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Laissez Fairyland — Making the Intangible Less Tangential

3:01 pm in Uncategorized by Anti-Capitalist Meetup

by Annieli

Here we present a simple solution to see that a fad is the result of the same type of behavior that causes any other good to be purchased. It is the characteristic of the good, and the interaction of the various agents with their neighbors that causes the peculiar pattern of behavior that is called fad.

ReaganomicsIs Reaganism such a good and as a commodity is its commodity fetishism available for analysis beyond its intangible assets. Yet Reaganism is tangible and attempts to memorialize the commodity extend materially far beyond the cinematic and the televisual nature of the Great Communicator. The fad of VooDoo(sic) Economics is a useful example of how to discuss intangible assets as forms of virtual capital. The production and reproduction of the Reaganist myth is its own market. Its production of character/reputation and trust/reciprocity is of course legendary and its diffusion to the North American form of teabaggery continues with the institutional support of right-wing venture capital like the Kochs.

In the United States, commentators frequently equate supply-side economics with Reaganomics. The fiscal policies of Ronald Reagan were largely based on supply-side economics. During Reagan’s 1980 presidential campaign, the key economic concern was double digit inflation, which Reagan described as “Too many dollars chasing too few goods,” but rather than the usual dose of tight money, recession and layoffs, with their consequent loss of production and wealth, he promised a gradual and painless way to fight inflation by “producing our way out of it”.

An example of fad economics occurred in 1980, when a small group of economists advised Presidential candidate, Ronald Reagan, that an across-the-board cut in income tax rates would raise tax revenue. They argued that if people could keep a higher fraction of their income, people would work harder to earn more income. Even though tax rates would be lower, income would rise by so much, they claimed, that tax revenues would rise. Almost all professional economists, including most of those who supported Reagan’s proposal to cut taxes, viewed this outcome as far too optimistic. Lower tax rates might encourage people to work harder and this extra effort would offset the direct effects of lower tax rates to some extent, but there was no credible evidence that work effort would rise by enough to cause tax revenues to rise in the face of lower tax rates. … People on fad diets put their health at risk but rarely achieve the permanent weight loss they desire. Similarly, when politicians rely on the advice of charlatans and cranks, they rarely get the desirable results they anticipate. After Reagan’s election, Congress passed the cut in tax rates that Reagan advocated, but the tax cut did not cause tax revenues to rise.

As against this, the commodity-form, and the value-relation of the products of labour within which it appears, have absolutely no connection with the physical nature of the commodity and the material relations arising out of this. It is nothing but the definite social relation between men themselves which assumes here, for them, the fantastic form of a relation between things. In order, therefore, to find an analogy we must take flight into the misty realm of religion. There the products of the human brain appear as autonomous figures endowed with a life of their own, which enter into relations both with each other and with the human race. So it is in the world of commodities with the products of men’s hands. I call this the fetishism which attaches itself to the products of labour as soon as they are produced as commodities, and is therefore inseparable from the production of commodities. — Karl Marx, Capital, Volume I

As one can perhaps see, the transgressive role of the State in the struggle among classes will become the key problem for making this critique work as will the impending institutional arrangements making that State ubiquitous and global.

In this present crisis, government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem. — Ronald Reagan

Reaganism was a political perspective in the United States based on a friendly-seeming, grandfatherly-type ex-actor telling us that government could do no good, and then proceeding to become the head of the executive branch of the United States government, drastically expanding the public debt as he saw fit. Why anyone believed it is beyond us.

Prominent lies promoted by Mr. Reagan include:

  • The “free market” is always more efficient than the government at providing solutions to problems. (See universal health care)
  • The “government” is incapable of solving a country’s problems (See Hurricane Katrina)
  • Some woman somewhere on welfare had a Cadillac and a color TV. (He made this up).
  • Hardworking blue collar Americans should hate suffering poor Americans for eating their tax dollars instead of working their asses off for giant corporations themselves. (See trade union)
  • The “rich” are a beleaguered and overtaxed suffering demographic. (Who pay well for political campaigns!)

In Britain, there was a very similar political movement referred to as “Thatcherism,” named for the Iron Lady who advocated the same principles. The impact of this was slightly less than that of the States.

In Marxist philosophy, however, the term Cultural Hegemony describes the domination of a culturally diverse society by the ruling class, who manipulate the culture of the society — the beliefs, explanations, perceptions, values, and mores — so that their ruling-class worldview becomes the worldview that is imposed and accepted as the cultural norm; as the universally valid dominant ideology that justifies the social, political, and economic status quo as natural, inevitable, perpetual and beneficial for everyone, rather than as artificial social constructs that benefit only the ruling class

We live in a Tea (Party) service economy

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Anti-Capitalist Meetup: “History repeats itself, first as tragedy, second as farce.” by Annieli

2:44 pm in Uncategorized by Anti-Capitalist Meetup

“Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?” (Who watches the watchers) Juvenal

Recently, a US rancher with unfortunate racist and fascist tendencies came to the attention of US media with unfortunate consequences but an interesting discourse path. I won’t repeat those issues here except to note that the concerns on which this dispute hinged were issues of common-pool resources. Those are publicly owned assets used by that rancher under a contractual agreement to pay for those property rights to the tune of $1 million. In this case the rancher refused on anachronistic ideological grounds to pay those fees with the contradictory premise that his citizenship beliefs were historically special and autonomously sovereign and therefore exempt from the obligations to his original contract. The Rancher was first lionized by conservative media as a hero resisting an “overreaching” oppressive federal state by privileging the authority of the local state but at this moment in the dispute and due to various public statements and further investigation is now seen as more of a pariah engaged in social banditry. The rancher was contesting issues of exclusion or exclusivity especially in terms of the right to claim rents owed for the contract with the Bureau of Land Management. As Ellickson (1991) has noted, much of the issues are less about land than they are about negotiation as constituitive communication or the social construction of rights.

The right to the city is not the right to the country much as libertarianism has no clear boundaries to what counts as wealth. In the case of Western grazing rights, matters of land and domain become more complicated just as eminence gains greater value as demographic values become less symmetrical. What is being contested are environmental resource rights which as ecological crisis shows us is non-excludable, however, they become reified and therefore excludable in the space of judicial discourse.

There is a line of thinking that leads to Lefebvre and his notion of the “right to the city” as the right that includes and combines all rights. This right is not a matter of access to city spaces (although we should not underestimate specific struggles for free access to parks, etc.), it is not simply a matter of being able to have your own house and the assets that are needed to support your own life, it is something which includes all those demands but also goes beyond them by creating a higher level of the commons. For Lefebvre the right to the city is the right to create the city as a collective work of art. The city, thus, can be produced through encounters that make room for new meanings, new values, new dreams, new collective experiences. And this is indeed a way to transcend pure utility, a way to see commons beyond the utilitarian horizon

This may be an example of what Massimo De Angelis calls a “new enclosure” in that its virtual capital value as mediated political/social capital and its land rent value while connected contain differing versions of capital formation particularly in the differences among use and exchange values. In this Nevada case most recently discussed, the adjudication of self-management for the common-property regime breaks down as competing ideological interests appropriate the message of cultural capital whether for anti-statist activism under some fictive militia meme, or main-stream media corporations looking to procure higher ratings from some core constituency in a low-information audience of reactionaries. The fissures in this discourse have emerged only recently as the character representations of the rancher’s own history have become known. Any possibility of creating a “higher level of the commons” available as a common-property regime defined democratically only an hour’s drive from Las Vegas seems bleak at best given the levels of political and social capital contesting for dominance and using a variety of social media.

Common-pool resources may be owned by national, regional or local governments as public goods, by communal groups as common property resources, or by private individuals or corporations as private goods. When they are owned by no one, they are used as open access resources. Having observed a number of common pool resources throughout the world, Elinor Ostrom noticed that a number of them are governed by common property regimes — arrangements different from private property or state administration — based on self-management by a local community. Her observations contradict claims that common-pool resources should be privatized or else face destruction in the long run due to collective action problems leading to the overuse of the core resource.

Many variations of this have been discussed here before in terms of alternative organizational arrangements: collectives, worker-ownership of firms, and cooperatives.

Massimo De Angelis: My interest in the commons is grounded in a desire for the conditions necessary to promote social justice, sustainability, and happy lives for all. As simple as that. These are topics addressed by a large variety of social movements across the world that neither states nor markets have been able to tackle, and for good reasons. State policies in support of capitalist growth are policies that create just the opposite conditions of those we seek, since they promote the working of capitalist markets. The latter in turn reproduce socio-economic injustices and hierarchical divisions of power, environmental catastrophes and stressed-out and alienated lives. Especially against the background of the many crises that we are facing today—starting from the recent global economic crisis, and moving to the energy and food crises, and the associated environmental crisis—thinking and practicing the commons becomes particularly urgent….

The discourse on the commons relates to Marxist thinking in different ways. In the first place, there is the question of interpreting Marx’s theory of primitive accumulation. In one of the final chapters of volume one of Capital, Marx discusses the process of expropriation and dispossession of commoners, which he refers to as “primitive accumulation,” understood as the process that creates the precondition of capitalist development by separating people from their means of production. In sixteenth- to eighteenth-century England, this process became known as “enclosure”—the enclosure of common land by the landed nobility in order to use the land for wool production. The commons in these times, however, formed an essential basis for the livelihood of communities. They were fundamental elements for people’s reproduction, and this was the case not only in Britain, but all around the world. People had access to the forest to collect wood, which was crucial for cooking, for heating, for a variety of things. They also had access to common grassland to graze their own livestock. The process of enclosure meant fencing off those areas to prevent people from having access to these common resources. This contributed to mass poverty among the commoners, to mass migration and mass criminalization, especially of the migrants. These processes are pretty much the same today all over the world. Back then, this process created on the one hand the modern proletariat, with a high dependence on the wage for its reproduction, and the accumulation of capital necessary to fuel the industrial revolution on the other.

Marx has shown how, historically, primitive accumulation was a precondition of capitalist development. One of the key problems of the subsequent Marxist interpretations of primitive accumulation, however, is the meaning of “precondition.” The dominant understanding within the Marxist literature—apart from a few exceptions like Rosa Luxemburg—has always involved considering primitive accumulation as a precondition fixed in time: dispossession happens before capitalist accumulation takes place. After that, capitalist accumulation can proceed, exploiting people perhaps, but with no need to enclose commons since these enclosures have already been established. From the 1980s onwards, the profound limitations of this interpretation became obvious. Neoliberalism was rampaging around the world as an instrument of global capital. Structural adjustment policies, imposed by the IMF (International Monetary Fund), were promoting enclosures of “commons” everywhere: from community land and water resources to entitlements, to welfare benefits and education; from urban spaces subject to new pro-market urban design and developments to rural livelihoods threatened by the “externalities” of environmentally damaging industries, to development projects providing energy infrastructures to the export processing zones. These are the processes referred to by the group Midnight Notes Collective as “new enclosures.”...

Furthermore, it is important to note that the problem of the commons cannot be simply described as a question of self-interest versus common interests. Often, the key problem is how individual interests can be articulated in such a way as to constitute common interests. This is the question of commoning and of community formation, a big issue that leads to many open questions. Within Marxism, there is generally a standard way to consider the question of common interests: these are given by the “objective” conditions in which the “working class” finds itself vis-à-vis capital as the class of the exploited. A big limitation of this standard interpretation is that “objectivity” is always an inter-subjective agreement. The working class itself is fragmented into a hierarchy of powers, often in conflicts of interest with one another, conflicts materially reproduced by the workings of the market. This means that common interests cannot be postulated, they can only be constructed. Link The

The Commons tragedy is a myth in the 21st Century and embodied in this dispute, with the most bizarre elements and participants ranging from sinophobic conspiracy theories to the militaristic fetishism of apocalyptic end-times enthusiasts

As Karl Marx wrote, nature requires long cycles of birth, development and regeneration, but capitalism requires short-term returns.

“[T]he entire spirit of capitalist production, which is oriented towards the most immediate monetary profits, stands in contradiction to agriculture, which has to concern itself with the whole gamut of permanent conditions of life required by the chain of human generations. A striking illustration of this is furnished by the forests, which are only rarely managed in a way more or less corresponding to the interests of society as a whole …” (Marx 1998: 611n)

In the current situation, a microcosm of the historical land disputes that have defined the US, all we are left with his a series of conflicts that while interesting from a law enforcement perspective, contribute nothing to the commons or community discourse necessary for a modern democracy. Depending on the regime in Washington DC, the environment is a contestable terrain for stewardship labeled variously as exploitation or wise-use. In the role of a tragic actor, an older man whose violation of law and a legal contract has been manipulated and appropriated by a host of interests we are left with a parody of the commons where the rancher cannot withhold anything and the state is paralyzed by low-information thresholds, while trust and reciprocity come from the barrels of firearms, truly The Comedy of the Commons

9:48 AM PT: This got published at the wrong time 3am instead of 3pm because of the DK system update that locked me out at 935pm yesterday. Minor edits have been made.

Anti-Capitalist Meet-Up: The Media Landscape After the Culture War by Annieli

3:34 pm in Uncategorized by Anti-Capitalist Meetup

Every war seems permanent as does every revolution until it ends which requires much in the way of interpreting rather than explaining the victory to the vanquished, even in mediated spaces that can digitally define cultural landscapes. How possible is it to consider Walter Benjamin‘s point on the failure of historical materialism “To articulate the past historically does not mean to recognize it ‘the way it really was.’ It means to seize hold of a memory as it flashes up at a moment of danger”? More specifically how do we treat cultural danger as presented in the meme of “Culture War” and how can we incorporate Marxist analysis to remediate or reconcile the memories that emerge in momentary crisis that obscure the critically real history embodied and assess their actual danger or risk. Landscapes have that same problem of memory, as actual experience of an expansive and contemplative view of a world or as saved representations of concrete and abstract journeys through those same worlds. The first is individually ontological whereas the latter is a social ontology representing and reproducing an historical relationship to others in a cultural context. Both involve human labor at various scales but it is the crises of value and meaning assigned to those experiences that inform global discourses of war and environment on an unprecedented scale and scope. Today’s culture wars find themselves waging these combative discourses in a media landscape or Medienlandschaft.

The phrase culture war represents a loan translation (calque) from the German Kulturkampf. The German word, Kulturkampf, was used to describe the clash between cultural and religious groups in the campaign from 1871 to 1878 under Chancellor Otto von Bismarck of the German Empire against the influence of the Roman Catholic Church. In American usage the term culture war is used to claim that there is a conflict between those values considered traditionalist or conservative and those considered progressive or liberal. It originated in the 1920s when urban and rural American values came into clear conflict. This followed several decades of immigration to the cities by people considered alien to earlier immigrants. It was also a result of the cultural shifts and modernizing trends of the Roaring 20s, culminating in the presidential campaign of Al Smith. However, the “culture war” in United States of America was redefined by James Davison Hunter’s 1991 book Culture Wars: The Struggle to Define America. In this work, it is traced to the 1960s. The perceived focus of the American culture war and its definition have taken various forms since then.

“The tradition of the oppressed teaches us that the ‘state of emergency’ in which we live is not the exception but the rule. We must attain to a conception of history that is in keeping with this insight. Then we shall clearly realize that it is our task to bring about a real state of emergency, and this will improve our position in the struggle against Fascism. One reason why Fascism has a chance is that in the name of progress its opponents treat it as a historical norm. The current amazement that the things we are experiencing are ‘still’ possible in the twentieth century is not philosophical. This amazement is not the beginning of knowledge–unless it is the knowledge that the view of history which gives rise to it is untenable.” Walter Benjamin (1940)

In such historical landscapes who are “cultural workers” and what does cultural work as contrasted with cultural objects look like, is it different of the same as all kinds of work and what kinds of value does it produce or more directly can individuals produce “particular kinds of independent and critical reflexivity modelled on the autonomy of the work of art” (Bennett 2011, and Bennett 2009) Societies exist in such landscapes and their collective experiences are often organized or reproduced as mass spectacles, either actual or mediated and consumed in a variety of ways, often driven by tragedy or circumstance.

A well-ordered society would like the bodies which compose it to have the perceptions, sensations and thoughts which correspond to them. Now this correspondence is perpetually disturbed. There are words and discourses which freely circulate, without master, and which divert bodies from their destinations, engaging them in movements in the neighbourhood of certain words: people, liberty, equality, etc. There are spectacles which disassociate the gaze from the hand and transform the worker into an aesthete.

What kinds of spectacles effect these transformations? Do they bear a family resemblance to the manufacturing of consent where spectacles include all forms of mediated politics and of course the intersecting claims of “entertainment” as with Limbaugh the entertainer (“Okay, so I am an entertainer, and I have 20 million listeners”) as a form of reactionary cultural work. It would be easy to say the following if we could identify the “concrete historical context” and since there are multiple mediations, how would a dialectical method of analysis explain rather than merely interpret such products of culture with multiple tropes of cultural war contesting for domination.

In short, mass-mediated products are determined by various factors—the systems of ownership, the process of cultural production, the level of struggle, the state of consciousness in society at a given time, and so on. A dialectical method of analysis would involve studying all these factors within a concrete historical context so as to explain the multiple mediations that infuse a product of culture

For example, while dystopian, there are multiple ideologies at work in the following example of spectacular speculation where doomsday prepping and its media representations are in reality a capitalist industry that exploits the potential danger of refugees coming from cities to attack rural preppers in a variety of romanticized post-apocalypse scenarios. These narratives have a burgeoning market appealing to a variety of religious and political secessionists all with disposable income or transferable construction skills for survival. They become amplified by the seasonal and media driven rise in firearms purchases. All of these actions represent desires for a kind of aesthetic autonomy, however driven by social underdevelopment.

Ron Douglas, for example, has gathered enough supplies to keep his eight person family (two parents, six children) functioning off the grid for a year. His supplies can be broken into four categories: food, energy, shelter, and protection. He’s become such an expert that he is one of the founders of Red Shed Media Group, a business that organizes Prepper expos (40,000 attendees at $10 a person), has a hugely popular podcast radio program, and owns the rights to successful survivalist books.

Under the fold the concrete becomes either more wet or more abstract.

