US enemies like Assad… except for when she was, you know, calling him a brutal dictator. And she was at least mildly respectful of the DPRK. Sort of. And she was right about the murder, by the US, of Gaddafi. But in all this she is still on the side of the Imperialist overlords. In a sense, Gabbard is the new Obama. The comprador candidate. Oh, and she is an aggressive supporter of Israel and highly critical of the BDS. She is the rational Imperialist. I know it’s a buzz kill to point out all these things, but she also happens to be a major in the US Army, a member of the Hawaiian National Guard, and significantly, a member of the House Armed Services Committee. She also did TWO tours in Iraq. Not one, but two. Meaning she volunteered to go back and do it again. She has also praised the BJP party in India, and its neo-fascist president. Richard Spencer admires her (sic) for what that is worth. And Gabbard also signed to enforce sanctions on Iran and Russia. But so bankrupt is the electoral landscape in the U.S., that Gabbard is routinely described as a radical voice.

The worker, the peasant, who for years has hated the fascism that oppresses him believes it necessary, in order to bring it down, to ally himself with the liberal bourgeoisie, to support those who in the past, when they were in power, supported and armed fascism against the workers and peasants, and who just a few months ago formed a sole bloc with fascism and shared in the responsibility for its crimes. And this is how the question of the liquidation of fascism is posed? No! The liquidation of fascism must be the liquidation of the bourgeoisie that created it.
— Antonio Gramsci, Neither Fascism nor Liberalism: Sovietism! 1924

The Green New Deal is the fig leaf that provides material for this manufacturing of a new fascist narrative. The green fascism of these new ‘products’ from the Democratic Party laboratories is pretty much in line with what Bill Clinton ushered in and what Obama sort of perfected.

There is no potential for change in electoral movements in the U.S. That system is closed. Any radical third party would be quickly stopped, on that Mitch McConnell and Nancy Pelosi both agree. And the idea of an American gilets jaunes (or Occupy redux) would likely lack both leadership and, more importantly perhaps, a narrative. The disaffected in the U.S. have no way to imagine an end to the system that oppresses them. And this is partly where the Soviet Union is so acutely missed. But one senses this is also why Maduro and Venezuela must be shut down. Sure oil, that’s a nice bonus, but the threat is, even if partly unconscious for the ruling class, an ideology where the slaves revolt. Same as Milosevic had to go. Same as they tried for decades to eliminate Fidel. Independence is not tolerated.

Luc Boltanski and Arnaud Esquerre noted (for France) that for what they call the *post fascist* ….“The ‘bad’ people— the immigrants, the Muslims and Blacks of the suburbs, veiled women, junkies, and the marginal—merge together with members of the leisure classes who have adopted liberal mores: feminists, the gay-friendly, anti-racists, environmentalists, and defenders of immigrants’ rights. Finally, the ‘good’ people of the postfascist imagination are nationalist, anti-feminist, homophobic, xenophobic, and nourish a clear hostility toward ecology, modern art, and intellectualism.
— Quoted by Enzo Traverso, Vers l’extrême: Extension des domaines de la droite, Paris: Editions Dehors, 2014; Gérard Mauger, ‘Mythologies: le “beauf” et le “bobo”

And here is also where Green issues become a kind of fulcrum around which the NGOs and marketing firms fully understand the ambivalences. The sudden compassion about the Earth and Global Warming is a narrative that is being appropriated very rapidly right now. For the bourgeoisie ‘going green’ is a cause they can get behind, and one that costs them almost nothing. It also provides cover for their new tough love of the underclass (meaning they get to be more openly racist and contemptuous of the poor). The educated urban liberal is borrowing heavily from the Health Food Co-op back room.

For the right, bad people are those with environmental concerns; i.e., the affluent urban liberal who is experienced as the class looking to take away the working class and poor’s small pleasures. First all those *sin* taxes, on tobacco and booze, and then restrictions on muscle cars, and all sort of stuff is given a crude story line by folks like Steven Bannon. Good people are those who deny any of this environmental stuff. Thereby in their Evangelical piety the flyover state working poor (and unemployed) justify their ignorance and more to the point, can stop having to wrestle with complicated and often ambivalent ideas to which a destroyed public education system never exposed them.

