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Pacifism as Pathology

‘Our Defeats’ Review: A striking Post-Mortem of the Revolutionary Dream

Far Out Magazine

September 8, 2021

By Swapnil Dhruv Bose

 

“I realized after the shooting, and some discussions with them, that it was the first time they had discussed politics.”
— filmmaker Jean-Gabriel Périot [Source]

French filmmaker Jean-Gabriel Périot, who received international acclaim for his 2015 documentary A German Youth, is back with another fascinating work called Our Defeats. Featuring a group of high school film students from the Lycée Romain Rolland in Ivry-sur-Seine who work as cast and crew, Our Defeats is a comparative study between the charged sociopolitical climate of France in the late 1960s and the prevailing attitude of modern students.

More than anything else, Our Defeats is an intellectual exercise in political thought which constantly refers to the revolutionary works of auteurs like Jean-Luc Godard, Chris Marker and Alain Tanner among others. As a part of the film’s explorations, Périot makes the students recreate pivotal scenes from the vastly influential French political masterpieces from that period before asking them about trade unions, capitalism and the revolution.

In an interview, Périot explained that he wants his films to challenge the audience. “For me, cinema is first of all a place to feel,” the filmmaker said. “I like music for the same reason. But cinema is also, at least for me, as audience or filmmaker, a place to think. I do not like films where everything is clear, obvious or underlined, [whether we] talk about fictions or documentaries. I like films with contradictions, lacks, and questions.”

The powerful scenes that are enacted by the students are immediately deconstructed by the follow-up questions posed by Périot. A student quotes Chairman Mao with deadly conviction, preaching to us that “a revolution is not a dinner party… A revolution is an insurrection, an act of violence by which one class overthrows another.” However, he falters and hesitates when he is asked about his own opinions regarding capitalism and the revolution that has been indefinitely deferred.

This becomes a recurring theme, with many students voicing their disapproval of police brutality and societal oppression but not being able to appropriately address questions about the subjective definitions of abstract topics like politics in general as well as objective descriptions of important things like trade unions. As a result of the restrictive curriculum of the Ideological State Apparatus that is the school, we are confronted with the brutal reality. The people in power systematically and silently quashed the revolution before it ever began by not providing proper education to the next generation.The greatest achievement of Our Defeatsis that Périot does not pass his judgement. As a documentarian, his job is to chronicle the condition and that’s exactly what he does. The outcome is stiflingly tragic, a harrowing analysis of young school students whose vocabularies are being stripped off ideas like communism and workers’ rights. Périot starts a dialogue between the past and the present by confronting the future of the revolution that has been laid to rest by youthful cynicism, censorship and the bourgeois constructs of modernity.
 

[Swapnil is a Kolkata-based columnist who specialises in film history, global cinema and media studies. He is deeply interested in the dynamic frameworks of contemporary media culture and their impact on sociopolitical structures.]

 

 

Elena Lopèz Riera, Visions du Réel, 2019: “Jean-Gabriel Périot asked students of a Parisian high school to participate in an experiment on the militant filmmaking of May 68. These students will constitute the film’s technical crew and they will also be its actors, performative bodies through which the subject of politics today will be articulated. They will re-enact legendary scenes from the films of Tanner, the Groupe Medvedkine or Godard. But in the voice of these young people, the instructions of May 68 resonate poorly with regard to the contemporary world, noting that in terms of political wording there are still more doubts than certainties. What is the working class? What is capitalism? What is a trade union? Through these questions addressed to the high school students, Périot tackles a new generation, without judgement, in an attempt to answer the essential question of the film: have we failed? Thus, some of the concepts that have marked the history of 20th century ideologies, such as communism, fascism or class consciousness, are called into question by a youth that claims the right to their own voice. A film about the urgency of reformulating political debate.” [Source]

 

 

Also showing at Mubi, A German Youth. SYNOPSIS: “Germany, late 60s. The post-war generation revolts against their parents, disillusioned by anti-communist capitalism and a state in which they see fascist tendencies. This film follows the rise of The Red Army Faction, revolutionary terrorist group founded by Andreas Baader and Ulrike Meinhof. OUR TAKE: “A film that opens with Godard and closes with Fassbinder can only have a combative soul. Bravely refusing audio narration, Périot’s collage of stunning archival footage from post-war Germany’s political unrest is a superb, enthralling meditation on radicalization that is of utmost relevance today.”

 

Why Many Progressives Misrepresented and Condemned the Ottawa Trucker Protest

Chicago ALBA Solidarity

March 27, 2022

By Stansfield Smith

 

Mothers hold the line.” – Photo: Cory Morningstar, Twitter, February 18, 2022, Ottawa Truckers Protest

 

Canada’s “Freedom Convoy” began with protesting rules implemented in January by the Canadian and later the US governments requiring truck drivers to be fully vaccinated to enter their country. It snowballed into a demonstration against dysfunctional coronavirus restrictions. The Ottawa trucker protesters demanded: No Lockdowns, No Mandates, No Vaccine Passports, and if not, that Trudeau resign.

Working people are increasingly angry at the failures of the neoliberal regimes in Canada and the US to meet our needs. Unfortunately, we on the left are not positioned to effectively utilize this sentiment and grow our forces, leaving an open field for leaders with rightwing solutions to fill the vacuum. They played on public resentment to advocate getting the state off our backs rather than our demand that the state prioritize our well-being.

Working class activists should participate and build these protests, bring working class solutions to the problems we confront and lead the people in fighting back. Instead, many on the left condemned the trucker convoy, or sat on the sidelines, seeing themselves as mere critics, not leaders in this class struggle.

Liberal Party Prime Minister Trudeau called the truckers “a few people shouting and waving swastikas,” a “fringe minority” conspiracy theorists “with the tinfoil hats.” They “don’t believe in science.” He threatened, “Do we tolerate these people?”  These elitist anti-working class statements echo Hillary Clinton’s dubbing Trump supporters “deplorables.” The hysteria led by Trudeau and the corporate media even reached the point where a Member of Parliament absurdly declared trucker honking of horns meant Heil Hitler. Trudeau’s Big Business dictated covid policies even denied visas to vaccinated Cubans because they had Cuban, not Big Pharma vaccines.

Anti-trucker Leftists Repeat Trudeau’s Smears

Many left criticisms of the truckers follow the rulers’ talking points. For instance, they spread a corporate media cartoon smear, Bryan Palmer’s condemnation of the truckers as a “lumpen” alt-right petty bourgeois protest, as well as anti-war activist Stephen Gowans’ early attack on the Ottawa occupation as “a far-right movement of racists, evangelicals, union-haters, and conspiracy-minded lunatics, inspired and supported by the likes of Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, and Elon Musk.” Gowans complained the Ottawa police had “done nothing to liberate the city” from what were peaceful protesters.

Rather than refuting the rulers’ smears, many either repeated them or remained silent in face of the onslaught. They, in effect, allied with the imperial state’s attacks on the truckers and their working-class allies. They compounded their error by making only mild objections to the central rightwing feature of the Ottawa occupation: Trudeau using martial law measures to crush peaceful protests – measures which could be used against leftists in the future if we become a social force.

What were some of the distortions so many disseminated in their unwitting role as transmission belts for ruling class propaganda against the truckers?

  1. That the protesters were racists and fascists was repeated over and over. Enough evidence shows this was not a racist protest (and here), It was claimed, with scant evidence, that the protest contained numerous Nazi and Confederate flags. A photo showed a man with a Nazi flag and another one or two with a Confederate flag. One man had the Nazi flag on a long pole underneath a sign on top saying “F*ck Trudeau,” which could mean he was equating Trudeau with Nazis. The person holding a Confederate flag was considered to be a provocateur made to leave the protest. Government agent provocateurs have played a role in other Canadian protests.

Benjamin Dichter, who is Jewish, and key spokesperson for the protest, said “Let’s assume there were guys there who did have a Confederate flag. They believe in the Confederacy of states’ rights in a foreign nation? I don’t care. I’m not here to police people’s ideas.” In a swipe at Trudeau, Dichter added “I want to hear unacceptable opinions because I want to challenge them.”

Another Freedom Convoy leader was Metis, Tamara Lich. Pat King, a fanatic racist in the Nazi mold, was portrayed as convoy leader, but this was denied by the actual leaders (and here).

  1. That the right funded the trucker protest became a key charge. Republicans do fund popular protests to further their aims. So do the Democrats, as the women’s marches testify. A protest bringing out masses of people likely involves corporate political party funding. It is a political mistake to condemn or boycott movements, MeToo, Black Lives Matter, anti-vaccine mandate, or climate change protests because they had corporate donors. To condemn a protest funded by Republican corporate donors, but not those funded by Democratic ones, given these donors serve the same ruling class owners of the US, is a double standard. To do so suggests aligning ourselves with the Democratic (or Liberal) Party faction of the ruling class.

Reports on big rightwing funders of the trucker convoy failed to establish significant dollar contributions. PressProgress gave “a round up of some of the big money donors.” The corporate donors listed contributed merely $67,300 of the $10 million raised. That amounts to less than 1% of the total, showing corporate donors gave very minor support.

GiveSendGo raised another $8.6 million for the protesters. The largest, $215,000 came from an anonymous donor, $90,000 from billionaire Thomas M. Siebel, and $75,000 from another anonymous donor. Even if we assume these three are by big rightwing donors, that amounts to $380,000, 4.4% of the total.

A Washington Post article on donors noted, “Only a handful of contributors gave more than $10,000 apiece,” which does not substantiate corporate and billionaire funding of the protests.

It seems these donations do not include seed money for the Freedom Convoy, but they do show it was no “fringe,” but gained broad support.

The GoFundMe platform raised $10 million dollars for the convoy before being shut down. The reason given was for “violating the platform’s Terms of Service prohibiting the ‘promotion of violence and harassment.’” Yet no protester had been charged with violence. Defenders of civil liberties should have condemned that repression, not approve of it.

  1. That the trucker convoy represented a social fringe is belied simply by some news reports, such as this or this.
  2. Many falsely claimed the Freedom Convoy protesters were anti-vaxxers, pointing out that 90% of Canadian truckers are vaccinated. However, the protesters were united against vaccine mandates, not against vaccines. Benjamin Dichter and Chris Barber, two convoy leaders, said they were not anti-vaxxers but fully vaccinated.
  3. Some asserted the truckers were petty bourgeois owner-operators, therefore not working class, because they owned their instruments of production. Even assuming some of the truckers are in the petty bourgeoisie, that in itself is no reason to condemn a petty bourgeois movement in struggle with the big bourgeoisie.

Aren’t owner-operators among the millions of workers who companies “contract out” to cut labor expenses and increase their profits? Are Uber drivers also middle-class owner operators? Or any worker hired by a business as an “independent contractor”? This new category of atomized workers is a product of the long neoliberal offensive to weaken solidarity among workers.

  1. Many used Trump’s support for the truckers as another reason to condemn it. That makes no more sense than saying if Biden or Trudeau opposes the protest, we should too. This liberal-left fear and loathing of Trump ignores a number of commendable statements he made on issues anti-imperialists advocate for.
  2. Some bolstered their attacks on the truckers by referring to the Teamsters and Canadian Labour Congress. The Canadian Teamsters condemned the trucker convoy as a “despicable display of hate lead by the political Right,” but provided no evidence to back that up. The statement said nothing against the central demands of the protest. The Teamsters represent only 15,000 long haul truck drivers of the 300,000 long haul drivers in Canada.

The Canadian Labour Congress condemned the protest but was also silent on vaccine mandates. “This is not a protest, it is an occupation by an angry mob trying to disguise itself as a peaceful protest.” Of course protesters are angry, otherwise they do not protest. Being angry does not mean you are not peaceful. The CLC adds “This occupation of Ottawa streets…is having a devastating effect on the livelihood of already struggling workers and businesses.” Such statements could be used against the Occupy Movement in 2011, or against Black Lives Matter protests, as Trump did. “Frontline workers, from retail to health workers, have been bullied and harassed.” Yet so was at least one pro-trucker Ottawa store owner bullied and harassed for simply donating to the protest.

