Category Archives: Fascism

Doublethink Doublethink: It’s Two Thinks in One!

If you want a vision of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face – forever.

— O’Brien to Winston Smith in George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four

Seventy years ago, on August 29, 1949, the Soviets successfully tested their first nuclear bomb, and became the only other state power on the planet, after the United States, with nuclear WMD. Thus commenced an ever-expanding arms race between the two global powers in what became known as the Cold War. Democracy versus Totalitarianism, duking it out, like rock’em-sock’em robots (sold in America; means of production: Marx!), in proxy battles from Central America to the Middle East to Vietnam — held in check by one lone term of engagement: MAD, Mutually Assured Destruction. America has been at war with Russia my entire life. That year also saw the publication of George Orwell’s dystopian novel, Nineteen Eighty-Four, which enacts a future where such forces — Oceania and Eastasia — have gone from Cold to Hot.

Thirty five years later, the real-world Oceania and Eastasia, flashed hot eyes at each other, Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev not blinking. Reagan was all Bonzo giddy, feeling oats he hadn’t felt since his Hollywood Western days, pressing a presumed advantage — telling Gorby to “tear down that [Berlin] wall,” touting Star Wars (an ICBM missile shield defense system), and waxing so jocular, at one point, that during a break in a radio interview Reagan’s flippant words (“the bombing begins in five minutes”) put the Soviets on edge — and red alert. (An even more flippant NBC commentator quipped that the alert may have been triggered by a lone drunken Russian officer).

But it wasn’t all a Deep State chucklefestival. Two graphic films depicting nuclear annihilation, Threads (1983) and The Day After (1984) reminded everybody just how close to MAD Oceania and Eastasia were getting. Tensions were ratcheted to the breaking point: The Soviet economy was teetering; the Berlin Wall fell five years later; the USSR crumbled and Gorbachev eventually gave way to the Russian Trump — Boris Yeltsin. Oceania giddyupped into Eastasia with strings-attached das kapital shortly thereafter. Not every Muscovite was gleeful to see the Golden Arches roll into town, driven by the clown-Christ of capitalism, Ronald McDonald. Nyet, some nationalists griped, while scarfing down a Quarterpounder™ with cheese — and borschtroot — and condemblating how to meddle in future American helectoral process.

Thirty five years later, we have our own clown-Christ of capitalism, pre-kompromised, installed in the Oval Office, the result of, US intelligence agencies allege, Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. Since then, a form of sado-masochistic paranoia seems to have gripped the nation — the president (“Fake News”), the MSM (“Putin’s Puppet”), the People (“they looked left, they looked right, but they couldn’t tell the difference”). In his new biography, The Ministry of Truth, Dorian Lynskey notes that just four days after Trump’s 2017 Inauguration, “US sales of [Nineteen Eighty-Four rocketed] by almost 10,000 per cent, making it a number-one best seller.”

Lynskey attributes this panic-driven sales soar to claims by the new administration that Trump attracted the “‘largest audience to ever witness an inauguration — period — both in person and around the globe.’” It was a wild claim, immediately debunked by the MSM, but doubled down on by Trump adviser, Kelly Anne Conway, who dismissed the glaring evidence and pronounced that the new administration would be opting to go with “alternative facts.” Alarm bells went off across the media frontier. As Lynskey’s citing of the statistic suggests, this sounded an awful lot like the “doublethink” gobbledygook of Orwell’s totalitarian nightmare, Nineteen Eighty-Four. If people were going to be living in a parallel universe, they wanted to know what to expect.

Like Dorian Lynskey’s previous work, 33 Revolutions Per Minute: A History of Protest Songs, in The Ministry of Truth the author shows he is adept at showing the confluence of ideas expressed by the voices of myriad protest leaders, whether through song or, if you will, dystopian visions. Ministry is a biography limited to an exploration of the etiology of Orwell’s masterwork, Nineteen Eighty-Four (and to some degree, Animal Farm).

In Part One, Lynskey traces the roots and evolution of Orwell’s creative and political ideas, his experiences fighting fascists and communists; and, the literary influence of H.G. Wells, Eugene Zamiatin, and a wealth of others in a cross-pollination and intertextuality that not only help define the genre but demonstrate the interpenetration of human ideas in general. In Part Two, Lynskey traces “the political and cultural life” of the novel, from Orwell’s death to Trump’s Inaugural.

Like so many other European and American Lefties who signed on as mercenaries to fight against the fascists in the Spanish Civil War from 1936-39, George Orwell came away from the shattering experience thoroughly disillusioned, his ideals in disarray. “The fascists had behaved just as appallingly as he had expected they would,” Lynskey writes, “but the ruthlessness and dishonesty of the communists had shocked him.” He’d come to fight in a great battle of Good versus Evil — writers like Ernest Hemingway, Martha Gelhorn and John Dos Passos had come to bear witness — but “[w]hat he found was ‘a bad copy of 1914–18, a positional war of trenches, artillery, raids, snipers, mud, barbed wire, lice and stagnation.’”

Further, reading battle reports, Orwell discovered “that the Left-wing press [was] every bit as spurious and dishonest as that of the Right.” However, aside from the usual horrors of the war and the way they were reported, Orwell did experience moments that would prove useful in his writing of Nineteen Eighty-Four. Lynskey writes, “Orwell found in the trenches a superior version of the cleansing egalitarianism that he had found among the tramps, and it made him a socialist at last.” A ‘cleansing egalitarianism’ (Brotherhood) is a key theme in his dystopian novel.

In another incident helpful to his fiction, he refused to shoot a fascist with his pants down, mooning melancholically, and noting of the brotherly Francophile that he was “visibly a fellow creature, similar to yourself, and you don’t feel like shooting at him” while he’s shitting. But in a later incident, Orwell is so rattled by a rodent that he opens fire, “thus alerting the enemy and triggering a fierce firefight,” that was nearly catastrophic to his comrades in arms. Rats turn out to be Winston Smith’s greatest fear, at the end of the novel, and the means to breaking down his ego.

Probably the biggest disappointment Orwell took away from the war was the behavior of the communists; he’d served with a Marxist militia unit (POUM) and saw their atrocities close up. Lynskey wonders:

Why did Orwell criticise communism so much more energetically than fascism? Because he had seen it up close, and because its appeal was more treacherous. Both ideologies reached the same totalitarian destination but communism began with nobler aims and therefore required more lies to sustain it.

The left hand of the Right clasped, behind the back, the right hand of the Left, in any photo shoot together — if you looked hard enough.

Orwell began reading up on Stalin’s regime, including American journalist Eugene Lyon’s description of Stalin’s Five Year plan, which included “the nose-thumbing arithmetic” of “2+2 = 5,” which is so crucial to Winston Smith’s brainwashing. He read Arthur Koestler’s Darkness at Noon, whose depictions of purges and show trials (think, Goldstein, and, later, Winston Smith) further amplified his contempt for Stalin and his fear of totalitarianism. The two world wars, I and II, with the Great Depression in between, had drained civilization of its hope, vitality and wherewithal. Out of the morass rose ogres — Franco, Mussolini, Stalin, Hitler, and arguably even Truman (if you counted the dread that the questionable use of the Bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki represented) — as if to finish us off.

However, no one had a greater influence on Orwell’s generation than the literary colossus, H.G. Wells. Prolific, prescient, extraordinarily innovative, and widely regarded as the father of modern science fiction (Mary Shelley just rolled over in her grave, uneasily), in some ways Wells was the perfect tonic for an age that had torn humanity apart with with world wars, tyranny, and economic misery disseminated across the globe.

“Wells predicted space travel, tanks, electric trains, wind and water power, identity cards, poison gas, the Channel tunnel and atom bombs,” writes Lynskey, “and popularised in fiction the time machine, Martian invasions, invisibility and genetic engineering.” He also developed notions of a “World Brain” and anticipated the World Wide Web (sorry, TimBL). Further, he was a force behind the establishment of the League of Nations. Wells was an inspiration in a time stuck in the human morass described by T.S. Eliot’s Wasteland.

Wells, in turn, was inspired by early readings of Plato’s Republic, Thomas More’s Utopia, and Samuel Butler’s Erewhon, all of which required the reader to imagine with the narrator an alternative or new-and-improved world. Thus, Wells bequeathed us The Time Machine, War of the Worlds, The Outline of History, The Shape of Things to Come, and an enormous trove of essays and other public writings with enormous influence. All of these were enormously important to Orwell as he developed his own utopian visions.

But Orwell had seen what he’d seen in Spain, and knew the dark heart of Uncle Joe Stalin, and was, writes Lynskey, like “many writers [of his generation] consumed by the idea of decadence and decline.” H.G. Wells’ cautionary utopianism didn’t quite cut it for the lot of them. “It is no exaggeration to say that the genre of dystopian fiction evolved as it did because so many people wanted to prove H. G. Wells wrong,” Lynskey writes. There seemed to be something of the Wagner-Nietzsche competitive intimacy in Orwell’s approach to the Genius; while Wells emphasized Siegfried, Orwell and friends were all about the Götterdämmerung.

Orwell was a social democrat at heart, but he longed for something deeper and more radical, which seems to be why he was so devastated by the failures of communism. Plato had taught him that if humanity could see the Good, and the error of their ways, uncovered by dialectical reasoning, they would pursue it naturally, out of self-interest. This melancholic view (that would later infuse Winston Smith’s experience of his world) gets reinforced when he comes across the work of American Edward Bellamy — specifically, Looking Backward — 2000 – 1887.

As Bellamy’s title suggests, the novel moves backward, progressively, towards the squalor and dehumanization of the early Industrial Revolution. Lynskey notes:

When he looked around at the United States of America in the Gilded Age Bellamy saw a “nervous, dyspeptic, and bilious nation,” wracked by grotesque inequality. Millionaire dynasties controlled the industrial economy, while the labouring classes worked sixty-hour weeks for low pay in unsafe factories and sweatshops, and lived in foul slums.

In the novel, the protagonist Julian West falls into a Rip Van Winkle-like sleep in 1887 and wakes up 113 years later in a “socialist utopia,” where crime is regarded as a medical problem treatable with drugs. This got Orwell thinking.

But perhaps the single most influential piece of literature that Orwell came across, in the lead-up to writing Nineteen Eighty-Four, was Eugene Zumiatin’s We. As Lynskey points out, by coincidence Orwell had already completed an outline for his dystopian novel when he discovered Zumiatin’s work. They share some structural similarities: each features a fall guy who becomes the focussed target of hivemind hatred; a shy protagonist driven astray from his social programming by flashes of free thought and a sexually-liberated female; thought police (Guardians for Zumiatin), and forced mind-mending (from ‘I’ thinking to ‘We’ thinking). Orwell believed that Aldous Huxley nicked some ideas from We.

But Orwell had a turn at the accusation as well. Lynskey writes, “Karma came for Orwell in the form of several critics who accused him of plagiarising We.” But Lynskey dismisses them, insisting that the genre itself is rife with such borrowings and intertextuality. He answers historian Isaac Deutscher’s claims thusly:

[Deutscher] accused the author of borrowing “the idea of 1984, the plot, the chief characters, the symbols, and the whole climate of his story” from We… [but] Deutscher wildly overstated the similarities between the novels. Two: as we have seen, Orwell had already written his outline months before he read We. Three: Orwell made repeated efforts to get Zamyatin’s novel republished in English…. surely not the kind of thing that plagiarists usually do.

So there. “Originality is a vexing concept in genre fiction,” Lynskey adds.

But Lynskey is even more caustic with Ayn Rand, one of Orwell’s more vocal critics. Writes Lynskey, “There are critics who insist that Ayn Rand could have written her 1938 novella Anthem without ever having read We, and good luck to them.” Rand penned the novella “in three weeks,” and, Lynskey claims, it “is We rewritten as a capitalist creation myth, with paradise as a building site…The book’s working title was Ego.” He clearly objects to her Objectivism. Talk about getting hoiked into your own spittoon.

Later in his life Orwell faced more pressing criticism than the question of whether he plagiarized Zumiatin. Perhaps, so traumatized by what he’d seen in Spain and saw happening in Stalin’s Russia, Orwell developed a list of 38 writers — communists or sympathizers — that he turned over to the Information Research Agency, a government agency, that he recommended they not hire because of questionable allegiance to the Labour party. Apologizing for this behavior, Lynskey writes, “It is legitimate to be disappointed by the very act of sending such a list to a government agency (even a Labour one), but the edited version was at least largely accurate.” Hmm.

Some critics were having none of that apology. Lynskey quotes Marxist historian Christopher Hill who opined, “I always knew he was two-faced. There was something fishy about Orwell…it confirms my worst suspicions about the man.” But the late great polemicist (“Beat the Devil”) Alexander Cockburn “couldn’t disguise his glee: ‘The man of conscience turns out to be a whiner, and of course a snitch, an informer to the secret police, Animal Farm’s resident weasel.” (His full article is a fun read.) Does this spell the end of Orwell’s Truth? Should we never read him again? I don’t know, but, when you think about it, Winston Smith’s character takes on new dimensions with this incident — that final betrayal of all you love and everything, and all its implicit future snitching to protect We.

However one feels about Orwells’ late-life failures, Nineteen Eighty-Four has exerted its familiarity and gravitas since his death in 1950. We are all familiar with the terms of our engagement with his work. Lynskey writes:

The phrases and concepts that Orwell minted have become essential fixtures of political language, still potent after decades of use and misuse: Newspeak, Big Brother, the Thought Police, Room 101, the Two Minutes Hate, doublethink, unperson, memory hole, telescreen, 2 + 2 = 5, and the Ministry of Truth.

Of those terms, perhaps the answer to the equation “2+2=” may be the most pertinent to the contemporary political situation we find ourselves facing in Washington and around the world. How would you answer, brother?

Nineteen Eighty-Four’s principal concerns have been reprised in Western culture, in one form or another, for decades. For example, Lynskey describes the “aviphobic” David Bowie’s fall into “paranoia and panic” in the 70’s and how it affected his work (his Diamond Dogs album was originally meant to be called 1984.) Bowie was not alone in his feelings of demise. “IRA bombs…stagflation…a miners’ strike…an Arab oil embargo…blackouts, petrol rationing, reduced television service, and non-functioning elevators, Britain began to feel like the opening pages of Nineteen Eighty-Four,” writes Lynskey. In the 80s, with the advent of personal computing, even commercials, such as Apple’s highly controversial ‘1984’ Super Bowl Ad, were produced to reflect a desire to break free from mind-imprisoning Conformity. In 1990, a film version of Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale was released, which extends the Orwellian vision into what could be a near-future reality.

