Category Archives: Occupy movement

Naomi Wolf and Anti-semitism’s Mystification

My previous post was about the firing of a cartoonist, Dieter Hanitzsch, by the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung after its editor became concerned – though, it seems, far from sure – that a cartoon he had published of Benjamin Netanyahu might be anti-semitic. Here is the image again.

As I argued then, the meaning seems pretty clear and uncoloured by any traditional notion of anti-semitism. It shows the danger that Israel, a highly militarised state, will use its win at the Eurovision song contest, and its hosting of next year’s competition in occupied Jerusalem, to whitewash the sort of war crimes it just committed in Gaza, where it has massacred large numbers of unarmed Palestinians.

In fact, the cartoonist is far from alone in highlighting such concerns. The New York Times has reported delight among Israelis at the prospect of what they regard as a “diplomatic victory” as much as musical one. And, according to the Haaretz newspaper, the Eurovision contest organisers have already expressed concern to Israeli broadcasters about likely attempts by Israel to “politicise” the competition.

Among those responding on Twitter to my post was Naomi Wolf, a US Jewish intellectual and feminist scholar whose body of work I admire. She disagreed with my blog post, arguing that the cartoon was, in her words, “kind of anti-semitic”.

In our subsequent exchange she also noted that she was uncomfortable with the fact that the cartoonist was German. (For those interested, the complete exchange can be found here.)

In the end, and admittedly under some pressure from me for clarification, she offered an illustration of why she thought the cartoon was “kind of anti-semitic”. She sent a link to the image below, stating that she thought Hanitzsch’s cartoon of Netanyahu had echoes of this Nazi image of “the Jew” alongside an Aryan German woman.

Frankly, I was astounded by the comparison.

Nazi propaganda

Cartoons in Nazi propaganda sheets like Der Sturmer were anti-semitic because they emphasised specific themes to “otherise” Jews, presenting them as a collective menace to Germany or the world. Those themes included the threat of plague and disease, with Jews often represented as rats; or secret Jewish control over key institutions, illustrated, for example, by the tentacles of an octopus spanning the globe; or the disloyalty of Jews, selling out their country, as they hungered for money.

As Wolf notes, anti-semitic cartoonists would give the portrayed “Jew” grotesque or sinister facial features to alienate readers from him and convey the threat he posed. These features famously included a large or hooked nose, voracious lips, and a bulbous or disfigured head.

So how did the cartoon of Netanyahu qualify on any of these grounds? There is no implication that Netanyahu represents “Jews”, or even Israelis. He is illustrated straightforwardly as the leader of a country, Israel. There is no sense of disease, world control or money associated with Netanyahu’s depiction. Just his well-known hawkishness and Israel’s well-documented status as a highly militarised state.

And there is nothing “grotesque” or “other” about Netanyahu. This is a typical caricature, certainly by European standards, of a world leader. It’s no more offensive than common depictions of Barack Obama, George Bush, Tony Blair, or Donald Trump.

So how exactly is this Netanyahu cartoon “kind of anti-semitic”?

Limiting political debate

What follows is not meant as an attack on Wolf. In fact, I greatly appreciate the fact that she was prepared to engage sincerely and openly with me on Twitter. And I acknowledge her point that judgments about what is anti-semitic are subjective.

But at the same time ideas about anti-semitism have become far vaguer, more all-encompassing, than ever before. In fact, I would go so far as to say the idea of anti-semitism has been metamorphosing before our eyes in ways extremely damaging to the health of our political conversations. It is the current mystification of anti-semitism – or what we might term its transformation into a “kind of antisemitism” – that has allowed it to be weaponised, limiting all sorts of vital debates we need to be having.

It is precisely the promotion of a “kind of anti-semitism”, as opposed to real anti-semitism, that has just forced Ken Livingstone to resign from the Labour party; that empowered Labour’s Blairite bureaucracy to publicly lynch a well-known black anti-racism activist, Marc Wadsworth; that persuaded a dissident comedian and supporter of the Palestinian cause, Frankie Boyle, to use his TV show to prioritise an attack on a supposedly “anti-semitic” Labour party over support for Gaza; that is being used to vilify grassroots movements campaigning against “global elites” and the “1 per cent”; and that may yet finish off Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, currently the only credible political force for progressive change in the UK.

None of this is, of course, to suggest that Wolf would herself want any of these outcomes or that she is trying to misuse anti-semitism. I fully acccept that she has been a strong Jewish critic of Israel and doubtless paid a price for it with friends and colleagues.

But unlike Wolf, those who do consciously and cynically weaponise anti-semitism gain their power from our inability to stand back and think critically about what they are doing, and why it matters. There is an intellectual and cultural blind spot that has been created and is being readily exploited by those who want to prevent discussions not only about Israel’s actions but about the wider political culture we desperately need to change.

Israel and Jews

In fact, the mystification of anti-semitism is not new, though it is rapidly intensifying. It began the moment Israel was created. That was why a Nazi cartoon – drawn before Israel’s establishment in 1948 – could never have been described as “kind of anti-semitic”. It simply was anti-semitic. It attributed menacing or subversive qualities to Jews because they were Jews.

To understand how the current mystification works we need briefly to consider Israel’s character as a state – something very few people are prepared to do in the “mainstream”, because it is likely to result in allegations of … anti-semitism! As I observed in my previous post, this has provided the perfect get-out-jail-free card for Israel and its supporters.

Israel was created as the national homeland of all Jewish people – not of those who became citizens (which included a significant number of Palestinians), or even of those Jews who ended up living there. Israel declared that it represented all Jewish people around the world, including Wolf.

This idea is central to Zionism, and is embodied in its Declaration of Independence; its constitutional-like Basic Laws; its immigration legislation, the Law of Return; its land laws; and the integration into Israel’s state structures of extra-territorial Zionist organisations like the Jewish National Fund, the World Zionist Organisation and the Jewish Agency.

A dangerous confusion

It is also why the rationale for Israel is premised on anti-semitism: Israel was created as a sanctuary for all Jews because, according to Zionists, Jews can never be truly safe anywhere outside Israel. Without anti-semitism, Israel would be superfluous. It is also why Israel has a reason to inflate the threat of anti-semitism – or, if we are cynical about the lengths states will go to promote their interests, to help generate anti-semitism to justify the existence of a Jewish state and encourage Jews to immigrate.

So from the moment of its birth, the ideas of “Israel” and “anti-semitism” became disturbingly enmeshed – and in ways almost impossible to disentangle.

For most of Israel’s history, that fact could be obscured in the west because western governments and media were little more than cheerleaders for Israel. Criticism of Israel was rarely allowed into the mainstream, and when it did appear it was invariably limited to condemnations of the occupation. Even then, there was rarely any implication of systematic wrongdoing on Israel’s part.

That changed only when the exclusive grip of the western corporate media over information dissemination weakened, first with the emergence of the internet and satellite channels like Al Jazeera, and more recently and decisively with social media. Criticism of Israel’s occupation has increasingly broadened into suspicions about its enduring bad faith. Among more knowledgeable sections of the progressive left, there is a mounting sense that Israel’s unwillingness to end the occupation is rooted in its character as a Jewish state, and maybe its intimate ideological relationship with anti-semitism.

These are vital conversations to be having about Israel, and they are all the more pressing now that Israel has shown that it is fully prepared to gun down in public unarmed Palestinians engaging in civil disobedience. Many, many more Palestinians are going to have their lives taken from them unless we aggressively pursue and resolve these conversations in ways that Israel is determined to prevent.

And this is why the “kind of anti-semitic” confusion – a confusion that Israel precisely needs and encourages – is so dangerous. Because it justifies – without evidence – shutting down those conversations before they can achieve anything.

The Livingstone problem

In 2016 Ken Livingstone tried to initiate a conversation about Zionism and its symbiotic relationship with anti-semites, in this case with the early Nazi leadership. We can’t understand what Israel is, why the vast majority of Jews once abhorred Zionism, why Israel is so beloved of modern anti-semites like the alt-right and hardcore Christian evangelicals, why Israel cannot concede a Palestinian state, and why it won’t abandon the occupation without overwhelming penalties from the international community, unless we finish the conversation Livingstone started.

