Category Archives: the left

In Defense of ‘Conspiracy Theories’: From ‘Fake News’ to the Art World

To remain innocent may also be to remain ignorant.
― John Berger, Ways of Seeing

This November 22nd marked fifty-five years since the assassination of John F. Kennedy. Perhaps no other major incident in U.S. history has generated more uncertainty and skepticism towards its official account than his Dallas killing in 1963. A 2013 Gallup poll showed that a clear majority of Americans still doubt the Warren Commission’s determination that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone as the accused sniper, with many suspecting that others in government and organized crime were involved in a secret plot to kill the president. Although its etymological origins can be traced back further, as a cultural phenomenon the notion of belief in so-called ‘conspiracy theories’ is widely attributed to a surge in distrust of government and media institutions that followed JFK’s murder. Perhaps its only rival would be September 11th, which surveys have similarly indicated a trend of doubt towards the 9/11 Commission Report’s version of events leading up to the attacks in 2001. In other words, most people believe in a major conspiracy theory — yet they generally remain a mark of disgrace and public ridicule.

At no point in time have conspiracy theories been as stigmatized as in the wake of the 2016 U.S. election. Incidentally, what is classified as such is no longer consigned to the societal fringe or ever been more popular. It is alleged that the spreading of “fake news” on social media, featuring debunked viral conspiracies like Pizzagate, was what tipped the voting scales in Donald Trump’s favor. Or was it the very real conspiracy revealed in leaked emails published by WikiLeaks that the Democratic National Committee rigged the party primary for Hillary Clinton? We’re supposed to consider that fake news too, apparently. Regardless, what is consistently never addressed is the reasons why people turn to unofficial narratives because it would require the media to address its own negligence to hold those in power to account.

An examination of the media‘s systemic failure would draw attention to its actual role in society as a tool of mass persuasion on behalf of the ruling elite. Perhaps if the official doctrines of the over-staged Warren and 9/11 Commission Reports were not treated as articles of faith, people wouldn’t be suspicious of a rogue shadow government hidden behind such obvious dog-and-pony shows. If there is no incriminating evidence in the JFK files, why on earth is the public forbidden to see them half a century later? Instead, it is the working class who are demonized for expressing the human need to grasp the social totality denied by a corporate-controlled media that performs the opposite of its expected function. They are left with no choice but to fill in the enormous blanks left gaping by a press in service of the status quo and a government with no transparency. It is always the people who are blamed for the media’s failure to do its job.

The same can be said across the pond or for the West in general. Look no further than a recent article in British newspaper The Guardian alleging that “60% of Britons believe in conspiracy theories.” Its definition of ‘conspiracy’ is so broad that it doesn’t simply refer to beliefs about UFOs or the moon landing, but a general distrust of institutions, official narratives and authority figures in any form. The article then conflates Brexit voters who hold anti-immigrant views with anyone polled who believes that the world is run by a secret global cabal of people who control events together”, and then almost comically states “the most widespread conspiracy belief in the UK, shared by 44% of people, was that ‘even though we live in what’s called a democracy, a few people will always run things in this country anyway.’” That is to say, The Guardian regards a view generally held by most rational people with an accurate understanding of life under capitalism as a ‘conspiracy’ belief equivalent to racism. The article even concludes thatdistrust of company bosses”, a feeling unsurprisingly held by three-fourths of those surveyed, falls under the label of a conspiracy view. Yes, clearly anyone who doesn’t love their oppressors is in equal standing with bigots who want to leave the EU. The world’s self declared ‘leading liberal voice’ is a guardian of power, indeed.

The term ‘conspiracy theory’ itself is a weapon. Its use is so ubiquitous that it automatically implies unconvincing improbability and worthiness of dismissal. How and when did it come to be so widely dispersed in the cultural lexicon? In the 1970s, the CIA had been the subject of numerous scandals with disclosures about its activities ranging from meddling in the affairs of sovereign countries to administering mind-control experiments on citizens in MK-ULTRA. The revelations about its clandestine influence on the press was yet another divulgence. It turns out that a likely possibility for the genesis of the phrase ‘conspiracy theory’ and its far-reaching dissemination was revealed in an important 1976 Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request by The New York Times in CIA Document 1035–960. The dispatch showed that by the late 1960s, the spy agency was so worried about pervasive skepticism toward the Warren Commission ruling that it issued a bulletin to its elite liaisons in the press to quell subversion. Entitled “Concerning Criticism of the Warren Report”, the communique encouraged the fourth estate to discredit doubters by spreading propaganda. It specifically employed the term while stressing the need to rein in dissenting opinion among journalists and the public:

Just because of the standing of the Commissioners, efforts to impugn their rectitude and wisdom tend to cast doubt on the whole leadership of American society. Moreover, there seems to be an increasing tendency to hint that President Johnson himself, as the one person who might be said to have benefited, was in some way responsible for the assassination. Innuendo of such seriousness affects not only the individual concerned, but also the whole reputation of the American government. Our organization itself is directly involved: among other facts, we contributed information to the investigation. Conspiracy theories have frequently thrown suspicion on our organization, for example by falsely alleging that Lee Harvey Oswald worked for us. The aim of this dispatch is to provide material countering and discrediting the claims of the conspiracy theorists, so as to inhibit the circulation of such claims in other countries.

Whether or not the specific document’s usage of the label is directly attributable to its subsequent omnipresence in the cultural vocabulary is beside the point. It was yet another example of the CIA’s efforts to engineer public opinion with media bias and disinformation, ordering its recruits to “employ propaganda assets to [negate] and refute the attacks of the critics. Book reviews and feature articles are particularly appropriate for this purpose.” Only on occasion does an event like the Kennedy assassination occur where the deep state’s savage nature is glimpsed by the public at large, if only for a brief moment. Such instances require a counterintelligence response if the majority is to stay plugged into the matrix.

The unpleasant truth is that the 35th U.S. President became so despised by the most right-wing and militarist elements in the intelligence apparatus — provoked by his perceived treachery in diplomacy toward Cuba and placation of the Soviet Union following the foreign policy disasters of the Cuban Missile Crisis and Bay of Pigs and apparent desire to deescalate the war in Vietnam — that they most likely removed him in a coup. The extent to which Kennedy was sincere in those efforts is another matter, although it was confirmed in declassified documents last year that he had rejected the proposed Operation Northwoods which would have carried out ‘false flag’ bombings in Miami to be blamed on Fidel Castro which shockingly made it all the way up the chain of command past the Joint Chiefs of Staff for approval. Why is it outlandish for people to suspect they could have done something similar on 9/11?

For Americans to learn the ugly facts behind JFK’s murder, plausibly located in the more than 15,000 documents still concealed from public view, would destroy the foundations of the national security state and the establishment it safeguards. It is on this basis that for more than half a century, corporate-owned media has stifled the multitude of admissions about the assassination brought to light, even when they’ve come from Hollywood movies. What we are witnessing today in the Russiagate fiasco with the “fake news” PSY-OP is an updated version of the CIA’s enlistment of the media following the JFK assassination to orchestrate public opinion which made the phrase ‘conspiracy theory’ a universal pejorative.

Coincidentally, currently on view at the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Breuer satellite location in New York is the exhibition Everything is Connected: Art and Conspiracy. The show covers more than fifty-years of artists working in painting, sculpture, photography, collage, video and installations addressing a variety of themes ranging from secret torture at CIA black-sites to COINTELPRO to Henry Kissinger’s role in ‘the first 9/11’, the September 1973 coup in Chile which ousted Salvador Allende and installed Augusto Pinochet and Milton Friedman’s Chicago Boys. There are many provocative pieces in the show, such as a Calder-like sculpture of Iraqi oil fields exploring imperialism to an abstract painting suggesting that the WTC towers could have been destroyed by controlled demolition using planted super-thermite explosives.

The timing of such an exposition immediately prompts curiosity. One would assume that the Met was capitalizing on the unprecedented popularity of conspiracies with the “fake news” phenomenon surrounding the Trump presidency, but apparently the lead curator conceived of the show concept a decade prior. Nevertheless, for one of the biggest and wealthiest museums in the world founded by robber barons to permit such a showcase still required a selling point which came in the form of its marketability to satisfy the public’s palate for kitsch. Leaving that aside, however, the content of the exhibit is admittedly of bona fide quality, featuring everything from Black Panther graphic designer Emory Douglas to the late conceptual artist Mike Kelley.

The Kennedy assassination is featured heavily as a spectral motif and the first pieces visitors encounter are two striking neon-colored paintings of Lee Harvey Oswald and his assassin, Jack Ruby, by New York-based artist Wayne Gonzales which sets an ominous tone. Although the individual works of the inspired show are of high caliber, its main shortcoming is the sensationalized presentation. Despite seemingly authentic intentions, it inevitably institutionalizes the idea that when two-thirds of Americans reject the official story of a Kennedy assassination or 9/11, it is ultimately still just a ‘conspiracy.’ Although the exhibit itself is not as culpable as the surrounding cultural context in which it has appeared, it ultimately reifies that what is construed as hypothetical and imaginary conjecture (in the case of the JFK assassination a legitimate consensus) only merits attention as something tacky or niche to be appreciated ironically.

This is particularly advantageous to the establishment at the present moment which is relentlessly selling the naïve idea that we are now living in a “post-truth” era, as if prior to the Trump administration we were in a glory age of ‘truth.’ In order for art to portray such subject matter and be given a platform, it cannot avoid being allocated as novelty of unrefined taste by such a powerful institution. A podcast interview with the gallery curators revealed that one of the artists featured in the show, Hans Haacke, had to earn their trust as he was hesitant to participate in the show because he didn’t wish his work “to be associated with fiction.” Perhaps for related reasons, the curators refreshingly chose to omit the term ‘theory’ from the title while providing a thorough investigation of such themes by artists which reveal what they describe as “conspiracies that turned out not be theories at all, but truths.”

While everyone is aware of the intimate relationship between the art world and the ultra-wealthy benefactors of its museums, less familiar is its history with the CIA. As part of its psychological warfare during the Cold War, the agency spent millions promoting Modern Art, particularly the Abstract Expressionists like Jackson Pollock and Willem de Kooning, a fact only briefly mentioned by the gallery text of the exhibit. The CIA saw the aesthetic individualism and free form style of Abstract Expressionism as emblematic of Western values of ‘freedom of expression’ in antithesis to the socialist realism of the Soviet Union. The CIA provided covert financial support through the establishment of phony foundations with innocuous names that secretly subsidized exhibitions. The primary front organization was the Congress for Cultural Freedom (CCF) whose leading operative was CIA officer Thomas Braden. Braden was even selected as the executive secretary of the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York by Nelson Rockefeller as he oversaw the CIA’s hush-hush cultural activities in the CCF. He would later go on to become a columnist and co-host of CNN’s Crossfire.

The CIA did not just work stringently to relegate leeriness of its activities under a catch-all misnomer at the low brow level. The Congress for Cultural Freedom’s ideological weaponry even extended to the level of high intellectual theory for its gatekeeping. The CCF and other front groups like the Farfield Foundation secretly sponsored literary magazines such as Commentary and The Paris Review as an effort to redirect the sympathies of the non-communist left in the West away from the Soviet Union toward liberal democracy. Another literary publication that received undercover sponsoring from the CCF was the British-based Encounter magazine, founded by the essayist and intellectual Irving Kristol who later became the “godfather of neo-conservatism” and real life father of ultra-hawk pundit Bill Kristol of The Weekly Standard. During the 1930s, as a college student Irving Kristol was a member of the New York Intellectuals, a group of Jewish literary critics and writers who mostly were Trotskyists that embraced left-wing politics but were staunchly opposed to the Soviet Union under Stalin. These included prominent figures such as Isaiah Berlin, Irving Howe and Hannah Arendt who over time moved to the center and became liberals, or in the case of Kristol eventually further to arch-conservatism.

The intellectual voyage from Trotskyism to neoconservatism was a common thread throughout the 20th century, from David Horowitz to the late Christopher Hitchens. Irving Kristol and his intellectual circle were funded by the CIA in order to influence the political leanings of their cohorts in the European left to move toward liberal democracy and away from communism which fractured the left as a whole. To great effect, this split coalitions between social democratic and communist parties across Europe. If European leftists weren’t swayed by the CIA-sponsored intelligentsia, they were likely discouraged from holding any remaining Soviet sympathies by the ‘false flag’ terrorist attacks carried out during Operation Gladio in NATO-member countries by recruited fascist paramilitaries which were falsely blamed on communist organizations to tarnish their reputations.

Along with the FBI’s COINTELPRO program, the consequences of the CIA’s clandestine activities from the arts to the intelligentsia can be seen in the dominant pseudo-left of today which has further degenerated into excessive preoccupation with toothless reformism and fetishization of gender and race-based identity politics. If the current generation of resolute Marxists are looking to place blame for the dominance of incrementalist politics emphasizing gradual change through existing institutions that has infected the entire left, they shouldn’t be shocked to learn much of it lands on the world’s most powerful spy agency during the Cold War. The CIA wasn’t just in the business of overthrowing democratic leaders of third world nations for Western business interests but equally engaged in cloak-and-dagger cultural operations which successfully altered the focus of leftist politics away from transformative anti-capitalist positions toward centrist liberal stances. To this day, the reverberations of these PSY-OPs can be felt in the contemporary left’s neglect and obfuscation of issues like imperialism and the class struggle. Without knowing this history, one can only have a vague understanding of how the left came to be what it is at present. The military-intelligence complex’s manipulation of the art world is incontrovertible fact, not a fanciful story, and it was just one element of a larger cultural campaign to splinter the Western left.

As the exhibit aptly points out, often what are designated as conspiracy theories in bygone times become indisputable facts years later. If there is now an abundant market for misinformation online exploiting the appetite of a public disillusioned by establishment media in desperate search of an alternative, the presstitutes only have themselves to blame. Claims on the right-wing margins about school shootings being hoaxes will never even begin to approach the irreparable damage done by every major news outlet in the country selling the lies of the Bush administration that Saddam Hussein had Weapons of Mass Destruction to go to war in Iraq, not just to the millions of human lives lost but the trust of the masses in the mass media orthodoxy. The same can be said about their unwillingness to truly investigate the Kennedy assassination and 9/11. Following the 2016 election, the censorship campaign by social network giants against alternative media under the banner of stopping the spread of “fake news” can be seen as confirmation of the effectiveness of real independent journalism and its growing audience. Otherwise, it would not provoke such suppression. This development can either disenchant those hungry for the truth or be interpreted as a positive sign for the future, that people are starting to resist drinking the kool-aid— for now let’s choose the latter.

• Everything is Connected: Art and Conspiracy is on view at the Met Breuer until January 6th, 2019.

In Defense of ‘Conspiracy Theories’: From ‘Fake News’ to the Art World

To remain innocent may also be to remain ignorant.
― John Berger, Ways of Seeing

This November 22nd marked fifty-five years since the assassination of John F. Kennedy. Perhaps no other major incident in U.S. history has generated more uncertainty and skepticism towards its official account than his Dallas killing in 1963. A 2013 Gallup poll showed that a clear majority of Americans still doubt the Warren Commission’s determination that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone as the accused sniper, with many suspecting that others in government and organized crime were involved in a secret plot to kill the president. Although its etymological origins can be traced back further, as a cultural phenomenon the notion of belief in so-called ‘conspiracy theories’ is widely attributed to a surge in distrust of government and media institutions that followed JFK’s murder. Perhaps its only rival would be September 11th, which surveys have similarly indicated a trend of doubt towards the 9/11 Commission Report’s version of events leading up to the attacks in 2001. In other words, most people believe in a major conspiracy theory — yet they generally remain a mark of disgrace and public ridicule.