Because of this mutual disconnect, the emotional cathexis of the liberal educated classes in both Europe and the U.S. identify with their ‘superior’ concerns, their belief in science, which they understand no better than those sitting in the seats at NASCAR races, but who are encouraged to practice what they see as “sober” thinking, “tough love”, and “responsible” telling of hard truths. What this means is they increasingly are now finding permission to express more openly what they have kept silent about (cue Liam Neeson). And that is a virulent racism, but one now more tilted toward antisemitism, and most significantly Islamaphobia. The affluent bourgeois class is experiencing great relief in being given permission to vent their buried xenophobia. The Muslim is a structural replacement (though not really a replacement so much as an addition but in perception management terms it’s a replacement) for Jew in this new liberal antisemitism. It is not expressed in quite the same way as those in the flyover states, but it’s there all the same. And yet these classes recognize nothing of themselves in the other.

The idea of a healthy and prosperous Green New Deal (part and parcel of the fourth industrial revolution) for the world – is a lure to keep you believing in the system.
— Cory Morningstar (in conversation).

When Gramsci wrote of hegemony he never forgot that bourgeois rule, even when it advanced behind ‘mere’ coercion, still had physical violence as an option. The increased surveillance state and police militarization are linked, in the end, to policing of the inner cities (black and latino neighborhoods) and to US imperial policing and pacification of the global south.

But in looking at the narratives today, the ruling class and their collaborationist allies in the bourgeoisie, have refashioned environmental concerns so that its truth is always about protecting capital and capitalism while the narrative is about their own virtues. It’s an investment opportunity. Nothing more. And part of the problem (often a large part) is transferred to the victims of capital; the very poorest in the world, the very people who consume the least and pollute the least. This is the logic (and always has been) of eugenics and its contemporary trope “overpopulation”. And the cruelty and ruthlessness of the overpopulation meme is given a cosmetic make-over to resemble compassionate white saviour stories. The superior white expert come to stop the savages from having too many children.

To fix or at least manage, to some degree, the worst environmental problems will actually require drastic socialist programs. Not fascism as Chomsky suggests…or as Bernie or AOC or any of the rest of these capitalist sock puppets….but socialist. And nothing, NOTHING of any good is ever going come out of the Democratic Party. And nothing of any significance can happen via the US electoral theatre. The amount of energy wasted in endless debate about the virtues or “electability” (sic) of Elizabeth Warren vs Bernie Sanders or Kamala Harris vs Tulsi Gabbard etc is breathtaking. Imagine that time spent on something useful. Like, oh, how to prevent more war and carnage. And how to create a sustainable form of human development.

Socialism, in its most radical form, is about substantive equality, community solidarity, and ecological sustainability; it is aimed at the unification—not simply division—of labor.

Once sustainable human development, rooted not in exchange values, but in use values and genuine human needs, comes to define historical advance, the future, which now seems closed, will open up in a myriad ways, allowing for entirely new, more qualitative, and collective forms of development. This can be seen in the kinds of needed practical measures that could be taken up, but which are completely excluded under the present mode of production. It is not physical impossibility, or lack of economic surplus, most of which is currently squandered, that stands in the way of the democratic control of investment, or the satisfaction of basic needs—clean air and water, food, clothing, housing, education, health care, transportation, and useful work—for all. It is not the shortage of technological know-how or of material means that prevents the necessary ecological conversion to more sustainable forms of energy.103 It is not some inherent division of humanity that obstructs the construction of a New International of workers and peoples directed against capitalism, imperialism, and war. All of this is within our reach, but requires pursuing a logic that runs counter to that of capitalism.
— John Bellemy Foster, Monthly Review, February 2019

 

  1. Counterpunch, April 2017. [?]
  2. Black Agenda Report, January 2019. [?]

 