True, the Freedom Convoy had no working class demands for government action to ease the hardships workers face. Neither did the CLC or Teamsters, actual workers class organizations with the social and economic weight to have their demands met.

  1. Many followed Trudeau and claimed the convoy organizers were violent and extremists. However, the police reported no physical violence, and none of the protest leaders were arrested for violent acts.

Tamara Lich was charged with ‘counselling for the offense of committing Mischief,” convoy leader Chris Barber for the same charge, plus “counselling to commit the offense of Disobey a Police Order” and “counselling to commit the offense of Obstruct Police.” Pat King was charged with mischief, counselling to commit the offence of mischief, counselling to commit the offence of disobey court order, and counselling to commit the offence of obstruct police.

Many had claimed they were guilty of violence, sedition, and attempting to overthrow a “democratic” government. Here they are, charged with “counseling” mischief (interfering with or destroying someone’s property), telling people to defy a court order or police order. What activists have ever been innocent of these charges?

  1. It was claimed the police had treated the protesters with kid gloves. Maybe. Yet, once the police cracked down, they used horses to trample some protesters. When the 2011 union protesters in Madison Wisconsin seized the Capitol building – not for a day but for weeks – the police were not only letting us enter and exit, but periodically joined the protest (and here). That was no sign that the Madison protests were rightwing, nor did leftists object to their solidarity.

As Caleb Maupin pointed out, liberals and leftists took the Fox News playbook to denounce the Black Lives Matter movement and used the same methods to attack the trucker protest. Those who support Black Lives Matter suddenly were okay with police repression of the Ottawa protests. By favoring government crackdown on peaceful protests, we gave the ruling class rope to hang ourselves with.

Working Class and Rightwing Programs towards Covid and Health care

Being vaccinated protects you from getting very sick if you have underlying conditions but does not protect you from being infected or infecting others. People know that, so resent government vaccine requirements.

Mandates work when applied by governments that put the protection of citizens over the protection of corporate profits – not the case in the United States or Canada. Targeted lockdowns once covid makes its appearance, constant testing of the population, combined with a wide array of public health measures neither Canada nor the US ever instituted, has enabled China to almost eliminate deaths from covid.

China contained covid long before their vaccine was even developed. China provided house to house care for those locked down, constant and widespread testing, as well as relatively free health care for all. As a result, China has had three covid related deaths since January 2021, while the US has had one million.

Nicaragua, which has a free, universal preventive health care system, has by far the lowest covid death rate per million inhabitants of all the Americas, yet never instituted any sort of mandate or lockdown, beyond wearing a mask inside public buildings.

Participate in the Ottawa Protests with Working Class Demands

While the demands of the trucker protest had some merit, the Freedom Convoy leaders were ideologically rightwing. Their view of health care as an individual responsibility does not conflict with the neoliberal model. This benefits those with the privileges and financial resources to handle it.

Our working class view sees the state as the protector of public health, since health is a public issue, not simply a “free” individual’s responsibility.

We missed an opportunity to participate in the Ottawa occupation and organize working class solidarity with our message: government should meet the health and economic needs of the people affected by the pandemic; the government protects big business and big pharma super profits during the pandemic while our standard of living suffers; health care is a community issue and should be a human right. It should focus on prevention, with continuous education of the public, and establish clinics in every neighborhood, cultivating regular interaction between the health workers and the community.

If we fail to help lead workers and popular struggles, we leave the field open for middle class or rightwing leaders. Even the sometimes liberal Nation recognized, “the far-right origins of the protest shouldn’t be an excuse for ignoring the fact it is attracting the support of a segment of the population that doesn’t identify with the far right but does feel economically marginalized and hurt by a pandemic now entering its third year…Those who have sympathy for the convoy tend to be poorer, younger, and less educated.”

Some activists did stand for the working class approach to the Ottawa occupation. Dust James, a trucker, encouraged the left to join the protesters and explain to them that all truckers share a common problem with others: small businesses and workers are being crushed by the larger monopolies, big banks are ripping off all of us.

Richard Wolff said leftists made a serious error by not actively participating in and solidarizing with the trucker protest, showing workers how to use their power to achieve their demands. A struggle to push back against mandates that don’t work can ignite actions against other policies that don’t serve people’s interests. Struggles often begin as a fight against a specific injustice, eventually opening the door to struggles on more fundamental issues.

Leila Mechoui and Max Blumenthal applauded actions by working class people to improve their situation and resist impositions by private and public authorities. The truckers protest scared the rulers because they fear losing their control over who determines how society is run. They don’t want workers thinking they should have some say in societal decision-making. They don’t want workers to start thinking “why should we do what the bosses tell us to do if it doesn’t make sense.”

Richard Wolff and Jimmy Dore emphasized we should be and can be everywhere workers are struggling. “The left should not put itself in a situation where the protesters can lump them together with the authorities as enemies of their struggle, which is the case now.” Here, the left isolated themselves from the working class by attacking the movement as a whole.

Why Many Repeated Ruling Class Liberal Smears of the Truckers

Being an anti-war writer like Stephen Gowans does not mean you have close connections with working class struggles at home. Likewise, many working class fighters do not possess an anti-imperialist outlook.  Unfortunately, working class and anti-war fighters often operate in distinct social and political milieus.

Many have made critiques of the convoy and Ottawa occupation, such as a recent webinar by left intellectuals. Yet the problem we face is that the function of a working class leftwing goes beyond evaluating a movement. Our function should be to create a plan of action to participate in and help lead social struggles in a working class direction through demands that benefit the working classes as a whole. We are not there, nor are we making headway in building the army of working class activists needed to carry it out.

At present, far too many critics of the truckers feel in their heart of hearts that our white working class is full of “deplorables.” That illustrates the current disconnect of leftists from the white working class. Too many feel the working class may be the force that will overthrow capitalism and build a just society, but not with the working class we have. This white working class today is too ignorant, bigoted, backwards, bought-off, too white privileged. If it is not kept in check, things could only get worse.

So, where do they turn for a social power to rotate around for building progressive social change? Often it means to the more enlightened intelligentsia, the more progressive politicians. That leads to the Democratic Party or the Canadian versions: pressure them from the left and build support for them in their struggle against Trumpers. This approach became pronounced as fear of Trumpism grew.

This may explain why many on the left repeated Trudeau’s smears and may be why they – who normally support workers – sided with the government against working people when they organized and protested. Such an approach, if not corrected, leads to more police state repression and an increasingly divided working class confused over where to turn to solve their problems.

 

 

 

 

The Left’s Covid Failure

Unherd

November 24, 2021

By Toby Green and Thomas Fazi

 

Antonio Berni, Manifestación, 1934

 

Amplifying the crisis is no way to rebuild trust

Throughout the various phases of the global pandemic, people’s preferences in terms of epidemiological strategies have tended to overlap closely with their political orientation. Ever since Donald Trump and Jair Bolsonaro expressed doubts as to the wisdom of a lockdown strategy in March 2020, liberals and those on the Left of the Western political spectrum, including most socialists, have fallen over themselves to adhere in public to the lockdown strategy of pandemic mitigation — and lately to the logic of vaccine passports. Now as countries across Europe experiment with tighter restrictions of the unvaccinated, Left-wing commentators — usually so vocal in the defence of minorities suffering from discrimination — are notable for their silence.

As writers who have always positioned ourselves on the Left, we are disturbed at this turn of events. Is there really no progressive criticism to be made about the quarantining of healthy individuals, when the latest research suggests there is a vanishingly small difference in terms of transmission between the vaccinated and the unvaccinated? The Left’s response to Covid now appears as part of a broader crisis in Left-wing politics and thought — one which has been going on for three decades at least. So it’s important to identify the process through which this has taken shape.

In the first phase of the pandemic — the lockdowns phase — it was those leaning towards the cultural and economic right who were more likely to emphasise the social, economic and psychological damage resulting from lockdowns. Meanwhile, Donald Trump’s initial lockdown scepticism made this position untenable for most of those leaning towards the cultural and economic Left. Social media algorithms then further fuelled this polarisation. Very quickly, therefore, Western leftists embraced lockdown, seen as a “pro-life” and “pro-collective” choice — a policy that, in theory, championed public health or the collective right to health. Meanwhile any criticism of the lockdowns was excoriated as a “right-wing”, “pro-economy” and “pro-individual” approach, accused of prioritising “profit” and “business as usual” over people’s lives.

In sum, decades of political polarisation instantly politicised a public health issue, without allowing any discussion as to what a coherent Left response would be. At the same time, the Left’s position distanced it from any kind of working-class base, since low-income workers were the most severely affected by the socio-economic impacts of continued lockdown policies, and were also those most likely to be out working while the laptop class benefitted from Zoom. These same political fault lines emerged during the vaccine roll-out, and now during the Covid passports phase. Resistance associates with the Right, while those on the mainstream Left are generally supportive of both measures. Opposition is demonised as a confused mixture of anti-science irrationalism and individualistic libertarianism.

But why has the mainstream Left ended up supporting practically all Covid measures? How did such a simplistic view of the relationship between health and the economy emerge, one which makes a mockery of decades of (Left-leaning) social science research showing just how closely wealth and health outcomes are connected? Why did the Left ignore the massive increase in inequalities, the attack on the poor, on poor countries, on women and children, the cruel treatment of the elderly, and the huge increase in wealth for the richest individuals and corporations resulting from these policies? How, in relation to the development and roll-out of vaccines, did the Left end up ridiculing the very notion that, given the money at stake, and when BioNTech, Moderna and Pfizer currently make between them over US$1,000 per second from the Covid vaccines, there might be motivations from the vaccine manufacturers other than “the public good” at play? And how is it possible that the Left, often on the receiving end of state repression, today seems oblivious to the worrying ethical and political implications of Covid passports?

While the Cold War coincided with the era of decolonisation and the rise of a global anti-racist politics, the end of the Cold War – alongside the symbolic triumph of decolonisation politics with the end of apartheid – ushered in an existential crisis for Left-wing politics. The rise of neoliberal economic hegemony, globalisation, and corporate trans-nationalism, have all undermined the Left’s historic view of the state as an engine of redistribution. Combined with this is the realisation that, as the Brazilian theorist Roberto Mangabeira Unger has argued, the Left has always prospered most at times of great crisis — the Russian Revolution benefited from the World War One, and welfare capitalism from the aftermath of the World War Two. This history may partly explain the Left’s positioning today: amplifying the crisis and prolonging it through never-ending restrictions may be seen by some as a way to rebuild Left politics after decades of existential crisis.

The Left’s flawed understanding of the nature of neoliberalism may also have affected its response to the crisis. Most people on the Left believe that neoliberalism has involved a “retreat” or “hollowing out” of the state in favour of the market. Thus, they interpreted government activism throughout the pandemic as a welcome “return of the state”, one potentially capable, in their view, of eventually reversing neoliberalism’s allegedly anti-statist project. The problem with this argument, even accepting its dubious logic, is that neoliberalism hasn’t entailed a withering away of the state. On the contrary, the size of the state as a percentage of GDP has continued to rise throughout the neoliberal era.

This shouldn’t come as a surprise. Neoliberalism relies on extensive state intervention just as much as “Keynesianism” did, except that the state now intervenes almost exclusively to further the interests of big capital – to police the working classes, bail out large banks and firms that would otherwise go bankrupt, etc. Indeed, in many ways, capital today is more dependent on the state than ever. As Shimshon Bichler and Jonathan Nitzan note: “[A]s capitalism develops, governments and large corporations become increasingly intertwined. … The capitalist mode of power and the dominant-capital coalitions that rule it do not require small governments. In fact, in many respects, they need larger ones”. Neoliberalism today is more akin to a form of state-monopoly capitalism – or corporatocracy – than the kind of small-state free-market capitalism that it often claims to be. This helps explain why it has produced increasingly powerful, interventionist, and even authoritarian state apparatuses.

