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How Circular is the Circular Economy?

Low-tech Magazine

November 3, 2018

By Kris De Decker

The circular economy – the newest magical word in the sustainable development vocabulary – promises economic growth without destruction or waste. However, the concept only focuses on a small part of total resource use and does not take into account the laws of thermodynamics.

Circular-economy-2

Illustration: Diego Marmolejo.

Introducing the Circular Economy

The circular economy has become, for many governments, institutions, companies, and environmental organisations, one of the main components of a plan to lower carbon emissions. In the circular economy, resources would be continually re-used, meaning that there would be no more mining activity or waste production. The stress is on recycling, made possible by designing products so that they can easily be taken apart.

Attention is also paid to developing an “alternative consumer culture”. In the circular economy, we would no longer own products, but would loan them. For example, a customer could pay not for lighting devices but for light, while the company remains the owner of the lighting devices and pays the electricity bill. A product thus becomes a service, which is believed to encourage businesses to improve the lifespan and recyclability of their products.

The circular economy is presented as an alternative to the “linear economy” – a term that was coined by the proponents of circularity, and which refers to the fact that industrial societies turn valuable resources into waste. However, while there’s no doubt that the current industrial model is unsustainable, the question is how different to so-called circular economy would be.

Several scientific studies (see references) describe the concept as an “idealised vision”, a “mix of various ideas from different domains”, or a “vague idea based on pseudo-scientific concepts”. There’s three main points of criticism, which we discuss below.

Too Complex to Recycle

The first dent in the credibility of the circular economy is the fact that the recycling process of modern products is far from 100% efficient. A circular economy is nothing new. In the middle ages, old clothes were turned into paper, food waste was fed to chickens or pigs, and new buildings were made from the remains of old buildings. The difference between then and now is the resources used.

Before industrialisation, almost everything was made from materials that were either decomposable – like wood, reeds, or hemp – or easy to recycle or re-use – like iron and bricks. Modern products are composed of a much wider diversity of (new) materials, which are mostly not decomposable and are also not easily recycled.

For example, a recent study of the modular Fairphone 2 – a smartphone designed to be recyclable and have a longer lifespan – shows that the use of synthetic materials, microchips, and batteries makes closing the circle impossible. Only 30% of the materials used in the Fairphone 2 can be recuperated. A study of LED lights had a similar result.

The large-scale use of synthetic materials, microchips, and batteries makes closing the circle impossible.

The more complex a product, the more steps and processes it takes to recycle. In each step of this process, resources and energy are lost. Furthermore, in the case of electronic products, the production process itself is much more resource-intensive than the extraction of the raw materials, meaning that recycling the end product can only recuperate a fraction of the input. And while some plastics are indeed being recycled, this process only produces inferior materials (“downcycling”) that enter the waste stream soon afterwards.

The low efficiency of the recycling process is, on its own, enough to take the ground from under the concept of the circular economy: the loss of resources during the recycling process always needs to be compensated with more over-extraction of the planet’s resources. Recycling processes will improve, but recycling is always a trade-off between maximum material recovery and minimum energy use. And that brings us to the next point.

How to Recycle Energy Sources?

The second dent in the credibility of the circular economy is the fact that 20% of total resources used worldwide are fossil fuels. More than 98% of that is burnt as a source of energy and can’t be re-used or recycled. At best, the excess heat from, for example, the generation of electricity, can be used to replace other heat sources.

As energy is transferred or transformed, its quality diminishes (second law of thermodynamics). For example, it’s impossible to operate one car or one power plant with the excess heat from another. Consequently, there will always be a need to mine new fossil fuels. Besides, recycling materials also requires energy, both through the recycling process and the transportation of recycled and to-be-recycled materials.

To this, the supporters of the circular economy have a response: we will shift to 100% renewable energy. But this doesn’t make the circle round: to build and maintain renewable energy plants and accompanied infrastructures, we also need resources (both energy and materials). What’s more, technology to harvest and store renewable energy relies on difficult-to-recycle materials. That’s why solar panels, wind turbines and lithium-ion batteries are not recycled, but landfilled or incinerated.

Input Exceeds Output

The third dent in the credibility of the circular economy is the biggest: the global resource use – both energetic and material – keeps increasing year by year. The use of resources grew by 1400% in the last century: from 7 gigatonnes (Gt) in 1900 to 62 Gt in 2005 and 78 Gt in 2010. That’s an average growth of about 3% per year – more than double the rate of population growth.

Growth makes a circular economy impossible, even if all raw materials were recycled and all recycling was 100% efficient. The amount of used material that can be recycled will always be smaller than the material needed for growth. To compensate for that, we have to continuously extract more resources.

Growth makes a circular economy impossible, even if all raw materials were recycled and all recycling was 100% efficient.

The difference between demand and supply is bigger than you might think. If we look at the whole life cycle of resources, then it becomes clear that proponents for a circular economy only focus on a very small part of the whole system, and thereby misunderstand the way it operates.

Accumulation of Resources

A considerable segment of all resources – about a third of the total – are neither recycled, nor incinerated or dumped: they are accumulated in buildings, infrastructure, and consumer goods. In 2005, 62 Gt of resources were used globally. After subtracting energy sources (fossil fuels and biomass) and waste from the mining sector, the remaining 30 Gt were used to make material goods. Of these, 4 Gt was used to make products that last for less than one year (disposable products).

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Illustration: Diego Marmolejo.

The other 26 Gt was accumulated in buildings, infrastructure, and consumer goods that last for more than a year. In the same year, 9 Gt of all surplus resources were disposed of, meaning that the “stocks” of material capital grew by 17 Gt in 2005. In comparison: the total waste that could be recycled in 2005 was only 13 Gt (4 Gt disposable products and 9 Gt surplus resources), of which only a third (4 Gt) can be effectively recycled.

About a third of all resources are neither recycled, nor incinerated or dumped: they are accumulated in buildings, infrastructure, and consumer goods.

Only 9 Gt is then put in a landfill, incinerated, or dumped – and it is this 9 Gt that the circular economy focuses on. But even if that was all recycled, and if the recycling processes were 100% efficient, the circle would still not be closed: 63 Gt in raw materials and 30 Gt in material products would still be needed.

As long as we keep accumulating raw materials, the closing of the material life cycle remains an illusion, even for materials that are, in principle, recyclable. For example, recycled metals can only supply 36% of the yearly demand for new metal, even if metal has relatively high recycling capacity, at about 70%. We still use more raw materials in the system than can be made available through recycling – and so there are simply not enough recyclable raw materials to put a stop to the continuously expanding extractive economy.

The True Face of the Circular Economy

A more responsible use of resources is of course an excellent idea. But to achieve that, recycling and re-use alone aren’t enough. Since 71% of all resources cannot be recycled or re-used (44% of which are energy sources and 27% of which are added to existing stocks), you can only really get better numbers by reducing total use.

A circular economy would therefore demand that we use less fossil fuels (which isn’t the same as using more renewable energy), and that we accumulate less raw materials in commodities. Most importantly, we need to make less stuff: fewer cars, fewer microchips, fewer buildings. This would result in a double profit: we would need less resources, while the supply of discarded materials available for re-use and recycling would keep growing for many years to come.

It seems unlikely that the proponents of the circular economy would accept these additional conditions. The concept of the circular economy is intended to align sustainability with economic growth – in other words, more cars, more microchips, more buildings. For example, the European Union states that the circular economy will “foster sustainable economic growth”.

Even the limited goals of the circular economy – total recycling of a fraction of resources – demands an extra condition that proponents probably won’t agree with: that everything is once again made with wood and simple metals, without using synthetic materials, semi-conductors, lithium-ion batteries or composite materials.

 


References:

Haas, Willi, et al. “How circular is the global economy?: An assessment of material flows, waste production, and recycling in the European Union and the world in 2005.” Journal of Industrial Ecology 19.5 (2015): 765-777.

Murray, Alan, Keith Skene, and Kathryn Haynes. “The circular economy: An interdisciplinary exploration of the concept and application in a global context.” Journal of Business Ethics 140.3 (2017): 369-380.

Gregson, Nicky, et al. “Interrogating the circular economy: the moral economy of resource recovery in the EU.” Economy and Society 44.2 (2015): 218-243.

Krausmann, Fridolin, et al. “Global socioeconomic material stocks rise 23-fold over the 20th century and require half of annual resource use.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (2017): 201613773.

Korhonen, Jouni, Antero Honkasalo, and Jyri Seppälä. “Circular economy: the concept and its limitations.” Ecological economics 143 (2018): 37-46.

Fellner, Johann, et al. “Present potentials and limitations of a circular economy with respect to primary raw material demand.” Journal of Industrial Ecology 21.3 (2017): 494-496.