Reproducing the fears of world wars and post-war nuclear holocaust remains a goal for many interest groups whether as video game or end-times political rhetoric and overdetermines as well as oversimplifies the dialectical conflicts by reifying a variety of Others. Predatory capitalism makes these fearsome representations of social life a means for stimulating the production of cultural capital. Spectacles help to mobilize the markets for the consumption of fear as mediated crises promote both the consumption of political capital and commodity fetishism. Such narratives become their own algorithmic commodity in a vast online war-gaming world. Imagining a post-apocalyptic world from one’s living room or basement implies a view of everyday life that returns the survivors to amore primordial “state of nature” even here represented as a prepper video game,

Are these Guy Debord‘s spectacles where “The Spectacle corresponds to the historical moment at which the commodity completes its colonisation of social life.” “Just as baroque culture created the spectacle as a means of suborning mass populations in order to induce them into conformity through pleasure, so the modern world of consumerism can also be seen as a spectacle.”…”In all its specific manifestations – news or propaganda, advertising or the actual consumption of entertainment – the spectacle epitomises the prevailing model of social life.”

Mediation in Marxist theory refers to the reconciliation of two opposing forces within a given society (i.e. the cultural and material realms, or the superstructure and base) by a mediating object. Similar to this, within media studies the central mediating factor of a given culture is the medium of communication itself. The popular conception of mediation refers to the reconciliation of two opposing parties by a third, and this is similar to its meaning in both Marxist theory and media studies. For Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, this mediating factor is capital or alternately labor, depending on how one views capitalist society (capital is the dominant mediating factor, but labor is another mediating factor that could overthrow capital as the most important one).

To give a concrete example of this, a worker making shoes in a shoe factory is not only producing shoes, but potential exchange-value. The shoes are commodities that can be sold for cash. In this way, the value of the labor of the worker is the exchange-value of the shoes he or she produces minus his or her compensation. At the same time, however, the shoes produced have certain social or cultural values as well. If they are Nikes, for example, they may symbolize athletic prowess and style. In this way, the worker’s labor is mediating between the economic or exchange-value of the shoes, and their social or cultural, or symbolic value.

In the 19th Century shoe making was not unlike gun-making in the relatively small scale workshops that become eventually enlarged after wars and under Fordist production but ultimate outsourced in the latter part of the 20th Century as post-Fordism

Van Gogh and Warhol

This question of the social distribution of cultural practices in the 21st Century is not so dissimilar to the issues addressed by William Morris in the 19th Century. In the nineteenth Century the fear of industrialization and the decline in the quality of consumer goods created fragmentation in cultural work where design may have been seen as a remedy to dehumanization in industrial organization as well as the means for improving everyday life. The onset of larger scale national conflict created greater millennialist fears. Movements like the Arts & Crafts movements attempted to improve production by focusing on the quality of smaller batch production and to serve as exemplars for reforming the production process. A variety of idealisms are associated with this including a desire to replicate earlier modes of artisanal production such as those preceding the ear of the Renaissance artist Raphael.

Thomas Cole Destruction of Empire from the The Course of Empire (5 parts) 1836

The Arts and Crafts movement exists in overlapping parallel with
pre-raphaelitism in the latter half of the nineteenth Century to resist the tendencies of quality decline in the production of upper-class consumer goods since the prior century. The latter embraced the identification with a romanticized mode of production primarily due to the proliferation of narratives reviving a variety of genres sympathetic to the increased alienation of individuals in a early modern society.

The principles were deliberately non-dogmatic, since the pre-raphaelite brotherhood wished to emphasise the personal responsibility of individual artists to determine their own ideas and methods of depiction. Influenced by Romanticism, the members thought freedom and responsibility were inseparable. Nevertheless, they were particularly fascinated by medieval culture, believing it to possess a spiritual and creative integrity that had been lost in later eras. The emphasis on medieval culture clashed with principles of realism which stress the independent observation of nature.

Apocalyptic thinking in the 19th Century was at one level a consciousness of modernism and industrialization whose resistance was less machine breaking than understanding the conflict between the social organization of labor and the creation of surplus value and at another as economic development and urbanization promote new forms of consumer culture. So was Morris a DFH? Perhaps but as a political activist he embodied the concerns both for social change and a reconsideration of the role of the artist as a cultural worker in an age of mechanical reproduction where a broader understanding of the role of capital was necessary.

From a later perspective, Stansky concludes that:
Morris’s views on the environment, on preserving what is of value in both the natural and “built” worlds, on decentralising bloated government, are as significant now as they were in Morris’s own time, or even more so. Earlier in the twentieth century, much of his thinking, particularly its political side, was dismissed as sheer romanticism. After the Second World War, it appeared that modernisation, centralisation, industrialism, rationalism – all the faceless movements of the time – were in control and would take care of the world. Today, when we have a keen sense of the shambles of their efforts, the suggestions which Morris made in his designs, his writings, his actions and his politics have new power and relevance.

In ‘Tomorrow: A Peaceful Path to Real Reform’ (1898), Howard argued that the poverty and slum conditions suffered by many living in late Victorian Britain could be alleviated by building ‘garden cities’. These were to combine the best features of the town and country

Mass cultural consumption makes its workers into aesthetes and the arcade as a prototypical shopping mall facilitates that transformation in the urban context, a situation which has not changed as the Modern age has moved from the trade among regional market centers to broader markets for consumption and larger divisions of labor. We trace an ambulatory path through these new sites for consumption that are now documented by our cell phones.

The arcades are, certainly, a “primordial landscape of consumption” – temples of the commodity, with their seductively displayed, endlessly varied wares: “binoculars and flower seeds, screws and musical scores, makeup and stuffed vipers, fur coats and revolvers”. They were created for purposes of profit, or indeed sheer speculation, offering the buildings’ owners unrivalled financial opportunities by concentrating so many rent-paying undertakings within a small space. Seen from one point of view, then, they are archetypal manifestations of the expanding market economy – creations of private enterprise and sources of profit, and most certainly not part of any public works project. The goods displayed are commodities – objects existing for profit above utility, manifestations of exchange value rather than use value: for Benjamin, they participate in the “fetishism of the commodity”, the mystificatory conversion of human-made products into objects of irrational worship, which Marx classically analysed and denounced in the first volume of Capital. link

These are the spectacular sites of transformation an idealized place for Marx’s view of commodity fetishism now made more abstract by online capital exchange and mediated by spectacles for consumption as in the Superbowl advertising that depends on remediation for its effect in an advert that was aired only once

As against this, the commodity-form, and the value-relation of the products of labour within which it appears, have absolutely no connection with the physical nature of the commodity and the material relations arising out of this. It is nothing but the definite social relation between men themselves which assumes here, for them, the fantastic form of a relation between things. In order, therefore, to find an analogy we must take flight into the misty realm of religion. There the products of the human brain appear as autonomous figures endowed with a life of their own, which enter into relations both with each other and with the human race. So it is in the world of commodities with the products of men’s hands. I call this the fetishism which attaches itself to the products of labour as soon as they are produced as commodities, and is therefore inseparable from the production of commodities.
— Karl Marx, Capital, Volume I

Hyperrealism and hypercapitalism creates as did the mass production of print media in the 19 Century created new consumer markets and so does the digital networking of information at the 20th-21st Century. Media is no longer about medium in plurality but the praxis of mediation and remediation in more complex networks.

all mediation is remediation. We are not claiming this as an a priori truth, but rather arguing that at this extended historical moment, all current media function as remediators and that remediation offers us a means of interpreting the work of earlier media as well. Our culture conceives of each medium or constellation of media as it responds to, redeploys, competes with, and reforms other media. In the first instance, we may think of something like a historical progression, of newer media remediating older ones and in particular of digital media remediating their predecessors. But ours is a genealogy of affiliations, not a linear history, and in this genealogy, older media can also remediate newer ones

In this sense we are cursed with perhaps endlessly reproducing the sensibilities of genre driven notions of Romanticism as well as a media landscape that requires a more sophisticated understanding of social capital as a type of cultural capital produced and mediated by cultural work.

In The Forms of Capital (1986), Bourdieu distinguishes between three types of Cultural capital: embodied, objectified and institutionalised (Bourdieu, 1986:47). (Later he adds symbolic capital (resources available to an individual on the basis of honor, prestige or recognition) to this list.)

Embodied cultural capital consists of both the consciously acquired and the passively “inherited” properties of one’s self (with “inherited” here used not in the genetic sense but in the sense of receipt over time, usually from the family through socialization, of culture and traditions). Cultural capital is not transmissible instantaneously like a gift or bequest; rather, it is acquired over time as it impresses itself upon one’s habitus (character and way of thinking), which in turn becomes more attentive to or primed to receive similar influences. Linguistic capital, defined as the mastery of and relation to language (Bourdieu, 1990:114), can be understood as a form of embodied cultural capital in that it represents a means of communication and self-presentation acquired from one’s surrounding culture.
Objectified cultural capital consists of physical objects that are owned, such as scientific instruments or works of art. These cultural goods can be transmitted both for economic profit (as by buying and selling them with regard only to others’ willingness to pay) and for the purpose of “symbolically” conveying the cultural capital whose acquisition they facilitate. However, while one can possess objectified cultural capital by owning a painting, one can “consume” the painting (understand its cultural meaning) only if one has the proper foundation of conceptually and/or historically prior cultural capital, whose transmission does not accompany the sale of the painting (except coincidentally and through independent causation, such as when a vendor or broker chooses to explain the painting’s significance to the prospective buyer).
Institutionalized cultural capital consists of institutional recognition, most often in the form of academic credentials or qualifications, of the cultural capital held by an individual. This concept plays its most prominent role in the labor market, in which it allows a wide array of cultural capital to be expressed in a single qualitative and quantitative measurement (and compared against others’ cultural capital similarly measured). The institutional recognition process thereby eases the conversion of cultural capital to economic capital by serving as a heuristic that sellers can use to describe their capital and buyers can use to describe their needs for that capital.