This in itself makes the Left’s cheering at a non-existent “return of the state” embarrassingly naïve. And the worst part is that it has made this mistake before. Even in the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis, many on the Left hailed large government deficits as “the return of Keynes” – when, in fact, those measures had very little to do with Keynes, who counselled the use of government spending to reach full employment, and instead were aimed at bolstering the culprits of the crisis, the big banks. They were also followed by an unprecedented attack on welfare systems and workers’ rights across Europe.

Something similar is happening today, as state contracts for Covid tests, PPE, vaccines, and now vaccine passport technologies are parcelled out to transnational corporations (often through shady deals that reek of cronyism). Meanwhile, citizens are having their lives and livelihoods upended by “the new normal”. That the Left seems completely oblivious to this is particularly puzzling. After all, the idea that governments tend to exploit crises to further entrench the neoliberal agenda has been a staple of much recent Left-wing literature. Pierre Dardot and Christian Laval, for example, have argued that under neoliberalism, crisis has become a “method of government”. More famously, in her 2007 book The Shock Doctrine, Naomi Klein explored the idea of “disaster capitalism”. Her central thesis is that in moments of public fear and disorientation it is easier to re-engineer societies: dramatic changes to the existing economic order, which would normally be politically impossible, are imposed in rapid-fire succession before the public has had time to understand what is happening.

There’s a similar dynamic at play today. Take, for example, the high-tech surveillance measures, digital IDs, crackdown on public demonstrations and fast-tracking of laws introduced by governments to combat the coronavirus outbreak. If recent history is anything to go by, governments will surely find a way to make many of the emergency rules permanent – just as they did with much post-9/11 anti-terrorist legislation. As Edward Snowden noted: “When we see emergency measures passed, particularly today, they tend to be sticky. The emergency tends to be expanded”. This confirms, too, the ideas on the “state of exception” posited by the Italian philosopher Giorgio Agamben, who has nonetheless been vilified by the mainstream Left for his anti-lockdown position.

Ultimately, any form of government action should be judged for what it actually stands for. We support government intervention if it serves to further the rights of workers and minorities, to create full employment, to provide crucial public services, to rein in corporate power, to correct the dysfunctionalities of markets, to take control of crucial industries in the public interest. But in the past 18 months we have witnessed the exact opposite: an unparalleled strengthening of transnational corporate behemoths and their oligarchs at the expense of workers and local businesses. A report last month based on Forbes data showed that America’s billionaires alone have seen their wealth increase by US$2 trillion during the pandemic.

Another Left-wing fantasy that has been shuttered by reality is the notion that the pandemic would usher in a new sense of collective spirit, capable of overcoming decades of neoliberal individualism. On the contrary, the pandemic has fractured societies even more – between the vaccinated and the unvaccinated, between those who can reap the benefits of smart working and those who can’t. Moreover, a demos made up of traumatised individuals, torn apart from their loved ones, made to fear one another as a potential vectors of disease, terrified of physical contact – is hardly a good breeding ground for collective solidarity.

Juanito dormido | Contemporary Art Day Auction | | Sotheby's

Antonio Berni, Juanito dormido

But perhaps the Left’s response can be better understood in individual rather than collective terms. Classic psychoanalytic theory has posited a clear connection between pleasure and authority: the experience of great pleasure (satiating the pleasure principle) can often be followed by a desire for renewed authority and control manifested by the ego or “reality principle”. This can indeed produce a subverted form of pleasure. The last two decades of globalisation have seen a huge expansion of the “pleasure of experience”, as shared by the increasingly transnational global liberal class – many of whom, somewhat curiously in historical terms, identified themselves as on the Left (and indeed increasingly usurped this position from the traditional working-class constituencies of the Left). This mass increase in pleasure and experience among the liberal class went with a growing secularism and lack of any recognised moral constraint or authority. From the perspective of psychoanalysis, the support from this class for “Covid measures” is quite readily explained in these terms: as the desired appearance of a coterie of restrictive and authoritarian measures which can be imposed to curtail pleasure, within the strictures of a moral code which steps in where one had previously been lacking.

Another factor explaining the Left’s embrace of “Covid measures” is its blind faith in “science”. This has its roots in the Left’s traditional faith in rationalism. However, one thing is believing in the undeniable virtues of the scientific method – another is being completely oblivious to the way those in power exploit “science” to further their agenda. Being able to appeal to “hard scientific data” to justify one’s policy choices is an incredibly powerful tool in the hands of governments – it is, in fact, the essence of technocracy. However, this means carefully selecting the “science” that is supportive of your agenda – and aggressively marginalising any alternative views, regardless of their scientific value.

This has been happening for years in the realm of economics. Is it really that hard to believe that such a corporate capture is happening today with regard to medical science? Not according to John P. Ioannidis, professor of medicine and epidemiology at Stanford University. Ioannidis made headlines in early 2021 when he published, with some colleagues of his, a paper claiming that there was no practical difference in epidemiological terms between countries that had locked down and those that hadn’t. The backlash against the paper – and against Ioannidis in particular – was fierce, especially among his fellow scientists.

This explains his recent scathing denunciation of his own profession. In an article entitled “How the Pandemic Is Changing the Norms of Science”, Ioannidis notes that most people – especially on the Left — seem to think that science operates based on “the Mertonian norms of communalism, universalism, disinterestedness, and organized skepticism”. But, alas, that is not how the scientific community actually operates, Ioannidis explains. With the pandemic, conflicts of corporate interest exploded – and yet talking about them became anathema. He continues: “Consultants who made millions of dollars from corporate and government consultation were given prestigious positions, power, and public praise, while unconflicted scientists who worked pro bono but dared to question dominant narratives were smeared as being conflicted. Organized skepticism was seen as a threat to public health. There was a clash between two schools of thought, authoritarian public health versus science – and science lost”.

Ultimately, the Left’s blatant disregard and mockery of people’s legitimate concerns (over lockdowns, vaccines or Covid passports) is shameful. Not only are these concerns rooted in actual hardship but they also stem from an understandable distrust of governments and institutions that have been undeniably captured by corporate interests. Anyone who favours a truly progressive-interventionist state, as we do, needs to address these concerns – not dismiss them.

But where the Left’s response has been found most wanting is on the world stage, in terms of the relationship of Covid restrictions to deepening poverty in the Global South. Has it really nothing to say about the enormous increase in child marriage, the collapse in schooling, and the destruction of formal employment in Nigeria, where the State Statistics agency suggests 20% of people lost their jobs during the lockdowns? What about the reality that the country with the highest Covid mortality figures and excess death rate for 2020 was Peru – which had one of the world’s strictest lockdowns? On all this, it has been virtually silent. This position must be considered in relation to the pre-eminence of nationalist politics on the world stage: the electoral failure of Left internationalists such as Jeremy Corbyn meant that broader global issues had little traction when considering a broader Western Left response to Covid-19.

It is worth mentioning that there have been outliers on the Left – radical-left and socialist movements that have come out against the prevailing management of the pandemic. These include Black Lives Matter in New York, Left Lockdown Sceptics in the UK, the Chilean urban left, Wu Ming in Italy and not least the Social Democrat-Green alliance which currently governs Sweden. But the full spectrum of Left opinion was ignored, partly due to the small number of Left-wing media outlets, but also due to the marginalisation of dissenting opinions first and foremost by the mainstream Left.

Mainly, though, this has been a historic failure from the Left, which will have disastrous consequences. Any form of popular dissent is likely to be hegemonized once again by the (extreme) Right, poleaxing any chance the Left has of winning round the voters it needs to overturn Right-wing hegemony. Meanwhile, the Left holds on to a technocracy of experts severely undermined by what is proving to be a catastrophic handling of the pandemic in terms of social progressivism. As any kind of viable electable Left fades into the past, the discussion and dissent at the heart of any true democratic process is likely to fade with it.

 

[Toby Green is a professor of history at Kings College London. His latest book is The Covid Consensus: The New Politics of Global Inequality (Hurst).]

 

 

The Shapers of Slavery – A Global Project of the World Economic Forum [Winter Oak Series]

Winter Oak

January, 2021

 

“The Shapers of Slavery”. A 5-part investigation of the World Economic Forum’s “Global Shapers” initiative – by Winter Oak.

 

“Over 900 Global Shapers joined World Economic Forum Founder and Executive Chairman Klaus Schwab for talks on the Great Reset initiative. Putting the world back on a path towards inclusive and sustainable development will require more than a global recovery. It will require a Great Reset that places all citizens, especially young people, at the heart of social and economic systems.” — Global Shapers Community Annual Report 2019–2020

 

Source: http://killercoke.org/

 

Part I, January 9, 2021:

Shapers of slavery: the plan

Excerpt:

“But, in fact, Schwab’s Great Reset is not just rhetoric: he and his corporate accomplices have been busy, for many years, building up a massive networks of collaborators to spring their heist.

 

One of these is the Global Shapers Community, set up by Schwab in 2011, registered in Geneva, Switzerland, and based at the World Economic Forum offices.”

Global Shapers - The Foundation Board

Global Shapers – The Foundation Board

 

Part II, January 10, 2021:

Shapers of slavery: the leadership

Excerpt:

“A democratic society shapes itself – by means of the participation of its citizens in discussing and deciding how things should be organised and to what ends.

But, as even their name reveals, the Global Shapers want to “shape” society from above and in their own interests.”

Part III, January 11, 2021:

Shapers of slavery: the empire

Excerpt:

“This is a world of “social impact investing”, of lucrative human and natural “capital”, a world of blockchain, robotics and AI, of equity funds and pharmaceutical businesses, a world of exponential profit and exploitation hidden behind a rhetoric of “inclusivity”, “sustainability” and “systemic change”.

World Economic Forum Electoral Candidates, British Columbia, Canada, 2020

World Economic Forum Electoral Candidates, British Columbia, Canada, 2020

 

What Will the World Look Like When the New Generation Leads? | Time.com

Part IV, January 12, 2021:

Shapers of slavery: the virus

Excerpt:

“As the pandemic awakened the collective to long-standing system gaps, we mobilized a global community to reflect, reimagine, and reset our world.”

March 19, 2020, Twitter: Global Shapers Response to COVID-19

March 19, 2020, Twitter: Global Shapers Response to COVID-19

 

" As the International Organization for Public-Private Cooperation, the World Economic Forum, acting as partner to the World Health Organization, is mobilizing all stakeholders to protect lives and livelihoods."

“As the International Organization for Public-Private Cooperation, the World Economic Forum, acting as partner to the World Health Organization, is mobilizing all stakeholders to protect lives and livelihoods.”

 

Part V, January 13, 2021:

Shapers of slavery: the awakening

Excerpt:

“We would encourage everyone to explore and expose the identity and activities of hubs in their own area, starting with the information the Global Shapers have so helpfully provided for us.

 

We would also encourage you to seek out your local Global Shapers and confront them with questions, whether via social media or in the real world.”

#WeSeeEqual - a Procter & Gamble's (P&G's) Gender-Equality Corporate Branding Campaign

#WeSeeEqual – a Procter & Gamble’s (P&G’s) Gender-Equality Corporate Branding Campaign

ABB on Twitter: "We are very proud to have our collaborative #YuMiRobot on the cover of @TIME magazine's special #WEF19 edition demonstrating how humans and robots work side-by-side without barriers. Special print

The Mechanism of Invisible Hand, Invisible Cage, and Invisible Empire over Humanity and Nature

Dissident Voice

February 9, 2021

By Hiroyuki Hamada

 

 

When the whole society becomes a theater of absurdity, the puppeteers become kings and queens of insanity. The society loses its logic, history, facts, honesty, sincerity, creativity and imagination, as  the monstrous imaginations of the deranged ruling class devour humanity and nature.

The invisible cage of authoritarianism comes in the shape of a bottomless pyramid.  Fear and hopelessness fill the dimly lit bottom layers. Layers and layers separate us, alienate us and dehumanize us. The? pain of “others” becomes your gain.  The power of oppressors becomes your safety: The safety of living in the dangerous imaginations of the kings and queens.

But? such a thought vanishes as quickly as our minds get flooded back with the numbing noises of the insane theater, while our remaining logic, seriousness and honesty are ridiculed and attacked by fearful fellow humans with cynicism, hopelessness and cowardliness.

The world doesn’t look like that at all for those who belong to the club of kings and queens. The unruly mass with no understanding of the righteous path of “humanity” has been inherently expendable for them. This has been shown over and over: colonization of natives by Europeans, enslavement of African people, genocides of many sorts.

But one also sees the same blunt inhumanity embedded among us today:  homelessness, deaths by treatable diseases, hunger, deaths by substance abuse, suicide, poverty, refugees, mass incarceration, state violence, the psychological torture of alienation.  The kings and queens don’t recognize those as issues to be solved with their resources.  Instead those issues represent forms of punishment for those who fail to secure viable positions within the capitalist hierarchy.  The fear of the punishment and the fear of the authority work together to lock us in positions in the hierarchy, forcing us to protect our positions which systemically and structurally threaten our well-being 24/7; we live in a system of structural extortion.

As we have become free-range people in the “divine farm” of modern-day kings and queens, we have lost our access to the fundamental material reality. A sterile cage with screens, mandatory injections, electronic tracking within the invisible fence; human mice for profits, feed for data harvesting, an ever greater degree of spiritual death. It is not hard to start connecting the dots to see how things can lead into a grim future.

But what does such a fear do to the population, which has tolerated an assortment of abuses as their “punishment”? To those who manage to ignore their fellow humans living on the streets as invisible beings or fail to feel the pain of those being cornered into substance use and desperate acts of self-destruction?

Would they believe the words of those who question, or the words of the ruling class promising a glorious future of AI, green capitalism, genetic engineering, digitization and financialization?

And before we ask such a question, one must wonder if such a question is even allowed when the socioeconomic/political trajectory of the empire has been firmly within the imperial framework of the two capitalist political parties.

The capitalist hierarchy absorbs what it needs by allocating special positions within it:  Natural resources, narratives, facts, history, people, political ideologies or anything that sits in time and space.  The kings and queens monopolize them— material resources as well as people with skills and knowledge are captured to serve.  Once monopolized, the valued items are commodified, to be distributed in ways that benefit those same kings and queens.

Meanwhile such a process occurs in layers and layers, projecting myths, exploitative narratives, false history and erroneous facts onto our collective consciousness—a fake reality which covers our eyes while we push our mortal bodies around in the real world.

The images projected onto our psyche vary according to our positions in the hierarchy.  Each narrative validates and justifies our positions in the hierarchy. Kings and queens find themselves to be worthy rulers of the universe, while the masses see themselves as freedom loving people who do their best in a world of opportunities.

In such an equation authoritarianism presents itself as a swinging pendulum between fascism and social democracy as it moves forward on the capitalist path in space and time.  The carrot and stick carefully manage projected images to stay within the capitalist framework of acceptable ideas. Corporate politics and corporate activism play crucial roles in making the pendulum swing, therefore ensuring that the capitalist interests always go forward while appearing to be “democratic”.

Those who rely on terrorist tactics of various sorts attempt to resist the system by attacking the valuable, captured elements that work for the system.  The damage compromises social dynamics in ways that deprive those who are already deprived, while dividing the population that should be uniting to dismantle the oppressive system.

Guided by agent provocateurs and corporate NGOs, righteous anger against oppressors turns into a justification for draconian measures, destruction of communities for urban renewal, and a catalyst for new projects of exploitation.

As a set of capitalist imperatives pushes the capitalist contradiction to the limit, completely depriving people’s ability to reconcile the false perceptions and the material reality, it is time for an urgent mobilization to change the trajectory of exploitation into a new field with a new set of rules.  We are told that enemies are coming, a natural disaster is coming or a disease is coming, forcing us to mobilize ourselves to adjust to a new path of plundering for the kings and queens.

Any crisis, real or not, against the backdrop of a hierarchical structure imposes two sets of momentum that keep us within the capitalist farm.   The first set has to do with fear of the authority, which keeps our frustration directed against ourselves, each other and oppressed “others”, while firmly gripping the destabilized psyche of the population—creating an ironic psychology of supporting oppressive authority against our own interests.   The second set has to do with the material constraints imposed by the particular crisis—we become enemies to each other fighting amongst ourselves to survive.   We are put in the capitalist cage.   And we are forced to protect our cage, which is constructed with vertical strength to withstand fear of the authority, horizontal strength to withstand   attacks by competitors, and a solid floor to prevent one from falling down from the position in the hierarchy. The whole structure is held together with violent force of exploitation and subjugation.

“The Great Reset”

“The Great Reset” is packaged as a “great solution”.  Just like how the ruling class has marketed “green capitalism”—carbon trading, carbon capture, reforestation, and other resource exhausting green schemes and technologies for profit, it’s designed to prop up capitalism but it is also intended to transform capitalism to have more effective control of social relations while keeping the capitalist hierarchy intact.  Capitalism is getting a new OS, and it needs to be restarted.  Just as “green capitalism” has destroyed real environmentalism in the name of saving the planet, it is designed to destroy anti-capitalist activism in the name of “revolution”.

One of the prominent leftist tools under a capitalist framework has been grass roots activism to affect state regulations and state guidelines to contain momentums of exploitation and subjugation created by Wall Street as well as capitalist social institutions.  The stock market guided economy (falsely advertised as the only system that works) allows the ruling class to dominate social policies according to their interests; it prioritizes ruling class wealth accumulation while sacrificing social relations among the general population; it is extremely inefficient, unstable and economically unjust. The capitalist state has been a great tool in ensuring the interests of the ruling class to be a priority. The socialist revolution takes over the capitalist state, it nationalizes corporate entities and sets up the economy, education and the rest of social institutions and social relations to be guided by people’s interests.  Various incarnations of the above strategies to counter capitalist exploitation and encroaching imperial hegemony have attempted to do two major things. First, they have prioritized people’s interests by emphasizing projects that benefit the general population while providing social safety nets, infrastructure for the people, environmental regulations and so on. Second, they have allowed economic activities based on people’s needs which can grow organic community dynamics based on humanity and nature.

“The Great Reset,” on the other hand, is a project of the ruling class meant to take away those measures from the people and utilize them to further solidify their dominance over the people.  Since the owners of the farm are plenty rich already, they won’t need a big farm. Their social engineering skills as well as the greater control over the economy will be put to a test in building a sustainable farming business with a smaller herd.

This is why it seems that all activism has turned into enforcing or defying the various virus lockdown measures which have been instrumental in enforcing the trajectory of “The Great Reset.” Remember how all environmental activism was swallowed by the single idea of reducing carbon emission? Fearmongering slogans of apocalyptic narratives involving climate change, strong NGO guided activism, and corporate science emphasizing the topic of global warming have created the huge snowballing momentum to fight climate change at all costs, sidelining and co-opting all other important environmental activism. This has also contributed to the idea that it is no longer relevant to insist on being a part of systematic efforts in dismantling the capitalist system and building an alternate system which allows humanity and nature to prevail in harmony;  we are told that we don’t have time to build socialism anymore. We are encouraged to be a part of green solutions by the capitalists as a result.

We are being told that casino capitalism for profits must end to introduce “stakeholder capitalism”.  But of course, since the notion is coming from the profiteers who have colonized, corporatized, militarized and financialized, we can presume that they are talking about ensuring their own interests by directly guiding the economic decisions instead of continuing the show called the economy by the “invisible hand.” We are told that we should be provided with universal basic income, free housing and other social services as long as we follow the regulations and policies of public-private partnership.  What sort of conditioning will we be subjected to after being deprived of our inherent relationships to ourselves, to each other, to our communities and to nature, forced to be a part of destructive industrial farming, digitalization of everything with massive resource extraction, colonization of our communities with multinational franchises and enslavement of our souls in the invisible cage of indoctrination and propaganda?  We already have such a system in the US—it’s called mass incarceration in the private prison system.  We are being told that the economy must not be merely guided by growth and it must be replaced by a sustainable one.  However, coming from those who have greatly restricted meaningful economic growth among the general population in order to subject livelihoods to the brutal capitalist framework, what they really mean is to restrict productive social relations among the people so that they must subsist with bare minimum requirements, eventually cornered to be a smaller herd, more manageable with less resources—an economic solution which can only be conceived by criminal minds. Who knows what role vaccines will play in it.  Who knows what sort of living hell people will be subjected to as our lives are treated like numbers in high frequency trading, or our entire lives are put on hold by AI customer representatives.

Note how the policies will be designed to be achieved by co-opting leftist agendas.  The invisible hand has been busy building a brand new invisible cage to perpetuate the violent reign of kings and queens in the name of “revolution”—a fascist revolution that is.

Now, I would like to emphasize that these trajectories are not set in stone. The problem is that those possibilities are highly unlikely to be examined by concerned people within the capitalist framework. There is a structural problem in the system. Let me go back to the pendulum.  Just like any other capitalist social institution, the capitalist political institution serves the ruling class;  it can serve as a crime laundering devise. As soon as a topic involving criminal activities is destined to be “political”—it dissociates itself from criminal elements and becomes “legitimate”. Various social institutions kick in to support such a view since they are all funded by the ruling class—media presents it as such, legislature codifies it as such, executive branch executes it as such, judicial branch judges it as such, academics support it as such, educational institution cements it as such and so on. It becomes normalized to be a part of social policies. Once the topic is on the political table embellished with a glorious history and myths of the nationhood of the United States of America, the topic becomes officially “political”, not criminal, and it is now safely and generously handled by the corporate entities.

The rendered topic floats in an artificial realm of political myths, tradition, and the gladiator battle culture of political authorities as a commodified symbol representing a fictitious version of the actual topic. Ordinary people can’t approach it coherently for what it is anymore unless they are rich and influential enough to access all moneyed social institutions.  Moreover, all the criminal records of officials are discarded, forgiven and forgotten as a new regime comes in every four years.

This is how destructive foreign policies of colonialism, corporatism and militarism, and exploitative predatory domestic policies of all sorts have been implemented against people in the name of freedom, justice and humanity.  This is how environmental concerns have turned into “green capitalism”.  This is how we are being mobilized today under the guise of virus lockdowns.

People watch and cheer the pendulum swing between political extremes within the capitalist framework.  Bits and pieces of awareness beyond the imperial framework can only be perceived with tools approved by the framework, effectively keeping those with the awareness within the ideas of the ruling class.  If you hold a world view that does not fit in it, you end up being categorized as a supporter of a political villain or simply labeled as “fascist”, “communist” and so on.  Needless to say those terms are solely defined by acceptable ideas, acceptable history and acceptable myths of the capitalist hegemony.  The fact that the US government has supported fascist regimes across the globe while brutally intervening against socialist countries across the globe won’t be admitted for instance.

How Capitalist Hierarchy Shapes Ideas

If one holds a view that defies the prevalent narrative, the individual can become a target of the authority as well as a target of multiple political extremes within the capitalist hegemony.  For instance, if you oppose Israeli war crimes from an anti-capitalist/anti-imperialist position, you can be persecuted as a dissident by the establishment, while being labeled as anti-Semitic by supporters of Israeli policies. (You may also be labeled a Zionist shill by those who believe that Jews are taking over the world and so on).  The position that points out that Israel is a crucial part of the imperial structure, serving the imperial hierarchy while benefiting from its generous support, cannot be fully discussed due to how narratives are formed by the network of the imperial institutions.

The political pendulum doesn’t only create an illusion of “democracy”, it also defines what is acceptable while tearing communities apart. It utilizes its violence as a springboard to perpetuate and strengthen its grip on the exploited. That’s why the living hell for Palestinian people keeps functioning as a devise for imperialism—the more Palestinians suffer, the more anti-Semitic sentiment emerges, which in turn justifies Israeli violence, which in turn serves the imperial agendas. That’s why victims of Katarina had to be victimized by “urban renewal” after going through the gravely tragic event. Capitalist hegemony does not allow an honest discussion because imperialism is kept invisible by default, the capitalist cage is invisible and the guiding hand of capitalists is invisible. The capitalist framework simply corners people into having dead-end arguments. Period.

With the virus situation, we are told that there are good people who wear masks and stay home and bad people who selfishly defy the rules and spread “conspiracy theories”.  The dynamics among acceptable narratives within the capitalist framework create the circular arguments of a screaming match. These dynamics exclude and belittle any understanding which goes beyond the artificial range of ideas created by the capitalist institutions:  you are fake news, you are a denier, you are a conspiracy theorist, you are a grandma killer, communists are taking over and so on. Without recognizing this mechanism, any attempt to unify the momentums will result in a populism which emulates the existing social structure—another reactionary revolution at best, but more likely it will create more divisions and destabilization among the people, resulting in perpetuation of the capitalist hierarchy. This is why there is no discussion of accountability for the death and suffering created by lockdown measures and there is no discussion about the meaning of why we are going through a structural shift.  And when the deaths and sufferings will be put on the political table, financial vultures will devour them in the emerging social impact bond markets (see studies by Wrench in the Gears).

The invisible hand that is supposed to guide us to freedom, justice and humanity has created an empire ruled by the unprecedented accumulation of power for the few.  The invisible hand has created an invisible cage over us, and it has been blinding us and dividing us, allowing the ruling class to exploit us and subjugate us.

Now, it must be clearly stated that what we perceive as the dystopian future of The Fourth Industrial Revolution—AI, blockchain, digitalization, financialization, green capitalism and so on—can’t be separated from the invisible hand and the invisible cage. It cannot be allowed to be defined by capitalist institutions as a “legitimate political topic” instead of what it really is. The newly built cage hasn’t been built, but if we fail to see it for what it is in its context, we will simply be forced to embrace some version of it as one of the “legitimate” capitalist trajectories. That’s how it works when our society is a theater of absurdity.

I want to live a life that breaks open the invisible cage and firmly shake hands with nature and humanity.  If you have stuck around this far with me, I trust that you feel the same…or not. Either way, we must start our conversations.

Further Readings

Wrong Kind of Green Website

John Steppling Website

Winter Oak Website

Wrench in the Gear Website

 

[Hiroyuki Hamada is an artist. He has exhibited throughout the United States and in Europe and is represented by Lori Bookstein Fine Art. He has been awarded various residencies including those at the Provincetown Fine Arts Work Center, the Edward F. Albee Foundation/William Flanagan Memorial Creative Person’s Center, the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture, and the MacDowell Colony. In 1998 Hamada was the recipient of a Pollock Krasner Foundation grant, and in 2009 he was awarded a New York Foundation for the Arts Fellowship. He lives and works in New York.]

The Virtual Education Shock Doctrine

The Virtual Education Shock Doctrine

California’s online-schooling model is a glimpse into the future of digital austerity.

The Bellows

October 4, 2020

By Alex Gutentag

 

Long-distance learning

(Gonzalo Fuentes / Reuters)

In California, the nation’s most populous state, 90% of students started the school year entirely online. When schools closed in March, 50% of low-income California students lacked the necessary technology to access distance learning. Broader tech distribution was available for the 2020-21 school year thanks to donations from companies like HP, Lenovo, Amazon, Apple, T-Mobile, Microsoft, and Google. Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey even personally donated $10 million to the city of Oakland’s tech initiative. With chromebooks and wifi hotspots now available for every student, California legislators and corporations congratulated themselves on closing the “digital divide.”

Despite their improved tech access, many students have more pressing material needs. Over 260,000 California students experience homelessness every year, and over 20% of California children live below the poverty line. The tech industry has not made massive donations to medical and therapy services, which low-income students often receive through community schools. Likewise, there is no private backing for the state’s free grab-and-go meals program.

Distance learning is a sleight of hand. Framed as a panacea, online education is actually the vehicle for a long-desired economic restructuring.

Online schooling will generate a treasure trove of data tech firms can buy and sell. Free meals will not. Silicon Valley boasts a yearly output of $275 billion and has a GDP similar to that of Qatar. Yet California, the world’s fifth largest economy, is currently withholding $11 billion from schools. Districts have been given IOUs for state funding and will not be reimbursed until next year. In contrast, California billionaires increased their net worth by over 25.5% ($175 billion) in the first three months of the pandemic.

Students throughout California are now stuck at home in hot, crowded rooms that occasionally fill with wildfire smoke. 19% of these students are English language learners and almost 13% of them have disabilities. Every day on Zoom they fall more and more behind both academically and socially. In Los Angeles Unified, the state’s largest district, students are receiving 90-170 minutes of daily live instruction (depending on their age), after which they are expected to do independent work. Compared to the traditional six- or seven-hour school day, online education is laughably inadequate.

In real time, teachers and families are watching important developmental windows close for vulnerable children. Meanwhile the California Democratic Party and its affiliates tout virtual schooling as a solution for mitigating COVID-19 transmission. This policy is the result of an alignment between the Democratic Party, corporate power, and a bureaucratic teachers’ union. The purpose of their alignment is to rationalize austerity and boost commercial profits. Distance learning is a sleight of hand. Framed as a panacea, online education is actually the vehicle for a long-desired economic restructuring.

School Closures: An Unscientific and Regressive Policy

The Dreambox mathematics application: "Within one minute of work, the program can collect, analyse and respond to more than 800 pieces of data about a student and how he or she learns, according to the organization." [page 9]

The Dreambox mathematics application: “Within one minute of work, the program can collect, analyse and respond to more than 800 pieces of data about a student and how he or she learns, according to the organization.” [page 9]

California’s introduction of online schooling was driven by financial concerns, not medical or moral ones. Reopening safely would have required physical distancing plans, distribution of face shields or masks, sanitizing supplies, systems for daily health screenings, regular testing, widespread use of outdoor spaces, alternative schedules, smaller class sizes, and a massive hiring initiative. The primary reason these proposals were shot down was not rising COVID-19 cases as the governor, Gavin Newsom, asserted. California cases, hospitalizations, and deaths have been declining since August 1, but since then Newsom has only made reopening guidelines stricter.

The full prohibition on in-person learning directly contradicts the advice of medical and scientific experts. In June the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) issued recommendations for school re-openings, stating, “the AAP strongly advocates that all policy considerations for the coming school year should start with a goal of having students physically present in school.” The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine issued similar guidance. Schools, the authors argue, provide essential services to students and families.

Only after large school districts decided to stay closed did the AAP revise its original guidance to fit a perceived political consensus. Many clinical studies and reviews supported their original conclusion, demonstrating that children are less likely to transmit COVID-19 than adults, and school closures are an ineffective method of disease control. Not only will these irrational closures deepen class disparities, the policy has also overruled some children’s civil right to public education—a right that became universal in federal law less than 50 years ago.

It was not until 1975 that people with disabilities won a “Free and Appropriate Public Education” through the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Before IDEA people with intellectual disabilities were often put in underfunded and abusive state schools, such as the infamous Willowbrook state school in Staten Island. Similarly, discrimination against English language learners was allowed until the 1974 passage of the Equal Education Opportunity Act.

Dismantling these gains is apparently of no concern to the California Democrats and the California Teachers Association (CTA), the state teachers union. Virtual learning effectively limits educational access for high-need populations. Yet as public resources are funneled into online learning platforms, the CTA regularly claims to be fighting back against billionaires and politicians. In reality, the teachers union is acting as an astroturfing and financing arm of the tech industry and the Democratic Party. There is no real conflict between these entities because their interests are identical.

The Teachers Union as Controlled Opposition

The Global Education Coalition was launched on March 25, 2020, by UNESCO. Founding partners include the World Bank, Facebook, Microsoft, Google, the BBC, and the Global Business Coalition for Education.

The Global Education Coalition was launched on March 25, 2020, by UNESCO. Founding partners include the World Bank, Facebook, Microsoft, Google, the BBC, and the Global Business Coalition for Education.

 

The median teacher salary in California is $65,252. On average, California teachers pay $1,072 in dues, and the majority of dues do not go to local organizations—they go to the CTA. In 2018 at least twelve CTA officers and directors made six-figure salaries. The CTA president took home about $340,000, and the union’s Associate Executive Director over $1 million. It is extremely difficult for teachers to find out how much of their dues money goes to political activities, let alone which of these activities actually help secure better working conditions and wages for teachers.

However, some information is available. California teachers’ dues directly contribute to the CTA’s PAC. Although teachers can opt out from donating to the PAC, this option is only given when they sign the form to join the union. While there are limits to the CTA’s donations to individual candidates through its PAC, the CTA can donate greater amounts through independent expenditure committees. For example, the CTA’s PAC donated only $29,000 to Newsom’s election campaign in 2018, but its independent expenditure committee gave $1 million to “Education Organizations for Gavin Newsom for Governor 2018.”

The National Education Association, which the CTA is a part of, is likewise opaque about how much dues money is used for political activities and what those activities are. In 2018 the NEA contributed about $5.4 million to candidates and political campaigns and spent close to $2.9 million on lobbying. After endorsing Joe Biden in March, the NEA now invites teachers to become “Educators for Joe” through its website.

The relationship between the union and the California Democratic Party extends to the CTA’s organizing work for ballot initiatives. Most recently, local California unions have asked their members to collect signatures and join rallies for Prop 15, the Students and Communities First Initiative. The slogan for Prop 15 is “Tax the Rich,” but the tax will not be on wealthy individuals, or directly on the revenue of California’s largest industries (tech, agriculture, tourism, and entertainment). The tax will instead be on business properties exceeding $3 million in value. The initiative is backed by national politicians like Elizabeth WarrenBernie SandersPete Buttigieg, and Michael Bloomberg. The Chan Zuckerberg Foundation has contributed over $6.3 million to support Prop 15.

Union members should be concerned about the fact that, according to the CTA’s own Prop 15 calculator, the plan will fund privately-operated charter schools in addition to public schools. Charter schools are property leasing schemes that exploit low-income communities for the benefit of investors. In using public school teachers to organize for this funding, the CTA has promoted an initiative that will allow investment capital to benefit from industrial property taxes, an expense that some worry will fall on small businesses in the form of increased rents. Given the level of mismanagement, cronyism, and anti-teacher animus plaguing the administrations of many California school districts, it is also worth wondering if Prop 15 money will go where it is truly needed (staffing), or whether it will be wasted on more tech products.

Ultimately, there is no real tension between the political project of the teachers union and that of the Democratic Party. Both are working toward the same outcomes. In the case of COVID-19, the desired outcome is the purchase of hardware, software, and online learning subscriptions on an enormous scale. This ploy relies on a politics of anti-solidarity in which teachers stay home on computers while risk is pushed onto lower-paid staff or contractors who lack union protection.

Woke Justifications for Academic Decline

January 2020, World Economic Forum: "The notion of an educator as the knowledge-holder who imparts wisdom to their pupils is no longer fit for the purpose of a 21st-century education."

January 2020, World Economic Forum: “The notion of an educator as the knowledge-holder who imparts wisdom to their pupils is no longer fit for the purpose of a 21st-century education.”