Reuter, Markus A., Antoinette van Schaik, and Miquel Ballester. “Limits of the Circular Economy: Fairphone Modular Design Pushing the Limits.” 2018

Reuter, M. A., and A. Van Schaik. “Product-Centric Simulation-based design for recycling: case of LED lamp recycling.” Journal of Sustainable Metallurgy 1.1 (2015): 4-28.

Reuter, Markus A., Antoinette van Schaik, and Johannes Gediga. “Simulation-based design for resource efficiency of metal production and recycling systems: Cases-copper production and recycling, e-waste (LED lamps) and nickel pig iron.” The International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment 20.5 (2015): 671-693.

[Kris De Decker is the creator and author of “Low-tech Magazine”, a blog that is published in English, Dutch and Spanish. Low-tech Magazine refuses to assume that every problem has a high-tech solution. (Since 2007).]

“Clean Energy” is a Dirty Joke

We Suspect Silence

November 14, 2016

By Michael Swifte

 

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“Clean Energy” is a rhetorical device of unprecedented scope. A poorly defined but effective shield for any pundit, mouthpiece or messaging agent to use when speaking of a seemingly uncertain energy future. “Clean Energy” has given its name to many formal processes, organisations, and campaigns. Our climate leaders use the term when they talk about targets, and renewables, and “low carbon” futures. And for whatever it may signify “clean energy” does have a Wiki page, but (at the time of writing Nov 14, 2016) it is unpopulated and redirects you to the Sustainable Energy Wiki page.

As someone who is hellbent on finding a way to destroy fossil fools there is one thing that is certain, this juggernaut will not rest till it’s all gone. That’s how fossil fools have always played their cronyistic, monopolistic, deeply networked game. That’s how I look at motive and likelihoods.

When I discovered that some of the very same people who were presenting the most popular arguments for why we should #keepitintheground were also paving the way for carbon capture and storage I began asking questions about the development of this particular form of energy generation. Questions like: Why would organisations that are telling us about carbon bubbles, carbon budgets, unburnable carbon, and stranded assets be supporting the continued burning of gas, coal, and trees, and the expansion of geological storage of CO2 under the North Sea in old oil and gas fields owned by Shell and Statoil? Surely they care about ending the destruction?

I quickly realised I was asking the wrong questions. I shouldn’t be asking why, I should be asking how? How do fundamentally economic concepts like unburnable carbon, stranded assets, and carbon budgets work for the inevitable continuation of fossil fuel extraction and the wholesale destruction of forests? How much political will for carbon capture and storage is out there and how is it expressed? How are pundits, mouthpieces or messaging agents able to use “clean energy” to mask their support for energy that is in no way clean?

It’s impossible to answer these questions without going on the journey to understanding how conflated logics and rhetorical devices appear, are transmitted, and express themselves in language. This is the very heart of psychological warfare, the understanding of the spread and power of particular logics, and how the management of information, it’s architecture and the imperatives behind it’s production facilitates mass deception and behaviour change.

My broad methodology for understanding the messaging sphere and comprehending the logical underpinnings of key pieces of language is this: follow the money, interrogate the messaging, and analyse the networks.

LEADERS – Politicians, corporate executives, high level public servants and UN chiefs

This is my messaging interrogation methodology for leaders: When I hear a leader use the term “clean energy” I compare that to the policy, technology, and investment objectives for which they speak, vote, develop networks, and maintain silence.

Here are some very stark examples:

US Department of Energy, Research and Development webpage has “CLEAN ENERGY R&D” emblazoned at the top, near the bottom of the page is carbon capture and storage, and nuclear energy. US Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz has publicly thanked Senator Whitehouse for bringing forward a new bill aimed at providing tax credits for carbon capture utilisation and storage projects ( I’ll go into more detail later). Key projects funded by the US DoE involve CO2 scrubbed from coal-fired plants being used for enhanced oil recovery projects where CO2 is sequestered. Moniz has also publicly echoed James Hansen’s belief in nuclear energy as a key to “solving climate change”.

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Jeremy Corbyn talks a big “clean energy” game, but he also voted in support of the pro carbon capture and storage policies Labour took to last year’s election. He  once talked about reopening coal mines saying in an early interview

“The last deep mine coal mines in South Wales have gone but it’s quite possible that in future years coal prices will start to go up again around the world and maybe they’ll be a case for what is actually very high quality coal, particularly in South Wales, being mined again.”

In that same interview he responded in favour of CCS hinting at cost as a downside

“It’s complicated. At one level it looks very expensive but the advantages also look quite attractive”.

Of course he has since disingenuously distanced himself from his remarks about returning to coal mining saying “It was one question about one mine, I’m not in favour of reopening the mines.”

Canada’s environment minister Catherine McKenna stated in May this year that Canada’s carbon capture and storage projects were a

“real opportunity for Canada to export solutions” and made her support absolutely clear saying “So when you have carbon capture and storage, that’s certainly an innovative solution — a made-in-Canada solution,”

Compare those statements with her remarks at the Canada 2020 conference November 20, 2015, “And we’ll support progress in clean energy—because innovations in our energy sector can be commercialized, scaled up and exported. Done right, this will create good middle class jobs, grow our economy and reduce pollution, including greenhouse gases.”

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In my blog post of May, 2015 ‘The Climate Chief, the Summit, and the Silence’ I highlighted how then Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, Christiana Figueres, in a Q & A session as part of the 2nd annual Australian Emissions Reduction Summit, derailed a question on “draw down” of CO2 (presumably through agricultural soil sequestration) to speak in favour of carbon capture and storage investment. I noted the absence of responses from the commentariat. One of the few organisations to take note of the climate chief’s words was called CO2-CRC a carbon capture and storage research project which is chaired by former Australian energy and mining minister Martin Ferguson. CO2-CRC are currently pumping sequestered CO2 under the Ottway Ranges in Victoria, Australia. Another organisation to take note (they actual used a meme I created without giving credit) was SaskPower CCS, the most advanced coal-fired CCS project on the planet.

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NON-LEADERS – Journalists, NGO and think tank spokespeople, celebrity spokespeople

Leaders represent institutions, corporations and political processes that impact on material change in the world. Non-leaders deal with ideas and supposed facts, and in essence seek to shape thinking for the better as they are paid to conceive it. As a representative of a media institution or a non-profit entity non-leaders are compelled to steer certain talking points, and observe relationships and platforms developed and defended by their particular institution or entity. Pointing out the contradictions between rhetoric and reality is simple, but if pointing out those contradictions helps to unpack or highlight an issue then non-leaders will largely ignore the contradictions, avoid unpacking the issue, and avoid engaging in meaningful discussion. Non-leaders with significant reach and networks are pivotal to the dissemination of talking points, conflated logics, and rhetorical devices.

My messaging interrogation methodology for non-leaders goes like this: When I read a piece from a key pundit/commentator/mouthpiece working with a media entity, think tank, or NGO I look for adherence to particular talking points and conflated logics. Most authors have sets of talking points suffused with conflated logics passed on to them through the media and through their networks of allies and affiliations.  My provisional assumption when reading a piece is that the author is not inclined to fully unpack an issue lest they stray into uncovering some inconvenient truths. Avoiding certain talking points signifies to me that the author would rather not give credence to those talking points. Silences are created by failing to speak to significant talking points. Silence is the hardest thing to identify and the most challenging component of messaging interrogation.

Non-leaders in the media employ what I call attending behaviour in avoiding certain talking points and triggers for unpacking inconvenient ideas and information. For the attending non-leader it’s all about speaking to an issue without really opening it up, not being utterly silent, erecting a defensible position which makes any real challenger seem petty.

Lets look at two non-leaders from the media, George Monbiot at The Guardian, and David Roberts at Grist and Vox.

Here’s a quote from a recent piece by Monbiot where he recognises the reality of increased demand for negative emissions and the role envisaged by many for CCS as a solution, then dismisses it – hyperlink to a story about last year’s cancelled 1 billion pound CCS competition in the UK.

“The only means of reconciling governments’ climate change commitments with the opening of new coal mines, oilfields and fracking sites is carbon capture and storage: extracting carbon dioxide from the exhaust gases of power stations and burying it in geological strata. But despite vast efforts to demonstrate the technology, it has not been proved at scale, and appears to be going nowhere. Our energy policies rely on vapourware.”

Reading this for the first time sent my head into a spin. Monbiot appears to be arguing that CCS would be alright if it worked. I tweeted Monbiot a bunch of memes with quotes which got the attention of the International Energy Agency, Green House Gas Research and Development Program Twitter account.

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Here’s a quote from a recent piece by Roberts called ‘No country on Earth is taking the 2 degree climate target seriously’.

“What is clear is that we are betting our collective future on being able to bury millions of tons of carbon. It’s a huge and existentially risky bet — and maybe one out of a million people even know it’s being made.”

In making his assertions on the state of political will for mitigation technologies like CCS, Roberts cites an obscure UNFCCC report from the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice titled: ‘Report on the structured expert dialogue on the 2013–2015 review’ It’s one hell of a document, I could sense that the delegates were drooling over the idea of pulping forests. Roberts is right in his conclusions about political will for bio-energy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS) and CCS, but – here’s where the attending behaviour kicks in – including a hyperlink to a document doesn’t constitute unpacking the political will. Not when the title of your article refers to inaction from countries, and countries have politicians who are on record giving their support for carbon capture and storage investment. There are any number of documents, links, and names he could have shared that would have revealed the punchline, but he didn’t. We can’t say he didn’t attend to the subject, but we can’t say he smashed that pinata.

Roberts’ article is ostensibly a response to a report released by Oil Change International (OCI) in September this year titled THE SKY’S LIMIT: WHY THE PARIS CLIMATE GOALS REQUIRE A MANAGED DECLINE OF FOSSIL FUEL PRODUCTION.Roberts  introduces the themes of “cognitive dissonance” and “psychological schism” at the state of the collective response to climate change. He then presents the OCI article stating “This cognitive dissonance is brought home yet again in a new report from Oil Change” Indeed the OCI report written with “collaborators” that you could only call “the usual suspects” (climate cartel) elicits cognitive dissonance for the sheer number of qualified statements on CCS in the context of carbon budgets. The phrase “in the absence of CCS” and other similar phrases appear on more than half a dozen occasions. The below quote summarizes the position of the world’s leading green groups on carbon capture and storage.

“If CCS is eventually proven and deployed, it might provide a welcome means of further lowering emissions.”

In the end the OCI authors cite prudence as the most important consideration.

“However, we take the view that it would not be prudent to be dependent on an uncertain technology to avoid dangerous climate change; a much safer approach is to ensure that emissions are reduced in the first place by reducing fossil fuel use and moving the economy to clean energy. Therefore, we apply that assumption throughout this report.”

My feeling about David Roberts who is a colleague of Bill McKibben at Grist.com is that his job is to postulate on the things Bill McKibben can’t (lest he be compelled to unpack). While I agree with the earlier quote and recognise that I am probably one of those “one out of a million people”, I find it concerning that David Roberts can comprehend that we are indeed “betting our collective future” on carbon capture utilization and storage, but not attend to who and what constitutes the political will. I’ve formed the opinion over time that David Roberts conforms to the same remit and talking points as Bill McKibben, and that he has permission to go as close as possible to the hard limits without triggering the unpacking of political will.

There is an endless array of non-leaders from think tanks and NGOs that we could explore, but lets look at someone who has piped up and finally given a clear message about investment in the lead up to COP22.

Nicholas Stern chairs the Grantham Institute for Climate Change and the Environment. This is the research institute/think tank that I alluded to earlier when I explained what set me off on the journey of discovery into how fossil fools are manufacturing continued demand. While I have been watching Grantham and their allies closely for the last 3 years, it was only recently that I was able to find a quote from the horse’s mouth (Stern) that was succinct enough to share. The following quote is from a speech given at The Royal Society on October 31, 2016. It’s a very telling quote because it comes from an entity that promoted and repeatedly supported the divestment movement as well as hashtags/campaigns like #keepitintheground, and yet it clearly pushes for investment in CCS as a negative emissions technology.

“What can be done to achieve negative emissions? Carbon capture and storage technology is key.”

Here it is in meme form. Feel free to share it.

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GRUNT WORK

Here’s a quote from The Principles of Psywar by Jay Taber. I’ve worked to these two fundamental principles since I first read them.

“The first principle of psywar is never repeat the talking points of your enemy. The second principle is to deny them a platform to misinform.”

I’ve found these principles are great for maintaining the discipline of staying on-message during difficult discussions and developing a more succinct communication style.

Applying these two principles has given me stamina and strengthened my resolve. Grunt work requires hours of immersion in deflating, boring, and propaganda riddled content. My enemies are manufacturing hope, and funding every avenue that leads to new people, cultures, and markets to co-opt. But I can be realistic about the enormity, pervasiveness, and shape of the enemy because I have a strategy against their constant destabilising tactics.

Grunt work is the true revolutionary work.

FEEBLE RESISTANCE

Putting up feeble resistance is a way of manufacturing silence. This is precisely what is happening this year in the US with critical pieces of legislation introduced to congress seeking to facilitate the growth of the carbon capture and storage sector with a particular interest in CO2 enhanced oil recovery (EOR). Here I will discuss two pieces of complimentary legislation that have received bipartisan support, support from industry, support from the Natural Resource Defense Council, and support from one of the largest union organisations in the US, the AFL-CIO. Both bills seek to modify provisions in the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008 (bail out). I will show that the resistance is barely even visible. NGOs who claim to represent workers and/or the environment, organisations like the Labor Network for Sustainability have barely even acknowledged the existence of these new bills.

When Republican congressman Mike Conaway presented his bill the Carbon Capture Act in February 25, 2016 Brad Markell, Executive Director of the AFL-CIO’s Industrial Union Council had this to say as part of a “diverse coalition” which included Arch Coal, Peabody Coal, and Summit Power.

“CCS is absolutely critical to preserving good-paying jobs in manufacturing and industrial and energy production, while reducing the environmental footprint of these activities. The financial incentives in this legislation will also support much-needed construction jobs as we build projects and infrastructure for CCS. Representative Conaway has proposed a win-win for our economy and environment.”

Markell’s colleague D. Michael Langford, National President, Utility Workers Union of America, AFL-CIO had this to say on the same press release.

“There are few real examples of technology that are both good for the economy and good for the environment. Carbon capture technology is one true example. Incentives to develop and deploy carbon capture will have a positive effect on our economy while at the same time, reduce greenhouse gas emissions. A permanent extension of tax credits for Section 45Q of the Tax Code will be essential in building a twenty first century economy that provides large numbers good paying jobs while addressing environmental concerns.”

I challenged Joe Uehlein, Founding President of the Labor Network for Sustainability (LN4S) and former AFL-CIO strategist to put the position of LN4S forward in response to AFL-CIO support but his response was flat, defensive, and not worth posting. It wasn’t until Democrat Senators Whitehouse and Heitkamp introduced their bill, the Carbon Capture Utilization and Storage Act, that the resistance went from virtually nothing to slightly more than nothing.

Senator Whitehouse’s press release announcing the introduction of his bill neglects to mention coal based carbon capture or CO2 based enhanced oil recovery. Instead the focus is put on non fossil fuel based processes like industrial water treatment and algae biomass projects. This is also the theme he lead with on social media as you can see from the below image.

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This is when Friends of the Earth US stepped in with a letter to congress calling the 45Q tax credit amendments for which both bills were created, a CO2-EOR subsidy. The closing sentence of the letter highlights that it’s not coal based carbon capture and storage or even the storage of CO2 in old oil reservoirs that FoE US and the long list of cosignatory NGOs (photo below) are taking issue with, but the purported increase in oil that can be recovered.

“Enhancing oil recovery is not a climate solution. Neither is further subsidizing the oil industry. In fact both are a step in the wrong direction. That is why we ask you to oppose any attempts to extend or expand the Section 45Q tax credit.”

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There are more than 30 co-signatory NGOs to the FoE US letter but when they went to social media it all fell flat. None of the usual cross promotional back patting and content sharing that allied NGOs are well known for happened.

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INFORMATION ARCHITECTURE AND NETWORKED STRUCTURES

There is a global group called the Clean Energy Ministerial (CEM) which holds forums, events and discussions for energy ministers and secretaries. Within this arrangement there is the Carbon Sequestration Leadership Forum, this is where the real “clean energy” action happens. Below is a screen grab from the Carbon Capture Use and Storage page of the CEM website which you should have a look at. If you do you will see that details of their position on CCUS is buried away. Similar structuring-out exists in the US for the Clean Energy States Alliance which leaves the definition of “clean energy” to be determined by the vagaries of energy infrastructure development and regulation for each state.

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DEMAND FOR NEGATIVE EMISSIONS TECHNOLOGY

The propagandists have effectively manufactured demand for negative emissions. Power only ever makes win-win plays. Every failure to deliver real emissions reductions creates more demand and there are legions of mouthpieces looking for good metrics, ready to pump the hopium and spell out the technofixes. The propagandists know that the biggest risk to their agenda comes from free, open, and informed discussion. A thorough and relevant discourse has never occurred for carbon capture and storage. The CCS loving Bellona Foundation (Twitter admin) all but acknowledged this to me recently.
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COP22 will deliver “clean energy” finance and climate finance. The punchline to the dirty joke has been protected. Senior editors, NGO trustees, impact philanthropists, and senior bureaucrats all know how to guide inquiry away from the no go zones. They know that the worth of everyone who works under them is contingent on their ability to discern the dog whistles and self censor.