Our barbarism has placed humanity in a more perilous moment in global environmental history threatened not only by nuclear self-annihilation, but by our own mediated ignorance of ecological failure or as Benjamin uses the dialectic:

Dialectical images counter the threat of preservation (tradition) by virtue of the interruptive force they are understood to impart to experience as a consequence of the instantaneous temporality of the now, or what Benjamin famously called now-time [Jetztzeit]: “The dialectical image is an image that emerges suddenly, in a flash” (AP, [N9, 7], 473). It is this image of the image as a ‘flash’ [ein aufblitzendes] and the corresponding image of historical experience as the discharge of an explosive force—the explosive force of now-time, blasting open ‘the continuum of history’—for which Benjamin is probably best known. The philosophy of historical time which these images sum up was elaborated by him in two main contexts: the development of a new conception of cultural history and a political diagnosis of the historical crisis of Europe at the outset of the Second World War. Benjamin did not see culture as threatened by ‘barbarism’, so much as itself being implicated in it:
Barbarism lurks in the very concept of culture—as the concept of a fund of values which is considered independent not, indeed, of the production process in which these values originated, but of the one in which they survive. In this way they serve the apotheosis of the latter, barbaric as it may be. (AP = The Arcades Project, trans. Howard Eiland & Kevin McLaughlin, Cambridge, MA. & London: Belknap Press, 1999. [N5a, 7] 467–8)

As a closing example of how so many of what counts as aesthetic are highly segmented and media information-driven commodities, the notion of a people’s art is reflected upon by two artists influenced by a youth spent in the Soviet Union.

Komar and Melamid’s

Dia Art Centre’s (USA) second artists’ project for the world wide web, begun in 1995, was created by the Russian emigrant artist team Vitaly Komar and Alex Melamid. The Most Wanted paintings, as well as the Least Wanted paintings, reflect the artists’ interpretation of a professional market research survey about aesthetic preferences and taste in painting. Intending to discover what a true “people’s art” would look like, the artists, with the support of the Nation Institute, hired Marttila & Kiley, Inc. to conduct the first poll. In 1994, they began the process which resulted in America’s Most Wanted and America’s Least Wanted paintings, which were exhibited in New York at the Alternative Museum under the title “People’s Choice.”

Anti-Capitalist Meet-Up: 30 June 2013 A Ghost in a Machine walks the Globe by Annieli

2:30 pm in Uncategorized by Anti-Capitalist Meetup

If one can claim that a virtual economy offers increased possibility for revolutionary political change, that change should be measured against more material forms of analysis rather than treating information commodities as epiphenomenal. The tenuous connection between correlation and causation much like the meme of “Voodoo Economics” was treated more lightly and less seriously in a 2010 Bruce Watson piece on zombies and vampires as seasonally or cyclically symptomatic of a national economy:

there appears to be a loose connection between recession cycles and monster movies: zombie films tend to be more popular during boom times, while vampire flicks are ascendant when the economy is bad. As I wrote at the time, this makes a certain sort of symbolic sense: after all, as unthinking consumers, zombies reflect the tone of high-consumption boom times. The more melancholic vampires, on the other hand, suggest buyer’s remorse. While the zombie/vampire recession cycle didn’t always hold true, I found that it had a few interesting connections to the economy. For example, for most of the Reagan spend-till-you-drop 1980′s, zombie films dominated movie theaters. In fact, vampire movies’ only brief moment of ascendence in the decade was in 1987-1988, when a stock market tumble sent the economy into recession. Similarly, in 1991 and 2001, vampire films spiked and zombie films fell behind as recessions struck.

Aside from the doomsday preppers and faux survivalists in Dollywood and Hollywood invoking the fear of a zombie apocalypse as signs of an impending breakdown of urban society double-coded as racism, vampires and zombies can be differentiated by information while serving as cultural commodities in mass media. Vampires are asymmetric information commodities since in media narratives their representations appear conventional at first, whereas zombies are symmetric in that we know them instantly by their appearance. In either case they represent a pathological tipping point where fear trumps rationality and wooden stakes, garlic, holy water and shotguns make their appearance in contemporary film.

In a material context, such contemporary monsters represent the same class fears represented by European revolution in the Nineteenth Century not unlike the colonizers’ fears of the colonized or the contemporary anti-immigrant discourse where Americans ignore the labor history of the bracero and the coolie as invisible, informal Gastarbeiter.

A spectre is haunting Europe – the spectre of communism. All the powers of old Europe have entered into a holy alliance to exorcise this spectre

Marx’s invocation becomes more or less ironic in the post-Soviet period

Spectres de Marx: l’état de la dette, le travail du deuil et la nouvelle Internationale is a 1993 book by French philosopher Jacques Derrida The title Spectres of Marx is an allusion to Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels’ statement at the beginning of The Communist Manifesto that a “spectre [is] haunting Europe.” For Derrida, the spirit of Marx is even more relevant now since the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and the demise of communism. With its death the spectre of communism begins to make visits on the earth. Derrida seeks to do the work of inheriting from Marx, that is, not communism, but of the philosophy of responsibility, and of Marx’s spirit of radical critique.

The philosophy of responsibility may be best represented in the problematic role of information and national security in a virtual surveillance state where Ed Snowden may be a vampire presently in the undead transit lounge of a Russian airport, avoiding the cleansing hot light of sunshine law. The disclosure of information asymmetrically held by a democratic state committed to a public sphere operates in contradiction to its multinational, geopolitical obligations.

Capital is dead labour, that, vampire-like, only lives by sucking living labour, and lives the more, the more labour it sucks. The time during which the labourer works, is the time during which the capitalist consumes the labour-power he has purchased of him. [4] If the labourer consumes his disposable time for himself, he robs the capitalist Link

Virtuality has conditioned all forms of labour to some degree, creating different classes of worker, set against each other, not conscious of the web of virtuality that links them all into a single multitude. That unity is virtual in one sense – a potential that could be activated by virtuality in another sense, the resources of the net.

Come below the squiggle for more “mysterious forces or powers that govern the world and the lives of those who reside within it, but also a range of artistic forms that function in conjunction with these vodun (sic) energies.”

We begin with claims from within contemporary capitalism that there has indeed been a virtual revolution. Is this hyperbole to be taken seriously? How should we situate such claims in a Marxist framework?

a 2005 piece by Bob Hodge and Gabriela Coronado titled FCJ-027 Speculations on a Marxist theory of the Virtual Revolution in the The Fibreculture Journal (ISSN 1449-1443) describes the possibility of solving the problem of concrete versus abstract labor and the co-mingled issues of exchange and use values.

Capitalism has developed a new array of devices to fulfill its old aim, to extract surplus value wherever it can. All these devices to some degree draw on resources of virtuality: “virtual surplus value” makes it easier to appropriate other kinds of surplus value…Yet these are only the dreams of one class, shadows projected onto the screen of virtuality, which has space for many other projections. Outside the camera obscura of capitalist ideology the struggle continues, precarious or strong labour against strong or precarious capital, in a field of struggle unpredictably affected by new technologies of production and information. Virtuality has conditioned all forms of labour to some degree, creating different classes of worker, set against each other, not conscious of the web of virtuality that links them all into a single multitude. That unity is virtual in one sense – a potential that could be activated by virtuality in another sense, the resources of the net. The connections are not being made at the moment, by the real users who are the only ones who could make this grand alliance virtual, and thence real. But will they?

In looking at the original marxological texts, it is useful to compare that contemporary discourse with the mid-Nineteenth Century conception of the same information commodity forms across time and space

Tne cause which acts permanently in differentiating the times of selling, and thus the periods of turnover in general, is the distance of the market in which a commodity is sold from its place of production. During the entire trip to the market, capital finds itself fettered in the state of commodity-capital. If goods are made to order, up to the time of delivery; if they are not made to order, there must be added to the time of the trip to the market the time during which the goods are in the market waiting to be sold. The improvement of the means of communication and transportation cuts down absolutely the wandering period of the commodities but does not eliminate the relative difference in the time of circulation of different commodity-capitals arising from their peregrinations, nor that of different portions of the same commodity-capital which migrate to different markets. For instance the improved sailing vessels and steamships, which shorten travelling, do so equally for near and distant ports. The relative difference remains, although often diminished. But the relative difference may be shifted about by the development of the means of transportation and communication in a way that does not correspond to the geographical distances. Link

Ways where meaning does not correspond to geographic distance can be seen in the motion of the touch screen or the actions of surveillance drones, where the scalability and substitutability of technology can affect the productive forces where superstructure becomes infrastructure.

