Category Archives: Book Review

Resisting Fascism

The elevation of Donald Trump onto the national political stage in 2016 provoked a heated debate among centrist and left-wing commentators that has yet to be resolved (and likely never will be): do Trump and the Republican Party today represent a recrudescence of fascism, or is this a flawed historical analogy? Writers like Timothy Snyder and Jason Stanley insisted on the parallels between interwar fascism and the contemporary far-right, from demonization of ethnic “Others” to fomenting of violence against democratic institutions (as on January 6, 2021); writers such as Samuel Moyn and Corey Robin disagreed, arguing that Trump proved to be much too weak a figure—and his attacks on the political order were much too weak—to legitimately be called fascist. Scores of articles and books have been published litigating the term “fascism” and its applicability to various ugly phenomena across the American political scene. 1

Wisely, journalist Shane Burley bypasses this debate in his new collection of essays Why We Fight: Essays on Fascism, Resistance, and Surviving the Apocalypse. It’s clear there are both similarities and differences between classical fascism, on the one hand, and Trumpism and the modern far-right on the other. (For this reason, one might call the latter neofascism or proto-fascism, as an acknowledgement of the valid points made on both sides of the debate.) Instead, Burley takes it for granted, and illustrates throughout his book, that a vast constellation of groups and individuals on the right today have salient fascist characteristics and would happily tear down democracy if they could. Why We Fight consists mostly of articles Burley has published in recent years shedding light on these shadowy groups, this underworld of the Alt-Right and its relatives.

In seventeen chapters, Burley illuminates the methods and varieties of both fascist and anti-fascist organizing. Among the topics he covers are the rise and fall of the Alt-Right, from 2008 to the aftermath of the Charlottesville “Unite the Right” rally in 2017; the nature of the “Alt-Light,” a less extreme version of the far-right that coalesced around figures like Milo Yiannopoulos, Alex Jones, and online “manosphere” leader Mike Cernovich; the toxic cult of masculinity that unites a wide range of far-right groups; the world of fascist publishing in Europe and the U.S., led by companies like Arktos Media and Counter-Currents that are dedicated to “creating the intellectual foundation for a new fascism” (p. 151); attempts by anti-fascists to colonize cultural spaces that have often attracted fascists, such as soccer, gun clubs, mixed martial arts, the paganism and heathenry subculture, and, in music, black metal and neofolk; the deep-rooted and continuing appeal of antisemitism to the far-right; and even the remarkable Kurdish experiment in an anarchist, anti-fascist society at Rojava. Altogether, the book gives a nuanced and compelling picture of the highly fragmented, internally divided, typically amateurish, but very frightening world of the contemporary far-right—from the Proud Boys to militia organizations, from journalist provocateurs like Andy Ngô to the neo-Confederate Council of Conservative Citizens (founded in 1985), from “lone wolf” mass shooters to student groups like Turning Point USA that seek to intimidate and silence left-wing voices at college campuses.

As an “advocacy journalist,” Burley eschews a neutral or academic tone; he combines history, journalism, psychology, an editorial voice, and even memoir to stitch together a tapestry that, in its totality, serves to communicate the urgency of fighting and defeating all these noxious forces. In one of his pieces, for example, he argues that anti-fascist activists (often known collectively as antifa), rather than some diffuse “public opinion” or mainstream intellectual commentary, were responsible for the downfall of the Alt-Right in the months after Charlottesville. Through constant interference with public talks by Alt-Right speakers, pressure on university administrations and other venues not to permit such talks, counter-protests, violent physical confrontations, and other aggressive measures, left-wing activists essentially shut down the Alt-Right phase of the white nationalist movement.

“Police barricades,” Burley writes, “last-minute venue cancelations, and public brawls overshadowed the Alt Right’s message, and as members were doxxed and fired from their jobs, it became harder and harder to make their movement attractive to recruits. In the wake of Charlottesville, they were forced off social media, web hosting, podcast platforms, and just about every outreach tool available, leaving them only to the back alleys of the internet” (p. 57). He clearly endorses such tactics, barely even acknowledging concerns about censorship and the right to free speech.

It would have been interesting, however, for him to delve into the ongoing debate over tactics and moral principles. Or, if this would have distracted from the book’s journalistic focus, it is at least incumbent on the reader to think through these issues. On one side are, it appears, the majority of leftists who both deny that fascists have a right to be heard and, tactically, think the best way to defeat them is to prevent them from being heard. On the other side are principled civil libertarians such as Noam Chomsky and Glenn Greenwald who argue that everyone has the right to be heard, neither the state nor private entities like Twitter and Facebook should be allowed to police speech (for then what is to prevent them from policing left-wing speech, as they, in fact, constantly do?), and even tactically the best way to defeat fascists is to let them air their views so that others can expose their absurdity and immorality. Chomsky, for instance, argues that while fascists should never be invited to speak at college campuses, if they are, the best response is not to shut down the event—which allows the speaker to pose as a great defender of free speech under attack by leftist totalitarians—but to use it as an educational opportunity and organize a counter-event exposing the hideousness of far-right ideas. 2

One might reply, on the other hand, that making life miserable for fascists does seem to help inhibit the growth of a movement. (But, again, is such harassment, including violence, wrong in principle?) As for “deplatforming” the far-right, someone in Burley’s camp might concede that social media companies (for example) should not have the right to police speech and indeed should be publicly owned and operated, while maintaining at the same time that as long as private entities do have this right and are happy to wield it against the left, activists should pressure them to wield it also against racists. If doing so helps conservatives and centrists vilify leftists as authoritarian and opposed to free speech, so be it.

A chapter devoted to these questions of principle and tactics, thorough and fair-minded in its treatment of the conflicting arguments, might have been a valuable addition to Burley’s book, especially given the book’s activist purpose.

One theme that recurs in some of the essays is the useful reminder that fascism doesn’t always wear its heart on its sleeve, and it is important to be able to see through euphemisms or non-fascist appearances to the political reality and poisonous potential underneath. Burley quotes reporter Tess Owen: “Far-right publishing companies like Arktos have sought to give white nationalism a veneer of pseudo-intellectual legitimacy by dressing up old, ugly, racist ideas in euphemisms. For example, their authors don’t talk about whiteness, they talk about ‘European identity.’ This is part of a calculated strategy: move out of the fringes, and into the political mainstream” (p. 164). There are certainly “degrees” of fascism among groups and individuals on the right, but, in the words of Burley, to the extent that there is commitment to “human inequality, social traditionalism, racial nationalism, and an authoritarian vision founded in the resurrection of heroic mythologies” (p. 65), there is an affinity for fascism.3

Even the mere cult of masculinity, widespread among large numbers of disaffected men in an age of social dissolution, can embody very dangerous ideological impulses, as Burley documents in his lengthy final chapter. The whole online “manosphere” of “men’s rights” advocates, incels, pick-up artists, and the like, can be considered a sort of gateway drug to fascism—and it must be said that leftists ignore or ridicule these millions of lost male souls at their peril. When you leave the indoctrinating and organizing of men, as men, to the right-wing, what you get are weird perversions like the neopagan Wolves of Vinland, which Burley has investigated in depth. Founded in 2005 by the bodybuilder Paul Waggener, the Wolves of Vinland is a “male-tribalist organization” that assures men that “the promise of their patriarchal authority is built into the connective tissue of the natural world and that their feeling of anxiety is the proper reaction to the ‘attack on men’ that the modern world has devised” (p. 261). Until being recently discontinued, its online and in-person program Operation Werewolf—“equal parts pagan instruction, workout regimen, and self-help manual” (p. 261)—attracted men from all over the world who craved the “Total Life Reform” it promised. This involved, in part, being indoctrinated into a semi-Nietzschean ideology that glorified violence, physical strength and pain, an idealized masculinity, tribalism, hierarchy, and contempt for the effeminate weakness and decadence of modern society.

What is most frightening about Operation Werewolf, which Burley discusses in great detail while interweaving stories of his own personal experiences with unhealthily masculinist cultures, is that it is just one tiny node in a sprawling global network of similar proto-fascist subcultures. What the left’s answer to this challenge should be is not entirely clear. Burley’s proposed solutions to fascist organizing, scattered throughout the book, are, perhaps inevitably, vague; for instance, to counter groups like the Wolves of Vinland, he suggests we “build up communities that are strong,” “rediscover spiritual traditions…that can connect us to where we are today,” and “help people build a body cult to stay tied to their physicality and health, not to fit the prescriptions of a hierarchical and fat-phobic fitness culture, but to build themselves according to the vision they alone have” (p. 305). What is clear is that the task of defeating cultures of “toxic masculinity,” which often overlap with white supremacy, will require meeting people on their own terms and dispensing with contemporary leftists’ beloved “purity tests” for who they will or won’t interact with.

Why We Fight is, in short, worth a read if one seeks information about cultures of the far-right. This isn’t to say, however, that it is immune to criticism. Burley’s style of writing, while at times eloquent, is often awkward, as well as needlessly prolix, rambling, and repetitive. The frequent typos and grammatically awkward constructions are distracting. More substantively, it would have been nice to see some information on the kinds of people who have been attracted to these fascist organizations, such as their class, occupational, and geographic backgrounds. Statistical studies of Trump’s supporters have shown them to be disproportionately petty-bourgeois and moderately affluent, though frequently without a college degree: small business owners, real estate brokers, managers, and so on—not primarily “the white working class,” despite the mythology.4 The same is presumably true of the groups Burley discusses, but he presents very little data on the matter.

Likewise, one would have appreciated more information on the funding sources of all these far-right groups, particularly to what extent some of them might be supported by reactionary big business. Doubtless such information is not readily available, though.

In the end, however imperative it is to fight against such organizations as the Wolves of Vinland, or the Proud Boys, the Oath Keepers, the American Identity Movement, the Atomwaffen Division, etc., it is surely not these peons, the flotsam and jetsam of a tempestuous capitalist society, who present the gravest danger to the country and the world. It is the “respectable” people and institutions: the Charles Kochs of the world, the ExxonMobils, the Citigroups and JPMorgan Chases, the Defense Departments and Supreme Courts—the ruling class. These are the agents of our coming immolation in the fires of ecological holocaust and, possibly, nuclear war. Relatively speaking, the likes of Paul Waggener and Andy Ngô are picayune. They’re dangerous, but more dangerous are the well-funded think tanks and propaganda outlets like the Heritage Foundation and the Cato Institute—two of the forces behind the immensely damaging Tea Party—or the Manhattan Institute, one of whose “senior fellows” (Christopher Rufo) is almost entirely responsible for the current furor over “critical race theory.”5 Fox News, One America News, the Daily Caller, the Daily Wire—these are the entities that indoctrinate tens of millions.

How, or whether, the left can dethrone these truly demonic forces before they cause the demise of society is the burning question. As always, the answer can only be found through mass education and organization.

  1. For an overview of the debate, see Udi Greenberg, “What Was the Fascism Debate?,” Dissent (Summer, 2021). Links to some sources can be found at Matthew Sitman and Sam Adler-Bell, “Know your Enemy:  Did It Happen Here?,” Dissent, January 19, 2021.
  2. The journalist Natasha Lennard, who wrote a foreword to Why We Fight, contests Chomsky’s position by making the remarkable claim that arguing against white supremacy is futile; only force (of various kinds) can work. “Anyone who has watched [Richard] Spencer and his ilk in public debates,” she writes, “…should see how the belief that his violent white supremacy can be reasoned away is flawed. He sticks to his guns about the necessity of a white ‘ethno-state’…” But the point, of course, is not to convince the fanatical racists themselves; the point is to educate and inoculate the public, including young men who might otherwise be susceptible to white supremacy. It is deeply defeatist and cynical to have no faith in the power of rational argument. See Natasha Lennard, “Is Antifa Counterproductive? White Nationalist Richard Spencer Would Beg to Differ,” The Intercept, March 17, 2018.
  3. On this understanding, the intellectual celebrity Jordan Peterson, for example, who is enamored of hierarchies (“consider the lobster!”), archaic myths, cultural tradition, strong and heroic masculinity, and the conflict between Order and Chaos, has quite a few points of contact with fascism. See Pankaj Mishra, “Jordan Peterson and Fascist Mysticism,” New York Review of Books, March 19, 2018.
  4. Jesse A. Myerson, “Trumpism: It’s Coming from the Suburbs,” Nation, May 8, 2017.
  5. Benjamin Wallace-Wells, “How a Conservative Activist Invented the Conflict over Critical Race Theory,” New Yorker, June 18, 2021. On the origins of the Tea Party, see Jane Mayer, Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right (New York: Anchor Books, 2017)—or, more briefly, my blog post “The rise of right-wing libertarianism since the 1950s.”
The post Resisting Fascism first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Patriots Remember to Forget: Omri Boehm and the Collapse of Liberal Zionism

Summer is over in Israel and so too the holiday season that includes Yom Kippur and Sukkot with their accompanying prayers of remembrance. Memory is integral to most Jewish holidays. The readings at Passover and the lighting of candles at Hanukkah are collective acts of remembrance. The importance of remembering has always been central to Jewish self-identity. As Jonathan Safran Foer would have it: ‘Jews have six senses. Touch, taste, sight, smell, hearing … memory.’

But here there are also holidays specific to the State of Israel, traditions linked to Zionist history. These include Remembrance Day for Fallen Soldiers, Jerusalem Day which celebrates the ‘reunification’ of Jerusalem, and Independence Day. This is not to mention other days marked in the calendar to honour Zionist icons such as Herzl, Ben Gurion, Jabotinsky, and Rabin. And, of course, there is Holocaust Remembrance Day. In Israel, collective remembrance linked to a sense of national identity and a dominant narrative of history is ritualised and institutionalised; the days are sacred milestones in the calendar year. Nakba Day, as commemorated by Palestinians, is not one of them.

Collective memory is key to the argument of Omri Boehm’s new book, Haifa RepublicA Democratic Future for Israel (New York Review of Books), which applies the ideas of Ernst Renan concerning nationhood to the Israeli-Palestinian context. Boehm’s work explores memory and history but is also concerned with the future, hence the subtitle. It can be considered a significant contribution to an increasingly vocal but still marginal strand of thought on the Israeli/Jewish left. The likes of Peter Beinart, Avraham Burg and organisations like B’Tselem are looking beyond the illusion of the two-state solution. In the light of demographic reality, the Nation-State Law, and the permanency of occupation and oppression, the word ‘apartheid’ is being used more openly, albeit within the echo chambers of liberal thought.

This shift is in part a response to what Boehm identifies as a ‘Gramscian crisis’ of intellectual leadership on the left in Israel. He offers the likes of Amos Oz and David Grossman as examples of those guilty of ignoring de facto annexation in pursuing the intellectual cul-de-sac of Oslo and the two-state solution. Like the current political leadership of the left in Israel, they are complicit in allowing a political reality based on Jewish supremacy to come about. With its choice to designate the occupation as ‘Israel’s original sin’, a wrong turning made in 1967, liberal Zionism has supressed the Nakba, according to Boehm. His book is a rejection of a way of thinking that has led to apartheid and is, at the same time, an exploration of a possible way forward for Zionism.