[John Steppling is an original founding member of the Padua Hills Playwrights Festival, a two-time NEA recipient, Rockefeller Fellow in theatre, and PEN-West winner for playwrighting. He’s had plays produced in LA, NYC, SF, Louisville, and at universities across the US, as well in Warsaw, Lodz, Paris, London and Krakow. He has taught screenwriting and curated the cinematheque for five years at the Polish National Film School in Lodz, Poland. Plays include The Shaper, Dream Coast, Standard of the Breed, The Thrill, Wheel of Fortune, Dogmouth, and Phantom Luck, which won the 2010 LA Award for best play. Film credits include 52 Pick-up (directed by John Frankenheimer, 1985) and Animal Factory (directed by Steve Buscemi, 1999). A collection of his plays was published in 1999 by Sun & Moon Press as Sea of Cortez and Other Plays. He lives with wife Gunnhild Skrodal Steppling; they divide their time between Norway and the high desert of southern California. He is artistic director of the theatre collective Gunfighter Nation. Read other articles by John, or visit John’s website.]

Playing Politics With Human Rights – How Amnesty International Distorted the Facts on Nicaragua

Tortilla Con Sal

DISMISSING THE TRUTH

Why Amnesty International is wrong about Nicaragua – An evaluation and response to the Amnesty International report ‘Instilling Terror: from lethal force to persecution in Nicaragua’

Published February 2019

Foreword

By Camilo Mejia, former Amnesty International Prisoner of Conscience

‘In war, truth is the first casualty.’ (Aeschylus)

The above quote, attributed to the ancient Greek tragedian Aeschylus, is timely and relevant to the Nicaraguan crisis more than 2500 years after its writing, not only because what has been happening in Nicaragua since April of last year is nothing shy of a war – military, economic, psychological,
cultural, political – but also because the truth about the crisis, with the full support of Amnesty International, was indeed the first casualty.

Throughout this critique of Amnesty International’s coverage and reporting of the crisis in Nicaragua, readers will find how public opinion has been manipulated in order to present a highly biased, antigovernment account of the violent events that befell the Central American nation between April and September of 2018. For starters, the first three people who died were a Sandinista, a police officer, and an innocent bystander returning home from work, and their deaths were not only violent, they marked the beginning of a pattern of death and destruction carried out by the opposition that was completely ignored by AI’s two reports: Shoot to Kill and Instilling Terror.

Secretary General of Amnesty International, Kumi Naidoo

Equally damaging to AI’s omission of the killing of Sandinistas, and anyone standing up to the opposition, is its insistence in portraying the anti-government protesters as peaceful, despite overwhelming photographic and video evidence to the contrary. Along with the misleading portrayal
of protesters as unarmed and peaceful, Amnesty also insists on painting the different actions by the opposition as legitimate civic acts of protest, when in reality they were marred by violence and death, as is obvious from the evidence throughout the report which follows.

Some of the notable cases overlooked by AI include the kidnapping and attempted murder of student union leader Leonel Morales, who supported the initial marchers on behalf of his union but was nearly killed by the opposition after the government called for a national dialogue, prompting
Morales to call off the protests. Another case was that of Sander Bonilla, a member of the Sandinista Youth whose kidnapping and torture, overseen by both Catholic and Evangelical priests, were captured on video. There are many other cases, presented here, of victims of the opposition that
were either omitted or manipulated by Amnesty International in its two official reports.

Perhaps the most important benefit that this response provides its readers is the encouragement to verify much of the information countering AI’s claims. This response does not address the entirety of AI’s reports (and focuses on the second one), but it provides sufficient information for readers to gain access to enough facts to discover a much wider picture of the crisis, and that in itself is a huge achievement.

While it is of vital importance that people become aware of the reality that we can no longer trust prestigious human rights organizations to tell us what is happening in the world, the real triumph of this critique would be for readers to go beyond both the crisis in Nicaragua and the destabilizing role Amnesty has played in it, because the truth is not a casualty only in Nicaragua, but everywhere else as well. And the real tragedy is not that we may no longer trust AI or others to tell us the truth, but that we have ceded our own agency, our own ability to question dominant narratives, and have chosen instead to blindly trust what powerful entities tell us.