If we look at the machines which replace the earlier tools, whether those of handicrafts or of manufacture, we find (with the exception of machines whose work itself consists in movement, in changing from one place to another, i.e. transport machines, railways, steamships, etc.) that the part of the machine which actually modifies the material consists for the most part of earlier tools, such as spindles, needles, hammers, saws, planes, shears, scrapers, combs, etc., even if they have received a modified form so that they can function as parts of a mechanism. What mainly distinguishes them is either that what previously appeared as an independent tool now acts merely as one element in a collection of such tools, or that it has taken on much more gigantic dimensions in proportion to the power of the motive force. But the actual task with any mechanism never consists in any more than the conversion of the original movement which is brought about by the motive force into another form, corresponding to the purpose of the labour and imparted to the working machine. Link

The chief means of reducing the time of circulation is improved communications. The last fifty years have brought about a revolution in this field, comparable only with the industrial revolution of the latter half of the 18th century. On land the macadamised road has been displaced by the railway, on sea the slow and irregular sailing vessel has been pushed into the background by the rapid and dependable steamboat line, and the entire globe is being girdled by telegraph wires. The Suez Canal has fully opened East Asia and Australia to steamer traffic. The time of circulation of a shipment of commodities to East Asia, at least twelve months in 1847 (cf. Buch II, S. 235 [English edition: Karl Marx, Capital, Vol. II, pp. 251-52. — Ed.]), has now been reduced to almost as many weeks. The two large centres of the crises of 1825-57, America and India, have been brought from 70 to 90 per cent nearer to the European industrial countries by this revolution in transport, and have thereby lost a good deal of their explosive nature. The period of turnover of the total world commerce has been reduced to the same extent, and the efficacy of the capital involved in it has been more than doubled or trebled. It goes without saying that this has not been without effect on the rate of profit. Link

The effects on profit and subsequent accumulation of surplus value are historically obvious, with the subsequent effect on the globalization and deskilling of labor classes with information commodities adding value in the production of command and control as commodities and subordinating conventional material production in finance capitalism.

Besides the purely technical impediments that are removable by technical means, the irregular habits of the workpeople themselves obstruct the regulation of the hours of labour. This is especially the case where piece-wage predominates, and where loss of time in one part of the day or week can be made good by subsequent over-time, or by night-work, a process which brutalises the adult workman, and ruins his wife and children. [204] Although this absence of regularity in the expenditure of labour-power is a natural and rude reaction against the tedium of monotonous drudgery, it originates, also, to a much greater degree from anarchy in production, anarchy that in its turn pre-supposes unbridled exploitation of labour-power by the capitalist. Besides the general periodic changes of the industrial cycle, and the special fluctuations in the markets to which each industry is subject, we may also reckon what is called “the season,” dependent either on the periodicity of favourable seasons of the year for navigation; or on fashion, and the sudden placing of large orders that have to be executed in the shortest possible time. The habit of giving such orders becomes more frequent with the extension of railways and telegraphs.
“The extension of the railway system throughout the country has tended very much to encourage giving short notice. Purchasers now come up from Glasgow, Manchester, and Edinburgh once every fortnight or so to the wholesale city warehouses which we supply, and give small orders requiring immediate execution, instead of buying from stock as they used to do. Years ago we were always able to work in the slack times, so as to meet demand of the next season, but now no one can say beforehand what will be the demand then.” [205] Link

Michael Perelman, Information, Social Relations, and the Economics of High Technology (1991) and Allen J. Scott New industrial spaces: Flexible production organization and regional development in North America and Western Europe (1988) are texts discussing the recent role of advanced technology on the backward cost-shifting and globalized disintegration of the flexible “just-in-time” production process.

This apparitional exercise closes with Derrida’s list of contagions that today’s version of a pandemic which is evoked by critically real but mass-mediated, undead monsters, whether Reagan zombies or Bush vampires, makes more than an uncertain sort of “symbolic sense”, where “the spirits of the dead live side by side with the world of the living”.

Derrida’s ten plagues are:

1. Employment has undergone a change of kind, e.g., underemployment and requires ‘another concept’.

2. Deportation of immigrants. Reinforcement of territories in a world of supposed freedom of movement. As in, Fortress Europe and in the number of new walls and barriers being erected around the world, in effect multiplying the “fallen” Berlin Wall manifold.

3. Economic war. Both between countries and between international trade blocs: USA – Japan – Europe.

4. Contradictions of the free market. The undecidable conflicts between protectionism and free trade. The unstoppable flow of illegal drugs, arms, etc..

5. Foreign debt. In effect the basis for mass starvation and demoralisation for developing countries. Often the loans benefiting only a small elite, for luxury items, e.g., cars, air conditioning etc. but being paid back by poorer workers.

6. The arms trade. The inability to control to any meaningful extent trade within the biggest ‘black market’

7. Spread of nuclear weapons. The restriction of nuclear capacity can no longer be maintained by leading states since it is only knowledge and cannot be contained.

8. Inter-ethnic wars. The phantom of mythic national identities fueling tension in semi-developed countries.

9. Phantom-states within organised crime. In particular the non-democratic power gained by drug cartels.

10. International law and its institutions. The hypocrisy of such statutes in the face of unilateral aggression on the part of the economically dominant states. International law is mainly exercised against the weaker nations.

Anti-Capitalist Meetup: We Demand Answers! Why were Occupy Boston Charges Dropped? by UnaSpenser

10:43 am in Uncategorized by Anti-Capitalist Meetup

Author’s Note: Some of this has already been posted in my previous diary. I was asked to write again and include a description of the circumstances of our arrest, the charges, my plea, and some of the process we have been through leading up to this precipitous dropping of charges. While there are those who want to say this is just a matter of incompetence or an overburdened system or laziness, that simply isn’t true here. The press is a willingly manipulated in a calculated system of repressing and dissuading dissent, whistle-blowing and accountability of those in power.

As one of those awaiting trial, I find this whole affair, from illegal arrests, to injurious treatment, to 14 months of harassment via making us show up at multiple hearings, with many delays, to the propagandist stenography of the Boston Globe, to be a heinous abuse of justice.

Please keep reading to learn of the final bit of foul play by our government. They saw the writing on the wall and, once again, they abused their position of power and cheated justice and democracy.

Circumstances of arrest:
On December 10, 2011, the Boston Police Department arrested me for standing on public property. I had been on the property for a few hours prior the arrest. I had been on the property, off and on, for the previous 2 months. I came to Dewey Square – public land owned by the State of Massachusetts and managed by The Greenway Conservancy – to be part of delivering a political message to our government: we the people want justice for what the banks and elite class have perpetrated against this country.

Our message was clear, as is shown by the fact that these protests changed the public discourse. Until Occupy hit the streets, no one was talking about the inequity of power and justice between the 1% and the 99%.

Our message was still needed. Just because people were talking, doesn’t mean the issues were resolved or even being addressed by our government.

So, we had the right to stay in the streets and keep delivering this message.

I don’t believe it makes a difference – as our First Amendment gives us the right to assemble and address our grievances to our government, without any limitations of when and where being put on that right – but, in my case, I was not camping at Dewey Square. I visited one to three times per week.

I want to get back to that First Amendment statement. It is of tantamount importance that we all remember that it is our right to assemble and to speak out, at our discretion. It is not up to the government to tell us when, where and how we can assemble and speak. The whole point to explicitly naming this right is so that we, the people, maintain tools to keep abuse of power in check. Here is the text of the First Amendment:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

“Congress shall make no law”… They are not allowed to curb, in any way, our right to assemble and petition our government. They can’t say, “you’ve been out there too long.” They can’t say, “You can’t do that here.”

When we just idly accept these “free speech zones” and complain about the “nuisance” of a protest and even support the forceful arrests of people who are peaceably assembling, in any way, we are giving up one of the single most important tenets of democracy. There is no point to almost anything else we stand for, if we don’t stand for this. We are not a democracy without it.

Yet, I have been told that I deserved to be arrested and injured for my apparently heinous crime of standing in a public space and talking. I refused to bow to a militarily armed “authority” and walk away and be silent just because they wanted me to. For that simple act, I was treated as a “terrorism threat.”

new documents show that the violent crackdown on Occupy last fall – so mystifying at the time – was not just coordinated at the level of the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security, and local police. The crackdown, which involved, as you may recall, violent arrests, group disruption, canister missiles to the skulls of protesters, people held in handcuffs so tight they were injured, people held in bondage till they were forced to wet or soil themselves –was coordinated with the big banks themselves.

Why aren’t people around the country outraged about this? Why aren’t we out in the streets until this kind of abuse of power is dismantled and the people who perpetrate it held accountable? There is a direct link between this approach to governance – at the service of corporations – and the apocalyptic destruction of arboreal forest land for the sake of putting more money into the coffers of the already rich.

As I told the Boston Phoenix,

“If I can watch people in Syria march when they know that they’re going to be shot at,” Nevitt tells the Phoenix, “then I can’t stand here and let our government tell us that we don’t have the right to assemble in a public space.”