An Israeli and a professor of philosophy at The New School in New York, Boehm puts forward a vision of a federal binational future for Israel-Palestine in Haifa Republic. There is nothing new here. In fact, Boehm emphasises that this has been a line of thought in Zionism from its beginnings. But Boehm’s interesting contribution is to foreground the role that memory plays in sustaining the current situation – the reality of an apartheid where citizens of Israel can live and vote anywhere between the river and the sea (bar Gaza) whilst Palestinians are denied basic rights. Boehm references Spinoza’s ideas concerning memory as a divisive force – an agent of myth, ideology, religion, and irrational thought.  Memory, as Spinoza had it, is ‘the origin of conflict, violence, and war, never of enlightenment, democracy, or peace.’ Boehm’s vision for a democratic future for Israel-Palestine entails the act of forgetting alongside remembering.

For Boehm, the ‘notion of remembering to forget’ is key to the way forward. He recalls Renan’s idea of the nation as a ‘daily plebiscite’ – that membership of a nation is a matter of continually ‘choosing to belong.’ That choice of belonging cannot happen without a willingness to forget those things which have the potential to divide citizens. Willingness to forget therefore becomes a ‘patriotic duty.’ This forgetting, Boehm stresses, is not Stalinist airbrushing, nor erasure. Remembering to forget entails the act of recalling and recognising history so as to set aside those things that divide.

His analysis in terms of the context of Israel-Palestine is that Israelis ‘remember to remember’ – as in the annual days of remembrance above – ‘but forget to forget.’ If a ‘Holocaust messianism’ that places Israel ‘beyond universalist politics and moral critique’ is not ‘forgotten’ in this sense, Israelis and Palestinians cannot escape the status quo. And if the Nakba is not remembered, it cannot be forgotten. Despite some modest steps in the right direction, that particular part of Israel’s history has no significant presence on the school curriculum, and Naftali Bennett’s current policy of ‘shrinking the conflict’ encourages a continued widespread lack of engagement with a history of conquest and occupation.

Boehm’s vision depends upon both sides adopting a ‘dialectical politics of memory and forgetting’ in relation to both Holocaust and Nakba. This is not an argument for ahistoricism, nor a pointless debate about equivalency between the Nakba and the Holocaust. It is an argument for acknowledging and then looking beyond the suffering of Jews and Palestinians to find a way forward. Boehm cites a speech on Holocaust Memorial Day in 2010 by Knesset member Ahmad Tibi, a Palestinian and Israeli citizen. On that day, Tibi chose to stay silent about the Nakba to express solidarity, to remember together with Jews. Boehm presents this as an example of leadership in terms of ‘remembering to forget’.

Boehm’s position is avowedly neither anti- nor post-Zionist. In contrast to others, he has no wish to abandon Zionism. He instead attempts to reinvigorate the politics of a binational state ‘as a Zionist program’ consistent with Israel’s founding fathers. Boehm recruits a number of these to the cause: Herzl, no less, but also Ahad Ha’Am, Jabotinsky, Begin, even a young Ben Gurion. There is a highly selective emphasis on early Zionist binationalism in Haifa Republic, but this is not completely without foundation. The influential pre-state Zionist thinker Ahad Ha’Am, as Palestinian historian Nur Masalha has pointed out, always acknowledged that Palestine was anything but an empty land and was critical of the ethnocentricity of early political Zionism. Boehm’s ‘Haifa Republic’ vision is itself based on an ‘autonomy’ proposal of Menachem Begin approved by the Knesset in 1977.

He draws a distinction between nationalism and patriotism in his attempt to rescue Zionism from its ‘collapse’ into its ‘hard-right Revisionist interpretation’, seeking to link it to ideas of self-determination rather than sovereignty. Boehm envisions ‘a transformation of Zionism into something greater than a commitment to a Jewish state.’ One might question the effort to rehabilitate something that many consider too toxic, beyond redemption. But if there is to be any realistic, volitional movement away from nationalism towards Jewish self-determination within a federal structure belonging to all its citizens, Zionism cannot be unmade, but only recast. People are not going to give up their flags and grand narratives easily. Haifa Republic is a passionate argument for a future for a Zionism that is otherwise doomed, as Boehm (referencing Begin) puts it, within ‘a twenty-first-century Rhodesia.’

Rather than Rhodesia, Boehm uses the ‘mixed’ city of Haifa as a symbol of his binational vision. It is tempting to point out the fragility of current examples of coexistence as evidenced by the country-wide riots during this year’s ‘Operation Guardian of the Walls.’ It could also be said that a single speech by Ahmad Tibi represents thin evidence for a willingness to ‘remember to forget’ by public figures on both sides. But the point, I suppose, is the example set. And the vision. Boehm anticipates charges of deluded, leftist optimism and so his telling choice of epigraph for Haifa Republic is the Herzl mantra, ‘If you will it, it is no dream.’ His vision of a liberal, democratic ‘Haifa Republic’ of all its citizens is, he argues, not messianic but utopian. As increasing numbers are recognising, the status quo is the unsustainable illusion. ‘Ignoring this fact’, Boehm writes, ‘is akin to denying global warming.’

The Hebrew word meaning remember, ‘zachor’, appears almost two hundred times in the Bible. Memory is sacred to all who live between the Jordan and the Mediterranean. No-one has a monopoly. Haifa Republic recognises the importance of remembrance, but it also represents an injunction to wilfully forget. This act is envisioned as part of an individual’s continually renewed contract with a future democratic state of all its citizens. Boehm refuses to give up on Zionism, but he is not preaching to the converted. In proposing a nation built on choosing to belong rather than culture, tradition, or blood, he is issuing a challenge to a broken ideology from within.

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Submission in Czarist Russia

In Daniel Rancour-Laferriere’s ambitious psychohistorical study, The Slave Soul of Russia: Moral Masochism and the Cult of Suffering, the author, a psychoanalytically-oriented Russian studies scholar, presents an overarching thesis: that Russian character was long grounded in masochistic tendencies. Scholars have long recognized that folktales as well as popular literature often express recurring psychological themes specific to given cultures.  Looking to Russian literature and folklore as projections of underlying personality conflicts, Laferriere offers an impressive array of illustrations. But the weakness of Laferriere’s approach, as I see it, is his overly broad conceptualization of “masochism”–subsuming here actually different kinds of behaviors, such as passive acquiescence to brutal punishment, humiliating submission to “masters,” a predilection for self-punishment, and so forth.

As the author recognizes, the pre-modern indoctrination of an illiterate peasantry into Christian religious ideology–”original sin,” passive acceptance of the “will of God” (i.e., to endure unjust suffering), Jesus’s “non-resistance to evil”–sanctified and reinforced the feudal social order. In ascetic Russian Orthodox doctrine, the morbid fascination with the “Passion” attested to the conviction that a spiritual victory over such imposed sufferings was thereby attained.

However, Laferriere understates the overwhelming impact of despotism and slavery in crushing human aspirations for freedom. In the 18th century, Catherine the Great made a fateful bargain with the landed nobility: they received legal ownership of the peasants (muhziks) in return for guaranteeing her absolutist regime.  But the immediate aftermath was hardly a passive, resigned acquiescence: over 50 peasant revolts ensued, the most widely organized being the Pugachev Revolt of the 1770s.  By 1790, the Enlightenment thinker Radischev–perhaps the first Russian writer to advocate “human rights”–wrote scathingly of the cruel injustice of a system of brutal masters over an underclass of exploited and abused slaves.  At first sentenced to death, he was sent instead to a Siberian labor-camp.

The extreme dichotomy of “flesh” vs. “spirit”–so emphasized in the Russian Orthodox tradition–was a monastic, ascetic standard which earthy, guilt-ridden Russians such as Leo Tolstoy absurdly sought to emulate. For the peasants, vodka-enabled sprees, with wanton sex and violence, might express a rebellious id’s liberation from such an overbearing superego–only to be succeeded the morning after by remorse and desire for punishment.

In short, there is much to ponder in this well-researched and provocative study. Still, one is inclined to think that rigidly authoritarian socio-political structures, whether Russian or not, inevitably manifested the interplay of (non-sexual) sadism and masochism: cruel domination from above and habituated submission from below.

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As the Body Is to the Mind

Psychology, what the analyst makes of the mind, by necessity, must see toward the complex, above the ideologically convenient and beyond the simple. “Our psychology,” William James writes, “must therefore take account not only of the conditions antecedent to mental states, but of their resultant consequences as well.” Approaching the psyche, then, it is not only that which comes before that matters, all that has been, but that which comes after, one’s development onward—all that could be. On the relation between the mind and the body, the self in one’s state of being, this observation appears at the beginning of James’s 1890 work The Principles of Psychology.

A few years ago, I remember having read a headline in The Guardian that said “Governor of Tavistock Foundation Quits Over Damning Report into Gender Identity Clinic,” published in February of 2019, about Marcus Evans. Whether more or less conservative or liberal, many have seemed mistaken in the widespread belief that what can be called “gender dysphoria” names a medical problem with a medical solution. Applied to the concept of “gender identity,” which seems to be seen as another word for one’s sense of self, this basic idea of being sick followed by being cured has seemed lacking in critical attention. Alongside the Evanses, we will return, albeit in brief, to the self in society and the paradigm of pathology—or, as Thomas Szasz critiques of psychiatric diagnoses: a belief that diagnoses are diseases. We might wonder just what it means pertaining to gender dysphoria, a state of mind in the body, and, more to the point, the great problems that have been produced by this conceptualization.

Thinking back to that 2019 piece, a passage from Marcus Evans’s resignation email to the Tavistock, as quoted by The Guardian, seems to remain of significance. Evans writes:

I do not believe we understand what is going on in this complex area and the need to adopt an attitude which examines things from different points of view is essential. This is difficult in the current environment as the debate and discussion required is continually being closed down or effectively described as ‘transphobic’ or in some way prejudicial.

Then, just months later, in October 2019, another piece appeared, this time published in The Times, with a headline that said “Therapist Raised Alert at Troubling Practices at Tavistock Clinic,” about Susan Evans. As before, the following observation seems important still, especially in the aftermath of the Keira Bell case. Evans writes:

When you work in the area of gender dysphoria you begin to see that many of these children have other areas of concern or difficulty, such as depression, autism, trauma, childhood abuse, internalized homophobia, relationship difficulties, social isolation and so on.

Between the Evanses’ accounts, which seemed rather similar to what I had been hearing from other mental health professionals, albeit in whispers, there have been similar concerns about the pervasive medicalization of gender. Broadly having been suppressed, these concerns have particularly regarded medicalizing children and young people, but they can apply, more generally, to such practices becoming more harmful than helpful, even for adults. By 2019, my own concerns over queerly unacknowledged and unaddressed misogyny and homophobia, in both law and medicine, had only been continuing to increase. Then, I read an essay by Julia Diana Robertson about Jaah Kelly, R. Kelly’s daughter, and how the medicalization of gender has an impact upon otherwise gay youth.

In her case, at only fourteen, Jaah believed that she must truly be male for two main reasons: her not being feminine and her being sexually oriented toward other members of her same sex. “I knew that I was a girl who liked other girls,” Jaah tells us, adding: “But because of what I was taught, I felt like the only way you could like another girl is if you were a boy.” By eighteen, however, she realized that her thinking she must not be female, in her case, seemed to come mainly from internalized homophobia. This case might well be compared with the more recent case of Keira Bell, who, unlike Jaah, had already been medicalized—going too far along with it by then.

To me, at the time, it seemed very striking that Jaah’s case appeared similar to those of so many other females around her age, those who believed they must be male. Among patients, degrees of distress arise in relation to the developing female body, typically with relation to having breasts and, in particular, experiencing menstruation. Diagnosed as “gender dysphoria,” this bodily discomfort has seemed to be something appearing, in recent years, far more so for girls than for boys. Between the sexes, the social conditions around gender identity development also seem to be significantly different, but often unremarked as being so. A “one size fits all” assumption in treatment, which can be the case, might indicate this failure for sexual difference to be drawn out. More remarkably, there has been a change in the patients who present at gender identity clinics. In the decades before, seen in all existing studies on this subject, most cases of childhood gender dysphoria had involved male children, not teenage females.

Over the past few years, I have been observing an odd increase, an unprecedented spike, in teenage females, a disproportionate number of whom have autism, presenting at gender identity clinics. They say how they should be male, not female—and therefore also must be medicalized to make it so. A newer paradigm of “affirming” them as “transgender,” taking each young patient here to be a boy trapped in a girl’s body, does not question what underlying problems might be there. Diving into the wreck, as others have done, I have seen deep issues that, despite any fear we might feel, require our reflection. In all of the talk about doing more research, there has been dread toward doing precisely that, primarily because ideology has come into conflict with reality. Following the Evanses and Robertson, among the few writing such analyses, I then finally joined those who have been standing on trial.

Written by Susan Evans and Marcus Evans, Gender Dysphoria has been a critical addition to the continued analysis of our psyches and ourselves, significant in the present debates around the medicalization of gender. Discussions of gender dysphoria have been polarized by political activism, seeming to be dead ends, where one falls into empty rhetoric about “affirmation” and “conversion.” But the Evanses, as they tell us, make a point in their model of being “neither ‘pro’ nor ‘anti’ transition,” departing from the unhelpful dualistic framework. Engaging this subject with true nuance, then, the Evanses’ proposed therapeutic model considers the individual, specifically the drives and the motivations submerged beneath the surface. Of some concern here, contemporary approaches, most notably the “gender-affirming” model, have not been this way, lacking this understanding: one size does not fit all. A lack of consideration for drives and motivations for the individual could very well be dangerous and deadly. It can be especially costly in the case of misunderstanding other underlying mental health conditions.

Above, in my sketch of Jaah Kelly, we see elements, here and there, which the Evanses explore in their book. They argue that, for the child or young person with internalized homophobia, adults being “affirming” of gender identity, such as in cases like that of Jaah, can be their collusion in homophobia. In such a case, “affirmation” would serve not to actualize, but rather to alienate the individual from coming to terms with having a homosexual orientation. The defense mechanism expresses itself in denial, here a basic fear of being gay, where continued repression takes the place of resolution. “Affirmation” poses a problem, not because it considers the changes in individual development, but rather because it actually denies the dynamic nature that needs attention in the development of the self. A contradiction, “gender fluidity,” all of this rhetoric about rebelling against “the gender binary,” corresponds to a rigid framework of “gender identity”: to make real “the ideal self,” it must be medicalized into being. “Self-actualization,” in this sense, can become revealed as self-annihilation, with the patient not closer, but rather so much farther away from the true self. What I depict here for the reader is but “a certain Slant of light,” to draw from Emily Dickinson.