Today, Oceania is otherwise known as Five Eyes, and Oceania moves in history in a world of the wars, never-ending, destruction by remote drones and online corporate-government profiling, leading toward neo-fascism or some new unthinkable form of totalitarianism. It remains to be seen when the public should have begun its Orwellian panic, whether it was in the aftermath of 9/11 — or sooner — or with the Carnivalesque decay of Exceptional Democracy. “We are an empire now. We make our own reality,” is attributed a coy Karl Rove, and it sounds like a celebration of doublethink, a movement in the direction of 2+2=5.

Lynskey wants to locate it with the Trump Inauguration, with the return of Doublethink and Newspeak. But he does remind the reader:

Orwell’s fear that “the very concept of objective truth is fading out of the world” is the dark heart of Nineteen Eighty-Four. It gripped him long before he came up with Big Brother, Oceania, Newspeak or the telescreen, and it’s more important than any of them.

Lynskey’s words are well-taken, but I believe we must beware that Trump might be Goldstein and that hating on him has been preordained.

Toward the end of his life H.G.Wells lost his mojo for mankind. In his last published work, Mind at the End of its Tether, Wells wondered aloud, as it were, if it wasn’t time to replace the human species with something more evolutionarily desirable. Like Nietzsche, Wells seemed to long for a Zarathustrian Übermensch; he tired of being a tightrope walker in the largely indifferent marketplace of conventional ideas.

Five more years of Two-Minute hating on Trump should do it (maybe even just one). Like a soul orphaned in a mechanized world — like Winston Smith — I can almost hear a fat lady singing as it all comes out in the wash she’s hanging on the line:

Totallo!

Totallo!

I love ya

Totallo!

You’re always

A coup

A way!

Woof.

Defund the Police, defund the Military

Defund the police, defund the military (Credit: CODEPINK)

On June 1, President Trump threatened to deploy active-duty U.S. military forces against peaceful Black Lives Matter protesters in cities across America. Trump and state governors eventually deployed at least 17,000 National Guard troops across the country. In the nation’s capital, Trump deployed nine Blackhawk assault helicopters, thousands of National Guard troops from six states and at least 1,600 Military Police and active-duty combat troops from the 82nd Airborne Division, with written orders to pack bayonets.

After a week of conflicting orders during which Trump demanded 10,000 troops in the capital, the active-duty troops were finally ordered back to their bases in North Carolina and New York on June 5th, as the peaceful nature of the protests made the use of military force very obviously redundant, dangerous and irresponsible. But Americans were left shell-shocked by the heavily armed troops, the tear gas, the rubber bullets and the tanks that turned U.S. streets into war zones. They were also shocked to realize how easy it was for President Trump, single-handedly, to muster such a chilling array of force.

But we shouldn’t be surprised. We have allowed our corrupt ruling class to build the most destructive war machine in history and to place it in the hands of an erratic and unpredictable president. As protests against police brutality flooded our nation’s streets, Trump felt emboldened to turn this war machine against us—and may well be willing to do it again if there is a contested election in November.

Americans are getting a small taste of the fire and fury that the U.S. military and its allies inflict on people overseas on a regular basis from Iraq and Afghanistan to Yemen and Palestine, and the intimidation felt by the people of Iran, Venezuela, North Korea and other countries that have long lived under U.S. threats to bomb, attack or invade them.

For African-Americans, the latest round of fury unleashed by the police and military is only an escalation of the low-grade war that America’s rulers have waged against them for centuries. From the horrors of slavery to post-Civil War convict leasing to the apartheid Jim Crow system to today’s mass criminalization, mass incarceration and militarized policing, America has always treated African-Americans as a permanent underclass to be exploited and “kept in their place” with as much force and brutality as that takes.

Today, Black Americans are at least four times as likely to be shot by police as white Americans and six times as likely to be thrown in prison. Black drivers are three times more likely to be searched and twice as likely to be arrested during traffic stops, even though police have better luck finding contraband in white people’s cars. All of this adds up to a racist policing and prison system, with African-American men as its prime targets, even as U.S. police forces are increasingly militarized and armed by the Pentagon.

Racist persecution does not end when African-Americans walk out the prison gate. In 2010, a third of African-American men had a felony conviction on their record, closing doors to jobs, housing, student aid, safety net programs like SNAP and cash assistance, and in some states the right to vote. From the first “stop and frisk” or traffic stop, African-American men face a system designed to entrap them in permanent second-class citizenship and poverty.

Just as the people of Iran, North Korea and Venezuela suffer from poverty, hunger, preventable disease and death as the intended results of brutal U.S. economic sanctions, systemic racism has similar effects in the U.S., keeping African-Americans in exceptional poverty, with double the infant mortality rate of whites and schools that are as segregated and unequal as when segregation was legal. These underlying disparities in health and living standards appear to be the main reason why African-Americans are dying from Covid-19 at more than double the rate of White Americans.

Liberating a neocolonial world

While the U.S. war on the black population at home is now exposed for all of America–and the world–to see, the victims of U.S. wars abroad continue to be hidden. Trump has escalated the horrific wars he inherited from Obama, dropping more bombs and missiles in 3 years than either Bush II or Obama did in their first terms.

But Americans don’t see the terrifying fireballs of the bombs. They don’t see the dead and maimed bodies and rubble the bombs leave in their wake. American public discourse about war has revolved almost entirely around the experiences and sacrifices of U.S. troops, who are, after all, our family members and neighbors. Like the double standard between white and black lives in the U.S., there is a similar double standard between the lives of U.S. troops and the millions of casualties and ruined lives on the other side of the conflicts the U.S. armed forces and U.S. weapons unleash on other countries.

When retired generals speak out against Trump’s desire to deploy active-duty troops on America’s streets, we should understand that they are defending precisely this double standard. Despite draining the U.S. Treasury to wreak horrific violence against people in other countries, while failing to “win” wars even on its own confused terms, the U.S. military has maintained a surprisingly good reputation with the U.S. public. This has largely exempted the armed forces from growing public disgust with the systemic corruption of other American institutions.

Generals Mattis and Allen, who came out against Trump’s deployment of U.S. troops against peaceful protesters, understand very well that the fastest way to squander the military’s “teflon” public reputation would be to deploy it more widely and openly against Americans within the United States.

Just as we are exposing the rot in U.S. police forces and calling for defunding the police, so we must expose the rot in U.S. foreign policy and call for defunding the Pentagon. U.S. wars on people in other countries are driven by the same racism and ruling class economic interests as the war against African-Americans in our cities. For too long, we have let cynical politicians and business leaders divide and rule us, funding police and the Pentagon over real human needs, pitting us against each other at home and leading us off to wars against our neighbors abroad.

The double standard that sanctifies the lives of U.S. troops over those of the people whose countries they bomb and invade is as cynical and deadly as the one that values white lives over black ones in America. As we chant “Black Lives Matter,” we should include the lives of black and brown people dying every day from U.S. sanctions in Venezuela, the lives of black and brown people being blown up by U.S. bombs in Yemen and Afghanistan, the lives of people of color in Palestine who are tear-gassed, beaten and shot with Israeli weapons funded by U.S-taxpayers. We must be ready to show solidarity with people defending themselves against U.S.-sponsored violence whether in Minneapolis, New York and Los Angeles, or Afghanistan, Gaza and Iran.

This past week, our friends around the world have given us a magnificent example of what this kind of international solidarity looks like. From London, Copenhagen and Berlin to New Zealand, Canada and Nigeria, people have poured into the streets to show solidarity with African-Americans. They understand that the U.S. lies at the heart of a racist political and economic international order that still dominates the world 60 years after the formal end of Western colonialism. They understand that our struggle is their struggle, and we should understand that their future is also our future.

So as others stand with us, we must also stand with them. Together we must seize this moment to move from incremental reform to real systemic change, not just within the U.S. but throughout the racist, neocolonial world that is policed by the U.S. military.

The Big Plantation

European Left-wing political scientists find difficult to understand that the colonial contradiction is at the heart of our present, they think it’s a conceptual error, something anachronistic, that the joyful postmodernity – the one that delivers their Macs to them at home – has gone beyond all that, and that Trump or Bolsonaro are racist accidents of History, or of the “free world”. It’s just the opposite. Under the advertising varnish of capitalist globalization, the deep History of our world has never disappeared, it has even come back to the surface, even stronger. The revolt that is happening in the United States is the same one that founds the resistance of the Venezuelan people.
— Thierry Deronne, Algeria Resistance Mohsen Abdelmoumen’s blog, 2020

Everyone is a philosopher, though in his own way and unconsciously, since even in the slightest manifestation of any intellectual activity whatever, in ‘language’, there is contained a specific conception of the world, one then moves on to the second level, which is that of awareness and criticism.
— Antonio Gramsci, Prison Notebooks

Three of the four police officers involved in the murder of George Floyd were previously employed as stock boys by TARGET and Home Depot, and two had worked at McDonalds. One stocked for a grocery store. One didn’t graduate high school. In other words these were economically part of that large temp minimum wage work force that is now increasingly unemployed. The fourth, officer Kueng, whose file was redacted, was apparently more middle class, from a nice family and who graduated with some distinction from his high school. It’s interesting, first off, why his file was redacted.

But one of them had served in the military, Derek Chauvin, the man now charged with the murder. Chauvin also had 17 complaints filed against him for excessive force before he kneeled on George Floyd’s neck.

There are a couple things to consider here. One is why these men are not on the side of the people they abuse (and murder)? The answer is multi-fold. One is a culture of machismo and violence that saturates American society. Another is that the United States was a slave owning nation where twelve presidents owned slaves. Racism and Calvinist and Puritan values have never left this society. And it was founded (and it’s in the constitution) as an unequal and anti-democratic republic. Owners of property were established as privileged. And so it has continued. But it also has the allure of the uniform. Now it’s understandable that being a cop and being handed a gun and impunity to harass and abuse the public is preferable to flipping burgers. One job is utter humiliation while the other is validated as heroic by popular culture.

Domestic police departments tend to hire military veterans before those without military service.

The Obama administration helped expand the preference: in 2012, the Department of Justice provided tens of millions of dollars to fund scores of vets-only positions in police departments nationwide. Official data on the impact of veteran-cops is scarce. Nearly all of the 33 police departments contacted by The Marshall Project declined to provide a list of officers who had served in the military, citing laws protecting personnel records, or saying the information was not stored in any central place. The Justice Department office that dispenses grants to hire cops and study policing said it has no interest in funding research into how military experience might influence police behavior.
— Simone Weichselbaum and Beth Schwartzapfel, The Marshall Project, May 30, 2017

Those with special forces training tend to go into Private Security. One in four soldiers in theatre in Afghanistan are private contractors. The wars of empire are increasingly being outsourced.

During the Obama administration, the Pentagon has been equipping US police departments across the country with a staggering amount of military weapons, combat vehicles, and other equipment, according to Pentagon data.

According to a New York Times article published last week, at minimum, 93,763 machine guns, 180,718 magazine cartridges, hundreds of silencers and an unknown number of grenade launchers have been provided to state and local police departments since 2006. This is in addition to at least 533 planes and helicopters, and 432 MRAPs — 9-foot high, 30-ton Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected armored vehicles with gun turrets, and more than 44,900 pieces of night vision equipment, regularly used in nighttime raids in Afghanistan and Iraq. Much of the lethal provisions have gone to small city and county police forces. The recent militarization is part of a broader trend. According to Eastern Kentucky University professor Peter B. Kraska — who has studied this subject for two decades — as of the late 1990s, about 89 percent of police departments in the United States serving populations of 50,000 people or more had a PPU (Police Paramilitary Unit), almost double of what existed in the mid-1980s. Their growth in smaller jurisdictions (agencies serving between 25 and 50,000 people) was even more pronounced. Currently, about 80 percent of small town agencies have a PPU; in the mid-1980s only 20 percent had them. The domestic military ramp-up is far from being in proportion to any perceived threat to public safety. The Times notes that, “today, crime has fallen to its lowest levels in a generation… the number of domestic terrorist attacks has declined sharply from the 1960s and 1970s.” And yet, “police SWAT teams are now deployed tens of thousands of times each year, increasingly for routine jobs.
— Zac Corrigan, WSWS, June 2014

Couple this to the growing social inequality in the country, where 15% live below the poverty line (in 2015, and which no doubt is closing in on double that post Covid), and where on the heels of the pandemic hysteria and government fearmongering, which resulted in a nation wide (and global) house arrest, the problems with a militarily trained and equipped domestic police force, one drawing its officers from the low end of the educational spectrum, and one that provides at best rudimentary training, is obvious.

A Buddhist friend of mine was mentioning that at her retreat one of the Tibetan teachers observed that Covid-19 and the authoritarian policies it has engendered will unleash cataclysmic dark forces. Spiritual forces, so I take it. Or anti-spiritual, actually. And this is how it feels. And this is beyond the clear fascist agenda in play, but extends into realms of psychic transformation for the bourgeoisie in particular. The anxiety and fear that has grown silently for this privileged class, grown steadily over the last twenty years, is now cracking open and the toxic emotional slag of the atrophied inner lives is spilling out on the rest of society at large. It feels or is felt most deeply, from my anecdotal experience, in the white bourgeoisie’s fear of the other.

And I have not felt this sort of collective confusion, anxiety, and fear since the days of Vietnam. Things surface for people. The psychological effects of this lockdown are being wildly underestimated (especially in the long term for children). The difference from the Vietnam war is five decades of screen damage and an accelerated transference of wealth to the top 1%. The reality of such profound economic inequality is impossible to deny now, and the staggering numbers of homeless across the country eventually can’t be NOT seen.  It finally starts to serve as a psychic wound, a constant silent witness to the crimes of the system.

The ruling class, or certainly at the least one corner of it, launched the ‘Covid-19 panic’ as a means to shut down western society. No matter if the virus is man made or accidental or just a naturally occurring zoonotic virus… it served as a prop for their agenda. The ultimate plan remains a bit opaque but it likely includes a wholesale eradication of what is left of civil liberties, intensification of an already draconian surveillance state, and a transformation and rebranding of the meager welfare state into something fit for 7th century serfs, only far worse actually. This is the world of Bill Gates’ moist nocturnal dreams, and those elite new green capitalists, royal families, and digital billionaires. It should be noted that global health bureaucracies like WHO and the CDC are political organizations first. Both have deep and long standing ties to big Pharma and various other corporate interests. The WHO is privately funded (Gates essentially owns it and directs policy) and the CDC is actually a part of the Health and Human Services department of government. And the current head of the CDC is a former pharmaceutical company executive and a guy who worked with John Bolton drawing up the National Biodefense Strategy for president Trump. Anthony Fauci is the creepy and slimy little front man for all the agencies involved in urging governments around the world to shut down (they like the term lockdown for its prison connotations). Without digressing too much here, what is relevant is that when one starts to wonder how it is allowed for known white nationalists and Klansmen to openly serve as police officers, the answer is not that the de-centralized nature of state and city police departments are hard to reform or clean up but rather that the very top office holders in criminal justice share sympathy with the racists.

We are watching in real time the normalizing of martial law and the suspension of democracy. And these measures have given a bit of a boost to the beleaguered and increasingly brutish police departments across the country. When not even a high school diploma is necessary to be given a badge and gun, when the police recruit from the ranks of malcontent and angry TARGET stock boys and blank McDonald counter people, there must be a logic at work, and I suspect there is. First, flipping burgers is the only thing many young men and women have open to them. I’ve done that kind of work. And I hated it, too. But the domestic police, those city departments fresh with new military hardware, don’t want empathic or imaginative young men, they want the emotionally dead. As a side point here, I know martial arts masters who can train you to subdue the wildest suspect without any harm. Adroitly and calmly — but it would require a few months training, not a few hours. But that is not what the departments want. They want crude clumsy tactics, ones that instill fear and which cause pain and suffering and sometimes death. Those few percent of military trained special force guys, they don’t go the Minneapolis police department, or San Diego, or Toledo or Indianapolis. They go into high end private security.

This is not even to touch on the wide spread use of steroids.

When it came to incarceration, the US prison population had reached a staggering 2.4 million people by 2014. Out of this number — which accounted for a full quarter of the entire world’s prison population — 38 percent of inmates were black, even though as mentioned black people made up just 13.3 percent of the entire population. Compare this to whites, who made up 35 percent of the US prison population while constituting just under 78 percent of the country’s population. Mass incarceration was brought into being by Bill Clinton with the passage of his omnibus crime bill in 1994. Obama, over his two terms, did nothing to address what prison reform activists had long described as the new plantation.
— John Wight, Medium, 2020

The police today are increasingly used for purposes of optics, as much as any real police work. Most crimes go unsolved and for uniformed cops in their black and white (usually) Cruisers the job description is essentially to function as an occupying force in poor neighborhoods. They carry out parole checks, harass and detain the poor, often on a whim. Most acutely in black inner cities. `They are a new gestapo. They are there to brutalize and frighten what is seen as a surplus population. The essence of America’s slave legacy is found right there, in the grim counter insurgency tactics of domestic police departments on the streets of black inner cities. For important work, for the protection of important persons and prestige property the ruling class have turned to private security. That leaves the uniformed cops, badly paid, with minimum job security actually, as tools for enforcing racial oppression. And if any more proof were needed, one need only check the hyper incarceration rate in America’s prisons, and further, the results of the Innocence Project. The numbers of falsely convicted men and women is staggering, it is mind numbing and a spiritual stain on this society that can never be washed away. It is the overriding and ineradicable symbol of a savage culture of strict class separation, a separation enforced with lethality and pointless cruelty. For the hyper incarceration starts right there, on the same streets where Eric Garner was choked, or Tamir Rice was shot, where George Floyd was murdered, and Trayvon Martin and Philando Castile and hundreds of others have suffered and died. One topic not discussed enough is post arrest custodial deaths.

In properly staffed households throughout the world, the bodyguard is the new nanny, fear of terrorism, a volatile political climate and a pervasive sense that the wealth creation of a few has come at the expense of the many have made paranoia the norm.
Town and Country, December 2016

We learned that the contractors in our sample are predominantly white man in their 40s who chose contracting as a second career. Most are veterans with significant military experience. Among those contractors who were previously deployed as service members, many are former officers and about half of them are Special Forces veterans. They are more likely to have a college degree than their active-duty counterparts, but less likely than their fellow veterans in the general population. They come from parts of the U.S. or United Kingdom with higher unemployment rates and fewer job opportunities—not the areas with the strongest traditions for military service.
— Ori Swed and Thomas Crosbie, Pacific Standard, “The Demographics of America’s Private Military Contractors”. March 2019

In 2009, after Obama was elected, the Department of Homeland Security and FBI jointly wrote an intelligence study on white extremism in domestic police departments.  Janet Napolitano, then DHS head, quickly and quietly swept the report under the proverbial rug. Back in 1991 Los Angeles U. S. District Judge Terry J. Hatter Jr found that sheriffs at the Lynwood substation were engaged in what he called ‘racial hostility’ and ‘terrorist tactics’ against Latino and Black prisoners. And that the top brass for the Sheriffs’ department were well aware of this. In 2006 the FBI released a redacted memorandum warning of white nationalists in domestic police departments. Or look up the Joe Burge case in Chicago. In departments in Florida, Texas, and Ohio, there were active Klansmen in police departments. It is common knowledge that across the country police culture is profoundly racist and reactionary. The educated classes in the U.S. have internalized the Hollywood version of all this. Just think how many hours of cop shows (all them, literally) you have watched and how every single one signs off on a fantasy version of police heroism …the thin blue line metaphor, and how it is only these handsome and beautiful (if slightly flawed, you know, human) public servants are protecting you and your family from the vicious underclass, from drug dealing gangs, all minority, and where all them, literally, portray inner cities are lawless wastelands without culture, brutish and bestial. This has led to the new narrative archetype of ‘taking the wrong off-ramp’. These are openly racist stories but the public has come to digest such pseudo storytelling in a sort of pattern recognition manner. And nearly every single cop show features one or more military veterans. Usually special forces, but not always. Service in the military is a signifier for virtue and honour.

Forward to 2019, and Los Angeles again, this time in the incorporated mostly black city of Compton in south LA. The details of the Ryan Twyman killing, by sheriffs again, is perhaps the most perfect example of American white supremacism and, when empowered, the violent consequences.

Ryan Twyman was unarmed inside a parked car when two Los Angeles sheriff deputies approached and fired 34 rounds. Video of the entire incident, which happened in roughly 50 seconds, was as shocking as many police brutality cases that have gone viral in the US. But the killing of the 24-year-old father of three barely made the news. On that day, his death was far from unique: officers across LA shot five people in five separate incidents in just over 24 hours. Only one person survived. Families and activists said the bloodshed on 6 June provided a terrifying illustration of the culture of police violence and a system that trains officers to kill – while ensuring they won’t face consequences.
— Sam Levine, Guardian, August 2019.

This is not what you see on the new FOX cop show Deputy. Watch a few episodes and get back to me. But that is hardly a unique phenomenon. There is SWAT, Chicago PD, the various Law & Order franchises, or Criminal Minds. I could go on and on, obviously. The problem is not the violence depicted, for Shakespeare is violent. It is the naked propaganda and the racism. Anti-black racism at the very top but today Islamaphobic narratives abound as well, often with pro Israeli sub plots. Military shows follow the same blueprint.

The point is that you cannot separate the Imperialist wars of aggression across the planet, which serve as recruitment pools for domestic police and private security and you cannot separate the counter insurgency tactics in Iraq and Afghanistan, or Syria, not to mention the covert activities against Venezuela and Bolivia both of which involved at least some uniformed military personnel, from the sadistic actions of America’s police. Nor can you separate these aggressions from the jingoistic entertainments (recruitment shows for the military and police) from Hollywood. These foreign policy actions remain largely accepted and popular. The country may hate Trump, with good reason, but his foreign policy is so far actually less lethal than Obama’s or Bush’s or Clinton’s. In any event every President gets a bump in approval ratings when he kills a dark skinned foreigner either by drone or by military actions. The public didn’t much care at all about Fallujah, and the architect of that butchery, Jim ‘Mad Dog’ Mattis, former Secretary of State for Trump before being fired, is now a darling of the white educated liberals who are so incensed about the prez’ and his failure to lock down the country even more, harder, and certainly for longer. They are quite happy to cheer and identify with the FBI and war criminals like Mattis. That exaggerated hatred of Trump contains a number of contradictions. But for the purposes of this discussion the central one is that of soft or disguised racism vs. overt white sheets MAGA racism.

White paternalism knows no bounds. And the inherent tokenism of the educated white American has sort of reached its own, from their perspective, cultural horizon event. Another way of saying it is truly the death of irony epoch.

That Americans approve of military violence against the poor nations of the world suggests why the police in America are so steadfastly racist and white supremacist. They are hugely supported. Now, there is with the murder of Floyd a lot of discussion of defunding the police. The problem being, as many have pointed out, this would only increase privitization of security. The US spent 100 billion on domestic policing last year, give or take. And around 80 billion on prisons. The US defense budget is four or almost five times that amount. So it would seem critical to defund the military right along with the police. It is clearly a positive to reallocate cop money to mental health and community infrastructure and education. But this is the nefarious aspect of Covid-19 and the lockdown. In Philadelphia the proposed budget cuts, due to the massive effects of the lockdown, include cutting nearly all sanitation workers down to almost nothing, cutting stuff like soap in hospitals and upkeep of school and city buses. The Covid lockdown was a tool of the ruling class.

There is much press now given to polls showing American support for the Floyd protests. Except those polls are misleading.

Forty-five percent of respondents told Morning Consult that, on the whole, most of the protesters are peaceful and desire meaningful social reform, while 42 percent said most protesters are trying to incite violence or destroy property. In Monmouth’s poll, only 17 percent felt the actions of the protesters were fully justified, 37 percent said they were partially justified and 38 percent said they weren’t justified at all. And the Reuters/Ipsos survey found that most Americans (72 percent) didn’t think violent protests were an appropriate response to Floyd’s killing, and that property damage caused by protesters undermined their goals (79 percent). Morning Consult’s survey also found that Americans were less supportive of the protests when they were specifically asked about black people protesting.
— Five Thirty Eight

It’s that last sentence, you see. Whatever grass roots movements achieve is always going to run up against that last sentence. But I’m not cynical about defunding cops. It is a concrete material step in developing alliances in the working class. The movements for prison abolition and defunding are doing the ground work for alliance formation. It has to start somewhere. And they are the front edges of suggesting property and capitalism are the source of most all of their problems. Gramsci envisioned the ‘hegemonic’ struggle as two-pronged:  one to educate the working class from ideas that chain them to the existing order and their own exploitation, and two, to bring other ‘subaltern’ classes into what he called a ‘bloc’ with the working class.

I only see the average American remains bizarrely ignorant of US foreign policy. How many people know of Hillary Clinton’s coup in Honduras? I suspect not many. The violence against the global south has not abated for sixty years (okay, for three hundred). From AT&T to United Fruit to Dole Pineapple, the business interests of corporate America have stood on the backs of the developing world (sic). What would actually happen if police were defunded? What would massive upticks in privatized security look like? Possibly something out of Robocop. And that is the danger today, that is the situation in which we find ourselves.

Take a look at Alabama, which sits up top in the U.S. alphabetically and in the middle, population-wise: Since 1996, Alabama police departments have received $78,534,297.32 in planes, helicopters, rifles, and mine-resistant vehicles. How is there so much stuff to dole out? After 9/11, U.S. military funding increased 50 percent. In fact, the average American has paid $23,386 in taxes to support the military and its war efforts since 2001. All that spending has translated to a lot of extra mine-resistant vehicles, which local police now own.
— AC Shilton, Fatherly, 2020

Over the last thirty years funding for domestic police has grown over 400% according to the Justice Policy Institute. And there are millions of dollars shortfall for public education. The problem there is that public education sucks bad anyway. It is almost worse than no education, frankly (and, yes, I know there are exceptions). And this takes us back to the shelf stockers at Tesco and TARGET. The elite Universities and prep schools are available for the rich, and increasingly the very rich only. And which serves as yet another factor in the acute resentment that seems to fuel so much American discourse. And while private schools are better (how could they be worse?) the problem is the culture at large. It’s not only a reflexive and embedded and indelible racism, it is an anti intellectualism, and fast eroding literacy. And then there are the screens. The pernicious effects of social media (which really is a machine for creating resentment and/or guilt) and smart phones, aps, algorithms … the entire attention economy, has produced a populace of emotional deadness, of crippling anxiety and insecurity about self, and it has done nothing to even mitigate in the slightest of ways the Imperialist project and what is called American Exceptionalism. The cops that killed George Floyd, if prosecuted, will be exceptions that change nothing. Most cops serve with impunity. American soldiers shoot at Iraqi civilians as sport, amusement. The vicious IDF, fresh from killing teenagers, comes to the U.S. to teach domestic departments better how to instill terror and pain, nothing more. There is no secret magic Zionist martial art or mind control. It’s just brute terrorizing. As it has always been for fascists. And as it has always been for plantations and chain gangs.

State Terrorism Across America

In a blizzard of destruction, assaults on peaceful demonstrators, provocateurs, lies, cover-ups, and fascist proclamations, America teeters at a tipping point. The murder, by police, of George Floyd, has sparked a jaw-dropping response across America. Police in many locations have behaved as instigators and perpetrators of savage violence against citizens attempting to exercise their First Amendment rights to freedom of speech and to assemble to demand a redress of grievances.

African-Americans have over 400 years of grievances to fall back upon. The video footage is undeniable, outrageous, and the crime perpetrated with the complicity of other officers acting under color of authority. The murder of George Floyd will go down in history, but the end results remain unclear and desperately in need of political leadership to turn this into a positive push for justice reform.

Many police have also targeted and maimed journalists, who are also supposed to be protected under the First Amendment. We are now living in a chaotic military occupation, under a militarized police army that behaves as if the Constitution no longer exists.

The most dangerous development yet has been the fascistic Trump junta’s attempt to label “Antifa” as a terrorist organization, vowing to scapegoat them and persecute any members they are able to track down. This is classic fascism in action, another opportunity to seize power, divide the population,  demonize, and declare new emergency measures—as the Nazis did repeatedly throughout the 1930s.

In 18 USC §242, all the officers involved in the killing of George Floyd could be charged with “Deprivation of rights under color of law,” but Trump’s Attorney General Barr has instead announced an arguably illegal war against U.S. protesters, labeling them as “outside radicals” and then deliberately failing to define “outside” of what exactly? Right-wing conspiracists have already gotten much mileage from spreading paranoia about alleged “outsiders” coming into small towns such as my own.

This divide and conquer strategy, demonization, and the emergency-measures agenda is exactly what Trump has been waiting for. He studied his Hitler.

Unfortunately for us, his predecessors had already empowered the state with police militarization and the 2012 repeal of Posse Comitatus, by none other than Barack Obama. The US empire has long considered the USA a potential “battle space” to be controlled by the military, should the servant class attempt to disrupt the status quo. This past weekend it finally happened.

We are seeing a complete failure of politics to bring accountability to violent, criminal police officers. Numerous complaints had been lodged against the murdering officer over the years but predictably ignored. The pattern nationwide is to protect police from citizen complaints, rather than to protect citizens from dangerous, violent police offenders. An undercover investigation by CBS News revealed repeated intimidation of citizens who try to file police misconduct complaints.

Trump, Barr, big city mayors, and governors have all jumped on the “law and order” bandwagon, thereby placing the blame onto protesters and thus circumventing the very issue they are out in the streets to protest. This is the state’s playbook: distraction, changing the tune, changing the game. Even those like Bernie Sanders, who Tweeted about the need for police reform have entered no legislation on the matter into Congress. Where’s your bill, Bernie?

That’s the red flag that nothing will change. The public is to be terrorized and literally beaten into submission, sent back to work, and examples made of a few unfortunates. This is state terror. It happens with the approval and complicity of far too many citizens. Too many don’t oppose tyranny until it kicks in their own door.

Who’s Trashing Downtown Every Night and Why?

The corporate media and corporate politicians are paralyzed with indecision.  Which fake myth do we adhere to?  “Black people burning down their own neighborhoods” or “outside agitators”?  What if it’s both, and more…?

Media coverage of the past few days and nights of the multiracial uprising that is currently taking place in various forms in cities small and large across the United States has been confused and misleading, as usual.  Media coverage of such events is usually either confusing, misleading, or both, because of the influence of the media owners, and because of the implicit biases, insufficient resources, and/or ignorance of the journalists who work for them.  So, it begs for a bit of helpful clarification.

But, first of all, they keep saying these are the biggest urban disturbances in the US since 1968.  This sounds huge, and while it’s certainly impressive, the basic phenomenon taking place, and the various dynamics within it, are not new, not unprecedented, and, in fact, are very commonplace.

Most people, from my experience, never go to protests.  Among those who do go to protests, many people only go to one big one in their lives, if any.  At pretty much every big protest I’ve ever been to, which is a lot, I’m surrounded by people of all ages who tell me and others around them that they are attending their first protest.  Whatever got them out — a racist police murder, a massacre, an imperialist war, a massive bank bailout — they say they just had to come out this time, even though they never went to a protest before.  The hardcore protest-hopping crowd like me is a very select group, for a lot of different reasons.  We are not representative.

As a consequence, at every protest I have been to, there are participants who are under the impression that the tactics the protesters are employing were just invented yesterday, and that the militarization of the police is a new phenomenon.  In Ferguson in 2014 I remember hearing many local people of all ages saying things that made it abundantly clear that they thought large groups of riot police rioting in their town and making use of tear gas, stun grenades, and tank-like vehicles was something that had not been seen since the Civil Rights movement in the 1960’s.  They were under that impression simply because that was the last time anyone remembered tanks on the streets in Ferguson, and for many older people in town, that was also the last time they attended a large protest.

Before I start contextualizing the current situation, let me say that although me and many other radicals did certainly predict most everything that is currently taking place, I have no idea where this is going.  Predictions made by people like me are usually wrong.  If they’re right, it’s because they were obvious — everyone knows powder kegs eventually explode, but nobody really ever knows exactly when this might happen, or what will be the spark.  But the keg is now burning.  It may have started with one spark, but the lynching of George Floyd, although horrific, is only symbolic of what this is all about.  Justice in this situation most certainly does not begin or end with the sentencing of all four of those cops with murder.  They’re certainly guilty, but there’s a lot more of that to go around, at far higher levels of authority than the local cops, fascist as they may be.  (To anyone who was not literally born yesterday, living in the US today, who is aware of who the president is, this is a very obvious statement.)

The main question I want to focus on here is a burning question in the minds of the corporate media and for many regular people from all walks of life across the country — who is smashing, looting and burning buildings, torching police cars, and throwing projectiles at the riot cops all over this country?

The “Peaceful Protesters” Myth

It is probably the case that the vast majority of the people assembling during the day and during the evening to hold protest rallies against the tendency of the police in the US to lynch black people on a regular basis are not the same people who are engaging in some of the other aforementioned activities.  But it would be very wrong to put them all in this fake “peaceful protester” box.

What the media calls “peaceful protesters” are people who stand around in a public space with signs and make speeches.  They can be angry speeches, that’s OK.  This is what they call “peaceful protest.”  If they don’t have a permit, it might not be “peaceful” anymore, in the media’s eyes.  If the police attack peaceful protesters and a single person from within the ranks of the protesters responds in any way that can be construed as violent — such as if someone raises their hand to attempt to block a billy club that’s about to come down on their face — this will be labeled a “clash,” such as, “there are now clashes taking place between the police and the protesters.”

When people occupy an intersection and stop traffic, or block the entrance of a building, this is what people from within social movements generally refer to as civil disobedience, or direct action.  It is considered by anyone involved with a social movement anywhere to be solidly within the “nonviolent” category, and it is often referred to by its full name, “nonviolent civil disobedience.”  People like Gandhi and MLK popularized these sorts of tactics, which were pioneered long before, by other social movements that were also led by oppressed people, such as the labor movement, very much including the multiracial movements of tenant farmers and sharecroppers in the early part of the twentieth century.

The corporate media, however, will often start referring to protests as “violent” as soon as any law is being broken, such as traffic laws, when an intersection, highway, or building entrance is blocked.  This use of the term “violent” is very confusing for many, because it’s patently inaccurate, when people learn enough to understand what the reporters actually mean — if they are allowed to get to that point, which is generally not the case.  If people are looking to the media to understand what’s happening around them, this is very unhelpful.  One of many very unhelpful aspects of their coverage.

The “Black People Are Burning Down Their Own Neighborhood” Myth

As soon as a police murder or the acquittal of a killer cop lead to anyone setting fire to a building, the media will tend to shift into a different gear, where they start focusing on the popular response to the racist, elitist system, rather than on the problems that led to the response.  This happens, again, partly because this is what the corporate propagandists who own most of what remains of the press want to focus on, not just because it’s sensationalist and keeps eyes glued to the screen, but because it is consistent with their perspective, and that of most of their reporters, who were generally raised in totally different circumstances from most of the folks currently burning stuff down.

Thus, for different reasons, but amounting to the same effect, the media will talk about people burning down “their own” neighborhoods.  It’s unfashionable these days to refer to them as “animals,” which was a common refrain during the national uprising in 1991 that the media refers to as the “LA riots.”  Trump prefers the racially loaded term, “thugs,” which is just a slightly updated version of “animals.”

No rent-burdened renter who has been evicted multiple times, which is the case for millions and millions of people in the US, feels like the neighborhoods they live in are “their own” neighborhoods.  Most working class people in urban America are struggling to stay in “their own” neighborhoods.  They are constantly being evicted and driven out of “their own” neighborhoods.  Yuppies flip houses and sell them at impossible prices, and “their own” neighborhoods become quickly unrecognizable and unaffordable.  There is a massive rate of displacement and what can accurately be described as ethnic cleansing taking place in cities throughout this country, that has been going on for centuries now.  It has only been interrupted for periods of time through strong rent control legislation, which used to exist in states like New York and Massachusetts.  But multi-generational, real communities are fewer and farther between, because of the fact that housing is an investment for capitalists in this country, not a right, not at all.

So no one is burning down “their own” neighborhood.  To the extent that local people are involved with these activities — which lots of them are, let’s be very clear about that, and this is nothing new, not at all — the neighborhoods they are burning down are not their own.  They are owned by people that often feel like invaders.  However, these invaders may be “mom and pop” business owners, or “mom and pop” landlords.  The media will refer to any business as a “small business” if it’s not a big corporation.  But someone running a restaurant that serves food that many people in a given neighborhood can’t afford to eat, while easily fitting the media’s description as a “mom and pop” small business, is not often seen by local people as part of “their community” or as particularly distinguishable from a chain store like Target.  Either the “mom and pop” establishment in this instance, or the chain store, will have the same impact, of raising the cost of housing in the now more “desirable” neighborhood.

The “Outside Agitators” Myth

Traditionally, when there is a major protest that involves some forms of civil disobedience or other forms of direct action, so that business as usual is sufficiently interrupted to the point where the protests can’t be ignored, the media will adopt one of two tropes.  If it’s not people “burning down their own neighborhood,” then it’s some kind of “outside agitators” who did it.

The “outside agitator” is generally someone like me, who cares about society, and other people in it, so much that they want to leave their own homes and even their own home towns or states or countries, to go to another place to practice what is known as solidarity or mutual aid, depending on the situation.  It’s easier for the media to blame “outside agitators” when there’s a national or international meeting of the elite taking place, say a G8 or G20 meeting, and tens of thousands of people show up to protest against or try to shut down those meetings.  This scenario has been played out many times in the US, Canada, and many other countries, and I’ve personally been to many such events throughout the world since I’m more or less an outside agitator by profession.

From my experience, even at a big international event in Washington, DC or New York City, most of the people involved with the protests will be from the local area.  They may not be from the actual city the protest is taking place in, but most of them will be from a nearby state.  Locals, by a broader definition than the media likes to use.  So when they say that 20% of those arrested in Minneapolis were not from Minnesota, they don’t mention that of those 20%, the vast majority were from the state of Wisconsin, a short drive away.  (I don’t know this to be true, I’m just guessing based on past experience.)  Of course, if they came from further afield than Wisconsin to show solidarity with people in Minneapolis, this still does not make them bad people.

One of the wonderfully confusing things going on right now with media coverage and the reactions to events by politicians trying to spin the picture the way they want us to see it is they can’t decide on which false trope to fall back on here.  Is it people burning down their own neighborhoods, or are these outside agitators?  Obviously, it’s both — and so much more.

The outside agitator theory also becomes very hard to maintain in this situation, because they are everywhere at the same time.  Traditionally, outside agitators have to come from outside.  By outside, usually they’re talking about select groups of highly committed young anarchists going from supposed anarchist hubs like Seattle, San Francisco and New York City, to places where big, pre-planned events are taking place, such as the G20 meetings in Pittsburgh in 2009 or the Free Trade Area of the Americas talks in Miami in 2003, to name a couple random examples.  In the face of protests happening in every major city at the same time, the “outside agitators” now must have come from a nearby suburb, which doesn’t seem all that “outside” to me.

The fact is, the city of Minneapolis has thousands of people in it who probably identify explicitly as anarchists.  There are many other cities in the US that have a high concentration of radicals.  Minneapolis has been one of them for a very long time.  The radical tradition in Minneapolis is a multiracial one, like this uprising, and includes prominent people from every major ethnic background, very much including white, black, brown, Asian and indigenous resistance in many forms.

Within the ranks of all of these communities, and within the ranks of radicals within all of these communities, there are many different opinions on effective strategies.  While many people understand how folks might not differentiate between burning down a locally-owned upscale restaurant and a big chain corporate store, many would be critical of burning down anything, ever.  And those who think burning down buildings is a good tactic might distinguish between these two targets, intellectually.  Where radicals of all backgrounds tend to unite is around the understanding that oppressed people will tend to rise up, and those uprisings will tend to be messy, especially in the absence of a radical labor tradition, and in the absence of any kind of viable third party option to the two capitalist, imperialist ruling parties who are largely responsible for the terrible disparities in society in the first place.

The “You’re Just Being Paranoid” Myth

In their efforts to confuse people and manage the situation from their corporate elite vantage points, the stenographers of CNN and NPR will rarely mention that local, state and federal police forces have a long and terrible history of infiltrating, undercutting, planting evidence, sowing division and otherwise destroying social movements in any way possible, including killing activists and then blaming others for the killings.  Dozens of leaders of the Black Panther Party and the American Indian Movement were systematically killed by the authorities at various levels of power, and no one has ever been brought to justice for these many crimes against these immensely popular organizations.  If you familiarize yourself with the public record on the FBI’s Counterintelligence Program or Cointelpro — which has never ended, to be sure — you will find they have committed every crime imaginable, both very overt and extremely underhanded, to cause movements to implode or explode, depending on what works best.

So, are FBI agents and undercover cops among those who are attacking the police and burning down buildings across this country?  While we may not yet have any concrete proof of this, we can assume, based on massive amounts of concrete proof of past activities of these so-called law enforcement agencies, that their agents are involved with many of the most egregious cases of small or ethnically-owned businesses being burned down.  This has been their modus operandi for a very long time in order to sow division.  You would have to be completely ignorant of recent history to think it’s not happening now.  Yet on the off-chance anyone might suggest on a mainstream media outlet that this sort of thing is probably happening, they would likely be lampooned as a conspiracy theorist.

Currently, it appears right-wing actors who may or may not also be cops are trying to start a “race war” by targeting certain buildings for arson attacks and by firing into crowds of protesters.  This adds another level of complexity to the situation, obviously.

Collateral Damage

In a war, many innocent lives are lost.  If you have ever known a person who participated in a war that they even thought was completely just, you will find just one more person who is traumatized by the things they have seen, and the innocents who have died in the course of the conflict they participated in.  If you meet someone who participated in a war that they realized at the time, or later, was unjust, this trauma will tend to be even more intense.

In an uprising like what is currently taking place, this is no different.  When you set about to burn down a police station, this is a difficult task that involves many challenges.  Without going into all the details, suffice it to say that if you’re burning down a building, neighboring buildings might also catch fire, whether you wanted them to or not.  If the fire department were assisting the arsonists, as with a controlled burn of a forest or building, to make sure nearby trees or houses didn’t catch fire, it would be different, but that’s not the situation here.  If it were the military accidentally bombing the wrong house, or a hospital, or a wedding party, as the US military has so often done in recent years in so many parts of the world, they’d just say oops, it was collateral damage.  But if a small business gets torched by accident, or on purpose, by people in the course of an urban rebellion, then it’s a different story you’ll hear from the media and others that these wackos are burning down very nice nonprofit centers that no sensible person would want to harm.  The collateral damage angle, though obvious from a logistical standpoint, will rarely be mentioned — as rarely as the possibility that a particularly destructive action might have been carried out by an FBI agent posing as a protester, despite the abundant evidence of this kind of systematic behavior over the course of past decades.

In Conclusion

Rebellions, uprisings, and revolutions have some things in common, regardless of the outcome:  they are messy, they are dirty, they smell bad, people get hurt, people get killed, buildings get burned, and a lot of innocent people suffer.  They don’t happen unless conditions were completely untenable to begin with.  And as they grow, for some there are rays of hope amidst the flames.

The Minneapolis Putsch

Well, it looks like the Resistance’s long-anticipated “Second Civil War” has finally begun … more or less exactly on cue. Rioting has broken out across the nation. People are looting and burning stores and attacking each other in the streets. Robocops are beating, tear-gassing, and shooting people with non-lethal projectiles. State National Guards have been deployed, curfews imposed, “emergencies” declared. Secret Servicemen are fighting back angry hordes attempting to storm the White House. Trump is tweeting from an “underground bunker.” Opportunist social media pundits on both sides of the political spectrum are whipping people up into white-eyed frenzies. Americans are at each other’s throats, divided by identity politics, consumed by rage, hatred, and fear.

Things couldn’t be going better for the Resistance if they had scripted it themselves.

Actually, they did kind of script it themselves. Not the murder of poor George Floyd, of course. Racist police have been murdering Black people for as long as there have been racist police. No, the Resistance didn’t manufacture racism. They just spent the majority of the last four years creating and promoting an official narrative which casts most Americans as “white supremacists” who literally elected Hitler president, and who want to turn the country into a racist dictatorship.

According to this official narrative, which has been relentlessly disseminated by the corporate media, the neoliberal intelligentsia, the culture industry, and countless hysterical, Trump-hating loonies, the Russians put Donald Trump in office with those DNC emails they never hacked and some division-sowing Facebook ads that supposedly hypnotized Black Americans into refusing to come out and vote for Clinton. Putin purportedly ordered this personally, as part of his plot to “destroy democracy.” The plan was always for President Hitler to embolden his white-supremacist followers into launching the “RaHoWa,” or the “Boogaloo,” after which Trump would declare martial law, dissolve the legislature, and pronounce himself Führer. Then they would start rounding up and murdering the Jews, and the Blacks, and Mexicans, and other minorities, according to this twisted liberal fantasy.

I’ve been covering the roll-out and dissemination of this official narrative since 2016, and have documented much of it in my essays, so I won’t reiterate all that here. Let’s just say, I’m not exaggerating, much. After four years of more or less constant conditioning, millions of Americans believe this fairy tale, despite the fact that there is absolutely zero evidence whatsoever to support it. Which is not exactly a mystery or anything. It would be rather surprising if they didn’t believe it. We’re talking about the most formidable official propaganda machine in the history of official propaganda machines.

And now the propaganda is paying off. The protesting and rioting that typically follows the murder of an unarmed Black person by the cops has mushroomed into “an international uprising” cheered on by the corporate media, corporations, and the liberal establishment, who don’t normally tend to support such uprisings, but they’ve all had a sudden change of heart, or spiritual or political awakening, and are down for some serious property damage, and looting, and preventative self-defense, if that’s what it takes to bring about justice, and to restore America to the peaceful, prosperous, non-white-supremacist paradise it was until the Russians put Donald Trump in office.

In any event, the Resistance media have now dropped their breathless coverage of the non-existent Corona-Holocaust to breathlessly cover the “revolution.” The American police, who just last week were national heroes for risking their lives to beat up, arrest, and generally intimidate mask-less “lockdown violators” are now the fascist foot soldiers of the Trumpian Reich. The Nike corporation produced a commercial urging people to smash the windows of their Nike stores and steal their sneakers. Liberal journalists took to Twitter, calling on rioters to “burn that shit down!” … until the rioters reached their gated community and started burning down their local Starbucks. Hollywood celebrities are masking up and going full-black bloc, and doing legal support. Chelsea Clinton is teaching children about David and the Racist Goliath. John Cusack’s bicycle was attacked by the pigs. I haven’t checked on Rob Reiner yet, but I assume he is assembling Molotov cocktails in the basement of a Resistance safe house somewhere in Hollywood Hills.

Look, I’m not saying the neoliberal Resistance orchestrated or staged these riots, or “denying the agency” of the folks in the streets. Whatever else is happening out there, a lot of very angry Black people are taking their frustration out on the cops, and on anyone and anything else that represents racism and injustice to them.

This happens in America from time to time. America is still a racist society. Most African-Americans are descended from slaves. Legal racial discrimination was not abolished until the 1960s, which isn’t that long ago in historical terms. I was born in the segregated American South, with the segregated schools, and all the rest of it. I don’t remember it — I was born in 1961 — but I do remember the years right after it. The South didn’t magically change overnight in July of 1964. Nor did the North’s variety of racism, which, yes, is subtler, but no less racist.

So I have no illusions about racism in America. But I’m not really talking about racism in America. I’m talking about how racism in America has been cynically instrumentalized, not by the Russians, but by the so-called Resistance, in order to delegitimize Trump and, more importantly, everyone who voted for him, as a bunch of white supremacists and racists.

Fomenting racial division has been the Resistance’s strategy from the beginning. A quote attributed to Joseph Goebbels, “accuse the other side of that which you are guilty,” is particularly apropos in this case. From the moment Trump won the Republican nomination, the corporate media and the rest of the Resistance have been telling us the man is literally Hitler, and that his plan is to foment racial hatred among his “white supremacist base,” and eventually stage some “Reichstag” event, declare martial law and pronounce himself dictator. They’ve been telling us this story over and over, on television, in the liberal press, on social media, in books, movies, and everywhere else they could possibly tell it.

So, before you go out and join the “uprising,” take a look at the headlines today, turn on CNN or MSNBC, and think about that for just a minute. I don’t mean to spoil the party, but they’ve preparing you for this for the last four years.

Not you, Black folks. I’m not talking to you. I wouldn’t presume to tell you what to do. I’m talking to white folks like myself, who are cheering on the rioting and looting, and are coming out to “help” you with it, but who will be back home in their gated communities when the ashes have cooled, and the corporate media are gone, and the cops return to “police” your neighborhoods.

OK, and this is where I have to restate (for the benefit of my partisan readers) that I’m not a fan of Donald Trump, and that I think he’s a narcissistic ass clown, and a glorified con man, and … blah blah blah, because so many people have been so polarized by insane propaganda and mass hysteria that they can’t even read or think anymore, and so just scan whatever articles they encounter to see whose “side” the author is on and then mindlessly celebrate or excoriate it.

If you’re doing that, let me help you out … whichever side you’re on, I’m not on it.

I realize that’s extremely difficult for a lot of folks to comprehend these days, which is part of the point I’ve been trying to make. I’ll try again, as plainly as I can.

America is still a racist country, but America is no more racist today than it was when Barack Obama was president. A lot of American police are brutal, but no more brutal than when Obama was president. America didn’t radically change the day Donald Trump was sworn into office. All that has changed is the official narrative. And it will change back as soon as Trump is gone and the ruling classes have no further use for it.

And that will be the end of the War on Populism, and we will switch back to the War on Terror, or maybe the Brave New Pathologized Normal … or whatever Orwellian official narrative the folks at GloboCap have in store for us.

Caught in a Madhouse without My Mask

Caught with their proverbial pants down? The blustery conversations tied to corona virus, lockdown, Trump LLC, Pelosi and Comp., and the failed state that is the USA are to be expected.

It is a country of nanosecond attention spans.

A country with amnesia in vitro.

A country that has sacrificed future and future-future generations for the all mighty dollar.

Dog-eat-dog?

Survival of the fittest (or in the reverse Darwinism, survival of the least fit, the least smart, the least humane, the least human).

Yeah, sure, trolls abound in the social media morass. The putridity of a buffoon on one local Facebook page can be tiring.

The King Rat in High (he is high, by all accounts of his Adderall sniffing) Office is a troll, yep.

CEO, the Apprentice Blob, the guy who made head of CBS orgasmic during the last run-up to the POTUS election – “I might not agree with Mister Trump’s politics, but Donald Trump is really-really good for business.”

The bottom line is money for nothing. With Corona Capitalism, it’s money for the bail-out queens and kings – corporations. Wall Street is bullish. Studdly, in fact.

Make that 40 million unemployed. In USA, but we know that figure is so much higher using the other Bureau of Labor stats. Like U3, U5, U6 and UB-40!

Protective mask shaming by the trolls, including King Rat Donny, and then mask illiteracy by the masses.

Yes, those valiant cloth masks with coffee filter inserts, hmm, vanity, for sure. We know the physics of a sneeze – 23 feet and a 100,000 microbes spread out in one big let-go.

Multiphase Turbulent Gas Cloud From a Human Sneeze

Yet we have these Disneyland parameters — elbow greetings and six foot circle jerks. Social distancing is the racist caste system of India, and now, alas, we have meme after meme, two bit prognosticator yammering about what it means to be, well, self-quarantining.

Call it lockdown, and it then becomes a policing issue. It always has been a policing issue — for the 80 percent. Fines, regs, fees, tolls, levies, penalties, triple penalties,  interest, laws, measures, arrests, convictions. prosecutions.

Disciplinary confinement, man — read all about it!

If you question the myriad of narratives spewed by left and right of the manure pile called USA politics, then, well, you suffer ire, de-platforming.

Called a Trumpie or Republican or Money First American if you dare question the entire idea of forced lockdown without forced government and private industry supporting people in real time; and without forced collective safety nets for food, health care, social services during this tsunami of destruction these lockdowns and falsifying narratives daily.

You gotta be consistent, the old American way, right? No counter-intuitive thinking, no systems thinking, no whole picture thinking, right?

So many “duh moments,” that each and every duh thing said by left and right of the political center dung pit are just too numerous to mention or answer.

This is no joke – United States of Amnesia, maybe on a daily diet.

Gore Vidal quote: We are the United States of Amnesia, we learn ...

Weren’t we warning about the military industrial complex in the 1930s by the general, Smedley Butler and War is a Racket? I get hammered for being a conspiracy nut, that how could there be a deep state, how could there be the big lie in such a big bad diverse country? How can I say a vaccination ID chip program could be real?

Right:

In 1934, a colossal claim reached the American news media: There had been a plot to overthrow President Franklin D. Roosevelt, in favor of a fascist government. Supposedly in the works since 1933, the claims of the conspiracy came from a very conspicuous and reliable source: Major General Smedley Butler, one of the most decorated war heroes of his time. Even more unbelievable were his claims of who was involved in the plot – respected names like Robert Sterling Clark, Grayson M.P. Murphy, and Prescott Bush. While news media at the time mocked Butler’s story, recently discovered archives have revealed the truth behind Major General Butler’s claims.  Source!

When was The Jungle written? A century and change ago, and, of course, the meat industry is so-so cleaned up?

Decades after Upton Sinclair exposed the horrors of meatpacking, radical labor organizing transformed the industry into a bastion of worker power. Now, a century later, after decades of union-busting and the coronavirus decimating workers throughout the industry, the meatpacking industry is back to The Jungle.  Source!

Try that argument with trolls on F/Zuck-err-berg or anywhere. Then you have that fourth grade level thinking King Rat, Adderall Donny, until whack a mole is more than some child’s game. It’s the SARS-CoV-2 plan, it’s the diplomacy of this Clear and Present Danger, United of Snakes? Did I say, William Blum?

This book could be entitled: Serial chain-saw baby killers and the women who love them.

The women don’t really believe that their beloved would do such a thing, even if they’re shown a severed limb or a headless torso. Or if they believe it, they know down to their bone marrow that lover-boy really had the best of intentions; it must have been some kind of very unfortunate accident, a well-meaning blunder; in fact, even more likely, it was an act of humanitarianism.

For more than 70 years, the United States convinced much of the world that there was an international conspiracy out there. An International Communist Conspiracy, seeking no less than control over the entire planet, for purposes which had no socially redeeming values. And the world was made to believe that it somehow needed the United States to save it from communist darkness. “Just buy our weapons,” said Washington, “let our military and our corporations roam freely across your land, and give us veto power over who your leaders will be, and we’ll protect you.”

Rogue State, William Blum

Point and counterpoint

So, all the evidence of USA bioweapons work, all the machinations by more than 13,000 scientists working on US programs for DARPA, Plum Island, Fort Detrick, University of North Carolina, et al, none of that counts? Doesn’t matter who might agree with the minutiae. Grand conspiracy to mess with coronavirus, and great work on bat viruses. We know that the USA is the free world’s biggest gangster, and we can go on and on about the toxins unleashed, the Japanese prisoners captured in bioweapons facilities and brought to the USA. Along with those Sieg Heil missile boys.

Does it matter if there are many opposing and counterpointing ideas? Can we not maybe entertain the idea that the USA (with help from UK and Israel) might be concocting viruses or chemicals for infertility or bombs that kill people but keep buildings intact? Depleted uranium shells? Goo that burns the skin off the bodies. Agent orange was not just a defoliant for exposing the heroes who fought the great American menace in their land. The McNamara and DOW papers state that agent orange (Your grandson’s Round-Up weed killer) would be something of the gift that keeps on giving. Papers reveal the idea was to ruin the rice crop of Vietnam. Contaminate the soil for generations.

Oh, that Round-Up Ready America. The media, the police, the finance, the insurance, the real estate, the hedge funds, the legal eagles, the university system, the chemical-fumigant-herbicide-pesticide purveyors. Big Pharma, Big Med, Big Private Prison. Big big big and too big to take on, fail, and frog march to the gallows.

Yet, this compliance for lockdown, even now, May 27. I live on the coast of Oregon, near Newport.

No industry, no shipping lanes, no stagnation, no burning coal or burning anything really, yet my mean greenie weenie acquaintances are still putting their Zoom Doom out there for environmental programs.

I have a new book – all my readings cancelled because of Corona Capitalism. But now, no light at the end of the lockdown tunnel. All those libraries? Outside parking lots, hell, I will stand away with bullhorn and read and talk.

Let the people sit outside, even with their vanity masks. The cleanest air in the world, and it circulates in an open house every ten minutes – completely new air in a house. Outside? Nope!

Tele-Zoom, man. These white great hopes, the middle and upper middle classes, they love the Zoom Doom. Tele-marketing turned into tele-ed, tele-med, tele-sex, tele-retail.

All these congealing ideas coming out now, with the absurdity of a fourth world country like USA. No clinics in every neighborhood. No dental care. No regulating polluters to not pollute zero emissions or toxins. All this colonizing of higher and lower education by the MBA’s and profiteers and for-profit investment vehicles.

All this racism and racist policies and the one hundred percent of Native American treaties broken by Uncle Sam.

I live here in Lincoln County, and the Siletz tribe has the big casino. Big attraction for addicts. But what is a disenfranchised tribe to do?

Even after all the theft and rapine, the Siletz Tribe in the 1820s was given a million acres, yet those white devils we praise as the great wagon trains of the Oh Pioneers, like a coronavirus, came into the Oregon Territory, and over time, all those deeded acres disappeared. The tribe now has 3,600 acres – fractured to be sure – in its sovereign name.

I have friends who do some amazing things looking at the numbers game, the To Die With Corona or Not to Die.  You betcha being skeptical of Gates and Vaccine Purveyors and Alex Azar and Fauchi and the Surgeon General and Trump LLC, you bet, best way to be. Davos, Rockefeller, all the pandemic planning way before Dec. 2019.

You betcha.

Unfortunately we are in some contradictory and counter-intuitive times. Yes, coronavirus, in it’s novel form, is worse than the H1N1 or Swine flu. Two times? Three? Hmm.

Locking down healthy people without safety nets —  and we know ALL the safety nets necessary for closing down the economy and day to day life, and schools – is insane.

So are meat packing plants and Amazon warehouses. So are the freaks dictating that private companies do not have to report sick employees with coronavirus. So is a country without test. So is a country that still rams its military whores into other parts of the world, still keeps those weapons deals going, yet this pathetic country can’t even amass MASH tents and hearts and minds soldiers (without weapons) to be part of the so-called coronavirus mitigation.

I read a lot as well as work a lot, and gain of function for DNA and RNA tweaking of viruses should never be allowed. But then never should there have been a patent given on seeds.

This is all pre-dating the Adderall Addict in Chief. Predates his scum lording in the Oval Office.

You can hate Donald Trump on so many levels and see him as a felon (in a long line of American president felons) and still not believe the Russian Investigation.

You can doubt lockdown and still decry armed racists and their white breed from going to state capitals with fully loaded AR-15’s.

You can decry Zoom and Facebook and parse the Fourth Industrial Revolution and rail against Internet of Things and AI and self-driving cars, and 5G, and still have pure science background in biology and ecology.

Beware of 'ZoomBombing': screensharing filth to video calls ...

You can attack the Planet of the Humans for its total lack of embracing the reality that the majority of the world – non-white, thank god – is doing many things to fight against green capitalism, carbon markets, REDD, and the other tricks of the capitalists. You can hate Michael Moore for being a multimillionaire. You can doubt Bill McKibben and tire of the Naomi Klein getting gazillion minutes of air time on the Soros Show, Democracy Now, and endless copy on the Intercept.

Yet, you can still embrace Bowling for Columbine, Shock Doctrine, The End of Nature, and rail against Green as the New Black.

It’s possible to think the lockdown is absurd on one level, and that business as usual is absurd, too.

You can be for universal health care, universal public education, for nationalizing (people-izing) industries, ending the billionaire class and still be for retail, mom and pop’s, good food, good weed and great wine.

Communists are for democracy and for the people’s rights over all rights of the business and investing class. Yes, the world is global and so is weather and so is the water cycle, winds, precipitation, and culture. Yes, we need to relocalize, but we need deep-deep ecology with deep-deep cultural survival.

Yes, peasant culture and collective enterprises, and looking at workers own their work and the industries, and yes, ending perpetual wars, any walls against people’s freedom of moment, well, call this neo-communism, or Marx-taken-to-the-next level, or Utopian?

But instead we argue whether cruise lines should come back, the value of a hair salon, and what about air traffic?

So many of the long-in-the-tooth conservative democrats I mingle with here on the coast have shit to say about the chronically homeless, the chronically one-paycheck from hell, the very people who hammer their roofs, flip their halibut steaks, clean granny’s bedpans, and the like.

They are glad the air is cleaner (that’s a big fat joke) and that air travel is curtailed. It is lockdown, and the rich still travel, and these conservative democrats who vote “green” are glad all that wasteful Disneyland travel is gone . . . while they still shuttle themselves to grand-kids across the land, go to their language immersion schools in Cuernavaca or Tibet.

Bring back the spotted owl, but screw the people. The dichotomies, the trolls on both ends, the split society, the false balancing of issues, the I-know-I-am-right pukes on all sides of the manure pile, well, they are Making America Great Again (that was Reagan’s line 40 years before another mentally-challenged foe is in the Oval office).

You see this was all predicted – shit, how many books and articles and even movies have been produced discussing a virus or other bacterial outbreak? And yet, this was not seen coming?

The technotronic era involves the gradual appearance of a more controlled society. Such a society would be dominated by an elite, unrestrained by traditional values. Soon it will be possible to assert almost continuous surveillance over every citizen and maintain up-to-date complete files containing even the most personal information about the citizen. These files will be subject to instantaneous retrieval by the authorities. In the technotronic society the trend would seem to be towards the aggregation of the individual support of millions of uncoordinated citizens, easily within the reach of magnetic and attractive personalities exploiting the latest communications techniques to manipulate emotions and control reason.

― Zbigniew Brzezinski, Between Two Ages: America’s Role in the Technetronic Era

*-*

Researcher Alison Hawver McDowell: “A new global economic apparatus is being laid down that is profoundly anti-human. The Fourth Industrial Revolution will dispossess people from their means of survival and replace “work” with robots and AI. Through UBI and pay for success data surveillance the masses become batteries for predatory financial deals and the data extracted from them will be used to advance the Singularity.” Source.

*–*

The FOIA document, obtained by the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC), was produced by a little-known U.S. government organization called the National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence (NSCAI). It was created by the 2018 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) and its official purpose is “to consider the methods and means necessary to advance the development of artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, and associated technologies to comprehensively address the national security and defense needs of the United States.”

The NSCAI is a key part of the government’s response to what is often referred to as the coming “fourth industrial revolution,” which has been described as “a revolution characterized by discontinuous technological development in areas like artificial intelligence (AI), big data, fifth-generation telecommunications networking (5G), nanotechnology and biotechnology, robotics, the Internet of Things (IoT), and quantum computing.”  Source

How do we get Americans off their high horses? Those Earth Day people I have associated with who will continue to Zoom Doom their groups, now that this is the new normal – “Oh, so easy, just open up that laptop, sit back, sip chamomile and listen to those cool scientists and naturalists without having to strap in a car and driving someplace.”

This is a time of idiotic calls for a universal basic income while not making calls to create good work, that is, grow legions of people in paid-volunteer work, community-based work; real community-based schooling; clinics in each neighborhood; gardens and food distribution in all neighborhoods. Cancelling the billionaire class. Worthy public transportation that reaches the outskirts and is 24/7. Universal Basic Bum’s Income My Ass.

That UBI (not UB40) is based on the Fourth Industrial Revolution and Disruptive Economies and Viral Economic and Digital models.

You know, self-driving cars, buses and trucks? Who said this was okay? And those jobs? Oh, yeah, we shall be locked up in cubicle mini-apartments and forced to receive our digital crypto currency monthly to pay for capitalism on steroids.

Foolish. And yet, the Andrew Yang’s and others call for this stupidity?

How about social security increased, total publicly-funded health care, state banks, cooperative utilities, true safety nets and creative organizations and self-organizing communities and agricultural-based intentional communities and real work.

There is a shit-ton of work to be done. Micro-homes built, foster homes visited, retirement communities to be built and energized.

But the masters of the universe and those other oddities want what? Get your pay, with your vaccination chip approved. All data and all history captured in the span of a human hair.

Some of us do not want the Trump World, the Biden World, the Gates World, the Naomi Klein World, the Goldman Sachs World, the World Bank World. Some of us imagine narratives and viewpoints that do not fit some consistent, packaged, inside-the-dreadful-lines of left-right (not really left, but right-super right) politic correctness.

It doesn’t take a million PhD’s in plethora of fields to define what works, what might work, what isn’t working, and how it works. This is common sense, and yet, we have prognosticators, idiots with Microphones and Makeup yammering pure nothingness.

I have had deeper conversations with old men halfway in their dementia while withdrawing from a weekend of meth than with a majority of people I also associate with. Or used to associate with.

Because the new normal allows for more and more sculpted venues, more Skype-up-your-ass and Zoom Doom sessions. “You can join BUT if we notice any derogatory language and counter spin, we shall pull the proverbial plug.”

The “I can’t breathe” yet again is the comment for a generation, for generations. Emblematic of the entire bullshit world of Cop Capitalism, the Police State Mentality of Bezos, Gates, F/Zuckerberg and any of the other Google and Digital Demigods.

How many times are we going to be subjected to the Blue Plague and the Green Plague – The Police State and the Finance State?

And yet, this is it for USA? Not an outcry and complete shut down of the country and the Fox News drumbeat with yet another hit-man cop running free. This cop, one of the Biden VP pick’s boys:

As Chief Prosecutor, Klobuchar Declined to Bring Charges Against Cop that Killed George Floyd; While serving as Minnesota’s chief prosecutor between 1999 and 2007, Klobuchar declined to bring charges against more than two dozen officers who had killed citizens while on duty – including against the cop that killed George Floyd.

Alan Macleod, May 27, 2019

Senator Klobuchar Police

So how do we have conversations now when the distance unlearning is taking hold not only for overpriced higher education (what idiocy is this when kids get to leave home, leave hometowns, end up on a bricks and mortar campus and end up spending 75 percent of their time in their dorms or apartments with on-line miseducation?) but for public schools.

Troll after troll want the end of childhood, they want the four horsemen of the apocalypse to come riding into their AR-1 and Glock-infested neighborhoods. They think and believe their Jesus was a Duck Dynasty aficionado. These cretins are cretins, easily flushed out in MAGA America.

It’s the greenie weenies, the ameliorating, the corrective ones – the straight democratic ticket lovers, the Hillary supporters, the ones blaming Nader, Stein and others for the victories of what they deem the more evil of the lesser evils.

Back to the future means we have Noam Chomsky again railing and lecturing us to believe his wonderful genius and vote with noses held by backing Biden over Trump. Whew, the new Hitler, uh? Is that so, Trump? Hmm, more bumbling misuse of the language and symbol.

Funny world, man, funny world. The entire mess is co-opted by the death star that is capitalism one all 12 cylinders or sputtering away in the throes of death.

Evil begotten country, evil penetrating imperialism, evil perversions of humanity, the cancer that is consumerism, the virus that is waste/waste/waste. Disease treatment so throw out preventative cures.

Until we are in Oregon, with busy signal for weeks at the unemployment office. Boosted prices at the grocery store. Entitled versus poor, and yet the poor seem entitled to believe in Yankee Doodle Dandy and their Stars and Bars.

Amazon.com: Rogue State: A Guide to the Worlds Only Superpower ...

A Truth Commission

Since the early 1990s the people of South Africa, Argentina, Guatemala, Chile and El Salvador have held official Truth Commissions to look squarely in the eyes of the crimes committed by their governments. There will never be any such official body to investigate and document the wide body of Washington’s crimes, although several unofficial citizens’ commissions have done so over the years for specific interventions, such as in Vietnam, Panama, Afghanistan, and Iraq; their findings were of course totally ignored by the establishment media (whose ideology is a belief that it doesn’t have any ideology).

In the absence of an official Truth Commission in the United States, this book is offered up as testimony.

— William Blum, Washington, DC/ May 2005/ Rogue State

And so we do this on our people, no? Care homes, workers in confined working operations, the elderly, the physically compromised. Ya think Bill and Melinda and his cronies aren’t thinking about eugenics?

Right.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, people in care homes have been dying in droves.

Why is this happening? Is it simply because older adults are very vulnerable to SARS-CoV-2 and therefore it’s not unexpected that many would succumb?

Or do care homes deserve the lion’s share of the blame, such as by paying so poorly that many workers have to split their time between several facilities, spreading the virus in the process?

Alternatively, could medical experts and government bureaucrats, with the full knowledge of at least the top tier of government officials, have created conditions shortly after the pandemic struck that contribute to the high death tolls while engendering virtually no public backlash against themselves?

This article shows that the third hypothesis is highly plausible. The people who created the conditions may be unaware of, or oblivious to, their implications. But it’s also possible that at least some of them know exactly what they’re doing.

After all – seeing it from an amoral government’s point of view – the growing numbers of elderly are a big burden on today’s fiscally strained governments, because in aggregate they’re paying much less into the tax base than younger people while causing the costs of healthcare and retirement programs to skyrocket.

–“Were conditions for high death rates at Care Homes created on purpose?”  Rosemary Frei

 

As coronavirus creeps into French care homes, a 'tsunami' of ...

Why the Left’s Case for Lesser Evil Sounds Hollow

We are entering the final stages of the election to decide who will head the most powerful nation on Earth. That inevitably means the progressive and dissident left in the US are again being deluged with arguments to vote for the lesser evil candidate.

It has become such a standard left argument at election time that lesser evil voting even has its own acronym: LEV. Anyone who opposes Donald Trump’s re-election come November must set aside their concerns about – and if necessary their principles against – voting for the other main candidate on offer for US president.

According to LEV, it is profoundly irresponsible and unethical for anyone on the left either to refuse to vote in November or to vote for a third, no-hope candidate because it risks aiding a Trump victory. Instead the left must cast a ballot – however uncomfortably – for the lesser evil candidate, which means Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic challenger.

This column is not going to make an argument for or against lesser evil voting, either in general or in the coming election. Everyone on the left must dig deep into their conscience and make a decision based on their assessment of how relatively evil Biden and Trump are, and whether that evil will be minimised by voting for Biden.

What I want to do instead is address why lesser evil arguments are sounding increasingly shrill and hollow to many on the left who fought so hard to earn Bernie Sanders the Democratic nomination rather than Biden, but were once again stymied by the fervent opposition of the Democratic party leadership. These are the people chiefly targeted in the current round of lesser evil arguments.

If the proponents of LEV are going to succeed in persuading the Bernie left to turn out for Biden, in order to stop Trump, they are going to need to address the concerns of the Sanders’ camp much more clearly and articulately than they have done so far.

Don’t wrestle with pigs

One thing that is clear already is that the appeal of lesser evil voting is becoming increasingly generational. Older leftists think it is self-evident that within an evil system you vote for the lesser evil candidate because small political differences can have big impacts, whether on domestic issues like social security, or on wars abroad, or on the future of the planet.

Their approach towards younger voters on the left who are not immediately impressed by this logic has often been to shame and insult them, labelling them as selfish, ideological purists or exemplars of white privilege. They have also indulged in what looks to many younger voters suspiciously like emotional blackmail, comparing Trump to Mussolini or Hitler.

To the younger left, things look a little more complex and paradoxical. They tend to see lesser evil voting as an example of the chicken-and-egg problem. After all, given that the older left has been trotting out the lesser evil argument for decades, it looks suspiciously like LEV may have actually contributed to the entrenchment of an evil political system that made Trump’s election possible. Are the proponents of lesser evil voting not creating the very conditions for political alienation that they then tout as a way to address the product – Trump – of that very political alienation?

If the US has a cynical political system, deeply corrupted by money, younger voters wonder whether adding to that cynicism – with the left always voting for one of two evil candidates – can actually ever change the system or simply reinforces it. The older left has failed politically. But might one of the reasons be that for decades it has acted so cynically? Younger voters want to break with cynical politics. If the left is ever going to start looking more attractive, they argue, it needs to stop engaging cynically with a cynical system.

George Bernard Shaw’s maxim comes to mind: “Never wrestle with pigs. You both get dirty and the pig likes it.”

Walmart or Costco?

Very much related to this is the concern that decades of voting for evil Democratic candidates mean the progressive left has not just failed to hold the line politically, election by election, but has actively lost ground, especially relative to the biggest problem facing humanity – the imminent end of most life on the planet. The clock is ticking fast, and it is evident that neither candidate is actually going to do anything substantive to save us from ecological catastrophe. The system is entirely owned and controlled by a plutocratic class, addicted to the expansion of its own wealth, even at the cost of our species’ survival.

Lesser evilism focuses on the candidates’ relative merits and depravities. But younger voters increasingly see that as misdirection. The two evil candidates reflect the depravities of the same evil plutocratic system. On this view, the candidates’ marginal differences are nothing more than exercises in marketing. Debating their merits in relation to the fundamental, existential questions facing us at the moment makes as much sense to younger voters as arguing whether Walmart or Costco offer a more ethical model of consumption.

Meanwhile, the two candidates on offer in this election are probably the most deficient and incompetent in US history: one is a fire-breathing, posturing, delusional narcissist; the other the dried-out husk of a once smooth-talking, delusional narcissist. Each is proof that the evil system they are there to obscure has grown so sclerotic, so debased, that it can no longer produce credible salesmen.

Echoing the establishment

The candidates’ qualities aside, the system sinks into ever greater depravity for reasons that seem obvious to the younger left: because the power-establishment knows that, however evil the two candidates on offer are, as long as one is ever so slightly less evil than the other it will be able to adduce mock-ethical arguments to strong-arm the left into legitimising its evil system. To younger voters, when the left’s veterans make the lesser evil argument, they repeat precisely the arguments the evil system wants echoing. It is not a great look.

The power-establishment knows that it can drag the system towards greater evil – towards more corporate greed, towards more horrifying global wars, towards more planetary destruction – and still the left will be expected to consent to the system as long as one candidate is slightly less evil. All the system has to do is offer a candidate who can market him or herself as less evil than the other candidate.

What the lesser evil argument has achieved over the past 40 years – entirely predictably – is the gradual shift in the centre of political gravity ever further rightwards, towards unconcealed rule by the corporate class, towards Donald Trump.

Left defeatism

The credibility of the older left’s lesser evil voting strategy is being severely tested right at this moment – and is being found disastrously wanting. With Biden the presumptive Democratic candidate, now is the time when the progressive left ought to be leveraging its electoral clout to get Sanders and his political allies positions inside a future Biden administration. This is the moment when the Sanders camp ought to be able to parlay their substantial voting bloc into influence over who is chosen as Biden’s vice-president and his senior cabinet ministers, as well as over the main planks of Biden’s platform.

But rather than seize this historic moment, the older left – including, tragically, Sanders himself – are using this period primarily to undermine the progressive left, by bullying them into submission to the Biden campaign whatever it decides to do.

This is a major reason the LEV strategy looks so discredited to the younger left. They know Biden has little chance of winning without their support. This should be the moment to play their hand with a poker-face, extracting as much as they can from Biden. But the older left is already throwing the left’s hand down, demanding at this critical juncture that the left get behind Biden, when Biden has offered nothing at all to the progressive left.

In these circumstances, lesser evil voting looks a lot like simple defeatism. It actually makes the older left, not the younger left, look like the selfish, privileged ones. They backed Sanders, and when he lost the nomination campaign they simply gave up mid-fight, as they have done decade after decade, putting the struggle off to another day. They behave as if there is all the time in the world (which may seem true to those who are in their twilight years). But the urgency of the deadline for radical change – maybe only a few years away – is hard for the younger left to ignore.

Is Trump the new Hitler?

Lesser evil proponents have traditionally made their case based on an assumption of modest differences between the two candidates – typically, one is marginally better on inequality and welfare issues. But with Trump, the stakes, it is said, have been raised considerably. Some supporters of LEV argue that Trump is a new Hitler. As a result, everything – including abandoning one’s political principles – must be done to stop him.

There is, as already noted, the problem that, if Trump really is Hitler, then it looks very much like decades of lesser evil voting may have contributed to the entrenchment of an evil system that produced this new Hitler. But there is a further difficulty.

If everything must be done to stop Trump, the progressive left finds itself vulnerable to exactly the same kind of bogus “resistance” politics that so discredited the liberal-left and has actually strengthened Trump rather than undermined him. If progressives and dissidents need to join the effort to do anything and everything to stop Trump, then why not also get on board with the next entirely evidence-free scandal against him, the next “Russiagate”?

In fact, if Trump is Hitler and must be stopped at all costs, how is the progressive left supposed to distinguish itself from the ridiculous, political energy-sapping, self-sabotaging posturing of the liberal-left? The danger is the progressive left gets subsumed within the phoney, Democratic-loyalist left rather than leading the left by example into a more effective politics of real resistance.

Refining the struggle

There is a final, consciousness-raising issue for younger leftists to consider when deciding whether to reject entirely the evil US system, even if it risks allowing Trump another four years. Many younger leftists wonder exactly what kind of evil system they live under and how they should best respond to it. Refusing to vote for one of the two evil candidates may be the only way they can decide for sure.

One possibility is that the US is a deeply flawed democratic system but still accountable to voters. If that is right, then withholding their consent from an evil Democratic candidate may finally serve as a corrective to the endless rightward shift of the political system towards greater evil.

If Sanders’ supporters reject voting for Biden, Biden is unlikely to win the election. The deeply corrupt Democratic Party leadership will then be forced into crisis. If it really wishes to win, it will have to accommodate the left meaningfully to win back its support.

Had the left chosen this course 30 years ago, rather than listening to calls to vote for the lesser evil candidate, they wonder, might the Democratic party have ever reached the nadir of foisting a cognitively challenged and morally compromised candidate like Biden on the party’s supporters?

If US democracy still functions, might the Democratic leadership faced with a real rebellion by the left be forced gradually to concede ground to a leftist political agenda, creating a genuine ideological contest between the two parties?

Labour threw an election

The other possibility is that the US system lost its democratic features in all but name some time ago and is instead a straightforward plutocracy serving a wealth-elite. The two parties pretend to compete for votes only to make the electorate think it is still in charge.

If the US is a plutocracy, the political system will be largely indifferent as to whether the left is prepared to vote for Biden or not. Because in a two-party plutocracy, both parties represent the same interests – the corporate elite’s. They are simply branded differently to delude voters into thinking the system is democratic.

Younger voters have increasing reasons to suspect that the latter assessment is right. They can, for instance, look across the Atlantic to the recent experience of the UK, which has a similar two-party system.

An internal report leaked last month revealed that Labour party bosses – Britain’s version of the Democratic National Committee – intentionally threw the 2017 general election to stop the party’s then leader, Jeremy Corbyn, winning power against an increasingly far-right Conservative party. The party bureaucrats felt compelled to sabotage their own candidate after they had failed two years earlier to prevent Labour members electing Corbyn – the UK’s version of Sanders – as leader.

In other words, the permanent bureaucracy of the supposedly left-wing Labour party felt it had more in common with the ultra right-wing Conservatives than with its own democratic socialist leader.

Is the Democratic party machine, which has now twice done everything in its power to stop Sanders, a democratic socialist, becoming the party’s presidential candidate, really so different from the UK Labour party machine?

Bogus political fights

If the US is really a two-party plutocracy, the Democratic party leadership will do everything it can to stop a candidate (Sanders) who might threaten plutocratic rule, even if that means installing a weak and incompetent candidate (Biden) who risks losing to an ostensible opponent (Trump). In this kind of system, voters’ attention must be channeled into bogus political fights over barely distinguishable candidates rather than a real struggle over ideology.

Does that not sum up rather precisely what we have watched unfold over the last six months in the US.

So for young leftists, not voting for Biden may help to resolve their own uncertainty about whether the US system is redeemable or not. It is the step they feel they need to take to educate themselves and their peers on whether their energies should be directed chiefly at fighting the Democratic establishment or abandoning the system entirely and taking to the streets.

The problem with lesser evil voting for them is that rather than clarify the next course of action it simply obfuscates. It leaves it unclear whether the political pendulum can be made to swing back towards the left or whether the system needs to be destroyed entirely.

UPDATE:

As I was about to hit the send button, a friend forwarded me this very interesting hour-long interview of Paul Jay, the leftist journalist and broadcaster. Jay makes a good case for lesser evil voting, though inevitably he cannot resist indulging in a little gaslighting, suggesting that the only reason the progressive left would refuse to vote for Biden is to feel ideologically pure or superior. That, he argues, simply isn’t an option when faced with the apparently ultimate evil of Trump. Four more years of this incumbent president, he says, risks unleashing the very darkest forces of capital in the US, echoing the situation of Europe in the 1930s. He draws an analogy with Italy under Mussolini.

Jay rightly observes that the US is a plutocracy (though I don’t think he uses that word). The choice at election time is between two parties representing different sections of capital, both with fairly fascistic leanings and both capable of destroying the planet. But, he adds, the section of capital represented by Biden is more willing to make political compromises – if only in an attempt to win legitimacy a little longer for the system from the American middle and working classes – than the more authoritarian, more aggressive section of capital represented by Trump. That is an analysis I can readily agree with.

The most interesting section of the interview begins at around the 30-minute mark. The interviewer asks Jay how he envisions the exit strategy from lesser evil voting. In other words, at what point does Jay imagine progressives can stop colluding with a system he readily acknowledges is evil? It is the one time Jay is clearly flummoxed. He has no obvious exit strategy.

His eventual response is revealing. At about 35 mins he says this: “We are in a new situation now. We may see the coming together of progressive sections of society into a broader, more unifying popular front that’s independent of the Democratic Party.”

Hold up a second. Why are we in a new situation where progressives can unify and may be ready to seek political solutions independent of the Democratic Party? Yes, the Covid-19 pandemic is leading to the collapse of the US economy, as Jay notes. But is the galvanising of the left, of the working and middle classes, of the unions, not happening precisely because Trump patently has no ability to handle the health and economic crises caused by the virus, or even to create the illusion that he can handle these crises? Is it not his very oafishness, his arrogance, his narcissism, his authoritarian instincts, his misreading of the situation, his detachment from the concerns of ordinary Americans at this pivotal moment that is creating the forces necessary to unify the left?

And equally is it not Biden’s very clear deficiencies as an alternative, as well as the patent ideological and bureaucratic sclerosis of the Democratic party, that is reinforcing the first signs in the US of a trend towards organising politically outside of the formal party system?

At the very moment when the US two-party political system may be beginning to break down, when it has no answers to the first wave of major global crises to hit western “civilisation”, Jay and many others on the progressive left continue to argue that it is imperative to engage with the system, for gradualism, for assisting with those who try to make the system seem better, look more humane.

Jay looks uncomfortable making what sounds like a contradictory case for containing, rather than releasing or accentuating, the forces for revolutionary change he elsewhere concedes are urgently necessary.

No one – least of all me – is denying that any form of political struggle at the moment is going to be very high stakes indeed. Political revolutions always have victims. They can fail. And those who rise to the top can be as bad as, or worse than, those that preceded them.

But the lesser evil argument rests on the false assumption that we are not already in a time of revolution – if not a political revolution, certainly an ecological one. The planet is about to throw up our house of cards, our civilisation, and violently reorder it for us.

In these circumstances, the left faces a very difficult choice indeed: between risking a delayed response by putting a better face on humanity’s plight by installing the slightly less evil candidate, and facing the present and the future directly, in all its terrifying, enervating depravity, in an almost-certainly violent struggle to take back into our own hands our fate as a species.

Which is the better course? There are no easy answers. To argue otherwise, as too many proponents of lesser evil voting do, may ultimately prove to be the more foolish option.

Brave New Normal (Part 2)

My columns haven’t been very funny recently. This one isn’t going to be any funnier. Sorry. Fascism makes me cranky.

I don’t mean the kind of fascism the corporate media and the fake Resistance have been desperately hyping for the last four years. God help me, but I’m not terribly worried about a few hundred white-supremacist morons marching around with tiki torches hollering Nazi slogans at each other, or Jewish-Mexican-American law clerks flashing “OK” signs on TV, or smirking schoolkids in MAGA hats.

I’m talking about actual, bona fide fascism, or totalitarianism, if you want to get technical. The kind where governments declare a global “state of emergency” on account of a virus with a 0.2% to 1% lethality (and that causes mild, flu-like symptoms, or absolutely no symptoms whatsoever, in over 97% of those infected), locks everyone down inside their homes, suspends their constitutional rights, terrorizes them with propaganda, and unleashes uniformed goon squads on anyone who doesn’t comply with their despotic decrees.

I’m talking about the kind of totalitarianism where the police track you down with your smartphone data and then come to your house to personally harass you for attending a political protest, or attack you for challenging their illegitimate authority, and then charge you with “assault” for fighting back, and then get the media to publish a story accusing you of having “set up” the cops.

I’m talking about the kind of totalitarianism where the secret police are given carte blanche to monitor everyone’s Internet activity, and to scan you with their “surveillance helmets,” and dictate how close you can sit to your friends, and menace you with drones and robot dogs, and violently pry your kids out of your arms and arrest you if you dare to protest.

I’m talking about the kind of totalitarianism that psychologically tortures children with authoritarian loyalty rituals designed to condition them to live in fear, and respond to absurd Pavlovian stimuli, and that encourages the masses to turn off their brains and mechanically repeat propaganda slogans, like “wear a mask” and “flatten the curve,” and to report their neighbors to the police for having an “illegal” private party … and to otherwise reify the manufactured mass hysteria the authorities need to “justify” their totalitarianism.

Yeah, that kind of stuff makes me cranky.

And you know what makes me really cranky? I’ll tell you what makes me really cranky. It is people who publicly project themselves as “anti-authoritarians” and “anti-fascists,” or who have established their “anti-establishment” brands and “dissident” personas on social media, or even in the corporate media, either zealously cheerleading this totalitarianism or looking away and saying nothing as it is rolled out by the very authorities and media propagandists they pretend to oppose. I don’t know exactly why, but that stuff makes me particularly cranky.

I’ll provide you with a few examples.

The militant “Portland anti-fascists”, who the corporate media fell in love with and made famous for bravely fighting off the Trump-loving Putin-Nazi Menace over the course of the last four years, as soon as the Corona-Totalitarianism began, did what all true anti-fascists do when the state goes full-blown fascist … no, they did not “smash the state,” or “occupy the streets,” or anything like that. They masked-up and started making vegan hand sanitizer.

Popular Internet “anti-imperialists” started accusing everyone opposing the lockdown of being part of some far-right Republican plot to “promote mass death under the banner of freedom” or to “normalize death” to benefit rich people, or being members of a “death cult,” or something. Celebrity socialists took to Twitter to warn that we would “shortly have the blood of thousands of people on our hands,” and call us “anti-vaxxers” and “flat earth fucks.” Indie political and military analysts patiently explained why governments needed to be able to pull people out of their homes against their will and quarantine them. Anarchist anthropologists averred that the lockdown wasn’t damaging the productive economy; it was only damaging the “bullshit economy,” and those complaining about being out of work were people whose work is “largely useless.”

Others simply looked away or sat there in silence as we were confined to our homes, and made to carry “permission papers” to walk to work or the corner grocery store, and were beaten and arrested for not “social-distancing,” and were otherwise bullied and humiliated for no justifiable reason whatsoever. (We are talking about a virus, after all, that even the official medical experts, e.g., the U.K.’s Chief Medic, admit is more or less harmless to the vast majority of us, not the Bubonic Fucking Plague or some sort of Alien-Terrorist-Death-Flu … so spare me the “we-had-no-choice-but-to-go-totalitarian” rationalization.)

My intent is not merely to mock these people (i.e., these “radical,” “anti-establishment” types who fell into formation and started goose-stepping because the media told them we were all going to die), but also to use them as a clear example of how official narratives are born and take hold.

That’s somewhat pertinent at the moment, because the “Brave New Normal” official narrative has been born, but it has not yet taken hold. What happens next will determine whether it does.

In order to understand how this works, imagine for a moment that you’re one of these people who are normally skeptical of the government and the media, and that you consider yourself an anti-authoritarian, or at least a friend of the working classes, and now you are beginning to realize that there is no Alien-Terrorist-Death-Flu (just as there were no “WMDs,” no “Russian hackers,” no “pee-tape,” etc.), and so it dawns on you that you’ve been behaving like a hysterical, brainwashed, fascist minion of the very establishment you supposedly oppose … or at the very least like an abject coward.

Imagine how you might feel right now.

You would probably feel pretty foolish, right? And more than a little ashamed of yourself. So … OK, what would you do about that? Well, you would have a couple of options.

Option Number One would be admit what you did, apologize to whomever you have to, and try like hell not to do it again. Not many people are going to choose this option.

Most people are going to choose Option Number Two, which is to desperately try to deny what they did, or to desperately rationalize what they did (and in many cases are still actively doing). Now, this is not as easy at it sounds, because doing that means they will have to continue to believe (or at least pretend to believe) that there is an Alien-Terrorist-Death-Flu which is going to kill hundreds of millions of people the moment we stop locking everyone down, and forcing them to “social distance,” and so on. They will have to continue to pretend to believe that this Alien-Terrorist-Death-Flu exists, even though they know it doesn’t.

And this is where that Orwellian “doublethink” comes in. People (i.e., these “anti-authoritarians,” not to mention the majority of the “normal” public) are not going to want to face the fact that they’ve been behaving like a bunch of fascists (or cowards) for no justifiable reason whatsoever. So, what they are going to do instead is desperately pretend that their behavior was justified and that the propaganda they have been swallowing, and regurgitating, was not propaganda, but rather, “the Truth.”

In other words, in order to avoid their shame, they are going to do everything in their power to reify the official narrative and delegitimize anyone attempting to expose it as the fiction that it is. They are going to join in with the corporate media that are calling us “extremists,” “conspiracy theorists,” “anti-vaxxers,” and other such epithets. They’re going to accuse those of us on the Left of aligning with “far-Right Republican militias,” and “Boogaloo accelerationists,” and of being members of the Russian-backed “Querfront,” and assorted other horrible things meant to scare errant leftists into line.

Above all, they are going to continue to insist, despite all the evidence to the contrary, that we are “under attack” by a “killer virus” which could “strike again at any time,” and so we have to maintain at least some level of totalitarianism and paranoia, or else … well, you know, the terrorists win.

It is this reification of the official narrative by those too ashamed to admit what they did (and try to determine why they did it), and not the narrative or the propaganda itself, that will eventually establish the “Brave New Normal” as “reality” (assuming the process works as smoothly as it did with the “War on Terror,” the “War on Populism,” and the “Cold War” narratives). The facts, the data, the “science” won’t matter. Reality is consensus reality … and a new consensus is being formed at the moment.

There is still a chance (right now, not months from now) for these people (some of whom are rather influential) to stand up and say, “Whoops! I screwed up and went all Nazi there for a bit.” But I seriously doubt that is going to happen.

It’s much more likely that the Brave New Normal (or some intermittent, scaled-down version of it) will gradually become our new reality. People will get used to being occasionally “locked down,” and being ordered to wear masks, and not to touch each other, and to standing in designated circles and boxes, like they got used to the “anti-Terrorism measures,” and believing that Trump is a “Russian asset.” The coming economic depression will be blamed on the Alien-Terrorist-Death-Flu, rather than on the lockdown that caused it. Millions of people will be condemned to extreme poverty, or debt-enslaved for the rest of their lives, but they’ll be too busy trying to survive to mount any kind of broad resistance.

The children, of course, won’t know any better. They will grow up with their “isolation boxes,” and “protective barriers,” and “contact tracing,” and they will live in constant low-grade fear of another killer virus, or terrorist attack, or Russian-backed white supremacist uprising, or whatever boogeyman might next appear to menace the global capitalist empire, which, it goes without saying, will be just fine.

Me, I’ll probably remain kind of cranky, but I will try to find the humor in it all. Bear with me … that might take a while.

• Read Part 1 here

Notions of Freedom

We are living in strange times indeed.  This crisis raises many questions about the  nature of freedom and what our expectations are, or should be.  Everyone has their own notions about what freedom means and how far that should extend to oneself and indeed, to everyone else.

I want to start with a look at where we’ve come from before I look at where we are now, as I feel it gives a better understanding of our definitions of freedom and a better context for viewing where we are, at this moment in time.

Society probably started with the tribe – maybe not even having a leader if the numbers were small enough, say, 10 people. Tribes of scores or more obviously became hard to manage and so, undoubtedly, this led to the idea of a leader or a group of leaders – a chief, or a council of chiefs. Such a system seems to have worked well, so long as the chiefs acted in the best interest of the tribe, and not in their own best interest. Tribes and early kingdoms often had a mechanism for dealing with a poor leader – the  symbolic marriage of the leader to the land and the right to depose, or even execute, a leader that failed to live up to expectations.

Such concepts of leadership are ancient but have survived in various places into the modern era, including Ireland where I live. Although the practice associated with this custom is long gone, knowledge of it remains vaguely in the public consciousness and more definitively in the realms of scholarship and Celtic Neo-Paganism.  However, societies across the globe began to move beyond this cherished accountability millennia ago – with the rise of despotic monarchy, something that still exists as an unfortunate anachronism even now.

As tribes grew into countries and countries grew into empires, monarchs became decreasingly accountable to their citizens, or rather subjects – those who are subjugated. While many monarchs felt an obligation, both ‘divine’ and moral to behave with care and responsibility, others acted in pure self interest, free of any accountability for their actions. With the backing of a large army or sizeable personal guard, it became increasing difficult to hold monarchs accountable and one had to rely on goodwill in most cases, rather than enforcement.

Of course, there have been countless deposings of monarchs by the people or by rival claimants, although the latter didn’t always turn out to be beneficial. Probably the most famous of these is that of Galus Julius Caesar, the Dictator for life of the final years of the Roman Republic, who gave his name to the title Caesar, Czar and Keiser. He was brutally murdered by Brutus (hence the word brutal) and we all know how that turned out for the Roman Republic.

The republic itself was a form of democracy, based on an earlier model from Greece, a civilization that had immense influence on Rome. Of course, Athenian democracy was nothing like what we now regard as democracy. The right to decide how government was organised and what it did fell to the hands of an elite group — demokratia, or “rule by the people” was only for citizens and of these, only the men could vote. At the time (507 BC) this meant 40,000 men, out of a much larger population, but in reality no more than about 5,000 men could attend assemblies, due to other commitments. Still, it was a ground-breaking step, so long as you weren’t a foreigner, criminal, woman, child or a slave.

It is from these Greek origins that we get the word democracy and the notion of rights and freedom for all. Over time there have been variations on this model that have been tried out – constitutional monarchies, republics, socialist states, fascist states and communist states, which have varying levels of input for the masses. The masses might also be referred to as ‘plebeians’ as the Romans liked to call ordinary folk, a shortened form of which still exists as a minor insult — pleb.

However, through most of recorded history, the most common system has been monarchy, although one could hardly describe it as the most popular. Simpler than a democracy and easy to enforce – notions such as corruption, fairness and accountability do not come into play, as divine rule (e.g. the divine right of kings) gives the ruler carte blanche to do whatever they god-damn like, unless their despotism provokes a revolt.  Of course, revolt has happened, from time to time, throughout history and one of the most famous ones is that of the barons in England against king John.

The Magna Carta (Great Charter, of 1215) is considered by many as the bedrock of Western civilization and democracy, despite the fact that it only gave limited concessions to a very small number of nobles. It was a start at least, and perhaps enabled further inroads into the monarchic monopoly on power. The Peasants’ Revolt of 1381, against Richard II of England was a major shift. Led by a commoner (Wat Tyler) it was a great embarrassment for Richard, who did not have a standing army to hand. He was forced to pretend to negotiate with the rebels, who camped at Blackheath, while he secretly ordered the Mayor of London to raise an army to disperse and execute the protestors.

There are countless other examples of rebellion against monarchs across the world, but most of them are forgotten. Perhaps the best remembered rebellion is that of the French paupers against the Bourbon monarchy and the entire aristocracy of France. This violent and bloodthirsty revolution sent shudders of terror across the monarchies of the world and precipitated a programme of reform, based on fear of similar events occurring.

Of course, some countries carried on regardless – Russia and America being particularly sad examples, as Russia only abolished surfdom in 1861, while USA only abolished slavery in 1865. One could justifiably say that the lives of these ordinary people, who were now ‘citizens’ hardly improved as their freedom was pretty much nominal. This, in Russia, led to the revolution of 1917, due to the intransigence of the Czar/Tsar (Caesar) Nicholai II Alexandrovich Romanov. The overthrow of the Russian system, inspired by the ideas of Marx and Engels, led to a Bolshevik government headed by Vladimir Lenin. Whatever notions the Soviets had, Lenin was a de facto Tzar in waiting and Stalin was certainly that, if not an uncrowned heir to Ivan The Terrible.

Post World War II, we supposedly have a new age of democracy and freedom, but that only applies to some. In truth, almost the whole world collection of governments has learned the art of propaganda — thanks to the astounding up-skilling efforts of the National Socialists (Nazis) of Germany, who took this to new heights (or lows rather), turning it almost into an art form. While we have been led to believe that we are free and democratic, we have never been more exposed to lies and propaganda than we are now. The biggest lie of all is that we live in a democracy, when, in fact, we actually only get to choose a new set of corrupt and self-serving narcissists every 4 or 5 years.

Democracies, the world over, have been bought – lobbyists have far more power than the electorate could ever hope to achieve. What we, in fact, have is the illusion of democracy – state agencies act without oversight, individuals have no say over the manifesto and policies of parties in power and have no mechanism to undo or prevent undesirable actions by governments. The only mechanisms available are the occasional referenda (instigated under pressure), protest (peaceful or otherwise) and violent overthrow.

In most cases, the effort and risk of violent overthrow is considered too much for the majority of people – it takes dire poverty, starvation and horrific coercion before the ‘plebs’ are pushed to the brink. Governments are aware of this and generally apply the ‘boiling frog’ method of restricting people’s freedoms and the removal of privacy and general rights. However, they do on occasion overstep the mark or fail to adequately conceal their stealthy nefarious actions – which inevitably leads to protest or insurrection.

History has proven that violent insurrection usually fails, but it is rather foolish of authoritarian governments to take a gamble on this not happening. What is far more effective for us ‘plebs’ is non-violent insurrection, in the form of non-compliance — this worked wonders for both Gandhi and for Martin Luther-King, two of the most inspirational leaders of the 20th century. Nelson Mandela is another fine example of someone who led a monumental change, in South Africa, while also avoiding a catastrophic bloodbath, again through advocating of non-violence and showing exceptional leadership skills.

At this moment in time, we are held hostage by a virus and the fear of what it might do to humanity. While public safety has to be a priority, one has to ask the question – what is this really about? Is this a manufactured crisis or is it just opportunistic governments capitalizing on their best chance to roll out new draconian measures? Temporary emergency powers is one thing, but if there is no rollback after the crisis is over, what then? What if the crisis is one without end – like George Orwell’s perpetual war (in his novel 1984)?

We have come to expect freedom, we are told that we live in the ‘free world’ yet we see our rights and freedoms and privacy being eroded by government legislation, corporate invasive technology and data collection. Where do we draw the line? When do we say enough is enough? Strangely, the same technology that enables our surveillance monitoring is also the most powerful tool at our disposal. Internet and telecommunications enable us to share information, just as the ‘system’ collects information about all of us. For many, it has opened our eyes about government agendas, methods and operations as we now have unprecedented access to worldwide information, often in real-time, or within minutes and hours of events happening.

Many believe that a new era of oppression is being rolled out, right now as we sit in our homes, enabled by the high-power, high-speed and low latency 5G network, worldwide by a hidden agency. Conspiracies aside, there are many questions to be asked about our rights, what our freedoms should consist of and what the limits of government and corporate actions should be. We need to ask those questions, we need to demand answers and show the ‘powers that be’ that the thirst for true democracy is still alive and kicking. If we volunteer to be imprisoned or to become our own jailers then there is no hope for humanity. As in the past, humanity needs to assert itself in order to remain free of despotism and it has never been more urgent than now. Corny as it may be, the simplest way to express this is for me to repeat the words of the late Bob Marley — “Get up, stand up, stand up for your rights!”