MITIGATION TRADING

While nations struggle to implement carbon taxes and emissions trading schemes new CCS projects have developed that when the time comes will be able to demonstrate that they have the capability to sequester carbon at scale. Australian economist Allan Kohler theorised that the Australian Emissions Reduction Fund, Safeguard Mechanism  could represent a “proxy ETS”. It could come to pass that the Gorgon Gas Project which began sequestering CO2 under Barrow Island off the coast of Western Australia this year could retrospectively claim a subsidy for their efforts. Will Australia in the near future use this sequestered carbon to satisfy their climate commitments?

The city of Rotterdam has put itself forward as a future CO2 export hub and the Teesside Collective industrial decarbonisation project still claim they are “leading the way in low carbon technologies”. Remi Erikson, CEO of DNV GL clearly thinks that a North Sea CO2 storage hub is bankable.

Another meme to share.

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Storage capacity for CO2 has been successfully commodified before any kind of discussion about the international agreements that are meant to cover activities like undersea storage have even happened. The London Protocol and Convention which is administered by the International Maritime Organisation is not ready to manage the development of undersea storage, and the maritime area managed by OSPAR Commission north of the Atlantic has permitted under sea storage in the North Sea at Norway’s Sleipner field. OSPAR are very supportive of investment in carbon capture and storage. Here’s a quote from the Quality Status Report 2010.

 “Capturing carbon from combustion at source and transporting this to sub-seabed geological reservoirs could help mitigate climate change over century-long time scales and thus help with the transition to a lower carbon economy.”

THE SHOW WILL GO ON

I tried to find the source for the proliferation of “clean energy” as a pivotal propaganda term. Looking at the list of attendees at the 2009 Getting to 350 conference was very enlightening. Lewis Milford who heads up the Clean Energy States Alliance was there as was James Hansen who advocates nuclear over renewables. Members of Al Gore’s Climate Project were there along with ecological economist Bob Costanza and the nuclear and carbon capture spruiking Jesse Jenkins.

I found the likely source of “clean energy” by digging into the Podesta emails and following the trail back to 2006 and the Clinton Global Initiative Annual Meeting (link has already disappeared) where Podesta was championing the “Clean Energy Investment Boom”. The Clinton Global Initiative had a key role in bringing 350.org to global prominence. Podesta recently sat down with US Energy Secretary , Ernest Moniz  and I’ll let the meme tell you what they both agreed on.

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New US president? Makes little difference. There was no ‘war on coal’. The clean power plan was never clean. “Clean Energy” has paved the way for the financing of carbon capture utilization and storage as critical to the development of our energy systems, and fundamental to the decarbonisation of industry.

Let’s give Al Gore the last word $$$$$$$$$

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White Pedagogy: The Exclusivity of White Hegemony

Odyssey

October 18, 2016

By Patrick J. Derilus

“Most persons have accepted the tacit but clear modern philosophy which assigns to the white race alone the hegemony of the world.” — W.E.B. Du Bois

White Hegemony is a systemic structure administered in pedagogical and societal practice, which emphasizes and reinforces the racist ideology of White superiority linguistically, socially, and intellectually. Within White supremacist culture, formal English is the so-called “perfect” and “articulate” and “intelligent-sounding” way most individuals are subject to learn how to speak. In a White eugenicist context, this racist notion suggests that Whiteness is the apex of both genetic and intellectual life. Moreover, it is indicative of White normativity.

James Baldwin v. William F. Buckley Jr. Debate

“Throughout, and especially in its higher reaches, higher education is a White and male dominated system. The reproduction of Whiteness and White (and male and upper-middle-class) dominance is part of the ‘hidden curriculum’ of higher education.” — Jessica M. Charbeneau, Enactments of Whiteness in Pedagogical Practice

If I, an American-Haitian man, speaks formal English, White people will find it patronizingly enlightening and sometimes surprising to understand that I’m able to articulate myself so eloquently. White people have not seen my humanity because of my Blackness. White people have recognized my Blackness in the way they have been conditioned to perceive me. Thus, I supposedly have sounded like them, which was conforming to the White hegemonic standard. In the past, Black people have shied away from me here and there, while having the assumption that I talk “white.”

In retrospect, I had not acknowledged a lot of white supremacist ideals that I have been living with. Because of this, my past assumption on the way that I spoke and carried myself, made me feel as though I was exceptional among Black people. On the contrary, using big words never made me smarter. I’ve always been smart. The whole time I was unconsciously pacifying myself to appease white overseers who are both covertly and overtly racist. But language is the universal tongue of human interaction which brings us to understand one another beyond face value. White Hegemony is not inclusive. White Hegemony is exclusive. Additionally, White Hegemony racializes linguistics. White Hegemony makes it so that people who cannot speak properly, are both incomprehensible and incompetent.

Malcolm X - Who Taught You To Hate Yourself Speech
White people, unable to see their particularity, cannot take account of other people’s; white people don’t quite see that they thus construct the world in their own image. — Richard Dyer, Whiteness: The Power of Invisibility

Growing up and city-hopping through suburban neighborhoods most my life, and being surrounded by racist White people and being victim to internalized racism, I had previously conceded with the bigoted sentiment that, for instance, slang is a “sub-par” way of articulating oneself.

Kai Davis - Fuck I Look Like (Poem)

You looking at me like I’m not supposed to be standing here next to you
like, we in the same class but your idea of advance is too advanced
and my mind can’t match you, I think it’s my vernacular,
how I got half the consonants and twice the apostrophes
so my philosophy can’t be valid. — Kai Davis, F*ck I Look Like (Spoken Word Poem)

I’ve been practicing to unlearn the ignorance I’ve been taught, slowly understanding that slang is not a substandard way of talking or writing. It never was. Ebonics, or perhaps a more politically correct way of phrasing the term, A.A.V.E. (African American Vernacular English), is the language of the Black diaspora. Oftentimes, if someone from a country (that was once colonized) is coming to America, they are required to speak correct and fluent English. The idea is, if someone from outside the United States is not speaking “correct” English, and yes I quoted the word “correct” because the correct pronunciations of words are subjective, the person will be ridiculed by Americans (predominantly White Americans), presuming that the language or the way the individual is talking is “inferior” or “wrong.”

Language is language. Outside of White supremacist culture, there exists no “perfect” or “superior” language.

False Hope: The Core Strategy of 350

April 27, 2016

By Jay Taber

 

Hope 1

 

Bomb train protest events are good. They help to remind people of the looming threat. Some of the participants might even get involved in politics, where decisions are made. Good for them.

That said, while taking selfies and holding placards is good clean fun that builds camaraderie, it is not the same as getting involved in electing authentic leaders and fighting government corruption. That takes a lot of hard work and sustained commitment over years, even decades.

Hope 2

So protests are a good start, but the point of protest is to do the research, education, and organizing that lead to effective community action and changes in public policy. Symbolic protests that generate delusional expectations, however, are in the long run disempowering. When unrealistic demands go nowhere, protestors become frustrated, cynical, and disheartened.

Social movement entrepreneurs, i.e. 350, know this. Indeed, organizing designer protests and vanity arrests, while making unrealistic demands, is the MO of 350. While disempowering of its followers, it appeals to these pious poseurs by making them feel righteous and forceful, while not asking them to make any real sacrifices. Endless protests and other staged 350 events also dissipate the energy of its followers, leaving them worn out before the real work begins.

hope 9

The half-truth of the need to stop oil trains sets up 350 followers for the whole lie, i.e. “an end to fossil fuel development and an immediate transition to a renewable energy” that is absolutely infeasible—unless everyone is willing to stop driving cars, flying on planes, and heating their homes, while simultaneously growing all their own food and building their own housing from baked-mud bricks. For Wall Street NGOs, the nature of campaigns is to undermine movements.

The half-truth—whole lie strategy of 350, that promotes magical thinking like ending all fossil fuels is actually a textbook case of psychological warfare. As the core strategy of 350, the false hope of fossil-free renewable energy is complemented by the magical thinking of the end times of capitalism. This popular disinformation, drilled into the minds of 350 followers ad infinitum, is the core of 350 psywar that is essential to the privatization strategy of the financial elite.

hope 7

You can see it in play with the false hope message that ‘capitalism is dying’. Really? It’s flourishing like never before. Just look at all the executive pay raises and people evicted by greedy slumlords driving up rents with venture capital used for gentrification. A pervasive term from those that flog false hope is ‘late-stage capitalism’, distorting the fact that capitalism is in its prime–stronger than ever. Another phrase false hope agent provocateurs use about this fantasy is that capitalism is now ‘winding itself down from system-level harms’, as though it wasn’t turbo-charged on total control of government institutions and rolling in stolen U.S. Treasury funds.