Read more:

How many people in the US cheered and supported the protesters in Egypt? Look at this statement from Obama, at the time:

“I want to be very clear in calling upon the Egyptian authorities to refrain from any violence against peaceful protestors. The people of Egypt have rights that are universal. That includes the right to peaceful assembly and association, the right to free speech, and the ability to determine their own destiny. These are human rights. And the United States will stand up for them everywhere.”

Except in the United States, apparently. The protesters in Egypt defended themselves by throwing rocks at armed agents of the government. They even burned down the headquarters building of the ruling political party. They turned a public square into an encampment where they controlled who came and went. For this, they were given international attention and our President proclaimed that they were within their rights.

Yet, here, at home, no such proclamations are made. No one threw rocks at government agents, or anyone else. No one burned any buildings. No one denied entry anyone else entry into any public spaces. Still, President Obama was silent when his own citizens exercises these “universal” rights. And people throughout this land have supported the repression of protest and the violent arrests. The vast majority have simply remained silent, going about their lives as though nothing is wrong. Basic, “universal”, human rights are being violated and suppressed in this country. The very foundation of democracy is being ripped out from under our feet. And the people who get the vitriol or lack of support are those who are saying something.

In a diary I posted two days before getting arrested, I explained why I was willing to take this risk. I implore you to ask yourself why you don’t care enough to do the same. Does it really take them coming for your or someone dear to you before you get how critical this is?

Initial Treatment
It was very disturbing to me to see the media report about how well the Boston Police handled the arrests of peaceable protesters. First, there is no justifiable reason to arrest people expressing their First Amendment rights. Second, it is an authoritarian abuse of power to approach those peaceful protesters, who are letting the police know they are willing to be arrested without resistance, with what was basically a battalion of fully-armed riot police, including big guns, large canisters of tear gas and a sound canon. (As someone with hyperacusis from a chronic illness, a sound canon would have been excruciatingly painful and likely deafening, for me.)

More important, is that Boston was one of the later cities to forcibly remove peaceable protesters. They had had time to see the public response to pepper spraying and rubber bullets. So, they came at 5am, in the dark, when no one was up. They pulled their trucks in to the square and kept the press back, so that no one could witness how they handled us.

They committed their abusive treatment more surreptitiously. For instance, I and eight other women were handcuffed and placed in the back of a transport vehicle. The inside was a metal box with metal benches. No seat belts. With our arms bound behind us and no body restraints, the truck was sped up just before making a turn and we were all whipped around inside the truck. The truck was then jolted to a stop and the back door flung open, as a police officer was yelling at us in anger. I suffered a permanent back injury from this. There are other injuries, but I will only speak of my own, as I don’t want to jeopardize anything for anyone else. But, the police department was given much public adoration for their gentle treatment. I suppose we should be thankful they didn’t send drones into Dewey Square or shoot us on site for having the audacity to gather and speak. That’s how many in public seem to view things these days.

In jail, I was not able to stand. My comrades made space for me to lie down on the cement benches in our cells. (I was moved to three different cells during my stay.) When I was called out, after several hours, to have my charges read to me and filed, I had to ask for a seat. We told the police that I was in pain. One of my beautiful sisters was so good about yelling out the bars to tell them that we needed medical attention. None came. I was simply processed as though nothing was wrong. (I would learn in the emergency room later that I had a ruptured disc and fractured facets.)

When my charges were read to me, they listed “trespassing” and “resisting arrest.” I laughed at the latter charge and asked how they could make it when I had asked the arresting office to help me stand up. The two officers present were not at the arrest scene. One walked away and came back a few minutes later and said, “we’re removing the resisting arrest charge. You don’t look like someone who would resist arrest.”

I was furious. What does that mean? I’m white and I’m a woman and I was in my late 40s. If I were a 23 year old black male would you say that? What if I were a transvestite? Of course I don’t look like I could resist arrest, now. I can barely walk because you injured my back!

That’s how our justice system works? A capricious decision by a cop based on how he views you in the station, even though he had nothing to do with the arrest and had never had an interaction with you before? One could say that I got the benefit of this by having them scratch that charge. Yet, I wanted my day in court over that charge. I was all too aware of how that subjective power is used against people that don’t fit the demographic that this cop is sympathetic to. I felt like a traitor to my comrades. Especially my comrades of color or youth or not perceived as a hetero cis-female. It wounds me deeply to gain any benefit from the systems of oppression while my fellow citizens are murdered, beaten, jailed and otherwise crushed by it. It is simply not right. I didn’t stand out there, risking my body, for this abuse of power. One reason I was willing to risk myself was for the sake of those for whom the risk is even greater, due to their demographic status. I want them to know that those of us who can benefit, don’t want to when it comes at their expense. I’m still furious about this.

We would later learn that although almost all of us had originally been told we had a charge of resisting arrest, when we got to our arraignment, only the men had that charge remaining. None of the women. I sat in Dewey Square with men and women. I behaved no differently from the man sitting next to me. On what basis were these charges meted out?

After about 8 hours of laying on concrete with an injured spine, I was released on bail. I was not told of any restrictions. I would not have accepted them. I would have stayed in jail.

Processing Our Case
I’ve lost count of how many hearings we’ve had since our arrest. I have been at the court house at least six times in 14 months. There were some motion hearings that defendants were not required to be present for. So, the City has attended at least 6 court appointments regarding my case, but it maybe closer to 10.

Of the 47 of us who were arrested on December 10, about half of us plead “not guilty.” I do not believe that I was trespassing. I was on public land. I was exercising my First Amendment right to free political speech to address my government. I cannot have been trespassing.

I did not accept any restrictions to my actions while the case was being processed. None of us, who plead “not guilty” did. Many of us have traveled out of state. Many of us have been back to Dewey Square. Many of us have been in other protest actions since our arraignment. Had the State tried to impose restrictions on me when I had not been determined to be guilty of any crimes, nor have I been shown to pose any sort of physical threat to anyone or anything, I would have defied those restrictions.

We made it clear from the beginning that we were going to fight these charges and fight them loudly. Our first motions were extensive requests for materials and statements from multiple governmental agencies regarding who was involved in monitoring us and determining what actions to take against us. We had seen Homeland Security trucks and various surveillance cameras on site. At one point, after we had filed a motion demanding to know if BRIC – a regional counter-terrorism agency – was involved in any part of the monitoring or decision-making regarding Occupy Boston, the DA had the chutzpah to return to the courtroom and tell the judge, “I asked somebody at that office and she said, “no.”"

The judge wasn’t too happy with that defiance of a court order. He then gave the order very specific wording which required signed statements from someone accountable.

This was the process. We would make discovery motions and the City would respond with delays and absurd statements that did not fit the definition of meeting discovery requests.

Fourteen months into this, and we were starting to feel that, not only were our charges bogus and the arrests illegal, we were now being denied our right to a speedy trial. We wanted the court to rule on the very legality of the arrests. To see if the court would support the notion that the police can arrest people who are doing nothing but gathering and speaking for sake of political expression.

That would have been one avenue of having our day in court. Having the court determine that the arrests themselves were illegal would have been a very strong political statement. We made our case for it in a hearing this past Monday. The judge said he would make a ruling this coming Monday.

Yesterday, on a Friday with a blizzard underway, one business day before the judge would have made a public ruling, the District Attorney let the Boston Globe know that the City was dropping all charges related to Occupy Boston. After 14 months, many court hearings, many rounds of being forced to comply with motions, and declaring that we must face criminal charges for our actions, they suddenly decided to drop the charges with this claim:

“There’s now parity with prior cases arising from the protests,” Jake Wark said. “They’ve served essentially the same sentences.”

Guilty. Sentence served. No trial.

My Reaction: (yes, this was an immediate reaction with fast-flying fingers. This is me being reactionary. I allow myself those moments. I had only learned of the news just hours before posting this.)

Occupy Boston Protesters: Guilty and Sentenced Without Trial
I wanted my day in court. It was clear, they were going to delay and delay. Over one year later, I still did not have a trial date. I was also never told with whom I would be a co-defendant. (we wanted one trial and the judge insisted we be broken into groups of 5. He then only named one group and the rest of us were left in limbo) All of this was designed to make it impossible for us to prepare. Trying to crush our resolve and our souls slowly.

When we pushed back and filed a motion for charges to be dismissed, the judge said he would rule this coming Monday. Preempting what the judge might say in court, the City surreptitiously dropped the charges today. During the beginning of a blizzard. On a Friday afternoon. Without letting any of the defendants know. We didn’t get the courtesy a single communication to us. We all learned by reading it in the Boston Globe. And that is where we read outright lies:

but at least five defendants will contest the dismissal in hopes of fighting the accusations on their merits.

um, we filed the motion to have the charges dismissed. the hearing for that motion was this past Monday. that’s on the public record. high quality stenography, I mean journalism, there.

“Our clients feel that they deserve a day in court to contest their arrests on constitutional grounds,” said Jeff Feuer, of the National Lawyers Guild, which is defending the demonstrators. “They were using a public park.”

that’s my lawyer. I wonder when they got that quote. I’m pretty sure that’s from an earlier time when we were being asked about why we didn’t accept a plea deal. Since we’ve had no contact from anyone about this latest move of dropping the charges, I doubt this is a contemporary quote.

