Tagged ‘Oppression‘

The Weaponized Naked Girl


July 15, 2014

Screen Shot 2014-07-14 at 11.18.04 PM

The 1976 film Network is the story of a failing television channel and its scheme to improve ratings by putting a crazy man on television. Howard Beale is driven out of his mind after he’s laid off to shield the bottom line. He is a widower, no real friends – a victim of the economic rearrangement of the 1970s. Promising to blow his brains out on live TV, Beale is suddenly the savior of the network as the ratings are higher than ever as a result of this outburst. He appears on television and delivers emotive appeals to his audience, reasoning that while he doesn’t know what do to fix the situation, he at least encourages everyone to “get mad”. But no mass movement erupts. Once his shares start to dip, the network assassinates him to pull their ratings out of the fire.

This is the usual synopsis you’ll receive. Network’s other story lines, the ones about Faye Dunaway’s sexually aggressive yet sexually vacuous character, the cynical manipulation of Black Power politics, are usually ignored. Everyone loves a story about a maniac street preacher. But Network is also about how the media is manufactured, how our pain and frustrations regarding the state of the world are manipulated for ratings, and how legitimate grievances are monetized under capitalism.

It’s a shame we miss out on that, because the media we consume today is just as cynically manipulated. It’s just as weaponized against the population as the media of a hundred years ago, but has now adopted new marketing techniques to sell, promote, and defend imperialism and capitalism. This is not to say that older techniques are not still used – some corruption is still as blatant as taking money or gifts – but other techniques have not been as examined, as thoroughly condemned. While sex and race are just as common as ever in the media’s worship of imperialism and capitalism, the new neoliberal strategies of atomization and the cult of the individual gives the old tropes of manipulation a fresh coat of paint:

We live in an era of flux. The old model of a creator or creative type—a person who does one thing well, and depends on institutions for support—is falling by the wayside. The creator of the future is a super-connected trans-disciplinary mutant: engaged and intellectually rebellious. Molly Crabapple has created everything from Occupy Wall Street posters and arts journalism of collapsing countries to murals on the walls of the world’s most exclusive nightclubs.  On stage, she delivers an energizing, take-no-prisoners talk on how creators—how everyone—can create a life of their own design, without asking permission. (Emphasis mine, from Lanvin Agency)

Atomization is the isolation of a person from their “institutions of support”, meaning, essentially, not just their fellow human being, but also the traditional ways of reading and perceiving knowledge, though history or dialectical reasoning. The atomized individual is “intellectually rebellious”, cut off from the ability to reason correctly and confused by constantly shifting parameters – relying on their own atomized and manipulated environment in order to successfully parse reality. A strategy as old as time is to successfully make the person feel like they came up with the idea to oppress themselves. The fresh coat of paint here is to make everyone relate to their own oppression in an intimate, ego-shaping way. The individual’s decision – once they choose oppression, of course – is a sacred decision; their reasoning and their motivations are private and autonomous. The oppressed are oppressed whether they choose to be or not – but the propaganda encourages the oppressed to accept it anyway, because it makes things easier for domination and atomizes society faster.

Imperialism, too, wants invitations for military advisors, trade agreements, and foreign direct investment. Wars and battles can be disagreeable. Usually it’s preferable both morally and logistically when the oppressed ask for their own subjugation, argue for it themselves. Likewise, patriarchy seeks to subjugate by invitation. Women are told that patriarchy really does have nothing but the best intentions, that she can cleverly twist patriarchy on her own to make it “work for her”. In this way, we can compare the woman who feels violent pornography is empowering to the country which feels monoculture depending on the imperial markets is empowering. Under this paradigm, we the audience, must believe that if they are asking for it, we must respect their agency. Systems of oppression, however, do not simply disappear because they are somehow passively (or actively!) accepted by the oppressed. Indeed, systems prefer the acquiescence of the oppressed to conflict. This is why it is so important for us to be told that women love being prostitutes and how much happier developing countries are under capitalism. In many cases, this functions as a sort of shield for oppression – it’s their choice, after all! And we must respect that. And if not their choice, well then, certainly NATO has their best interests as individuals at heart. An argument about imperialism successfully becomes an argument about agency.

All of this is not just a successful tool for atomization, it is also a savvy marketing strategy for oppression. For this essay, I am going to write mainly on how imperialist-marketing techniques specifically corrupts feminism. While women who stand against oppression and imperialism are often excluded from public platform, or labeled as “crazy” otherwise, when standing for imperialism, misogyny, racism, and capitalism, women are seen as strong and independent-minded. When their representations of the aforementioned are attacked, these otherwise “modern” women simply melt back into stereotypical gender roles, and are posited as victims. I will present three case studies for this phenomenon that will seek to make this connection between feminism, traditional gender roles, agency and imperial aggression.