 

While low-income students and families struggle to adapt, many educators are willing to push rhetoric that presents virtual learning as liberation. In some cities, local union leaders, district administrators, and other organizations have entered into an endless competition to prove who is more woke and more pro-lockdown. Racialized social justice politics have created distractions that serve to rationalize and excuse the absence of public health infrastructure and other services.

In Oakland, for example, ongoing conflicts between professionals have done little to help communities in need, and disguise a de facto consensus around school closures. California’s online learning mandate was largely decided at the state level by the governor’s office. This did not stop the Oakland teachers’ union from holding a pro-closure demonstration in front of the Oakland schools superintendent’s home. The Oakland NAACP wrote a letter condemning the action for targeting the superintendent, who is a Black woman. The East Bay DSA responded in support of the union, citing the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on Black communities.

Virtual learning is training affluent students for a life of self-directed work at home. It is training low-income students for a life of no work at all.

Around the same time, elementary school principals in Oakland wrote a letter asking middle class parents to refrain from forming independently organized educational “pandemic pods,” arguing that this would be “exacerbating educational inequities.” Meanwhile, the Oakland teachers’ union was spending valuable time in reopening negotiations demanding a Black Reparations Fund. The union proposed that Local Control Funding Formula money for foster youth, English language learners, and low-income students be redirected to new “Black Sanctuary District” programs.

The woke posturing in Oakland demonstrates a pattern of California educators and other professionals wielding their cultural power to uphold tech profits while taking for granted the profound economic inequalities caused by the COVID-19 lockdown. The major stakeholders, while supposedly at odds, all supported government frugality as a science-based safety measure. With online learning now fully in place, social justice narratives contend that staring at screens is emancipation.

Various tech initiatives like the Modern Classrooms Project allege that online learning is progressive because it allows for self-pacing. The concept of virtual self-pacing is tied to declarations that some students are “thriving” through online education. School, proponents of distance learning claim, is perhaps too long, too demanding; the standards and expectations may be too high. Distance learning, they argue, allows kids to organize their own time, regardless of whether it is developmentally appropriate or not.

Similarly, education theories such as “Abolitionist Teaching” posit that white supremacy creates trauma for Black students at school. Therefore, the fundamental structures of school must be rethought. Intellectuals and writers who characterize school as inherently racist are assisting in a union-busting project. Abolitionist theorists even call on teachers’ unions themselves to demand curriculum and personnel changes, and scheduling that adheres to anti-racist thought.

The digitization of schools is an initial step toward digitization of society as a whole. Just as the school bell schedule was designed around the factory model, so the current model of virtual learning is training affluent students for a life of self-directed work at home. It is training low-income students for a life of no work at all.

Rejecting a Lockdown Future

“The long-term effects of school closures will define a generation. Children are facing increased rates of severe abuse and a mental health catastrophe. We’ve told children that their existence is harmful and their lives are unimportant. We abandoned them and they won’t forget it.”

"Greater income inequality, increased unemployment, growing dependence on government, and more mass migrations are a few of the most pressing problems that failing to train the next generation of workers for the digitally driven economy will bring." [page 3]

“Greater income inequality, increased unemployment, growing dependence on government, and more mass migrations are a few of the most pressing problems that failing to train the next generation of workers for the digitally driven economy will bring.” [page 3]


Given this threat to the teaching profession, the CTA and local unions must divest from corporate interests that aim to dismantle labor. Bribing politicians can only get educators so far. Teachers can no longer give in to the mafia-style antics of the Democratic Party if they want to survive. Union dues should not be spent on Newsom’s reelection campaign, but on a state-wide strike fund. Charter school champions benefit when public schools lose enrollment because of systematic mismanagement. They will also benefit when the union starts hemorrhaging membership due to its corruption and negligence.Since March the American left has framed neoliberal lockdown policies as the only morally viable option for dealing with COVID-19. In doing so, they have fetishized teachers’ unions and used their labor negotiations as the prime example of worker support for lockdown. Now that the damage has been done and soaring unemployment has disempowered all workers, the left may begin to roll back its discredited justifications for lockdown. No matter what challenges arise, social services and public institutions should be non-negotiable for any socialist, populist, or pro-worker politics.

Schools are necessary for communal and individual well-being—they are just as essential as health care. In their education children do not only learn content; they also learn by example and through experience. It is our collective task to consider what message continued policies of school closure and austerity send to the younger generation. They will not forget it if we fail to develop alternatives.

[Alex Gutentag is a public school teacher in California and a former union representative. You can follow her on Twitter at @galexybrane]

Presentation: Biometric Health Passports and The Panopticon

November 24, 2020

 

 

Independent researcher Alison McDowell: “In early November 2020, I presented to a group in upstate New York that has been organizing in opposition to Governor Cuomo’s proposed vaccine mandate for all residents. This talk is about the Fourth Industrial Revolution and the World Economic Forum’s “Great Reset” and how this agenda is linked to the adoption of CommonPass heath passports and the creation of a global biosecurity state to scale human capital bond markets. These markets are built on manufactured poverty and social impact investing schemes aligned with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.”

 

 

 

It’s Not a Social Dilemma – It’s the Calculated Destruction of the Social [The Enclosure of Africa, Part II]

October 30, 2020

By Cory Morningstar

 

Part two of a three-part investigative series. [Part 1] [Part 3]

 

2Africa: Digital Colonization Meets White Paternalism – The Facebook Enclosure of Africa

 

“Zuckerberg’s team has another related project named 2Africa. A “mission”, as they call it… Civilians have been quite silent about it this time, but not because they don’t have an opinion. It looks like many civil society groups in the continent are financed by Facebook itself. Ironic, right? Well, it seems like the missionary-like good guys from up North are going to save the world again.”

 

August 18, 2020, “There’s a 2.0 form of colonialism happening under our very eyes”

 

 

“Facebook realizes it’s running out of room to grow in developed markets. Instead of waiting for developing countries to build adequate infrastructure for its apps, Facebook wants to help develop the infrastructure and lock users into its ecosystem.”

 

May 22, 2020, Facebook Will Bring Expanded Internet Access to Africa in $1 Billion Project

 

 

“Big Tech corporations are wreaking havoc on the Global South. There’s a crisis in the tech ecosystem, and it’s called digital colonialism.”

 

March 13, 2019, “Digital colonialism is threatening the Global South”

“Many countries will face a shrinking population. For Europe, this challenge may come sooner. The region is projected to face the highest dependency ratio—the number of people of nonworking age (over 65) compared with those of working age—by 2050. At 75 percent, this ratio is higher than for any other region… Not all populations are shrinking or getting older, though. Africa—the only region whose population is expected to grow more than 1 percent a year—will have the youngest median age, 25, by 2050.” [Source: International Monetary Fund, Finance & Development, March 2020] 

Today, four in ten people, that is, 42% of the global population, are aged under 25. Now consider that 76% of youth aged 18–24 use Facebook. [Source] “While the majority of most populations in the Global North are decreasing or flatlining, in Sub-Saharan Africa the populations are growing with nearly half of the world’s youth living in Sub-Saharan African countries.” [Source]

“As Africa meets the 4IR Fourth Industrial Revolution], its youth will be one of its most important assets”

 

August 25, 2020, World Economic Forum, How can Africa succeed in the Fourth Industrial Revolution?

According to a 2019 Pew Research Center analysis, for the first time in modern history, the planet’s human population “is expected to virtually stop growing by the end of this century, due in large part to falling global fertility rates.” [Source] In a mere ten years, by 2030, it is expected that one in five people will be African. [Source] By 2100, half of all babies born in the world – will be born in Africa. [Source]

The race to recolonize African citizens, as techlonial subjects, has begun.For decades, population has been made a convenient scapegoat for climate change, greenhouse gas emissions and expressed concerns over biodiversity and sustainability. It has gained an upsurge in popularity with New Deal For Nature influencers David Attenborough and Jane Goodall (selected by the World Economic Forum, WWF et al.) promoting this narrative (a narrative with a fixation of black and brown bodies). Although it is Western countries responsible for the absolute bulk of these emissions and ecological devastation across the globe, it has not been African groups nor black academics calling on population controls for the West. Rather, it is Western and European groups, predominantly white and male, relentlessly targeting African nations and the sovereign bodies belonging to African women. Consider that in 1900 Europe held 25% of the global population, triple that of Africa. Yet by 2050, Europe is on track to hold a mere 7% of the global population (one-third that of Africa). With white supremacy as a foundational structure of the ruling class, the feigned concern over both ecology and poverty rings hollow. The race to recolonize African citizens, as techlonial subjects, has begun.

“Up until 1950, more than half of historical CO2 emissions were emitted by Europe. The vast majority of European emissions back then were emitted by the United Kingdom; as the data shows, until 1882 more than half of the world’s cumulative emissions came from the UK alone. Over the century which followed, industrialization in the USA rapidly increased its contribution. It’s only over the past 50 years that growth in South America, Asia and Africa have increased these regions’ share of total contribution.”

A 2013 map demonstrates fourteen nations account for approximately 80 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. In 2019, an advance chapter of the 2019 Emissions Gap Report, released ahead of the UN Secretary-General’s Climate Action Summit, reported G20 member states account for almost 80 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. [Source] The top three greenhouse gas emitters— China (with a population of1.4 billion), the European Union and the United States contribute more than half of global greenhouse gas emissions, while the bottom 100 countries account for a mere 3.5 percent. [Source]

Bob Collymore (1958-2019), Former CEO of Safaricom and leader of The B Team

Forecasts for this year (2020) show only one non-African country – Afghanistan – placed in the top 20 countries for the highest youth populations. [Source] For these reasons, Africa has been a target of both “fourth industrial revolution” technologies (digitalized healthcare, education, identities, etc.), as well as the United Nations-World Economic Forum Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). South Asia (Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka) is also recognized as a key target market. Under the guise of alleviating poverty, protecting climate and biodiversity, the SDGs are in reality, emerging markets, with their implementation driven by the World Economic Forum, partner to the United Nations. Children and youth are to become human data commodities on the blockchain. This is the foray into the machinations underpinning the new global poverty economy. The majority of climate investments earmarked in Annex 1 states in the Global North will be invested in emerging markets in the Global South – created by the West, for the West.

“Tech giants have been finding new ways of gathering data from citizens, this time with major investments in connection infrastructure in the global South.”

 

August 18, 2020, Digital Colonialism

On May 13, 2020, Facebook announced its plans to encircle the entire continent of Africa with subsea cable. At 37,000 kilometers long, the 2Africa cable will be nearly equal to the entire circumference of the Earth.

The 2Africa project, valued at approximately USD 1 billion, is considered one of the largest subsea cable projects in the world. It will interconnect 16 countries in Africa, the Middle East (via Saudi Arabia), and Europe.

“Facebook hasn’t disclosed how much money it’s contributing to the project, but it won’t be a significant percentage of its projected revenue of $78 billion this year.” [Source]

Facebook’s 2Africa partners include some of the globe’s largest telecom corporations, including: the U.K.’s Vodafone Group, France’s Orange SA, China’s Mobile, stc (Saudi Telecom), Europe’s GlobalConnect, and Africa’s West Indian Ocean Cable Company (WIOCC). The two African wireless carriers involved in the project are MTN Group (Johannesburg) and Telecom Egypt. Nokia Oyj’s Alcatel Submarine Networks has been contracted to build the cable. [Source]

“2Africa, whose aim is surrounding the whole African continent with undersea fibre-optic cables, is an infrastructural feat that in usual circumstances would be considered the exclusive domain of governments.”