A spokesman for Suffolk District Attorney Daniel F. Conley said prosecutors decided to resolve the cases because the defendants had abided by certain restrictions imposed by the court for more than a year. Other protesters charged with trespassing and unlawful assembly had agreed to similar conditions in resolving their cases.

What restrictions? This is just outright fiction. I pleaded not guilty. I was not under any restrictions, as I had not been found guilty of any crime and I would not consent to be punished as though I had. I dare the Boston Globe to tell me exactly what restrictions I have supposed adhered to and to prove that I consented to and complied with them.

“There’s now parity with prior cases arising from the protests,” Jake Wark said. “They’ve served essentially the same sentences.”

This is their way of saving face. Trying to claim that we somehow accepted guilt by serving a pre-sentence. Who needs a trial when you can just get people to agree to “restrictions” and then say that they’ve “resolved” their case by “essentially” serving a sentence?

I will not stand idly by and be portrayed in the public as though I have served a sentence for a crime I did not commit. Nor will I allow our justice system to proclaim that they can determine, without a trial or a sentencing process, that someone has paid enough of a penalty that they can consider the case resolved. It’s bullshit. And makes me wonder what they thought the judge was going to say, on the record, on Monday.

Here is the press release about this from the National Lawyers Guild, who are representing us.

NATIONAL LAWYERS GUILD, Massachusetts Chapter, Inc.
14 Beacon St., Suite 407, Boston, MA 02108  
Urszula Masny-Latos
Tammi Arford (defendant): 617-686-8892 National Lawyers Guild, Mass. Chapter
Andrea Hill (defendant): 574-206-5632 617-227-7335
Boston, February 8, 2013.   Today, without any notice to defense counsel or the defendants, Suffolk County prosecutors went into court and in an unscheduled, unilateral action dismissed the criminal cases that had been brought against five Occupy Boston activists which were scheduled to begin trial on Monday, February 11. The prosecutors also dismissed all of the criminal charges remaining against the other Occupy Boston activists who were still awaiting trial as a result of the mass police arrests in October and December, 2011.

We believe that the DA’s decision amounts to an acknowledgment of the unconstitutionality of the arrests and criminal charges that had been brought against hundreds of Occupy Boston participants, and shows that the state has finally
admitted that the demonstrations by Occupy activists were legal and constitutionally protected.

Fully ready to contest the charges at trial, the defendants and their representatives from theNational Lawyers Guild (NLG) had subpoenaed Mayor Menino, Police Commissioner Ed Davis, and Nancy Brennan (former head of the Greenway Conservancy) to explain why the City of Boston and its police department unconstitutionally applied the Massachusetts trespass and unlawful assembly laws to impinge upon Occupy Boston participants’ rights to assemble, to express their protected speech, and to petition the government. In addition, they had also subpoenaed Joshua Bekenstein and Mitt Romney (of Bain Capital), and Robert Gallery (CEO of Bank of America) to address their role in constructing and perpetuating excessive corporate power and an economic system that favors the wealthiest 1% of the population at the expense of the remaining 99%– an undemocratic system in which the voices of the people are ignored. The police action in arresting occupiers demonstrated that voices of conscience that speak out against
social and economic inequality are not only ignored, they are unlawfully silenced by the state’s use of violence, fear, threat, and repression.

This decision by prosecutors comes after 14 months of delay, during which defendants were repeatedly required to show up for court dates, only to have their day in court and their right to a jury trial delayed time after time. Defendants and their NLG lawyers spent months working to prepare a case that would potentially embarrass the City and set valuable precedent that would reaffirm the constitutional rights of free speech and assembly.

In making this decision, Suffolk County prosecutors have not only prevented the defendants from having their day in court, they have employed yet another way to trample upon those who voice dissent and discouraged them from challenging injustice and inequality in this country. In fact, a spokesperson from the District
Attorney’s office today admitted that these defendants, who never had the chance to present their case to a judge or jury, “served a sentence” imposed unilaterally by the actions of the District Attorney without ever having been found guilty of any criminal offense.

### END ###

Don’t be complicit in the repression of voices of dissent. Please take in the way this was handled: peaceful protesters arrested by using a battalion of militarily-armed riot police, then dragged through repeated courtroom delays, then charges dropped with a statement that they had “essentially” served a sentence. See how that works? Guilt determined and sentence handed down without the bother of a pesky trial.

Raise your voices, people. When these things happen, we need to yell louder that we will maintain our rights.

If you look in the comment section of that diary, you will see some people arguing that there is no malicious intent on the part of The Globe. It’s really just under-funded, lazy journalism. You will also see some arguing that the legal process is just a matter of an over-burdened system and incompetency.

I don’t buy it. This is the way the corruption of democracy works. Death by a thousand little cuts. Newspapers are struggling financially because they have abandoned their role and, therefore, don’t receive support. The role of the 4th Estate in a democracy is to be an independent check on anyone or any institution which manages to garner power over others. Instead, they’ve become a part of the power structure. Corporations have all the power in this country. Now, corporations own all the media outlets. When that shift occurred, when the mission of objective, investigative journalism in service to the public good was compromised for the sake of shareholder profits, the 4th Estate abandoned democracy. That they are a shell of themselves, with no budget and no journalistic integrity now and, therefore, don’t have the capacity to “intentionally” do a disservice to us all, does not exonerate them. They have made the choices which have landed them where they are. They made those choices in service to the 1%. It is not accidental that they can now look lame and beg for ‘understanding’ while they are complicit with the systems which abuse us.

If the courts are “over-burdened”, it is not because we have such high rates of criminal people who just have to be taken off the streets. It is because we have criminalized things for the sake of feeding a for-profit prison system and to maintain a system of oppression. We can relieve the court system of much weight by ending the prosecution of non-violent drug use, for instance.

In our case, the dropped charges had nothing to do with a court which was too busy to handle us. It wasn’t the judge who complained about having the cases processed in court. It was the DA who decided that we had already served our sentence.

It wasn’t incompetence, either. The City was very skilled at arguing against and evading our motions. They were very clear that we needed to be prosecuted for our audacity. There was never any indication that the Assistant DA handling the case didn’t know what she was doing. In fact, our attorneys expressed respect for her skills early on.

This was a calculated political decision. A series of calculated political decisions, in fact. The decisions to have Homeland Security trucks show up at the protest site was to intimidate us. The decision to arrest us was made to end the protest. The decision to do so with a military-style action was meant to frighten others from attempting to protest. The decision to push for our cases to be processed was to signal that it would be a long, painful process you would have to go through if you dared to protest. The decision to drop the charges before hearing what the judge had to say on Monday, was to avoid having a public record of what the judge would say on Monday.

I have no doubt about it. None of this was ever about whether we had actually committed any crimes. It was all about silencing dissent. Mayor Menino made that very clear, early on:

“I will not tolerate civil disobedience in Boston.

Civil disobedience is the cornerstone of democracy. It is a powerful tool that The People must use stop abuse of power. Voting is not enough. We are not relegated to one tool for our role in keeping democracy true to form. When those in power can control who runs for office, what we learn through media and what those people do once they are in office, you must use your other tools. Here in Boston, we enshrine this truth in our memorial site of the “Boston Tea Party.” An action against corporate interests controlling tax policy and fair trade. Yet, we now have a Mayor who made it known that he will crush any civil disobedience. You don’t think that Mayor is directing and/or strategizing the actions of the police and the DA? Think again. Our police chief is appointed by the mayor. Our current police chief has been on the job without the security of a contract for years, now. Every day, his job is only his if the mayor deems it is. Is that police chief going to defy this mayor’s wishes?

We now know that the FBI was monitoring Occupy. We know they helped coordinate the crackdowns and deemed peaceable protesters to be potential terrorists. The mayor of Oakland admitted that 18 mayors around the country were talking to each other about how to handle Occupiers.

None of this is about incompetence, laziness or an over-burdened system. It is about silencing voices which would demand accountability of those in power, justice for the “99%” and analysis and adjustment of our worship of predatory capitalism. Some aspects of the system have been crumbling to a state of auto-complicity for so long that we’ve become complacent. But that doesn’t make it any less unjust or any less responsible for the resulting oppressions.

Our responsibility, as citizens of a democracy, is to never become complacent. To never allow ourselves to be silenced or cowed into coerced obedience. When there is an attempt to repress our voices or deny us justice, we are obligated to speak louder and stand up taller. Every time. You know this is true. You know that there is no other way to maintain a just and sustainable democracy. Don’t vilify those who are pointing this out. Stand in solidarity. It is our only hope.

Anti-Capitalist Meetup: This round we will win! Lessons from the last round. by Don Mikulecky

1:19 pm in Uncategorized by Anti-Capitalist Meetup

McCarthy Peace

McCarthy Peace poster from 1968

I was in Israel when the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution was passed  passed on August 7, 1964.  Unlike the people at home I learned about it on the international press and was quickly convinced that it was a scam.  As a result I cut my wonderful Postdoctoral Fellowship at the Weizmann Institute a year short ,got appointed to the Biophysics Faculty at SUNY Buffalo and came home for my second tour of duty in service of my country.  The first was payback for my college education as a USMC officer from 1957 to 1960.  When I got to Buffalo in 1965 things were unbelievable since I had been afforded the luxury of real news coverage while in Israel.  The lies and rumors were the “news” and everything I had learned was either non-existent or buried in some underground sources.  I was soon the leader of an umbrella anti-war/civil rights group that took in some 20 or more organizations in the area.  Read on below for I learned a lot most of which has been lost, suppressed, or forgotten.