Which is why that conversation was shut down instantly with the accusation that it was “anti-semitic”. But Livingstone’s crime is one no mainstream commentator wants to address or explain. If pressed to do so, they will tell you it is because his comments were perceived to be “offensive” or “hurtful”, or because they were “unnecessary” and “foolish”, or because they brought the Labour party “into disrepute” (Labour’s version of “kind of anti-semitic”). No one will tell you what was substantively anti-semitic about his remark.

Similarly, when pressed to explain how Hanitzsch’s cartoon of Netanyahu was anti-semitic, Wolf digressed to the entirely irrelevant issue of his nationality.

This is the power and the danger of this “kind of anti-semitic” logic, and why it needs to be confronted and exposed for the hollow shell it is.

A mural becomes anti-semitic

The next stage in the evolution of the “kind of anti-semitic” argument is already discernible, as I have warned before. It is so powerful that it has forced Corbyn to concede, against all evidence, that Labour has an anti-semitism problem and to castigate himself, again against all evidence, for indulging in anti-semitic thinking.

Corbyn has been on the defensive since a “controversy” erupted in March over his expression of support back in 2012 for street art and opposition to censorship amid a row over a London mural that was about to be painted over.

After he was elected Labour leader in 2015, the first efforts were made to weaponise the mural issue to damage him. The deeply anti-Corbyn Jewish Chronicle newspaper was – like Hanitzsch’s boss at the Süddeutsche Zeitung – initially unsure whether the mural was actually anti-semitic. Then the newspaper simply highlighted concerns that it might have “anti-semitic undertones”. By spring 2018, when the row resurfaced, the status of the mural had been transformed. Every mainstream British commentator was convinced it was “clearly” and “obviously” anti-semitic – and by implication, Corbyn had been unmasked as an anti-semite for supporting it.

Again, no one wanted to debate how it was anti-semitic. The artist has said it was an image of historical bankers, most of whom were not Jewish, closely associated with the capitalist class’s war on the rest of us. There is nothing in the mural to suggest he is lying about his intention or the mural’s meaning. And yet everyone in the “mainstream” is now confident that the mural is anti-semitic, even though none of them wants to specify what exactly is anti-semitic about it.

The 1 per cent off-limits

Much else is rapidly becoming “anti-semitic”. It is an indication of how quickly this slippage is occuring that repeating now a slogan of the Occupy Movement from only seven years ago – that we are ruled by a “global elite” and the “1 per cent” – is cited as proof of anti-semitism. The liberal New Statesman recently ran an article dedicated to proving that the articulation of basic socialist principles – including ideas of class war and the 1 per cent – was evidence of anti-semitism.

On Frankie Boyle’s popular TV show last week, comedian David Baddiel was allowed to misrepresent – unchallenged – an opinion poll that found 28 per cent of Corbyn supporters agreed with the statement “the world is controlled by a secretive elite”. Baddiel asserted, without any evidence, that when they spoke of a global elite the respondents were referring to Jews. What was this assumption based on? A hunch? A sense that such a statement must be “kind of anti-semitic”?

Lots of young people who support Corbyn have never heard of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, and have little idea about Der Sturmer or Nazi propaganda. More likely when they think of a secretive global elite, they imagine not a cabal of Jews but faceless global corporations they feel powerless to influence and a military industrial complex raking in endless profits by engineering endless wars.

The mystification of anti-semitism is so dangerous because it can be exploited for any end those who dominate the public square care to put it to – whether it be sacking a cartoonist, justifying Israel’s slaughter of Palestinians, destroying a progressive party leader, or preventing any criticism of a turbo-charged neoliberal capitalism destroying our planet.

Bitcoin, Innovation of Money and Reinventing Activism

Bitcoin’s price explosion made news headlines this last year. Topics of digital assets entered onto dinner tables and friendly chats at work places. Fever of the digital gold rush that has swept mainstream finance became contagious. Institutional funds are now entering into cryptos, seemingly hedging their bets with their “sugar high” bubble economy. Jamie Dimon, the JPMorgan CEO who previously slammed Bitcoin as a fraud is said to be regretting his claim. He now praises the blockchain, the underlying technology of Bitcoin. Goldman Sachs recently acknowledged Bitcoin as money, comparable to gold. The firm is already setting up a trading desk for digital currencies.

While Bitcoin is gaining traction in financial circles, Naval Ravikant, the CEO and co-founder of Angel List saw this technology’s profound socio-political impact. He noted, “Bitcoin is a tool for freeing humanity from oligarchs and tyrants, dressed up as a get-rich-quick scheme.” WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange also recognized the revolutionary power of this money based on math. At the end of 2017, from the Ecuadorian embassy in London where he has been confined more than five years, Assange tweeted, “Bitcoin is a real Occupy Wall Street”.

What is this disruptive force of Bitcoin? The Occupy movement that had spread over dozens of US cities and across many countries created a wave of uprising. It inspired a new vision of politics outside of the electoral arena. Now, years after Occupy’s demise, this new innovation of decentralized digital currency could offer a way to reinvent activism, helping all around the world to organize and create radical social change.

The era of creditocracy

First, let’s look back at the rise of OccupyWallStreet protest. The movement kicked off in New York’s financial district in 2011, uniting people from all walks of life under the banner of the 99% against economic inequality and corporate greed. Occupy emerged within a cultural milieu of transparency, spearheaded by WikiLeaks’ disclosure of documents pertaining to government secrecy and corruption.

The insurgency in lower Manhattan marked a peak of disillusionment about the current state of democracy. People began to wake up to an invisible hand of the market – 1% global oligarchy, that was controlling resources through money based on debt. In the article “Student Debt Slavery: Bankrolling Financiers on the Backs of the Young”, attorney and author Ellen Brown described the advantage of “slavery by debt” over owned slavery, which was an idea argued in a document reportedly circulated during the American Civil War among British and American banking sectors. Brown showed that while slaves need to be housed and fed, “free men could be kept enslaved by debt, by paying wages insufficient to meet their costs of living”.

This debt-based financial system has become what professor and veteran of the Occupy movement Andrew Ross calls a “creditocracy”. In this, ordinary people with student loans, medical and credit card bills have become indentured servants. Ross explains how it is the Western version of a “debt trap”, where debts are piled up with monthly credit card balances or underwater mortgages that cannot be ever paid to ensure continuing revenue for the banks. He notes how this is similar to the developing countries that fell under IMF dependency in the course of the 1970s and 1980s.

In the era of creditocracy, ubiquitous anonymous corporations keep the force of control invisible, making people obey their rules. MasterCard tells their customers who the master is with exuberant charge-back fees and penalties. VISA maintains US hegemony of the world, denying access to finance for refugees and immigrants and assisting US government sanctions on countries like Russia and Iran that challenge dollar supremacy. This is a two-tiered financial patronage network that exempts fees and extends credit lines to the rich and privileged, while it exploits the poor by seizing their funds and engaging in predatory lending.

Creditocracy now expands around the globe and threatens civil liberties. Recently, PayPal came under scrutiny, with their failure to provide services in the West Bank and Gaza, while making its service available in Israel. This payment processing company was accused by pro-Palestinian activists as enacting “online apartheid” against Palestinians.

Vision of new democracy

It is people’s indignation against this systemic economic oppression that sparked revolt at the center of world finance seven years ago. Occupy was unprecedented in its scale and its unique style of no central coordination or formal leadership. It was a move away from electoral politics and top-down decision making to the principle of consensus and direct action, which activist scholar David Graeber described as “the defiant insistence on acting as if one is already free”.

During the early days of this movement, the mainstream media criticized demonstrators for not having a clear mandate. Yet this lack of demand was a strength and refusal to recognize the legitimacy of power structures that protesters were challenging. What unfolded then was a new form of activism that truly channels uncompromising power of ordinary people. It was an activism that doesn’t acknowledge external power or seek for permission. Instead it encourages people to change society by simply building new alternatives.

This was a seed for a real democracy that is horizontal and participatory. It was manifested through activists’ effort of creating people’s libraries, media hubs and kitchens and forming a new way of governance through mic check and General Assemblies. This vision of organizing society through mutual aid and voluntary association went viral, spreading with internet memes and Twitter hashtags, creating solidarity across borders.

