Category Archives: Social media

Reality Privileged: Orwell/Huxley/McLuhan on Steroids

You can go through life with a thousand epigrams or deep quotes that you might come back to over two, four, six decades. Then, the disrupters pop up, those techno fascists, the tinkers and culture blasters.

These sociopaths who get the limelight then become part of a new set of epigrams, but not grand ones, but totally emblematic of a new normal of Triple Speak, Capitalism Porn, and the Stiff Arm to the Coders and their Masters.

It’s sad, really. Here, quality ones of very different and varied origins:

  • Timothy 6:10 “The love of money is a root of all kinds of evil.”
  • Pierre Joseph-Proudhon: “Property is Theft.”
  • Karl Marx: “Private property has made us so stupid and one-sided that an object is only ours when we have it – when it exists for us as capital.”
  • “It’s easier to imagine the end of the world than the end of capitalism.”
    ― Mark Fisher, Capitalist Realism: Is There No Alternative?
  • “It is capitalism, not Marxism, that trades in futures.”
    ― Terry Eagleton, Why Marx Was Right

We don’t think you fight fire with fire best; we think you fight fire with water best. We’re going to fight racism not with racism, but we’re going to fight with solidarity. We say we’re not going to fight capitalism with black capitalism, but we’re going to fight it with socialism. We’re stood up and said we’re not going to fight reactionary pigs and reactionary state’s attorneys like this and reactionary state’s attorneys like Hanrahan with any other reactions on our part. We’re going to fight their reactons with all of us people getting together and having an international proletarian revolution.
― Fred Hampton (source: “Fred Hampton Speech Transcript on Revolution and Racism” ) 

“Only from a capitalist viewpoint being productive is a moral virtue, if not a moral imperative. From the viewpoint of the working class, being productive simply means being exploited.”
― Silvia Federici, Revolution at Point Zero: Housework, Reproduction, and Feminist Struggle

One might wake up after two decades of capitalist slumber and feel like Rip Van Winkle while observing how deep the slide into those circles of capitalist hell we have all ended up. Exhumed from the grave all the felons, high and midddling, and then see that the world is still valorizing . . . Kissinger, Albright, Bush, Trump, Biden, Obama, et al. Shocks to the system every nano second. Capitalism with a gun, with a drug, with a bank.

Here, McLuhan:

Once we have surrendered our senses and nervous systems to the private manipulation of those who would try to benefit from taking a lease on our eyes and ears and nerves, we don’t really have any rights left. Leasing our eyes and ears and nerves to commercial interests is like handing over the common speech to a private corporation, or like giving the earth’s atmosphere to a company as a monopoly. (Marshall McLuhan rocketed from an unknown academic to rockstar with the publication of Understanding Media: The Extensions of Manin 1964.)

Concentrated power — information age, and now, it’s even so much worse, 60 years later.

Get these people’s aims and goals. These are the powerful, work with the powerful, are armies unto themselves, and they take no prisoners. We are all Luddites if we resist their machinations, their totalitarianism in skinny jeans, on the spectrum, vegan and all.

I’ll let the guy’s words flow here, longish. Monsters, really:

Marc Andreessen (“The Internet King on why the Internet is a force for good, on media conformity, the inevitable triumph of the WEIRD, Crypto, ‘Retards,’ etc. — Source) breaks down Reality Privilege:

Your question is a great example of what I call Reality Privilege. This is a paraphrase of a concept articulated by Beau Cronin: “Consider the possibility that a visceral defense of the physical, and an accompanying dismissal of the virtual as inferior or escapist, is a result of superuser privileges.” A small percent of people live in a real-world environment that is rich, even overflowing, with glorious substance, beautiful settings, plentiful stimulation, and many fascinating people to talk to, and to work with, and to date. These are also *all* of the people who get to ask probing questions like yours. Everyone else, the vast majority of humanity, lacks Reality Privilege—their online world is, or will be, immeasurably richer and more fulfilling than most of the physical and social environment around them in the quote-unquote real world.

The Reality Privileged, of course, call this conclusion dystopian, and demand that we prioritize improvements in reality over improvements in virtuality. To which I say: reality has had 5,000 years to get good, and is clearly still woefully lacking for most people; I don’t think we should wait another 5,000 years to see if it eventually closes the gap. We should build—and we are building—online worlds that make life and work and love wonderful for everyone, no matter what level of reality deprivation they find themselves in.

Here’s a thought experiment for the counterfactual. Suppose we had all just spent the last 15 months of COVID lockdowns *without* the Internet, without the virtual world. As bad as the lockdowns have been for people’s well-being—and they’ve been bad—how much worse would they have been without the Internet? I think the answer is clear: profoundly, terribly worse. (Of course, pandemic lockdowns are not the norm—for that, we’ll have to wait for the climate lockdowns.)

Is this an easy target? Am I just poking fun at culture, the new masters of the metaverse? Are we speaking two very “man who fell to earth” languages? Or, is this fellow above, misanthrope on a very pathetic scale? We know he’s got hundreds of millions, and he is the guru, and governments and the Titans of Media all have his ear.

Oh, I have old people whispering how they feel for today’s kids, how they feel for the young adults who are stuck in this bubble inside a bubble. I hear them while they have grand machinations of flipping a home into a bank account and some smaller home. Too expensive in Pacific Northwest or California? Then, sell sell sell, and end up in Appalachia. Lewisburg. Get a home and two acres for $250K, and bank the rest, and be damned, the rest of the world.

Me-myself-I, that’s the reptilian brain angle these Titans of the Screen/Black Mirror in the Hand have going for them (not a great term, really, repitilian, but you get the picture — food, sex, water, fight or flight, flash, rest, run, jump, gobble, hump).

Indonesia cancels Komodo island closure, saying tourists are no threat to dragons | Indonesia | The Guardian

Get these stats, mom and pop, uncle and aunt, cuz:

In Chain Reactions, he writes about how stunning the scale of the internet has become; every minute on the internet:

  • Netflix users stream 404,444 hours of video
  • Instagram users post 347,222 stories
  • YouTube users upload 500 hours of video
  • Consumers spend $1,000,000 online
  • LinkedIn users apply for 69,444 jobs
  • TikTok is installed 2,704 times
  • Venmo users send $239,196 worth of payments
  • Spotify adds 28 tracks to its music library
  • Amazon ships 6,659 packages
  • WhatsApp users send 41,666,667 messages
  • And 1,388,889 people make video and voice calls

Every minute. American adults spend over 11 hours interacting with digital media every day. Daily media consumption on mobile has grown 6x from 45 minutes in 2011 to 4 hours and 12 minutes in 2021.

The Brains Development - The Cavern

The “entire world is a stage” is played out minute by minute, in Ukraine by the Zionist Comic Nazi-loving Jew (not-not), or the charades of Biden and the gang (media). Now? Every man, woman, child is an island — connected to the WWW — unto him-her-them SELF:

Biden mocks himself and roasts Trump

This is it, while the crocodile tears are spewing for the poor Ukrainians, and the trillion$ soon for guns, nukes, these idiots try a Jon Leibowitz Stewart thing: White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner on Saturday night. The dinner was shunned by Trump and canceled last year due to the coronavirus pandemic.

But then, they all are misanthropes, and again, the optics, man, the optics of the USA decaying while Biden shits his pants: “I’m really excited to be here with the only group of Americans with a lower approval rating than I have,” Biden joked to the Washington, DC crowd, referring to his own sub-40% polling and to surveys showing just 36% of Americans trust the mass media.

This is insane, of course, on many levels. It is the inside joke, and the giant overt joke. This is the spokesperson for the free world, and these are the minutes they spend in their spare time. All puppets, all wind-up dolls, and the media, they are the lever pullers. Behind the media? Oh, man, you don’t need a recap on who the monster men (a few women, too) are?

Okay, now down the other rabbit hole: Go to Alison McDowell’s work (Wrench in the Gears (dot) com) recently in Salt Lake City, following the LDS/Mormons capitalization of transhumanism, blockchain, social impact investing, cyber everything, internet of bodies, brains, babies. Slide show/stack here, Ignorance is Bliss?

Check out 36 videos looking into this dispicable system of mind-matter-money control: Transhumanism, CIA Enslavement, Faith and Technology, Digital Education. YouTube.

I have those discussions now, with former students, who want to know from me, what I think of Zoom Doom Rooms, or where I think education, both K12 and higher (sic), is going. Of course, the language we use is not always in synch, since I think the systems of education were flawed from the beginning, and that capitalism and fascism as it is delineated by GloboCap, set people up to accept lies, and the systems of oppression are about getting people to learn how to lie to themselves.

I’ve noticed a fascinating phenomenon in my thirty years of teaching: schools and schooling are increasingly irrelevant to the great enterprises of the planet. No one believes anymore that scientists are trained in science classes or politicians in civics classes or poets in English classes. The truth is that schools don’t really teach anything except how to obey orders. This is a great mystery to me because thousands of humane, caring people work in schools as teachers and aides and administrators, but the abstract logic of the institution overwhelms their individual contributions. Although teachers do care and do work very, very hard, the institution is psychopathic — it has no conscience. It rings a bell and the young man in the middle of writing a poem must close his notebook and move to a different cell where he must memorize that humans and monkeys derive from a common ancestor.
― John Taylor Gatto, Dumbing Us Down: The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling

I talked recently with a teacher who knew me, and wondered where I was, in the substitute teacher stable. I informed her that this county, the school district, has banned me for pushing high school students to think about their own lives tied to stories like Of Mice and Men and Animal Farm, two books the teacher of record was having me, the substitute of record, work with. Amazing, I was frog marched out of the classroom and school, and there was zero recourse, no audience to be gained, and alas, I couldn’t defend myself: this is how one system of oppression works.

This fourth grade teacher went on and on about how oppressive it is to be that elementary grade teacher in this district, and how the higher ups, the school board, they have scorn for the teachers, the paraeducators, the staff.

Hell, I was teaching a community education class, and it took me more than a month and a half to be paid by the community college. This is the new normal, but not so new. This is the mentality whichruns the world. And, more and more people want to be their own boss, but their options are limited — really, a cinnamon roll shop, beads, candles, more deep fried oysters?

Capitalism is lovely, so creative, open, available for smart small and tiny entrepeneurs. Wrong!

Disdain, just like the fellow announcing that Reality Privilege is dead. The world of games, the world of on-line shopping, dating, hunting, driving, hiking, that is it for the world from here on in. Get on the phone, six hours a day, at least. Plug in.

Zoom Zelensky from Britain or Poland. Watch Sean Penn or Pelosi fly into some staged area, then, long-live the ZioLenksy Nazi, and then, more dialing for dollars. Stage left, masks on, start themusic, do the edits, cut cut cut, and then let the lies fly.

Reality. Here, from Farnam Street Articles!

“The effects of technology do not occur at the level of opinions or concepts,” wrote McLuhan. Rather they “alter patterns of perception steadily and without any resistance.”

In Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man, McLuhan proffered,

“A new medium is never an addition to an old one, nor does it leave the old one in peace. It never ceases to oppress the older media until it finds new shapes and positions for them.”

We see this today as newspapers transition to a digital world and how the medium—the internet—remakes the papers to fit its own standards. Not only have newspapers moved from physical to virtual but now they are hyperlinked, chunked, and embedded within noise. If he were alive (and healthy) McLuhan would argue these changes impact the way we understand the content.

McLuhan foresaw how all mass media would eventually be used for commercialization and consumerism:

 “Once we have surrendered our senses and nervous systems to the private manipulation of those who would try to benefit by taking a lease on our eyes and ears and nerves, we don’t really have any rights left.”