 

August 17, 2020, Inside Facebook’s new power grab, From cables to internet cafes, Mark Zuckerberg is leaving his mark on the global South

According to Bloomberg, “tech giants, led by Facebook and Alphabet Inc.’s Google, are behind about 80% of the recent investment in transatlantic cable, driven by demand for fast-data transfers used for streaming movies to social messaging.” If one juxtaposes such priorities, with our dire planetary ecological crisis and unprecedented biodiversity loss, one catches a glimpse of a society in intellectual and ethical freefall. As we enter a “fourth” industrial revolution, consider that after an approximately 260 years of “progress”, 30% of the global population still has no access to clean drinking water, while approximately half the world’s population lacks access to safe sanitation. In tandem with diet, nutrition, and shelter, it is these most basic necessities that prevent disease and sickness. “An estimated 801,000 children younger than 5 years of age perish from diarrhoea each year, mostly in developing countries. This amounts to 11% of the 7.6 million deaths of children under the age of five and means that about 2,200 children are dying every day as a result of diarrheal diseases. Unsafe drinking water, inadequate availability of water for hygiene, and lack of access to sanitation together contribute to about 88% of deaths from diarrheal diseases.” As these black and brown deaths occur in the Global South, the populace of Global North remains largely and seemingly willfully blind to this normalized atrocity, while as of March 27, 2020, The Lancet reported outside of two reported deaths in China of children who tested positive for COVID-19, there were no accounts of COVID-19 deaths of children in the published literature. Since this time, fatalities in children from/with COVID-19 remain extremely rare.

Although at first glance, that COVID-19 is being prioritised over providing clean drinking water and safe sanitation must be considered insane, in fact, one must understand this as marketing: “Suggesting that the digital sphere “amplifies existing inequalities”, the UN official noted that among the most pressing challenges are tackling the lack of internet access in the world’s poorest nations – where fewer than one in five people has regular electricity.” [Source] One cannot feed their children with the internet. One cannot bathe their child in a virtual world. The concern over internet access inequality – the push for equal access for all – is nothing more than public relations and strategic marketing seeking social license. This feigned concern over inequality – is the storytelling that simultaneously conceals and drives the emerging markets. Oppression is reframed as empowerment. Data is the new oil.

Let them eat virtual cake – on their smartphones.

“‘We’ve been able to work with the local partners who are providing internet service in the most challenged areas,’ says Facebook’s Rabinovitsj. ‘Some of these places are really large slums in and around large urban centres and typically the disposable income is less than a few dollars a month for households.’ ‘We are able to, with our partners, come up with a sustainable model that provides internet access for [those] families.” [Source]

[Source: Smart Growth Is Colonialism Reinvented]

Award digital badges for “Smart Learning”. Mine the data. Feed the artificial intelligence and machine learning. Continue the theft of resources (biological communities) from the pillaged continent of Africa – that underpin the imperial “great reset”. Enslave the children via technology. Smart slavery. Smart enslavement. Smart colonialism.

“Facebook has long tried to lead the race to improve connectivity in Africa in a bid to take advantage of a young population, greater connectivity and the increasing availability and affordability of smartphones.”

 

Bloomberg, May 14, 2020, Faster Internet Coming to Africa With Facebook’s $1 Billion Cable

September 12, 2016: “NAIROBI, Kenya, “Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg is in Kenya after a three-day visit in Lagos, Nigeria in his first visit to Africa. Zuckerberg is expected to meet tech entrepreneurs, developers and talk to stakeholders in the ICT industry. Zuckerberg: “Just landed in Nairobi! I’m here to meet with entrepreneurs and developers, and to learn about mobile money – where Kenya is the world leader.” [Source] [Image]

May 17, 2017: “Black Facebook users are having their accounts banned for speaking out against racism: It seems the intent behind silencing outspoken Black folks hasn’t changed in the last few hundred years. And while Mark Zuckerberg hasn’t yet sentenced me to “thirty nine lashes on [my] bare back,” I can’t say for certain that penalty isn’t hidden somewhere… I’ve lost count of how many Black organizers have had their Facebook accounts temporarily or permanently banned for posting content that even remotely challenges white supremacy.”

Facebook’s announcement of the 2Africa project followed “a long and complex restoration process of an unprecedented simultaneous cable break”. The two Atlantic Ocean based 16,000 km cable systems (connecting South Africa to the UK) occurred early in the morning on January 16, 2020. The breaks in the cables, only eight years old, took place approximately 1,964 km apart from one another – with one break occurring near Libreville, Gabon, while the second break occurred south of Gabon, in the vicinity of Luanda, Angola. [Source] This same day, an 18-year-old cable called SAT-3 that runs along the same route was also reported broken.

“It was unprecedented that two completely geographically separate cables run by completely separate companies would fail within hours of each other,”

 

— Afrihost CEO Gian Visser speaking to Business Times

The breaks, cited as catastrophic, the cause as-yet unspecified, resulted in frustrated users in over 24 sub-Saharan African countries. Upon announcing the full restoration on February 19, 2020, Openserve, the infrastructure arm of South Africa’s Telkom, charged with co-ordinating the repairs on two damaged cable lines (WACS and the SAT3/WASC) stated it would “conduct a full analysis of the unusual dual-cable break.” As a side note, in February of 2008, outages on five separate undersea cables in the Middle East were attributed to sabotage by a UN official. Such acts of sabotage are not as rare as one may think:

“What’s the least sophisticated, but probably the most foolproof, way to cut off a country’s Internet traffic? Literally cutting it by severing undersea Internet cables. That’s what the Egyptian navy caught three scuba divers doing in the waters 750 meters off the port city of Alexandria on Wednesday… The effects of the ship taking out that cable were experienced as far away as Pakistan and India…”

 

— Divers Caught Cutting Internet Backbone Cable, March 28, 2013

The cable break disruption in Africa created a well-timed segue for the 2Africa project announcement by Facebook, which otherwise may well have generated backlash: “When completed, this new route will deliver much-needed internet capacity, redundancy, and reliability across Africa; supplement a rapidly increasing demand for capacity in the Middle East; and support further growth of 4G, 5G, and broadband access for hundreds of millions of people.” [May 13, 2020] Par for the course, and leaving no stone unturned, Facebook has taken a page from its capitalist predecessors, financing any possible opposition:

“This is hardly the only reason backlash has been muted. Activists on the African continent are often battling internet shutdowns, connectivity and other issues – and also struggle to make headlines in the western media even more than their counterparts in India. And there’s an additional complication: many of the African civil society groups are themselves funded by Facebook.” [Source]

 

“They have so many projects at the moment,” van der Spuy remarks. “They’re funding so many civil society people, including people that you wouldn’t think of, and they fund them to go to conferences and things. There’s a lot of soft and hard lobbying on the continent.” — Dr Anri van der Spuy, a senior associate at Research ICT Africa, a policy and regulation think-tank [Source]

 

Smart Colonialism

 

August 21, 2020, Algorithmic Colonisation of Africa: “In the age of algorithms, this control and domination occurs not through brute physical force but rather through invisible and nuanced mechanisms such as control of digital ecosystems and infrastructure.”

“Similar to the technical architecture of classic colonialism, digital colonialism is rooted in the design of the tech ecosystem for the purposes of profit and plunder. If the railways and maritime trade routes were the “open veins” of the Global South back then, today, digital infrastructure takes on the same role: Big Tech corporations use proprietary software, corporate clouds, and centralised Internet services to spy on users, process their data, and spit back manufactured services to subjects of their data fiefdoms. ”

 

March 13, 2019, “Digital colonialism is threatening the Global South”

The 2Africa cable project is expected to be in operation by 2024. It will surpass the combined capacity of all existing sub-sea cables serving Africa.

For an idea of the massive profits to be realized from the capture of data, one only needs to look at the monetary outlay corporations are willing to place up front. The population of St. Helena, Africa is 5,000. Research suggests that approximately 60% of these 5,000 citizens will use the Internet, for a total of 3,000 Internet users. For this tiny demographic, Google will spend USD 30 million. [Source]

Fiber optic specialist and industry insider Sunil Tagare was selected by Wired magazine as one of the “Wired 25” in 1999; a Global Leader for Tomorrow by the World Economic Forum, and is a Charter Member of TiE (The Indus Entrepreneurs) New York. According to Tagare, Facebook’s share of the 2Africa project will amount to approximately 80 million dollars and use 10-20% of the bandwidth. This percentage of bandwidth will generate 21 billion dollars per year in revenues increasing Facebook’s market cap by USD 178 billion. [Source]

According to Tagare, 2Africa will be “the first smart cable with sensors to cross the Atlantic.” [Source]

The real prize here is not merely Facebook’s billion dollar revenues and growing global dominance. Rather, it is the infrastructure that underpins the further expansion of both 5G, that is, the fifth generation technology standard for broadband cellular networks (rolling out now with virtually no dissent) and 6G (foreseen for 2030). 5G networks underpin the global expansion of Internet of Things, big data, artificial intelligence, biometrics, global digitalization, digital identification, autonomous lethal weapons, cyber security, an automated global workforce, etc. At 10 gigabits per second, theoretically, 5G is said to be up to one hundred times more powerful than the current 4G technology. 6G is expected to support 1 terabyte per second speeds. This level of capacity and latency will be unprecedented, extending the capabilities of 5G applications. [Source]

Whereas US and China corporations own the platforms, Europe, China and South Korea, lead on 5G. Those that control 5G will control all the infrastructure upon which 5G technology is based. Together, China (#1), the US (#2), and the EU (#3) represent the three largest economies in the world (although the order in which they reign is sometimes contested). The three combined represented 48% of the world economy.

On June 28, 2019, Google announced “Equiano”, its new private subsea cable that will connect Africa with Europe. [Source] Named after Olaudah Equiano, a Nigerian-born writer and abolitionist who was enslaved as a child, today’s woke slavery for children is to be repackaged with digital badges earned for their very own, unique, digital passport. Perhaps such appropriation and irony is even too rich for Facebook. Consider the 2Africa project was originally named “Simba” named after the Lion King character. (After initial involvement, Google left the Simba consortium.) The first phase of Google’s Equiano project, connecting South Africa with Portugal, is expected to be completed in 2021. Between 2016 and 2018, Google invested USD 47 billion in capital expenditures, which includes the billions being invested in further expanding its global infrastructure.

“As Facebook’s core product (social) starts seeing a significant downward trend and is certainly a non-starter with the millennials, it will increasingly have to depend on other verticals which will compete with Google.” [Source]

African Telecom providers have warned that the Facebook and Google projects threaten the survival of the local and mainstream operators:

“Virtual operators like Facebook are organisations that mainstream operators have to watch out for because a number of services they render today are free of charge. Their revenue is mostly from advertisement. They don’t have tax obligations; they don’t have any obligation like the conventional licensee have to the government.”

 

June 8, 2020, Telcos Threatened As Facebook, Google Plan Subsea Cable

 

“Silicon Valley corporations are taking over the digital economy in the Global South, and nobody is paying attention. In South Africa, Google and Facebook dominate the online advertising industry, and are considered an existential threat to local media.”

 

March 13, 2019, “Digital colonialism is threatening the Global South”

 

Facebook’s “Internet.org” – Rebranded to “Free Basics”

 

“Most importantly, for Free Basics users, Facebook becomes the homepage of the Internet. Free Basics builds brand loyalty among users. It contributes to Facebook’s dominant position in emerging markets with tremendous demographic growth.”

 

Inside Facebook’s new power grab, From cables to internet cafes, Mark Zuckerberg is leaving his mark on the global South, August 17, 2020

Free Basics homepage

 In partnership with Samsung, Ericsson, MediaTek, Opera Software, Nokia and Qualcomm, Facebook launched Internet.org in 2013:

“Basic data-light web services would be available through a free app, owned and curated by Facebook. By marketing its new product as ‘the internet’, Facebook could make itself the centre of their online world. There was no email provision, no Google services, no other social media platforms – and often no content in that country’s native tongue. In effect, Facebook was offering a heavily censored version of the American internet, accessed through a Facebook app which directed everything back to its own services.” [Source]

In 2014, Internet.org launched the ‘Internet.org app’ in four African countries. Users could access 13 websites without data charge, including Google, Facebook, Wikipedia, and a Johnson & Johnson-sponsored maternal health site.