As I write this foreword the United States’ war drums beat on Venezuela, where Amnesty International has also played a very destabilizing role. And that is how the story goes: the United States chooses a government for regime change, calls upon its grantees – media outlets of global
reach, human rights organizations, diplomatic entities, other powerful nations – to vilify the chosen government; before we know, and without ever taking the time to vet the information, we fall prey to the media spell and begin to provide our consent for intervention.

Lives matter! All lives! – including the lives of those whose deaths were omitted by Amnesty International in its two reports on Nicaragua. The lives of those the anti-government opposition robbed, kidnapped, tortured, raped, killed, and even burned in public view, matter. So why not view
this critique of a highly reputable human rights organization as an invitation to question the dominant narratives that herald invasions and occupations? We must reclaim our ability, our moral duty, to search for the truth, to find it and uphold it, to protect it, and to hold everyone accountable to it, starting with ourselves.

This report, Dismissing the Truth, provides a way for readers to do precisely that: find the truth on their own.

Miami, Florida, February 2019

DOWNLOAD THE DISMISSING THE TRUTH REPORT: dismissing_truth

DEMOCRACY, CLASS AND THE FIGHT AGAINST RECOLONIZATION

Tortilla con Sal

November 5, 2018

By Stephen Sefton

 

Street Art, Managua, Nicaragua [source]

Versión en español

Having lost Eurasia, US and allied elites have prioritized Latin America and the Caribbean, seeking to re-consolidate control of the region’s resources. They work to destroy political movements and leaders who defend their countries’ impoverished majorities against the West’s neocolonial agenda. In particular, Western elites work with local allies to eliminate expressions of national sovereignty. From within, they undermine and co-opt governments and institutions. Externally they deploy all kinds of financial, trade, media and diplomatic aggression as well as military intimidation.

These fundamental processes drove political and economic events in the region through the 1990s. They have done so ever more intensively since the failed 2002 coup against President Chavez in Venezuela and the successful coup against Haiti’s President Jean Bertrand Aristide in 2004. US National Security Adviser John Bolton’s recent condemnation of the governments of Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela marks another explicit escalation of a process already well-advanced under President Obama. This Western offensive to recolonize Latin America and the Caribbean has highlighted the complex link between false foreign news coverage and domestic political control in North America and Europe.

Recent Western media attacks on Max Blumenthal and Kerry Ann Mendoza over their coverage of a US writer embedded in Nicaragua’s political opposition categorically exposed that reality. Western journalists and editors were more concerned about a coup-mongering activist-writer legitimately deported home to the US, than tens of pro-government journalists almost burned alive by the opposition terror gangs he supported. These Western journalists share their role as intellectual managers with university academics and managers of non-governmental organizations.

Across the political spectrum, they pose as trustworthy guides, offering false maps of the psychological warfare terrain they aim to control. John Bolton’s counterfactual attack on the governments of Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela as a “troika of tyranny” exposed the pernicious class role of these self-interested Western media, academic and NGO managers, who attack those countries’ governments using the same false information and deliberate omission as Bolton. A few recent examples related to Nicaragua make this clear.

Sociology professor Benjamin Waddell falsely claims the Sandinista government has banned protest demonstrations. In fact, the Nicaraguan government has applied its own existing laws to match public order norms in North America and Europe. Public protests in Nicaragua now have to get permission from the police agreeing the time and route of their demonstration. Before that measure, opposition extremists persistently used firearms during demonstrations to provoke the casualties they needed to be able to claim lethal repression.

Waddell himself mentions casualties include “a 16-year-old boy caught in the crossfire between government forces and demonstrators.” A more honest account would have noted the independent parliamentary Truth Commission’s reports showing how the briefing Waddell cites includes well over a hundred deaths entirely unconnected to the protests and other alleged deaths completely undocumented. Nor does Waddell acknowledge independent reports confirming that around two thirds of the fatalities have been shown to be either Sandinista supporters or innocent bystanders.