Carry on:

CM 170: Nicholas Carr on What the Internet Does to Our Brains

And, finally, reality is reality, all those down-home chemicals, cancers, catastrophies. A new outfit with the Environmental Working Group, The New Lede.   PFAS, Monsanto, other pesticides, all covered by investigative journalists. You can attempt to “virtual reality” away the reality world. These are freaks!  However, a hero like Carey Gillam has spent more than 25 years reporting on corporate America. She is the managing editor at The New Lede. Watch her over at RFK Jr’s site!

Reality for Us, the Unprivileged.

For a visitor to this rural part of eastern Nebraska, the crisp air, blue skies and stretch of seemingly endless farm fields appear as unspoiled landscape. For the people who live here, however, there is no denying that they are immersed in an environmental catastrophe researchers fear may impact the area for generations to come.

The signs of a silent poisoning are everywhere: A farmhouse has been abandoned by its owners after their young children experienced health problems; a pond once filled with fish and frogs is now barren of all life; university researchers are collecting blood and urine from residents to analyze them for contaminants; and a local family now drinks water only from plastic bottles because tests show chemical contamination of their drinking well.  — Source, Carey Gillam

No matter how many hours you might be connected to a gamefied world, virtual and augemented, the chemicals will still bore their toxins into your cells until no amount of AI-VR-AR can save you!

Listen to these monsters . . .

And then, four hours learning about this global brain mentality. Good work by Wrench In the Gears:

And how many people are willing to go down these blockchain, decentralized technologies, social impact and reality priviledge and digital ID and crypo-funding? The Church of LDS is into Transhumanism. Keep your eye close on these folk, synthetic biology eugenics freaks.

The post Reality Privileged: Orwell/Huxley/McLuhan on Steroids first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Bongbong Politics: Rehabilitating the Marcos Family

Children should not pay for the sins of their parents.  But in some cases, a healthy suspicion of the offspring is needed, notably when it comes to profiting off ill-gotten gains. It is certainly needed in the case of Filipino politician and presidential candidate Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr, who stands to win on May 9.

Bongbong’s father was the notorious strongman Ferdinand Marcos, his mother, the avaricious, shoe-crazed Imelda.  Elected president in 1965, Ferdinand Marcos indulged in murder, torture and looting.  He thrived on the terrain of violent, corrupt oligarchic politics, characterised by a telling remark from the dejected Sergio Osmenã Jr, whom he defeated in 1969: “We were outgunned, outgooned, and outgold.”

In 1972, martial law was imposed on the pretext of a failed assassination attempt against the defence secretary, an attack which saw no injuries nor apprehension of suspects.  It was only formally lifted in 1981.  Under the blood-soaked stewardship of the Marcos regime, 70,000 warrantless arrests were made, and 4,000 people killed.

The Philippines duly declined in the face of monstrous cronyism, institutional unaccountability and graft, becoming one of the poorest in South-East Asia.  While Marcos Sr’s own official salary never rose above $13,500 a year, he and his cronies made off with $10 billion.  (Estimates vary.)  When revolutionaries took over the Presidential palace, they found garishly ornate portraits, 15 mink coats, 508 couture gowns and over 3,000 pairs of Imelda’s designer shoes.

Fleeing the Philippines in the wake of the popular insurrection of 1986 led by Corazon “Cory” Aquino, the Marcoses found sanctuary in the bosom of US protection, taking up residence in Hawaii.

Opinion polls show that Bongbong is breezing his way to office, a phenomenon that has little to do with his personality, sense of mind, or presence.  A Pulse Asia survey conducted in February showed voter approval at an enviable 60 percent.  This would suggest that the various petitions seeking to disqualify him have had little effect on perceptions lost in the miasma of myth and speculation.

All this points to a dark concatenation of factors that have served to rehabilitate his family’s legacy.  For the student aware of the country’s oligarchic politics, this is unlikely to come as shocking.  For one, the Marcoses have inexorably found their way back into politics, making their way through the dynastic jungle.

Imelda, for all her thieving ways, found herself serving in the House of Representatives four times and unsuccessfully ran for the presidency in 1992. Daughter Imee became governor of the province of Ilocos Norte in 2010, and has been serving as a senator since 2019.  Marcos Jr followed a similar trajectory, becoming a member of congress and senator and doing so with little distinction.  In 2016, he contested the vice presidency and lost.

Bongbong has already done his father proud at various levels, not least exhibiting a tendency to fabricate his past.  On the touchy issue of education, Oxford University has stated at various points that Marcos Jr, while matriculating at St. Edmund Hall in 1975, never took a degree in Politics, Philosophy and Economics.  According to the institution’s records, “he did not complete his degree, but was awarded a special diploma in Social Studies in 1978.”

A statement from the Oxford Philippines Society remarks that, “Marcos failed his degree’s preliminary examinations at the first attempt.  Passing the preliminary examinations is a prerequisite for continuing one’s studies and completing a degree at Oxford University.”  The issue was known as far back as 1983, when a disturbed sister from the Religious of the Good Shepherd wrote to the university inquiring about the politician’s credentials and received a letter confirming that fact.

Outgoing President Rodrigo Duterte, whose own rule has been characterised by populist violence and impunity, has played his role in the rehabilitative process.  In 2016, almost three decades after dying in Hawaii, Duterte gave permission for Ferdinand Marcos to be buried with full military honours in Manila’s National Heroes’ Cemetery.  The timing of the burial was kept secret, prompting Vice President Leni Robredo to describe the ceremony as “a thief in the night”.

A coalition of Jesuit groups claimed that the interring of Marcos in Manila “buries human dignity by legitimising the massive violations of human and civil rights… that took place under his regime.”  Duterte would have appreciated the mirror-effect of the move, a respectful nod from one human rights abuser to another.  Under his direction, thousands of drug suspects have been summarily butchered.

Bongbong has also taken the cue, rehabilitating his parents using a polished, digital campaign of re-invention that trucks in gold age nostalgia and delusion.  Political raw material has presented itself.  The gap between the wealthy and impoverished, which his father did everything to widen, has not been closed by successive governments.  According to 2021 figures from the Philippine Statistics Authority, 24 percent of Filipinos, some 26 million people, live below the poverty line.

Videos abound claiming that his parents were philanthropists rather than figures of predation.  The issue of martial law brutality has all but vanished in the narrative.  Social media and online influencers have managed the growth of this image through a coordinated campaign of disinformation waged across multiple platforms.

Gemma B. Mendoza of the Philippine news platform Rappler has noted the more sinister element of these efforts.  Even as the legacy of a family dictatorship is being burnished, the press and critics are being hounded.  The only movement standing in the way of Family Marcos is Vice President Robredo, who triumphed over Marcos Jr in 2016.  Her hope is a brand of politics nourished by grassroots participation rather than shameless patronage.

The same cannot be said of the political classes who operate on the central principle of Philippine politics: impunity.  This, at least, is how the political scientist Aries Arugay of the University of Philippines sees it. “We just don’t jail our politicians or make them accountable … we don’t punish them, unlike South Korean presidents.”  The opposite is the case, and as the voters make it to the ballot on Monday, the country, if polls are to be believed, will see another Marcos in the presidential palace.

The post Bongbong Politics: Rehabilitating the Marcos Family first appeared on Dissident Voice.

The West Has Fallen Into Darkness

When reason hath to deal with force, yet so
Most reason is that reason overcome.

— Paradise Lost (6.125-126)

As the Western elites continue to pour weapons into Ukraine to the delight of the armaments industry and the closet Nazis of Natostan, the cult of neoliberalism, which put the Banderite regime in power during the Obama years, reaches new depths of degradation with each passing day. Both at home and abroad, the schizophrenic rift between the language of neoliberalism and the actual policies that these creatures support continues to widen. The increasingly delusional trajectory of the queen of cults is propelling us into a new dark age where literacy, reason, the rule of law, and even the survival of our species are in danger.

Subconsciously, neoliberals believe that they are carrying on in the tradition of the Enlightenment, the abolitionists, the New Dealers, the civil rights activists, and the anti-war activists that marched against the Vietnam War and the bombings of Laos and Cambodia. In actuality, what they offer today is lawlessness, unfettered capitalism, biofascism, deunionization, war, sectarianism; and the multicultural curriculum, a cousin of Banderite education, as both are predicated on the anti-humanities. It is this sophomoric hubris of neoliberals, the macabre fantasy that they are sensible, rational, and moral beings while the heathens represent intolerance, ignorance, and bigotry, which blinds them to the barbarism of their deeds. Like the lost souls in Plato’s Allegory of the Cave, neoliberals believe they are firmly grounded in reality, when they are enslaved to venal public health agencies and a mass media brainwashing apparatus which have entrapped them in a world of deception and lies — a world of shadows.

While Ukrainian civilization is inextricably linked with Russian history and culture, Banderite education is anchored in Russophobia, its antithesis. Having extirpated all things Russian from their lives, Ukrainian state ideology has become synonymous with hating Russians. No less rooted in self-cannibalization, the multicultural society has become synonymous with a hostility towards the American canon and all things Western. Both are depraved, totalitarian, anti-intellectual and anti-democratic dogmas. As Orwell wrote in 1984, “The past was erased, the erasure was forgotten, the lie became the truth.” Beware the anti-humanities, for they are the handmaidens of totalitarianism.

Indeed, identity politics and Banderite indoctrination have spawned tens of millions of illiterate, nihilistic, and atomized individuals that are devoid of a legitimate culture, cannot place current events in their appropriate historical context, are inculcated with loathing for an imaginary enemy, and can easily be manipulated by oligarchic forces. Nazi and Zionist indoctrination achieved similar results. Notably, the Russophobia in the West increasingly resembles the Russophobia in Ukraine prior to the Maidan putsch (see here and here).

The idea that neoliberalism is anchored in “anti-racism” is nonsensical, as not a day goes by without more dumbing down of children of color, mindless hate-filled rants against Russians and white people (excluding Nazis in Eastern Europe and the ones with lots of money); while the anti-white jihad ideology imbues the younger generation with a desire to launch a crusade against all things “racist.” This encompasses everything from Shakespeare to Mozart, to the principle of bodily autonomy, to the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, to disposable white workers themselves. This is the most dangerous form of bigotry – sectarian hatreds that are knowingly and willfully cultivated in an education system charged with the task of molding impressionable young minds.

When not smashing unions to the wall, burning books, dismantling informed consent, and fomenting ghettoization, neoliberals can be found spending trillions of dollars dropping bombs on people and supporting death squads. Indeed, the sociopathy of American humanitarian interventionism is glaringly on display with regards to the Biden administration’s support for the Banderite regime.

Like Pavlov’s dogs, neocons and neolibs alike clamor for hellfire to be unleashed on whoever is the latest to be vilified: anti-vaxxers, conspiracy theorists, Serbs, Russians, the Taliban, the Iraqis. Entire societies are deemed to be somehow synonymous with their alleged dictators. While faux leftists have imaginary conversations about Russiagate, children in Mariupol are acquiring a real-world understanding of the horrors that have been inflicted on their society as a result of the US-backed Maidan coup. Yet we must follow these virtuous crusaders, who applaud their government for giving billions of dollars in weapons (or complain that it is insufficient, for the most fanatical) to a Banderite regime which permits fascists to get on television and openly call for genocide in the Donbass. Meanwhile, a vast swath of American society lacks adequate health insurance, adequate employment, education, the rule of law; and increasingly, even a society. As many a wise babushka can explain, before the specter of Ukrainian nationalism once more reared its ugly visage, western and eastern Ukrainians lived in peace with one another. Undoubtedly they would still, were it not for Washington providing the Banderite entity with enormous amounts of diplomatic aid, arms, military training, and assistance in executing psyops.

The idea currently being bandied about by a number of presstitutes and congressmen, that we could nonchalantly waltz into a third world war, as it would likely be confined to the use of conventional weapons, is indicative of a society that has lost the ability to engage in rational fact-based discussions. If there is a third world war, it will be nuclear. The Kremlin is not going to allow a repeat of Operation Barbarossa, and senior Kremlin officials have explicitly stated that they are not going to permit another war to be fought on Russian soil. This deranged thinking is yet further evidence of a society that has, over the past thirty years, been transformed into a diabolical cesspit of lies, propaganda, and deceit.

Some have speculated that there is a cabal in Washington pushing for a third world war, wagering that Europe and Russia would be destroyed, but that the US would somehow escape the carnage unscathed as transpired after the first two world wars, and that the American ruling establishment would then be able to create a new financial system which would cancel American debt and reverse the looming threat of de-dollarization. Should things degenerate to the point where the Russian military is targeting London, Paris, and Brussels is it not likely that major American cities would also be targeted?

While neoliberals wallow in the pathologies of cult dogma, the Russians are acutely aware of the following facts: the Banderite coup was orchestrated by Washington; battalions and death squads comprised of neo-Nazis and ultranationalists have been armed, funded, and trained by the West; and that Western presstitutes have fallen head over heels in love with Russophobia and are providing the Banderite regime with assistance in carrying out false flag operations. Furthermore, they are aware of the fact that Washington is providing the Banderite entity with information regarding Russian troop movements, a very delicate and dangerous tightrope indeed. In “Russia Formally Warns US to Stop Arming Ukraine,” Dave DeCamp comments on this ominous line that NATO is walking:

On top of arming the Ukrainians, the US is also providing them with intelligence for attacks on Russian forces. The huge amount of support raises questions about at what point Russia would consider the US a co-belligerent in the war.

Principles which were once deemed inviolable such as freedom of speech, the presumption of innocence, habeas corpus, the informed consent ethic, privacy, a healthy fear of nuclear war, integration, and even the notion that a democratic society must have an informed and educated population, are being swept away. The result is lawlessness, despotism, and savagery. Uncontrolled immigration, the anti-humanities, and offshoring, which together with medical mandates neoliberals look to as magical elixirs with which to solve every domestic problem, have commodified human beings and turned workers into interchangeable parts that lack any sense of ethics, class consciousness, a shared history, and can easily be manipulated and controlled. The Weimarization of America is well underway, and all things sacred are in danger of being lost.

The neoliberal notion of “tolerance” has become a euphemism for extremism, biofascism, book burning, and illegal wars of aggression. Witch hunts against heretics have become normalized, and it is becoming increasingly difficult to have rational discussions about incredibly serious political and socio-economic problems. The idea that the multicultural curriculum and identity studies “fight racism” when they constitute its quintessence is no less divorced from reality than the notion that a democracy can survive without the First Amendment, the Nuremberg Code, or any respect for international law. The lack of any empathy or remorse in the face of countless lives destroyed as a result of “humanitarian interventions” in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Syria, Yemen, Ukraine, and Yugoslavia is coming home to roost.

“Education” has become a euphemism for fomenting sectarian hatreds and increasingly specialized job training. Revealingly, Americans with the most advanced degrees are often the most inclined to believe in the infallibility of the legacy media and the public health agencies. With a diseased society that teaches young people to kowtow at the altar of materialism and careerism while blindly following “the experts,” self-imposed ignorance is increasingly necessary to “get ahead.” Except in unusual circumstances, physicians speaking out against the Branch Covidian coup d’état will lose their jobs. The same fate would undoubtedly befall a mainstream journalist attempting to educate their readers about the gruesome realities of US foreign policy, or a professor criticizing identity politics and the scourge of tribalism.

The Guardian’s squeamishness over London cyclists being too white and male coupled with their fondness for Ukrainian nationalists – real racists – who have wiped entire Donbass villages off the face of the earth and committed crimes against humanity, is emblematic of the unhinged, devious, and wicked nature of neoliberal cult ideology.

American universities – automaton training facilities which churn out millions of aspiring Karl Brandts, Adolf Eichmanns, and Albert Speers each year – have created a conscienceless technocratic class on the carcass of what was once a sound middle class. As any number of reporters that covered the Nuremberg trials undoubtedly discerned, hyper-careerism and hyper-specialization foment amorality, and like vultures hover menacingly whereon the anti-humanities feed. Even the original Nazi doctors would have dismissed the idea of giving an experimental vaccine series to every German in Europe as utter lunacy. Yet to millions of shameless faux leftists these policies are necessary for “the greater good,” and predicated on “the science.”

That talking heads are permitted (or perhaps even encouraged by shadowy intelligence agencies) to call for people like Tucker Carlson and Tulsi Gabbard to be arrested for questioning the official Ukraine narrative is inextricably linked with the growing illiteratization and the fact that classes in civics have been expunged from the curriculum. This growing pathologization of dissent poses extremely serious risks to the First Amendment, as liberals are increasingly slandering their critics as mentally ill, evidence that biofascism’s war on informed consent poses a grave threat to our survival as a rule of law state. Should Democratic Party devotees attempt to commit (or section, as the British say) people such as Carlson and Gabbard, what legal mechanisms will prevent this from happening now that the informed consent ethic has been all but totally destroyed?

The authoritarianism of neoliberals is directly proportional to their growing disconnection from reality; and the more delirious the faithful become, the more they believe they are the paragon of reason.

James Howard Kunstler correctly points out on his blog that, in addition to the mass media, social media has played a significant role in fomenting this epidemic of demented ideation:

All this coerced insanity has been nurtured by social media’s sly mechanisms for bending narrative into propaganda: their beloved algorithms, all fine-tuned to destroy anything that touches on truth. The result is a country so marinated in falsehood that it can’t construct a coherent consensus of reality, and can’t take coherent actions to avert its own collapse.

It is remarkable that the New Deal, the public education system, the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, any semblance of integration, a free press, the Nuremberg Code, and efforts to demilitarize and establish a single-payer health care system were obliterated in the name of “fighting racism,” “fighting sexism,” “fighting white supremacy,” and “fighting misogyny.” These words have become akin to dog commands, except unlike humans canines do not burn books, exploit slave labor, give weapons and military training to death squads, torture, or drop bombs on people.

Indie conservatives typically understand the dangers of identity politics and the Branch Covidians, yet often lack an adequate understanding of US foreign policy and the threat to democracy posed by unfettered capitalism. Before most leftists were enveloped by a pall of madness, that was their job.

Assuming we aren’t incinerated in a nuclear conflagration, how will reason and checks and balances be restored in a country run by toddlers, book burners, unscrupulous careerists, and homicidal maniacs? Irregardless of whether we witness the triumph of anti-white jihad, a Confederate white supremacist revival, or a takeover by the Christian Right (unlikely in this environment, as they are no fan of forced vaccination) the left’s self-evisceration threatens our existence as a civilized society and is slowly opening the harrowing portal of perdition.

Should the pendulum swing back to the traditional far-right and neoliberals dethroned, what laws will be in place to protect those who have been deposed and dispossessed? As neoliberal cultists are no longer living in the reality-based world, and are seemingly incapable of acknowledging the consequences of their actions, the path towards the spires of reason and solidarity will be difficult to forge in the long and arduous days that lie ahead.

The post The West Has Fallen Into Darkness first appeared on Dissident Voice.

US/NATO Wants War With Russia

Here is a speech Vladimir Putin DID NOT make — at least in this specific language — to the Russian people just before initiating the special military operations in Ukraine:

“It is my responsibility as the president to warn our citizens of secret, swift, and extraordinary buildup of US/NATO missiles — in an area well known to have a special and historical relationship to Russia and the nations of our hemisphere, in violation of American assurances, and in defiance of treaties and our own policies — this sudden, clandestine decision to station strategic weapons on our borders — is a deliberately provocative and unjustified change in the status quo which cannot be accepted by this country.”

Does this have a familiar feel to it?

Here is the speech which President John F. Kennedy DID MAKE to the American people on October 22, 1962, when he warned of:

… a secret, swift, and extraordinary buildup of Communist missiles — in an area well known to have a special and historical relationship to the United States and the nations of the Western Hemisphere, in violation of Soviet assurances, and in defiance of American and hemispheric policy — this sudden, clandestine decision to station strategic weapons for the first time outside of Soviet soil — is a deliberately provocative and unjustified change in the status quo which cannot be accepted by this country.

The Cuban Missile Crisis which resulted from the discovery of this military escalation by the Soviets, almost resulted in a world war and nuclear annihilation.

The tables have rotated 180º. Now it is the US which is putting the survival of humankind at risk, escalating the conflict in Ukraine by dumping more and more weapons into the conflict zone, demonizing Putin and everything Russian, apparently urging the Ukrainians to avoid a negotiated peace and to fight to the bitter end.

Do not for a moment forget . . .

There were solutions in place to prevent the entire Ukrainian situation from evolving into the terrifying mess we now see. First, there was the Minsk II Agreement of February 12, 2015, signed by Ukraine, guaranteed by France, Germany and Russia. It was ignored by Ukraine, never implemented. There is speculation that it was the US which prompted the stonewalling. Then, December of 2020, Russia itself proposed very concrete steps, as draft treaties, that could be taken to defuse the tensions and guarantee greater security for all of Europe and the world. These were formally submitted to both the US and NATO in writing. They were dismissed. Now with the conflict in full swing, Russia has repeatedly made clear its current position on ending this. What the Russians is demand is no different than what Kennedy demanded of the USSR. This has also been flatly rejected.

From the outset of the crisis, Russia has been maligned, vilified, rejected, canceled, viciously attacked at every opportunity for merely wanting the assurances and concrete reductions to the threat posed by NATO and the US on its borders, just as JFK laid out subsequent to his announcement of Soviet missiles in Cuba.

(As a revealing aside, the comprehensive scale of the vilification and attempted isolation of Russia across the planet, even in spheres completely unrelated to politics — dance, sports, art, music, cultural exchange programs, space exploration, pet shows — could not have been spontaneous. Any multi-layered attack of this scale had to have been in the works for some time. At least, that’s how I see it.)

So . . .

What conclusion can we draw from all of this? What message are we actually hearing from Biden, Blinken, Stoltenberg, Johnson, Scholz, Macron, and the rest of the US puppets around the world?

I can see only one: US/NATO wants war with RussiaWhich frankly, hardly comes as a surprise. From documents, white papers, policy statements, speeches by officials in the State Department and various administrations along the way, all easily accessed by just looking, the dismemberment of Russia and looting its vast and varied natural resources has been on the agenda for at least three decades.

Yes, folks . . .

It’s war. Not liberation. Not freedom and democracy. It’s war.

Please correct me if I’m wrong.

The post US/NATO Wants War With Russia first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Kamila Valieva and Eileen Gu:  Young Women Athletes as Enemies of Empire

Kamila Valieva

As one who has followed Olympic women’s figure skating, especially since Michelle Kwan (ironically a Chinese-American), I was—as an egalitarian feminist when it comes to sports—excited to learn that there was a 15-year-old Russian woman skater, Kamila Valieva, who could do effortless quad jumps.  Waiting in anticipation of her first Olympic performance, I listened to commentators and former US skaters Tara Lipinsky and Johnny Weir rave about her spectacular talent.  They told the audience that we were about to see “the best skating in the world”…that “a talent like this comes around once in a lifetime.”  They found her first performance in the short skate “incredible… flawless… perfect in every way.”  It was, they said, a rare privilege to watch her perform:  “she will have an amazing legacy.”  Days later they would say nothing watching her perform.

Weir and Lipinski were disgusted.  They said she should not be there.  It was so unfair to the other skaters.  They were too sickened to even watch her.  What happened?  The Empire and its allies, based on a highly questionable positive drug test, declared her a “doper.”  She was booed, harassed.  And she finally (literally) fell.  The Russians should obviously not have the first female Olympic quad jumper.  The Russians were taking far too many gold medals.  This whole spectacle was an intersection of hegemonic American world politics and ruthless patriarchy.  Women athletes had become enemies, and thus victims, of Empire. USA!  USA!

The US has always had a need to be first—to put it mildly.  Any coverage of Olympic or international games I’ve ever watched features US athletes and almost never anyone else.  President Jimmy Carter got the ball rolling with his 1980 boycott of the Olympics in the Soviet Union.  Under Carter the Cold War had worsened because of factors like American criticism of Soviet alleged abuses of human rights and the Afghan crisis—therefore the controversial move to ignore the Olympics’ so-called non-political philosophy.  American views of Russian athletics did not improve:  the alleged Russian Doping Scandals began around 2008 and are still going. In 2008, Russian track and field athletes were suspended from competition because of supposed doping, cheating, cover-ups, even “state-sponsored” doping.

A 2015 New York Times article cited an ex-chief of a so-called Russian anti-doping laboratory, Grigory Rodchenkov, who claimed that samples were doctored so that several Russian gold medal winners in the 2014 winter games in Sochi could be victors.  Members of the Russian Sports Ministry thought it an April Fools’ joke, done for “purely political reasons” and threatened to sue the Times. The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) had asked the accuser, Mr. Rodchenkov, to resign years before, for taking bribes, and since 2012 he had lived in L A.  Because of such allegations, the World Athletics Federation suspended the Russian Athletic Federation in 2015, but let “clean athletes” participate under “neutral status”:  no Russian flags or anthems.  In 2019, 2020 and 2021, more accusations were brought against various Russian sports officials for “falsifying documents” and etc., and thus the suspensions continued.

President Vladimir Putin and the Russian government have strongly denied the allegations, calling them a political weapon of the West.  Any appeals from Russian athletes have been denied.  Some argued all countries cheated, why single out Russia?  Others thought the Russians were being framed to keep their very strong athletes from competitions.  It does seem odd that once your athletes were so scrutinized you would be careful to stop “doping.”  In fact, the stated goal of the Russian Sports Ministry at the end of 2021 was –once again—to have the Russian Athletic Federation and Anti-Doping Agency reinstated.  The “West” has remained hostile toward Russian athletics.  And this most certainly included Russian ice skaters:  a sport where Russia has been at the very top for years.

Kamila Valieva had to skate under the same restraints that all Russian athletes face.  But because she was so incredibly good, the skating world simply had to acknowledge her.  In looking at her biographical data—there’s not much!  She’s only 15; born in April of 2006 in Kazan, Russia.  And she has a Pomeranian named Lena, a gift from a fan.  Before she was five years old, her mother had her in gymnastics, ballet and skating, but after age five, it was only skating.   In her first season out of junior ranking she had risen far above her opposition.  She is the fourth woman to land a quadruple jump in competition and the first to do it in Olympic competition.  Valieva set world records on her path to Grand Prix titles in Vancouver and Sochi, and the European Championships in Tallinn in January of this year.  In Beijing the expectations for Kamila Valieva were very high.  As one Russian journalist put it, she was so good in her short skate routine in Beijing that “even some western media outlets often so begrudging with their praise of Russian athletes were forced—perhaps through gritted teeth—to lavish praise on Valieva.” And when she competed next, for the Russian team, she did become the first woman to land a quad in Olympic history. But very soon after that, it was rumored there were “doping allegations” against Kamila Valieva.  A test taken in December was only revealed just then—in the midst of the March Olympics.  It seemed the Russians may not fare so well after all.

Of course, the US also insisted on besting the Chinese athletes in Beijing, but added a nasty political narrative about their host.  Sports analysts like Mike Tirico were pressed into service as experts on alleged Chinese abuses vs. Uyghurs (abuses debunked by reporters like Max Blumenthal), their “authoritarian” government, misguided Covid protocols, etc.  American politicians and media had already prepped the US audience to be anti-Asian generally, by these supposed abuses and the potential of China becoming an even greater economic power—and unapologetically socialist as well.  The COVID pandemic was their fault too; President Trump calling it “Kung Flu” or the “Chinese virus.”  It was embarrassing to listen to the vitriolic commentary by US “analysts” with their long recanting of Chinese faults and crimes.  Our ugly history with China started with the US involvement in the Opium War through the dangerous gradual encirclement of present-day China with US warships and bases placed on numerous unwilling Pacific islands, as John Pilger’s brilliant film The Coming War on China illustrates.   And the US had tried to help their bad faith anti-China Olympic campaign with a “diplomatic boycott” (which didn’t really catch on).

Eileen Gu

Another young woman athlete, Chinese-American Eileen Gu, also became a victim of the Empire’s anger.  Gu is 18; she has a Chinese mother and was raised in San Francisco.  A brilliant world class freestyle skier, she has medalled in X Games, the World Championship and the Youth Olympics.  Gu announced in 2019 that she would represent China in the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics.  But she wasn’t called a traitor until the Olympics drew near.

Gu has said that she welcomes the opportunity to draw people to winter sports.  The Chinese cheered her everywhere, but Americans not so much.  She was derided for taking advantage of “premier training” in the US and then abandoning the US for China.  Tucker Carlson said she had betrayed her country and “renounced” her citizenship.  The New York Times portrayed Gu as an “anti-hero of the feminist ideal” since she chose China which supposedly oppresses women.  At the other end of the political spectrum, right-wing social media echoed Carlson’s sentiments in calling for Gu to leave the country for her betrayal.  Gu won three Olympic medals in freestyle skiing, two gold and a silver.  Unfortunately for USA her three medals added to China’s total of 15 (with nine gold), best ever for China in a winter Olympics.

Eileen Gu also faces anti-female prejudice since extreme sports has always been male-dominated, although women do compete alongside the men.  Gu thinks “as a young biracial woman, it is super important to be able to push boundaries. . . those of the sport and those of the record books because that’s what paves the paths for the next generation of girls.”  So why does the country where she lives give her an incredibly hard time?  As professor of sport Simon Chadwick said, “Her success is being weaponized and used for geopolitical purposes.  This is incredibly unfair because she’s an 18-year-old athlete with a dual heritage family who just wants to try her best and make her parents proud, and yet she’s being turned into a geopolitical weapon.”  Journalist Danny Haiphong has argued that Eileen Gu has chosen the “wrong” side by choosing to compete for a non-white, communist country.  She is assaulting “American exceptionalism” –being a traitor to the “empire’s civilizing mission.”  She should not be skiing for the “Chinese devils.”   But Gu insists (on her Instagram) she hopes “to unite people, promote common understanding, create communication, and forge friendship.”  And she has said:  “I am also a teenage girl.  I do my best to make the world a better place, and I’m having fun while doing it.”  Not what the Empire is about.

Vietnamese-American Haiphong also has pointed out that some American athletes were not going for the Empire’s narrative that the Chinese were being bad hosts—inferior food, lodging, unreasonable COVID protocols, and so on.  Snowboarder Tessa Maud refuted American media’s narrative and talked of the warm welcome she’d received by Chinese volunteers and how she loved the local cuisine.   Skier Aaron Blunk went so far as to criticize American media coverage of the games on Twitter as often “completely false.”  He called Beijing one of the better Olympics he’s been in, including the COVID protocols, the hosting:  “It’s been phenomenal.”  So Twitter suspended his account.  As Haiphong put it:  “Humanizing China represents a direct threat to the new Cold War Agenda.”  The US must control the narrative, and that included not allowing China, or Russia, to shine.

The Empire certainly succeeded in taking the shine from the great Russian figure skater Kamila Valieva.  Commentators Tara Lipinski and Johnny Weir, who had just called Valieva the “best skater in the world” with a “talent that comes once in a lifetime,” were about to change their minds.  At Beijing, Valieva’s performance in the short skate was “a thing of great beauty.”  Weir and Lipinski thought it “incredible.”  Weir gushed about the interview he had been granted by the young Valieva.  Her second performance was a free skate for the Russian team.  She fell once but the skate was historic because as noted, she became the first woman in history to land a quad at the Olympics.  She finished 30 points ahead of second place Kaori Sakamoto.  Weir and Lipinski could not find enough superlatives.

All awaited what would no doubt be another historic performance by Valieva in the ladies singles event.  But then rumors began that the medal ceremony, with Russia winning gold and the US silver—would be delayed.  And then that “a Russian skater” had a positive doping test.  Then it leaked it was Kamila Valieva, in spite of IOC rules that any accusation against a “minor” must remain secret.  A test taken on December 25, sent to a Swedish lab, showed minute traces of trimetazidine, an “illegal” heart drug which may have some positive effect on athletic performance, although many argue it would not help skaters.  Valieva’s family and coaching team believed she may have been exposed to it through her grandfather, who took the drug.  The Russian team also said she had repeatedly tested negative before and after the positive sample.  They said she was innocent.  The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) panel ruled she would not be suspended from the competition.  A further investigation would happen later, now scheduled to conclude by mid-August.

Kamila Valieva rallied to lead the field in the ladies short program.  This was when stalwart patriots Lipinski and Weir were too disgusted to watch.  I remember these stalwarts as being very nasty in speaking of the Russian skaters both during the Sochi (Russia) Olympics in 2014, and the 2018 PyeongChang  (South Korea)  games (where “cleared” Russians could skate).   Some observers found them “a breath of fresh air,” but others as “mean, obnoxious, distracting.”  At any rate, they were outraged Valieva was allowed to perform.  She was “ruining everything.”  Their only comment after her performance was “she skated.”  Getting their wish for her downfall, the scandal finally impacted her free skate and she finished fourth after stumbles and falls.  Unfortunately for USA! Russian Alexandra Trusova won silver.  Former Russian ice dancer champion Alexander Zhulin has said that international sports authorities will have to live with “ruining” Kamila Valieva’s Olympic dreams.  He had never “seen Kamila so lost.”  The IOC and WADA (World Anti-Doping Agency) “destroyed and removed the biggest star of figure skating.”  The December 25 test was revealed after team Russia’s brilliant performance, capped by Valieva’s skate, won gold.  It does seem like an American Empire kind of move.

Valieva’s coact Eteri Tutberidze, who, along with Kamila’s team, was (incredibly) criticized by the IOC’s Thomas Bach, for being “too cold.”   Tutberidze said Kamila was “our star.”  “Those who smiled yesterday—today left the stands demonstrably ignoring and pouncing like jackals.”  There were reporters, especially the British, who followed her around at practice, yelling “Are you a doper?”  Valieva addressed her Beijing experience in two “emotional instagrams” in late February.  She thanked her coaches for “helping me to be strong.”  And she thanked all who “were with me during this tough period . . who did not let me lose heart. . and who believed in me.”  A few weeks later she was on the ice again.

Kamila participated in the “Channel One Cup”  Russian skating (competitive) exhibition, since Russian skaters were banned from the Worlds.  Valieva skated a “simplified” program, but said the experience of being out on the ice was “exhilarating.”  Anna Shcherbakova won the women’s event.  Valieva has said that the Olympics should not be “idealized” and her “journey is just beginning.” In a recent interview with “People Talk” she said she can be “cocky, obnoxious, stubborn, insecure.”  But also “sociable, cheerful, active, and of course, romantic…”  In skating programs, her coaches see her in “lyrical images,” but she wants to be “different in programs:  a hooligan, daring, bold.”  She is a typical teenager, but also very intelligent, a brilliant athlete and a targeted enemy of Empire.

Sportswriters can be very effective operatives for Empire.  My favorite is probably Christine Brennan.  I had admired Brennan as one of the team of reporters on HBO’s “Real Sports,” although unfortunately now they seem more apt to take a corporate line than do the critical reporting they used to do.  Brennan accused Valieva, and Russia, of turning the Winter Games “into a bizarre and troubling fiasco” because of their “state-sponsored doping.”  She said Valieva “would have been favored to win” the Worlds in Montpelier, but she “crumbled under the scrutiny of her positive drug test.”  When Americans won the pairs skating title at Worlds, their first since 1979, Brennan wrote:  “No Russia?  No China?  No problem.”  And “few will miss them.”  The Beijing medal count had USA with 25 medals, behind Norway, Russia, Germany and Canada, much like their finish at PyeongChang.  The Russians had 32 medals, with six gold; the Chinese had 15, with nine gold; USA! had a paltry 25, with eight gold, well behind Russia.  Totally unacceptable.

Of course, by the World Championships, more than Valieva and her fellow skaters were ousted from competition.  It was all Russia, all the time—everyone Russian was out because the World Federations of all the sports, influenced and/or bludgeoned into it, had banned them all because of the Russian military action in Ukraine.  This was the Russian response to being encircled with troops and NATO forces, and a Nazi-led government provided by the US in Ukraine in 2014, which had been attacking the Russian-language population of eastern Ukraine since that 2014 coup.  An unprecedented campaign of Western propaganda and lies is in full swing, definitely McCarthyite in its depth and with parallel lasting and dangerous results to come.  In the 1950s Ethel Rosenberg was executed for being a communist wife—a wife who either evilly influenced her husband Julius to reveal atomic secrets to the Russians or did not, as was her duty, stop him from doing so.  Julius Rosenberg, executed with his wife, was reputedly worried that if the US gained too much power without a balance from the Soviets, it would lead to a dangerous situation.  And he was right.  The US government has become an Empire that will tolerate no state competitor, nor even states who will not line up and stay with the American Empire’s plans.  This is very clear in the world of sport—certainly in the supposedly apolitical Olympic world.

To punish Russia, the US/Europe have gone totally insane with their bans and sanctions.  Many sanctions such as Russian energy, will only punish Europe; others involve outright piracy as in US allies helping themselves to Russian yachts.  The list goes on, but in the world of sport—athletes from Russia and its close ally Belarus are banned “until further notice” from international skiing, track and field events, tennis, basketball, aquatic sports, volleyball, curling, hockey, rugby, football (soccer), and of course, skating.  Many of these sports have Russian champions, and they, as Christine Brennan put it, “will not be missed.”  A few officials have objected, and paid for it.  Russian sports officials say they will “temporarily” develop their own competitions, with foreign athletes.  They say the western world is committing “sporting genocide” against its athletes.

So Kamila Valieva and company will skate at home, and Eileen Gu will still be considered a traitor by many Americans.  The hate expressed by Tara Lipinski and Christine Brennan is too easily tapped by the American sports world.  Here is hegemonic politics, and ruthless patriarchy and racism, coming together.  And here are two remarkably strong and level-headed young women athletes who are braving the results of being who they are.  In its overwhelming power, the US Empire has made evil all things Chinese and Russian, and women athletes have not been spared the weaponizing of that hate.

The post Kamila Valieva and Eileen Gu:  Young Women Athletes as Enemies of Empire first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Fabricating Putin Quotes and Banning Paraplegic Athletes to Undermine Russia

Mobilizing a population to vilify and hate a targeted enemy is a tactic that leaders have used since before the dawn of human history, and it is being used to demonize Russia and Vladimir Putin in the current conflict. If we want to join the march to war, we can join the hate fest.  But if we want a more objective and honest assessment of events, we must rely upon facts that our government and its cheer-leading mainstream media are not anxious for us to view.

In the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine,  all things Russian are being punished. Russian athletes, including paraplegics, are barred from international sports competition. Century old Russian writers and musicians such as Tolstoy and Tchaikovsky are being removed from book shelves and concerts. Even Russian bred cats are not exempt.

If such actions are justified, why was there no such banning of US athletes, musicians or writers after the US invasion of Iraq?  Moreover, why are so few people outraged by the bombing and killing of 370,000 Yemeni people?  Why are so few people outraged as thousands of Afghans starve because the United States is seizing Afghanistan’s national assets which were in western banks?

Why Ukraine?

There has been massive and widespread publicity about Ukraine. It is a simple Hollywood script:  Ukraine is the angel, Russia is the devil, Zelensky is the hero and all good people will wear blue and yellow ribbons.

Maintaining this image requires propaganda to promote it, and censorship to prevent challengers debunking it.

This has required trashing some long held western traditions. By banning all Russian athletes from international competition, the International Olympic Committee and different athletic federations have violated the Olympic Charter which prohibits discrimination on the basis of nationality.

Censorship

The West prides itself on free speech yet censorship of alternative viewpoints is now widespread in Europe and North America.  Russia Today and other Russian media outlets are being blocked on the internet as well as cable TV.  Ironically,  numerous programs on RT were hosted by Americans, for example journalist Chris Hedges and comedian Lee Camp.  The US is silencing its own citizens.

Censorship or shadow banning is widespread on social media. On April 6, one of the best informed military analysts, Scott Ritter @realScottRitter, was suspended from Twitter. Why?  Because he  suggested that the victims of Bucha may have been murdered not by Russians, but rather by Ukrainian ultra-nationalists and the US and UK may also be culpable.

The 2015 Netflix documentary titled “Winter on Fire: Ukraine’s Fight for Freedom” deals with the Maidan (Kiev central square) uprising of 2013-2014.  It ignores the most essential elements of the events: the management provided by the US  and the muscle provided by ultra-nationalists of the Right Sector and Azov Battalion. The attacks and killing of Ukrainian police are whitewashed away.

By contrast, the 2016 documentary “Ukraine on Fire provides the background and essential elements of the conflict.  It is not available on Netflix and was banned from distribution on YouTube for some time.

Most people in the West are unaware of the US involvement in the 2014 Kiev coup, subsequent US funding and training of ultra-nationalist and Neo Nazi battalions, and the eight year war in eastern Ukraine resulting in fourteen thousand deaths.

Sensational Accusations

Backed by US and UK intelligence agencies, Ukraine knows the importance of the information war. They make sensational accusations that receive uncritical media coverage. When the truth eventually comes out, it is ignored or buried on the back pages. Here are a few examples:

– In 2014,  eleven civilians were killed in eastern Ukraine when an apartment was hit in rebel held territory.  Ukraine tried to blame Russia even though no bombs were coming from Russia and the population is ethnically Russian.

– At the beginning of the current conflict, Ukrainian President Zelensky claimed that soldiers on Snake Island died heroically rather than surrender. Actually, all the soldiers surrendered.

– Ukraine and western media claim a maternity hospital in Mariupol was bombed by Russia. Evidence shows the hospital was taken over by Ukrainian military forces on March 7, two days before the bombing on March 9.

– The latest sensational accusations are regarding dead civilians in Bucha,  north of Kiev. Again, there is much contrary evidence. The Russian soldiers left Bucha on March 31, the mayor of Bucha announced the town liberated with no mention of atrocities on March 31, the Azov battalion entered Bucha on April 1,  the Ukrainian Defense Ministry published video of  “Russian” atrocities on April 3.

In most cases, western media does not probe the accusations or use simple logic to ask if they make sense.  However, in the case of Bucha story, the NY Times had to acknowledge they were “unable to independently verify the assertions by Ukraine’s Defense Ministry.”

Self Censorship

In addition to actual censorship, there is widespread self-censorship. Instead of reading what the Russians are saying, western political “analysts” engage in outlandish amateur psychology and speculation. With no factual basis, they speculate about what Putin wants and his mental state.

This is convenient if one does not want to deal with the real issues and arguments.

Most western analysts and journalists are afraid or unwilling to read or listen to what the Russian leaders say. That is unfortunate because those speeches are more clear and direct than those from western politicians who rely on public relations, spin and platitudes.

Fabricating quotes

Ignorance of Russian foreign policy is such that Truthout online magazine recently published an article which contains a sensational but completely invented quote from Putin. It says,

Putin here is clear enough: “Ukraine has no national rights that Russians are bound to respect. Prepare for reunification, reabsorption, or some other euphemism for subaltern status with Mother Russia.”

Putin said no such thing and any moderately knowledgeable person would recognize this to be fake.

When I emailed the co-author, Carl Davidson, asking where the quotation came from, he admitted inventing it. This is significant because the statement goes to the core of what the conflict is about. Is Russia trying to absorb all of Ukraine? Do they intend to occupy Ukraine?  Anyone who reads the speeches of Putin and Lavrov, such as here, here and here,  knows they do not. Davidson’s fabricated quote suggests he has not read the speeches himself.

Ukraine in the Global Context

The article with the made-up quote contends that “Putin is part of a global right-wing authoritarian movements that seeks to ‘overthrow’ the 20th Century.” This analysis is close to that of the US Democratic Party, which sees the major global division being between “authoritarianism” vs “democracy”.

It is highly US-centered and partisan, with Putin somehow lumped with Trump. It  is also self-serving, with US Democrats as the embodiment of “democracy”.  It is completely contrary to a class analysis.

This faulty analysis has major contradictions. It is well known that Biden is unpopular. Biden’s latest approval rating is under 42%. It is less well known in the West that Putin is popular in Russia. Since the intervention in Ukraine his approval rating has increased to over 80%.

Also largely unknown in the West, most of the world does NOT support the Western analysis of the Ukraine conflict.  Countries representing 59% of the global population abstained or voted against the condemnation of Russia at the UN General Assembly. These countries tend to see US exceptionalism and economic-military domination as a key problem. They do not think it helpful to demonize Russia and they urge negotiations and quick resolution to the Ukraine war.

Cuba said:

History will hold the United States accountable for the consequences of an increasingly offensive military doctrine beyond NATO’s borders which threatens international peace, security and stability…. Russia has the right to defend itself.

South African President Ramaphosa blamed NATO saying:

The war could have been avoided if NATO had heeded warnings from amongst its own leaders and officials over the years that its eastward expansion would lead to greater, not less, instability in the region.

The Chinese representative said:

The final settlement of the Ukraine crisis requires abandoning the Cold War mentality, abandoning the logic of ensuring one’s own security at the expense of others’ security, and abandoning the approach of seeking regional security by expanding military bloc.

Many western anti-war movements are critical of Russia’s invasion. Others, such as the US Peace Council, see the US and NATO as largely responsible. However, they all see the necessity of pressing to stop the war before it gets worse.

In contrast, the western military-industrial-media complex is fueling the war with propaganda, censorship, banning, demonization and more weapons. It appears they do not want a resolution to the conflict. Just as they supported NATO pushing up against Russia, knowing that it risked provoking Russia to the point of retaliation, they seem to be pushing for a protracted bloody conflict in Ukraine, knowing that it risks global conflagration.  Yet they persist, while crying crocodile tears.

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Bringing our Socialist Baby to Life: History of Socialist Planning Beyond Capitalism

Part I – Pre-History of Socialist Planning Beyond Capitalism

Waking Up

In 2001 Barbara had her awakening to the disasters that capitalism caused. This started as part of the 9/11 events, beginning after the response to the supposed attacks on the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. It became immediately clear the US would respond to the attacks with military action against whatever country seemed most vulnerable and had access or proximity to resources, in this case oil. The attacks were supposedly coordinated by al-Qaeda, a radical Islamic group founded by Osama bin Laden and headquartered in Afghanistan. We firmly believed, with documented evidence, that the US attacked Iraq instead even though Iraq had absolutely nothing to do with the attacks. The US wanted control of Iraq because of their large reserves of oil. In fact, they were the second largest oil exporting state at that time.

As soon as the news came of the World Trade Towers being hit, Bruce said that something was fishy. From that time forward Barbara’s political life began. Watching the news was surreal and terrifying. Over and over again, images of the towers collapsing were televised. Talk of war began almost immediately, with George “W” Bush putting the blame on Iraq – with absolutely no proof. What was even more alarming was watching how people reacted to it. So many of them jumped on the bandwagon of war.

Making signs

Shortly after the attack Bruce – who had been a socialist for 30 years – talked Barbara into going to her first demonstration. Together we made signs to bring with us – “No War on Iraq”, “War is not the Answer”. Making the signs was so much fun. We got old cardboard cartons from the grocery stores along with some long lightweight sticks from lumber stores to hold them up. We brainstormed ideas for what to write. Bruce’s signs always had much more content than Barbara’s. Barbara went for the fewer words, the better.

First demonstration

The gathering, or demonstration, was held in Palo Alto, CA, just outside the Stanford University Campus. We had to park our car some distance from the crowd, and Barbara felt self-conscious carrying our signs. A radical political science faculty member, Joel Benin, who was pro-Palestinian, gave an impassioned speech. It was so sane, so true. People around us began chanting and we joined with them – NO WAR – NO WAR. This wasn’t a big demonstration, only a couple of hundred people, but everyone was in agreement that we could see where this drive to war was going, and we wanted to try to stop it. Barbara didn’t fully grasp the full implications of where the US was headed or what would be her involvement in the fight to stop it. Ultimately, that was the beginning of her journey to socialism.

Barbara has already written about much of this in My Journey to Socialism, some of which we’ve quoted here, which began after these attacks. Bruce was so happy to see her waking up.

Attending anti-war demonstrations

We went to anti-war demonstrations in San Francisco and Oakland, chanting “No Blood for Oil”. Many of the demonstrations and meetings were organized by San Francisco ANSWER, an anti-war group formed in San Francisco shortly after 9/11. On March 20, 2003, we marched with tens of thousands of people to protest the war on Iraq that Bush started that very day. We shut down the city. Aside from ANSWER, there seemed to be no large, unified movement to take action against the existing paradigm of US imperialism and capitalism. That is, there was no large movement until the Occupy Wall Street Movement in 2011 which was designed to protest income inequality and the use of influence of money in politics by occupying public spaces.

2004 – 2011 Looking for a Foothold

During this time period, we were searching for the best place for us to fit in and work towards changing the existing capitalist system. We had a book club together, just the two of us. We read and discussed The Best Democracy Money Can Buy by Gregg Palast, Confessions of an Economic Hitman by John Perkins, The powers That Be, and Who Rules America, both by G. William Domhoff. We met every other week on the weekends for 2 hours. This helped to develop Barbara’s understanding of capitalism.

In 2008 the economic crash hit almost everyone.  We each lost ¼ of our savings in our IRA accounts, even though we had our money invested in socially responsible companies. Since this was money we hoped to use to supplement Social Security, this was a very personal wake-up call, not just for us, but for many. Were we witnessing the collapse of capitalism, and its effects on ordinary people?

In 2009 we attended a KPFA townhall meeting. KPFA was our local radio station, representing a mix of New Deal liberals and Social Democrats. They featured people like Amy Goodman, Sasha Lilly, C.S. Soong, and Bonnie Faulkner. At that meeting Bruce spoke about why KPFA is supporting the Democratic Party. When the meeting was over, he was approached by a labor organizer who wanted to start an organization to try to coordinate the public education unions. We stayed with this group for about a year, attending meetings about once a month, but nothing ever came of it, so we left.

Part II – 2011 – 2012 – Turning Point – Occupy

Excitement of General Assemblies:

We were happy to see Occupy San Francisco and Occupy Oakland blossom in October of 2011 which lasted until the spring of 2012. We initially attended assemblies at the amphitheater in Frank Ogawa Plaza, right on the doorstep of Oakland City Hall. In San Francisco they were near the Ferry Building and at the bottom of the financial district.

The General Assembly (GA) meetings in both San Francisco and Oakland were electrifying. There were some extremely skilled facilitators. The GAs met every day and discussed how to regulate the public space that they had occupied and integrate the homeless community, which turned out to be a very difficult task. In San Francisco there were people who rode on a ferry that would stop by and watch the meetings. This was a good way to draw people in. Some of the members of the organizing committee of Occupy led tours around the Occupy camp to combat the propaganda against it.

Shutting Down the Port of Oakland

November 2, 2011, Occupy Oakland coordinated to shut down West Coast ports to make a statement that we would not go back to “business as usual”. The shutdown was a way of protesting the treatment of longshoremen and truck drivers, who were forced to work as independent contractors. They were then fired by port owners EGT and Goldman Sachs for wearing union t-shirts. We marched with 200,000 others from Oscar Grant Plaza to the ports. While the ILWU did not openly support the blockade, the rank and file and many former labor leaders did. Clarence Thomas, secretary/treasurer of the ILWU, was fully committed to this blockade, as he had been for many past blockades. We’ll never forget the power of the first speech we heard from him which began – “I’m Clarence Thomas – the REAL Clarence Thomas”. Jack Heyman, also with the ILWU, was another powerful and persuasive speaker.

The Challenges of the Working Committees

We joined some of the committees, but we noticed there was a real gap in ages in the members. The overwhelming majority of people were in their 20s, with the exception of the Committee for Solidarity with Labor. There were virtually no people in their 30s and 40s and only a handful of people like us in our 50s and 60s. We were both working full time and tried to join committees that would work with our schedules, but the organizers kept changing the days and times of the meetings. It seemed like, at best, most of the Occupy participants worked part-time or might have been upper middle-class people whose schedules were more flexible. The committees were not very solid.

People would float in and out. Any group could start a committee – even conservative committees like those who wanted to work with merchants were allowed. Committees were dissolved without letting the Occupy leadership know so you could join a committee and discover that it no longer existed. We found many of the meetings off-track and with members who didn’t have the basic social skills like asking a person “How are you? How are things going?” They lacked skills for building solidarity with strangers like tracking things a person may have told them and following up with a question like “what’s happening with that project you were working on?” They are skills like showing up to meetings on time and remembering to tell others if a meeting is cancelled. The Occupy movement was the best and the worst of anarchism.

Monday Night Occupy Meetings in the Women’s Building

When the police drove Occupy in SF and Oakland away from Oscar Grant Plaza in Oakland and the area outside the Federal Reserve building in SF the Occupy organizers decided to meet indoors. Speakers were arranged every Monday night to talk on various political and economic topics. On average, 50-75 people attended. We noticed how the cliquishness of Occupy in the public are continued into the events in the Women’s Building in SF. Bruce told Barbara that when he was meeting with the organizers of an economic forum that Barbara was standing by herself. Nobody introduced themselves or tried to introduce themselves. These folks were calling themselves socialists and yet they lacked the most elementary friendliness to others who were on the same page. We decided it was then that we felt we needed to stop trying to join other organizations and start our own.

Part III – History of Socialist PBC

2012 – 2014 Building Political Documents and Our Website

We began to develop our own organizational documents, including a manifesto, mission statement, our attitude towards politics, and developed a political practice. At first that seemed like a lot of work to Barbara, and she also wondered how we would get people to join us. We had many meetings, just the two of us, to hash out the development of our perspective. Our main purpose was to provide a forum for exposing capitalism and spread the word to the public.

In spite of this challenging work, the creation of this site was so much fun. The first area we wanted to cover included telling people who we are and what we’re about. It included our mission statement – which was to become one of many eddies for:

  • “Exposing the predatory, incompetent, and irrational practices of capitalists to direct human social life.
  • Engage in collective political actions that throw a monkey-wrench into and slow down or disrupt the profit-making mechanisms of the system.
  • Weave and expand the fabric of a growing body of workplaces under worker self-management.”

Barbara switched from full-time to part-time work, allowing her more time to work on developing our book clubs that were focused on educating people about the reality of capitalism and the havoc it’s wrecked in the world. From 2012-2014 we tried to do outreach by having in-person book groups.

In April 2014 our first step was to create a website, Socialist Planning Beyond Capitalism. Through our Occupy contacts we found a wonderful tech guy named Jeremy who, with our input, created the website that we still have today. Our baby was gestating. It was scary for Barbara to learn how to manage a website. While she had considerable work experience using numerous platforms, managing a website is a whole other ballgame. At a ridiculously low cost, Jeremy built our WordPress site. He patiently showed Barbara the basics and was the best tech teacher we have been able to find since then. He never spoke to her in tech-speak. Sadly, he has disappeared from our lives, even though we’ve tried hard to reach him. Since then, we have struggled to find someone to help us with our site, as well as with social media.

In November 2014 we wrote our first post – titled The Collapse of Capitalism. In it you will see that our economic situation has only gotten worse since then. In addition to all the things we listed, we’re now dealing with the economic fallout of Covid, hyper-inflation, and a rush to war with Russia.

We added a slider at the top of our page that, in addition to The Collapse of Capitalism, included the Personal Impact of Crisis. In that section we asked the question “What caused the crisis?” We gave 4 reasons for this. We then proposed “Making adjustments within the system” asking 6 questions of readers. Finally, we asked the question “Are there alternatives”?

The next section was titled Alternatives to Capitalism. We gave examples of workers’ self-management, workers’ control, and worker cooperatives – all of which currently exist and often are more successful than capitalist businesses.

The next section was titled History of Workers’ Councils so readers could see this is not just an unrealistic pipe dream. There is a 150-year history of worker self-management.

Finally, we included a section titled Local Workplace Democracy that allowed readers to learn about some of the local cooperatives in the US.

On our site we included sections on Our Manifesto, Our Process Politics, Our Mission Statement, Calendar of Radical Events, Submission Guidelines, Films, Books, Our Mythological Story, Our Allies, and Getting Involved.

2014 – 2016 Richard Wolff – Democracy at Work

Around the same time, Richard Wolff, the Marxist political economist, began to give public talks about the crisis in capitalism and workplace democracy as an alternative. In one of our book clubs, we began reading his book, Capitalism Hits the Fan. We attended one of several talks by Wolff and met our soon-to-be comrade, K.J. Noh, who was petitioning for some local cause. We asked him to join our book group and he did, adding an international perspective from his own personal experience of growing up in South Korea. We also discovered he was an extraordinary writer. We cited some of his publications on our site. One of the best was “The Economic Myths of Santa Claus“, published in CounterPunch on Christmas day, 2014.

After a year in our book clubs, which drew between 4 and 6 people, K.J. said to us that the book clubs really were not the way to go in this day and age. He said we needed an electronic presence. He recommended 3 newsletters we could write for and said our focus must be international in order to keep his interest. We followed his suggestions, and our website and FB page likes grew.

We also became involved with Richard Wolff’s Democracy at Work project in 2014. This was an organization developed by Richard Wolff that had chapters in numerous cities and states to support and teach people about the theory and viability of worker cooperatives to combat capitalism by democratizing our workplaces. People were either encouraged to study cooperatives, provide educational forums for cooperatives, or even start a cooperative.

Why We Left Democracy at Work

We discovered that Democracy at Work was very loose in its structure. People like us who were long-time socialists were mixed in with people who neither cared nor knew nothing about socialism, and simply wanted to start a small business. Many of the groups throughout the country were uneven in terms of their commitments and we were disappointed that Rick did not take a firmer stand in directing what we were doing. In fact, the management of these groups was left to someone else, and Rick had very little engagement with the groups.

2016-2022 Coming into Our Own

Social Media Ups and Downs – FB and Twitter

Since Jeremy set up our website, we have had consistent problems finding someone to help us. Jeremy was so good at explaining things clearly, teaching us how to create posts and perspectives, add to our pages and change our images. Since that time – in 2014, Barbara has mostly figured stuff out on her own and has become our house techie. WordPress is not a user-friendly platform and learning how to manage it is not obvious or intuitive. We need a professional, who we’ve only recently found, who can help us navigate that.

Someone who earlier helped us enormously was Sameer, who lived close to us in Oakland. He was also great at explaining things in non-tech speak. However, he’s moved on to bigger and more lucrative projects. We’ve since discovered that it’s very hard for technical experts to be able to communicate to non-experts in an understandable way what they’re trying to do – or trying to teach us to do.

Sameer introduced us to Susan Tenby in 2016 – who was able to help us with our social media. She taught us how to make our Facebook and Twitter pages more visible and appealing. We are so lucky to have found Susan. We were a small, community organization trying to get our message out. When we started working with Susan our visibility was very low. Susan did a comprehensive audit of where our social media stood when we started working with her and helped us track its rapid change. We were not getting a whole lot of attention on our website or through our social media. She gave us a crash course on how to turn that around and in a very short period of time our visibility skyrocketed. Each session with her was packed with techniques and ideas we never would have known about.  She’s also terrific at adapting to each individual’s learning style.

Susan also introduced us to Colleen Nagel, an SEO expert and digital marketing. These terms were completely unfamiliar to us. SEO means Search Engine Optimization and is the process used to optimize a website’s technical configuration, content relevance and link popularity so its pages can become easily searchable, more relevant, and popular, and as a consequence, search engines rank them better. In other words, it’s the process of making a website better for search engines, like Google. We began to understand how to make more sense of our analytics, although we’re still struggling to figure out WHY our followers like some of our posts and tweets better than others.

Where we needed help was in translating the analytics into verbal meaning. The deeper step, after understanding what these numbers mean, was to understand the causal dynamics which produce an increase or decrease in viewers and attention span. The next step was to develop a plan for increasing the number of followers after we were able to analyze what’s actually happened up to then. We never felt that we got that help

All of this cost money, of which we didn’t have a lot. We have never asked for donations or “supporters” for our site. Barbara’s income at that time consisted of a small retirement fund, Social Security, and a modest IRA. Bruce worked as an adjunct faculty member. As he’s written in his article “Capitalist Economic Violence Against Road Scholars: Now You’re Hired, Now You’re Not” his income was never completely stable and, of course, they paid adjuncts at a much lower rate than they paid faculty. In fact, today there are adjuncts who are living in their cars because they can’t afford to pay rent. We simply couldn’t afford to pay what Colleen was charging.

We then moved on to 2 more people whose entire focus was to install SEO optics. While we got some help from this, we found that both of them explained things in tech-speak and were not easy to communicate with.

Finally, we tried working with Liz and her sister. Liz was an editor of one of Bruce’s books and claimed to have some technical skills. But she didn’t have a Mac like we do and was not good at explaining things so that wasn’t much help. Her sister did have a Mac and was good at explaining things but worked full time, had small kids and was erratic in her response time.

Flying High

Between 2014 and 2016 we worked hard on learning how to get our message out through Facebook and Twitter. We learned how to “boost” our articles, Facebook’s language for paying them to promote it. We were able to select what type of audience we were trying to reach and where they were likely to be geographically. As we started to boost articles either we or one of our comrades had written, we began getting a lot more attention on Facebook. Our Facebook boosted posts for our articles ranged from 5,000 to 10,000 readers. A couple of them reached 20,000. Between 2016 and 2019 we were getting about 1,000 page likes a year, reaching thousands of people each week. At that point we had gained a total of 3,400 page likes.

Twitter was much slower to get off the ground. We began to understand the importance of hashtags and which hashtags were more likely to get attention. We also came to see the importance of liking, commenting on and retweeting the tweets of people who were following us. Our followers have increased steadily since we’ve been doing this. However, we still lag behind the attention we were getting on Facebook, and we would like to understand why.

Facebook Attempts to Clip Our Wings

In early 2020 Facebook stopped allowing us to boost our articles. The reason they gave was that since we are posting “political content” we must be registered as a political organization with the IRS. As you can imagine, we did not want to do that. When Facebook first started doing this, we were able to mount arguments that not all of our articles were, in fact, political. Well, of course they were, but not “political” in the way they were framing it. After a while, they simply stopped allowing us to boost them at all, no matter what our argument was. About the same time, we noticed that our typical daily reach (how many people saw the article) was shrinking dramatically. Whereas our daily reach used to be in the thousands, they are now in the hundreds. The same thing has happened with our engagements (how many people actually look at our post or click on a link we’ve provided) Our total page likes have gone from an average of 30 a month to less than 10. That’s because the only people who see our posts are the ones who have already liked our page! Our reach now is about one third of what it used to be. We have read that the same dramatic drop happened to World Socialist Website, The Greanville Post, and many other socialist sites.

Our Work Schedules for PBC

Since the very beginning, we each put in a minimum of 15 hours a week, often more, including Saturdays and Sundays. We have 2-hour weekly meetings to discuss what we’ve done during the week and what we want to do for the coming week. We give ourselves “homework”, then report in on the results of that homework at our weekly meetings. We jokingly call these meetings, our “Central Committee” meetings.

We write almost all of our own articles. After editing them and finding images for them we publish them and then also send them to other websites for publication. We have tried to find other comrades to write articles for publication for us also. We wanted to be able to include authors on our site beyond just the two of us. While we did, in fact, get a few people to write for us, it often required a lot of work on our part to help them frame their work. Of course, we did all editing the articles. We publish an average of one article every three weeks.

For our daily posts, every morning Bruce searches for an article online from a number of trusted sources, that usually focuses on the decay of capitalism. We also want very much to spread the word of the success of worker-owned cooperatives to the public. This lets them see that there is a way to work other than for “the man” and create a new society. He writes a post about the article, finds an image to go with it, and then sends it to Barbara. Barbara edits his post, puts it up on our site and shares it to FB and Twitter. We then share that article to our Facebook groups.

We have been doing all of this every day, every week, every month since we began our electronic outreach. This is a joy for us. We call Socialist Planning Beyond Capitalism “our baby”. She’s now almost 10 years old and stable. She will be thriving when we can get the technical and social media support we need. When people ask us if we’re retired, we start laughing. Barbara always says she’s working harder than she ever did, she just doesn’t get paid for it! There are few things we would rather spend our time on than Socialist Planning Beyond Capitalism.

Thank you for reading our history, and please consider joining us by reading and sharing our articles and posts. Together we are strong. Together we can change the world.

The post Bringing our Socialist Baby to Life: History of Socialist Planning Beyond Capitalism first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Business as Usual: Facebook, Russia, and Hate Speech

Seedy, compromised and creepy, the surveillance machine of Facebook, now operating under the broader fold of its parent company Meta Platforms, is currently giving out the very signals that it was condemned for doing before: encourage discussions on hating a group and certain figures, while spreading the bad word to everyone else to do so.

The Russian Federation, President Vladimir Putin, and Russians in general emerge as the latest contenders, the comic strip villains who those in the broadly designated “West” can now take issue with. According to a Meta spokesperson, the Russian attack on Ukraine had made the company make temporary “allowances for forms of political expression that would normally violate our rules like violent speech such as ‘death to the Russian invaders.’” Cryptically, the same spokesman goes on to say that, “We still won’t allow credible calls for violence against Russian civilians.” Meta gives us no guidelines on what would constitute a “credible call”.

Twitter has also permitted posts openly advocating homicide and assassination. US Senator Lindsey Graham was caught up in the bloodlust of permissiveness, using the platform to ask whether Russia had its own Brutus. “Is there a more successful Colonel Stauffenberg in the Russian military?” The only way to conclude the conflict was “for somebody in Russia to take this guy out.”

The cartoon villainy approach of the Meta group also has precedent. In July 2021, the policy on incitement and hate speech was eased with specific reference to Iran’s Supreme leader Ali Hosseini Khamenei. The firm decided to permit posts featuring “death to Khamenei”, or videos of individuals chanting the phrase for a two-week window. Lorenzo Franceschi-Bicchierai wrote pointedly at the time that this permission was “a bizarre choice that highlight’s Facebook’s power and often confusing content moderation rules.”

The Russia-Ukraine policy is only startling for being an open admission to a practice that Facebook has embraced for years. With the company’s astronomical growth, accusations about how it utilises hate speech and deceptive content have reached a crescendo without deep effect. Mock efforts have been taken to deal with them, never deviating from the firm’s market purpose.

An example of this zig-zag morality meet reputational damage was given in 2018. In August that year, the company employed 60 Burmese-language specialists to review posted and distributed content, with a promise to employ another 40 more by the end of the year. Product manager Sara Su called the violence against the Rohingya in Myanmar “horrific and we have been too slow to prevent misinformation on Facebook.”

A more accurate appraisal of the company’s conduct was revealed by an internal trove of documents showing how harms were closely monitored but algorithmically exacerbated. The documents, disclosed to the US Securities and Exchange Commission by whistleblower Frances Haugen, revealed a number of things, including the gulf between CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s public statements on improvements and the company’s own findings.

In testimony given to Congress in 2020, Zuckerberg claimed that 94 percent of hate speech was removed before a human agent reported it. The picture emerging from the internal documents showed that the company did quite the opposite: less than 5 percent of hate speech on the platform was actually removed.

Haugen summed up the approach in her opening statement to the Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety, and Data Security in October last year. Conceding that social networks faced “complex and nuanced” problems in dealing with misinformation, counterespionage and democracy, she was blunt about the “choices being made inside Facebook”. They were “disastrous – for our children, for our public safety, for our privacy and for our democracy – and that is why we must demand Facebook makes changes.”

The platform has also been the target of legal suits for encouraging hate speech. In December, Rohingya refugees, having little time for the firm’s promises to turn a new leaf, instigated legal action in both the United States and the United Kingdom for $150 billion. The San Francisco lawsuit, filed by Edelson and Fields Law on behalf of an anonymous plaintiff, alleges that Facebook’s introduction in the country in 2011 encouraged “the dissemination of hateful messages, disinformation and incitement to violence” which led to genocide of the Rohingya.

The Ukraine War has revealed a familiar pattern. On February 26, 2022 Facebook initially announced that it had “established a special operations center staffed by experts from across the company, including native Russian and Ukraine speakers, who are monitoring the platform around the clock, allowing us to respond to issues in real time.” The company promised that it was “taking extensive steps to fight misinformation and implementing more transparency and restrictions around state-controlled media outlets.”

Then came the easing of policies on hate speech regarding Russian figures, with the predictable and, given the context, understandable reaction. The Russian embassy in Washington called the policy “aggressive and criminal […] leading to incitement and hatred and hostility”. It gave Moscow a good basis to claim that this was yet another feature of an “information war without rules”.

Disinformation experts adopt a bit of hair splitting in approving Meta’s approach. “The policy calls for violence against Russian soldiers,” insists the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab’s Emerson Brooking. “A call for violence here, by the way, is also a call for resistance because Ukrainians resist a violent invasion.”

This policy of intervening on the side of the Ukrainian cause to Russia’s detriment is encouraged by Meta’s President of Global Affairs, Nick Clegg. In his March 11 statement, Clegg makes the case for selective violence even more pronounced. “I want to be crystal clear: our policies are focused on protecting people’s rights to speech as an expression of self-defense in reaction to a military invasion of their country.” Had standard content policies been followed, content “from ordinary Ukrainians expressing their resistance and fury at the invading military forces would have been removed.”

This immoderate stance does not have universal agreement. Media sociologist Jeremy Littau has made the pertinent observation that, “Facebook has rules, until it doesn’t.” It claims to be merely a platform above taking sides, “until it does.” To not permit hate speech except in designated cases against certain people of a certain country was “one hell of a can of worms.”

Meta’s latest move is disturbingly refreshing in calling out a policy that remains haphazard, selectively applied, but always driven by the firm’s own amoral calculus. The Ukraine conflict now gives the group a cover for practices that enfeeble and corrupt democracy while picking sides in war. The company is clearly not above encouraging posts advocating homicide and murder after testing the wind’s direction. With Russia being rapidly cancelled culturally, politically and economically throughout the fold of Western countries, Zuckerberg is bound to think he is onto a winner. At the very least, he has found a distracting alibi.

The post Business as Usual: Facebook, Russia, and Hate Speech first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Is it already too late to say goodbye?

It seems we may have reached the moment when it is time to say goodbye. It has been fun, educational and sometimes cathartic – for me at least. I hope you got something from our time together too.

I am not going anywhere, of course. Not for now at least. I love to write. For as long as I feasibly can, I will continue to rail against injustice, call out corporate power and its abuses, and demand a fairer and more open society.

But I have to be realistic. I have to recognise that a growing number of you will not be joining me here on this page for much longer. And it feels rude after so much time together not to bid you a fond farewell before it is too late. I will miss you.

Many of you may have assumed it wouldn’t end this way. You probably imagined that I would get banned by Facebook or Twitter. You would be able to rally round, send in complaints worded in the strongest possible terms, and lobby for my reinstatement. Maybe even sign a petition.

But it isn’t going to end like that. There will be no bang. I have been too careful for that to be my fate. I have avoided rude and crude words. I have steered clear of insults (apologies if my responses have sometimes been a little caustic). I have not defamed anyone. I have avoided “fake news” – except to critique it. I have not peddled “conspiracy theories”, unless quoting the British Medical Journal on Covid now counts as misinformation (yes, I know for a few of you it does).

But none of that has helped. My blog posts once attracted tens of thousands of shares. Then, as the algorithms tightened, it became thousands. Now, as they throttle me further, shares can often be counted in the hundreds. “Going viral” is a distant memory.

No, I won’t be banned. I will fade incrementally, like a small star in the night sky – one among millions – gradually eclipsed as its neighbouring suns grow ever bigger and brighter. I will disappear from view so slowly you won’t even notice.

Which is why I am saying my goodbyes now while I can still reach you, my most obstinate followers.

But this isn’t really about one small light being snuffed out. This isn’t just about our relationship coming to an end. Something bigger, and more disturbing, is taking place.

Journalists like me are part of an experiment – in a new, more democratised media landscape. We have developed new reader-funded models so that we can break free of the media corporations, which until now ensured billionaires and the state controlled the flow of information in one direction only: to speak down to us.

The corporate media need corporate advertising – or their owners’ deep pockets – to survive. They don’t need you, except as a captive audience. You’re both their prisoner and their product.

But the lifeblood of a reader-funded journalist, as the name suggests, are readers. The more of you we attract, the better chance there is that we can generate donations and income and make the model sustainable. Our Achilles’ heel is our dependence on social media to find you, to keep reaching you, to offer you an alternative from the corporate media.

If Facebook (sorry, the Meta universe) and Twitter stop independent writers from growing their readerships by manipulating the algorithms, by ghosting and shadow-banning them, and by all the other trickery we do not yet understand, then new voices cannot grow their funding base and break free of corporate control.

And equally, for those like me who are already established and have significant numbers of readers, these tech giants can whittle them away one by one. Ostensibly, I have many tens of thousands of followers, but for several years now I have been reaching fewer and fewer of you. I am starved of connection. The danger, already only too obvious, is that my readership, and funding model, will slowly start to shrivel and die.

Joe Rogan, Russell Brand and a handful of titans of the new media age are so big they can probably weather it out. But the rest of us will not be so lucky.

Readers will lose sight of us, as our light slowly fades, and then we will be gone completely. Vanished.

I have lost count of the followers who – because, god knows, an algorithm slipped up? – tell me they have received a social media post many months after they last saw one from me. In the cacophony of media noise, they had not noticed that I had unexpectedly gone quiet until that reminder arrived or else they assumed I had given up writing.

Which is why, if you want to keep seeing posts from me and writers like me, if this is not soon to be a final goodbye, if you think it important to read non-corporate analysis and commentary, then you need to act. You should be bookmarking your favourite writers and visiting their sites regularly – not just when you are prompted to by Mark Zuckerberg.

You need to be an active consumer of news – not a passive one, as you were raised to be when the choice was between three TV channels and a dozen print newspapers.

You need to search out and maintain those connections before they are gone entirely and the window has closed. Because those voices you prize now will wither and decay like autumn leaves if they have no audience. If you leave it too long, even when you finally remember to go search for them, you may find they are no longer there to be discovered. You will have missed the chance to say goodbye.

So let us say it now, while we still can: Farewell.

UPDATE:

Writing is a solitary activity, and it can be easy to imagine that what was obvious inside your head will be clear to others when that idea takes its place in the outside world. But a proportion of early readers of this post have mistaken it for an actual goodbye, rather than as a cautionary tale of what has been happening and what is still to come. So let me reassure you: I am going to continue writing and you can continue reading me, so long as either Twitter and Facebook direct you to me or you make the effort to find me.

Here’s hoping that my goodbye will prove unnecessary.

The post Is it already too late to say goodbye? first appeared on Dissident Voice.

How Israel’s “Facebook Law” Plans to Control All Palestinian Content Online

It is ironic that even former right-wing Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, had rejected a Knesset (Israeli Parliament) bill which proposed to give the government greater power to control and suppress online content. This was in 2016, and the bill was introduced by Netanyahu’s Likud party rival, Gideon Sa’ar.

Some analysts argued that Netanyahu had feared that a law aimed at suppressing Palestinian freedom of speech online could be exploited by his enemies to control his own speech and incitement. Now that Netanyahu is no longer in the picture, the bill is back, and so is Sa’ar.

Gideon Sa’ar is currently Israel’s justice minister and deputy prime minister. While his boss, Naftali Bennett, is moving rapidly to expand settlements and to worsen already horrific realities for Palestinians on the ground, Sa’ar is expanding the Israeli military occupation of Palestinians to the digital realm. What is known as the ‘Facebook Law’ is set to grant “Israeli courts the power to demand the removal of user-generated content on social media content platforms that can be perceived as inflammatory or as harming ‘the security of the state,’ or the security of people or the security of the public.”

According to a December 30 statement by the Palestinian Digital Rights Coalition (PDRC) and the Palestinian Human Rights Organizations Council (PHROC), Israeli censorship of Palestinian content online has deepened since 2016, when Sa’ar’s bill was first introduced.

In their statement, the two organizations highlighted the fact that Israel’s so-called Cyber Unit had submitted 2,421 requests to social media companies to delete Palestinian content in 2016. That number has grown exponentially since, to the extent that the Cyber Unit alone has requested the removal of more than 20,000 Palestinian items. PDRC and PHROC suggest that the new legislation, which was already approved by the Ministerial Committee for Legislation on December 27, “would only strengthen the relationship between the Cyber Unit and social media companies.”

Unfortunately, that relationship is already strong, at least with Facebook, which routinely censors Palestinian content and has been heavily criticized by Human Rights Watch and other organizations. After examining the numerous allegations of Facebook censorship, Deborah Brown, the senior digital rights researcher and advocate at HRW, concluded that “Facebook has suppressed content posted by Palestinians and their supporters speaking out about human rights issues in Israel and Palestine.”

Facebook’s involvement in Israel’s efforts aimed at silencing Palestinian online voices that call for justice, freedom and end of the occupation, is itself situated in an agreement the company had reached with Israel in September 2016. Then, the Israeli government announced that it had signed an agreement with the social media giant “to work together to determine how to tackle incitement on the social media network.” Within days, the accounts of prominent Palestinian journalists and activists were reportedly being deleted.

Israel’s latest ‘Facebook Law’ does not just pertain to controlling content on Facebook-related platforms, including Instagram and others. According to a Haaretz editorial published on December 29, the impact of this particular bill is far-reaching, as it will grant District Court judges throughout the country the power to remove posts, not only from Facebook and other social media outlets, “but from any website at all”.

Unsurprisingly, Israel’s censorship of Palestinian content is justified under the typical pretense of protecting Israel’s ‘national security’. We all know how Israel interprets this elusive concept to include anything from a Palestinian calling for Israel to be held accountable for its crimes in the occupied territories, to another demanding the end of Israeli apartheid to a third writing a poem. A case in point was the humiliating imprisonment of Palestinian poet, Dareen Tatour. The latter, an Israeli citizen, was thrown in jail in 2015 per court order for writing a short poem entitled “Resist, My People, Resist Them”.

Judging from past experience, undoubtedly, the ‘Facebook Law’ would almost exclusively target Palestinians. Moreover, judging from Israel’s previous successes, many digital and social media companies would comply with Israel’s demands of censoring Palestinians everywhere.

In its January 11 report, the Arab Center for Social Media Advancement – 7Amleh – detailed some of the practices that Israel engages in to monitor, silence, and spy on Palestinians. 7Amleh’s report, entitled ‘Hashtag Palestine 2021’, discusses the increased use of surveillance technologies, especially in the context of a proposed Israeli law that would expand the use of facial recognition cameras in public spaces. It is worth noting that such technologies have already been used against Palestinians at Israeli military checkpoints throughout the West Bank for at least two years.

Moreover, the Israeli Pegasus spyware, which has recently made headlines throughout the world for its use against numerous high-profile figures, has also long been used against Palestinian activists. In other words, Palestine continues to be the testing ground for Israel’s human rights violations of all kinds, whether in new weaponry, crowd control or surveillance.

Expectedly, what applies to Palestinians demanding their freedom online does not apply to Israelis inciting violence and spreading hatred against those very Palestinians. According to the 7Amleh ‘Index of Racism and Incitement’, published last June, during the Israeli war on the besieged Gaza Strip and the subsequent anti-Palestinian violence throughout Palestine in May 2021, “incitement in Hebrew against Arabs and Palestinians increased by 15 times” if compared to the same period of the last year. Much of this has gone unnoticed, and it is hardly the subject of the proposed ‘Facebook Law’ or the sinister activities of the Cyber Unit. For Gideon Sa’ar and his ilk, anti-Palestinian incitement, along with the daily violence meted out against the occupied Palestinians, is a non-issue.

While Israel is permitted, thanks to the deafening silence of the international community, to maintain its military occupation of Palestine, to cement its apartheid and to deepen its control of Palestinian life everywhere, it should not be permitted to expand this matrix of control to the digital realm as well. Civil society organizations, activists and ordinary people everywhere must speak out to bring an end to this mockery.

Moreover, as the Pegasus and the facial recognition surveillance technologies experiences have taught us, what is usually first applied to Palestinians is eventually normalized and applied everywhere else. Israel should, therefore, be confronted in its abuses of human rights in Palestine, because these abuses, if normalized, will become a part of our daily lives, regardless of where we are in the world.

The post How Israel’s “Facebook Law” Plans to Control All Palestinian Content Online first appeared on Dissident Voice.