On February 10, 2015, Internet.org announced the upcoming launch of its app in six Indian states. Following intense backlash (*”Facebook was acting as a gatekeeper of the Internet by pre-selecting services available on Internet.org, without transparency and with a Western bias detrimental to local services and start-ups”) the business venture was rebranded to “Free Basics” in September 2015, prior to a nationwide roll-out. [*Source]

 

“Based on current figures provided by Facebook, some 2.99 billion people currently use at least one of Facebook’s apps every month. The population of the entire world is, according to Worldometer, around 7.8 billion, so when you take into account the aforementioned stat that 3.5 billion can’t access the web, and add to that the fact that 1.4b Chinese citizens are technically unable to use Facebook due to government restrictions, Facebook’s apps, based on these calculations, are used by pretty much everybody who’s able to access them, in some form.  Given this, you can see why Facebook’s keen to maximize its presence in India, and its reach among that nation’s 1.4 billion people.” [Source]

In February 2016, regulators banned Facebook’s Free Basics service in India. In nationwide protests, citizens argued that Free Basics expanded Facebook’s monopoly power while simultaneously subjecting users to both censorship and surveillance. This was a massive blow to Facebook. With a population of 1.4 billion citizens, India represented Facebook’s largest target market. Since this time, Facebook quietly rolled out a new initiative into India and other targeted demographics with Wi-Fi hotspots, called Express Wi-Fi. This initiative gives retailers the option to offer its users open access to Free Basics. In effect, Free Basics was re-routed through Express Wi-Fi.

“In 2015 researchers found that 65% of Nigerians, and 61% of Indonesians agree with the statement that “Facebook is the Internet” compared with only 5% in the US.” [Source]

On November 3, 2016, Facebook announced 40 million people were using internet.org. Despite the February 2016 ban of Free Basics in India, Facebook quietly continues its monolithic expansion, relatively free of scrutiny, into most developing countries, including India, while Free Basics is proliferating in dozens of countries. [Source: March 13, 2019, Digital colonialism is threatening the Global South] To successfully enable the Free Basics expansion into Africa, Facebook ceased to publicize its Free Basics pursuits, and instead focused on engagement with and financing of “civil society”(NGOs). This was largely accomplished via the Praekelt Foundation – funded by heavy hitters including the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Omidyar Network, Johnson & Johnson, the Clinton Health Access Initiative, Ford Foundation, the United Nations Population Fund, and USAID. As of June 2019, it was reported that Free Basics was present in 65 countries with a large part of the expansion saturating African countries, which went largely unnoticed, unreported and uncontested. [Source]

As of July 2020, there are over 290 million Facebook users in India, with a population closing in on the 1.4 billion mark.

Graph: Leading countries based on Facebook audience size as of July 2020 (in millions) Source: Statista

“I argue that Free Basics’ quiet expansion across Africa was notably made possible by the combination of two key interrelated phenomena: (1) Facebook’s evolving strategy, particularly its growing engagement with civil society organizations and (2) the focus of digital rights activists across the continent on other issues, including Internet shutdowns, government censorship, and the lack of data privacy frameworks.”

 

Access granted: Facebook’s free basics in Africa, April 22, 2020

Graph: “Number of news stories about ‘Free Basics’ and ‘Internet.org‘ across 1,500 Global English Language sources, June 2013 to July 2019″ [Source

“Free Basics also fits within two broader and interrelated trends in the digital industry, digital experiments on marginalized populations and data extraction. There is increasing evidence that vulnerable and disadvantaged populations, such as minority groups, refugees, and impoverished communities are prime, albeit largely nonconsenting subjects of digital experiments – be they designed to ‘help’ or surveil these communities (Latonero and Kift, 2018; Madianou, 2019; Mann and Daly, 2018). Data extraction, for its part, is central to the digital economy (Zuboff, 2019). It is key to building unique, rich datasets that train competitive algorithms, which are then generally used to connect businesses to customers.”

 

Access granted: Facebook’s free basics in Africa, April 22, 2020

 

“Anti-Colonialism has been economically catastrophic for India for decades. Why stop now?”

 

Facebook board member Marc Andreessen, February, 2016

Looking back momentarily, in 2015, Facebook announced that internet.org was operating in 11 countries, allowing about one billion people to access its services for free. [Source] On April 25, 2018, Mark Zuckerberg would clarify the actual number of users. In response to Facebook’s Q1 2018 earnings call Zuckerberg stated: “our Internet.org efforts have helped almost 100 million people get access to the internet who may not have had it otherwise”. [Source] This was up from 40 million users in November 2016, a 60 million increase in users in approximately 16 months.

Facebook’s capture of India has barely begun. In 2019, Facebook acquired the Indian eCommerce platform Meesho. Facebook also seeks to roll out its cryptocurrency – initially focused on funds transfers in the Indian market – in the coming months. Globalcoin is the new cryptocurrency “Libra” founded by Facebook, in conjunction with “Novi”, a digital wallet. “While Libra itself is a cryptocurrency that can be used to make purchases or gain access to services through Facebook, Calibra is the wallet that will be used to store Libra and whatever other forms of crypto the user may have, only this time, the wallet will no longer be known as Calibra, but as Novi… As part of the verification process, customers of Libra and Facebook will be required to upload a government-issued identification card.” [Bitcoin News, June 1, 2020] [Forbes, August 17, 2021: “Between Crypto, Libra, Stablecoins, And Digital Dollars, Congress Introduced 35 ‘Blockchain’ Bills’]

April 22, 2020: “If you wanted to know how much value Facebook sees in the emerging Indian market, this deal certainly provides some indication. After recent reports that Facebook was looking to acquire a stake in Indian internet provider Jio, The Social Network has now confirmed that it has purchased a majority stake in the Reliance-owned venture for a massive $US5.7 billion… the acquisition will provide Facebook with a new way into the Indian market, which it’s been looking to gain a foothold in for many years, with varying levels of success.” [Source]

 

India, and its 1.4 billion citizens, is the next key battleground for the tech giants, with both Facebook and Google both working to gain a foothold in the Indian market in order to expand their audience base, provide new business tools, and build revenue-generating partnerships that will facilitate significant opportunities to expand their respective empires… India is now the world’s second-largest smartphone market after China, while the number of internet users in the nation is expected to top 850 million by 2022. For comparison, the US is expected to reach around 300 million internet users at the same stage.” [Source]

September 6, 2017 video: “Facebook creates digital map showing where every human lives”:

 

The Colonization of Space & Skies

With Facebook’s growth slowing in the West, the corporation must diversify. August 17, 2020: “Today, the internet is estimated to have around four billion users. More than two billion of them use Facebook products. But growth is slowing, and the social network has its eyes firmly set on the three billion people without a connection as their hope for the future.” [Source]

On September 1, 2016, a SpaceX rocket exploded prior to its scheduled launch. Facebook had contracted SpaceX to deliver the first Internet.org satellite into orbit, in order to secure new internet customers in large portions of sub-Saharan Africa. This would be key in providing basic connectivity via Internet.org, to the entire world’s population. [Source] The Amos6 satellite was built by Israeli communications firm Spacecom Ltd., while owned and operated by Eutelsat, France.

In May 2019, the IEEE Spectrum reported that Facebook had established a subsidiary called PointView Tech, to develop “low-Earth-orbit satellites” under the codename Athena.

On February 12, 2020, Business Insider reported that Facebook was going forward with its plan to build a constellation of thousands of satellites with the first one launching into space in March 2020.

Last month, on September 3, 2020, Facebook launched its first satellite into orbit. A rocket encompassing “700,000 pounds of thrust” (made possible only with massive quantities of fossil fuels), successfully launched over French Guiana:

“The first satellite released into a 320-mile-high (515-kilometer) orbit by the Vega’s AVUM upper stage was Athena, a 304-pound (138-kilogram) spacecraft built by Maxar in California. Athena is a small experimental communications satellite for PointView Tech, a subsidiary of Facebook, that will test technologies that could be used in a future constellation of small satellites to provide global broadband Internet services. Athena is PointView Tech’s first satellite.”

 

September 3, 2030, Vega rocket deploys 53 satellites on successful return to flight mission, Spaceflight Now

September 3, 2020: Facebook launched its first satellite into orbit

At present, with approximately 2.7 – 3 billion users (stats differ), Facebook is closing in on almost half of the global population. Barriers include no access to China, with a population of approximately 1.4 billion citizens;  India, due to the fact that fewer than 20% of India’s citizens, in a population on par with China, have access to the Internet; and sovereign states that ban Facebook, recognizing that it serves as an instrument to empire for foreign interference and destabilization. Such targeted geopolitical hotspots include the sovereign nations of China, Iran, Syria, and North Korea (the majority of North Korean citizens do not access the Internet). This is in line with the threat of foreign and Western NGOs that serve Western foreign policy and capital. Consider Access Now, an arm of Avaaz (which led a leading role in the annihilation of Libya, as well as the attempted destruction of Syria), was created with the specific intent to destabilize Iran. [Link] (One can be certain that if Middle Eastern countries were attempting to overthrow Western states, with social media serving as a key apparatus, controlled by NGOs serving Iran, North Korea, Syria, etc. – social media would be blocked in our countries as well.)

Thus, to reach the global populace that remain off-limits, and to secure the foundation and expansion of 5G, that the “fourth industrial revolution” architecture is absolutely dependent upon, the race for satellites in space has begun. Although completely asinine, human centric and short-sighted, approximately 57,000 satellites are to be launched into space in this single decade. [This is explored in further detail later in this report.]

In tandem with industry’s servitude to planned obsolescence, coupled with the rapid acceleration of technology, satellites will eventually be far more important than subsea cables. In the not-so-distant future, (possibly the 6G era) sea cables may become altogether obsolete.

Next: Part III

 

WATCH: Ella Baker: “The Fight for Freedom Every Day”

WATCH: Ella Baker: “The Fight for Freedom Every Day”

“Life-long human rights activist and movement organizer, Ella Baker, addresses 1974 Puerto Rico solidarity rally about the need for every person to make the struggle for human dignity and freedom every day.”

TRANSCRIPT:

Friends, brothers, and sisters in the struggle for human dignity and freedom. I am here to represent the struggle that has gone on for three-hundred or more years — a struggle to be recognized as citizens in a country in which we were born. I have had about forty or fifty years of struggle, ever since a little boy on the streets of Norfolk called me a nigger. I struck him back. And then I had to learn that hitting back with my fists one individual was not enough. It takes organization. It takes dedication. It takes the willingness to stand by and do what has to be done, when it has to be done.

A nice gathering like today is not enough. You have to go back and reach out to your neighbors who don’t speak to you. And you have to reach out to your friends who think they are making it good. And get them to understand that they–as well as you and I–cannot be free in America or anywhere else where there is capitalism and imperialism. Until we can get people to recognize that they themselves have to make the struggle and have to make the fight for freedom every day in the year, every year until they win it.”

[Source: Peaceable Power”]

WATCH: Conspiracy AND Class Power [Michael Parenti Lecture, 1993, Berkeley, CA.]

WATCH: Conspiracy AND Class Power [Michael Parenti Lecture, 1993, Berkeley, CA.]

 

 

“No ruling class could survive if it wasn’t attentive to its own interest consciously trying to anticipate control / initiate events at home & abroad both overtly & secretly.”

 

“The dirty truth is that many people find fascism to be not particularly horrible.”

 

— Michael Parenti

 

Defend critical thinking.

Defend the right to question/challenge narratives that serve ruling class.

Lecture by Michael Parenti discussing the relationship of conspiracy to the larger political economic context.

“The speech on Conspiracy and Class Power (1993) was lost for several years and only recently discovered in the collection of a listener in Seattle. Michael Parenti spoke before an overflow audience in Berkeley, CA.” [Source: Dandelion Salad]