Pain can be characteristic of one’s bodily feelings—at least, it does seem to be so, in one way or another, during the life course. Psychic pain happens not only with relation to the body but also within the body. By contrast, one might imagine a painless existence, where the self can become safe from all stress, either real or imagined in nature. But the patient should not be led to expect that promise from the professional. “Psychoanalysis,” the Evanses write, “has a basic assumption that being involved in life is a painful business and that it helps if the individual can be supported in bearing pain, rather than attempting to eradicate it.” As the Evanses write, it can be far more harmful, rather than helpful, for the patient to believe in a false premise of the eradication of all pain. Indeed, as the authors explain it, the false idea of taking away all pain not only plays into paternalistic attitudes toward the patients but also presents false promises. For children, the idea that any psychic pain, including gender dysphoria, must be deadened by medicalization can be extremely damaging to their development. The Evanses write:

Children need to develop a capacity to notice pain and be helped to understand and process the experience as part of their learning about themselves. Children also need help differentiating the type, degree, and cause of pain and to be given some confidence that psychic pain can be both tolerated and understood.

There would seem to be, then, significance in learning that not all pain must be intolerable for us, as if utterly beyond our understanding, and that deeper issues can drive us to fear even feeling itself. On trauma, one might consider Bessel van der Kolk’s 2014 work The Body Keeps the Score. Indeed, the point of psychoanalysis, as the Evanses apply it, seems to be the support of the individual as part of one’s developing sense of self, thinking about one’s interiority with relation to others in the external world. However, a contrary assumption within the wider culture has seemed to involve the patient going to the clinic and the professional then giving a cure to a disease. Following this framework, particularly applying it to the making of mental illness, one might be led to believe, rather simplistically, that a medical problem should be met by a medical solution.

Cases discussed by the Evanses give the reader a view into the complexity of each individual patient, something far beyond the space of this review. In reading the book and writing notes, I find myself considering each patient and really wanting to return to think further into this or that set of social conditions affecting the individual psyche. Those involving teenage girls remind me of the work of the German-American psychoanalyst Hilde Bruch, particularly her 1978 book The Golden Cage, in which she discusses anorexia nervosa. Regarding the girls, the Evanses’ observations hold similarities to those observed in Bruch’s work, including fears of adulthood, hatred of the female body, and the making of identity as a method of control. In Bruch’s cases, there were also similar troubles between the girls and their families, struggles over control typical in adolescent development. But, in such cases, the identities were not being cemented into place by social institutions and their potentially harmful, even if well-meaning, interventions.

How does one become who one isor, more precisely, who one will be? There seems to be a concept of “killing” “the false self,” for it to “die,” thereby allowing the “birth” of “the true self.” The religiosity of this idea of identity really betrays itself. But, even more than the bizarreness of “gender identity” becoming a secular religion, this paradigm can pose any number of problems, ones that the Evanses book indeed brings into the light. In his 1984 work Narcissism, Alexander Lowen, a student of Wilhelm Reich, writes of the meaning of “specialness,” this sense that one actually must be above others. Meaning for the self, whatever one might seem to perceive as such, becomes itself bound to the subjugation of the other. The one subjects the other to one’s “specialness.” There seems to be some application here to what the Evanses discuss of “the ideal self” among patients for whom the fantasy becomes a fixation. “Through the new self-image,” Lowen writes, “they compensate for the sense of unlovableness and unworthiness that they previously experienced.” This concept of “the authentic self,” however, could be exposed as the false perception of authenticity, only further artifice in the denialism of true selfhood—all that could be.

Reading Gender Dysphoria, I find myself reflecting on another work, old and yet oddly fitting, particularly for the present subject: The Neurotic Personality of Our Time, a 1937 work by Karen Horney. In her book, Horney defines the term “neurosis” as “a psychic disturbance brought about by fears and defenses against these fears, and by attempts to find compromise solutions for conflicting tendencies.” The analyst sees in this psychic disturbance called “gender dysphoria” a comparable set of symptoms, similar anxieties and defenses analyzed in the literature, dating back decades. As seen with Bruch and those with anorexia nervosa, with their corresponding multidisciplinary treatments, one cannot help but draw comparisons between then and now. More chillingly, one might also contrast the protocols and treatments from then with those now said to be “affirming” and sold as “life-saving.”

Thoroughness, both the before and the after, together, matter in the analysis of the patient. One might say that, with regard to the mind, the pill and the procedure alike have been historical methods for dealing with matters of the mind. Can the patient be promised something that might not come true? “The fantasy that the body can be changed and sculpted as a way of being rid of profound psychological problems,” the Evanses write, “needs to come under much closer scrutiny.” Capitalistic and consumeristic, buying a “new” body, either to escape from development and one’s corresponding distress or to distract oneself from other pain, must be critiqued. Perhaps more consumeristic than previous eras, political activism has made a model for gender medicine now defined by the dictum “the customer is always right.” Following this point of view, in a 2018 op-ed for The New York Times, transgender theorist Andrea Long Chu writes how “surgery’s only prerequisite should be a simple demonstration of want.”

In these neurotic times, engaging us with their analyses, the Evanses give the reader a look into this one fashion of the mind in its feeling. Finding the body as the self left to medicalization, more so now than before, has become the more frequent lot for those who see themselves as somehow not their sex on the basis of gender identity. An understanding of a condition followed by a cure, one’s destiny in one’s diagnosis, has been the rationale for the medicalization of gender. This basic dynamic has become maybe the most evident for children and young people. Being at once compassionate and still critical can be an insurmountable barrier, as most writers know all too well, but the Evanses brilliantly do just that in this book. Although itself complex, like all matters of the mind, psychoanalysis applied to the self in relation to sexual being appears presented in a comprehensible way for the common reader. To the Evanses, I express my thankfulness for their work.

The post As the Body Is to the Mind first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Answering the U.S. Government’s 9/11 Lies

It is impossible to overemphasize the importance of this book.  It is a tour de force that blows away twenty years of U.S. government lies and obfuscations about the mass murders of September 11, 2001, the foundational event of recent times that claimed thousands of victims whose relatives still cry out for truth and justice.

Reading Unanswered Questions will roil you to the depths of your soul and illuminate your mind as Ray McGinnis presents fact after fact backed up by almost one thousand endnotes and twelve years of meticulous research.  There is nothing speculative about this book.  It is not a “conspiracy theory.”

McGinnis ingeniously and brilliantly documents those murders through the eyes of victims’ relatives and their decades-long, agonizing efforts to seek honest answers from the U.S. government.  To have their simple and obvious questions answered.  To know the truth about why their loved ones died and who killed them.

Their struggles have been met with cruel indifference from four presidents (Bush, Obama, Trump, and Biden), three New York City mayors (Giuliani, Bloomberg, and de Blasio), the 9/11 Commission, and so many others in positions of authority who have turned deaf ears to their cris de coeur.  The corporate mass media have rubbed salt in their wounds as they have stage-managed the lies and coverups.  And controlled opposition operatives have played slick games to direct attention away from the heart of the matter.

The families’ search for answers to their questions have been either ignored or answered with lies and dissimulation piled upon dissimulation to protect the guilty.  McGinnis is their champion.  He insists on answers.

He powerfully unfurls layer upon layer of facts and the government’s fictions in a timeline that brings us to the twentieth anniversary of these atrocities.  While reading it, one cannot help but think of the thousands of innocent victims of that terrible day and their suffering families, and the millions of innocent victims throughout the world who have been murdered by the U.S. government in the name of 9/11.  The “war on terror” has been waged by a government that continues to refuse to tell the truth about who the “terrorists” were on September 11, 2001.

By refusing to answer the families’ questions and thereby hypothetically claiming the Fifth Amendment for fear of incriminating themselves, government officials have ironically incriminated themselves.

For McGinnis is like a prosecuting attorney who works not for the state but for the people.  He forces the issue by asking the questions his clients want answered.  Like them, he is persistent and requests answers to a litany of interrogations that are met with silence.  The government’s stonewalling is deafening, and readers – who are the jury – are left to decide the case partially based on those non-answers, often justified under the sham of “national security” or just plain arrogance.  When answers are forthcoming, they are incomplete and disingenuous.

Seventy per cent of the questions the Family Steering Committee asked the 9/11 Commission were left unanswered in The 9/11 Commission Report.  Those that were answered raised more questions than they answered.

But the reason that this book is so powerful is because McGinnis answers the questions that the government does not.  And so his title – Unanswered Questions – is ironically false while also being true.

This should in no way put off those who still cling to the official story. For McGinnis is exceedingly fair in assessing and presenting the facts and readily admits when there are disagreements.

While focusing on a core group of bereaved families called The Family Steering Committee who are insistent on answers, a group that includes four New Jersey widows known as “The Jersey Girls” whose husbands died in the Twin Towers, he includes many others and does not shy away from saying when they are at odds.  The only way a fair-minded person can assess the book is to read it.  And if you don’t read it and you have bought the government’s official fabrications or are still sitting on the fence, you are in flight from truth.  This book demands attention.

As far as I know, while there have been many excellent books critiquing the government’s account of 9/11, led by about a dozen extraordinary works by David Ray Griffin, and many books supporting the government’s explanation led by The 9/11 Commission Report, Unanswered Questions is the first to approach the subject from the perspective of the questions asked by the relatives of the victims.

For many people, the murders of that day are abstract, although they naturally stir the human emotions of pity, fear, and terror. But from a distance, for they are now fading into history and are not personal.  For some, there may have been a catharsis with The 9/11 Commission Report which they no doubt never read although it was said to be a “best-seller.”  That would be fake catharsis, for such fiction fails to tell the truth since it was written by people blind in mind and ears as well as in their eyes.  But then again, who reads Sophocles or Aeschylus any longer?  Better to read The New York Times, Slate magazine, Time, The New Republic, The Nation, etc., all of which effusively praised the 9/11 Commission Report when it was released.  As McGinnis reports, “The New York Times called the Report ‘an uncommonly lucid, even riveting narrative’ and an ‘improbable literary triumph.’”  This is simply propaganda.

But let us take a look inside Unanswered Questions, a genuine non-fiction book motivated by a deep compassion for the victims and a scholar’s dedication to the truth.  It is divided into four parts, each containing multiple chapters.

“Part One: From Grief to Advocacy” is the briefest and introduces the reader to firefighters, first responders, and family members who lost loved ones in the calamity.  We learn how their grief turned to advocacy when they formed many groups to channel their energies.  We learn how President Bush and his minions (or was Bush the minion and others like Cheney in charge?) opposed establishing a special commission to probe into the events of September Eleventh and how when his opposition was overcome he had the audacity to try to name Henry Kissinger to head the 9/11 Commission and how this was stopped.  Finally, McGinnis tells us how the families’ questions were greatly expanded after discovering Paul Thompson’s extraordinary Internet timeline with its vast numbers of links to news reports that was later published as The Terror Timeline.

“Part Two: Family Steering Committee Statements to the 9/11 Commission” examines how the 9/11 Commission was a setup from the start, not even close to being an impartial investigation.  It began with the naming of Philip Zelikow as the Director.  Zelikow had deep ties to the Bush administration and its neocons.  He had been a member of Bush’s transition team.  Even “Richard Clarke, chairman of the ‘Counterterrorism Security Group,’ said ‘the fix is in’” when Zelikow was appointed.  Zelikow completely controlled the investigation and the final report despite many conflicts of interest.  He essentially wrote the report before the hearings commenced.  He had authored a book with Condoleezza Rice and was an advocate for preemptive war that was used to attack Iraq in early 2003, etc.  His appointment was a sick joke, and the Family Steering Committee called for his immediate resignation but was rebuffed just as quickly by Chairman Thomas Kean and Lee Hamilton.  As a result, the final report ended being a fictional account authored by Zelikow (who has now been named to head a Covid-19 commission).

This section also covers the lies told by Mayor Rudy Giuliani when he testified.  Three hundred and forty-three FDNY members were killed that day, heroes who didn’t have to die. Giuliani’s testimony so outraged the  families of first responders that their fury was uncontained.  McGinnis tells us:

They held up signs that read ‘lies’ and ‘liar.’  Family Steering Committee member Sally Regenhard held up a sign that read ‘FICTION.’  She hollered, ‘My son [Christian Regenhard, a probationary firefighter] was not told to get out!  He would’ve gotten out!  My son was murdered, murdered because of your incompetence and radios that didn’t work!’

McGinnis captures the increasing anger felt by family members throughout this section as the final report was rammed through despite their protests.

“Part Three: The Family Steering Committee’s Unanswered Questions” is the heart of the book.  It contains eleven chapters devoted to questions addressed to NORAD, the FAA, the CIA/SEC/FBI, Mayor Giuliani, President Bush, the Port Authority/WTC/City of New York, Vice President Cheney, and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld but never answered.  Over a thousand questions were posed to the 9/11 Commission to aid the investigation.  McGinnis writes:

The questions were intended to direct the focus of the inquiry, and ask those most directly involved what led to the failures that day.  They understood that it would not be the FSC members themselves asking the  questions.  Instead, they would be posed to witnesses by 9/11 commissioners in public hearings, or asked by Commission staff behind closed-door proceedings.

Some of these questions were directed at the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD).  One question the FSC asked the 9/11 Commission was: ‘Why weren’t NORAD jets able to intercept the hijacked planes if they were airborne within eight minutes of notification?’

NORAD had an extremely successful history of intercepting errant aircraft, and a part of their mission was “surveillance and control of the [domestic] territorial airspace “ in the U.S. and Canada.  Nevertheless, on September 11, 2001 none of the hijacked aircraft were intercepted even though they were allegedly being flown by inexperienced and incompetent hijackers who, according to experts, could never fly such massive commercial airliners into the World Trade Towers or the Pentagon.  Government witnesses either lied about the systemic failures to intercept the planes, omitted important details, or gave contradictory stories. Of course, they were then promoted.  And although there was an unprecedented number of war games being “coincidentally” held on September 11, none of the 9/11 Commissioners asked any witnesses about them.

It was clear that all the questions about the failure to intercept the planes would not be answered, but McGinnis makes it obvious that their non-answers were indeed answers by omission, for in this section and all the others, he makes sure the questions are indeed answered and the cumulative effect is devastating.  He does this not simply by expressing his own opinions but by quoting others and always giving sources.

In a similar vein, the FSC wished to know from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) why these hijacked planes were able to evade all of the highly sophisticated radar?  McGinnis says, “The 9/11 Commission concluded that NORAD had failed to do its job on September Eleventh; NORAD’s decisions impaired the FAA radar operator’s conduct.”  Of course, the radar questions were linked to the war games issue and since the war games questions were never asked, these massive failures were explained away in gobbledygook worthy of the Three Stooges.