Remaking Capitalism Tweet

One of the magical ideas false hope promotes is that capitalism is dying because there is ‘no more profit to extract’. Jesus, where do they come up with this stuff? Capitalists are profiting hand-over-fist on everything from food to water to housing to medicine to energy with no end in sight. Do they think false hope followers aren’t paying rent and utility bills, or having to choose between food and medicine on their meager paychecks or social security benefits?

Lastly, the false hope pipe dream of ‘thriving prospects for all’ while we ‘live in harmony’ after the death of capitalism makes me wonder if they are smoking crack. Of course, they are not; they are preying on the misery of those who are desperate or gullible enough to fall for the core message of false hope, in order for their Wall Street paymasters to plunder what little we have left.

hope 10

hope 6

 

 

[Jay Thomas Taber is an associate scholar of the Center for World Indigenous Studies and a contributing editor of Fourth World Journal. Since 1994, he has served as communications director at Public Good Project, a volunteer network of researchers, analysts and journalists defending democracy. As a consultant, he has assisted Indigenous peoples in the European Court of Human Rights and at the United Nations.]

Sakej Ward – Decolonizing the Colonizer

Real News Media

January 13 , 2016

In this speech, Sakej Ward talks about decolonization in relationship to the original people of the land you are living in. He argues that a central aspect of any process of change requires the correct identification of the terms we use to describe ourselves. Ward seeks to dispel the illusions and resulting mistaken relationships that arise from using common labels of Canadians such as “guests”, “newcomers”, “brothers”, or “settlers” that suggest a passivity or undeserved level of innocence. Incorrect labels lead to incorrect relationships.

Ward argues that all of these labels mask the true nature of Canadians; they are occupiers upon indigenous homelands. The labels guests, partners, brothers and newcomers are all pacifist revisionist ways of incorrectly re-constructing the relationship. It starts by ignoring 500 years of genocidal atrocities and refuses to hold Canadians to account for their injustices. The label settler is too historically and politically sterile. Canadians are truly occupiers on our homelands. They need to acknowledge and take responsibility for the colonial crimes that they inherited, they benefit from and continue to impose today if any kind of reconciliation is to occur.

Ward concludes by arguing that European descendants need to trace back their own roots in their own homelands and overcome the trauma and destruction caused by the imperial Roman system that colonized them.

 

[Sakej (James Ward) belongs to the wolf clan. He is Mi’kmaw (Mi’kmaq Nation) from the community of Esgenoopetitj (Burnt Church First Nation, New Brunswick). He is the father of nine children, four grandchildren and a caregiver for one. He resides in Shxw’owhamel First Nation with his wife Melody Andrews and their children.]

FLASHBACK | Nostalgia for Origins – Miguel Amorós

Libcom

October 18, 2007

by Miguel Amorós

Translated in December 2012 from the Spanish text obtained from the website of the Spanish journal, Argelaga: https://argelaga.wordpress.com/2014/11/10/la-nostalgia-de-los-origenes/.

Aeneas and Venus

 

A 2007 essay on nationalism, whose “most progressive” historical variant “in the human sense” stood for the defense of “old customs and traditions, communitarian institutions, egalitarianism [and] the rejection of the industrialization process”, a tendency that is currently “being jettisoned in favor of an extreme economic modernization” in which “local oligarchies that are intimately linked with world finance” dominate ethnic and regional separatist movements and the real historical foundations of “peoples” in the old sense have been suppressed and replaced with fake “nationalist paraphernalia, neo-folklore, flags, anthems … and subsidized culture”.

Nostalgia for Origins – Miguel Amorós

“Undaunted youths, go, seek that mother earth
From which your ancestors derive their birth.
The soil that sent you forth, her ancient race
In her old bosom shall again embrace.”

Virgil, The Aeneid

The dissolution of all social bonds that are not reducible to transactions that bear within themselves the total reign of the commodity over human life arouses two kinds of reactions: one rational, and the other foreign to Reason. The first reaction was concretized in a radical democratism that broke with bourgeois liberalism to converge with a socialist anti-capitalism, with its first most incisive variant, in our view, being the anarchist naturist school. But the annihilation of memory that goes hand in hand with commodity colonization favors irrationality to the detriment of reflection and historical critique, and therefore it is also prejudicial to legitimate resistance to capital, especially when this irrationality is expressed among rural social groups, and is often manifested in sentimentalism, conservatism and religious traditionalism [de manera … ultramontana]. Although the first tentative expressions of anti-capitalism often speak the language of religion, it is a struggle that only requires the consciousness of what it is actually doing in order to become revolutionary. The local impulse to rally around “the old laws”, tradition or the absolute monarchy, which responded to the same causes as the millenarian peasant revolts or the Luddite riots of the weavers and miners, occurred in various locations on the Iberian peninsula during the 19th century. The deepest roots of regional nationalism were embedded during this era, and in the case of the Basque Country they are quite evident, but nationalism properly speaking is manifested in very diverse ways in accordance with the class interests that use it as an ideological or political umbrella, depending on the specific weight of the proletariat and the degree of capitalist development that has been attained. At the present time, now that the process of industrialization has culminated in the transformation of society itself into one vast global industry, when the standardizing steamroller of mass culture has abolished differences, and when deracination is leading to nostalgia for lost identity, many are those who share the search for their “mother earth”, and nationalism, often mixed with other ideologies, is coming to the fore. The question concerning what relation the nationalist polemic can maintain with projects for social emancipation has different answers depending on the type of nationalism involved and the specific historical moment. To begin with we can say that at the present time almost all identity-based nationalisms and patriotisms are in practice alternative political approaches for carrying out capitalist development, approaches that oppose central State regulation of capitalist development, which is why their relation with freedom and the end of oppression is nil. Precisely the most interesting part of nationalism, and the most progressive in the human sense, that of its romantic origins, that is, the defense of old customs and traditions, communitarian institutions, egalitarianism, the rejection of the industrialization process and, in general, everything that really sets it apart, is the ballast which is being jettisoned in favor of an extreme economic modernization that is supposed to set the standard for and provide the new pattern for development in less developed nations. Most contemporary nationalists do not want to defend their identity by preserving their territory from global financial flows, but instead seek to create a profitable local franchise that will attract those flows. The development of regional metropolitan systems as nodes of the networks of globalized capitalism provide them with the best secessionist arguments: the conurbation-State is the most adequate political form for economic globalization, the form that provides the highest profits. This nationalism therefore defends the interests of the local oligarchies that are intimately linked with world finance; the differences that distinguish various nationalist trends, to the degree that these differences have any meaning, respond to the variable impact of the emerging middle classes in their schemas, which are more or less oriented towards independence depending on the greater or lesser need for or fear of the central State power.

Nationalism is based on the assumption of the existence of a separate, homogeneous, ethnic population with its own interests, which speaks its own language, has its own culture and therefore constitutes a nation. By “historical right” it is supposed to be entitled to the development of its own sovereign institutions, the products of the popular will, in the framework of an independent State, with its parliament, its officials, its police, its army, its judges and its borders. We shall attempt to show that all of this is false. Everything that could define a people has long since ceased to exist and for that reason there is no popular will, either. The need for a national market created the central State, ruined the local non-capitalist economies and abrogated their laws. The rural areas were impoverished, their “historical” institutions were abolished, their popular folklore and traditions were lost together with all social relations extraneous to the economy (relations based on reciprocity, mutual aid, the gift, redistribution, barter…), communal lands were confiscated, guilds were dissolved, classes arose, migratory movements were set in motion and, finally, the individual was uprooted from his community and thrown onto the market. In the transition from a pre-capitalist society to a capitalist society, populations were gradually standardized and homogenized, that is, transformed into a proletarianized social class. Any community or harmony of interests that might have been able to exist among the Estates of the Ancien Régime disappeared, erased by the capitalist intrusion into society. Economic interest dominated every other kind of interest, popular culture passed away and the popular language ceased to be used among the elites. Despite the meritorious cultural renaissances linked to the local intelligentsia or to bourgeois sectors in conflict with the State (due to the unequal development of the ruling classes), the process nonetheless continued, and with the appearance of mass culture, that is, of the spectacle, of generalized entertainment, of the mass media, etc., language lost its validity as a vehicle of culture and means of communication—any language—putting an end to its role as the last sign of surviving identity. The current institutionalization of culture and teaching of regional languages has the same effect as the erstwhile institutionalization of Castilian culture and the promotion of the national language: no language can be used to communicate. The modern conditions of existence prevent any serious communication; language and communication do not go hand in hand.