At no point in time have conspiracy theories been as stigmatized as in the wake of the 2016 U.S. election. Incidentally, what is classified as such is no longer consigned to the societal fringe or ever been more popular. It is alleged that the spreading of “fake news” on social media, featuring debunked viral conspiracies like Pizzagate, was what tipped the voting scales in Donald Trump’s favor. Or was it the very real conspiracy revealed in leaked emails published by WikiLeaks that the Democratic National Committee rigged the party primary for Hillary Clinton? We’re supposed to consider that fake news too, apparently. Regardless, what is consistently never addressed is the reasons why people turn to unofficial narratives because it would require the media to address its own negligence to hold those in power to account.

An examination of the media‘s systemic failure would draw attention to its actual role in society as a tool of mass persuasion on behalf of the ruling elite. Perhaps if the official doctrines of the over-staged Warren and 9/11 Commission Reports were not treated as articles of faith, people wouldn’t be suspicious of a rogue shadow government hidden behind such obvious dog-and-pony shows. If there is no incriminating evidence in the JFK files, why on earth is the public forbidden to see them half a century later? Instead, it is the working class who are demonized for expressing the human need to grasp the social totality denied by a corporate-controlled media that performs the opposite of its expected function. They are left with no choice but to fill in the enormous blanks left gaping by a press in service of the status quo and a government with no transparency. It is always the people who are blamed for the media’s failure to do its job.

The same can be said across the pond or for the West in general. Look no further than a recent article in British newspaper The Guardian alleging that “60% of Britons believe in conspiracy theories.” Its definition of ‘conspiracy’ is so broad that it doesn’t simply refer to beliefs about UFOs or the moon landing, but a general distrust of institutions, official narratives and authority figures in any form. The article then conflates Brexit voters who hold anti-immigrant views with anyone polled who believes that the world is run by a secret global cabal of people who control events together”, and then almost comically states “the most widespread conspiracy belief in the UK, shared by 44% of people, was that ‘even though we live in what’s called a democracy, a few people will always run things in this country anyway.’” That is to say, The Guardian regards a view generally held by most rational people with an accurate understanding of life under capitalism as a ‘conspiracy’ belief equivalent to racism. The article even concludes thatdistrust of company bosses”, a feeling unsurprisingly held by three-fourths of those surveyed, falls under the label of a conspiracy view. Yes, clearly anyone who doesn’t love their oppressors is in equal standing with bigots who want to leave the EU. The world’s self declared ‘leading liberal voice’ is a guardian of power, indeed.

The term ‘conspiracy theory’ itself is a weapon. Its use is so ubiquitous that it automatically implies unconvincing improbability and worthiness of dismissal. How and when did it come to be so widely dispersed in the cultural lexicon? In the 1970s, the CIA had been the subject of numerous scandals with disclosures about its activities ranging from meddling in the affairs of sovereign countries to administering mind-control experiments on citizens in MK-ULTRA. The revelations about its clandestine influence on the press was yet another divulgence. It turns out that a likely possibility for the genesis of the phrase ‘conspiracy theory’ and its far-reaching dissemination was revealed in an important 1976 Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request by The New York Times in CIA Document 1035–960. The dispatch showed that by the late 1960s, the spy agency was so worried about pervasive skepticism toward the Warren Commission ruling that it issued a bulletin to its elite liaisons in the press to quell subversion. Entitled “Concerning Criticism of the Warren Report”, the communique encouraged the fourth estate to discredit doubters by spreading propaganda. It specifically employed the term while stressing the need to rein in dissenting opinion among journalists and the public:

Just because of the standing of the Commissioners, efforts to impugn their rectitude and wisdom tend to cast doubt on the whole leadership of American society. Moreover, there seems to be an increasing tendency to hint that President Johnson himself, as the one person who might be said to have benefited, was in some way responsible for the assassination. Innuendo of such seriousness affects not only the individual concerned, but also the whole reputation of the American government. Our organization itself is directly involved: among other facts, we contributed information to the investigation. Conspiracy theories have frequently thrown suspicion on our organization, for example by falsely alleging that Lee Harvey Oswald worked for us. The aim of this dispatch is to provide material countering and discrediting the claims of the conspiracy theorists, so as to inhibit the circulation of such claims in other countries.

Whether or not the specific document’s usage of the label is directly attributable to its subsequent omnipresence in the cultural vocabulary is beside the point. It was yet another example of the CIA’s efforts to engineer public opinion with media bias and disinformation, ordering its recruits to “employ propaganda assets to [negate] and refute the attacks of the critics. Book reviews and feature articles are particularly appropriate for this purpose.” Only on occasion does an event like the Kennedy assassination occur where the deep state’s savage nature is glimpsed by the public at large, if only for a brief moment. Such instances require a counterintelligence response if the majority is to stay plugged into the matrix.

The unpleasant truth is that the 35th U.S. President became so despised by the most right-wing and militarist elements in the intelligence apparatus — provoked by his perceived treachery in diplomacy toward Cuba and placation of the Soviet Union following the foreign policy disasters of the Cuban Missile Crisis and Bay of Pigs and apparent desire to deescalate the war in Vietnam — that they most likely removed him in a coup. The extent to which Kennedy was sincere in those efforts is another matter, although it was confirmed in declassified documents last year that he had rejected the proposed Operation Northwoods which would have carried out ‘false flag’ bombings in Miami to be blamed on Fidel Castro which shockingly made it all the way up the chain of command past the Joint Chiefs of Staff for approval. Why is it outlandish for people to suspect they could have done something similar on 9/11?

For Americans to learn the ugly facts behind JFK’s murder, plausibly located in the more than 15,000 documents still concealed from public view, would destroy the foundations of the national security state and the establishment it safeguards. It is on this basis that for more than half a century, corporate-owned media has stifled the multitude of admissions about the assassination brought to light, even when they’ve come from Hollywood movies. What we are witnessing today in the Russiagate fiasco with the “fake news” PSY-OP is an updated version of the CIA’s enlistment of the media following the JFK assassination to orchestrate public opinion which made the phrase ‘conspiracy theory’ a universal pejorative.

Coincidentally, currently on view at the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Breuer satellite location in New York is the exhibition Everything is Connected: Art and Conspiracy. The show covers more than fifty-years of artists working in painting, sculpture, photography, collage, video and installations addressing a variety of themes ranging from secret torture at CIA black-sites to COINTELPRO to Henry Kissinger’s role in ‘the first 9/11’, the September 1973 coup in Chile which ousted Salvador Allende and installed Augusto Pinochet and Milton Friedman’s Chicago Boys. There are many provocative pieces in the show, such as a Calder-like sculpture of Iraqi oil fields exploring imperialism to an abstract painting suggesting that the WTC towers could have been destroyed by controlled demolition using planted super-thermite explosives.

The timing of such an exposition immediately prompts curiosity. One would assume that the Met was capitalizing on the unprecedented popularity of conspiracies with the “fake news” phenomenon surrounding the Trump presidency, but apparently the lead curator conceived of the show concept a decade prior. Nevertheless, for one of the biggest and wealthiest museums in the world founded by robber barons to permit such a showcase still required a selling point which came in the form of its marketability to satisfy the public’s palate for kitsch. Leaving that aside, however, the content of the exhibit is admittedly of bona fide quality, featuring everything from Black Panther graphic designer Emory Douglas to the late conceptual artist Mike Kelley.

The Kennedy assassination is featured heavily as a spectral motif and the first pieces visitors encounter are two striking neon-colored paintings of Lee Harvey Oswald and his assassin, Jack Ruby, by New York-based artist Wayne Gonzales which sets an ominous tone. Although the individual works of the inspired show are of high caliber, its main shortcoming is the sensationalized presentation. Despite seemingly authentic intentions, it inevitably institutionalizes the idea that when two-thirds of Americans reject the official story of a Kennedy assassination or 9/11, it is ultimately still just a ‘conspiracy.’ Although the exhibit itself is not as culpable as the surrounding cultural context in which it has appeared, it ultimately reifies that what is construed as hypothetical and imaginary conjecture (in the case of the JFK assassination a legitimate consensus) only merits attention as something tacky or niche to be appreciated ironically.

This is particularly advantageous to the establishment at the present moment which is relentlessly selling the naïve idea that we are now living in a “post-truth” era, as if prior to the Trump administration we were in a glory age of ‘truth.’ In order for art to portray such subject matter and be given a platform, it cannot avoid being allocated as novelty of unrefined taste by such a powerful institution. A podcast interview with the gallery curators revealed that one of the artists featured in the show, Hans Haacke, had to earn their trust as he was hesitant to participate in the show because he didn’t wish his work “to be associated with fiction.” Perhaps for related reasons, the curators refreshingly chose to omit the term ‘theory’ from the title while providing a thorough investigation of such themes by artists which reveal what they describe as “conspiracies that turned out not be theories at all, but truths.”

While everyone is aware of the intimate relationship between the art world and the ultra-wealthy benefactors of its museums, less familiar is its history with the CIA. As part of its psychological warfare during the Cold War, the agency spent millions promoting Modern Art, particularly the Abstract Expressionists like Jackson Pollock and Willem de Kooning, a fact only briefly mentioned by the gallery text of the exhibit. The CIA saw the aesthetic individualism and free form style of Abstract Expressionism as emblematic of Western values of ‘freedom of expression’ in antithesis to the socialist realism of the Soviet Union. The CIA provided covert financial support through the establishment of phony foundations with innocuous names that secretly subsidized exhibitions. The primary front organization was the Congress for Cultural Freedom (CCF) whose leading operative was CIA officer Thomas Braden. Braden was even selected as the executive secretary of the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York by Nelson Rockefeller as he oversaw the CIA’s hush-hush cultural activities in the CCF. He would later go on to become a columnist and co-host of CNN’s Crossfire.

The CIA did not just work stringently to relegate leeriness of its activities under a catch-all misnomer at the low brow level. The Congress for Cultural Freedom’s ideological weaponry even extended to the level of high intellectual theory for its gatekeeping. The CCF and other front groups like the Farfield Foundation secretly sponsored literary magazines such as Commentary and The Paris Review as an effort to redirect the sympathies of the non-communist left in the West away from the Soviet Union toward liberal democracy. Another literary publication that received undercover sponsoring from the CCF was the British-based Encounter magazine, founded by the essayist and intellectual Irving Kristol who later became the “godfather of neo-conservatism” and real life father of ultra-hawk pundit Bill Kristol of The Weekly Standard. During the 1930s, as a college student Irving Kristol was a member of the New York Intellectuals, a group of Jewish literary critics and writers who mostly were Trotskyists that embraced left-wing politics but were staunchly opposed to the Soviet Union under Stalin. These included prominent figures such as Isaiah Berlin, Irving Howe and Hannah Arendt who over time moved to the center and became liberals, or in the case of Kristol eventually further to arch-conservatism.

The intellectual voyage from Trotskyism to neoconservatism was a common thread throughout the 20th century, from David Horowitz to the late Christopher Hitchens. Irving Kristol and his intellectual circle were funded by the CIA in order to influence the political leanings of their cohorts in the European left to move toward liberal democracy and away from communism which fractured the left as a whole. To great effect, this split coalitions between social democratic and communist parties across Europe. If European leftists weren’t swayed by the CIA-sponsored intelligentsia, they were likely discouraged from holding any remaining Soviet sympathies by the ‘false flag’ terrorist attacks carried out during Operation Gladio in NATO-member countries by recruited fascist paramilitaries which were falsely blamed on communist organizations to tarnish their reputations.

Along with the FBI’s COINTELPRO program, the consequences of the CIA’s clandestine activities from the arts to the intelligentsia can be seen in the dominant pseudo-left of today which has further degenerated into excessive preoccupation with toothless reformism and fetishization of gender and race-based identity politics. If the current generation of resolute Marxists are looking to place blame for the dominance of incrementalist politics emphasizing gradual change through existing institutions that has infected the entire left, they shouldn’t be shocked to learn much of it lands on the world’s most powerful spy agency during the Cold War. The CIA wasn’t just in the business of overthrowing democratic leaders of third world nations for Western business interests but equally engaged in cloak-and-dagger cultural operations which successfully altered the focus of leftist politics away from transformative anti-capitalist positions toward centrist liberal stances. To this day, the reverberations of these PSY-OPs can be felt in the contemporary left’s neglect and obfuscation of issues like imperialism and the class struggle. Without knowing this history, one can only have a vague understanding of how the left came to be what it is at present. The military-intelligence complex’s manipulation of the art world is incontrovertible fact, not a fanciful story, and it was just one element of a larger cultural campaign to splinter the Western left.

As the exhibit aptly points out, often what are designated as conspiracy theories in bygone times become indisputable facts years later. If there is now an abundant market for misinformation online exploiting the appetite of a public disillusioned by establishment media in desperate search of an alternative, the presstitutes only have themselves to blame. Claims on the right-wing margins about school shootings being hoaxes will never even begin to approach the irreparable damage done by every major news outlet in the country selling the lies of the Bush administration that Saddam Hussein had Weapons of Mass Destruction to go to war in Iraq, not just to the millions of human lives lost but the trust of the masses in the mass media orthodoxy. The same can be said about their unwillingness to truly investigate the Kennedy assassination and 9/11. Following the 2016 election, the censorship campaign by social network giants against alternative media under the banner of stopping the spread of “fake news” can be seen as confirmation of the effectiveness of real independent journalism and its growing audience. Otherwise, it would not provoke such suppression. This development can either disenchant those hungry for the truth or be interpreted as a positive sign for the future, that people are starting to resist drinking the kool-aid— for now let’s choose the latter.

• Everything is Connected: Art and Conspiracy is on view at the Met Breuer until January 6th, 2019.

Beware the Trumpenleft!

Unless you move in certain leftist circles, you may not have heard about one of the Russians’ most insidiously evil active measures, an active measure so insidiously evil that it could only have been dreamed up in Moscow, the current wellspring of insidious evil. Its official Russo-Nazi-sounding code name is still being decided on by leftist cryptographers, but most people know it as the “Trumpenleft.”

The Trumpenleft (or “Sputnik Left,” as it is also called by professional anti-Putin-Nazi intelligence analysts) is pretty much exactly what it sounds like. It is a gang of nefarious Putin-Nazi infiltrators posing as respectable leftists in order to disseminate Trumpian ideology and Putin-Nazi propaganda among an assortment of online leftist magazines that hardly anyone ever actually reads. The aim of these insidious Trumpenleft infiltrators is to sow confusion, chaos, and discord among actual, real, authentic leftists who are going about the serious business of calling Donald Trump a fascist on the Internet twenty-five times a day, verbally abusing Julian Assange, occasionally pulling down oppressive statues, and sharing videos of racist idiots acting like racist idiots in public.

The Trumpenleft is determined to sabotage (or momentarily disrupt) this revolutionary work, mostly by tricking these actual leftists into critically thinking about a host of issues that there is no good reason to critically think about … global capitalism, national sovereignty, immigration, identity politics, corporate censorship, and other issues that there is no conceivable reason to discuss, or debate, or even casually mention, unless you’re some kind of Russia-loving Nazi.

Angela Nagle’s recent piece in American Affairs is a perfect example. Nagle (who is certainly Trumpenleft) puts forth the fascistic proposition that mass migration won’t help the world’s poor, and she claims that it creates “a race to the bottom for workers” in wealthier, developed countries and “a brain drain” in poorer, less developed countries. After deploying a variety of Trumpenleft sophistry (i.e., fact-based analysis, logic, and so on), she goes so far as to openly suggest that “progressives should focus on addressing the systemic exploitation at the root of mass migration rather than retreating to a shallow moralism” … a shallow moralism that reifies the dominant neoliberal ideology that is causing mass migration in the first place.

This is the type of gobbledegook the Trumpenleft use to try to dupe real leftists into putting down their phones for a minute and actually thinking through political issues! Fortunately, no one is falling for it. As any bona fide leftist knows, there is no “mass migration problem.” The whole thing is simply a racist hoax concocted by Putin, Alex Jones, and other Trumpian disinformationists. The only thing real leftists need to know about immigration is that immigrants are good, and Trump, and walls, and borders are bad! All that other fancy gibberish about global capitalism, Milton Friedman, labor markets, and national sovereignty is nothing but fascist propaganda (which needs to be censored, or at least deplatformed, or demonetized, or otherwise suppressed).

But Angela Nagle is just one example. The Trumpenleft is legion, and growing. Its membership includes a handful of prominent (and rather less prominent) fake leftist figures: Glenn Greenwald, who many among the “Resistance” would like to see renditioned and indefinitely detained in some offshore Trumpenleft gulag somewhere; Matt Taibbi, who just published a treasonous article challenging the right of the US government to prosecute publishers as “enemy agents” for publishing material they don’t want published; Julian Assange, who is one such publisher, and who the US has scheduled for public crucifixion just as soon as they can get their hands on him; Aaron Maté of the Real News Network, a notorious Trump-Russia “collusion denialist“; Caitlin Johnstone, an Australian blogger and poet who the Red-Brown Putin-Nazi hunters at CounterPunch have become totally obsessed with; Diana Johnstone, who they also don’t like; and (full disclosure) your humble narrator.

Now, normally, the opinions of some political journalists and rather marginal political writers wouldn’t amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world, but there’s a war on, so there’s no room for neutrality. As I mentioned in my latest essay, over the course of the next two years, the global capitalist ruling classes need to make an example of Trump, and Assange, and anyone else who has had the gall to fuck with their global empire. Part of how they are going to do this is to further polarize the already extremely polarized ideological spectrum until everyone is forced onto one or the other side of a pro- or anti-Trump equation, or a pro- or anti-populist equation … or a pro- or anti-fascist equation.

As you probably noticed, The Guardian has just launched a special six-week “investigative series” exploring the whole “new populism” phenomenon (which began with a lot of scary photos of Steve Bannon next to the word “populism”). We are going to be hearing a lot about “populism” over the course of the next two years. We are going to be hearing how “populism” is actually not that different from fascism, or at the very least is inherently racist, and anti-Semitic, and xenophobic, and how, basically, anyone who criticizes neoliberal elites or the corporate media is Russia-loving, pro-Trump Nazi.

And this is where this “Trumpenleft” malarkey fits into the ruling classes’ broader campaign to eliminate any kind of critical thinking and force people to mindlessly root for their “team.” See, the problem with us “Trumpenleft” types is not that we support Donald Trump. For the record, none of us really do. Some of us think he us a dangerous demagogue. Others of us think he is a blithering idiot. None of us think he’s Fidel Castro, or that he cares one iota about the working classes, or about anyone other than Donald Trump.

No, the problem is not that we’re on the wrong team; the problem is that we are asking people to question the propaganda of the team that we’re supposed to be on, or at least be rooting for. We are asking people to pay attention to how the global capitalist ruling establishment is going about quashing this “populist” insurgency (of which Brexit and Trump are manifestations, not causes) so they can get back to the business of relentlessly restructuring, privatizing, and debt-enslaving everything, as they’ve been doing since the end of the Cold War. We’re asking folks, not to join “the other team,” but to pay close attention to how they are being manipulated into believing that there are only two “teams,” and that they have to join one, and then mindlessly parrot whatever nonsense their team decides they need to disseminate in order to win a game that is merely a simulation they have conjured up (i.e., the ruling classes have conjured up) in order to inoculate themselves against an actual conflict they cannot win and so must prevent at all costs from ever beginning … which, they are doing a pretty good job of that so far.

In other words, the problem with us Trumpenlefters is, the prospect of defeating a fake Russian Hitler, and restoring neoliberal normality in the USA and the rest of the West, is just not all that terribly inspiring. So, rather than regurgitating the Russia hysteria and the fascism hysteria that is being produced by the global capitalist ruling establishment to gin up support for their counterinsurgency, we are continuing to focus on the capitalist ruling classes, which are actually still running things, globally, and will be running things long after Trump is gone (and the Imminent Threat of Global Fascist Takeover of Everything has disappeared, as the Imminent Threat of Nookular Terrorist Backpack Attack disappeared before it).

Or maybe all that is just a ruse, an attempt on my part to dupe you into going out and buying a MAGA hat and shouting racist abuse at Honduran kids, assuming you can find some in your vicinity. You never know with us Trumpenleft types. Probably the safest thing to do to protect yourself from our insidious treachery is to start your own personal Trumpenleft blacklist, and spread lies about us all over the Internet, or just report us to Twitter, or Facebook, or somebody, whoever you feel are the proper authorities. The main thing is to shut us up, or prophylactically delegitimize us, to keep us from infecting other leftists with our filthy, nonconformist ideas. The last thing we need at a time like this is a bunch of leftists thinking for themselves and questioning official leftist dogma. Who knows what that kind of behavior might lead to?

*****

N.B. As far as I could gather from my research, the “Trumpenleft” label was coined by Paul Street, a regular columnist at Truthdig and CounterPunch and all-around professional leftist. Like the editors of The New York Times, Street understands the importance of sloppily Germanicizing terms you want to frighten people with, because there’s nothing quite as terrifying as Nazi morphology!

Baselines for Activism: Brecht’s Stance, the New Science, and Planting Seeds

I’ve often wondered about the limits of activist’s reach and the lack of coherent, organized progressive social movements in the US. Does it come down to the precarious nature of our jobs, the stress, strain, and exhaustion caused by the realization of being a paycheck away from penury? Or is it all the fault of our monopolistic media, with the puppet strings controlled by their advertisers, the corporate giants and multinationals? Is it geographic distance from Europe where socialism advanced far broader and deeper into society? Could it be the anti-communist Red Scare that dominated the binary and delusional cold war mindset? Was it the very real threat and use of violence via COINTELPRO, and overseas with Operations Gladio, Condor, etc? Is it deeper psychological issues stemming from the trauma of having to grow up in a cold capitalist world which leads to false consciousness?

It would seem to be a mixture of all of the above. Yet millions of citizens still are able to see through the mendacities inherent in our empire, in our collective cultural death-wish, and many millions more would be able to if provided the education, tools, and resources to see through the lies of our global system of capital.

Activists and educators must reconsider their approaches in light of the repeated failures of international progressive organizations. In short, part of the failure lies with the leadership of non-profits, NGOs, community leaders, and the type of worldview they adhere to. For one, unstable vertical hierarchies are reproduced, with not enough feedback from concerned citizens and community-based, small-scale pressure groups. Also, technocrats and lawyers are relied far too heavily upon to perform band-aid, stopgap procedures in the social and environmental justice fields. Endless petitions and protests are planned which do not lead to fundamental change.

Organization in the majority of so-called progressive movements mimics the neoliberal order. Pedestals and soapboxes are lined up for the official learned classes, who are offered cushy positions to run vote campaigns, to lobby (beg) a corrupt Congress or Parliament to do the right thing. This is turn creates a new split between the middle-class non-profit lawyers, campaigners, and managers; and the working class constituencies, which only fuels social division and alienation.

These maladies contribute to the false consciousness of the mostly liberal, white, middle-class, urbane, college-educated non-profit and social justice managerial class, as well as progressive activists. All of the racist, sexist, and classist baggage is carried alongside these organizations, as we can see so clearly in the faux “progressive” areas like Silicon Valley.

Let us take this line of thought further. I believe the lack of rigor and effectiveness also shows up with so-called radical activists and intellectuals who believe they are sincerely committed to revolution. It works in a few ways: radicals take on the feelings of others in unhealthy ways, bottling up anger and sadness that legitimately occurs and is expressed in subaltern groups. Another point involves the expectation of success, the attachment to pet projects and the personal rage that spills out when failure occurs.

US progressive and radicals are, for the most part, not versed in modern scientific advancements, ecology, or Eastern traditions. There is no tolerance for balance, paradox, and contradiction. Most are stuck on treadmills and attached to their egos and personas. Then there is the problem of speed: trying to catch up with every travesty the establishment and corporations impose on us (playing defense), as if one could bail out a sinking Titanic with a bucket. There is the notion of taking on social justice burdens as a very Christian-like type of “work”, instead of blending work and play into a post-modern, post-coercive labor environment that could put humankind on a type of threshold, a liminal state, towards a saner society of free association and mutual aid which could end much unnecessary suffering.

Running in Circles

There is most likely an inverse relationship between how seriously one takes oneself and one’s wisdom. The most serious among us are almost undoubtedly the least wise. The vast majority of the endless running around from protests or events or conferences or speaking engagements are just a series of distractions.

There are appropriate times for all those things, to be sure. Yet it must be noted that the predominant mode of liberals, leftists, and progressives is predicated on constantly reacting to and diagnosing mainstream culture, rather than arriving at any original prescriptions for changing society.

Many people in the US of all political persuasions are quite aware of the near terminal nature of politics: and many are looking for a model that works. The diagnosis has been made countless times. People are ready for an alternative to our broken system.  Obviously, with no capital this is nearly impossible for poor and marginalized communities.  An international network of direct action, worker co-ops, and communal agriculture must begin as soon as possible to fight neoliberal economics and the looming challenges of climate change.

Brecht’s Stance

A few years ago, I stumbled across Bertolt Brecht’s Stories of Mr. Keuner. The first passage is entitled “What’s wise about the wise man is his stance.” Here is the full passage:

A philosophy professor came to see Mr. K and told him about his wisdom. After a while Mr. K said to him: ‘You sit uncomfortably, you talk uncomfortably, you think uncomfortably.’ The philosophy professor became angry and said: ‘I didn’t want to hear anything about myself but about the substance of what I was talking about.’ ‘It has no substance,’ said Mr. K. ‘I see you walking clumsily and, as far as I can see, you’re not getting anywhere. You talk obscurely, and you create no light with your talking. Seeing your stance, I’m not interested in what you’re getting at.’

Now we’re getting somewhere! As Sean Carney explains in Brecht and Critical Theory: Dialectics and Contemporary Aesthetics:

The most important thing to draw from Brecht’s play, then, is the attitude it displays, which Brecht also calls a kind of wisdom that is performed or staged for us. It seems important here to distinguish between the form of wisdom, and the content of wisdom. Brecht, for his part, is concerned only with the former, the posture of wisdom, wisdom as an action. The form of this wisdom is dialectical and historical.

There is no space to flesh out all the implications here. A few thoughts will have to suffice.

When Western activists scream, “Rise up!” they should be reminded: “Sit down.” Always consider the antithesis. Slowing down, sitting: calling for nationwide wildcat general strikes would do much greater good than marching around with placards along predetermined protest routes.

When others shout “Speak out,” we can remind them: be silent (just imagine kids in school refusing to speak the pledge of allegiance or taking a knee in high school sports in solidarity with Kaepernick). When protestors implore: “Wake up,” they can also be chided and reminded: “Keep dreaming!” (of a genuine revolution, not stopping the imagination at some milquetoast progressive reforms led by the DSA or other pseudo-leftists, which, while helpful, do not go nearly far enough). I am not advocating not speaking truth to power here, or any escapism, only that in certain cases we should ignore the constant dramas and tragedies engendered by the corporate ruling-class and focus on building parallel structures and intentional communities to bust an escape hatch from global tyranny.

Non-striving

It should be recognized that many so-called “radicals” mimic the striving, combative, and authoritarian nature of the neoliberal order. Raised in an ultra-competitive society, some proponents of revolution refuse the inner work necessary while clinging to whatever social capital or insignificant platform one can muster up.

We live in a culture of constant striving, clinging, petty jealousness and egomaniacal childishness. It is no wonder that it shows up on many outlets of progressive outlets as well as on social media, and in activist circles.

Instead, we should begin the work of instilling a radical patience. Not because we have a lot to time left to act (we assuredly don’t), but because attaching oneself to unobtainable goals in the very short term only has the effect of tiring out and disillusioning many sincere people. Western activists could learn something by practicing non-attachment.

Only by giving up hope can we become present in the moment. This has continually been best expressed among Buddhists. As Pema Chodron writes:

As long as we’re addicted to hope, we feel that we can tone our experience down or liven it up or change it somehow, and we continue to suffer a lot. In a non-theistic state of mind, abandoning hope is an affirmation, the beginning of the beginning. You could even put ‘Abandon Hope’ on your refrigerator door instead of more conventional aspirations like ‘Everyday in everyway, I’m getting better and better.’ We hold onto hope and it robs us of the present moment. If hope and fear are two different sides of the same coin, so are hopelessness and confidence. If we’re willing to give up hope that insecurity and pain can be exterminated, then we can have the courage to relax with the groundlessness of our situation.

Thus, this brutally honest reflection (on our individual lives, but also on the fate of our civilization as we hurtle into the Anthropocene) leads to self-love, joy, and to vulnerability. This is a baseline for giving our collective culture what Rollo May called The Courage to Create. May contrasts happiness (in this sense a cessation of wants, a sense of security) with basic joy (quoted here):

Happiness is related to security, to being reassured, to doing things as one is used to and as our fathers did them. Joy is a revelation of what was unknown before. Happiness often ends up in a placidity on the edge of boredom. Happiness is success. But joy is stimulating, it is the discovery of new continents emerging within oneself…Happiness is the absence of discord; joy is the welcoming of discord as the basis of higher harmonies. Happiness is finding a system of rules which solves our problems; joy is taking the risk that is necessary to break new frontiers.

One cannot understand joy without noting the sense of timelessness: the past, present, and future all converging into the present moment. Athletes, artists, scientists, and others call this “flow” or “being in the zone.” Time moves more slowly, certainly everyone has experienced this phenomenon at one point or another. Relativity has proven that this is possible, as well as studies in consciousness, meditation, and psychedelics.

Is any of this useful as a guide towards activism today? I will leave it to you to decide. Is it possible to “create light” when you speak, or be in tune with “higher harmonies?”

Time

Regarding time, we can turn to Brecht’s friend, Walter Benjamin, and his notion of the Jetztzeit. In order to break free from “homogenous, empty time,” which, notably, Francis Fukuyama unintentionally expressed so well as the ever-looming backdrop to the neoliberal era in The End of History, Benjamin writes that society must struggle towards “the messianic zero-hour of events, or put differently, a revolutionary chance in the struggle for a suppressed past.”

That is to say, only by looking backwards in time can we assess the damages of the present age, even as the storm of progress pushes us further away from mending the wreckage, as Benjamin explains Klee’s Angelus Novus. Only in the zero-hour, the ever-present moment, can we blast open a historic event. This explains Benjamin’s concept of the monad, a “constellation overflowing with tensions.”

On the Horizon

Does any modern science conform to these ideas of reality as a constellation of energy and matter, something like Benjamin’s monad, influenced by Leibniz, overflowing with possibilities, tensions, and constant flux? Put another way, are there are empirical/scientific fields which show a healthy stance or posture of wisdom?

Here we turn to some of the modern science that corroborates what people like Benjamin, the German Idealists, process philosophy, Leibniz, and before him, Spinoza, Heraclitus, Lao Tzu, and various Eastern traditions have contributed to: a systems view of life and the universe that explains phenomena holistically. In a nurturing system such as this, cross-discipline studies would expand, converge, and enrich social life and ecosystem health.

In many ways, modern science shows a return to the old ways of knowing: concepts in relativity and quantum mechanics were foreseen millennia ago, such as in Buddhism’s principle of dependent co-arising, for example.

Chaos Theory

Some of the greatest 20th century scientists were: Einstein, Watson and Crick, Margulis and Lovelock. Yet the most influential of all may turn out to be the little known meteorologist, Edward Lorenz, pioneer of chaos theory, the butterfly effect, and the strange attractor.

For a thorough introduction, James Gleick’s Chaos is a great start. For those mathematically inclined, I recommend Manfred Schroeder’s Fractals, Chaos, Power Laws.

It is this system-view approach that can explain, even, the formation of life on this planet: self-organizing proto-nucleotides and amino acids along with fatty membranes and mitochondria/chloroplasts which gave rise to the first unicellular organisms. It is these non-linear dynamics which do, in fact, create higher harmonies- Poincare’s three body problem being the first modern example.

In non-linear systems based on power laws, when the variable in the function passes a certain limit (dependent upon the initial conditions), the function starts to behave chaotically. The next figure cannot be predicted from previous answers. Eventually, a bifurcation will occur: this simply means that further on in the progression, the function bounces back between two figures, back and forth. If the parameter is pushed higher, period-doubling occurs: this simply means that instead of bouncing between two numbers, the function doubles to bounce between four, then eight, 16, etc. This applies to many dynamic systems and can start with any integer, so depending upon the function, you could have period doubling of 3, 6, twelve; four, eight, 16, etc. Period halving is possible, too.

The scientist Robert May was the first to prove this in population biology, and many fields have found it a useful tool for studying dynamic systems since. The point I want to make clear is in regard to climate and weather: all climate scientists and meteorologists accept weather cannot be predicted after 3 weeks, weather is inherently chaotic, yet climate, for now, is stable.

Without significant changes, the positive feedback loops currently warming the planet will eventually push the relatively stable, homeostatic climate model into the “Hot house Earth” model. Wild changes in weather are more likely to occur. Not only that, but much higher-level droughts and flooding will occur more frequently; i.e., climatic normality may switch into an non-linear, chaotic state.

In the US, the Southwest in particular will be hit hard. Consider central Arizona, where the ancient Hokoham population could have reached 80,000 around 1300 CE. The area around Phoenix could have provided for 10,000 people. You make think, well, that was before modern irrigation and food transportation. You would be wrong. The Hokoham were masterful farmers with over 500 miles of canals and estimates of over 100,000 acres of cultivated, irrigated land. Today, metro Phoenix has approximately 4.7 million people. This won’t end well. By 2050, much of Arizona and the wider region could be ghost towns.

The second point: self-similarity is inherent in nature at many scales, as observed in fractals. How does this apply to culture? Direct democracy can be implemented at all scales (local, from worker councils to communal town meetings; to international, with a trans-national body such as a re-imagined UN.)

Chaos theory applies to the brain as well: there is evidence that psychedelics reform and rearrange new connections of neurons, changing the “criticality” of its structural firings. This is what is able to cure patients of depression, anxiety, PTSD, etc., by changing the flow of thoughts and giving a wider expression, to get your mind out of a rut or a bad habit of harmful/fearful thinking.

There is plenty of sociological and anthropological evidence that mimetic theory (pioneered by Rene Girard) has some merit. Mostly, this is studied cross-culturally (horizontally), but we should consider the vertical dimension of hierarchies: at levels of coercion and exploitation are imitated at all scales of the socio-economic pyramid. The ruthless hierarchy was not that different between the mind-numbing conformity and bureaucratic chicanery of state-capitalist countries, contrasted with the crushing alienation and faux-competitive crony capitalism of neoliberal nations. If the structure is rotten at the top, most state and local governments mimic and take their cue from the power relations above them.

This played out very clearly on the international level after 9/11 and the US invasion of Iraq in 2003. Once the Patriot Act, NDAA, and AUMF were passed, once NATO and ISAF forces invaded Afghanistan, with troops and spooks using “rendition”, “enhanced interrogation techniques”, with nighttime raids on civilians, and outright drone murder was rolled out by the US, other nations followed suit, with a rash of authoritarian copycat legislation, as well as police and military brutality playing out around the globe. For instance, the uptick in violence by Israel in 2002-2003 during the second Intifada is telling. Without the September 11 attacks and the relentless anti-Muslim propaganda coming from the US, there is little doubt that the IDF would have been so emboldened.

On a positive note, it’s quite telling, and appropriate, that the self-similar snail shell (caracol) became the emblem of the Zapatistas, and the model for their communities. Rebecca Solnit explains this well, and quotes a wonderful passage from Marcos, who draws from his folk hero, “Old Antonio”:

The wise ones of olden times say that the hearts of men and women are in the shape of a caracol, and that those who have good in their hearts and thoughts walk from one place to the other, awakening gods and men for them to check that the world remains right. They say that they say that they said that the caracol represents entering into the heart, that this is what the very first ones called knowledge. They say that they say that they said that the caracol also represents exiting from the heart to walk the world…. The caracoles will be like doors to enter into the communities and for the communities to come out; like windows to see us inside and also for us to see outside; like loudspeakers in order to send far and wide our word and also to hear the words from the one who is far away.

Contradiction, Paradox, Nuance

There is a great passage in an old Marcos communiqué, “The retreat is making us almost scratch at the sky.” As the echo chambers, petty infighting, and silos build up on the Left, I thought it’d be appropriate to share his thoughts on how to respond to those fearful of heterodox-postmodern-non-ideological-anarchic stances:

After these confessions, he of the voice was exhorted to spontaneously declare himself innocent or guilty of the following series of accusations. To each accusation, he of the voice responded:

The whites accuse him of being dark. Guilty

The dark ones accuse him of being white. Guilty

The authentics accuse him of being indigenous. Guilty

The treasonous indigenous accuse him of being mestizo. Guilty

The machos accuse him of being feminine. Guilty

The feminists accuse him of being macho. Guilty

The communists accuse him of being anarchist. Guilty

The anarchists accuse him of being orthodox. Guilty

The Anglos accuse him of being Chicano. Guilty

The antisemitics accuse him of being in favor of the Jews. Guilty

The Jews accuse him of being pro-Arab. Guilty

The Europeans accuse him of being Asiatic. Guilty

The government officials accuse him of being oppositionist. Guilty

The reformists accuse him of being ultra. Guilty

The ultras accuse him of being reformist. Guilty

The “historical vanguard” accuses him of calling to the civic society and not to the proletariat. Guilty

The civic society accuses him of disturbing their tranquility. Guilty

The Stock Exchange accuses him of ruining their breakfast. Guilty

The government accuses him of increasing the consumption of antiacids in the government’s Departments. Guilty

The serious ones accuse of being a jokester. Guilty

The adults accuse him of being a child. Guilty

The children accuse him of being an adult. Guilty

The orthodox leftists accuse him of not condemning the homosexuals and lesbians. Guilty

The theoreticians accuse of being a practitioner. Guilty

The practicioners accuse of being a theorist. Guilty

Everyone accuses him of everything bad that has happened. Guilty”

I take inspiration from this; I see a sort of playfulness, a glimpse of his “inner child”. Today, we could also say: to those who, without nuance, accuse others of being heretics or dogmatic; to those who would accuse us of rather having a messy, non-violent, and imperfect revolution on the streets rather than continue to perpetuate a self-congratulatory, alienating, bloviating, insular, suffocating, and self-defeating movement in substance and style, we must reply: we are Guilty.

Quantum Theory

Our understanding of reality and consciousness has grown by leaps and bounds with advances in quantum physics. The parallels between Eastern thought and quantum mechanics are uncanny, and no one has explained this better than Fritjof Capra in his bestseller The Tao of Physics. Exploring connections between the sub-atomic world and Hindu, Buddhist, and Taoist philosophy, Capra takes the reader on a tour-de-force. Of course, it was the early physicists who worked on the uncertainty principle, double-slit experiment (wave-particle duality), complementarity, and quantum superpositioning who originally noted the connections between Eastern philosophies. Thus, consciousness and the observer effect somehow influences these experimental designs in ways science currently has no answer for.

Capra synthesizes this and builds upon these models: he insists on the interrelationship operating at certain scales of reality, and calls it a holistic/ecological worldview in his afterword to the 3rd edition.

There has been lots of push-back from other physicists since 1975 when the first edition appeared. The science is not in debate at the sub-atomic scale, rather, how it applies to the macroscopic world is what is at stake. There are plenty of scientists that dismiss Capra completely without acknowledging the very qualified, modest theory he put forward.

The new revelations about quantum entanglement push this line of thought further. The basic idea is: two electrons become “entangled” where the spin of one is connected with the other regardless of distance. When one electron’s spin is measured, the second spin correlates instantaneously, faster than the speed of light. This is what Einstein called “spooky action at a distance.” Non-locality is another name. This flies in the face of the fundamentals laws of physics.

So what does this mean? The best analogy I can come up with (paraphrasing from someone, somewhere) is that when measuring (observing) the first particle, you are pushing through the fabric of space-time with your finger to “touch” the second particle at the same time, bypassing the physical distance between the two.

What are the implications here? Physicists insist this phenomenon doesn’t “scale up” to the macroscopic level. If we look at today’s level of scientific knowledge in physics, they’re right. There is little evidence to suggest this.

Yet, the simple fact that this can occur on sub-atomic levels is staggering. No one knows where these new teachings will take us.  Certainly, though, there are parallels with shamanic/animistic ways of thinking, or, to put it in the words of Stephen Hawking: “every particle and every force in the universe contains information, an implicit answer to a yes-no question.”

However, this interpenetration of levels/worlds in the social and mental realms, is quite pronounced, say, in medical facts. The higher rates of diabetes, heart disease, cancer, in poor and working class communities as well as for minorities is tied to the mental strain and stress of living in substandard housing without proper nutrition, lack of access to education, etc. African American women are 3-4 times more likely to lose children in childbirth compared to white women, due to lack of pre-natal care, and sometimes because their doctors won’t listen to them. Women who’ve suffered a heart attack are more likely to survive if their doctor is a woman, rather than a man. Again, because women doctors are generally: more competent, listen to patients’ symptoms better, and show higher emotional intelligence and compassion.

Gaia Theory

Turning to Earth systems, it was the pioneering work of Lynn Margulis and James Lovelock who together formulated Gaia theory. Thinking of the Earth as a self-regulating super-organism is helpful in many fields, from geology to climate science to evolutionary biology. From the simple-programming of Lovelock’s Daisyworld, today we can model ecosystem resiliency, albedo effects in the Arctic Sea, and deforestation in tropical rain forests, the lungs of the Earth, all in terms of feedback loops which can tie into trends such as global warming, species extinction, desertification, and declining biodiversity.

Scientists are now willing to combine the shocking implications of chaos theory within Gaia: in the journal Nature Barnosky et al. write of “Approaching a state shift in Earth’s biosphere.” The authors write that “the plausibility of a future planetary state shift seems high” and they acknowledge the uncertainty about when it may happen. They also point out: “it is extremely unlikely or impossible for the system to return to its previous state.” Thus, if a hothouse Earth scenario becomes a reality, there will be no going back. Real estate speculation on Antarctica could be a thing in 100 years.

There are reasons to be hopeful. One line of thought was taken up recently by Bruno Latour, who along with a co-author, postulate what they call Gaia 2.0. Simply put, they are referring to a global system where:

…deliberate self-regulation—from personal action to global geoengineering schemes—is either happening or imminently possible. Making such conscious choices to operate within Gaia constitutes a fundamental new state of Gaia, which we call Gaia 2.0. By emphasizing the agency of life-forms and their ability to set goals, Gaia 2.0 may be an effective framework for fostering global sustainability.

While they posit this self-conscious biomimetic planning of bioregions as new, because they see it as the first chance to endeavor to perform this on a global scale, the novelty only really applies to a certain brand of Eurocentric/anthropocentric materialists, anti-intellectual monotheists, and other deniers of common sense and basic ecology. Indigenous groups have used bioregional eco-friendly practices for millennia, with First Nations sustainably caretaking land from Tierra del Fuego to the Arctic Circle.

Consider terra preta in Amazonia, the miraculous change from teosinte to maize which many estimate domestication circa 9000 years ago, mountain terracing in the Andes, super-high productivity with Central American milpas, multiyear field rotation for fallow lands to rejuvenate nutrients, seasonal burns throughout North America which increased deer and upland game bird populations, with agroforestry “forest farming” of chestnut (Chestnut Trees could produce over a ton per acre in vast portions of America before the die-off occurred), hickory, butternut, oak (acorns are used as a food source removing tannins with water) and more. Not to mention the thousands of uses of native plants and fungi for herbal/traditional medicine, preventive/holistic care, and shamanic/spiritual uses.

I would say one of the most interesting debates about what Gaia 2.0 could look like is mostly ignored, because it is occurring on the far side of the globe: Aotearoa, aka New Zealand. Their government has already launched a “Predator Free” program for 2050, where all mammalian predators are hoping to be eliminated with a variety of programs forming in the near future. Intense debate surrounds the gene drive approach, some techniques using CRISPR and some using other gene editing technology, to in effect, using genetic manipulation, create all male future generations of predators and thus, lead to localized extinction of these mammals in Aotearoa and its small outlying islands.

The bioethics are being debated by UN and national groups and many conservation groups are totally against the idea. Some Maori are open to the possibilities of gene-drive technology, yet they understandably critique the bad faith of the scientists involved, citing:

[An] increasing lack of cultural accountability in academic journals who seem happy to publish anything without thought, consideration, or commentary from the communities those papers have extracted from, taken swipe at, or made promises to… The second issue is what I deem bad research-dating behaviour, or rather how to build respectful relationships with indigenous peoples/communities… Relatively few, however, are actually committed to investing their time into building long-term relationships, despite being continually told that that is what is required… However, some researchers by-and-large continue to push an extractive model whereby they attempt to take intellectual property from communities in return for ‘the greater research good’. This model is naïve to the political situations that indigenous communities are operating in, and often places those communities in culturally unsafe positions.

Fritjof Capra notably calls the first step in transitioning to such a state of ecological awareness and cultural sensitivity “eco-literacy” and the next step eco-design. He’s on point. The funny, sad, and tragic thing (to me at least) is that exposes the orthodox technophile Western Left (seemingly the majority) as supporters of what many like to call Industrialism, the over-arching system, including capitalism and state socialism, of fossil fuel exploitation which is killing the planet.

According to the technophile proponents of unrestrained instrumental reason, many of us, well, sane and sensible people, who, in advocating for appropriate-scale technology, have the basic common sense to understand that Small is Beautiful, are a bunch of Luddites, crazy hippies, anti-civ, lifestylists, primitivists, nihilists, and/or misanthropes.

This type of thinking exposes the narrowness and superficiality of many “Leftists” who espouse all the right mantras, yet never bothered to take Marx’s example and actually study and stay abreast with key scientific and ecological advances.

I try my best to remain calm, patient, and equanimous, yet it is difficult with unabashed technophiles- again, possibly the majority of what qualifies as what’s left of the Left. There is a discomfort from listening to the droning on of progressives, and also many banal Leftist economists and historians who pay lip service to sustainability, while not even giving token acknowledgment of the nature of spiritual transformation required.

Many of these people, even on “progressive” alternative media, are unaware of their own immiseration via lack of engagement with the natural world, which I take no pleasure in pointing out, so my queasiness doesn’t qualify as schadenfraude, but apparently, there is another German word for what I’ve been feeling: Fremdschämen: “‘exterior shame’, for those of you who cringe in phantom pain when others make a fool of themselves, this is your word. It describes the feeling of shame when seeing someone else in an uncomfortable or embarrassing situation.” Perhaps Mr. Keuner was feeling this, as well.

Planting Seeds

Well, there is no high note to end this on. Most of activism goes towards wasting time attempting to change the minds of adults whose conditioning and social infantilization have already reached epic proportions. There is no systemic, global plan for engaging the youth in ecological-cultural restorative practices. This is absolutely ridiculous and a severe oversight of academia, including lackadaisical teachers and administrators, as well as conservatives and liberal-progressives who insist on vote-campaigns and the wonders of traditional higher education which indoctrinates and obfuscates class issues: yet the idea of revolutionizing public education never crosses their minds.

Revolutionary artists have always understood this, as well as indigenous tribal societies and many poor and working class communities. Yet today, the hungry ghosts of global capitalism are here to consume the sustenance and life force of future generations in an era where information is at our fingertips as never before.

The current education model effectively imprisons children in unsafe and unhealthy schools, with psychotropic drugs, authoritarian teachers, mind-numbing boredom and ennui functioning as social conditioning for a future hellscape with billions in poverty worldwide, no decent jobs, benefits, or forms of belonging; alongside a crushing tyranny of corporate rule, oligarchy, global war, climate chaos, and a culture ruled by a principle of “repressive tolerance.”

Thus, it is inevitable that the most important thing to do is raise our children in a healthy way. This will require social engagement on a spiritual, intellectual, communal, emotional and material basis (i.e., sharing extra housing for homeless and low-income families, paying child-rearing adults a living wage for their time and labor, equal pay for women, ending oppression against the LGBTQ community, serious environmental education, etc.). Patriarchy and racism will not be solved, until youth are gifted the freedom and opportunity to pursue their passions unencumbered by structurally racist and sexist policies which enforce hierarchy, capitalism, and war, until pathetic guidelines advocating rote memorization in school are abandoned, and crippling conformity fueled by vapid pop culture and the psychically numbing effect of social media is no longer glorified. Poverty, war, and disease cannot be significantly lowered or eliminated without a fundamentally redistributive model.

Furthermore, some sort of restorative healing measures, including some sort of reparations for minorities, including but not limited to redistributing money, property, land, and the means of production, via a process truth and reconciliation in the public sphere, is absolutely crucial. This would necessarily coincide with the dissolving of corporate and state power.

Public and private land must be given back to citizens: we are only free when given the ability to use the means of production to transform corporate agriculture into communal, appropriately-scaled endeavors where communities can directly and deliberatively interact, and transform as need be, to the world-historical changes (climatically, ecologically, and socially) on the immediate horizon.

This would seem to entail relaxing the grip of the Apollonian style of “emotionless” pure logic (techne/episteme), and instrumental reason; and coming to terms with the obverse: the Dionysian, where the shamanic/animistic, nomadic, and anarchic ways of being are accepted. This shift, with the science to back it up, is seen in a many counter-culture belief systems: the push for radical intersubjectivity, expanding studies of the realms of consciousness, a hylozoic belief system, and formulating a new model of recognition (see Taylor, Fraser, Honneth, Butler, among others) which does not re-invigorate the power of capital.

There is no hope of this happening in today’s 24/7 mainstream media, driven by fear and sensationalism. Only a world-historical process, a paradigm shift, can overturn this momentum, which would require inner work to be done on a mass scale in the Western world alongside collective general strikes, debt jubilees, a bit of carnivalesque (Bakhtin)/festival/regional cultural appreciation/in the spirit of a Communitas, and a counter-cultural force which does not overly privilege the economic at the expense of other social struggles.

This critical way of teaching is a sort of “stance”: a tendency towards what Aristotle called eudaimonia, “the good life,” informed by virtue, areté. Another way of phrasing it would be “human flourishing,” and here this referred to a moral sensibility, but also an aesthetic, a form of posture or “stance” if you will, an art of living, a way of (Hölderlin-esque) dwelling poetically upon the Earth.

From another angle, we could consider this a search for The Ethics of Authenticity. As Charles Taylor describes, what is structurally called for is:

…a many leveled struggle, intellectual, spiritual, and political, in which the debates in the public arena interlink with those in a host of institutional settings, like hospitals and schools, where the issues of enframing technology are being lived through in concrete form; and where these disputes in turn both feed and are fed by the various attempts to define in theoretical terms the place of technology and the demands of authenticity, and beyond that, the shape of human life and its relation to the cosmos.

Yet, again, this type of work should get started by educating children, because under the current conditions of liberal democracy, there is no acknowledgment of “interlinking”. There is only the autonomous individual: at least understood by most adults, whose notion of civic duty is voting, or volunteer work, or donating to charity. Rather, youth could be asked to inquire, as Rudy Rucker wondered:

One might also ask whether a person is best thought of as a distinct individual or as a nexus in the web of social interaction. No person exists wholly distinct from human society, so it might seem best to say that the space of society is fundamental. On the other hand, each person can feel like an isolated individual, so maybe the number-like individuals are fundamental. Complementarity says that a person is both individual and social component, and that there is no need to try to separate the two. Reality is one, and language introduces impossible distinctions that need not be made.

We can imagine a single cell in our body asking itself the same question: am I an individual or just part of a wider integrated whole? We can shift the scale but the self-similarity always follows: it’s turtles all the way down. This famous saying, of course, echoes what we know about fractals, and the possibility that we’re in a multiverse. There are also the First Nation stories about Spider Woman, or Grandmother Spider, who created the world. Again, we find the notion of the web- the basis of our bio/psycho/social being, and also a connection to string theory: spider-woman’s creation song; i.e. vibrations held by interconnected threads.

My preferred analogy to the individual/social false binary is mycological (or rhizomatic, though I’ll save D+G for another day): our conception of ourselves (ego) is the mushroom, the fruiting body which rises above the soil, while the unconscious mycelium sustains us below the surface. Although we stand above the detritus (wreckage, as Benjamin says) we are deeply enmeshed in it, history “is not even past” and it feeds, and thus can warp, our consciousness and sensibilities.

Thus we must tend to the soil, nurture the sprouts and green shoots of this new culture. The meager results of our efforts can be depressing (April really can be the cruelest month) yet we must move on, without clinging to hope.

As for the problem of language which Rucker mentioned, it’s worth reminding our sisters and brothers that propaganda is all around us today. As Malcolm X said: “If you’re not careful, the newspapers will have you hating the people who are being oppressed, and loving the people who are doing the oppressing.” Now is the time for the “revaluation of all values.” The struggle continues.

How the Rats Revolt: “Ratting Out” Democrats’ Electoral Extortion

Introduction: The Rat as a Compelling Symbol of Needed Revolt

In his recent Truthdig piece,  “The Rats Revolt“, journalist Chris Hedges discusses a fable for activists just published by legendary political dissident Ralph Nader. I haven’t read Nader’s book, but it’s enough for organizers like me to know that two of the left’s leading public intellectuals are united in calling for revolt. And (since symbols are vital to movements) that they’ve given us a highly effective symbol for organizing current revolt: the rat.

With crucial strategy to discuss, it would waste precious time to dwell long on movement symbolism here. But, besides its adoption by leftist opinion leaders like Hedges and Nader, the rat splendidly serves the purposes of organizing revolt. In the face of onrushing climate apocalypse, we are all rats on a sinking ship. And to the elites blithely ignoring climate apocalypse—partying on the Titanic—we who care deeply about the matter are clearly noxious vermin; the brutal treatment of the Standing Rock water protectors as terrorists (championed by Republican pols with scarcely a murmur of protest by Democrats) is both telling and typical. My family’s experience resisting fracking under PA’s Democratic governor Rendell (Virginia Cody is my wife) was parallel.

But—provided the revolt movement chooses appropriate action—there’s a positive, active side to the rat symbol; it needn’t just represent passive victimhood. Indeed, my case here is that Democrats are engaged in mafia-like behavior—electoral extortion—that demands “ratting out.” Finally, it’s appropriate in view of rats’ historical role in transmitting the bubonic plague, since the movement strategy I propose here is heavily focused on plaguing Democrats.

Revolt Basis: Democrats Criminally Extort Votes against Climate Justice

Say what? Why plague Democrats, with a president as horrible as Trump in charge and ruling Republicans arguably turning ever more fascist?  Indeed, hasn’t Noam Chomsky himself, an icon to most leftists, branded today’s Republican Party “the most dangerous organization in human history“? So what’s up with organizing a mass revolt against Democrats? Isn’t it insane to elect the most dangerous organization in human history?

First off, I’m not saying we should vote Republican, or even run the risk of electing Republicans by voting for third parties. Far from it! Asserting we should vote Republican, or even risk Republicans winning, would contradict my fundamental assertion that Democrats extort our votes. Anyone who takes Chomsky’s assertion that Republicans are the most dangerous organization in human history seriously—and no one takes it more seriously than climate justice activists like me—is poised to understand how Democrats exploit the threat of brutal Republican misrule as a turbocharged tool of electoral extortion.

If Democrats didn’t make a rationally compelling threat, they wouldn’t be practicing extortion. Just as the mob makes a rationally compelling threat: they provably can and will kill your whole family. That Democrats make their totally rational threat unsuccessfully is suggestive evidence of just how loathsome voters find today’s Democrats. Even more so, it’s compelling evidence that U.S. voters on neither the right nor the left are terribly rational. The left, in particular, has shown a piss-poor grasp of Chomsky’s logic.

Anyone acquainted with Chomsky’s dry, matter-of-fact speaking style should realize that he’s not given to emotionally charged hyperbole. In fact, I seem to recall that he adopts that style deliberately, wishing to persuade by facts and logic rather than emotional appeals. So when he makes an assertion as outrageous sounding as calling Republicans the most dangerous organization in human history—and openly acknowledges how outrageous his assertion sounds—he’s basing it on the scientific logic of climate apocalypse, a logic regrettably almost totally absent from U.S. political discourse.

With an unprecedented climate fiasco menacing our species—perhaps to the point of extinction—a Republican Party not merely rejecting climate science, but proactively attacking it as a dangerous conspiracy, is logically humanity’s most dangerous enemy ever. Which is why leftists must choke back our vomit and vote for Democrats. But we hardly need to stop there. We should torture Democrats with righteous wrath for strong-arming us into voting for their own loathsome party. A party with no room whatsoever for climate justice.

By voting for Democrats, we’re voting for a party that overwhelmingly supports fracking and militarism—the first a direct, and the second an indirect, assault on the prerequisites of emergency climate action, as ably laid out by Naomi Klein in This Changes Everything. If leftists needed a scathing indictment of Democrats and their policies, the latest IPCC report is clearly that indictment. Anyone secretly hell-bent on promoting human extinction need not look crazy by backing Republicans; Democrats’ policy commitments will work just fine. But in a political system with only two viable parties, Republicans are demonstrably far worse, beyond appeal to reason (just like any other mob enforcer). For any reasonable person concerned about climate, Democrats’ electoral extortion must succeed. And must be repaid with bitter resentment. That’s what movement organizing—and the time between elections—is for.

So, the logic of U.S. politics cries out specifically for a Rats’ Revolt, one devoted to “ratting out” Democrats for their anti-climate electoral extortion. Moreover, the notion of “ratting out” couldn’t be more appropriate to the nature of Democrats’ extortion. After all, ratting out mob higher-ups to the feds is a disloyal act of revenge or self-protection (both apply here) undertaken by fellow members of the mob. Perhaps those future “rats” were even coerced into the mob under threat of force and therefore owe the mob no real loyalty. Such is the case for all climate justice voters strong-armed into voting Democrat—coerced into the Democrat mob—under the rationally unthinkable threat of Republican rule. Climate justice voters in our hearts, we would—in a genuine democracy—vote for a climate justice party like Greens in a heartbeat. We owe neither love nor loyalty to a Democratic Party that holds our votes hostage—in fact, we hate it—but we will never be safe or free until we “rat out” Democrats’ electoral extortion racket. And torture Democrats—the ones we were coerced into electing—into providing effective remedies.

Making U.S. Elections Safe for Democracy

Democrats clearly have a vested interest in quashing democracy through electoral extortion. And their pretenses of wishing to protect us from Republican fascism and insanity are the purest hypocritical lip service. For there’s a vastly more effective method of sparing us Republican barbarity than demanding we vote for Democrats. It’s called ranked choice voting, and if Democrats really gave a damn about protecting us from Republicans, they’d be tripping over one another to sponsor bills to make it U.S. electoral law.

While I don’t have space here to discuss ranked choice voting in detail (all people who cherish democracy should use the link above to inform themselves), ranked choice voting would forcefully close the curtain on Democratic Party extortion. Every climate justice voter who wished to vote third party—right now, that should mean every climate justice voter—could safely vote, say, for the Green Party candidate and list the Democrat as a second choice. If the Green candidate didn’t win enough first-place votes to stay in the race, the Green voters’ votes would then go to the Democratic candidate. In that way, voting Green would not automatically entail taking a vote away from Democrats. Prospective Green voters would no longer face a compelling dilemma of conscience when voting for their (vastly) preferred party. And climate justice activists like me could—in good conscience—throw all energies into working to build Greens (or the most promising climate justice party). And Democrats would be faced with serious competition from the environmentally and socially conscious left. The same sort of competition that forced 1930s Democrats to embrace the New Deal.

Coercing Democrats to embrace ranked choice voting would open the door to further reforms crucial to “making U.S. elections safe for democracy.” I speak of the hurdles deliberately placed to keep third parties from appealing to voters, whether it be ridiculous barriers to ballot access or scandalous exclusion from major media debates. Currently, both Democrats and Republican show their “mafia” thuggishness by reveling in these anti-democratic practices. With Republicans, this should be no surprise, since fascistic anti-democracy thuggishness is actually a large part of GOP appeal. Whereas Democrats have zero rational grounds for anti-democratically suppressing progressive third parties—except, of course, the threadbare argument of risking electing Republicans. A risk easily removed by enacting ranked choice voting. Democrats’ flagrant resistance to ranked choice voting, like their persistence in third-party-suppressing practices, makes an utter mockery of the party name.

But Democrats’ role models in strong-armed extortion—the mafia—never showed much interest in democracy either.

Conclusion

In this article, I indicated why leftist activists—especially climate justice activists—should take up Chris Hedges’ and Ralph Nader’s call to start a “Rats’ Revolt.” I also sketched the organizing theme and overall strategy for such a revolt. In my next piece, “Chuck Schumer, Democrats’ Low-Profile Teflon Don,” I’ll illustrate the needed tactics for executing our strategy of “ratting on” and “plaguing” Democrats who extort our votes.

Fascism on the March

Latin America is re-converting into Washington’s backyard and as a sideline is returning to fascist rule, similar but worse than the sixties, seventies, and eighties, which stood under the spell of the CIA-led Operation or Plan Condor. Many call the current right-wing trend Operation Condor II which is probably as close to the truth as can be. It is all Washington / CIA fabricated, just with more rigor and more sophistication than Plan Condor of 40 and 50 years ago. As much as it hurts to say, after all the glory and laurels sent out to Latin America – with Hugo Chavez, Fidel Castro, Rafael Correa, Evo Morales, Lula, the Kirchners, José Mujica, Michelle Bachelet – more than 80% of the population of Latin America were living for some 15 to 20 years under democratically elected mostly left-leaning governments, really progressive. Within no time, in less than 3 years the wheels have turned.

Latin America was for about 20 years the only western part of the world, that was fully detached from the fangs of the empire. It has succumbed again to the forces of evil, to the forces of money, the forces of utter corruption and greed. The people of Latin America have betrayed their own principles. They did it again. Humans remain reduced as in ancient times, to the unfailing powers of reproduction and ego cum greed.  It seems in the end, ego and greed always win over the forces of light, of good, peace and harmony. That’s why even the World Bank calls corruption the single most hindrance to development. They mean economic development; I mean conscientious development. This time the trick is false and fraudulent election campaigns; bought elections; Washington induced parliamentary coups – which in Brazil brought unelected President Temer to power, a prelude to much worse to come, the fascist, misogynist, racist, and self-styled military man, Jair Bolsonaro.

The 2015 presidential election in Argentina brought a cleverly Washington manufactured win for Mauricio Macri, a friend and one-time business associate of Donald Trump’s, as it were. The election was manipulated by the by now well-known Machiavellian Cambridge Analytica method of cheating the voters by individualized messages spread throughout the social media into believing all sorts of lies about the candidates. Voters were, thus, hit on the head by surprise, as Macri’s opponent, the left-leaning Daniel Scioli of the Peronist Victory Front, the leader in the polls, was defeated.

Today Macri has adopted a fascist economic agenda, indebted the country with IMF austerity packages, increased unemployment and poverty from12% before his election in 2015 to close to 40 % in 2018. He is leading Argentina towards a déjà-vu scenario of the 80s and especially 1990’s when under pressure from the US, IMF and World Bank, the country was to adopt the US dollar as their local currency, or to be exact, Argentina was allowed to keep their peso, but had to commit to a one-to-one parity with the US dollar. The official explanation for this criminal move, in economic terms (to impose the use of the currency of one country for the economy of another country is not only insane, it’s outright criminal), was to stop skyrocketing inflation – which temporarily it did, but to the detriment of the working class, for whom common staple and goods became unaffordable.

Disaster was preprogrammed. And the collapse of Argentine’s economy happened in 2000 and 2001. Finally, in January 2002, President Eduardo Duhalde ended the notorious peso-dollar parity. The peso was first devalued by 40% – then it floated towards a 70% devaluation and gradually pegged itself to other international trading currencies, like the euro, the Japanese yen and the Chinese yuan. Eventually, the newly floating currency allowed the Argentine economy to get a new boost and recovered rapidly. Perhaps too rapidly, for Argentina’s own good.

The economy grew substantially under the left, fully democratically elected Kirchner Governments. Not only did the economy grow rapidly, it also grew in a widely ‘distributive’ mode, meaning reducing poverty, assessed at almost two thirds of the population in 2001, cutting it to about 12%, just a month before Macri was catapulted into office, by Washington and Cambridge Analytica in December 2015. Argentina has become rich again; she can now be milked again and sucked dry by the banking sector, and international corporatism, all protected by three to be newly established US military bases in the provinces of Neuquen, Misiones and Tierra del Fuego. They will initially be under the US Southern Command, but most likely soon to be converted into NATO bases. NATO is already in Colombia and may soon spread into Bolsonaro’s Brazil.

Though nobody really understands what the North Atlantic Treaty Organization has to do in South America – the answer is unimportant. The empire suits itself with whatever fits the purpose. No rules, no ethics, no laws – everything goes under neoliberalism. NATO is to become a world military attack force under Washington’s control and directed by those few “enlightened”, pulling the strings from behind the curtains, form the deep dark state.

Macri marked the beginning of Latin America’s new fascism. South America struggled for 15 -20 years to become independent from the neoliberal masters of the north. It has now been reabsorbed into the northern elite’s, the empire’s backyard — yes, sadly, that’s what Latin America has become for the major part, a mere backyard of Washington.

Argentina’s Washington imposed right-wing dictatorship was preceded by Paraguay’s 2012 parliamentary coup that in April 2013 brought Horacio Cartes of the right-extreme Colorado party to power. The Colorado Party was also the party of Alfredo Stroessner, the fascist brutal military dictator, who ruled Paraguay from 1954 to 1989.

In Chile on 9/11 of 1973 a democratically elected socialist, Salvador Allende, was overthrown under the guidance of the CIA and a brutal military dictator, Augusto Pinochet installed for almost 30 years. After a brief spring of center and left-leaning governments, Chile, in December 2017, has returned to right-wing, neoliberal politics with Sebastian Piñera, a former associate of Pinochet’s. With the surroundings of his neoliberal friends and close accomplices in Argentina, Colombia, Brazil, Peru and even Ecuador, to be sure, he will move to extreme right, neo-fascist economic rules and, thus, please Washington’s banks and their instruments, the IMF and the World Bank.

Fascism is on the march. And this despite the fact that 99.99% of the population, not just in Latin America, worldwide, want nothing to do with fascism – so where is the fraud? Why is nobody investigating the scam and swindle in Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Peru, Colombia and then putting the results up for everyone to see?

In the meantime, we have learned about Cambridge / Oxford Analytica (CA & OA). How they operate and cheat the electorate. They themselves have finally admitted to the methods within which they operate and influence voters with lies – and with data stealing or buying from social media, mainly Facebook; millions and millions of personal data to target electronically special groups of people – bombarding them with lies to promote or denigrate the one or the other candidate.

And precisely this happened in Brazil. A week before the run-off election that took place this past Sunday, 28 October, Fernando Haddad, (PT), launched a criminal investigation precisely for that reason against Bolsonaro’s campaign. Of course, nothing happened. All the judges, courts and lawyers are under control of the unelected corrupt right-wing Temer Government – which came to power by a foreign directed ruthless parliamentary coup, impeaching under totally false pretenses democratically elected Dilma Rousseff.

And now – there is nobody investigating what happened in Brazil, bringing a military boy, Jair Bolsonaro to power? The left is dead? Flabbergasted into oblivion indeed? How come? With all the lessons to be learned around the world, and not least in Argentina, the neighbor – why can the Brazilian left be so blind, outright naive, as to not understand that following the criminally legalized system in their country is following the path to their own demise and eventually to shovel their own grave?

From day One, the US firmly counts on Bolsonaro to encircle Venezuela, together with Colombia. President Trump has already expressed his expectations to work ‘closely together’ with the new Bolsonaro Government in “matters of trade, military – and earthing else.” Bolsonaro has already met with Mike Pompeo, the US Foreign Secretary, who told him that the situation in Venezuela is a “priority’ for Brazil. There you go; Washington dictates foreign leaders their priorities. Bolsonaro will oblige, for sure.

Wake up – LEFT! – not just in Latin America, but around the world.

Today, it’s the mainstream media which have learned the tricks and cheats, and they have perfected the Cambridge and Oxford Analyticas; they are doing it non-stop. They have all the fake and fiat money in the world to pay for these false and deceit-campaigns.  They are owned by the corporate military and financial elite, by the CIA, MI6/5, Mossad – they are owned and directed by the western all-overarching neoliberalism cum fascism. The rich elite groups have free access to the fake and fiat money supply – its government supplied in the US as well as in Europe; debt is no problem for them, as long as they ‘behave’.

Yes. The accent is on behaving. Dictatorial trends are also omni-present in the EU, and especially in the non-elected European Commission (EC) which calls the shots on all important matters. Italy’s Fife-Star Eurosceptic Government presented its 2019 budget to Brussels. Not only was the government scolded and reprimanded for overstretching its accounts with a deficit exceeding the 3% EU imposed debt margin, but the government had to present a new budget within 3 weeks. That is how a not-so-well behaving EU government is treated. What a stretch of authoritarian EU rule vis-à-vis a sovereign government. And ‘sovereignty’ is – the EU boasts – the key to a coherent European Union.

On the other hand, France has for years been infringing on the (in)famous 3% rule. And again, for the 2019 budget. However, the French government received a friendly drafted note saying, would you please reconsider your budget deficit for the next year. No scolding. One does not reprimand a Rothchild Child. Double standards, corruption, nepotism, are among the attributes of fascism. It’s growing fast, everywhere in the west. It has taken on a life of itself. And the military is prepared. Everywhere. If only they, the military, would wake up and stand with the people instead of the ruling elite that treats them like their peons. Yet, they are part of the people; they belong to the most common of the people. In the end, they get the same shaft treatment as the people.  They are tortured and shot when they are no longer needed, or if they don’t behave as the neocon-fascists want.

So, Dear Military Men and Women, why not pre-empt such risks and stand with the people from the very beginning? The entire fake and criminal system would collapse if it wouldn’t have the protection of the police and the military. You, dear Men and Women form the Police and Military, you have the power and the moral obligation to stand by the people, not defending the ruthless, brutal elitist and criminal rulers – à la Macri, Bolsonaro, Piñera, Duque, Macron, May and Merkel. And there are many more  of the same blood.

One of the first signs for what was to happen throughout Latin America and spreading through the western world, was the “fake election” of Macri, in 2015 in Argentina. Some of us saw it coming and wrote about it. We were ignored, even laughed at. We were told we didn’t understand the democratic process. Yes, right. In the meantime, the trend towards the right, towards a permanent state of Emergency, a de facto Martial Rule has become irreversible. France has incorporated the permanent state of emergency in her Constitution. Armed police and military are a steady presence throughout Paris and France’s major cities.

There are only a few, very few exceptions left in Latin America, indeed in the western world.

And let’s do whatever we can to save them from the bulldozer of fascism.

Fact-Checking the Establishment’s “Fact-Checkers”: How the “Fake News” Story is Fake News

It would be an understatement to say that during U.S. President Donald Trump’s term in office, the issue of truth and falsehoods has been a central topic of political discourse. It was a reoccurring issue throughout the 2016 election and has only continued following his unlikely triumph. While naïve liberals who fetishize Trump would have us believe he is the first political figure to ever lie routinely, the real radical departure of the numerous false statements that seemed to propel, rather than hinder, his success was their lack of refinement and unpredictability.

Shortly after Trump took the oath of office, campaign manager Kellyanne Conway infamously used the phrase “alternative facts” while defending Press Secretary Sean Spicer’s dispute of the attendance drop at the inauguration ceremony from predecessor Barack Obama. The low-hanging fruit of Conway’s remarks were widely interpreted as an instance of ‘Orwellian doublespeak’, but the kernel of truth in them was missed by the self-styled ‘respectable’ media of the establishment who hide behind a guise of objectivity and self-appointed expertise while positioning themselves as omniscient arbiters of truth. Spicer’s claim was indeed an obvious lie, yet the general accuracy of Conway’s point was that what one considers ‘factual’ often comes down to worldview.

For the U.S. political establishment, there is only one acceptable worldview. The terrifying significance of Trump’s victory, which defied their so-called expert polling and turned the New York Times forecast needle 180-degrees, is that the propaganda arm of mainstream media has become irrelevant and the American political system is collapsing. Hillary Clinton’s defeat was the culmination of a steady, inevitable process as evening news audiences have been shrinking for years while print media has approached near obsolescence. Simultaneously, more and more people are turning to alternative sources for news and information, albeit some of it unfortunate.

The introduction of the term “fake news” into the political lexicon has been deliberate and is a desperate attempt by the establishment to maintain its grip on the flow of knowledge. It was strategically re-appropriated by Trump himself, who frequently accuses mainstream media of reporting misinformation. Unfortunately, what he deems “fake news” is merely that which undermines him politically or personally, but there is a truth at the core of his crude attacks on the press. Trump’s labeling of mainstream media as “the enemy of the people” was unintentionally accurate only because he was referring to that which undercuts his own power. Nevertheless, it is an appropriate label considering that 90% of mass media — newspapers, magazines, books, radio, television, film studios, and internet news content — is owned by just six conglomerates in General Electric, News Corp, CBS, Disney, Viacom and Time Warner. Some like G.E. are contracted by the Pentagon.

Frankfurt School critical theorists Max Horkheimer and Theodor W. Adorno once wrote of ‘the culture industry’, or how the mechanized standardization of popular culture homogenizes everyday life under capitalism. They would likely cringe at the very idea of the “fake news” phenomenon, which implies that what mass media typically produces is “real.” A billionaire reality television star becoming President is itself the perfect apotheosis of a society governed by a deceptive mass media rendering it docile. Unsurprisingly, the fourth estate was only interested in superficially reducing Trump’s attack on their credibility to his propensity to behave like a despot, something which in their counterfeit world only exists in other countries.

Not only does mass media provide the public with what comic George Carlin called an ‘illusion of choice’, but it acts as a dictation machine for the military-industrial complex. Most notably, virtually all the major news outlets parroted the lies of the Bush administration with its fabrication of evidence that Iraq possessed Weapons of Mass Destruction to sell the U.S. invasion of Baghdad in 2003. Its monumental failure to hold the Bush administration accountable has directly correlated with the rapidly declining public trust in the media ever since. Perhaps the reason the phrase resonated with voters during the election is because it generally acknowledged the enormous gap between the reported world and the actual one they live in. The late Edward S. Herman and Noam Chomsky wrote the definitive manual on the media’s propaganda function and social engineering in Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media.

In reality, the phrase “fake news” was inserted into the mass political consciousness by the leading US spy agencies, who clearly favored a Clinton victory, through mass media to stoke fears of ‘domestic disinformation’ being spread on social networks by the Russian government. Just as in the lead-up to the Iraq War, major news outlets have simply repeated, instead of scrutinizing, the intelligence community’s unproven claims that Moscow manipulated voters by spreading ‘disinformation’ to influence the election. As a result, the meaning of the expression has been redefined to discredit any news from a political viewpoint that challenges the status quo. The media’s strings have been pulled by a modern equivalent of the C.I.A.’s Operation Mockingbird influence campaign during the Cold War which appears to have been resurrected for its sequel.

Trump’s opponent, Hillary Clinton, was equally responsible for the idiom’s ubiquitous usage and weaponized it in the same manner — not to identify actual disinformation, but to denote any claims, true or false, which tarnished her image. Clinton dismissed the significance of the WikiLeaks release of transcripts of her speeches to Goldman Sachs and leaked emails which exposed her conspiring with the Democratic National Committee for the party’s nomination against her primary opponent, Bernie Sanders. As a diversion, the genuine leaks were conflated with wild speculation on the right-wing fringe about her health and a debunked conspiracy about a child sex ring at a D.C. pizzeria. However, Clinton and the media never disputed the leak origins and authenticity.

This left the American voter a choice between a far right demagogue speaking to their confused grievances, or a career politician with close ties to a constellation of global financiers who professed to be a champion of women’s rights as she accepted millions from Persian Gulf monarchies that stone women to death for committing adultery. Unfortunately for Hillary, it was easy to tell she would be more comfortable at a Bilderberg Group meeting than at your local feminist bookstore. None of this is to say that Trump isn’t cut from the same cloth, but he expertly cast himself as an outsider up against an elite and they played right into his hand.

The foremost purveyor of truly damaging false news has been liberal flagship, the Washington Post. Owned by the world’s wealthiest man in technocrat Jeff Bezos, whose company Amazon provides the C.I.A. with its cloud infrastructure through a $600 million contract with the Defense Department, it is structurally incompatible for such an asset to ever be critical of the military-industrial complex without working against its financial incentive. Despite that enormous and undisclosed conflict of interest, the Post openly collaborated with the C.I.A. to leak unverified claims by anonymous officials that Russia ‘cyber meddled’ to undermine the democratic process in favor of a Trump victory. In a paradigm of yellow journalism, WaPo published such unreliable hearsay uncritically while keeping the evidence and sources entirely secret. They presented the accusations as if they should be taken at face value based on the intelligence community’s supposed infallibility, as if to wipe clean the collective memory of the Iraq War and the disclosures of the NSA’s global surveillance program.

The Washington Post also promoted PropOrNot, an anonymously written website that labeled dozens of news sites, some of which this author has written for, as “routine peddlers of Russian propaganda.” The site alleges that the spreading of articles by the targeted outlets somehow influenced the election, when the overlapping characteristic between the pages smeared was not support for Donald Trump or opposition to Hillary Clinton, but a critical regard for U.S. foreign policy across the political spectrum. PropOrNot also advertises a section entitled ‘related projects’ which mostly lists similar “fact-checking” websites promoted by Google and Facebook. Pseudo-analysis of news has become another weapon of choice for the establishment’s psychological warfare, but unlike grassroots watchdog groups who hold journalism under a critical microscope such as Media Lens and Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting, “fact-checking” sites mechanically repeat the pre-approved narratives of corporate media without exception.

The referees of truth endorsed by big tech all don the misleading disclaimer that they have no political affiliations or funding from biased organizations. Take, for instance, the highly cited FactCheck.org, owned by the Annenberg Public Policy Center and bankrolled by its endowment, the Annenberg Foundation. The late billionaire publishing tycoon Walter H. Annenberg is perhaps most known for his massive painting collection donated to prominent museums and his financial support for the arts. However, he spent much of his life in philanthropy for the purpose of rehabilitating the family reputation tarnished by his crooked father, Moses “Moe” Annenberg, who was convicted in one of the largest tax fraud cases in U.S. history during the Franklin D. Roosevelt administration.

Moe Annenberg started his career working for newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst as a distribution manager where he hired mobsters like Lucky Luciano to terrorize their competitors. He later became a media mogul himself using the same illicit tactics until he was indicted for his financial misconduct in 1939. The young Walter Annenberg worked for his father and initially faced similar charges, but they were dropped after the elder Annenberg pleaded guilty and was sentenced to three years in prison. While his father took the rap, Walter Annenberg was free to continue to build the family fortune and eventually a media empire, using his riches to carry on the family legacy of tax evasion in the form of charitable donations. The scam of philanthropy is a practice typical of the ultra-wealthy who mask their influence on global affairs under the phony banner of altruism.

Walter Annenberg later became a diplomat as the U.S. Ambassador to the United Kingdom under President Richard Nixon and was even knighted by Queen Elizabeth II, whom he frequently hosted at the Annenberg family’s 200-acre estate along with numerous other figures in high society, from Ronald and Nancy Reagan to the deposed Shah of Iran, Mohammad Reza. Despite FactCheck.org’s endorsement from Silicon Valley oligarchs as an impartial source, it turns out the Annenberg Foundation also made huge financial donations to the Clinton Foundation over the years and could not be more in the service of the powers that be.

Google also advertises the U.S.-government funded Polygraph.info as a reputable source, a site launched by the C.I.A.’s Radio Free Europe/Free Liberty and Voice of America “news” organizations. RFE/FL is currently based in Prague but was previously headquartered in West Germany during the Cold War where it broadcast its anti-communist propaganda to undermine the Soviet Union. Polygraph.info now serves a similar purpose of information warfare in cyberspace for the revived Cold War 2.0 while presenting itself as a fact-checking source to counter “Russian propaganda” outlets. The C.I.A. openly admitted the true character of Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty and its origins on its own website:

On June 1, 1949, a group of prominent American businessmen, lawyers, and philanthropists — including Allen Dulles, who would become Director of Central Intelligence in 1953 — launched the National Committee for Free Europe (NCFE) at a press release in New York. Only a handful of people knew that NCFE was actually the public face of an innovative “psychological warfare” project undertaken by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). That operation — which soon gave rise to Radio Free Europe — would become one of the longest running and successful covert action campaigns ever mounted by the United States.

Meanwhile, the most dubious of all the advocated verification sites is the popular domain Snopes.com. Snopes was founded in the mid-90s originally as Urban Legends Reference Pages, a site started by an apparently ordinary California couple, David and Barbara Mikkelson, to ‘debunk’ urban folklore. Its moniker comes from a fictional family in the Snopes trilogy of novels by renowned modernist writer William Faulkner. In the series, the Snopes family consists of disturbed relatives who commit murder, pedophilia, bestiality, pornography, racism, theft, corruption and other misdeeds. Thus, anyone ‘exposed’ by the site making claims it determines to be false are likened to a seedy member of the Snopes family.

Despite its bottom-up outward appearance, the site never breaks from mainstream news accounts of events. For example, Snopes maintains that the well-documented allegations of ties between the volunteer rescue organization Syrian Civil Defense, AKA the White Helmets, and terrorist groups participating in the Syrian Civil War is “false.” It does not address that there are multiple videos of White Helmets members facilitating and participating in executions, celebrating with militants of Al-Qaeda’s Syrian affiliate Al-Nusra Front, and dumping the bodies of Syrian Arab Army soldiers. The issue is clearly still a matter of dispute among the journalism community as many credible figures, from Seymour Hersh to John Pilger, have expressed skepticism about the group, but Snopes per usual made a one-sided determination. It may be able to disprove tabloid fodder or the likes of Breitbart and InfoWars, but it is no authority on matters of geopolitics and should not be irresponsibly promoted as such. Maybe it should stick to its roots debunking popular myths about whether or not earwigs crawl into human ears.

Since the site expanded to include politics and world events, it became extremely popular over time and now averages millions of views. In the meantime, Barbara and David Mikkelson have gone through a bitter divorce and the latter has retained control of the site, hiring a team of assistants allegedly from its message board to replace his ex-wife. Although it claims to have a tiny staff, Snopes somehow manages to produce an extremely prolific amount of investigative articles. Given its scope and body of work, it is difficult to believe it is only receiving its financial support from ad revenue and GoFundMe campaigns alone or is as small an operation as it claims. Until recently it was in an ongoing legal battle with Proper Media, an advertising agency with a 50% stake in its ownership which for a time put its future in jeopardy.

Snopes does admit to accepting $100,000 from Facebook for participating in their fact-checking partnership effort following the 2016 election. Rather than being punished for its mishandling of the private information of tens of millions of profiles, the social media giant is being rewarded for its failure to protect user privacy from data breaching. Earlier this year, Facebook announced it had partnered with the Atlantic Council, an elite Washington think tank funded by the U.S. State Department, NATO, foreign governments like United Arab Emirates, weapons contractor Lockheed Martin, oil giant Chevron, and features Henry Kissinger on its board of directors. In a disturbing corporate-state collaboration, Silicon Valley has been empowered to be the umpire of determining authentic news and given the authority to stifle subversive content with no oversight or legal ramifications. All of this begs the question — who fact-checks the “fact checkers”? Who gets to determine what is or what isn’t “fake news”? The ruling elite, apparently.

In her memoir, Hillary Clinton made it clear what constitutes fake news — the release of her emails and transcripts of speeches revealing her corruption and subservience to Wall Street. WikiLeaks’ reporting was never impugned, however, therefore what constitutes “fake news” is actually real news or anything that threatens those in power. Instead of encouraging media literacy, the working class is regarded with utter disdain by the establishment who have made clear they must control what the public is allowed to see because they can no longer be trusted to make the correct decision; i.e., vote for the candidate favored by the military-intelligence apparatus. The true purpose behind the “fact-checking” PSY-OP is to stigmatize criticism of the neocon political establishment as a whole and liken anyone who does so to those who believe global warming is a hoax or that the earth is flat.

Unsurprisingly, it turns out that Trump, like Barack Obama before him, has only expanded the U.S. war machine as President. Unlikely it may seem to many, however, during the campaign he was the ‘peace candidate’ relative to Hillary Clinton. American voters certainly saw it that way and it may have just tipped the scales of the election. Last year, an academic study was released which made the argument entitled Battlefield Casualties and Ballot Box Defeat: Did the Bush-Obama Wars Cost Clinton the White House? Its summary states:

Increasingly, a divide is emerging between communities whose young people are dying to defend the country, and those communities whose young people are not. In this paper we empirically explore whether this divide — the casualty gap — contributed to Donald Trump’s surprise victory in November 2016. The data analysis presented in this working paper finds that indeed, in the 2016 election Trump was speaking to this forgotten part of America. Even controlling in a statistical model for many other alternative explanations, we find that there is a significant and meaningful relationship between a community’s rate of military sacrifice and its support for Trump. Our statistical model suggests that if three states key to Trump’s victory — Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin — had suffered even a modestly lower casualty rate, all three could have flipped from red to blue and sent Hillary Clinton to the White House.

One must ascribe to chaos theory to see the forest through the trees in the Trump era. The significance of his victory is that it has been an enormous ‘shock to the system’ where the permitted political space has been opened to anti-establishment narratives across the spectrum. A similar shakeup came ten years ago in the form of the financial crash and not coincidentally the Occupy Wall St. and the Tea Party emerged. While it has the unfortunate side effect of emboldening the worst elements on the far right, it also has the potential to revitalize a left that was, sans Occupy, largely dormant under Obama. Those in power are well aware and the current wave of censorship is not about preventing a Trump re-election so much as it is about neutralizing the left.

The failures of the left throughout the past century, more specifically that of socialism, can also come from within. Social democrats betrayed the working class and participated in the slaughter of WWI until the Bolsheviks ended it. The left of today must be willing to learn from its mistakes more quickly. For example, many have expressed excitement that Bernie Sanders is partnering with Greek economist Yanis Varoufakis to counter the rise of ultra-nationalism worldwide, as far rightist Jair Bolsanaro was just elected the President of Brazil. Yet the social democracy that Sanders and Varoufakis advocate is only the most modest New Dealism to reform capitalism and make it more humane. However relatively progressive it may seem, it will likely prove no match for either the ruling class or the up-and-coming wave of far right populism. The fact that Sanders uses the Nordic model should be enough to know their limitations. Although he wisely jumped ship, it was Varoufakis’ elected SYRIZA coalition in Greece which completely betrayed its constituency by capitulating to EU austerity and NATO expansion. History indicates that only a real alternative in genuine socialism and a working class willing to become militant will the promise of emancipatory politics ever be fulfilled.

Charter Schools Are Promoted Heavily by the Left, Not Just the Right

One of the main criticisms of charter schools is that they are terrible because right wingers are behind them.

Many right wingers are indeed behind charter schools. U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos is a textbook example of right-wing support for charter schools. The billionaire Koch brothers are another example of right-wing support for charter schools. Many others could be cited.

But this does not tell the full story of charter schools and who else strongly supports and promotes them.

In reality, charter schools started out nearly 30 years ago with heavy support from democrats, and were, in fact, initiated and organized specifically by democrats (and so-called “centrists”).

Democrats have also consistently supported charter schools through the widely-rejected No Child Left Behind Act that plagued the nation for many years, and is still injuring the nation through its reincarnation as the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (2015).

It is worth recalling as well that Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, both so-called democrats, enthusiastically supported charter schools when they were in power. And to this day, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders have never firmly opposed the existence and expansion of charter schools.

In addition, democrats in many state legislatures have repeatedly turned out in large numbers to energetically support the existence and expansion of charter schools. There is no shortage of such democrats.

The notion that charter schools are supported mainly by right wingers is inaccurate and misleading. It defines the foes of the public interest in a narrow way, instead of depicting their true scope, breadth, and nature. Charter schools have always been much more than a right wing, republican, or conservative phenomenon.

While some on the left and right do not support charter schools, many on both sides do. This is why so many top-down, antisocial, neoliberal education policies have “bipartisan support.”

The public should reject charter schools no matter who is behind them. There is no justification for their existence, let alone their expansion. Their track record is very unimpressive and rife with fraud, corruption, and racketeering. Arrests and scandals surround so many charter schools. Watching charter schools operate and implode is like watching a blood sport. A toxic, anarchic, and surreal ethos prevails in the charter school sector.

The nonsense that deunionized and deregulated charter schools run by private organizations are needed because public schools are “failing” ignores how and why public schools are actively set-up to fail, and the real political and economic relations behind the rise and expansion of pay-the-rich schemes such as charter schools.

The public should also reject the false left-right divide because the  neoliberal agenda remains strong across this diversionary political divide.

The public interest cannot be served by bypassing grass-roots forces and relying on the rich and their political representatives, whether they are on the so-called “right” or “left.” The issues confronting the broad polity go beyond these false and unprincipled divisions. Capital-centered ideas, policies, and arrangements harm the public interest regardless of who supports or promotes them.

West is losing and so it is bashing China and Russia “Left and Right” Literally

The insanity and vileness of Western anti-Chinese propaganda used to make some of my Chinese friends cry late at night. But things are changing. The lunacy of what is said and written about China (and Russia, of course), in the US and Europe, is now clearly reflecting frustration and the bad manners of sore losers. One could almost be inclined to pity the Western empire, if only it wasn’t so violently murderous.

The Empire’s propagandists are pitying nobody – they are now shooting like maniacs, but without any coherent plan.

Various Western ‘experts’ and journalists cannot really agree on the basics: ‘what is really wrong with China’. But they are paid extremely well to find new and newer skeletons in the huge Chinese closets, and so they are constantly competing with each other, looking for the juiciest and the most scandalous stories. Often it appears that it pays to assume that absolutely everything is flawed with the most populous, and on top of it, Communist (with the ‘Chinese characteristics, of course) country on earth!

China will end extreme poverty by 2020, but do not look for cheers and applause from Berlin, Paris, London and Washington. China is far ahead of all the large countries on earth in building a so-called ‘ecological civilization’, but who is willing to notice? China is constructing public parks, boardwalks and playgrounds, the biggest on earth, but who cares? The Chinese government is introducing sweeping educational reforms, while flooding the entire nation with concert halls, museums and theatres. But that’s not worth mentioning, obviously!

Western propaganda tries to discredit China literally from both ‘left and right’, sometimes accusing it for being too Communist, but when it is suitable, even for ‘not being Communist enough’.

The New York Times ran a cover-page story on October 5, 2018, “Unlikely foe for China’s leaders: Marxists”. For this highly sarcastic piece, a reporter visited the Chinese city of Huizhou, from where he wrote about a group of over-zealous young Marxists who are demanding things to be as they were in Mao’s days:

But the Huizhou activists represent a threat the authorities did not expect.

Seriously? A threat? China is moving towards Communism, again, under the current leadership. We are talking about democratic, socially-oriented Communism. But let us not argue with the official U.S. newspaper. It is definitely not a pro-Communist publication, but they had to show some sympathy (by running a cover story!) to a small bunch of over-zealous ‘opposition’ Marxists, just to spread doubts among the readers, suggesting that the Chinese government is not that Red, anymore.

The next day (Saturday-Sunday edition, October 6-7, 2018), the same New York Times published two cover stories on China. One was along its usual anti-Chinese and anti-Russian conspiracy lines “Will China hack U.S. mid-terms?”, but the other basically contradicted the story from the previous day, accusing Beijing this time of cutting the wings of private companies: “Beijing is pushing back into business”, with a sub-title:

Government flexes muscle as private companies that built economy lose ground.

‘Wherever it can hurt China, just write it’, could be the credo of thousands of European and North American journos: ‘as long as the news about or from China is bad, really dark and negative, anything goes!’

Too much Communism, or too little… As far as the West is concerned – China can never get it right! Because… simply because it is China, because it is Asia, and because it waves the red flags.

And so, The New York Times ran two totally contradictory stories. An editorial blunder, or a pre-meditated attempt to inflict maximum damage, by kicking ‘left and right’?

*****

It is, of course, fun, to follow this propaganda trend, ‘from a safe distance’ (meaning: ‘not believing a word of what it says’). But what is happening is not a joke; what is being done can actually be deadly. It can trigger, unexpectedly, a chain of events that could truly hurt China.

‘An explosion’ could originate in Taiwan, in Southeast Asia, or from the PRC territory itself.

Look at Brazil, look at Venezuela! Look at all those Color Revolutions, Umbrella Revolutions, ‘Springs’ from Europe to Arab countries. And look at China itself: who triggered; who sponsored the so-called Tiananmen Square events? There is clearly enough evidence, by now, that it was not some spontaneous student rebellion.

The West has convinced several countries such as the Philippines, that they should confront China, through various territorial claims in which, honestly, almost no serious Filipino historian or political scientist is ready to believe (unless he or she is paid royally from abroad). I talked directly to several top historians and political scientists in Manila, and I got a clear picture of whom and what is behind those territorial claims. I wrote about it in the past, and soon will again.

China is too big to tolerate dangerous subversions from abroad. Its leadership knows well: when the country is in disarray, hundreds of millions of human beings suffer. To preserve the nation’s territorial integrity is essential.

*****

So, what is China really; in a summary?

It is a Communist (or you may call it a socialist) country with thousands of years of a great and comparatively egalitarian history. It has a mixed economy but with central planning (government tells the companies what to do, not vice-versa). It is clearly the most successful nation on earth when it comes to working on behalf of, and for the benefit of, its citizens. It is also the most peaceful large nation on earth. And here are two more essential points: China is at the forefront of saving the world from the looming ecological disaster. And it has no colonies, or ‘neo’-colonies, being essentially an ‘internationalist’ state.

Its political system, economy, culture: all are diametrically different from those in the West.

China has millions of things to say about how this planet should be governed, how it should be marching forward, and what is true democracy (rule of the people).

Now honestly: does Western mainstream, which manufactures ‘public opinion’ all over the world, allows many Chinese (PRC) patriots, Communists, thinkers, to appear on television screens, or to write op-eds?

We know the answer. Almost exclusively, it is the Westerners who are, (by the Western rulers), entrusted with the tremendous task of ‘defining what China is or isn’t’. And what the entire world is or isn’t.

If China says that it is ‘socialist with Chinese characteristics’, they say ‘No!’ with their perfect Oxford accents. And their arrogance from telling the greatest civilization on earth what it actually is or isn’t, gets accepted because of the fact that most of them are white, and they speak perfect English (paradoxically, still a seal of trustworthiness, at least in certain circles).

The West never hears what the Chinese or Russians think about the world. While the Chinese and Russians are literally bombarded by what the West thinks about them.

Even Chinese people used to listen to such ‘false prophets’ from the ‘civilized West’. Now they know better. Same as the Russians know better. Same as many in Latin America know better.

The spread of Western propaganda and dogmas used to appear as a battle, an ideological combat, for Chinese and Russian brains (if not for hearts). Or at least it appeared as such, to many naïve, trusting people.

Now it is all much simpler and ‘in the open’: the battle continues, but the frontlines and goals have shifted. How?

What is taking place these days, is simply an enormous clash between Western imperialism plus its propaganda, versus the determination of the Chinese and Russian people to live their own lives the way they choose. Or to put it into even simpler terms: the battle is raging between Western imperialism on one side, and democracy with ‘Chinese and Russian characteristics’ on the other.

West is bashing China and Russia ‘left and right’, literally. But it is definitely not winning!

*****

• First published by NEO – New Eastern Outlook

The Contradictions of Being Pro-Capitalist and Anti-War

In his lesser known novel, A Small Town in Germany, John Le Carré skewers the diplomatic class in the old West German capital of Bonn. An investigator sent to the drizzly town on the banks of the Rhine discovers a fog of misdirection as he tries to track down a fled spy. At one point, comfortably resigned to his frustration, a glib diplomat tells the investigator, himself at wit’s end, unable to capitalize on an array of clues, “There’s always something; there’s never enough.” This is largely the story of the socialist “opportunists” that the Russian Bolsheviks themselves skewered in the revolutionary and blood-scented atmosphere of World War One Europe. As Vladimir Lenin argues in Imperialism: The Highest Stage of Capitalism, the socialist opportunists argue for something: a few tepid reforms that may provide a transitory respite in the plight of the poor. But they never go far enough: challenging a system of predatory appropriation for which minor reforms are nothing but an extended sentence. They offered a map to nowhere on a path whose starting and end points are the same.

It is likewise the story of today’s bourgeois liberal class, a hollow parody of progressivism allied with the ruling class establishment. Not only are today’s Democrats purveyors of media misdirection with Russiagate, but their policies are likewise the stuff of fake news and forgotten promises. The liberal class, including its current champion, Bernie Sanders, has yet to face the incompatibility of corporate capitalism, particularly in its monopoly stage, and military imperialism. They are flip sides of the same fascist coin. The early Soviets knew this all too well.

In his memorable screed on onetime socialist Karl Kautsky’s slide into opportunism, Lenin lays out the contradiction between being anti-imperialism and pro-capitalism. After all, if imperialism, as Lenin argues, is the highest stage of capitalism itself, how could one deplore the former and approve the latter? You can’t, not without falling into a set of contradictions that render one’s entire position farcical. Lenin shows, with meticulous documentation, how capital tends to concentrate, creating monopolies and generating demand for new markets and new revenue streams.

An Iron Law of Capitalism

Through a meticulous review of European and North American data, Lenin writes that the “transformation of competition into monopoly is one of the most important–if not most important –phenomena of modern capitalist economy.” He notes how entire supply chains, or verticals, tend to combine for more fluid and efficient production. He notes, “…for example, the smelting of iron ore into pig-iron, the conversion of pig-iron into steel, and then, perhaps, the manufacture of steel…” and quotes one of the leading economists in the Weimar Republic, Rudolf Hilferding, writing, “Combination levels out the fluctuations of trade and therefore assures to the combine enterprises a more stable rate of profit.” It isn’t hard to recognize the empirical proofs of this claim, living as we do in an era of mergers and acquisitions, in which a mind-numbing $2.5 trillion in M&A were launched in just the first half of 2018.

Just consider the mediascape, in which a handful of elephantine conglomerates control some 90 percent of American media. They continue to gobble up smaller local media venues, guaranteeing the phenomenon cleverly spelled out in an 2011 infographic, which notes that 223 executives controlled the “information diet” of some 227 million Americans. While the mergers may indeed happen for reasons of capital, an epiphenomenon is the consolidation of opinion in a few ideologically sanguine hands. Example after example, cover the 1860s through the early 1900s, bring Lenin to the conclusion that “…the rise of monopolies, as the result of the concentration of production, is a general fundamental law of the present stage of the development of capitalism.” It is all done, of course, to stimulate super-profits. Not surprisingly, “the social means of production remain the private property of a few.”

When monopolies don’t get what they want, they take aggressive action against intransigent market entities. Lenin notes several tactics, including shutting down supplies of raw materials, foreclosing avenues of labor supply, quitting deliveries, blocking trade outlets, forming exclusive trade agreements, price cutting, and other vicious economic attacks.  Likewise, the control of capital itself, in the forms of credits and interest rates, is another signal feature of monopolist aggression. (Think of the Volcker Shock.) The monopolists are “…throttling those who do not submit to them…” It is interesting that these tactics are particularly evident in American foreign policy. Washington itself acts like a cartel enforcer for elite capital. These tactics, often in the form of sanctions, have been variously applied to China, Russia, Venezuela, Iran, Syria, North Korea, and other nations that refuse to adopt the yoke of American economic imperialism.

But where does all this economic infighting lead? First to monopoly, then to imperialism. Not only must access to cheap raw materials be fitted into the verticalized supply chain, owned and operated by the monopolist subsidiaries, but new markets must forever be annexed in order to stem a falling rate of profit. Lenin’s argument suggests that World War One was a bloody dividing of the world into separate camps, for the redistribution of colonial possessions, and so on. Another consistent feature of capitalist imperialism we’ve seen in recent years in Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, and Libya, all of which had underlying economic conflicts that drove military conflict.

The Buried Narrative

Lenin adds that monopolists leverage propaganda through media in the form of “false rumours” and “anonymous warnings” in the papers. Sound familiar? The media propaganda foisted on the public is a critical chapter of this story. The story that Lenin lays out, on the growth of competitive capitalism into monopoly and monopoly into imperialism, is a seminal link in the chain that yokes capitalism to war. And yet it has been largely scrubbed from the western record. And the absence of that knowledge is what permits imperialists like the Democratic Party to masquerade as paladins of peace and prosperity through capitalism, all cloaked beneath a feel-your-pain rhetoric aimed squarely at the working class.

Lenin opens a pivotal chapter in Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism, “Critique of Imperialism” with a comment that defines the corporate media and the professional class from which it comes, “’General’ enthusiasm over the prospects of imperialism, furious defence of it and painting it in the brightest colours—such are the signs of the times.” As he says, “’Social-Democratic’ Party of Germany are justly called “social-imperialists”, that is, socialists in words and imperialists in deeds.” Bourgeois scholars and publicists usually come out in defence of imperialism in a somewhat veiled form…do their very best to distract attention from essentials by means of absolutely ridiculous schemes for “reform”, such as police supervision of the trusts or banks, etc.”

He notes that most bourgeois arguments from nations seeking to shrug off the colonial shackles fail to recognize that imperialism is “inseparably bound up with capitalism,” and that requests to remove imperialism without removing capitalism are stillborn petitions, “strangled in the crib”, as Churchill might say, by their internal contradictions. Lenin points to the “anti-imperialists” in America that opposed the American trampling of the Philippines fell into the same trap of foreclosed imagination. While they railed against the “jingo treachery” of American false promises, Lenin said their criticisms would amount to little if they failed to recognize “the inseverable bond between imperialism and the trusts, and, therefore between imperialism and the foundations of capitalism…” His perspective on the Philippines protest almost, step for step, mirrors the reality of today’s “#resistance”, a farcical amalgam of costume parades and tweet storms that seeks to unseat anyone that uses politically incorrect language or wants displays their sexist or racist chevrons in public.

Discrediting sexism and racism is obviously good, if it is legitimately done. But Lenin lamented the “socialists in words and imperialists in deeds” that hounded the socialist landscape of his day. Today’s Democratic Party is progressive in words and neoliberal in deeds. The corporate liberal class has finally reached the stage where it can run a minority to do its dirty deeds. The population numbers foreseen in the Sixties have finally arrived. Barack Obama preached inclusivity from the political pulpit, but promoted exclusivity from the policy bench. It is no surprise: he is a member of a very exclusive club—an adoptee of the one percent.

Lenin attacks Kautsky and other bourgeois pundits, who argue for leveraging the engines of capitalism to increase “’the consuming capacity’” of the populace. Lenin points out that “it is in their interest to pretend to be so naïve and to talk “seriously” about peace under imperialism.” Another familiar tactic. Anyone familiar with the modern Democrats would recognize it. Like Obama, who won a Nobel Peace Prize from a demented clan of flour-haired Scandinavians. In one of the books he penned before he was elected, Obama confirmed that he was “a free market guy”. No one in the mainstream liberal press was willing to recognize or capable of recognizing that in confirming his capitalist bona fides, he was simultaneously signaling his allegiance to empire.

Lenin’s contemporaries like Kautsky believed that the imperial monopolies of capitalism could be disbanded and returned to a state of free competition in which the oracular market would appease the warring instincts of states, and a market-led peace would ensue. Kautsky called it “ultra-imperialism”. Lenin called it a “reformist swindle”. He notes that monopolies arose out of competition, and that to uncouple the monopolies would only return the relevant entities to a state of fierce competition, in which inequities would arise, leading to new monopolies. It was akin to dialing back determinism and expecting a new outcome. Lenin notes how any pacific alliances between competing imperialists would be at best temporary as the balance of power would inevitably shift in one direction or the other, instigating new confrontations, conflagrations, and war.

Lenin also noted the great value of imperial conquest to capital. Ever in search of new avenues of investment, ever threatened by the scourge of overproduction, new colonies could be forced open to accept “commodity dumping” from developed nations that would undercut local industry. Usurious loans to these colonial dependents would provide the funds with which to buy the first-world commodities. He even points to a German loan to Romania that facilitated the purchase of German railway materials. How could anyone fail to recognize in this dynamic the European Union’s behavior toward its fragile periphery of Portugal, Ireland, and Greece, particularly the latter? Were not German loans made to Greece to purchase German goods, inflating the latter’s monopoly profits while inflating the former’s debt peonage? Lenin calls this “skinning the ox twice”. After all, the bank makes compound interest off the loan; then the loan is used to buy products from the bank’s clients. Then, once the debtor nation flounders under debt deflation, having less and less to fund its economy since so much of its income was redirected to interest payments on exorbitant loans, it will be forced, like Greece, to begin selling off its national assets at bargain prices to the lender nation, as the vultures gather round the carrion.

History’s Rerun

Lenin concludes that peace in capitalist geographies is merely a respite between conflicts. Little more than “the banal philistine fantasies of English parsons”. In effect, Kautsky and the “opportunist” elements of the middle class were doing little more than attempting to unhitch capitalism from imperialism in order to save the system of their own enrichment. A failed project, to be sure, as passage after passage of Lenin’s polemic reads like a lucid profile of the Democratic Party. The Bolshevik leader concludes that, “imperialism is the epoch of finance capital and of monopolies, which introduce everywhere the striving for domination, not for freedom.” Later he adds that, “…capital can maintain its domination only by continually increasing its military force.” Could there be a better description of our modern dilemma of financial exploitation and military conquest? The 2019 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) is tens of billions larger than last year’s and supports nearly 900 military installations around the world.

Finally, Lenin remarks that there’s no hope for unity with “the opportunists in the epoch of imperialism.” He points to the bourgeois denunciations of imperial annexations by various powers. Immediately the theatrical denunciations of Russia in Crimea and Syria in its own territory come to mind. Lenin sensibly argues that the author of such condemnations can be, “sincere and politically honest only if he fights against the annexation[s]” his own country makes. Naturally, the beltway liberals are silent on our de facto annexation of parts of Syria, our clandestine coup d’état in Ukraine, our savage use of Cuba’s Guantanamo Bay, not to mention a dozen other base camps we’ve established like a necklace of crimes across the planet. As a nation, what we condemn in others, often falsely, we do ourselves. And on a slightly smaller scale, what the Democrats condemn across the aisle, they often do themselves behind a patina of progressive rhetoric. Sophistry and sops from the banquet table of the rich; this is today’s Democratic Party writ large.