Mindy Kleinberg, a FSC member whose husband Alan died in the North Tower, told the Commission that its theory of luck was bullshit, although she phrased it more diplomatically:

With regard to the 9/11 attacks, it has been said that the intelligence agencies have to be right 100% of the time and the terrorists only have to get lucky once.  This explanation for the devastating attacks of September 11, simply on its face, is wrong in its value.  Because the 9/11 terrorists were not just lucky once; they were lucky over and over again…Is it luck that aberrant stock trades were not monitored?  Is it luck when 15 visas were awarded on incomplete forms?  Is it luck when Airline Security screenings allow hijackers to board planes with box cutters and pepper spray?  Is it luck when emergency FAA and NORAD protocols are not followed?  Is it luck when a national emergency is not reported to top government officials on a timely basis?  To me luck is something that happens once.  When you have this repeated pattern of broken protocols, broken laws, broken communication, one cannot still call it luck.

Comically, The 9/11 Commission Report concluded that, as McGinnis notes, “The reason for the attacks was due simply to a [U.S. government] failure of imagination.”

In regard to foreknowledge of the attacks, the families asked the CIA, the SEC, and the FBI for the names of the individuals and financial institutions who placed “put” orders on American and United Airlines in the three weeks prior to 9/11.

This involved the number three man at the CIA, CIA Executive Director Alvin “Buzzy” Krongard, former Vice Chairman of the board at Bankers Trust that had been acquired by Deutsche Bank through which many of these suspect stock trades passed.  This insider trading that anticipated the 9/11 attacks was connected to a security firm named Stratesec that provided security to Dulles Airport, the World Trade Center, and United Airlines, and to Wirt Walker III, a business partner of the president’s brother, Marvin Bush.  Walker III was a board member of the Carlyle Group that was in turn connected to the bin Laden and Bush families.

Despite these and other highly suspect connections, the “9/11 Commission wasn’t interested in exploring leads about possible foreknowledge of the attacks.”  Nor were they interested in the strange matter of Larry Silverstein, who had already owned World Trade Center Building 7, but who obtained a 99-year lease on the Twin Towers two months before the attack and who insisted that insurance cover a terrorist attack for $3.5. billion dollars.  Silverstein was later awarded $4.55 billion when it was determined that there had been two suicide attacks.

Silverstein later claimed that there was agreement to “pull” (a controlled demolition term) Building 7, which happened at 5:20 PM that day despite never having been hit by a plane.  Questions about the collapse of Building 7 were, of course, never answered, but the videos of its collapse are available for all to see with their own eyes.  An excellent film about Building 7, Seven by Dylan Avery, should be seen by all.  Seeing is believing, and what any objective observer can only conclude is that the building was taken down by controlled demolition, which the government denies.

Which brings us to other key questions that the FSC asked, McGinnis explores, and that went unanswered: Why did President Bush enter a Sarasota, Florida elementary classroom, stay there as the attacks unfolded, and not immediately return to Washington, D.C.?  Why did he enter that classroom at 9:03 AM and remain there for fifteen minutes when it was clear the U.S. was under a terrorist attack?  Why was he, unlike Dick Cheney, not immediately taken out of the building by the Secret Service but was allowed to sit and read to children and not depart the building until 9:34 A.M.?

“The vice president was reported by President Bush’s personal secretary as being ‘seized by arms, legs, and his belt and physically’ carried out of his office at 9:03 A.M.  Cheney was taken to the Presidential Emergency Operations Center below the White House, where Secretary of Transportation Norman Mineta saw him prior to 9:25 A.M.”  Yet Bush stayed to read a book when colleagues of the Secret Service agents protecting him had already been evacuated from the largest Secret Service Field Office in WTC 7.

“However,” writes McGinnis, “on December 4, 2001, President Bush made the following statement at a Town Hall meeting about the moment – 9:01 a.m. – that he said he learned about the attack.  ‘And I was sitting outside the classroom waiting to go in, and I saw an airplane hit the tower – the television was obviously on, and I used to fly myself, and I said , “That’s one terrible pilot.”  And I said, “It must have been a horrible accident.”  But I was whisked off there – I didn’t have much time to think about it.’”

You can’t make this stuff up, yet it’s offered to the public and the victims’ families as acceptable.  Bush was informed that a second plane had hit the South Tower by Andrew Card who came into the classroom and whispered in his ear.  But three months later he claims he saw on television the first plane hit the North Tower when no one could have seen it since video of the first plane hitting the building at 8:46 A.M. was not available until much later.

These ridiculous discrepancies and other questions the FSC wished the 9/11 Commission to ask Bush under oath in sworn public testimony went unasked and unanswered.  Instead, as McGinnis writes:

But, the meeting with Bush and Cheney took place in secret on April 29, 2004.  It was not held under oath.  No transcript was made available of  their conversation with the commissioners.  Nothing was learned about why the president remained at an elementary school during the attacks. Nothing was learned about what the president knew regarding foreign  intelligence agencies forewarning the U.S.  Nothing was learned about why the president had authorized America to prepare for war against Afghanistan in the days and weeks prior to the attacks of September 11.

Nor was anything learned about why Pentagon brass suddenly cancelled flights scheduled for September 11.  Nothing about who warned them and why.

Essentially all the key questions the families asked were not answered.  But McGinnis answers them, including those addressed to Cheney, Rumsfeld, Giuliani, the CIA, and the Port Authority/WTC/City of New York.  By using the documented records against them, he does the job the 9/11 Commission refused to do. He unravels the lies, circumlocutions, and straightforward propaganda used to hide the truth, including the following:

  • Cheney’s deceptions about when he got to the Presidential Emergency Operations Center and what he was doing there and his orders to his young assistant about the hijacked plane headed toward the capitol.
  • Rumsfeld with his lies about not knowing anything about the World Trade Center attacks until fifteen minutes before the Pentagon was hit and why the Pentagon was not defended.
  • Giuliani and the obvious controlled demolition of Building 7 at 5:20 P.M. and the lies about the faulty telephones the firefighters carried.

Since this is not meant to be a book about a book but a book review, I will stop there.  I would be remiss, however, if I failed to mention “Chapter 22: The Missing Accounts: FDNY.”

It is part of Part Four: Acceptance And Dissent that leads to McGinnis’s conclusion.  Whatever one’s position on the events of September 11, it is generally accepted that firefighters and first responders are objective and brave in the extreme.  Of the emergency workers who responded to the call to help save the people in the Twin Towers, the vast majority who lost their lives in attempting to save their fellow human beings were firefighters – 343 of them perished that day.  They were doing their duty.  So their surviving colleagues’ testimonies are priceless and beyond dispute.  They had absolutely no reasons to lie.  McGinnis tells us:

On September 11, 2001, Thomas Von Essen, the fire commissioner of New York City, ordered that oral histories be gathered from first responders, firefighters, and medical workers.  He wanted to preserve the accounts of what they experienced at the World Trade Center.  In the weeks and months following 9/11, 503 oral histories were taken.  However, they were not released to the public.  The 2002 mayor of New York City, Michael Bloomberg, refused.

The Family Steering Committee asked the 9/11 Commission why, but the Commission refused to answer their question.  After a law suit, the oral histories that run to 12,000 pages were released.  They contain copious accounts of explosions going off in the Towers before the Towers collapsed.

FDNY firefighter John Coyne, who was in the South Tower, recalls how he had called his father and said:

I finally got through to my father and said ‘I’m alive.  I just wanted to tell you, go to church, I’m alive.  I just so narrowly escaped this thing.’  He said, ‘Where were you?  You were there?’  I said, ‘Yeh, I was right there when it blew up.’  He said, ‘You were there when the planes hit?’  I said, ‘No, I was there when it exploded, the building exploded.’  He said, ‘You mean when it fell down?’ I said, ‘No, when it exploded.’ … I totally thought it had been blown up.  That’s just the perspective of looking at it, it seemed to have exploded out.

Captain Karin DeShore, who was standing outside, said she saw a sequence of orange and red flashes coming from the North Tower:

Initially it was just one flash.  Then this flash…kept popping all around the building and that building started to explode … These popping sounds and the explosions were getting bigger, going up and down and the all around the building.

Keith Murphy:  “There was tremendous damage in the lobby…like something had exploded out…a distant boom sounded like three explosions.”

Assistant Commissioner Stephen Gregory:  “I saw low-level flashes…[at] the lower level of the building.  You know when they demolish a building?”

Explosions were being reported everywhere and by reporters as well.  Researchers Graeme MacQueen and Ted Walter viewed 70 hours of television coverage and found that most reporters were saying the Towers came down as a result of explosions and demolition.  Take a look here.

There were explosions reported in the sub-basements before the planes hit.  William Rodriguez, who was in the sub-basement of the North Tower and heard and felt very loud multiple explosions, told this to 9/11 Commission staff and this never appeared in The 9/11 Commission Report.

The evidence for explosives planted in the Towers and Building 7 is overwhelming but was completely discounted by the 9/11 Commission and the mass media complicit in its coverup.  In fact, the demolition of Building 7 at 5:20 P.M was not worthy of a mention in the best-selling report.  It should be obvious to any objective thinker that if these building were wired for explosives and were brought down via controlled demolition, then this could not have been done by Osama bin Laden or his followers but only by insiders who were granted secret access to these ultra-high security buildings.

Bob McIlvaine, whose son Bobby died in the North Tower, has persevered for twenty years to expose the lies surrounding September 11. McGinnis reports on his 2006 interview with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation host Evan Solomon:

I believe 100% that the US orchestrated 9/11 with the help of other agencies around the world…There’s people within the US that knew it happened, that planned this to happen.

To Solomon’s question “You think your son was therefore murdered by Americans?”  McIlvaine replied, “absolutely.”

He is joined by many others, including Matt Campbell, a British citizen and family member, whose brother Geoff Campbell died on the 106th floor of the North Tower.  Matt Campbell and his family have recently demanded a new inquest based on a 3,000 page scientifically-backed dossier claiming the buildings were blown up from within.

After reading Unanswered Questions, you very well might believe it too.

Learning about the determination of such stalwart souls as McIlvaine, Campbell, the FSC, and so many others to extract truth and justice from a recalcitrant and guilty government is inspirational.  They will never give up.  Nor should we.

There is no doubt that this extraordinary book will answer many questions you may or may not have had about the mass murders of September 11, 2001.

So don’t turn away.

It will break your heart but restore your faith in what a writer dedicated to the truth can do for those family members who have so long sought the bread of truth and were handed stones of silence.

In their ongoing grief, Ray McGinnis has handed them the gift of a bitter solace. He has answered them.

He has also given the public an opportunity to see the truth and demand an independent investigation forthwith.

The post Answering the U.S. Government’s 9/11 Lies first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Drought Flood Fire

The world is on fire like never before: “Wildfires Have Erupted Across the Globe Scorching Places That Rarely Burned Before” (CNN headlines July 22, 2021) but not only is fire raging, Biblical floods are destroying entire communities; e.g., 9,000 homes swept away in central China (BBC News) as towns were nearly decimated in Germany, “Europe’s Deadly Floods Leave Scientists Stunned” (Science, July 20, 2021). All of that with worldwide droughts at a fever pitch.

Is the sky (actually) falling?

According to SPEI Global Drought Monitor, the current drought cycle is worldwide. Only Antarctica is spared. In some corners of the world water reservoirs are dangerously low, big hydroelectric plants sputter, as long-standing verdant forests morph into dried-out firetraps.

This shocking coincidence of three major catastrophic events hitting at the same time is likely unequaled in modern history. Why are the most serious threats to 21st century civilization; i.e., drought, fire, and floods simultaneously ravaging the planet from east-to-west, north-to-south?

Answers can be found in a new book:  Drought, Flood, Fire, How Climate Change Contributes to Catastrophes by Chris Funk (Director of Climate Hazards Center, UC Santa Barbara) Cambridge University Press, August 2021.

Funk provides a very accurate description of the linchpin of climate-related trouble in one brilliant paragraph:

We hang isolated in space, with only an incredibly thin layer of atmosphere standing between us and oblivion. If we could drive our car straight up at highway speeds, we would approach the edge of the atmosphere in a matter of minutes. And into this thin membrane we are dumping about 28 million gigatons of carbon dioxide every day. The rational decisions of nearly 8 billion people are resulting in collective insanity as we choose to destroy the delicate balances that support Earth’s fragile flame.  (p. 21)

Moreover:

Climate change is making climate extremes more frequent and intense… Not in the future, but right now… Over the past few years (2015-2020) the fingerprints of climate change have seemed more like a slap. Extreme heat waves, floods, droughts, and wildfires have exacted a terrible toll on developed and developing nations alike. These extremes have impacted hundreds of millions of people and resulted in hundreds of billions of dollars in losses, all across the globe. (p. 5)

Early on in Funk’s book a chart of weather-related losses (1980 to 2018) clearly shows a four-fold increase in less than 40 years, which is foreboding and demanding of attention. Funk educates readers how and why such huge increases have occurred in such a short time:

One goal of this book is to describe how energy moves through the Earth’s energy system, so you can both better appreciate the beauty of our life-sustaining complex planet, and how human-induced warming is altering this system in a dangerous and alarming way. (p. 12)

Drought Flood Fire delves into the onset of complex life, as well as the rudimentary basics of the mechanisms by which greenhouse gases warm the planet, to wit:

Even most people who believe in climate change don’t really understand the basic mechanism of why adding greenhouse gasses to the atmosphere has to increase the amount of energy reaching the surface of the Earth.  (p. 65)

This book serves as a tutorial and, as such, a compelling asset for students and advocates and world policymakers. It’s an authoritative teaching tool with occasional fun images that depict the ironic fragility of our enduring planet, e.g.,

Imagine an egg painted blue. The atmosphere is as thick as the blue paint. (p. 67)

Ever wonder how tropical storms originate or hurricanes or cyclones via understanding the intricate details behind the reported facts, in plain English?

Is Earth uniquely fragile or steadfast and how is it that humans disrupt its ecosystems?

Indeed, Drought, Flood, Fire is a primer on the most elemental developments of all aspects of the universe and solar system and the origin of complex life itself. This seminal book is essentially a lecture series about the remarkable features and development of the universe ultimately devolving into today’s anthropogenic distortion of nature. It’s well worth the read.

Funk personally describes his approach, as follows:

Some aspects of climate change are complex and hard to fathom. Some are fairly straightforward concepts and facts that everyone really needs to understand. This book is mostly about the latter. Some of the most important mechanisms of climate change can be understood by everyone: Why do greenhouse gasses have such a direct warming effect on our planet? How does this warming intensify the impact of droughts and fires? How can this same atmospheric warming, paradoxically, also increase the frequency of extreme precipitation events and floods? This book approaches these questions with a Do-It-Yourself  (DIY) attitude.  (p. 59)

He explains the dynamics of extreme events, as for example, the interrelationship of California fires, warmer air temperatures, and drier vegetation like the infamous Thomas Fire of 2017, which was for a brief period the biggest most damaging fire in California history with flames roaring six stories into the sky.

Interestingly enough, along with that California example, Funk spells out warning signals for all of humanity, to wit:

By looking carefully at both weather data and disaster statistics, we can see with our own eyes that a 1°C warming is already having dire consequences.  (p. 64)

That one fact alone “dire consequences” at only 1°C, especially in the context of a world currently at 1.2°C above baseline, should alert policymakers around the world to the inescapable gravity of today’s scenario with worldwide firestorms, floods, and droughts bordering on the apocalyptic, which are broadcasts on TV for all to see.  These are unprecedented, out of control real time scenes of climate destructiveness never witnessed before. And, it’s happening around the world, and it’s happening now. It’s unvarnished reality!

According to Funk:

The intent here is serious. California just experienced a large increase in fire extent, due in part to an exceptional increase in temperatures. We will likely see this happen again, and again, over the next forty years. (p. 65)

Statements like that are backed up by scientific data that needs to be front and center for policymakers. His book should be on the desks of every policymaker because immediate remediation measures have never been more urgently crucial, especially with so much destruction at today’s global temperature of only 1.2°C above baseline. Whether they thoroughly read the book or not, policy wonks need a reminder of Drought Flood Fire on their desktops. It’s essential.

The rate of increase of global warming, as detailed in Funk’s book, sends a clear message of deep concern. Figure 5-3 in the book demonstrates “exceptionally warm” ocean and air temperatures throughout the planet. It’s the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center’s monthly temperature data set of sea surface and land temperatures. In true Michael Mann fashion the graph is parabolic!

The graph shows the fraction (percentage) of Earth that’s exceptionally warm over time, as explained by Funk:

This time series should deeply disturb you. The fraction… is increasing very rapidly. When I was born, it was about 2%. By the time I started graduate school it was around 5%. When my children were born, it hovered around 7%. Since that time the area of exceptional warmth has doubled again to around 17%, increasing rapidly just between the beginning and end of our focus period (2015-2019). Now almost one-fifth of the globe experiences extreme temperatures at any given time. (p. 99)

Those extremes result in severe health impacts, including death. For example, China has reported “at least 300 deaths” as a result of recent record-making floods whilst the same flooding traps passengers in subway trains standing in neck-deep water in the provincial capital Zhengzhou; meantime, hundreds of people died in the recent Pacific Northwest heat wave, according to estimates; there were at least 486 deaths in British Columbia, 116 in Oregon, 78 in Washington… there were more than 3,500 emergency department visits for heat-related illness this past May and June in a region that includes Alaska, Idaho, Oregon and Washington State, which is normally a very cool region.

Funk’s research group has developed a methodology to provide accurate estimates of maximum air temperatures called the Climate Hazards Center Infrared Temperature dataset.  His accomplishments at U of Calif. Santa Barbara involve satellites and computers used to identify and predict climate hazards. Because of the planet’s berserk climate system of late, Funk’s work should be mandatory for nation/state policy wonks.

Funk’s Extreme Event Attribution methodology identifies “the fingerprint of climate change” well ahead of time.  For example, his research group explains the mechanisms or observations by which extreme weather events can be anticipated to help formulate humanitarian aid well ahead of a severe drought. As for example:

In late 2016 we predicted the spring 2017 drought that struck Kenya, Somalia, and southern Ethiopia.  (p. 15)

According to Funk, we live on a “Goldilocks Planet” with a life support system entirely dependent upon a “very thin atmosphere and the absolute necessity of maintaining temperatures with a narrow range.” In that regard, Drought Flood Fire focuses on what’s happening to the planet now vis a vis extreme heat, extreme precipitation, and out of control droughts, wildfires, and hurricanes turbocharged by human-generated greenhouse gases.

Of interest, in spite of Funk’s careful examination of the dangers presented by human-generated greenhouse gases and examples of how devastating those have been at only 1°C above baseline, towards the end of his book he discovers an upbeat note by referencing the German and California experiences of effectively mitigating GHGs whilst experiencing rapid economic growth as examples of what the world can do to favorably resolve the climate crisis.

He goes on to tabulate all of the wonderful positives of modern day society, the accomplishments in medicine, science, etc., which are all true.  Yet, it somehow comes across as way too Disneylandish in the face of repeated failures by the nations of the world to uphold their climate mitigation commitments. After all, every world climate conference, like Paris 2015, has failed, horribly failed. This is worse than a tragedy and cause for not holding one’s breath over the outcome of the 2021 UN Climate Change Conference to be held in Glasgow in November called COP26 where 30,000 delegates are expected.

Yes, since 1995 in Berlin, the world has already held 25 COPs! Begging the question: What results? Namely, annual CO2 emissions have skyrocketed (double the 20th century rate), unrelenting global warming (a new heat record, 2020) CO2-e at record levels year-by-year. Meanwhile, Biblical fires, massive flooding, and killer droughts haunt civilization like never before.

What’s to celebrate?

Maybe it would be better if COP26 is cancelled and save the millions spent on 30,000 professionals gathering to chitchat, meaning “lots of smoke but no flames,” except for the long-standing forests of the world, which are burning like crazy.

At the end, Funk comes back to reality, which is crucial for understanding where the planet’s health stands and what must be done, to wit:

Right now we appear to be headed for 3°C of warming or more. This level of warming would almost certainly have catastrophic and potentially irreversible impacts on our planet’s life support system. (p. 299)

But, according to Drought Flood Fire, it’s already happening with just 1°C warming, as Funk additionally queries: Imagine +3°C or +4°C bringing on decimated crops, super storms, and considerably higher sea levels, but yet:

Even the difference between 1.5°C and 2°C of warming will make an incredible difference.  (p. 300)

Nobody knows for certain where climate change/global warming is headed, but one thing is certain, it’s always worse than climate models; it’s always worse than scientists expect. That’s a concerning preamble to yet one more UN Climate Summit.

All of which gives one pause with today’s 1.2°C above baseline as Biblical droughts, floods, and fires scare the daylights out of scientists. They’re publicly admitting it, which is a refreshing bold approach.  Hopefully, their deep-seated concerns override, supersede the bureaucratic nightmarish results of past COPs.

Meanwhile, Drought Flood Fire, How Climate Change Contributes to Catastrophes puts everything into perspective.

The post Drought Flood Fire first appeared on Dissident Voice.

The Despisers of the Earth

“Knowledge of death helps us also to find a good road,” Jack D. Forbes tells us, “because perhaps it can bring us to deep considerations of our place in nature.” I recall this reflection Forbes makes, among other revelations, in his 1978 book Columbus and Other Cannibals, now, rather queerly, in relation to the environmental movement. Written by Derrick Jensen, Lierre Keith, and Max Wilbert, Bright Green Lies comes at a critical moment, as this machine called by the name civilization wages its war on nature, to the devastation of the living world.

Analyzed here, bright green environmentalism occupies the position that industrial civilization, otherwise unsustainable, can be salvaged into sustainability through continued, rapid technological innovation. Anthropocentric in its thinking, thus also egocentric, all for the industrial human, rather than ecocentric, it argues for an “environmentalism,” as such, “less about nature, and more about us.” But, as the authors show us, lies should not be dressed up as truths, no matter how desperately one might desire to avoid discomfort.

Central to the analysis in Bright Green Lies, which criticizes this anthropocentrism, we see a critique of technology, a subject also seen in other forms before in Jensen’s work, such as in his and George Draffan’s 2004 book Welcome to the Machine. Technology should not be seen as truly neutral, indeed as if apolitical, since any such neutrality simply cannot be so in technology’s connection to culture.

Technic, a term from Lewis Mumford, refers to this relation. “A social milieu,” the authors write of it, “creates specific technologies which in turn shape the culture.” On this point, they refer to Mumford’s two-volume work The Myth of the Machine, particularly the first volume Technics and Human Development, published in 1967. On what he terms “authoritarian technics,” as referenced by the authors, Mumford, writes in his 1964 article “Authoritarian and Democratic Technics”:

[A]uthoritarian technics is a much more recent achievement: it begins around the fourth millennium B.C. in a new configuration of technical invention, scientific observation, and centralized political control that gave rise to the peculiar mode of life we may now identify, without eulogy, as civilization. Under the new institution of kingship, activities that had been scattered, diversified, cut to the human measure, were united on a monumental scale into an entirely new kind of theological-technological mass organization.

Mumford’s phrase “theological-technological mass organization” matters. Here, as I do, one might recall, as examples most familiar to many, Aldous Huxley’s 1932 novel Brave New World and George Orwell’s 1949 novel 1984. We might well consider, as Margaret Atwood remarks, the dystopian arising from the utopian: “Why is it that when we grab for heaven—socialist or capitalist or even religious—we so often produce hell?” Civilization’s battle against biology itself, being in its hatred for nature, seems to be hell in reality, with heaven as fantasy. One discovers only a deceitful promise to deaden the consciousness and counteract any social change against the machine. Both ecocidal and death-bringing, as it pretends to be ecological and life-giving, this deceit seems to be characteristic of bright green environmentalism.

“Around the world,” the authors write, “frontline activists are fighting not only big corporations but also the climate movement as wild beings and wild places now need protection from green energy projects.” It would be too simplistic, then, to misrepresent this most serious critique as seeing all technology, from the dawn of humankind, as being an inherent act of destruction. Context matters, clearly, with us in this ongoing cultural transition into what Neil Postman calls technopoly. In his 1992 book Technopoly, Postman defines it as a “totalitarian technocracy,” characterized by “submission of all forms of cultural life to the sovereignty of technique and technology.” It embodies the arrogant sense of solutionism in technological innovation, man’s new theology, under current industrial civilization. Making problems, as the authors here show, the industrial human’s use of technology, also including biotechnology, has been destructive, rather than restorative, toward the living world.

“These technologies will not save the earth,” Keith writes in the prologue, adding: “They will only hasten its demise.” And so, as the authors show, it simply does not make sense for us, as Jeff Gibbs posits this question in his 2019 film Planet of the Humans, to believe that machines built by industrial civilization can save us, including the living world being colonized at the biological level, from industrial civilization. “Weapons are tools that civilizations will make,” the authors write, “because civilization itself is a war.”

As it has come to be, industrial civilization poses many problems for the living world, among those noted by the authors, which cannot be worked around by only more technology. Seen as if its own theology, our technology seems to keep us within a paradigm, one that has been anthropocentric, consuming nature around civilization to feed its apparently bottomless greed. On civilization, the authors continue:

Its most basic material activity is a war against the living world, and as life is destroyed, the war must spread. The spread is not just geographic, though that is both inevitable and catastrophic, turning biotic communities into gutted colonies and sovereign people into slaves. Civilization penetrates the culture as well, because the weapons are not just a technology—no tool ever is. Technologies contain the transmutational force of a technic, creating a seamless suite of social institutions and corresponding ideologies. Those ideologies will either be authoritarian or democratic, hierarchical or egalitarian. Technics are never neutral.

Here, after this passage, the authors reference Chellis Glendinning, author of the 1990 book When Technology Wounds, who writes: “All technologies are political.” Power remains primary in how we must orient ourselves, in terms of our understanding, regarding the element of the theological-technological. “The mechanistic mind is built on an epistemology of domination. It wants a hierarchy,” the authors write. “It needs to separate the animate from the inanimate and then rank them in order of moral standing.” Man comes to be driven in making an order of things under which he can name all and make the world’s meaning with relation to himself, seeing woman and nature as subject to his desire. Imagined as freedom, seen for man as the self-made individual in the man-made world, it becomes realized as slavery.

On the mechanical mind, Sir Francis Bacon, inquisitor at witch trials and inventor of the scientific method, describes his objective, science as he saw it, as “dominion over creation.” And René Descartes adds: “I have described this earth, and indeed this whole visible world, as a machine.” Clearly, even if seen among bright green environmentalists analyzed by the authors, one can see the tradition of Bacon and Descartes continuing today across social movements. The mechanical mind appears most evident in man’s continued desire to carve out nature and claim the corpse as his, colonizing and occupying that which he feels driven to possess.

Narcissistic, consuming everything around it, the mechanistic mind, as the system of beliefs with this desire, insists upon itself as the center of all things. Any identity developed from this ideology becomes one based on destruction, thus doomed to be a repetition of reversals “in a reversal society,” as Mary Daly remarks. The death of the flesh—indeed, what Luce Irigaray describes as “the murder of the mother”—becomes life for the self, with destruction as creation, emptiness as fulfillment. It can be characterized by what Erich Fromm analyzes as necrophilia, being “the passion to transform that which is alive into something unalive,” “the exclusive interest in all that is purely mechanical.”

“Having declared the cosmos lifeless,” the authors write, “industrial humans are now transforming the biosphere into the technosphere, a dead world of our own artifacts that life as a whole may not survive.” Technological fundamentalism, a term used by David W. Orr in his 1994 analysis, discussed by Robert Jensen in his 2017 book The End of Patriarchy, has been deployed for describing this ideology against biology and ecology. Technology, although substituted for the sacred, is killing the living world, civilization being its consumer.

Seen in the example of bright green environmentalism, the authors critique this dependency, which, in the increasing enslavement to the machine, seems a tell-tale sign of desperation, not hope. “Unable to separate can do from should do,” Orr writes, “we suffer a kind of technological immune deficiency syndrome that renders us vulnerable to whatever can be done and too weak to question what it is that we should do” (336). At its most basic, there seems to be a failure to see boundaries, as one becomes only more obsessed with breaking them, including everything in nature to be dominated.

A declared sense of “dominion over creation,” as Bacon would have it, does not seem compatible with local knowledge and natural variation, as globalization, and the declared universality of dominant western knowledge, has worked to make the world a monolith. On biodiversity, Rachel Carson, whom the authors cite, writes in her 1962 book Silent Spring: “Nature has introduced great variety into the landscape, but man has displayed a passion for simplifying it.” Just as Carson identifies man’s desire to control nature, to its simplification on his terms, Vandana Shiva likewise identifies it, much as the authors do here, in the violence of the Green Revolution, analyzed in her 1993 book Monocultures of the Mind. “The destruction of diversity and the creation of uniformity,” Shiva writes, “simultaneously involves the destruction of stability and the creation of vulnerability.” Nature becomes more bound to what Barbara Christian, in her 1987 essay “The Race for Theory,” terms monolithism, becoming more so mystified, thus brought into destruction, in man’s claim to control all life. “Ideologies of dominance,” as Christian analyzes them, appear to manifest in man’s technology, to manipulate nature, rather than letting the living world simply be in its multiplicity.

Among the consequences of man’s attempted total control of nature, the world has witnessed a radical decrease in biodiversity, corresponding with the rise of industrial civilization as it colonizes nature—indeed, life—itself. As the authors note, Carson felt an urgent sense, first and foremost, of us needing to save, in her words, “the living world” in its beauty, a being in and of itself, unenslaved by any man-made sense of meaning. Added to this sensibility of hers, Carson felt, also in her words, “anger at the senseless, brutish things that were being done,” a feeling seen in Shiva’s work. And, with their own work, Jensen, Keith, and Wilbert seem to follow Carson’s and Shiva’s sensibilities, being kindred witnesses for nature, seen in this time of great need.

“Mainstream environmentalists,” the authors write, “now overwhelmingly prioritize saving industrial civilization over saving life on the planet.” As but one example of civilization as contagion, in his article “The Race to Save Civilization,” Lester Brown argues how we can “save civilization,” because the living world is, so he says, “going to be around for a while.” Indeed, as Wilbert writes in his review of Brown’s 2009 book Plan B 4.0: Mobilizing to Save Civilization, it is “fundamentally anthropocentric,” neglecting a critique of both capitalism and civilization. “If we can get the market to tell the truth,” Brown writes, “then we can avoid being blindsided by a faulty accounting system that leads to bankruptcy.” But it does not seem wise to put our hope in the market, when, as it has been so, the market would seem unlikely to tell any truth not manipulated by the green power of profit.

Recalling the work of Robert Jay Lifton, the authors remind us that, before “any mass atrocity,” one “must have a claim to virtue.” Aside from here in Bright Green Lies, Jensen writes of this “claim to virtue” in his 2000 book A Language Older Than Words. Jensen references Lifton’s 1986 book The Nazi Doctors in which, among the doctors at Auschwitz, we see what it means to claim virtue and collaborate in atrocity. A few among us might well come to consciousness of the falsities, seeing it all for what it actually is. “But the rest of us want this bright, happy future, and we refuse to close the distance,” the authors write. “We don’t want to know about the acid rain falling, the fish strangling, and the rubble that once was mountains going up in smoke.” There seems to be a true fear of the real world there. Rather than face reality, as we should do, without lying to ourselves, we retreat into fantasy worlds, where we can have it all—even when it will not work. Desperate, one comes to convince oneself that the atrocity, whatever it might be, “is not in fact an atrocity, but instead a good thing.” Disembodied and dismembered, we become the despisers of the earth.

Against the sacred, civilization has been presented as the cure, when it worsens the living world, akin to mere snake oil as healing salve, in a false hope for some miraculous salvation. Such would seem to be the man-eat-world world logic of environmentalism against the environment. In their analysis, the authors show a selection of lies in terms of technology, ones which not only will not work but also make things much worse. Certainly, a very commodifying vocabulary, a quality of the mechanical mind considered here, might well sell the environment to buyers, maybe even those considerably invested in its consumption, but that does not seem compatible with saving the living world. As we see argued in Bright Green Lies, the color green for the modern environmental movement has ended up becoming far less about the living world than about the money to be made from nature by man’s exploitation of it. Really mistaken for its own religion, money, in a symbiosis with technology, should not be that on which we form our faith.

“By acquiescing in an act that can cause such suffering to a living creature,” Carson asks us in Silent Spring, “who among us is not diminished as a human being?” Human beings have been diminished by seeing all of nature, including our bodies and ourselves, as though mechanical, both deadened and dispossessed. But, as seen before, in our fear and guilt, being against nature, we lie. Such has been seen in man’s dominion over woman. Man tells himself all manner of lies, even seeing woman hating as a way of life, occupying himself with it as if his innermost self, all in his attempt to alleviate his own fear and guilt over the subjection of women.

“Civilization consumes the circle, so all civilizations end in collapse,” Keith writes, asking: “How could it be otherwise if your way of life relies on destroying the place you live?” Civilization, in its doing of domination, as can be apprehended in its current form, must die for nature—indeed, all life and the interactions therein—to live in the living world. Identity should not be insisted upon as collapsing all others around the self into it, for it leads to an idea of the individual as a destroyer, caught in his own illusion of being a creator. Of the work to be done on humanity’s part, that beyond the life of Bright Green Lies, Jensen writes in the afterword:

This way of living will not and cannot last. What we do now determines how much of the planet remains later. We can voluntarily reduce the harm caused by this culture now, and work to create spaces where nature can regenerate, or we can continue to allow—indeed, to subsidize—further destruction of the planet’s ecological infrastructure. And while that may allow the economy to limp along a few more years, I guarantee that none of us—salmon, right whales, piscine life in the oceans, humans—are going to like where that takes us.

Human beings must consider our place in nature, not as its masters, becoming those who control it, as if the creators of all, but rather, in our being, as another part of the living world. Humanity must reject civilization’s dominion over nature. To resist the machine, one must really come to terms with biology, rejecting that mechanical mind that makes us go against nature into nothingness. There must be an understanding of the connectedness of beings in the living world, that we do not exist as disembodied and dismembered parts in any machine. “All things participate in the circle of death,” Forbes reminds us, “but as mentioned earlier, death is life.”

The post The Despisers of the Earth first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Needed Urgently! New US National Myth

Lenin dismantled in Berdiansk, Ukraine. Confederacy President Jefferson Davis in Richmond. Lieutenant-general Cornwallis in Halifax, Nova Scotia.


Empires rise and fall. And usually burn themselves out rather quickly. What else is new? ‘American decline’ is a Wikipedia page. You can feel it in the air. One greets it with dread or hope, or better dread-hope. America’s sins are adding up, yet the US is a behemoth for well over two centuries and will not go in peace.

It’s biblical in dimensions: elites brazenly steal from the poor, then use the money to lobby, privatization, to make ever more money, with God’s wrath hovering like a sword overhead, as such vile behaviour undermines the whole system.

It’s so painful to watch, yet again, how perverse capitalism makes people act. How it rewards scoundrels unimaginable fortunes. It’s the same with atom-splitting, computers, drones, what happens to good leaders everywhere who don’t follow the script, in short: everything capitalism touches (which is by now just about everything, including sex, now retouched as gender) turns to sh*t.

And what about the US? It presides over this bacchanalia, consuming/ destroying all it touches (consumption is derived from the Latin ‘destroy’, so I could just leave it at ‘destroy’). And what does America produce? Not an awful lot in real terms, and less and less all the time. Actual industrial output in the US has been falling for decades. What the US is producing is more and more debt. The world ‘buys’ US debt and sells it consumer goods, chained as it is to US dollars. I.e., chained to US debt. But Americans themselves are slaves to personal debt. Now, as the US totters on, ruling the waves and waving the rules, the world has reached an apotheosis.

A quick history of the American story/ epic/ saga is:

*20,000 years of tribal hunter gatherers, in harmony with nature,

*settler colonialism, i.e., war, theft, genocide,

*declaration of bourgeois revolution promising life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness (scaled back to life, liberty and private property in the constitution),

*2 centuries of wild, uncontrolled, ‘creative destruction’, using and discarding resources at an insane pace, blanketing the continent in square grids of endless roads, cookie-cutter suburbs, cities turning into ghost towns, arriving at

*a car-choked dead end, where the threat of nuclear war and environmental Armageddon loom ever closer.

There is already a cottage industry of Chicken Littles on US collapse, collapsarianism, Dmitry Orlov the oldest and most celebrated. Orlov is a Russian American engineer, born in 1962 in Leningrad. He emigrated with his parents in 1970s. Like the Soviet Union, the US collapse will be the result of huge military budgets, government deficits, an unresponsive political system, plus, for the US, declining oil production. Orlov’s Reinventing Collapse: The Soviet Experience and American Prospects (2008, 2011) and  The Five Stages of Collapse (2013) are entertaining as well as informative, as is his legendary 2006 article ‘Closing the ‘Collapse Gap: the USSR was better prepared for collapse than the US’ which brought the collapsarianism into the mainstream.

Martyanov, like Orlov, was born in the 1960s, though Martyanov hails from Baku, and studied at the Caspian (Kirov) Naval Academy. Their writings are both polemics by engineers. Sort-of Marxist:

Orlov: *When faced with a collapsing economy, one should stop thinking of wealth in terms of money.

Martyanov: *The Republican embrace of China in the 2000s shows how the capitalist will sell the very rope on which he will be hanged.

*America’s cultural and political decline are direct consequences of its precipitously diminishing ability to make—produce, that is—things which matter and that Americans need.

Ex-Soviets are tough nuts. And they pull no punches. Engineers, more so. Having had to bite their lips too many times pre-fall, they are unqualified in their openness and critical faculties, and generally love/hate America in equal portions. A popular saying of the day in the USSR was: “They tell us that capitalism stinks, but what a delightful smell.” Orlov enjoys the stink. (His blog ClubOrlov’s latest: Why are empires, especially dying ones, drawn to Afghanistan like moths to a flame?)

Martyanov is unrelentless and unapologetically contrarian. He has a lot of bones to pick, with lots of detours into modern Russia.

*He argues Germany’s economy is in free fall, overburdened by a green energy chimera, refusing to air condition airports. (Greta Thunberg is dismissed as an ‘illiterate girl from Sweden’).

*He (and, news to me, Putin) insist climate warming is not due to human activity (not a shred of viable evidence, except for ever unreliable models, that humanity’s activity drives climate change), (p71)

*Covid is a fraud,

*American environmentalists are pushing an agenda which undermines the very foundation of modern human civilization.

US mass culture a straitjacket

He is right, though, to argue that consumerism as an ideology is a straitjacket. The rise of postmodernism since WWII has accelerated the decline of American culture. Harold Bloom observes that “instead of the pursuit of truth, there is an adolescent certainty that all is uncertain.” He criticizes such cultural icons as Mick Jagger, who portrays himself as  a nihilistic rebel, both hetero and homosexual, embracing drugs and “the rock ideal of universal classless society founded on love.” Because youth bond with such decadent anti-heroes, they miss embracing the positive heroes of the past, never achieving a deep love for culture.

Weimar Germany is the classic example of decadent culture before the deluge. Rome in its later years was famous for its decadence, sexual promiscuity and homosexuality. It’s happening again before our very eyes. The current obsession with transsexualism, and the reforming of our sexuality according to a radical critique of ‘hetero-patriarchy’ and its replacement with an array of designer sexualities, is perhaps the strongest indicator of imminent collapse.

Saul Bellow’s The Dean’s December (1982) chronicles the state of urban culture and race relations in Chicago in the 1960s as compared to socialist eastern Europe, where traditional culture ruled. Already by the 1980s, within sight of the collapse behind the Iron Curtain, their culture was beginning to look good to outsider Bellow. The farther we ‘progress’ from those days, the better things there look.

Just as the Soviet Union denounced western decadence, Russia too is the empire’s spoilsport. Again, today’s news: the European Court of Human Rights determined that Russian law, which defines marriage as only between a man and a woman, breached the right to private and family life enshrined in the European Convention on Human Rights.The decision obliges the country to legislate for recognition of LGBT+ marriages. The Court also awarded €2,200 in costs to the claimants.

The backlash against the new sexuality being promoted by the West has begun, with protest politics in Hungary, Poland, and half the US pitted against the other half, with sexual politics at the centre of the divide. It seems Putin’s rush to change the constitution to limit marriage to male-female last year was just in the knick of time.

On the consumer side of ideology, Veblen identified the importance that status takes on in a consumer-oriented society, where spending more on goods is a status symbol, the Veblen effect. This effect cancels the upper limit on personal consumption. The sky is literally the limit, as the billionaires Bezos and Branson  with their trips into outerspace a mere drop in their financial buckets. Where one’s worth is measured solely in money, society becomes a stage for moneyed giants to act out for the rest of society, who worship these successful, glamorous idols. And feel worthless.  With the ascendancy of Black Lives Matters, with the gay liberation forces martialed behind it, US culture lies in shreds. Consumption as the be all and end all is literally destroying the planet. Help!

Magic numbers

Having dispensed with lots of damned MAGA lies, we are left with statistics. When Simon Kuznets invented GDP in the 1930s (I’m not joking), he deliberately left two industries out of this then novel, revolutionary idea of a national income: finance and advertising. Kuznets’ logic was simple, not mere opinion, but analytical fact: finance and advertising do not create new value, they only allocate, or distribute existing value (Marx’s unproductive labour), in the same way that a loan to buy a television isn’t the television, or an ad for healthcare isn’t healthcare. They are only means to goods, not goods themselves.

Congress ignored Kuznets, and included advertising and finance in the statistic. As a result, actual American GDP is formed primarily by non-productive sectors such as finance, insurance, and real estate, known as the FIRE economy. (I’m not joking, though I can’t resist fantasizing about lighting a match to all that paper ‘wealth’.)

Martyanov’s Soviet education allows him to step back from the appearance (illusion) of wealth in US stats, and recognize that real wealth is not in financial ‘services’ — mutual shining of each other’s boots by two close friends and then paying each other $10 for doing this does not produce $20 of value, something that seems to escape most American economists.

All the above does is yet further monetize our lives. Real value resides in food on the table, a roof over your head, a secure job and good education. There are lots of modern day shoe shiners, busily shining every day, inflating statistics, but producing no value. Viewed in real teams, the US looks more and more like a 3rd world country.

Subtract finance and advertising from GDP, and what’s left? Well, since more than 50% every year of GDP comes from finance and advertising,  we would immediately see that the economic ‘growth’ that the US chases never actually existed at all, that the actual size of the American economy is grossly inflated. Growth itself has only been an illusion, a trick of numbers. I.e., the economy is a hollow shell. When the dollar goes, it will take the US ‘economy’ with it. That explains the consistent pattern of the ever-increasing overall trade deficit for the United States since 1970, when Nixon took the US off the gold standard.

Food insecurity

Martyanov and Orlov are weak on ways out of our dead end. That’s not their purpose. (Orlov: hope that the rest of the world manages to come together and build at least the scaffolding of a functional imperial replacement) but we need to prepare.

Orlov urges us to look to Soviet experience for lessons. There is already a germ of Soviet thinking at play in food banks. Any national crisis (WWII, today) pushes us towards a communal (i.e., socialist) answer. Covid-era news has highlighted the growing  importance of food banks throughout the US, where lines of cars circled the block and shelves were constantly depleted.

It’s as if Basic Income was being invented out of dire necessity. 30+% of Americans have food insecurity. This phenomenal growth of food banks is a clear symptom of decline, dread-hope. My foodbank is called the ‘Essentials Market’, and is always stocked with bread, some vegetables (in season or as spillover from imports from Mexico and the US), plus bizarre things like chicken flavoured peanuts. This week, sweat peas, delicious but with black spots. Also goods with package flaws, or funny shaped potatoes and carrots. It was bi-weekly before covid but is now weekly and looks like this will continue. Portions are equal, and quantity depending on supply.

It is much more enjoyable shopping than at a ‘super’market. i donate monthly, so i’m probably not saving much on what I take home. I only go to Loblaws for frozen orange juice and canned pineapple.

I lived in Soviet Union in its twilight years, when ”defitsiti’ were the norm, but even then, shopping was an adventure, a hunt, and your spoils brought a feeling of accomplishment. Gift parcels at work were a cause for celebration. We are programmed to think that mind-numbing, ice-cold supermarkets are the pinnacle of personal happiness, but there are other ways of structuring consumption: solidarity, social justice, modesty, gifting.

You share or trade with others what you don’t really want. The fact that money doesn’t enter into the equation (or in Soviet times, was not important), makes it more like a social gathering. But then my foodbank is small, well-run and adequately funded. Large foodbanks are less welcoming but still provide an essential service for free. There isn’t a lot of waste — if a big load of toothpaste comes in, you might get two tubes. If you are lucky, you might get the last cake or brick of cheese, but there’s always tofu, frozen meat, potatoes and carrots.

As for food production, while the US is roughly balanced on food imports/ exports now, there are serious problems of water access and increasing wild fires which will lead to troubles, even if government starts right now to address them.

National myth? Israel?

Martyanov makes an unwieldy comparison of US and Russia on the culture front. He approves of the new Russian constitution where the State language on all the territory of the Russian Federation is the Russian (Russkii) language, the language of the State-founding people. That it helps bind the nation. He then argues that nowadays in America anything even remotely comparable to acknowledging that Euro-Americans represent the core nationality of the United States would be an anathema for the primarily globalist establishment. 

His logic should mean recognizing the natives as the founding people. No one invited the white settlers, who Martyanov seems to be arguing are the ‘founding nation’. Russian nation building was radically different, where Russians lived more or less peacefully alongside natives across Siberia, so fit well with the first ‘founding fathers’. And his attempt to square the Trumpian circle is to include black slaves and hispanics and forget the Philippinos, Vietnamese and other flotsam, doesn’t work either. Captives and other settlers are no more ‘founding peoples’ than these other settlers.

But he’s right that America’s lack of a myth-that-fits-all is at the heart of its disintegration, and that Russia indeed has big advantage as it limps along, trying to recover. It has many moments that all Russian citizens can relate to, though the two images that stand out as icons in all Russians’ minds are surely these.

Russians are powerful myth makers, and even look back fondly on their Soviet experience and increasingly honour it. Their Soviet national myth crashed on the hidden rocks of commodity fetishism. The ‘soviet man’ was supposed to be ascetic, a consumer minimalist, devoting himself to study, self-improvement, social activities, preserving nature, things we all wish we had time for but don’t, until retirement, when you are too old and lame to be much good to anyone. That’s good for priests and revolutionaries, maybe 10%, but not as a founding myth.

Though flawed, Martyanov is worth reading for his details, the Russia asides. It’s fascinating to see a sharp Soviet-Russian mind at work, deconstructing the US. Martyanov would probably be writing the same book if he were still Soviet, living in still extant socialism. I’m sure Putin’s advisers think along similar lines.

What really is missing in both Orlov and Martyanov is a chapter on how Israel contributes to US disintegration. Or rather a framing of the whole topic as referring to US-Israel, as they function as siamese twins, joined at the hip, with two heads, one much more clever than the other. Israel has pushed the US for the past 7 decades to do much self-harm, to discredit the US on the world stage, to push the entire Middle East into ceaseless, tragic turmoil. Without Israel, the US would be in much better shape, perhaps not even disintegrating.

Hopeful signs

If politicians heeded Hudson on debt forgiveness, maybe we could reboot the US. But it would still mean revolution.The Bezoses and Bransons stick out like sore thumbs. In the meantime, decline is relentless. There are good signs in the slow-motion US disintegration:

*Biden’s backing off Nord Stream 2 allowing Europe to manage its own energy,

*Biden’s bid to nab corporations in tax havens. Even Canada and Europe are on board. Can this plug the hole in the dyke propping up the rise sea of toxic dollars? As with the climate, storms are more frequent and more lethal. It’s hard to see a happy ending in all this but it won’t hurt.

*Pride Month’s black eye, when Supreme Court allowed the Catholic church to exclude same sex couples in adoption in Philadelphia,

*a groundswell of support, with young people at the forefront on global warming and against Israeli apartheid. As with South Africa in the 1980s, the world is slowly mobilizing to bring the Israeli part of US-Israel to justice.

These groundswells, which Martyanov got wrong, ignores or belittles, are the seeds of a new, better post-US-imperialism. Martyanov and Orlov are engineers, not writers. Just as Martyanov dismisses nonengineers from climate policy, we can’t take engineer think as the last word to resolve the complex problems engineers have created that brought us to this fix. Orlov, dubbed a survivalist, currently is producing affordable house boats for apres le deluge.

As for a credible founding myth, it’s not going to happen, unless you go back to the distant past. 1619+ meant slavery and genocide, 1776 meant a bourgeois revolution glorifying profit, wealth, and reaffirming slavery and genocide, 1899 seizing Philippines meant empire, though now minus slavery. Canada doesn’t have the slavery baggage, [Myth? See “Canada’s slavery secret: The whitewashing of 200 years of enslavement” — DV Ed] but the native genocide was pretty much the same. This year’s Canada Day on July 1 was without major fireworks, more a day of reflection, contrition. We’re already wrestling with a new national myth. It’s not easy. But it’s gonna be a lot hard south of the border.

Inspired by Trump’s angry circus performance at Mount Rushmore [the renaming of what the Lakota people called Tȟuŋkášila Šákpe, Six Grandfathers — DV Ed],last year, a landback movement has begun. We land’owners’ can give back our lands to natives whose land it really is, and let them be custodians, our high priests. We must embrace the native cultures where we live. That should be our founding myth. Such a post-consumer-settler-colonial society has a chance. We can do our accounting according to a happiness index, ridding ourselves of the financial intermediaries sucking up the real wealth and leaving only debt.

The post Needed Urgently! New US National Myth first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Making Sense of Sex and Gender

A few months after I had written an article critiquing the ideology of the transgender movement, a comrade from a progressive group told me he wanted to understand why I was challenging trans activists, whom he saw as being political allies on the left. I outlined what is now called the “gender critical” feminist argument, which rejects the rigid and repressive gender norms in patriarchy but recognizes the material reality of human sex differences. That analysis flowed from radical feminist politics, I explained, which is essential to challenging men’s exploitation of women in patriarchy, the system of institutionalized male dominance that surrounds us.

By the end of that long lunchtime conversation, he said he had no trouble following my argument and found little to disagree with. “To tell you the truth,” he said, “I don’t really understand a lot of what the trans movement is saying.”

I told him I had no trouble understanding his confusion, because the transgender movement’s arguments seemed unclear, sometimes even incoherent, to me as well. Then I asked him: “Is there any other issue on which you can’t make sense of a political movement’s arguments but you still support its policy proposals?”

He winced, knowing he couldn’t think of another such case. That was the end of the conversation. At the time I was being denounced by various people on the left for my writing, and we both knew he wasn’t going to publicly support me, or even ask trans activists for a clearer articulation of their arguments.

If time travel were possible, I would beam back to that moment in 2014 and hand my friend a copy of Kathleen Stock’s new book, Material Girls: Why Reality Matters for Feminism. It likely would not have changed his political choices, but it would have clarified why he was having trouble making sense of trans arguments. Stock explains, carefully and respectfully, why those arguments so often don’t make much sense. I mean that not as insult but as a recognition of so many people’s confusion. My friend was hardly the only person I have met who is perplexed by the foundational assertion of the trans movement: that a person is a man or woman, or neither or both, based on a subjective internal feeling about “gender” (for which no viable theory has yet been presented by trans activists) rather than the material reality of “sex” (about which we have an expansive understanding from biology and everyday life).

Stock’s book, on the other hand, is eminently sensible, in both meanings of the word. It is intellectually cogent and useful in helping us make personal and policy decisions. In this polarized political moment, she delivers her analysis firmly but politely, with none of the rancor that has unfortunately become so common in this debate, especially online.

For example, it’s sensible to define terms in a debate, although the transgender movement shies away from being pinned down on the meaning of terms and even celebrates this ambiguity as a virtue. Stock is careful with definitions, beginning with her analysis of the four ways “gender” is used these days. Once readers work through those options, it’s clear (at least to me) that the term gender is best understood as the social meaning (captured in the terms masculinity and femininity) ascribed to biological sex differences rooted in reproduction (male and female). Sex is a function of the kind of animals that we humans are, and gender is how we human animals make sense of sex differences. Sex is biological, and gender is cultural.

That’s the way feminists have used the terms since the 1970s, as they challenged patriarchal claims that men’s domination and exploitation of women is “natural” because of biology. Patriarchy turns biological difference into social dominance. Feminists have long argued that gender is connected to our sex differences but is “socially constructed” in a way that reflects the unequal distribution of power between men and women over the past few thousand years. Anything socially constructed could be constructed differently through politics.

The trans movement flips that understanding, routinely asserting that gender is not the product of social forces but is a private internal state of being, which may be innate and immutable (opinions in the trans movement vary). In other words, transgender ideology asserts that gender is something one feels and has no necessary connection to one’s body and reproductive system. Trans activists routinely assert that “sex is a social construction,” that the biological distinctions of male and female are not objectively real but are created by societies. Stock painstakingly explains why this—again I’ll use the phrase, though it sounds harsh—doesn’t make sense.

In the preceding paragraph, I wrote “routinely assert” not only because there are differences of opinion within the transgender movement (which is to be expected in any movement) but because I have heard trans activists shift arguments when asked to defend a position (which is an indication of a weak argument in any movement). I once asked a trans activist, “If sex is socially constructed, that implies that it could be constructed in some other way. Do you know of any other way for humans to reproduce other than with an egg (produced by a female) and sperm (produced by a male)? By what means would human reproduction be socially constructed differently?” The activist offered no rebuttal to that, but simply dropped the claim, moving on to assert that trans people know what sex they “really” are and that any challenge to this idea was hateful and bigoted.

[A necessary footnote: There is an extremely small percentage of the human population born “intersex,” with what are called DSDs (either Disorders or Differences in Sex Development; terminology preferences vary) that involve anomalies in genes, hormones, and reproductive organs. One of these conditions is hermaphroditism, which is still occasionally used as an umbrella term for DSDs. Stock explains those variations, noting that such conditions have nothing to do with transgenderism. Gender dysphoria (discomfort or distress when a person’s internal gender identity differs from their biological sex) is a psychological not physiological condition.]

Stock’s emphasis on precise language continues throughout the book. For example, she explains why the term “sex assigned at birth” is deceptive in light of the stability of the categories of male and female, evidenced by the success of human reproduction over millennia. In the vast majority of cases, everyone agrees on the sex of a newborn, which is observed not assigned. These questions about words are not trivial; how we talk about the world can change how we understand the world. Stock rejects replacing “breastfeeding” with “chestfeeding,” for example, because the trans-friendly term undermines our ability to name reality. Babies nurse at the breast of a female human, and the existence of women who identify as men (transmen is the common term used today) or as non-binary (rejecting an either/or choice) but still nurse a baby doesn’t change that.

Stock also offers sensible analysis of policy debates, most of which focus on the demands of men who identify as women (transwomen is the common term). For example, should transwomen be allowed into female-only spaces, such as bathrooms, changing rooms, hostels, or prisons? Stock explains why such a policy creates anxiety and fear for women, who live with the everyday reality of the threat of male violence, especially sexual violence. The problem is not that every transwoman is physically or sexually aggressive. But when claiming membership in the other sex category requires no explanation or evidence, the likelihood of abuse increases as predators find openings to target women when they are vulnerable.

Stock also explains why allowing transwomen—again, males who identify as women—to participate in women’s sports will undermine and potentially eliminate sex-segregated activities that create opportunities for girls and women to thrive. Separate athletic competitions for males and females exist because of the physiological advantage males have over females, and those advantages don’t disappear by identifying as a woman.

Does any of this really matter? Well, it matters to teenage girls who may not want to change clothes in a locker room next to a boy who identifies as a girl. It matters to women at a health club that allows transwomen in a “women only” space. It matters to clients in a women’s homeless shelter that refuses to restrain sexually aggressive behavior of transwomen in order to be “inclusive.” It matters to the woman who is bumped from a country’s Olympic weightlifting team when a transwoman is allowed to compete as a woman. It matters to the women who were sexually assaulted by a transwoman who was housed in a women’s prison. It matters to the lesbians who choose not to date transwomen—because their sexual orientation is toward female humans and not male humans who identify as women—and are then called bigots and ostracized. And it matters to the woman who had to fight to get her job back after being fired for publicly stating that she believes “that sex is immutable and not to be conflated with gender identity.”

Trans activists’ responses to these challenges vary, but they can be reduced to a trans slogan so popular that an LGBT organization in the UK put it on a t-shirt: “Transwomen are women. Get over it!”

To say the least, the meaning of the statement “transwomen are women” is not obvious, either intuitively or logically. It’s a claim that many people find hard to understand, not because they are bigots but because it seems at odds with material reality. It would be more accurate to say: “Transwomen are transwomen, which raises many complex intellectual, political, and moral questions. Let’s work out solutions that respect everyone’s rights and interests!”

Not the catchiest slogan, but accurate and honest. It’s a t-shirt that I think Stock would be comfortable wearing. She doesn’t condemn or mock trans people but rather seeks deeper understanding to make public policy choices as fair as possible for all.

Whether or not one embraces Stock’s conclusions, she argues with precision and follows the widely accepted rules of intellectual engagement that require evidence and logic to establish a proposition. If that’s the case—and I can’t imagine any open-minded reader accusing her of intellectual fraud or bad faith—then why have Stock and many others with similar views been denounced on either intellectual, political, or moral grounds? She writes:

I find it particularly telling that academics who are strongly critical of views like mine, as expressed in this book, tend not to address them with argument or evidence—as would be expected, given disciplinary norms—but often instead resort, relatively unusually for such norms, to complaints about my presumed motives or personal failings. They also tend rhetorically to collapse criticism of the intellectual tenets of trans activism into moral criticism of trans people.

Stock points out why this should worry everyone, even people who may never have direct experience with transgender policies or are not interested in philosophical debates:

treating males with female gender identities as women in every possible context is a politically inflammatory act. In effect it sends a contemptuously dismissive message to women already conscious of unequal treatment of their interests. This message says: the interests of males with female gender identities are more important than yours.

In short: Many of the demands of transgender politics are anti-feminist. If that’s a plausible claim, then why have so many feminists and feminist organizations embraced the transgender ideology? Stock suggests one factor is “the current cultural mania for ‘diversity and inclusion,’ taken as some kind of mindless mantra without genuine thought being given to what it actually means or should be doing.” The struggle for social justice is impeded, not advanced, when transwomen can insist that they must be included in any space on their terms, without explaining or justifying the policy and without regard for the effects on girls and women. Stock points out that just as replacing “Black lives matter” with “all lives matter” undermines anti-racist campaigns by ignoring the specific threats to Black people in a racist society, demanding that transwomen always be included in the category “woman” undermines feminism’s ability to advance the interests of girls and women, who face specific threats in a sexist society.

It’s easy for people to get confused by, and frustrated with, the debate on this issue, which is too often weighed down by jargon and abstract theory. So, let’s get back to the core questions:

  • Is gender an internal subjective experience, the origins of which have yet to be explained, or is it produced by social and political systems, which can be analyzed and put in historical context?
  • Is gender immutable and private, or are gender norms open to change through collective action?
  • Is institutionalized male dominance best understood by analyzing individuals’ internal sense of gender identities, or is patriarchy rooted in men’s claim of a right to own or control women’s reproductive power and sexuality?

The reference to “reality” in Stock’s subtitle suggests that absent a clear and convincing account of sex, gender, and power from the transgender movement, the feminist and gender-critical perspectives offer the best account of biology and history, of psychology and society.

Since that first article I wrote in 2014, I have talked with steadily more and more progressive people who feel pressured by the transgender movement to embrace trans policy proposals without asking questions. Too often, that pressure works. Are we creating a healthy political culture on the left when people and organizations believe they have no choice but to adopt policy positions they either don’t understand or disagree with? Are progressive politics advance when legitimate differences of opinion are muted because people fear being accused of bigotry?

Stock’s work—along with other books such as Heather Brunskell-Evans’ Transgender Body Politics and websites such as Fair Play for Women—is a valuable resource for people who want to work their way through these questions rather than simply accept the ideology or policy proposals of the transgender movement. Even if Stock’s book doesn’t change trans activists’ minds, it provides a model of principled intellectual engagement with compassion.

I say “compassion” because Stock is trans-friendly, as are most of us who hold feminist and gender-critical positions. Stock doesn’t condemn or attack trans people but instead offers a different way to understand the experience of gender dysphoria and a different politics for challenging a patriarchal system that is the source of so much suffering and distress.

Feminist politics is not a denial of trans people’s experiences but an alternative way to understand those experiences that does not involve drugs, cross-sex hormones, and surgery. Feminist politics is an embrace of our differences and a way to live with those differences collectively, as we struggle to eliminate the hierarchies that impede our ability to thrive.

[Note: Material Girls: Why Reality Matters for Feminism was published in the UK in May and is scheduled for release in the US edition in September.]

The post Making Sense of Sex and Gender first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Toxic Chemicals Engulf the Planet

Worldwide chemical emissions are six times global warming emissions. This hidden dilemma is fully exposed in a superbly researched new book by science writer Julian Cribb: Earth Detox, How and Why We Must Clean Up Our Planet, Cambridge University Press, scheduled for release August 2021.

The planet has become a toxic soup of tested, untested, and inadequately tested chemicals that includes deadly toxins. Within only a couple of generations, and largely unnoticed, this startling episode is unique to our generation. Far and away, it exceeds global warming emissions. Yet, it’s a pressing issue that’s not publicly recognized as such.

Earth Detox is an eye-opening exposure of unintentional toxic chemical warfare lodged against humanity virtually everywhere, all over the planet. Throughout this challenging subject matter, Cribb’s work is supported by extensive scientific data, for example: “Americans are a walking cocktail of contaminants.” That statement alone is provocative enough to demand more facts, a whole lot more. For example, why and how has American life been reduced to such a degenerative status? More on this to follow.

But most alarming of all: “More than 25,000 human lives are being lost daily to chemical poisoning.” That statistic of 25,000 deaths/day comes from UNEP (United Nations Environment Programme) in its 2019 Global Chemicals Outlook II report, which Cribb disparagingly describes:

With unassailable scientific evidence that more than 25,000 human lives are being lost daily to chemical poisoning, and in the face of a mountain of fresh evidence of chemical harm that has accumulated since its 2013 report, the 2019 report betrays a chilling lack of urgency. Its language is softer and less candid, its proposals more soothing to industry than its predecessor. Indeed, it asserts: ‘We cannot live without chemicals’. It is hard to escape an inference that UNEP has been ‘got at’. (p. 216)

It’s a compelling invisible issue. What else in the world accounts for 25,000 daily deaths?

Yet, across the globe there are no signs of concern, no long banners flapping in the breeze on Main Street, no NGOs, no marches, no petitions, no pesky fund-raisers, no signature gatherers at grocery store parking lots, no public demonstrations of concern about this hidden peril found throughout the planet from the top of Mount Everest, where researchers, to their dismay, discovered toxic compounds in-excess of EPA standards, to the bottom of the Mariana Trench, where small crustaceans that live in the pitch-black waters of the trench, captured by a robotic submarine, were contaminated with 50 times more toxic chemicals than crabs that survive in heavily polluted rivers in China.

Still, society fails to address this most pressing issue of the 21st century. According to Cribb: “A worrisome component of the poisoning of the planet is the absurd fact that modern society exists and functions as a result of these poisons. For example, industrialized food production uses five million tonnes of specialized poisons to control weeds, insects, rodents and moulds to feed the world.” Here’s the kicker, the vast majority of the chemicals used to produce food negatively impact “non-target organisms,” like honeybees, farm workers and consumers.

Cribb has produced a landmark study that demands further analysis and investigation at the highest levels. It belongs on reading lists of every educational institution and in the hands of policymakers as well as consumers worldwide. Cribb’s gifted science-oriented prose provides an ideal fundamental resource for: (1) supplemental textbooks (2) advocacy groups (3) policymakers (4) critical information for every householder in the world to better understand what’s at stake in everyday life. For example: “Never eat any food containing a substance you can’t pronounce or you don’t trust.” (p. 67) In other words, read the damn labels!

Earth Detox is truly a masterpiece of deeply researched facts exposing a very, very big story, as big as the survival and condition of Earth’s basic resources that support existence.  An opening statement in Cribb’s own words sums up the extent:

Earth and all life on it are being saturated with chemicals released by humans, in an event unlike anything that has occurred ever before, in all 4 billion years of our Planet’s story… Ours is a poisoned world… this has all happened quite quickly and has burgeoned so rapidly that most people are still unaware of the extent or scale of the peril… crept up on us unseen… in a social climate of trusting acceptance of authority, over barely the span of a single human lifetime… impacts are only now starting to emerge. (pp. 3-4)

Accordingly, a 2020 study by a team of international scientists led by Switzerland’s Institute of Environmental Engineering:

Over 350,000 chemicals and mixtures of chemicals have been registered for production and use, up to three times as many as previously estimated… identities of many chemicals remain publicly unknown because they are claimed as confidential.  (p  7)

The Swiss study is the world’s first-ever compilation of global chemical inventory and surprisingly discovered three times previous estimates, which speaks to the lax governance issue, nobody really knows for sure what’s going on, three times previous estimates is evidence of failure to observe. The study uncovered “widespread secrecy, misidentification and obfuscation,” leading to a question of who effectively monitors this darkened world that ultimately reaches into everyone’s home?

It’s the vastness and fragmentation of worldwide manufacturing that makes regulation so difficult. After all, one thousand (1,000) new chemicals are added to the mix every year. The chemical industry is the second largest manufacturer in the world, totaling 2.5 billion tonnes each year.

Yet, according to Cribb:

Regulation has so far banned fewer than one per cent (1%) of all intentionally made dangerous chemicals – and then only in certain countries… large parts of the world’s most polluting industries are relocating away from countries where high standards of regulation and compliance, and high costs, apply. (pp. 191-92)

All of which conforms to economic dicta following post-Reagan globalization schemes subsequently embraced by neoliberalism’s penchant for weakening regulations and powerfully goosed ahead via massive deregulation under the Trump administration’s “intentional collapse of scientific wherewithal,” one of America’s darkest hours.

Indeed, chemical usage is an ever-present quandary that’s a challenge to navigate if only because so much of it is necessary in today’s world, leading to one of the great paradoxes of all time, a virtual “Catch-22”:

Man-made chemicals are so widespread in the world today because they are very useful, very valuable, very profitable and help to enhance billions of lives. They are central enabling technology in the modern global economy. They are never going to be universally banned – and nor should they be. But neither should they flood the Earth uncontrolled. The magnitude of our chemical – especially toxic chemical – exposure has crept up on the human population unawares. (p. 192)

Cribb has created nomenclature for the chemical epidemic: Anthropogenic Chemical Circulation (“ACC”).

The ACC is just like our carbon emissions – only much bigger and far more noxious… For the first time in the Earth’s history, a single species – ourselves – is poisoning an entire Planet. (pp. 20-21)

ACC aptly defines the risks: Man-made chemicals are always on the move constantly in space and time, all around us, traveling on wind, in the water, attached to soil, within dust and plastic micro particles, in traded goods. Chemicals stay with us forever reforming, recycling, recombining, and reactivating as part of an unending planetary river, the Anthropogenic Chemical Circulation. Nothing escapes toxic pollution: “Even the mud on the sea floor is becoming poisonous.” (pp. 35-37)

Polluted People

It is highly likely that readers of Cribb’s exposé will have been exposed to toxic chemicals without knowing it. You only know, or suspect, after something goes wrong, like cancer or Alzheimer’s but by then forgetfulness masks the original cause/effect.

According to Cribb:

A chilling glimpse of the big picture comes from the USA, among the heaviest chemical users on the Planet. For more than two decades its Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has run a national survey of chemical pollution in the blood, serum and urine of up to 2500 Americans every year. (pg. 53)

The survey reveals:

Americans are a walking cocktail of contaminants. The CDC readily admits that the health effects of many chemicals are not yet clear. WHO says the number of chemicals is ‘very large’ and health risks ‘are not known… Ipso facto, never eat any food containing a substance you can’t pronounce or you don’t trust. (p. 67)

The modern industrial food supply chain, from A to Z, is loaded with chemicals. For starters, pesticides used to grow food and livestock end up in human bodies one way or another, and in high enough concentrations proven to influence cancers, brain, nerve, genetic and hormonal disorders, kidney and liver damage, asthma and allergies. Besides pesticides, some 3,000 chemical food ingredients are permitted by the FDA used to enhance freshness, taste, and texture. Preservatives, for example, which extend shelf life, are chemicals that poison the bacteria and moulds that cause food to rot.

Common chemical preservatives such as sodium nitrate and nitrite, sulphites, sulphur dioxide, sodium benzoate, parabens, formaldehyde and antioxidant preservatives, if over-consumed in the modern processed food diet, may also lead to cancers, heart disease, allergies, digestive, lung, kidney and other diseases and constitute a further reason for avoiding or reducing one’s intake of ‘industrial food’. (p. 70)

By all appearances, based upon Cribb’s extensive research, the Industrial Food Frankenstein, which traverses pesticide-laced farmland-to-artificial (toxic) plastic packaging-to home refrigeration, given enough time, kills or cripples wide-eyed consumers. There’s little middle ground with industrial foodstuff.

It should be noted, aside from Cribb’s book, a major Rand Corporation study shows “sixty percent (60% or almost 200 million) U.S. adults have at least one chronic condition, 42% have more than one, and 12% have five or more,” e.g., high cholesterol, high blood pressure, anxiety, arthritis, heart disease and diabetes. Whereas, European chronic conditions at 30% are one-half the U.S. on the same timeline as the Rand study. Thus, connecting the dots, it brings to mind whether adverse conditions, like excessive exposure to toxic chemicals, cause chronic conditions?

Interestingly, Europe only permits the use of 400 food additives out of 3000 permitted in the US. Essentially, Europe has banned 4/5ths of the chemicals allowed in the US food chain. Europe outlaws any chemicals that do not meet its criteria for “non-harm to humans or the environment.” (p. 73)

“It is important to remember that the universal penetration of man-made chemicals into the food chain has mainly happened in just the last half-century. No previous generations were subjected to such a wholesale chemical exposure.” (page. 76) “There could be anything up to 16,500 different chemicals in the modern food chain today that simply weren’t a part of your grandparents’ diet.” (p. 90) That one sentence says it all in less than 25 words with an underlying message: Avoid industrial food. Eat fresh food.

A major test of a family of five in San Francisco that ate industrial packaged food for a period of time followed by a diet of fresh food for a comparable period of time showed significant reduction of toxic BPA (used to make plastics) and phthalates (used to make household goods) of 67% to 90%, which is extraordinarily meaningful. (Earth Detox) (According to Mayo Clinic, research shows BPA may be directly linked to high blood pressure, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. Phthalates makes plastics more durable used in hundreds of household products and can damage the liver, kidneys, lungs, and reproductive system.)

Unfortunately, the full scale of the impact of toxic chemicals to humans is not yet fully understood by science, not by governments, not by industry and not by communities. However, numerous studies show mixtures of chemicals connecting dots to cancers, autism and several other diseases.

We are, every one of us, the ‘laboratory rats’ in a vast worldwide chemistry experiment involving an immense cocktail of substances, over which we have neither say nor freedom of action. It is an uncontrolled global experiment that defies the very ethics which outlaw the scientific testing of mixture toxicity in humans.  (p. 96)

While global chemical use is forecast to intensify, growing by around 3 per cent per year up to 2050, the world’s ability to regulate and restrict it is weakening… The main reason for this is that, in their efforts to evade regulators, chemical corporations are winding back their operations in the developed world and moving to more poorly regulated countries, mainly in Asia. In the first two decades of this century, chemical output in Asian countries grew three to five times faster than in North America and Europe. (p. 196)

Earth Detox offers solutions. Here’s one:

A core finding of this book is that we must build a Global Detox Alliance… Such an alliance would not engage in consumer bans or boycotts, physical confrontation, lawsuits or other direct action against industry or science; to do so will only entrench mutual mistrust and opposition, delay the move to clean production and drive industry into greater secrecy and into unregulated parts of the world. Clean up will do best if founded on principles of co- operation, consensus, openness and equality between society, industry and government. (p. 236)

Above all else, readers of Cribb’s fact-filled gem must read the Postscript: “A Cautionary Tale From Deep Time,” which is an extremely intriguing very thought-provoking detailed description of how life on Earth originated, from day one, with some surprising results along the way. Don’t miss it. After all, who doesn’t wonder about the wonders of life’s creation?

Postscript:

Ours is a poisoned world… this has all happened quite quickly and has burgeoned so rapidly that most people are still unaware of the extent or scale of the peril… crept up on us unseen… over barely the span of a single human lifetime… impacts are only now starting to emerge. (Julian Cribb)

Someday we shall look back on this dark era of agriculture and shake our heads. How could we have ever believed that it was a good idea to grow our food with poisons? (Jane Goodall, Harvest of Hope, 2005.)

Annotation: The quotes with page references in this article come from the publisher’s “Proof” and may not conform to the final book publication.

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