Across the political aisle, Bill van Auken explains about President Ortega “Until now, Washington has exhibited a certain ambivalence toward the government of the Sandinista leader, who returned to power in 2007 on the basis of an economic program geared to the interests of Nicaraguan and foreign capital.” You read that right. Auken claims the US government will no longer tolerate a Nicaraguan regime geared to the interests of foreign capital. Similar self-contradictory irrationality bedevils ill-informed foreign coverage of Nicaragua.

Other writers display their lazy ignorance via outright falsehoods. Academic Jenny Pearce, commenting on the attempted coup in Nicaragua claims President Ortega “responded to protests at corruption and authoritarianism by unleashing para-police forces against protesters”. In fact, Daniel Ortega quickly responded to the initial extremely violent opposition protests by calling for national dialogue with mediation by the Catholic Church. Compounding her falsehood, Pearce also claims “most” of the coup promoters in Nicaragua “are neither counter-revolutionaries nor right-wing.” To the complete contrary, the coup promoters were all either well known right wing leaders or else foreign-funded groups long openly allied with them.

The coup promoters quickly and openly identified themselves: Piero Coen, Nicaragua’s wealthiest individual; Micheal Healy a manager for Colombian agribusiness interests; the private sector employers’ organization COSEP; fascist Catholic bishops and right wing Nicaraguan political parties; US funded NGOs and media all closely associated with the US allied MRS political party; a foreign-funded rural workers group; and very small numbers of unrepresentative, foreign-supported students. MRS leaders openly accept funding from the US authorities and lobby for support from fascist politicians like Marco Rubio and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen. But Jenny Pearce thinks these components “express a democratising, ethical, equitable, environment and land-protecting politics from below.”

Another respected progressive academic, Belgium’s Eric Toussaint overtakes Pearce’s counterfactual analysis with deliberate outright disinformation. Toussaint’s latest attack starts with the long debunked falsehood, that Nicaragua’s proposed Social Security reform was dictated by the IMF. The reverse is true. The Nicaraguan government defended workers and pensioners against IMF proposals. That is why the government proposal was rejected by the right wing coup promoters who cleverly used mass manipulation via social networks and right wing media to mobilize ill-informed protesters. By contrast, Toussaint has no excuse for ignoring the clearly documented reality.

Among much other disinformation Toussaint, defends sinister individuals like Francisca Ramirez and Medardo Mairena who in recent years, regularly organized often violent roadblocks to protest against Nicaragua’s proposed inter-oceanic canal. In retrospect, they were clearly preparing for the recent coup attempt. During the attempted coup between April and July, Ramirez, Mairena and their violent thugs operated roadblocks intimidating and extorting local farmers and business people while ensuring free transit for their own supporters’ farm animals and produce. Medardo Mairena, earlier expelled from Costa Rica accused of people trafficking, now awaits trial for the murder of four police officers and a school teacher on July 12th just as the failed coup attempt was ending.

Right or Left, Western apologists for the attempted coup in Nicaragua cover up what is self-evident. The US authorities and their allies attack the governments of Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela precisely because they have democratized their societies and economies against Western and allied elite interests. This year’s failed coup attempt in Nicaragua faithfully copied the serial coup attempts in Venezuela since 2013. All these attacks have been organized and timed to facilitate US government sanctions aimed at regime change. Currently, on Nicaragua the big lie is that the crisis continues, when in fact it has been over since July and life quickly returned to complete normality.

Recycling falsehoods promoting the US regime change agenda in Latin America and the Caribbean corrupts democratic debate in the West and creates an alibi for the phony, anti-democratically framed elections of US allies like Brazil’s fascist ideologue Jair Bolsonaro. Clear-sighted anti-imperialist writers like Max Blumenthal, Kerry Ann Mendoza and Jonathan Cook, among many others, repeatedly make this same point. Untruthful foreign affairs coverage by the Western intellectual, NGO and media class, destroys democratic debate at home, to the benefit of NATO country elites. Western coverage of Latin America and the Caribbean, especially Nicaragua and Venezuela now, demonstrates that reality over and over again.

 

[Stephen Sefton lives in Nicaragua and is a founder of Tortilla con Sal.]

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