The uniformity achieved under capitalism means the end of peoples and nations. The real content of popular resistance to the implications of this standardization, that is, the resistance against the creation of a market for money, land and labor, was distorted by the local bourgeoisie and petty bourgeois by way of the contrivance of ethnic stereotypes and national myths, the manipulation of history and the invention of a spurious tradition amalgamated with folkloric residues. The nationalists need a Golden Age whence they can extract idyllic images and fabulous visions that serve as models for the patriotic imagination and their electorate. This is never enough, however, and the active presence of the militant proletariat, a new factor, forced the nationalist movements to define themselves with respect to the proletarian movement. There was no lack of individuals who discovered that the revolutionary working class was the only subject capable of resolving the problem of the national question. The proletariat, as “working people” and social majority, became the depository of the essence of the fatherland. In general, the diverse socialist tendencies reacted against this trend. The anarchists, for example, opposed national independence in the name of the unity of the proletariat, and opposed the formation of a new State in the name of their principles. In its time, the CNT rejected the Catalan statute, despite the fact that the majority of its members had voted for the nationalist party, the ERC (the Catalan Republican Left), because the proposed new State was conceived in accordance with capitalist interests. The social revolution was real independence. Proletarian federalism went even beyond the statist secessionist movement, which diverted the attention of the workers and left exploitation as it was. The CNT recognized the “Catalan people”, but not the Catalan bourgeoisie; Catalonia was a country, but not a nationality. Nation and State were only artificial creations. Catalonia would be free only as a sum of federated municipalities, without borders, rather than as a State. The defense of the oppressed Catalan culture and language was perfectly compatible with the class struggle, for even though the proletariat is internationalist and has no fatherland—its fatherland is the world—it does have a language. Indeed, Catalonia was never more free than during those two and a half months when it was ruled by the Committee of Anti-fascist Militias, but this was not the kind of freedom that was desired by the diverse interests camouflaged under the flag of Catalanism, with the exception of those who were represented by the POUM. These interests were transformed during the civil war into the vanguard of the counterrevolution, excavating an abyss between the workers and Catalan nationalism that has yet to be bridged. The ephemeral resurgence of the workers movement in the sixties and seventies gave way once again to a socialistic nationalism, and even led to a certain type of anarcho-patriotism that hardly made any contribution to the identity debate and even less to libertarian theoretical renewal. The lure of lost roots caused the workers movement to fall into the trap of recovered “identity”, endorsing with greater or lesser enthusiasm the most suspect nationalist paraphernalia, neo-folklore, flags, anthems, [linguistic and cultural] “normalization” and subsidized culture, all of it presented by the local oligarchy as the recovery of national identity, while it is actually nothing but the obligatory supplementary curriculum for the subject who desires to prosper in the new political framework.

Today—in the Iberian peninsula and, more generally, in the countries where modern conditions of production and consumption prevail—there are no peoples, and to prove this we shall note the decline of the birth rate of the native population, the indisputable aging of the population and the flood of immigrants that maintains the level of exploitation that the functioning of the economy requires. Nor are there any specific places or landscapes; unrestricted urbanization has merged the countryside with the city by destroying both and scattering over the surface of the land a single predatory model of territorial occupation. Constant mobility has done the rest. There are no more real roots, or particular ethnicities, or national interests, or any greater identity than the one that is disseminated by the generalized uniform way of life. Under the absolute rule of capital, amidst the full-blown globalization of the economy, what causes people to resemble one another, regardless of their background, is much greater than what sets them apart. The levels of consumption or the degree of repression may vary, but the standardizing tendencies are increasingly erasing any and all differences. In a manner of speaking, everyone will end up either singing along with the “Macarena” or hating it. Even racial mixing and mixed race children are the inadvertent result of the planetary rule of finance. There are more than fifty languages spoken in every conurbation. The national interest is nothing but the interest of international capital represented in the “national” territory by its political-economic oligarchy. Only the oppressed are a nation. Does this mean that nationalist demands are reactionary? Not necessarily; at least not in their anti-capitalist and anti-centralist tendency. Not as the historic reference to a life outside the market and separate from the bourgeois State. It is reactionary, however, as bourgeois mystification and an alibi for leaders. It is reactionary as spectacle. The struggle against the oppression of the tide of globalization is essentially a local struggle and a struggle for the reassertion of local rights, but everywhere it is the same; freedom must start from the bottom, concretizing in local forms, direct relations, communities speaking their own languages, and this, without deviating from the cosmopolitan exigencies, will lead us to the real discovery of the past. This does not involve a return to the past, or disinterring an extinguished society, or giving life to a mummified people, forgetting about the rest of the world. It is not a return of the kind recommended by the god Apollo to Aeneas in our quotation from Virgil. It is rather a matter of recovering memory, identifying the point where society first took its demented turn, discovering in the old wisdom and the old collective practices of the peoples, but not only in them, the forms of a lost freedom, with the intention of availing ourselves of them in our modern anti-capitalist battles. It is in this historical connection between past and present, between local experience and the polyglot reality, that, in order to orient ourselves by real radical struggles—struggles that go to the root—we shall all have to find the signs of our future identity.

Stranger Danger: The Infiltration of Dissident Communities by Freedom House’s Sarah Kendzior

Anti Social Media

 

Stranger Danger - Not A Game

I can forgive you if you can’t recognize a hustle when you see one, let alone identify when you yourself are being targeted by that very hustle. Con artists, after all, rely on your confidence and trust in order to get what they want from you.

Cons, however, are something I know a little bit about; I once made my living playing poker – a game where exploiting the confidence of your opponents is crucial to survival.  To win at poker, you need your opponents to have confidence in their own hands, to overestimate their odds against you and to believe so much in your weakness that they’ll actually put their own survival on the line against you – when, in fact, you’re actually in a position of strength. You want to “get it in good;” to manipulate your opponents to ensure that you do and then hope your odds hold up. There is no other way to win. Eventually, everyone has to go “down to the felt.”

In poker, recognizing the tricks, feints and gambits that your opponents use against you, as well as, of course – their “tells” – is an indelible part of the game. Constant observation is key to differentiating a trick from a tell and also discerning their meaning. After all, trusting the way an opponent presents oneself is never a good barometer of who they are or what they’re doing. The only thing one knows for sure is that everyone is an enemy. A good poker player, then, is always asking herself, “What does that mean? What is my opponent trying to tell me?”

Overwrought flattery, wry smiles, winks, trembling hands, a tremulous voice, belabored breathing, heavy sighs, the shuffling of chips and other tells (both deliberate and incidental) are all part of the mystifying tapestry collectively woven at a table that a player must rend – thread by perplexing, individual thread – if they’re intent on winning the game. The woman in the Cartier bracelet spinning yarns about her wealth may be overplaying a bad hand with the very last dollars to her name, while the guy with dirty fingernails in the grungy hoodie who hasn’t said shit all night is often a professional shark sitting on a monster hand and waiting for his chance to clean you out. It takes studied observation over time to identify who is trying to trick you and who is telling you information you can use to win.

Performance of identity is an integral aspect of poker itself – and that performance is all about deception. Who am I today? Am I presenting as the brash, overconfident rube – the backwards-hat-wearing frat boy that I’m not – but am performing in order to agitate my opponents so they go “on tilt?” Or am I really that asshole? Who is to tell? A good player will keep you guessing.

While deceit is an inextricable part of poker, poker players have agreed on certain parameters; secret collusion amongst players is forbidden, for example. Furthermore, the goal of the game is apparent to everyone playing at the outset: win the last pot and take home everyone else’s money. There’s no confusion there. That’s why everyone came to the table to begin with.

Activists and organizers who use Twitter or other social media tools as part of their strategy to organize against power aren’t so lucky. The myriad ideological or personal goals of the many players involved in this space aren’t openly agreed upon or even known and, in fact, they may actually be in very real conflict, even if they don’t seem so at first glance. Let’s face it – we’re not all here for the same reason. There are, as there always have been, strangers amongst us on the internet.

So, without conclusive evidence that a player in the game isn’t playing above board – that they may, in fact, be working against your interests – it’s crucial to consider the patterns of behavior and the results of those behaviors themselves rather than to speculate about the motives behind them. Of course, if a player at the table openly says they work for the fucking casino itself, it’s probably important to consider that information, too.

 

 

“All these scattered Uzbek dissidents began having blogs, began using social media, began having all these political conversations they’d never been able to have in a public space before and so I thought that was, you know, that was very interesting, and I wanted to continue to track that.– Sarah KendziorWe’re not playing a game, here, folks – this isn’t poker – and those who continue to treat online organizing as a game (or merely as something to paternalistically observe, “track” and comment on exclusively when it services their personal, career trajectory) put those of us arrayed against the state at very real risk. Their professional distance and detachment from struggle itself and their far-too-often, far-too-cavalier attitudes about our collective security (our reputations, our ideological coherence, our pseudonymity and our ability to effectively organize) should be cause enough for alarm.

This alarm, the spine-tingling feeling that something is amiss – that someone is out of place and is doling out social capital or public discipline to obscure that simple fact – is a phenomenon I’ll call “stranger danger.” If you’ve felt this feeling, a gut-wrenching unease I’ve felt about Sarah Kendzior for some time now, it’s time we actually heed that alarm.