For the first case study, let’s take a look at a so-called feminist, modern group of women: FEMEN. The marketing strategy of this Ukrainian group is pretty simple to grasp. A photo of any FEMEN action usually includes a half naked blonde woman, political slogans scrawled across her breasts, her face contorted in pain and fear as a police officer or soldier, generally a man, attempts to tackle and arrest her. Here we have a twofold approach: one strategy is that instead of holding placards, these women use their bare breasts as “weapons” (their word, not mine) to trick an otherwise apathetic and disinterested male population into buying whatever it is they’re selling, while courageously doing this as wielders of their own agency, allegedly wielding it in the name of atomized feminism (what I call elsewhere “postfeminism“). This is greatly analogous to marketing strategies which seek to utilize female sexuality – we can see examples of this on any convention showroom floor.  They are simultaneously empowered by using their sexuality to sell their politics, while at the same time cynically bowing to traditional gender roles. The second part of the marketing strategy is to usually include the police. Their groping hands put these lovely blonde ladies in danger. They roughly claw at their exposed flesh. Like King Kong, these women are generally presented as helpless against their attackers, suspended in midair by the ruddy paws of the enemy who seeks to destroy us all. We are winked at by the titillating vision of half-naked attractive white women, offering their politics on their breasts as a way of appealing to the so-called essential nature of of piggish men, appreciative of their strong choices, angry that a man would stand in their way. 

EDITORIAL: Out of Control [Indigenous Nations Are Governing Authorities, Not NGOs]

EDITORIAL: Out of Control [Indigenous Nations Are Governing Authorities, Not NGOs]

Image above from the United Nations website. Caption as follows: “The International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples is officially commemorated on 9 August annually in recognition of the first meeting of the United Nations Working Group on Indigenous Populations in Geneva in 1982.”

Intercontinental Cry

By Jay Taber 

Mar 23, 2013

As I noted in my essay Power of Moral Sanction, there are many roles in building a democratic society.  When properly combined, they can bring significant pressures to bear on public behavior, as well as within institutions under the control or influence of civil society. The problem today is that civil society has lost control of its institutions. Indeed, under globalization, civil society has little influence over the governance of modern states. In some circumstances, this loss of influence with modern states is reflected in the dysfunction of indigenous nations, especially when they are dependent on modern states, or under the thumb of ruthless corporations and international financial institutions.

International Tibet NGOs – Generous friends of Tibet or a Trojan Horse of Imperialism?

Design 01 We can do it CMYK + logo - web edit.jpgImage: Poster as found under the “shopping” section on the “Free Tibet” NGO website. The NGO is based in London, England. The image – a Tibetan version of Rosie the Riveter is revealing. Rosie the Riveter is a cultural icon of the United States certainly not of Tibet. 



November 20, 2012

By Adele Wilde-Blavatsky


Any attempt to “soften” the power of the oppressor in deference to the weakness of the oppressed almost always manifests itself in the form of false generosity….True generosity consists precisely in fighting to destroy the causes which nourish false charity.
Paulo Freire, ‘Pedagogy of the Oppressed’

‘There is an obvious advantage for Tibetans to be articulating the defence of their occupied homeland, and it is a matter of eternal regret that no charismatic and internationally-respected figure has achieved that role in the last couple of generations (though, personally, I live in hope).’

Stephen Corry, Board member of Free Tibet

Two hundred people from forty-three countries gathered in Dharamsala last weekend for the Second Special International Tibet Support Group meeting, the financial cost of which is not publicly known. The meeting was convened by the Core Group for Tibetan Cause-India and facilitated by the Department of Information and International Relations of the Central Tibetan Administration. In a press release, the CTA said the meeting will “explore ways to strengthen support of the international community to press the Chinese government to end its repressive policies that are pushing an increasing number of Tibetans to burn themselves to death in protest.” One can only hope, at such a crucial and agonising time for Tibetans, that this meeting will prove ‘symbolic’ in terms of showing solidarity with Tibetans in Tibet but also produce something that is substantively meaningful and not become yet another international networking and social event, where press releases and noble statements take precedence over genuine action and initiative. Even the Dalai Lama urged delegates to ‘take action’. However, as I argue in this essay, the role and activities of international NGOs need to be called into question; and had Tibet’s elected political leader, Lobsang Sangay and the Tibetan politicians in exile worked and made radical political and social linkages with the people who are driving the unprecedented protest movement in Tibet, there would be much less need for such support groups at all.

NGO careerism and funding-dependency

At the time of writing, I was unable to confirm whether or not the London NGO Free Tibet attended the meeting. The quote cited above was given in an email response from Free Tibet Board member, Stephen Corry, to serious concerns made by former staff members regarding the lack of Tibetan voices within the Free Tibet organisation. Although there may be some truth to his statement, sadly, Mr Corry uttered this in relation to concerns about the absence of Tibetan voices in Free Tibet, which he insultingly equated with “whinging about not being given jobs”.