Cypherpunks write code

Occupy’s permissionlessness, without a need to refer to central authority, is embodied at the core of Bitcoin. The idea of Bitcoin was introduced in a whitepaper published in the midst of the 2008 financial crisis. It is clear that the anonymous creator of Bitcoin was concerned about deep corruption of government and their mishandling of monetary policies. This was shown in the message embedded in the genesis block of the block-chain. It contained a headline of a newspaper that read “The Times 03/Jan/2009 Chancellor on brink of second bailout for banks”.

Richard Gendal Brown, chief technology officer at software firm R3, provides a summary of the invention of this open source software:

Bitcoin is the world’s first system of digital cash, which allows peer-to-peer value transfer over the internet with no reliance on third parties. It is built on a new invention, the decentralized global asset register. This global asset register is the world’s first decentralized consensus system.

What is behind the protocol of a truly peer-to-peer currency is a revolutionary mind that refuses to obey the command from above and declares independence from all that claim authority. This fierce autonomy is the moral value of cypherpunks, a group that emerged in the late 1980s, who saw a potential of cryptography as a tool to shift balance of power between the individual and the state.

Cryptographer and one of the notable cypherpunks Adam Back, who was cited in Bitcoin’s whitepaper for his invention of Hashcash described the ethos of cypherpunks as that of writing code. This is an idea of making changes by creating alternatives. Back noted how pressuring politicians and promoting issues through the press tends to be slow and create an uphill battle. He pointed out how instead of engaging in the political process through campaigns and appealing to authority for changes, people can simply “deploy technology and help people do what they consider to be their legal right”. Then society would later adjust itself to reflect these values.

Network of resistance

While the mainstream media is obsessed with Bitcoin’s price and investors speculating gains in their portfolios, this technology’s defining feature lies in censorship resistance. The integrity of Bitcoin relies on decentralization, which is a method to attain security by flattening the network and removing levers of control, rather than performing checks and balances of power that tends to concentrate through control points inherent within the system, seen in the existing model of governance. This unprecedented security creates a network of resistance resilient to any forces of control.

When governments that are meant to defend civil rights act against their own people, Bitcoin preserves the network value of public right to free association and speech and distributes this to all users. This right was claimed and exercised in real time. In facing the illegal financial blockades imposed by Bank of America, VISA, MasterCard, PayPal and Western Union, WikiLeaks showed ordinary people how they can circumvent and combat economic censorship with Bitcoin.

As the whistleblowing site continues to publish CIA Vault publications, political persecution intensifies. Now the Freedom of the Press Foundation, an organization that was founded to tackle attacks on free press, decided to terminate processing of donations for WikiLeaks. In response to this new political pressure, Assange urged supporters to continue making contributions with cryptocurrencies and unleash the power of free speech that belongs to all.

As trusted institutions and governments are failing, people around the world are finding their own path of self-determination. In Argentina, as the Peso has been steadily falling since the country’s 2002 economic collapse, Bitcoin adoption has been accelerating. Bitcoin historian and former tech banker who goes by Tweeter handle @_Kevin_Pham noted, “Bitcoin’s killer app can be found in Venezuela, it’s called: ‘not dying.’” As hyperinflation is rendering their national currency worthless, Venezuelans are flocking to Bitcoin as a safe haven to store their savings.

In Iran, the government came on full force, engaging in internet censorship and cracking down on protesters who revolted in response to the country’s long economic stagnation. It was reported that leading up to the civil unrest, the Bitcoin community has grown with more people entering into cryptocurrencies. In Afghanistan, a company that advocates Afghan women’s computer literacy empowered women with bitcoin, helping them gain financial sovereignty.

Permissionless activism

The Occupy movement ignited aspirations for the rule of the common people, verified and upheld by a network consensus created through people’s trust in one another. Yet the enthusiasm for real democracy that was mobilized through social media could not withstand state coordinated police crackdowns. With the eviction of encampments and squares, people’s power that had arisen then dissipated.

Now, with Bitcoin surging, a new stream of disruption is emerging. These old financial engineers aim to protect their dying fraudulent world of central banks by upending their speculative casino with this hyped crypto market. As incumbent banks geared with regulatory arms try to control the bubbling civic power, perhaps this technology calls people to rise once again to halt financial aristocracy by innovating the ‘activism without permission’ – this time with better security and robustness.

Knowledge of computer science empowered by the ethics of cypherpunks now provides a viable platform for people to occupy society with their heart’s imagining. Sovereign individuals can now defy the rule of creditors and create their own rules, ending financial apartheid and discrimination. They can coalesce to fund independent media they support with their money and defund wars that they oppose. Permissionless activism can bring a jubilee, making rapacious debt obsolete through each individual simply walking away from this erroneous system, uniting with those who share goals to create a new economy.

The imagination of this invention opened the potential for a radically different future. From Rosa Parks’ refusal to give up her seat on the bus in Montgomery Alabama to occupiers’ adamant refusal to make demands, Bitcoin’s networked consensus creates an autonomous currency that allows all to move struggles of the past forward.

The rise of Bitcoin is poised to disrupt the world of creditocracy, as we know it. As the price rally continues, many now proclaim the rise and rise of Bitcoin! The question that remains is: Can our imagination rise with the revolutionary force this technology brings? Bitcoin already unleashed a potent power within. The future is now in our hands. It is up to each person to claim this power and show the world what democracy really looks like.

 

Preparing For The Coming Transformation

The year 2017 has been another active year for people fighting on a wide range of fronts. The Trump administration has brought many issues that have existed for years out into the open where they are more difficult to deny – racism, colonialism, imperialism, capitalism and patriarchy and the crises they create. More people are activated and greater connections between the fronts of struggle are creating a movement of movements. These are positive developments, bright spots in difficult times. They are the seeds of transformative change that we can nurture and grow if we act with intention.

The crises we face have been building for decades. They are reaching a point of extremism that will create an even greater response by people. What that response is, where it goes and what it accomplishes are up to all of us to determine.

The overreach by the plutocrats in power may bring a boomerang effect, energizing the population to take action and demand the changes we desire and need. We may reach a moment, a turning point, when the movements for economic, racial and environmental justice, as well as peace, can win significant changes, beyond the comfort zones of those in power. The boomerang will only occur if we educate and organize for it, and its size will also depend on us.

We have no illusions that this work will be easy. Those in power will do all that they can to derail, misdirect and suppress our efforts. Our tasks are to resist their tactics and maintain our focus on our end goals. This requires understanding how social movements succeed and being clear in our demands for transformative change.

We see several key areas where people are energized to work for changes that are opportunities to expand the current movement of movements into a powerful force that will overcome the stranglehold by the corporate duopoly parties. This is the first of two articles to help prepare us for the work ahead. In the second article, we will describe these key issues in greater depth and what we need to do to create the transformative moment we need.

The Long Development of this Transformative Era

The era of transformation has been developing over many decades. If we view it through presidential administrations, a frame of reference used commonly in the United States, we see that both major parties represent the interests of the wealthy and corporations, not the majority of the population, and that they effectively divide and weaken popular movements.

After Bill Clinton’s administration loosened regulations on finance, setting the stage for the 2008 crash, brought in trade agreements like NAFTA and weakened the social safety net, and George W. Bush’s administration expanded military aggression around the world and the domestic security state, as well as further enriching the wealthy, people were hungry for change. Barack Obama effectively built his ‘hope and change’ campaign around this desire, vaguely but eloquently promising what people wanted. His words allowed people to imagine that a transformation was coming.

Obama raised expectations, but he did not fulfill them. His cabinet was made up of Wall Streeters from Citigroup. He continued and expanded foreign wars, the wealth divide grew and tens of millions went without healthcare even after his private insurance-based Affordable Care Act became law. The frustration that had been building during the Clinton-Bush years burst onto the scene with Occupy, Fight for $15, Black Lives Matter, debt resistance, immigration reform, Idle No More and other fronts of struggle.

After Occupy, the media told us the people’s struggle went away, but, as we show in the daily movement news reporting on Popular Resistance, all of those struggles expanded. The corporate media’s failure to cover the national mass protest movement does not change reality — the resistance movements continue, are growing and are impacting popular opinion and policies.

Where We Are and What We Must Do

In 2013, we wrote a two part series describing the status of the movement and what the movement must do. In the December 2013 article, “Closer than We Think” we described the eight stages of social movements, an analysis by long-time civil rights and anti-nuclear activist, Bill Moyer. The movement had gone through the “Take-Off”, Stage Four of the social movement when encampments covered the country, seemingly overnight, and brought the issues of the wealth divide, racist policing, climate change, student debt and other issues to the forefront. The meme of the 99% against the 1% illustrated the conflict between people power and the power holders. We passed through Stage Five, “the Landing,” where the encampments disappeared and people asked, “What happened? Did we accomplish anything?”

Our second article in January 2014 focused on the tasks of the movement and explained that we were now in Stage Six, the final stage before victory. This is a long-term phase that could last years where the goal is to build broad national consensus of 70% to 90% support among the public for the goals of the movement and to mobilize people as effective change agents.

During this phase, the contradictions in the system become more obvious to people. For example, as the United States and world experience the harsh realities of climate change in massive storms, widespread fires, droughts and famine, the government’s response is inadequate. When Obama was president his administration was an anchor on the world, weakening international climate and trade agreements. His secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, used her influence to promote fracking. The Trump administration has gone further, denying climate change, erasing words and phrases that describe it from government reports, silencing scientists and undermining the inadequate steps made to confront climate change that were put in place in the Obama era.

The inadequate response to the climate crisis is one example of many multiple crisis situations that exist in which the government does not respond, responds inadequately or even takes actions that make these crises worse. In some cases, the power holders go too far, as we see in the recently passed tax bill, designed to protect the donor class, and in abusive police practices as the racism and violence of our society are exposed. The overreaction in the end helps build the national consensus we need to achieve our objectives.

The contradictions arise because there are obvious solutions to each crisis we face, but those in power refuse to put them in place. National consensus for these solutions grows during this phase, and the failures of the money-dominated political system become more obvious.

As a result, a transformative moment is building now. It can be seen in the 2016 presidential campaigns where people showed frustration with both corporate parties. Electoral challenges inside the parties showed populist anger based on hundreds of millions of people struggling every day to survive in an unfair economy. Donald Trump built his campaign around economic insecurity from the right and Senator Bernie Sanders did the same from the left. Now, Trump is betraying conservative populists with economic and healthcare policies that add to their insecurity and with the wealthiest cabinet in US history serving the interests of Wall Street, the self-interest of elected officials and adding to the distrust of the DC duopoly. The realization of Trump’s betrayal is only beginning to show itself in the lives of those who supported him.

The Democrats have been struggling to come to grips with how they lost to Donald Trump. A large part of the party is in denial, blaming their failures on the fiction of Russiagate — claiming the Russians were responsible for their loss rather than a widely-disliked candidate who represented Wall Street and war for her entire career. The Democrats continue their internal divide: the divide between Wall Street donors who want the party to serve their interests and voters who want the party to represent their interests. Invariably the Democrats will be unable to turn their backs on their donors and will nominate a fake change agent who will spout popular progressive rhetoric and dash those hopes when in office.

It is critical for us to step out of the limitations of two and four year election cycles and recognize that social transformation does not arise by electing the perceived least evil. Social transformation occurs through a people-powered movement of movements that arises over decades of struggle and shifts the political reality so that the power holders must respond.

Issues Driving the Backlash 

There will be a backlash. It will look to the Democrats like a backlash against Trump’s extremism, but it will be broader. It will be a backlash against the extremism of the corporate duopoly. Their bi-partisan policies always put the wealthy and big business interests first. The boomerang will be built on the conflict between the necessities of the people and the planet vs. the greed of the wealthy.

There are a number of fundamental issues that are priorities for large majorities of the population, around which people are mobilizing and where national consensus is developing. They have the potential to connect our movements into a powerful force.

One of our tasks is to develop clear demands so that we cannot be side-tracked by false or partial solutions. If these fundamental issues are addressed through bold and transformative solutions, they will shift the political culture and our political system in a significant way towards the people-powered future we need. They will create change at the root causes of the crises we face.

These transformative issues include economic inequality, lack of access to health care, ensuring Internet freedom and a people’s media, confronting climate change and environmental disasters, ending US Empire and militarism at home, and addressing domestic human rights abuses, whether it is exploitation of workers, mass incarceration, racism or disrespect for Indigenous sovereignty. Throughout all of these issues there is a thread of racial injustice so our struggles must not just solidify around class issues, but must also solidify around the necessity of ending systemic racism.

We will address these issues and next steps in greater depth in the first newsletter of the new year. We wish all of you a peaceful week and hope you are able to spend time with loved ones. We are committed to being with you through the struggle and to doing all we can to stop the machine and create a new world.

Media as Ideological Consumerism

Living on the canals and rivers of London for many years, I came within close quarters of some of that city’s most desperate inhabitants, namely those who live on narrowboats because living in London has, in recent years, become horrifically expensive and beyond the means of most, even when flat sharing. Yet, reading the media reports from the BBC, a media corporation which is obligatorily funded by British residents, it would be easy to think that there is no economic inequality in the country, that homelessness is not rising at record rates, and that all the British are just thrilled about the impending royal wedding next May.

The fact is that media often sells the public an image that functions in diametric opposition to their best interests. We have seen this in the analysis of U.S. elections and how conservatives consistently vote against their own interests when selecting the best candidate and we are seeing this in recent years with the media’s liberal use of “clickbait” as headlines mislead the reader as we are drawn in only to find a flimsily concocted story.

“Fake news,” ironically one of the President Trump’s favorite phrases, is precisely how he gained access to the White House.  Still, we are given so much fake news that we must struggle to find the least fake news to read during our morning coffee.  We are living in an era where even a morsel of truth is better than the vast numbers of publications where “news” has been replaced by ideological dogma, such as the new millennium’s penchant for prescriptive list of items that women must do or stop doing.

Media has radically shifted its mandate in recent years having come to take on the role of the advertiser, selling an ideal lifestyle and political ideology, instead of reporting on the mechanisms of power which are forcing ideology forward, revealing who is sponsoring these narratives, how these ideological mechanisms are being bought and sold, and why. I am most concerned that in an era where the average American university graduate is indebted for an average of 21 years to repay student loans while their salary is not commensurate to their investment and more and more people are surviving simply by accumulating debt on their credit cards.  The economic crisis has been largely cast as a government one, but the reality is that media has played a large role in towing a line of personal wealth, despite the fact that 68 percent of Americans have destroyed their credit before age 30 and credit repair will likely be their only way forward under a lifetime of growing economic despair.

How did the media come to dominate the role of ideological mouthpiece for consumerism instead of being a transparent vehicle which reports and queries such ideologies?  It would be useful here to examine the interconnectivity between these media messages where economic hardship is swapped out for images of glamour. Certainly, there is a well-known link between how advertising promotes a product through creating a desire for said product. But how might media function to promote ideology in much the same way that advert campaigns sell perfume or car tires?

In Ways of Seeing Berger discusses this link between image and how people perceive themselves:

Publicity is the culture of the consumer society. It propagates through images that society’s belief in itself. There are several reasons why these images use the language of oil painting.  Oil painting, before it was anything else, was a celebration of private property. As an art-form it derived from the principle that you are what you have. It is a mistake to think of publicity supplanting the visual art of post-Renaissance Europe; it is the last moribund form of that art.

Here Berger analyses the notion that somehow art is “pure” and devoid of any commercial value as he demonstrates how economic structures absorb messages from culture and the art world to sell these repackaged messages once again. Berger’s thesis?  That “without social envy, glamour cannot exist”:

Glamour is a new idea…when everybody’s place in society is more or less determined by birth, personal envy is a less familiar emotion.  And without social envy, glamour cannot exist. Envy becomes a common emotion in a society that has moved toward democracy and then stopped halfway, where status is theoretically open to everyone but enjoyed by few.

The oil painting and the publicity image are not so dissimilar:  reality is based on paintings, art reflects reality,  and then art becomes co-opted by media to give prestige to the product when sold. It is the value of the artwork as possession, as having x value, that elicits this cycle of art as ideology. The consumer will forever want this ideal because what she is buying is ephemeral.

The well-known television series, Mad Men, was in many ways a critique of how media has taken hold of our society, of culture, and of the individual from herself, such that the focus of the plot ultimately fell to the protagonist whose job it was to show us how shallow we all are in the face of consumerism.  As Don Draper states: “People want to be told what to do so badly that they’ll listen to anyone.”  Emotional lack and need feeds the machinery of consumerism as ideology and ideology as product.

John Berger’s task in Ways of Seeing and later the BBC series of the same name, demonstrates how markets create their own demand by utilizing emotion—be it glamour, pleasure, possession, prestige, future dreams—in order to ensure its hereafter? Or might things have changed since the 1970s?

Berger states in the narration of his BBC show: “The highest value of this civilization is the individual ego,” and he demonstrates his point through the images and messages of a British advertisement for Pimms. He leafs through the magazine and placed in juxtaposition to this advert is a story about refugees in East Pakistan with an accompanying text appealing to a political conscious and the next page, an ad for another alcoholic beverage Martini. There is, according to Berger, no coherence between these images and text: “Reality itself becomes unrecognisable.”  And this is salient point especially today. What do words mean when images of Pakistan, England, and elsewhere are juxtaposed to realities of “over there” where the fundamental message is that we deserve to drink Pimms and those people over there deserve what happens to them:  “What happens out there, happens to strangers whose fate is meant to be different from ours.”

Today, two generations after Berger’s Ways of Seeing (1972) was released on the BBC, we have an explosion of images coming to us through television, print media, and the Internet, all which function to imbue “truths” through their hyper-multiplicity and repetition.  There is no change in the way that we are sold “things” as objects or in the form of ideology.  Wealth abounds virtually such that the impoverished reader is allowed to identify with this mediatic fiction which manipulates economic inequality, where those on one side are deserving of wealth, those on the other side are deserving of death. It is the ultimate in naturalizing social, political, and ethnic hierarchy.

“Whatever happens in the dream is meant to happen to us,” says Berger.  Publicity implicates that there are simply those who are meant to be included, and necessarily those whom it excludes are negligible.  The fact that you matter also includes the unfortunate fact in our world today, many others simply do not. Ideology as media message attempts to render invisible this “sad fact” replacing political analysis within the surrogate model of a new, happier reality. Indeed, that dreams is meant to happen uniquely to you.

Desire, glamour, future dreams, social mobility—these are all part of how products are advertised and marketed.  The idea that “you are unique” hinges upon this social suspension of reality and the belief that the subject really does have a choice from a plurality of possibilities (ie. Pimms versus a humanitarian disaster) while paradoxically being unique in the world of choices.  The images might say multiplicity, but the message—as Don Draper knows all too well—is choice.  She is one person buying this product which means she is not only unique, but she holds the power.

What happens when you take advertising from the 1960’s and analyze it in the terms of the information highway of our contemporary world?  How has media changed and how might the consumer body (and consumerism) have changed in a world where we have billions of images and messages floating around cyberspace every second?

In Amusing Ourselves to Death Neil Postman compares the Middle Ages (belief in the authority of religion) with our contemporary world (belief in the authority of science (58). Along with science, technology, and orbiting narratives of progress (60), Postman argues, comes a new problem which he calls the “information glut” which leads to “information chaos.” According to Postman, none of our problems are due to insufficient information, but from a lack of the ability to analyze and prioritize it. We can’t answer the question of the purpose our information is supposed to serve. So managing information has become the key issue (J. Beniger, The Control Revolution: Technological and Economic Origins of the Information Society). Postman goes on to explain the cultural impact of printing, and aligns printing, telegraphy, photography, broadcasting and computers as the technological driving forces in changing cultures which together give us access to instant, indiscriminate information.

The result is that we accommodate ourselves to new technology in a world where technological progress has become the chief aim of life (70).  Postman applies this notion of technological progress to advertising contending that advertising is less about the product and more about the consumer. Market research, not product research, is key today. And the questions of marketing and advertising are no longer how to reach the consumer but rather what is wrong with the consumer? How can this product be seen to fix that other, fictional problem?  Postman views that the problem of media is not really about advertising itself but the holistic worldview of technopoly which brings together concepts of progress and consumption, and where tradition is the obstacle (ie. he describes Christmas a “culture rape”).

During London’s “Occupy LSX” in 2011, I was shooting a film at the protest locations and interviewing many people who came in daily to participate as well as those who were living in tents outside St Paul’s Cathedral.  The occupation site was disheveled, there was no main organizer or leader of this occupation as hierarchies were denounced in this movement, chaos ruled and handmade signs abounded.  I walked around the camp daily filming and talking with protestors. Many—most even—would cite quotations from the Internet hit film Zeitgeist when I would ask them what they hoped to accomplish.  Ostensibly from the Left, many of these individuals would talk about the “system,” “the Man,” and most would recite this line as if a memorized chorus: “One day, machines will do everything and we won’t have to work.” I would interject and say, “But most everyone I know loves to work.  Don’t we need work to fulfill ourselves? I do!”   Another said, “But that is how the system wants you to think? There is enough money out there that we don’t really need to work.  One day we can all be sitting at home all day playing video games.” I responded that this seemed like a very bleak future, and a boring one at that.  I asked them to tell me more about this “system” and none could elaborate it aside from clichés of our being brainwashed, our being forced into this “system,” our being unhappy in “this system.”

By the end of my weeks filming at St Pauls, it was unclear to me what this system was or if their system was any different in structure to ethos.  In having discussions like this over several months I came to experience that at the heart of Occupy LSX included zero organization, no plan for understanding its greater constituency, and this protest lacked any coherent message or guiding force.  If anything could have used Don Draper, it was Occupy LSX.  For every single protestor I noted bought their food from the most exploitative of UK food chains, Tesco Supermarket, where £1 of every £8 in the UK retail market goes.  Their actions were in complete contradiction to their words and sadly these protestors did not even realize it.

It was this moment that led me to understand how political activity can mirror the consummation of messages and how advertising has become an irrefutable tool for mass communications today—even if that message is anti-consumerist.  Postman’s technopoly demonstrates how all messages of protest failed (in London) because there was an appeal to rationality whilst the images of the protest were, if anything, anti-rational.  Like LSX needing to find its willing consumer to come into its makeshift tea tent to discuss a future revolution, all advertising projects require the investment in belief.  Postman moves Berger’s connection between rational thought and advertising into a completely new dimension where now the “truth” no longer matters:

By substituting images for claims, the pictorial commercial made emotional appeal, not tests of truth, the basis of consumer decisions. The distance between rationality and advertising is now so wide that it is difficult to remember that there once existed a connection between them. Today, on television commercials, propositions are as scarce as unattractive people. The truth or falsity of an advertiser’s claim is simply not an issue. A McDonald’s commercial, for example, is not a series of testable, logically ordered assertions. It is a drama-a mythology, if you will-of handsome people selling, buying and eating hamburgers, and being driven to near ecstasy by their good fortune. No claims are made, except those the viewer projects onto or infers from the drama. One can like or dislike a television commercial, of course. But one cannot refute it.

Indeed, we may go this far: The television commercial is not at all about the character of products to be consumed. It is about the character of the consumers of products….And so, the balance of business expenditures shifts from product research to market research. The television commercial has oriented business away from making products of value and toward making consumers feel valuable, which means that the business of business has now become pseudo-therapy. The consumer is a patient assured by psycho-dramas.

So the “system” of the protestor living in a tent for half a year would seem to be the holistic social space wherein everyone—these protestors included—recreate their own communities, their own notions of change and even revolution.  Certainly, the “system” is not a unilateral mass of power being speculated onto the multitudes by some overlord. But it is a discourse for reading society and for understanding which individuals take part and which opt out.  When looking very closely at how these new products exist in all their forms—from green energy tools to donations to the Red Cross to helping victims of a natural disaster—we can notice a trend in how the “system” is very much reflective of our cultural and social values, constantly shifting and changing into something else. Thirty years ago North American women were sold on margarine, today they are told it is toxic to the body with informercials running 24/7 about how low density fat will kill you.  Now buying butter makes the subject feel as if life will never end for her.

So if we must speak about “the system”—or any system for that matter—it is the one in which we have made ourselves simultaneous subjects and objects of ideology whereby consuming helps us be better people.  Today the narrative that media tows is very much in line with turning the reader/spectator of news into the subject-object of a political ideology that seeks its own end by amassing believers. In not fulfilling the mandate to reveal the facts and expose “the truth about the facts” as Bill Kovach and Tom Rosenstiel maintain as the role of journalism, we are simply allowing media to become a pipeline for corporate and elite interests.

We can give way to these economic and political giants, or we can demand regulation of media that might allow it be more about investigation and presenting of the facts over political partisanship and ideological pantomime.  To pretend that we are absolutely powerless and surrender ourselves to “the system” does not seem to be a healthy or constructive approach to countering the force of fake news or ideological propagation within media.  It is up to us to hold our politicians and media accountable.

They say: There is No Alternative

We are living in times of increased global economic injustice, suspicion against the establishment and a political terrain that is being redrawn to such an extent that few analysts really understand what is happening. Rarely have we seen such political mobility and possibility for change. But the ruling political consensus in Europe and the western world seems unyielding: “There is no alternative”.

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The political and economic framework tells us that it is hard work, credits and consumption that the citizen must relate to. And when this machinery does not deliver, it is the citizen who takes responsibility. A time of considerable levels of unemployment and social exclusion is the most common medicine. The underlying message is that a continued development of democracy is not possible; which is why another society, characterized by participation, tolerance, security and quality of life cannot be realized either. Why do politicians’ ability to deliver stop at everyday politics, blocking strategies and just fishing for votes, and why is it no longer possible to discuss visions and a further development of our society? What is it that caused everything to be locked in a vice?

Sometime in the 80s, the free market had to be given even freer rein as it surely “knew what was best for everyone”. Politics was to be detached from the economy while banks were given wider freedom to act as creditors in order to be able to boost consumption and growth. Politicians and economists agreed: “There is no alternative”.

The increased lending led to debt crises in the 80s and 90s; the old, familiar story about money and credits lacking coverage until they are forced to be repaid, thus revealing the con. We know it in everyday vocabulary as a “real estate bubble”, “finance bubble” etc.

With globalization, capitalism grew out of its national costume. The boundless financial industry set the new world culture. Everything had to move faster, be easier, be temporary and follow the rapid twists and turns of the financial markets. “If there are no jobs in your area, uproot your family and move somewhere else.” The connection to political parties and unions dwindled; the old society was perceived as rigid, slow and unworkable.

In this new era of financing, people were urged to go beyond their own capacity to pay by consuming with their future income. Another way to circumvent the natural laws was the new consumerism. The simple principle that demand creates supply had expired. Instead, supply was first created, after which, with the help of marketing, demand as well as the necessary consumption culture was introduced, as illusory as tobacco advertising and bank credits. There are hundreds of bread brands in your supermarket, but not quite the one you want, right?

The new society characterized by individualization, efficiency, strategic thinking and less cohesion slowly emerged from the 90s and into the 21st century. The ideological breadth of politics in the 70s had shrunk to a red-green-blue alloy; a unanimous work- and consumption ideal; a culture originally created with a liberal intent now became a period of political narrow-mindedness.

Then came the 2008 financial crisis; the 150th since the late 19th century. The same repetitive process of interest rate cuts, increased lending and bursting bubbles. Millions of people were hit by unemployment, lost their homes and were forced to pay for the financial feast when countries had to skimp on health care in order to pay interest rates. Politicians and economists in the western world nevertheless agreed: “There is no alternative”.

The politicians’ democratic contracts with the citizens were no longer possible to maintain. The old principle of letting politics control the worst inventions of capitalism had, in a few decades, been transformed into allowing them instead to protect the financial world from too much democratic invention. Politicians’ solidarity with the finance industry became stronger than that with the citizens. A new caste of those in power emerged, a layer, a hybrid of politicians, economists and technocrats, an ever-deeper establishment.

Above this layer, a clique of powerful oligarchs, especially in the financial industry, has strengthened its position. They act beyond national borders and regardless of countries’ state budgets, unemployment, material and social misery; unquestioned and protected in the name of globalization.

Over the years and strangely enough to the astonishment of many, populism and the criticism of those in power has increased. The Occupy movement after 2010 should have been an alarm call. The prolonged breach of contract between the rulers and the masses has created a protectionist prairie fire all over the western world on the theme “We’ve had enough!”.

The threat of the European Central Bank and EU politicians in 2015 to close Greece’s banks and openly reject a democratic referendum was an assault; they might as well have rolled in with tanks, but that would have even more blatantly dented the illusion that the EU stands for peace. When democracy in Greece was put out of action, Europe’s deep establishment stood silently watching. They probably thought: “There is no alternative”.

Destructive extremism, antagonism and resignation over the way society evolves is not created by undemocratic forces or political loonies, it is created and maintained by all our common politicians, by EU technocrats, lobbyists and other influential people in our society. They argue that people’s dissatisfaction threatens “the democracy” but their democracy is merely a mantra, a washed-out club badge, pie-in-the-sky with populistic connotations to make people swallow a societal structure which passed its sell by date long ago. This cannot be diverted simply as a matter of correct or incorrect facts; it is a question of a proper social culture or not.

The options consist of a long-term shift in the view of democracy. Politicians must return to their employers, the voters, and guarantee the most basic economic conditions. Health care must be released from economic frenzy and all the ill-health and pessimism it creates. It is time to delouse society of wrong thinking, such as that there are insufficient financial resources while at the same time a small percentage of the population possesses enormous wealth. Also, politics must not be a choice between an economic autocracy or a state autocracy.

Politicians need your help; they need to hear the voice and clear message of the people. They must be directed to completely different politics and to a developed democracy that dares to remake and make right. They will not like it, they will bark, growl and threaten – but there is no alternative.

Resist the Duopoly: Because Judas’s Party Can’t Defeat Trump’s

Author’s Note: This is the second and final part of my call-to-arms series “The REAL Trump Resistance: An Anti-Duopoly Occupy.” Given the importance I attach to its message, it’s written to be understood on its own. But for still deeper understanding—especially for supporters of third parties—please read Part 1.

REAL Anti-Trump Resistance: Grassroots War on Our Diseased Duopoly

As Henry David Thoreau quotably put it, “There are a thousand hacking at the branches of evil to one who is striking at the roots.” And if mainstream media is any guide, there are many thousands hacking at the branches of the evil Trump administration to none who are striking at its roots. But, of course, mainstream media, self-censored by the profit-making agendas of its ever-fewer corporate conglomerate owners, never goes to the roots of anything. Least of all does it go to the grassroots, where the only principled resistance to Trump—the only resistance not contaminated by corporate, Deep State, or partisan agendas—actually exists.

As members of that grassroots resistance—the only group with a serious, pinpoint diagnosis of the Trump evil—we face a grievous communication problem. But no worse a problem than that faced by Occupy Wall Street when, in the wake of a global financial crisis triggered by a reckless and fraudulent financial system, “Banks got bailed out, we got sold out.”

Considering we face the same corporate media hurdles, we should also consider the Occupy movement’s incontestable success in propagating its message of class warfare between “the 99% and the 1%” despite those hurdles. Indeed, while changing some tactics based on changed political circumstances, we should wholeheartedly embrace the Occupy model of making a movement the megaphone for a political diagnosis mainstream media, left to its own devices, would never dare touch. The real anti-Trump resistance can only succeed as a spontaneous grassroots, Occupy-style movement. Anything else is corporate astro-turfing, and fully merits our movement’s scathing term of contempt— the “McResistance”.

Make no mistake, the Trump administration is a grave evil, fully demanding organized resistance, and I have a serious bone to pick with fellow progressive activists who try to highlight the badness of today’s Democratic Party by claiming it is not. Much as I share—and seek to make nationally shared—their revulsion for today’s Democrats, they only muddy a laser-sharp diagnosis by their attempts to whitewash Trump. As I remarked in Part 1 of this series, Trump is “a Guinness World Records champion for moral, intellectual, and experiential unfitness to lead a global superpower.” And what makes him especially atrocious is that his personal unfitness forces him to delegate (or rather, abdicate) governance to extremist Republican colleagues. As Noam Chomsky (considering Republicans’ commitment to climate destruction) well put it, “The Republican Party is the most dangerous organization in world history.” Anyone who fails to see today’s Republican politicians in comparably grave terms is failing at diagnosis.

Rather than reducing Democrats’ culpability, duly acknowledging the full evil of Trump and today’s Republican Party only increases it exponentially. For, as the rest of this article shall argue, the evil of today’s Democratic Party consists precisely in being the party of Judas. And just as the New Testament Judas—for the sake of his thirty pieces of silver—did not personally crucify Jesus, but only (ultimately and indirectly) turned him over to the brutal Romans, so do Democrats (by incurable addiction to their donors’ silver), betray our nation to utterly brutal Republicans. It is as “the party of Judas,” betraying Americans—above all, the most vulnerable ones—to Republican brutality for sake of donors’ silver, that the real grassroots resistance must oppose Democrats as well as Trump.

Democrats Actually DO Stand for Something: Betrayal

In an insightful recent article, political writer and cartoonist Ted Rall asks, “What do Democrats want?” and answers his own (probably rhetorical) question by saying, “No one knows.” In fact, as a political associate of the penetrating Chris Hedges, and as an astute commentator in his own right, Rall likely knows pretty damn well what Democrats want. So, taking his question as rhetorical, we should read his article as really being about the political messaging of a party split between an outgunned populist wing (tolerated because it gives Dems their last shreds of populist legitimacy) and a controlling corporatist Clinton wing hell-bent on serving the party’s high-rolling donors. Since the party’s controlling corporatists wish neither to commit themselves to too strong a populist message, nor to explicitly state the open secret of whom they really serve, the party’s message does come across as a befuddling muddled mess.

But, for our purposes, Rall’s question can be usefully rephrased as “What do Democrats stand for?” For, unlike Rall’s rhetorical question, our factual one doesn’t require us to look for consistency in the diametrically opposed wants of a controlling corporatist and an outgunned populist party faction. Rather, taking control of the party by its corporatist Clinton faction as fact, and ignoring Democrats’ muddled messaging in favor of their consistent long-term behavior, we can obtain a very clear answer to our question. Namely, today’s Democratic Party stands for betrayalbetrayal of both democracy and the party’s traditional poor and working class base. And—what counts most for our grassroots resistance purposes—Democrats recently cemented their commitment to betrayal by arguing their legal right to betray their voting base in a court of law.

In short, the Democratic National Committee’s assertion of party bosses’ legal right to choose nominees behind closed doors (thereby treating the DNC’s own charter as toilet paper) is a humongous deal—so “nuclear” in its potential damage to the Democratic Party’s reputation—that the political establishment’s mainstream media minions have imposed a virtual blackout on reporting it. So nuclear, I’ll argue here, that a well-orchestrated campaign to spread news of the argument—with the proper contextual framing—could launch a new anti-duopoly Occupy. And the proper contextual framing is that the DNC legal argument doubles down on Democrats’ long recent history as “the party of Judas”—the party of betrayal. The DNC argument, (and this is its greatest significance) in fact, confirms Democrats as an arrogantly unrepentant Judas: a Judas on steroids.

Judas on Steroids: Of Hillary Clinton and Sheldon Cooper

No one I know of would choose Judas as their favorite Biblical character. But if Hillary Clinton were being honest with herself—as she almost never is with anyone outside Wall Street—she very well might. Indeed, Clinton’s leaked statement (from a well-paid private speech to her Wall Street cronies) that politicians need a public and a private position amounts to embracing the political Judas role, offering publicly what the unwashed masses—“the basket of deplorables,” in Clinton’s own words– desire politically while being fully intent on betraying them for whatever she and her fellow oligarchs decide on behind closed doors. A “Judas kiss” is always planned in secret.

It’s especially telling to read the context she provided her Wall Street “best buds” for a politician’s need for public and private positions: “But if everybody’s watching, you know, all of the back room discussions and the deals, you know, then people get a little nervous, to say the least.” A statement that provides especially compelling reason to think Clinton’s real motive for violating State Department rules—and risking national security in the bargain—with her private e-mail server was precisely to keep “everybody” from “watching.” Above all, those really deplorable everybodies who make FOIA requests.

If we imagine for a moment that one of Clinton’s “private positions” is a secret admiration for Judas, we arrive at an excellent analogy for the outrageous stance on betrayal now taken not just by Clinton, but by her entire controlling wing in the Democratic Party—and hence by the DNC. In one hilarious segment of TV’s The Big Bang Theory, resident antisocial physicist Sheldon Cooper is asked whether he really disliked the Christmas special How the Grinch Stole Christmas. Sheldon responds, “On the contrary, I found the Grinch to be a relatable, engaging character.” For Sheldon, the “buzz kill” that utterly spoils the festivities is when the Grinch “succumbed to social convention and returned the presents and saved Christmas.”

For most New Testament readers, Judas is decidedly not “a relatable, engaging character.” In fact, his name has become a historical byword for betrayal, one of the ugliest human traits. If anything makes the Biblical Judas engaging and relatable at all—if also tragic—it’s his remorseful suicide upon realizing the moral enormity of his betrayal. But simply extrapolating from their behavior, one can easily imagine Hillary Clinton—and her whole party-controlling wing of corporatist Democrats—finding their ultimate “buzz kill” in their once-admired Judas’s “succumbing to social convention” by his inexplicable bout of remorse. So they’re determined for just this once to not be like Judas—in the only trait that gives him any redeeming human value at all.

No matter how bad his opponents, a known political Judas—above all one who doubles down on his “Judashood” rather than repenting of it—is incapable of winning elections. Especially when he gets all self-righteous and sanctimonious over it, morally extorting voters into accepting him as his unrepentant, unreformed Judas self by the sheer badness of his opponents. Rewarding the atrocious behavior of a political Judas—above all, an unrepentant, sanctimonious, and bullying one—is guaranteed to repulse voters. That, in a nutshell, is why Democrats lose election after election, betraying us to the lawless brutality of anti-government Republicans.

The party of Judas simply cannot defeat the party of Trump.

The “DNC = Democracy Never Counts” Campaign—Launchpad for a New Occupy?

Social movements are by nature unpredictable, so it’s extremely perilous to predict what will launch one. But since we at Progressive or Bust think an anti-duopoly Occupy-style movement is the only politically effective form the grassroots anti-Trump resistance can take, we’ll soon start a campaign that’s at least a plausible stab at launching such a movement. Whether or not our campaign results in launching the needed movement, we feel anything that sheds public spotlight on the DNC democracy-betraying legal argument—its “Judas argument” is worthwhile in itself.

Although the needed grassroots movement must delegitimize our unspeakably dysfunctional duopoly, our campaign must logically start by attacking Democrats. Democrats, using their subservient corporate media and plutocrat-funded organizing, have substituted their shallow, hacking-at-the-branches “McResistance” for the real grassroots resistance that needs to form. Such a grassroots resistance needs to steal the media stage from the establishment Democrat McResistance—and to simultaneously delegitimize that faux resistance. Ultimately, the delegitimizing message in the one just sketched: that the party of Judas simply can’t defeat the party of Trump—and is therefore unfit to lead the anti-Trump resistance. Publicizing the “nuclear” and radically under-publicized DNC legal argument—framed as an anti-democracy “Judas argument”—will make our case that Democrats have legally formalized their status as “the party of Judas.” If they don’t intend to go on betraying their working class and progressive base, why are they claiming the legal right to do so in court?

We think our proposed “DNC = Democracy Never Counts” campaign has a killer message, one well suited by its logic to launch a grassroots anti-duopoly revolt movement. So naturally, the question arises of what we intend to do to spread it. The answer is that we intend (in the spirit of the Indivisible Guide compiled by Democratic Party operatives to hound Trump Republicans) to relentlessly confront Congressional Democrats with their party’s legal argument by every means of organized civic engagement. We’ll demand that they take a public stand on it, automatically consigning to a well-publicized “Judas list” every Congressional Democrat who fails to take a public stand against it.

Obviously, to carry out such a campaign effectively, we’ll need large numbers of participants. Although I pitched my Part 1 article to show third-party voters the stake they have in an anti-duopoly movement, proponents of reform the Democratic Party from within have much to gain from joining this campaign as well. Obviously, anyone serious about reforming Democrats must seek universal condemnation of the DNC’s anti-democracy legal argument.

“Birddog the Duopoly”—Naming a Movement from Its Key Tactic

A final thought. One preferred tactic of the DNC = Democracy Never Counts campaign—because it’s so effective at both scaring politicians and gaining publicity—will be bird-dogging Congressional Democrats about their stance on the DNC’s “Judas argument.” While initiated by the campaign, the tactic (applied to politicians of both parties) may prove especially suited to the Occupy-style anti-duopoly movement we hope it succeeds in launching. Why? Well, because, to stymie Occupy, the police state (with the connivance of most of our politicians) tightened its screws—both laws and police tactics—to prevent “occupations” from appearing on our streets. That’s why it’s especially appropriate that we birddog politicians—to punish their participation in creating the anti-First Amendment police state. It’s too early to say, but perhaps (as with Occupy), the anti-duopoly movement’s key tactic will give it a name: “Birddog the Duopoly.” But in any case, our success will be measured by making politicians dread us—to the extent they wish they had Occupy back.

If you’d like to get in on the ground floor of this upcoming campaign—and prospective movement—please join our Facebook group Progressive or Bust.

It’s Time to Reawaken the Spirit of Occupy for the Starving Millions

How is it possible that so many people still die from severe malnutrition and lack of access to basic resources in the 21st century? The time has come for a huge resurgence of the spirit that animated Occupy protests from 2011, but now focused on the worsening reality of mass starvation in the midst of plenty.

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The world is now facing an unprecedented emergency of hunger and famine, with a record number of people requiring life-saving food and medical assistance in 2017. Since the start of this year, the largest humanitarian crisis since the end of the second world war has continued to unfold, while the international community has failed to take urgent commensurate action. The extent of human suffering is overwhelming: more than 20 million people are on the brink of starvation, including 1.4 million children – a conservative estimate that is rising by the day. Famine has already been declared in parts of South Sudan, and could soon follow in Somalia, north-east Nigeria and Yemen.

In February, the UN launched its biggest ever appeal for humanitarian funding, calling for $4.4 billion by July to avert looming famines in these four conflict-ridden regions. Yet not even $1 billion has been raised so far, leaving little hope that these vital minimum funds will be raised on time. Last week the UN also sought to raise $2.1 billion for the funding shortfall in Yemen alone – described as the single largest hunger crisis in the world, where two thirds of the population are food insecure. But even this appeal remains barely half funded, which will almost certainly leave millions of neglected Yemenis facing the prospect of dying from starvation or disease.

How is it possible that so many people still die from severe malnutrition and lack of access to basic resources, in a 21st century world that is wealthier and more technologically advanced than ever before? It was only six years ago that East Africa suffered a devastating drought and food crisis, with over a quarter of a million people dying from famine in Somalia (including 133,000 children), and millions more left with a legacy of chronic poverty, hardship and loss of livelihoods.

In the wake of this appalling human catastrophe, the Charter to End Extreme Hunger was drafted by NGOs from across the world, calling on governments and aid agencies to prevent hunger on such a scale ever happening again. But the underlying principle of the Charter to take early and large-scale preventative action has essentially remained unheeded. Early warning signs for the latest crisis were visible months ago, yet the international community again failed to respond in time to avert an entirely predictable and avoidable famine. So much for the “Grand Bargain” struck at the World Humanitarian Summit last year, which agreed to a package of reforms to the complex international emergency system under the empty slogan: ‘One Humanity, Shared Responsibility’.

This fact should be emphasised, as we always have the power to avert and end famines, which are largely man-made and preventable if sufficient resources are redistributed to all people in need. To be sure, the challenge is now historic with increasing “mega-crises” becoming the norm, mostly caused by conflict and civil war rather than natural disasters. Far from stepping up to meet urgent funding appeals, however, donor governments have not even met half of requirements in recent years, leaving many crises and nations pitted against each other for resources. Meanwhile, wealthy nations are recycling old aid pledges as new money, and the purported annual increase in overseas aid is failing to reach the least developed countries. The Trump administration has pledged no new funding to the emergency famine relief appeals this year, instead announcing plans to dramatically cut foreign aid expenditures and voluntary contributions to UN programmes like the World Food Programme (WFP).

The tragic consequences on the ground are inevitable, as demonstrated in Somaliland where the WFP is providing emergency food aid for a few thousand people at a time, when the need is upwards of 300,000. In South Sudan, nearly one out of every two people are in urgent need of food assistance, yet only $423 million has been received out of a requested $1.6bn. Across North-East Nigeria, where 5.1 million people are food insecure out of a population of 5.8 million in the three affected states, the response plan still remains only 20% funded.

Of course, aid alone is not the solution to extreme poverty and hunger. In the long term, the answers for avoiding hunger crises lie within developing countries themselves, including supporting local food production, enhancing community resilience, and guaranteeing social services and protection for the poorest – all measures that rely on effective national governance. Beyond the need for material resources and financial assistance, there is also a need for long-term approaches towards conflict prevention and peace-building, placing the politics of famine at the heart of any international efforts. A huge part of the battle is not only raising vital funds, but also devising the correct response strategy and securing necessary access in complex, fragmented war zones.

At the same time, addressing the root causes of today’s escalating food crises depends on a turnaround in the foreign policy agendas of competing nations, which are either directly or indirectly responsible for many of the wars across the Middle East and Africa that have led to a record high of global forced displacement. The deadly conflict that is ripping apart Yemen continues to be facilitated by the UK and US governments, who are propping up the Saudi-led bombing campaigns through extensive political and military support, including billions of dollars’ worth of weapons sales that dwarf the amounts pledged in aid.

This is clearly the opposite of policies that can make countries like Britain and America “great” again. The world cries out for a new strategy of peace and generosity to replace the self-destructive policies of “national security through domination”, which urgently calls for a modern global Marshall Plan for investment in education, health, water, sanitation, agriculture and infrastructure across the world’s most impoverished regions. Fully-funded aid shipments in place of arms shipments; an end to drone attacks and military “special operations” within countries like Yemen; the spearheading of much needed diplomacy in all war-torn regions; massive transfers of essential resources from North to South – such is the only way to show true political leadership in the face of entrenched global divisions and escalating human suffering.

As STWR has long advocated, an intergovernmental emergency programme to end life-threatening poverty is the very first step towards achieving a more equal and sustainable world. It must be remembered that the four countries grouped together by the UN as a food security emergency are, in fact, only the worst instances of a wider crisis of hunger and impoverishment. Millions of other marginalised citizens are also suffering from soaring food insecurity worldwide, not only across Africa but also Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Haiti, the Oceania, and so many other regions. According to the UN’s official statistics, there are more hungry people in the world than the combined populations of North America and the European Union. Every day, around 46,000 people needlessly die as a consequence of life-threatening deprivation, the vast majority in low-income countries.

The reversal of government priorities that is needed to ameliorate this immense crisis may never be achieved, unless world public opinion focuses on the worsening reality of poverty in the midst of plenty. Never before has it been so important for an enormous outpouring of public support in favour of sharing the world’s resources, thus to guarantee the long-agreed socioeconomic rights of every citizen, no matter where they live. Against a backdrop of rising nationalist sentiment, anti-immigrant rhetoric and huge funding gaps for humanitarian causes, it is up to ordinary people of goodwill to stand in solidarity with the world’s suffering poor majority.

The time has come for a huge resurgence of the spirit that animated Occupy protests from 2011, but now concentrated on one simple and unifying cause: for the rapid implementation of Article 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Nowhere in the world are these long-agreed rights guaranteed for everyone – concerning adequate food, housing, healthcare, social services and social security for all. But there can be no greater example of the lack of these basic entitlements for a dignified life, than the fact of millions of people dying from hunger across vast neglected and conflict-ridden regions. Hence the need for endless global protests to begin with a united call for wealthy countries to redistribute all necessary resources to those at risk of starving to death, above and beyond the UN’s modest appeals for humanitarian funding.

The situation today is potentially even more catastrophic than in the 1980s, when Bob Geldof and Live Aid were at the forefront of a public funding campaign for victims of the Ethiopian famine – eventually resulting in the loss of almost one million lives. To stop a repeat of this tragedy occurring on a potentially even greater scale, it will require much more than one-off public donations to national charity appeals. It will also require countless people on the streets worldwide in constant, peaceful demonstrations that call on governments to massively scale up their efforts through the UN and its relevant agencies. Is it not possible to organise a huge show of public empathy and outrage with the plight of more than 100 million people facing acute malnutrition worldwide? For only a grassroots response of this exceptional nature may be enough to awaken the world’s conscience – calling for food and medicines, not bombs; standing for economic sharing as the only way to justice. Surely there can be no greater cause and priority at this critical hour.