Sarah Kendzior has consistently tugged on the heartstrings, flattered the egos and promised (or actually delivered) real, material aid to an entire cadre of misguided, naive and demonstrably dangerous flacks whose personal investment in the public artifice of “Sarah Kendzior” has too often led them to viciously slander anyone they deem a threat to her unassailable #brand. This brand investment, one that seemingly leads otherwise intelligent folks to abandon all critical reason, is something we need to constantly examine in these spaces and a task OLAASM always committed ourselves to exploring.

Members of “Generation Like,” it seems sadly, can now seemingly be bought off for trifles like “Retweets” or “Favs,” and this cheap dispensation of social capital has been Kendzior’s stock and trade as long as I’ve followed her on Twitter. If you are in her social media orbit and have been instrumentalized by Kendzior to defend her on this or any of the patternized occasions where she relied on others to help obscure her politics, I urge you to reflect on one question: is it possible you’ve been hustled? What did you get for it? How cheap was your own complicity for her purchase?

This shouldn’t be a cause for shame, of course. In Edward Bernays’ seminal text Propaganda, Bernays – the master manipulator – observes:

 

“If you can influence the leaders, either with or without their conscious cooperation, you automatically influence the group which they sway.”

 

Bernays continues:

 

“The group mind does not think in the strict sense of the word… In making up its mind, its first impulse is usually to follow the example of a trusted leader.”

 

If Kendzior selected you for flattery, cajolery or any of the other promises a stranger will often use to curry your future favor – it probably means, as a propagandist, she has identified you as a “leader.” Don’t be ashamed. It’s a compliment! Of course it’s embarrassing to get fooled, but we all get hustled eventually. Every poker player has once been fooled and it’s almost always their own ego that fools them in the end.

This is, unfortunately, a demonstration of how power always operates: carrots are dispensed for the select few who play along, sticks are wielded against the recalcitrant masses – swung all the more harshly against those whose very existence alone threatens power the most. Kendzior’s recent, scurrilous and unprincipled attack on the character of Doug Williams should serve as a clarion call to anyone committed to using social media spaces toward collective organizing. The attacks on him have been unscrupulous lies and ignoring those lies in deference to her well-cultivated, essential “victimhood” seems now nothing but the boilerplate deflection tactic of a well-coordinated PR blitz.

We must confront this behavior – a well-documented history of gossip, slander and character assassination – before it hurts anyone else, or before it further impairs our ability to organize ourselves against the greatest power known in human history: the kyriarchy that maintains the US empire itself. To that end, it’s important to consider the source of so many left-bashings in this space herself – Sarah Kendzior.

How have I come to think Sarah Kendzior is a lynchpin in this always-left-obliterating superstructure of social capital dispensing/destroying Twitter fuckery? Why am I singling her out? Studied observation. Again, this isn’t my first poker game.

 

– – – –

 

I used to support Sarah Kendzior’s work. As Williams himself keenly observed recently in The New Inquiry, her “discourse is wrapped in the language of concern and the language of the ally.” This a seductive affectation for anyone who believes intercommunal solidarity is essential to all our struggles. It’s also effective simply because I fucking care and can be confused by others who seemingly do, too.

I have come, however, to see Kendzior’s adept use of this discourse as little more than “mirroring;” a fraudulent co-optation of language insidiously employed only to insinuate herself within dissident communities. This is all the more dangerous because it obscures her very dangerous, reactionary politics.

Remember: Sarah Kendzior is – by her own admission in a recent interview  – a professional infiltrator of online, dissident communities. Her extensive, PhD-level career training as an anthropologist itself may very well reinforce what Diane Lewis called Anthropology’s “professional exploitation of subject matter” that itself is “an academic manifestation of colonialism.”

What does Kendzior do to actually challenge – let alone subvert – this inherently colonial power dynamic in her field? As a white Western observer, reporting through the very real “white gaze”, Kendzior occasionally gestures at inclusivity in media. That’s nice. But let’s remember: she does this while occupying an elite-and-whiteness-enabled perch within mass media herself – and while also seemingly never deconstructing how she herself got to that position or stepping back from her own privilege in any way to actually make space for others.

Disagreeing with how she wields her inordinate privilege is one thing, of course, but it strains credulity to believe that someone who earned a PhD studying a Uzbek dissident group’s use of social media can continue to be the source of so much strife within our own, dissident online community without knowing exactly what she is doing. That an “awww, shucks” cacophony continues to accompany Kendzior’s near-constant, bad faith provocations in this space belie her obvious intelligence and abundant, scholarly training in this very field.

Kendzior has proven herself immensely capable of utilizing social media spaces and wielding them to serve her will, to promote her own work and those of others whose politics she wants centered. That Kendzior is, yet again, not to be held accountable for her lies, manipulations, smears, state-serving politics and neoconservative-think-tank-funded red-baiting because she is a “she,” is a perilous position for any radical to take. How are her politics and how she embodies them not to subject to the same scrutiny we’d give a Brandon Darby?

Further, regardless of whether the wreckage Kendzior consistently creates in her wake is a result of naive disregard or willful sabotage, it should still be enough to just look at the wreckage itself and move to distance ourselves from a very obvious wrecking ball. So, let’s look at that wreckage.

—–

 

The first time I became aware of Sarah Kendzior, she had written perhaps one of the most unethical, slanderous and unprofessional hatchet jobs ever posted, even to a mere blog. She got a lot of clicks for what is essentially little more than cherry-picked, blog-mining libel of another woman struggling to raise a family and share her own struggles. Kendzior decontextualized everything “Anarchist Soccer Mom” had written about over years of blogging, slapped it down under her own masthead to serve her own, finger-wagging narrative and essentially demanded her readers despise their author rather than empathize with her struggle. Is this the ethical stuff our media heroes are to be made of?

I don’t know anything about the subject of motherhood, so I didn’t really delve into it then – but what fascinates me now is not the subject of that kerfuffle itself, but rather how Kendzior responded to the inevitable pushback against her horrifyingly libelous screed:

 

The Mommy Blogger community has a threat problem...

Anonymous email threats. Go on an unethical, smeary attack – then retreat into the sanctity of unquestionable victimhood. Remember that. It might be relevant later.

So, I continued to follow Kendzior on Twitter, like some 31 thousand others, because she covers topics of interest to me and has a concise style that resonates there. It’s actually hard to avoid her in that space, so widespread is her reach. Anyway, I usually like smart people, particularly ones who seem to have an inclination toward leftist politics and (seem to) articulate the same. It wasn’t until May of 2014 that I was given real cause to suspect her politics weren’t at all what I had been led to believe they were.

On May 21, 2014 – the SEIU held a large demonstration at McDonald’s headquarters as part of their “Fight for Fifteen” campaign. That campaign, however, has taken real criticism from comrades like Scott Jay, who observed that while assuring “low-wage workers in Oakland, and elsewhere, are very likely going to get a long overdue raise,” the SEIU’s organizing tactics themselves seemed “to weaken such struggles and not further them.”

To compound suspicion, as the arrests themselves were unfolding that day, SEIU President Mary Kay Henry took to Twitter to thank police for their “diligence and service” in arresting workers! Labor historians don’t need to dig too deep to tell you that the police are the historical antagonist of collectivized, worker action. But as Jay had previously noted, it seemed obvious that SEIU was once again manufacturing “the veneer of struggle while limiting the power and political consequences of their actions.”

Enter Kendzior, who had written a middling, Jacob Riisian effort to propagandize the SEIU’s “Fight for Fifteen” campaign in April and hopped on Twitter to promote her previous work, as any brand manager might. There’s nothing wrong with that. Nobody took issue with her over boosting the minimum wage workers’ struggle while the SEIU action was unfolding. It’s an important fight and it’s good that it’s getting attention.

Then, as part of a series of tweets promoting her article from April (ostensibly to generate page-views in conjunction with the ongoing SEIU action that day), Kendzior tweeted this:

"Not All Corporations"

I’m not a scholar™ – but I’m pretty sure many of my comrades might take issue with this individualistic/moralistic pablum delivered as a grossly imprecise, absolutist pseudo-platitude. Criticism of the tweet was swift and ran the gamut from my own, “height of liberalism” riposte to more measured, anticapitalist exposition. What happened to the more engaging, left criticism – you might ask? Kendzior went on an immediate uninformed, disingenuous and eventually ad hominem attack:

Multi-generational, East Coast elite says worker only  supports "labor as an abstraction."

Now, I don’t know where Kendzior got the notion that “Emma Quangel” only supports “labor as an abstraction” or that disagreeing with Kendzior’s liberal assessment of corporations meant she did “not appear to support workers.” From my vantage point, both of these were bad faith attacks that grossly misrepresented Quangel’s position and cast doubt on her legitimacy as a worker. If I were Quangel, I would’ve been furious. This, of course, would only prove more absurd coming from Kendzior after I investigated her highly privileged background, but I digress. Glass houses and whatnot…

But this back-and-forth is when the “rape threat” of Jacobingazi legend apparently was emailed to Kendzior. Now, I’m not concerned with whether she got a threat or not. I imagine she did because she says she did and prominent women are continually harassed in ways meant to silence them. But I do want to address two things that weren’t adequately addressed during that Social Media upheaval.

First, what purpose would threatening Kendzior serve to anyone trying to actually get her to go on the record with what are clearly, at best, her atrocious liberal, “#NotAllCorporations” politics? Threats of violence are attempts to silence people. Nobody I know wants Kendzior silenced. I want to know exactly what her politics are – and threats of violence, particularly gender violence in this space – undeniably prevent that from happening.

Second, and this is important: by Kendzior’s own account, she received an “anonymous email.” Keep in mind that she had just written (in April) a piece uncritically lauding the SEIU’s “Fight for Fifteen” and was arguing on behalf of fast food workers when she was threatened. And yet immediately, she identified the source of the threat to who? “Brocialists”:

Mocking threats

Now, overlooking the “mocking” tone that Kendzior herself first employed above (for her own, political purposes), anyone with even a cursory understanding of counterintelligence knows that “anonymous letters” were the bread and butter of the US’ COINTELPRO operations against domestic dissidents in the 1960s and 1970s. I’d be hard-pressed to imagine similar strategies aren’t at work today in these spaces. Kendzior, however, a PhD whose focus was on Uzbek dissidents using social media, took the allegedly leftist (anonymous) author at their word and began mocking “brocialists.” And that was that. A star was born.

The “left” now had a wholly manufactured “rape threat” problem (which, of course it does have – because the world has a rape problem), despite the utter impossibility of assigning an anonymous email to anyone (of any political ideology) at all. And, despite giving her space, nobody ever got Kendzior to further articulate her “not all corporations” inanity. Then “Bro Bash” was published and the shitstorm of lies went “full tilt.”

Why nobody stopped to ask how anyone knew the rape threat had emanated from a leftist, I’ll never know. What I do know is that I observed, dishearteningly, as many organizers and activists stoked fires of outrage against my hated/beloved “left” over an anonymous, wholly-unsourceable email. At the outset, assigning it to a “brocialist” was unverifiable. This, of course, was the first thing that rang my “stranger danger” alarms about Kendzior. It didn’t (and still doesn’t) add up.

So I started doing research and kept paying attention.

– – – –

 

“The performative anti-sexist is certainly capable of learning and navigating those very same grammars to his advantage. It’s many a “good leftist guy” who has done all the reading, learned all the terminology, and used it as evidence of his harmlessness.” – Amber A’Lee Frost, Bro Bash

 

Having now seen a few of Kendzior’s “tells” up close, I stepped back. I observed. At Molly Crabapple’s private urgings, I publicly denounced “rape threats.” (Who wouldn’t?) But as I sat back and watched, I thought a lot about Frost’s words: “capable of learning and navigating those very same grammars” struck me as particularly significant. I wondered if they could be applied to other folks touring in anti-oppression communities. Scholars? Activist Journalists? Over-hyped doodlers?

I kept an eye on the Celebrity Left and, as always, engaged them – as I would and have anyone, really – whenever their rhetoric struck a discordant note. The way radical language and ideas are churned up by power, stripped of their revolutionary potential, sanitized and then redeployed by liberals has always interested me, so I pay attention to it. Further, any “anarchist” can tell you what it’s like to spar with “Libertarians” or “Anarcho-Capitalists” who continue to encroach on our identifying words, “Libertarian Socialism” and “Anarchism.” It’s a constant struggle against the churning machine of appropriation.

Then in early August, Mike Brown was brutally murdered by the pigs in Ferguson and the people rose up. I hate cops, so I paid rapt attention.

Doug Williams, the target of Kendzior’s most recent libel, apparently noticed some of the same things I saw as events unfolded in Missouri. Kendzior (among many others, to be sure) dropped any pretense of gesturing at leftism and began parroting dangerous, historically racist language and even cited white supremacist websites to back her claims. She “othered” anarchists, exposing my comrades to more scrutiny by the hyper-violent state (and the self-appointed “peace police”) at a time when the focus should’ve been wholly on the cops and the white supremacist system they undoubtedly serve.

Williams, of course, openly addressed similar concerns in both Jacobin and The New Inquiry. So as Kendzior wrote “After Ferguson,” sang “We Shall Overcome” and ushered folks into her friend Antonio French’s Democratic Party Premature Healing Campaign while National Guard soldiers still patrolled its streets, Williams articulated observations I myself could all but stammer angrily on Twitter.

In Love Me, I’m A Liberal, he wrote:

 

As seen in the responses to Ferguson, many liberals today excel at aping leftist aesthetics in order to earn trust into a community while simultaneously resurrecting anti-leftist slurs like “outside agitator.” They pulverize words like “intersectionality” into a meaningless oblivion, and turn them into signals that, yes, they have also taken a Sociology 201 class. They “get it.”

 

Williams’ words reminded me, almost immediately, of Frost’s “performative anti-sexist,” only with Kendzior “aping leftist aesthetics in order to earn trust into a community” instead of a “good leftist guy.” Could Kendzior be “capable of learning and navigating those very same grammars” in order to insinuate herself into our dissident communities, online and in Ferguson? Well. Isn’t that exactly what her PhD trained her to do?

I think now, upon further study, that Kendzior’s knee-jerk reversion to state-supporting narratives at the height of the rebellion in Ferguson betrayed her neoconservative, colonial tourism that is otherwise so expertly swaddled in left-gesturing niceties. This is of concern to me, because as Williams observed in Nothing Short of A Revolution, I agree that:

 

Language matters. The forces of reaction, repression, and revanchism have long understood this, and they have used it to their advantage. Let us use our own language, that of liberation, working-class power, and revolution, to ensure that Michael Brown’s death was not in vain.

Sarah Kendzior knows language matters. She’s a PhD who had to learn a relatively obscure, Central Asian language out of necessity during the course of her studies in order to gain access to Uzbek dissidents on social media. She hails from a long line of Ivy-educated, Connecticut Yankees who have had important, government careers defending police from charges of wrongdoing and murder. Her grandfather worked for Wendell Willkie, the founder of Freedom House – a notorious, neoconservative NGO Kendzior would later work for that was expressly founded to propagandize US imperial adventures… Wait, what?

%22Opportunistic Communist%22 torch

Yup. Sarah Kendzior, who openly bashed communists in Ferguson worked for Freedom House, an organization that “took up the struggle against the… great twentieth century totalitarian threat, Communism” and is widely considered “a flak producing machine”, “an infamous CIA/State Department outfit” and “nothing but a façade for the special services of the United States.”

Is it possible she’s learned our radical Twitter language, too? Mastered hip, liberal white feminist “intersectionality” to either study it or destroy it, or just use it as a tool to further her career as a colonial observer? I can’t imagine leftist Twitter jargon is as difficult to learn as Uzbek, is it?

Now know this: I don’t want any harm to come to Sarah Kendzior of any kind and I definitely don’t want her “silenced.” I want her to actually start talking. As Joe Macaré has said, “be accountable.” If the damage she has done was accidental, she could start by apologizing to the hardworking comrades she has smeared relentlessly for the past year and acknowledge the issues raised above. She could start with Doug Williams and work her way back to Jacobingazi.

She could explain how working for Freedom House didn’t challenge her ethics, but writing under revised editorial guidelines at Al Jazeera did. She could address working for Freedom House at all. She could articulate any politics whatsoever other than a general, progressive headnod. She could explain what “Not All Corporations” means. She could explain why she linked to white supremacist website to smear communist organizers. She could explain why she seems so driven to get on to the healing in Ferguson, despite Gary Younge’s observation after the Zimmerman verdict that “Those who now fear violent social disorder must ask themselves whose interests are served by a violent social order in which young black men can be thus slain and discarded.”

She could do all of this, but I doubt she will. Because she isn’t a part of our community and doesn’t feel a need to be accountable to it. Because it isn’t “infighting” if you’re questioning the political opportunism of a libel-spewing neocon. And her neoconartist brand has not yet once apologized for any of its abuses.

And if she won’t be more forthright, the wreckage she has created and the troubling fact that she has openly played for the casino itself is enough for me to cash out of this game and to tell all my comrades to avoid playing with her or anyone who continues to play with her. Is she a paid, government provocateur? I can’t say for sure. But I, for one, won’t get hustled by someone playing at the table with house money. I know those are terrible odds.

It’s not a game.