I worked for almost one year at Free Tibet and during that short period of time I was shocked by what I discovered there. Prior to that, I had been under the illusion (as most other Free Tibet supporters no doubt are) that an NGO like Free Tibet is staffed by Tibetans or Tibet supporters who have genuine passion, expertise and experience in relation to Tibetans and the Tibet movement. However, the majority of staff at Free Tibet were non-Tibetan NGO careerists, with little to zero prior connection or expertise on the Tibetan movement, culture, language or religion. There were not even any Tibetan volunteers or a HR policy of actively recruiting Tibetan volunteers in order to develop them into staff positions (Burma Campaign UK have such a policy). This lack of authentic expertise or genuine accountability to Tibetans revealed itself in particular at staff meetings when it became obvious that hardly anyone was interested in the Tibet movement outside of their working hours, even to the extent that staff had to be persuaded to attend Tibet protests in London on the promise of being able to take it off as time in lieu.

In fact, I was so disheartened by the situation, I wrote a letter of complaint to both the Director of Free Tibet and their Board members. My concerns were also backed up by an independent complaint from a former volunteer. Our concerns fell on deaf ears and swiftly dismissed without serious, independent investigation. As a result, on leaving Free Tibet in March 2012, I wrote a public expose about the organisation. This was done despite warnings from within the Tibet UK movement not to do so, for fear of causing disunity. Since writing this expose – although I received some private messages of support and gratitude from former long-term staff members of Free Tibet and Tibetan activists in exile – there has been no public reaction from Tibet’s political leader, Lobsang Sangay, the CTA or the Tibetan community in exile.

What is at stake here is not only the lack of Tibetan voices and financial accountability in such international NGOs, but the political issues that arise from the monopolising and funding of the Tibetan cause by such groups, particularly those staffed and led by western non-Tibetans. As Stephen Corry’s email revealed, it appears that some non-Tibetan led groups think they are doing Tibetans a service with their ‘generosity’ and leadership, and that without such help or aid the Tibetan cause would flounder and collapse. Tibetan intellectual Jamyang Norbu alluded to this issue in Seeking the Power of the Powerless:

National Indigenous Peoples Organization from Brazil Submit Human Rights Complaints to United Nations


“The UN Human Rights Council stands as one of the significant obstacles to dynamic political development in the Fourth World. Many individuals and the peoples they represent in the Fourth World have come to believe that the UN Human Rights Council will relieve their pain from the violence of colonialism. It cannot, and it will not.” — Dr. Rudolph Ryser, Chair of the Center for World Indigenous Studies


Geneva, November 13, 2012  

Earth Peoples

At a meeting with various UN officials from the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, the organization National Articulation of the Indigenous Peoples of Brazil (APIB) submitted a document that listed human rights violations and complaints about proposed laws in Brazil that would, if approved, undermine or even entirely remove indigenous peoples rights.

One of the law’s, Ordinance 303, was already approved but awaits the final decision by the Brazilian Supreme Court, which is currently considering if it is actually constitutional.

It would be truly disastrous if this law would become active, because it denies the indigenous peoples their right to say no to projects on their land, such as streets, mining projects, or hydroelectric dams. Brazil’s Ordinance 303 would violate rights that are international human rights standard,  such as the ILO Convention 169, or the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, because the Ordinance would deny indigenous peoples their right to be consulted, and to decide freely, without pressure, prior informed if the want to consent to a development project on their territory, or not.

Another proposed law, PEC 215, is also causing many sleepless nights for indigenous leaders in Brazil. Still awaiting the approval by Congress, this law would literally dissolve the rights of indigenous peoples to their traditional territories.

To read the original document submitted by APIB to the OHCHR in Portuguese CLICK HERE


Further reading: &


Stand Up and Say No | Harper Launches Major First Nations Termination Plan

Center for World Indigenous Studies

Fourth World Eye Blog

by Jay Taber

November 9, 2012

In my June 26 editorial Extinguishing Sovereignty, I discussed how the extortion practiced by the Government of Canada toward its indigenous First Nations — as a means to terminate their continued existence as culturally distinct peoples — was in violation of all international law related to racial discrimination and human rights. While not a surprise, given Canada’s notorious track record in the international arena, the persistence of Canada’s government in this modern era ethnic cleansing project is nonetheless disturbing.

As Russell Diabo observes in his essay from First Nations Strategic Bulletin, Canada’s termination plan for First Nations has hit a snag, and due to its perpetual habit of reneging on both modern and older treaties, First Nations leaders may eventually determine there is no longer anything to gain and everything to lose from negotiating with Canada over its aboriginal and inherent treaty rights. If anything is to be learned from the bad faith process of negotiating with someone who only wants to destroy your people, it is that there is really only one legitimate response, and that is to resist.

As Diabo notes, to contemplate Canada’s take it or leave it approach, by compromising their constitutional and international rights, indigenous lands and resources will be auctioned off in fire sales to China and other bidders looking for bargain basement deals, that over time will leave their peoples impoverished in body, mind and spirit. Given what’s at stake, he says, it’s time for First Nations to stand up and say no.


Watch “Emergency All Nations Great Peace Gathering July 15-20, 2012 – Urgent memo to all Nations”: