Conspiracy theories, explained Reply

Instead, everyone should simply believe in the unending benevolence of the ruling class.

, Vox

Eleanor’s dad loved science — or so she thought. Eleanor grew up listening to stories of the Apollo missions and audio clips from space expeditions. Every weekend, the two of them hopped on a train to downtown Philadelphia to visit the Franklin Institute, where they would explore the planetarium, flight simulators, and technology exhibits.

“It was our special thing,” Eleanor, now an elementary school teacher who requested that Vox not use her real name to protect her privacy, told me.

That was several years ago. In 2020, Eleanor began to glimpse a much different version of her father.

“I’m going to a protest,” he told her in April. At first, she assumed he was attending a Black Lives Matter march or a similar event. But no — her father was protesting to reopen the state of Pennsylvania, then under lockdown due to Covid-19, because he thought the governor was exaggerating the threat of the virus.

Other dissonant moments followed. Eleanor’s father didn’t just disagree with Democratic Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf — suddenly, Wolf was “a dictator.” Her father started following fringe communities and groups online, arguing that masks were “a muzzle and a control device,” a way for the government to somehow manipulate the populace.

Then he began enthusiastically repeating the false claims of Stella Immanuel, a Houston pediatrician who went viral earlier this year for claiming hydroxychloroquine could “cure” Covid-19. (Immanuel has also declared, among other things, that ovarian cysts are caused by sex with demons, that scientists are experimenting with alien DNA, and that reptilian humanoids are running the government.) Once, when Immanuel appeared on a TV news segment, Eleanor’s father and stepmother began cheering, as though they were at a political rally instead of at home watching a far-right conspiracy theorist.

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What Thucydides Knew About the US Today Reply

By Edward Mendelson, The New York Review of Books

On the morning after the 2016 presidential election I tried to distract myself by reading some pages of Thucydides that I had assigned for a class the next day, and found myself reading the clearest explanation I had seen of the vote that I was trying to forget. In the third book of his History of the Peloponnesian War, Thucydides describes the outbreak of civil war on the northern island of Corcyra in 427 BC:

There was the revenge taken in their hour of triumph by those who had in the past been arrogantly oppressed instead of wisely governed; there were the wicked resolutions taken by those who, particularly under the pressure of misfortune, wished to escape from their usual poverty and coveted the property of their neighbors; there were the savage and pitiless actions into which men were carried not so much for the sake of gain as because they were swept away into an internecine struggle by their ungovernable passions.

The closest thing to a consolation that I found in the election was the catastrophic failure of almost every attempt to predict the outcome by using numerical data, instead of interpreting the passions that provoked it, as Thucydides interpreted the conflict in Corcyra. The most confident pre-election pollsters proclaimed themselves 99 percent certain of the result that didn’t happen. Even the least confident predicted exactly what did not occur.

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Joe Biden’s Silence on Ending the Drone Wars Reply

By Elise Swan, The Intercept

President-elect Joe Biden has maintained silence for years on the controversial and continued use of so-called targeted killings — lethal strikes by drones, cruise missiles, and occasionally military special operations raids. Biden has never publicly disavowed or criticized former President Barack Obama’s legacy of expanding the use of drones, nor made clear his own policy on the continuation of targeted killing conducted by the Department of Defense and, clandestinely, the CIA.

His campaign and transition websites similarly make no mention of policy addressing drone strikes, a defining feature of Obama-era foreign policy. And no questions were asked during presidential primary and general election debates about assassination policies.

While on the campaign trail, Biden pledged to end “endless wars” without detailing how his administration would differ from those of President Donald Trump and Obama, even as lethal strikes, including against American citizens, have remained an often-noted blemish on Obama’s legacy.

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Regrowing Indigenous Agriculture Could Nourish People, Cultures and the Land Reply

By Christina Gish Hill, In These Times

His­to­ri­ans know that turkey and corn were part of the first Thanks­giv­ing, when Wampanoag peo­ples shared a har­vest meal with the pil­grims of Ply­mouth plan­ta­tion in Mass­a­chu­setts. And tra­di­tion­al Native Amer­i­can farm­ing prac­tices tell us that squash and beans like­ly were part of that 1621 din­ner too.

For cen­turies before Euro­peans reached North Amer­i­ca, many Native Amer­i­cans grew these foods togeth­er in one plot, along with the less famil­iar sun­flower. They called the plants sis­ters to reflect how they thrived when they were cul­ti­vat­ed together.

Today three-quar­ters of Native Amer­i­cans live off of reser­va­tions, main­ly in urban areas. And nation­wide, many Native Amer­i­can com­mu­ni­ties lack access to healthy food. As a schol­ar of Indige­nous stud­ies focus­ing on Native rela­tion­ships with the land, I began to won­der why Native farm­ing prac­tices had declined and what ben­e­fits could emerge from bring­ing them back.

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Death by racism Reply

The SJWish terminology and rhetoric in this aside, this is actually a very good discussion of the class disparities associated with the impact of the pandemic. The impact of the responses to the pandemic has largely been to allow the upper-middle and upper classes to go on a sabbatical of working remotely while being served by the poor and working classes who are either exposed to increased on the job hazards or simply subjected to economic dislocation. The reasons why there would also be racial disparities in this situation are obvious enough.

By Sharrelle Barber, The Lancet

Racial violence and racial health inequities in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic disproportionately impact on Blacks. Sharrelle Barber reports.
The murder of George Floyd, suffocated by a police officer who, for 8 minutes and 46 seconds, lodged his knee into Floyd’s neck on May 25, is just the latest example of a longstanding history of racial terror and police brutality against Blacks in the USA, and has sparked global outrage. While this act of violence is horrific in its own right, its occurrence against the backdrop of a global pandemic that has wreaked havoc in Black communities—causing over 30 000 deaths within the span of 4 months—has forced a collective reckoning with the fact that racism, in all of its forms, is deadly and has a devastating impact on Black lives.
Due to a reckless and uncoordinated federal response, the USA remains the global epicentre of the COVID-19 pandemic with over 3 million confirmed cases and 135 205 confirmed deaths. Black people and other marginalised racial groups are shouldering a disproportionate burden in the current pandemic. Blacks comprise 13% of the US population but roughly one quarter of COVID-19 deaths and are nearly four times more likely to die from COVID-19 compared to whites (94·2 vs 24·8 deaths per 100 000). Blacks across all age groups are nearly three times more likely than white people to contract COVID-19. These numbers, while striking, are not surprising and mirror well-documented patterns of morbidity and mortality across a wide range of health outcomes that have been observed in the USA for decades. Experts contend that “racism and not race” is the primary driver of these inequities with many citing “interlocking systems of racism” that have converged to increase exposure, transmission, and death among Blacks. These systems—from healthcare, to housing, to the carceral state—are all rooted in an ideology of white supremacy and the institution of slavery that dates back over 400 years and are maintained by racist policies and practices that construct and reinforce inequitable access to power and resources.
For example, racialised economic exploitation vis-à-vis racial capitalism has been cited as a major driver of increased risk of infection among Blacks. According to data from the US census, 43% of Black and Latino workers (compared with 25% of white workers) are employed in service or production jobs that have been deemed “essential” during the pandemic. Employees in these industries have been forced to work with inadequate personal protective equipment, crowded working conditions, and inadequate income protections such as paid sick leave and hazard pay, putting them at increased risk of exposure to the virus. Additionally, due to low wages and lack of affordable housing options, these same workers often reside in racially segregated neighbourhoods that have experienced decades of disinvestment. Structural factors in these communities such as over-crowded housing conditions further increase exposure and transmission. The impact of increased exposure is further compounded by limited access to quality healthcare which limits access to testing and follow-up treatment, discrimination within the healthcare system which makes it more likely for Blacks to be turned away when seeking medical care, and a wide-array of exposures such as toxic environmental hazards, chronic stress, and limited access to healthy foods all of which lead to underlying chronic conditions.

The Libertarian Party Will Never Have Political Power Reply

I’ve noticed that a lot of libertarian-minded people, while well-intentioned, have a misunderstanding of how political and social change, at least the kind that moves in a more libertarian direction, actually works. Obviously, there is never going to be a Libertarian government elected to office that immediately says, “Okay, we’re libertarians and we’re the government now. But we don’t believe in government so let’s dissolve this whole thing.”

It’s the same way apocalyptic revolutions always have the effect of creating a more authoritarian government than the one that came before (see Cromwell, Washington, Robespierre, Lenin, Mao, Khomeini, etc.)

Real change in a libertarian direction does happen sporadically, intermittently, and often paradoxically. In US history, for example, we’ve certainly seen changes in a more libertarian direction in some areas: abolishing slavery and compulsory apartheid, abolishing the draft, repealing Prohibition, the growth of the home school movement, ending electroshock therapy as a “cure” for homosexuality or lobotomies as a cure for mild psychological disorders, etc. But during the same period, we’ve seen expansions of authoritarianism in other areas, such as the growth of the public administration state, drug prohibition, overcriminalization, the prison-industrial complex, etc. Taxes are more pervasive than they once were but aggregate wealth is also higher.

On an institutional level, we also see changes that create zones of autonomy periodically (for example, the American Revolution’s institutionalization of Enlightenment ideas like church/state separation or freedom of the press in the First Amendment or the Fifth Amendment ban on compulsory self-incrimination).

On a more macro-level, we also find societies both historically and contemporarily where the levels of liberty are certainly higher when compared to others. Authoritarian institutions tend to evaporate once they lose their legitimacy and popular consent is withdrawn. The collapse of the Communist parties in the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact is an obvious example.

It’s possible for liberty to both expand and contract. Too many libertarians get caught up in “end of history” scenarios where the libertarian “last man” reigns forever. Real change is incremental, sporadic, intermittent, and often paradoxical, cyclical, or random.

Of course, it is possible for civilization-wide paradigm shifts to take place as well. It may be that at some point in the future the consensus of popular opinion will reject the state and other authoritarian institutions in the same way that the Abrahamic religions eventually superseded the older pagan religions or that the Enlightenment superseded Christendom.

By Peter R. Quinones

Just give it up already. Those who are holding onto the dream that the LP will be able to wield any significant political, or cultural power have not thought this through. An ideology of non-aggression and voluntary interactions has no place in the political sphere unless they are willing to become like the other two parties. Their message is that we are not like them. It is one of incompatibility when it comes to Machiavellian power structures.

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Constructing Anarchisms—Philosophy Reply

Anarchist News

Survey courses are peculiar things, particularly when they address subjects of more than just passing interest. The construction of a survey always seems to involve at least some claim regarding the exemplary nature of the materials chosen. And if we were more certain about the character and extent of the anarchist tradition, we would expect a historical survey to take us, rather neatly, from milepost to milepost along the path of growing ideological clarity. But it’s hard to spend any time discussing history and theory with other anarchists—and I spend hours nearly every day—without recognizing that anarchy, anarchism and the anarchist tradition are all things that we struggle with, constantly, without necessarily making much headway in the process.

It is likely that anarchism—as a general, shareable project, not built from the elevation of certain consistently anarchistic concerns above others—still eludes all of us, to one extent or another. It is even possible that it always will, that anarchy is, as William Batchelder Greene put it, a blazing star that constantly retreats as we pursue it. In “The Anarchist Tension,” Alfred Bonanno argued something similar about “being an anarchist:”

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How Many Americans Are About to Die? Reply

By,The Atlantic

The United States has made huge advances in fighting the coronavirus. The astonishingly high death rates the country saw during the spring have fallen, and Americans are much more likely now than they were then to survive a COVID-19 hospitalization. New treatments have, in some cases, helped speed recovery—President Donald Trump has trumpeted his own bout with the virus as proof that there is a “cure” for the illness. (There is not.) These developments have given Americans the impression that no matter how high cases surge, deaths might not reach the heights of the spring.

But the truth is grimmer. The story people want to believe about how much treatments have improved in recent months does not hold up to quantitative scrutiny.

The U.S. health-care system has not reduced the deadliness of the coronavirus since July, according to a new estimate by a prominent COVID-19 researcher, which accounts for the lags in public reporting of cases and deaths. Instead, the virus has, with ruthless regularity, killed at least 1.5 percent of all Americans diagnosed with COVID-19 over the past four months.

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Dear Orange Man Bad: An Open Letter From the Enemy of Your Enemy Reply

By Nicky Reid aka Comrade Hermit

Exile in Happy Valley

Well, winter is coming with a vengeance and I’m guessing that you’re feeling pretty bummed. I’ve noticed the dayglo orange has drained from your cheeks and your once histrionic tirades have taken on all the petty melodrama of a garden variety adolescent hissy fit. And who could blame you? After months of some of the finest race baiting since Willie Horton danced with the devil in the pale moonlight, after what felt like years of a vast Soros funded conspiracy of Black lesbian Bolsheviks and fire breathing Mau Mau flag desecrators coming to put their filthy Marxist fingers all over a daughter near you, even the excitable suburban soccer moms have agreed that they’d rather spend the next four years with a disintegrating fossil like Biden than the next four minutes with you. Tough blow motherfucker! And usually that would be all I have left to say to a glorified chatroom troll getting his comeuppance but, believe it or not, the two of us have something in common and I think it might just be something worth looking into.

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R.I.P. Infoshop, 1995-2020 Reply

Infoshop was the longest-running left-anarchist site on the web. It had been around almost as long as the Internet has been available for public use.  However, its archives remain available. The following article by the recently deceased left-anarchist David Graeber on “The Twilight of Vanguardism” is interesting.

“The Twilight of Vanguardism”

By David Graeber, Infoshop

This essay was delivered as a keynote address during the “History Matters: Social Movements Past, Present, and Future” conference at the New School for Social Research (www.newschool.edu/gf/historymatters for more information).

Revolutionary thinkers have been saying that the age of vanguardism is over for most of a century now. Outside of a handful of tiny sectarian groups, it’s almost impossible to find a radical intellectuals seriously believe that their role should be to determine the correct historical analysis of the world situation, so as to lead the masses along in the one true revolutionary direction. But (rather like the idea of progress itself, to which it’s obviously connected), it seems much easier to renounce the principle than to shake the accompanying habits of thought. Vanguardist, even, sectarian attitudes have become deeply ingrained in academic radicalism it’s hard to say what it would mean to think outside them.

The depth of the problem first really struck me when I first became acquainted with the consensus modes of decision-making employed in North American anarchist and anarchist-inspired political movements, which, in turn, bore a lot of similarities to the style of political decision-making current where I had done my anthropological fieldwork in rural Madagascar.

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Second Wave: Another Lockdown, Another Rebellion What the Riots around Southern Europe Tell Us about the Pandemic and the State Reply

It’s good to see that Crimethinc recognizes that opposition to medical martial law is not just some crazy right-wing idea. It’s happening in countries that are much further “left” than the USA. Many left-wing anarchists have seriously dropped the ball on this question, just as many right-wing anarchists dropped the ball in response to the lumpenproletarian insurrection over the summer.

Crimethinc

In the United States, liberal opposition to Donald Trump’s bid for reelection crystalized around his response to the COVID-19 pandemic, with millions charging that his government has not done enough to contain the spread of the virus. Yet in Europe, where governments have taken a more hands-on approach, their efforts have also provoked popular unrest, as the vast majority of their interventions have focused on expanding the power of the police, not extending resources to those struggling to survive the virus and the economic crisis. On the eve of a Biden presidency, we should revisit the question of whether we can trust any government to prioritize human life over capitalism and how we can respond when the government uses the pretext of protecting our lives to intensify social control.

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Cracks on the Right & the Shape of Trumpism to Come Reply

A podcast from It’s Going Down. Some of the analysis is interesting. I wouldn’t consider a Trumpist third party to be “fascist” any more than I would consider the proposed Peoples Party being floated by some left-over Sandernistas to be “communist.” A Trumpist party would be to the left of the Republicans on many issues, and the Peoples Party so far just seems to be Naderite progressive liberalism/social democracy. The only elected official from recent decades that I can think of that could reasonably be considered a fascist was David Duke. While Duke appropriated a lot of conventional Republican rhetoric, his background as a Rockwellite and his efforts to Nazify the KKK in the 1970s qualify him as a genuine fascist, IMO. But all of that is light years away from Trumpism.

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On this episode of This Is America, we jump straight into the discussion, as we look at how things went down at the Millions MAGA March and what this new coalition of Trump supporters, conspiracy theorists, militias, and fascist groups means for the future of Trumpism.

As Trump’s attempts to steal the election hits roadblock after roadblock and continued legal challenges, Trump and his minions keep falling back on the use of conspiracy theories to hold his base together. We discuss how this dynamic is leading to cracks within the existent Trump coalition and why there looms a possible coming split between the GOP and what remains of Trumpism.

What this signals, is that Trump may soon break away and throw his weight behind a media network outside of Fox News, and use that influence to campaign for the Presidency in 2024. While this many effectively split the GOP down the middle, it may also lead to the creation of a genuine fascist third party.

Listen here

Is the Lebanese Civil War the Model for the Next American Civil War? Reply

When looking for historical models for what the next US civil war would look like, there are a number of interesting examples to look at like India and Pakistan during the 1947 partition, Yugoslavia in the early 1990s, or Rwanda in 1994. But the one I keep coming back to is Lebanon in the 1970s and 1980s. The Lebanese civil war was interesting because it pitted dozens of individual factions against each other in constantly shifting alliances with many factions doubling as organized crime groups. The breakdown in Lebanon was mostly along religious lines with Sunni, Shia, Maronites, Druze, and Alawites plus ethnic Armenians, Palestinians, and Communists all fighting each other, and with persistent involvement by the Israelis, Syrians, Iranians, Americans, and Europeans.

I suspect America’s Civil War Two (which hopefully will not happen) would be similar. The USA is roughly 50 times the size of Lebanon in terms of population and geography. It is likely a US civil war would involve dozens if not hundreds of factions at the local, regional, and national level, including the military, police, defectors from state security forces, organizations of the deep state, alphabet soup agencies, far-left and far-right groups of many different varieties, ethnic and religious factions, cults, civilian vigilantes and self-defenders, gangs, militias, and foreign fighters. Not a pleasant situation.

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The Lebanese Civil War (Arabic: الحرب الأهلية اللبنانية‎, romanizedAl-Ḥarb al-Ahliyyah al-Libnāniyyah) was a multifaceted civil war in Lebanon, lasting from 1975 to 1990 and resulting in an estimated 120,000 fatalities.[5] As of 2012, approximately 76,000 people remain displaced within Lebanon.[6] There was also an exodus of almost one million people from Lebanon as a result of the war.[7]

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Is a capitalist-socialist economy inevitable? Reply

In the late 1980s, I used to hang out with a lot of Marxist-types who would talk about how the then-nascent era of globalization would be a return to the 19th century model of class relations. At the time, I figured they were exaggerating, but now I tend to think they were right. Ironically, a lot of these Marxists believed, even then, that the Left had lost its way by focusing of cultural politics rather than the class struggle.

Chris Hedges on the task ahead: Will Biden surrender to plutocrats and paralysis? Reply

To ask the question is to answer it. He was the plutocrats’ handpicked frontman to purge the Orange Man. Hedges is way too much of a conventional liberal ideologue for my tastes, and this interview contains a fair amount of obvious hyperbole, but he’s interesting is that he is far more willing to criticize the “liberal class” than most of his compatriots.

By Chauncey Devega, Salon

Joe Biden is now president-elect of the United States, whether Donald Trump will admit it or not. Biden won the 2020 election by at least 5 million votes, and received the most votes of any presidential candidate in American history. Joe Biden also won the highest percentage of the popular vote as a challenger since Franklin D. Roosevelt defeated Herbert Hoover in the 1932 election.

When Biden (presumably) takes office in January 2021, he will face formidable obstacles and lofty expectations. Even now, he faces the resistance of the Trump regime and its supporters, who have refused to accept the fact that Donald Trump has clearly been defeated both in the popular vote and the Electoral College.

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The Republican Party’s future: Being terrorized by its unhinged base Reply

So Republicans and Democrats share a similar future. Fair enough. The encouraging thing that has happened on the mainstream right-wing lately has been the signs of a split between FOX and the Trumpists and talk of a Trump TV network. Being a persistent thorn in the side to the neocons and their mouthpieces is a way Trump really could perform a “public service.”

By Paul Waldman, Washington Post

When President Trump finally leaves office on Jan. 20, he will bequeath to Joe Biden a disaster to rival those any president has faced: a raging pandemic, an economy still in crisis, a federal government degraded and demoralized. Just digging out of the mess will be a challenge for the ages.

Meanwhile, Trump’s party will have a straightforward task: As they did with President Barack Obama, the Republicans will try to obstruct whatever Biden might want to do, sabotage the economic recovery if they can and generally do whatever is in their power to make him fail. But as they do so, they are likely to be riven by another echo of the Obama years: an internal conflict pitting the party’s angriest elements against an elite they will declare to be insufficiently devoted to the cause.

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Despite Media Blackout – The Elections Proved Americans Are Done With The Drug War Reply

The changes that these victorious state and local initiatives represent are less than 1% of what needs to be done regarding the so-called “criminal justice system.” But it represents a major turning of the tides. This is arguably the most important libertarian moment since the draft was ended in the Vietnam era.

By Lee Camp, Counterpunch

Something seismic happened in this election and it has nothing to do with Joe Biden winning. And yes, Joe Biden did indeed win. I’m sorry for those of you Trump fans who believe the election was rigged against him. It simply wasn’t.

Yes, millions of Americans were indeed purged from the voter rolls – but they were mostly people of color. So if MAGA Nation are waiting for those votes to be counted, then Trump will actually do even worse. And I honestly don’t care if you’re thinking, “But I saw a video on Tik-Tok of someone burning a ballot and then smothering it in hot sauce and eating it.” That doesn’t mean 50,000 votes were switched in Nevada. I saw a video on Twitter of a guy who could shoot laser beams out of his urethra—that doesn’t make it REAL! …And before you ask – Yes, he used his power to fight crime.

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Marijuana Legalization Got More Votes Than Trump, Biden And Other Officials In Multiple States Reply

Those of us with libertarian-inclined political leanings were the real winners in the 2020 election. The “war on drugs,” along with general overcriminalization is probably the most extreme form of statism that exists in the modern United States, at least on a large scale.

By Kyle Jaeger

The 2020 election showed yet again that marijuana legalization has widespread, bipartisan appeal. And the mainstream nature of the issue is demonstrated clearly when comparing the support that cannabis reform got at the ballot box this month to that brought in by major candidates for president, Senate and other offices.

In a year that saw the highest level of voter turnout in American history—in no small part due to the heated presidential race where the incumbent was oustedcannabis legalization ballot measures were approved in red and blue states, proving to be more popular than many candidates seeking to represent those jurisdictions.

In most cases, candidates who were outperformed by marijuana at the polls declined to endorse the reform ahead of the election—perhaps something that politicians in states where cannabis is on the ballot in 2022 will take note of.

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Power & Panic: The Last Days for Christian Nationalism Reply

This is a pretty good critique of the “flag and a pie and a mom and a Bible” crowd. Although it’s obvious weakness is that it fails to take totalitarian humanism and its relationship to the digital capitalist revolution seriously. “Christian nationalists” are a minority political faction in the US that do not reflect the views of the general power elite, even if they are sometimes used as useful idiots by factions within the power elite.

Seth Andrews addresses the rise (and impending fall) of American Christian Nationalism.