Much of it does remain available in a chronicle written by Mitchell Goodman The Movement Toward a New America: The Beginnings of a Long Revolution (A Collage) – A What? which I keep nearby almost like some religious people keep their Bible near. I was in the movement long before its death was insured by a huge influx of liberals who were going to save the country from the very people who worked hard and suffered, were beaten, imprisoned and even died to get it going. There were so many phases. The alliances with Martin Luther King were growing stronger and stronger. We really believed we would change the country. Our belief was widespread and I, for one, have never really lost that vision.

I’ll tell you what my experience of that time tells me the decline of our movement was due to. You will not like it but the history of the times we are in backs me up. This is kind of a chicken and egg issue but let’s see if we can sort it out.

I remember clearly the day we began to lose. It was not because of right wing opposition. That has grown significantly because we declined. On that particular day the New York Times ran an editorial on its front page by James Reston. The first paragraph condemned the war for the first time. The remaining paragraphs were devoted to condemning those of us who had sacrificed to build the movement while the liberals sat by and tried to make up their minds about which side they were on. They basically claimed that we were dangerous and needed to be controlled. Today you suffer the consequences of their ability to swindle people.

They brought things into “control”. They ran Gene McCarthy and convinced the young that elections were the way to go. “Clean with Gene” was the slogan. The right wing thrived on that. The real opposition to the plutocracy was crushed. Now we suffer the consequences. Now we are forced to regain the momentum we had for changing the country.

My own way of dealing with this has been a confused attempt to find anything that can get us back on track. I worked for Obama very hard in both elections knowing that it would do little to restore what we have lost. I could easily write a book about why this is so.
Read the rest of this entry →

Asperity, Austerity and 1984: Fulfillment of 1984 & the Replication Today By The Geogre

3:00 pm in Uncategorized by Anti-Capitalist Meetup

In the first part, I talked about the false comparison of Orwell to Huxley and how features of the writing made it easy to mistake each author’s purpose and scope. However, there is something else. Neil Postman was not alone in thinking, in 1984, that we dodged a bullet and instead took a pill. I understand the feeling and shared it. It seemed like, as Lord Boyd Orr had said in 1966, “Give the people a choice between freedom and sandwiches, and they’ll take the sandwiches,” but we had already been shot but did not know the blood stain.

We were aware, then, that the public of democratic nations was placidly accepting outrages that would lead to atrocities, but I would propose that it took 2003 and George W. Bush to demonstrate to us how well television and the fragmented Internet have made every year 1984. Indeed, the television, which Postman saw as an abstracted medium that forbade long-form discourse and non-pictorial conceptualizing, would eventually resemble the view screen of 1984 as much as the Soma of Brave New World, especially cable news, where anything not at full volume and alarm was mere caesura for a day of emotional extremes and informational abbreviation. The Memory Hole was far easier to achieve by accident than plan.

I criticized Postman for a misplaced emphasis on the fiction of 1984 whereby he missed the systemic critique of the novel. The novel’s appearance in the midst of a nation enacting a policy called Austerity, where everyone was to “pitch in” to get “England” back on its feet after the war, is conspicuous and screams out for a comparison. Specifically, within the fiction and outside of it, a System of power is above the people, and the people are the enemy of power itself. Big Brother is an image or visage for a system, but the true power is no person or party — just the continuing flow of resources and labor from the people to an indifferent end. This is what is frightening. The group in charge was never fascists or Stalinists or Churchill or anyone else: it was capital.

Austerity today (the “new Austerity” in Europe and deficit mania in the U.S.) is different in cause, but the same in effect. Both ask nations to turn their GDP over to repayment of debt rather than intervention in markets to stimulate employment. The language used in both instances is similar, too: “Get back on our feet” and “recovery.” However, nation states and capital have had quite a bit of time and learned a few lessons.

We can see, in the gap of attitudes and responses of the public, the effect of social and cultural mutation. If we can see a greater or lesser increase in the effects of social control, then we can understand, I believe, just how thoroughgoing Orwell’s book was a description of an ongoing project that has now succeeded.

“Our” responses: Then
Americans saw the problems of the U.K. in 1948/9 as “over there” and peculiar, but fundamentally a matter of our pity and compassion. Today, Americans see Europe as having a “Eurozone mess” and “austerity,” compared to the situation at home, where “we” have “deficits” and “debt” to pay down. In 1948/9 the difference was real, and in 2012 it is simply semantic, but the semantics connote blame. “Eurozone mess” and “sovereign debt crisis” contain, alternately, a parental scold and a technocrat’s dismissal of suffering.

In battlefield Europe, the post-war period was wretched beyond comprehension (see The Bitter Road to Freedom by William Hitchcock for the initial phases of denial, reiteration, and displacement, when nations had to reabsorb populations that had been taken as forced labor). North Americans, spared by their oceans, did not understand or consider post-war “retrenching” and what the governments were doing with their efforts at stimulating growth by paying down debts. The Americans who did understand what was going on were either collecting the debts or Keynesians who did not agree.

1948′s Life Magazine and Pathe newsreels shocked Americans with photographs of starving European orphans. Coincidentally, George Marshall sent his famous “hair on fire” memo. This memo, which launched the “Marshall Plan,” can be read various ways. Most people agree with Gary Wills’s view in Bomb Power that the plan was economic only via political. (He presents the primary documents and argues, from other historians, that Marshall was alarmed by the resurgent Communist Party and its ripe pickings among the depressed population. For an extremely interesting paper on how Eastern Europe was treated very differently by American neo-liberals, see this wonderful link.)

Marshall got the go-ahead because of the muscular anti-communism of his memo, but the plan also had an economic justification, and that was purely the Keynesian refutation of Austerity. It was Marshall versus the Austerity Games (1948 was also a London Olympics). If “Hunger Games” resonates today, it could well be that the atmospherics and politics of the banking crash were present before. The Marshall Plan argued for massive spending for stimulus (prevention/rescue were its terms), and consensus is that it worked. It did not go to the U.K. in any direct manner. (There are complex ways in which the U.K. benefitted, and London as a mercantile center certainly benefitted, but that is part of the problem.)

1948′s America, therefore, had a reaction of incomprehension and pity and largesse and oblige, but the mechanics of power were split between a dominant party in favor (in the U.S. and U.K.) of a capitalist rictus and a passing and resistant power structure of Keynesian (ameliorative and interventionist) power. The specter of international communism alone allowed the resistant philosophy to step back to the fore with the Marshall Plan.

Austerity’s response: Today?
Do American citizens recognize the term “austerity” has a history or know the heritage of the claim that prosperity comes from paying down debts? Does the claim have a separate cultural history in the U.S., where, as IMF bosses, the power elites have identified with the debt collectors, than Europe? Do American citizens have any way of knowing that the “Eurozone mess” was triggered by the subprime mortgage lending bonanza in the U.S. and a sudden market in trading those mortgage bonds in bundles that were fictionally and deceptively rated as trustworthy? Michael Lewis’s The Big Short documents how the Wall Street traders consistently sneered that “Dusseldorf” was the sucker bet at the table with these bonds. Do they have any ability to realize, if they wish to, the role that failures of debt obligations by Wall Street betting firms destroyed banks, and therefore currency value, across Europe?

The answer is a Mulligan stew of opinions and a desert of information. The Pew Research Center reports on economics tells us that the U.S. public “knows” what it has been told and what it believes, both, despite these being in conflict.

1. People disapprove of slashing government programs (or even “trimming the fat”) to get tax cuts or even low deficits.
2. In April 2012, 74% of voters said the deficit was “very important.” (Which deficit? The budget deficit or the trade deficit? Those of us old enough remember that the fear has switched objects more than once.)

However, when Dick Cheney said “Deficits don’t matter,” polling showed that the public agreed with him and thought the deficit was not an issue (see Carol Doherty, March 2006, “Do Deficits Really Matter Anymore?”)

This is not a riddle, though. According to Media Matters’s “If It’s Sunday, It’s Still Conservative” full report, a master analysis of speakers on panel shows on television tilted overwhelmingly toward the right on all broadcast and cable networks (found at this link). DailyKos readers know that there are plenty of other studies that show that every form of television discussion, regardless of its purpose, carries an over-representation of the voices of coercion and capital. Neil Postman had argued that television was infecting discourse with a headline and catchphrase virus, where facts were in the way of entertainment. 2012 would surely support that, as the public agrees with slogans but is unmoved when they can perceive the facts.

Soma/Big Brother/Television and the missing integer
Postman’s analysis explains the simplification and cognitive dissonance of the uninformed, but not the conservativism of the medium. His analysis can explain why television viewers understand little about government, but not why 63% of Republicans in 2012 believed that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction but 15% of Democrats did.

There is no ideological purity, either. The coercive and capitalized interests have run the field, but by the methods Postman described explicitly and Orwell implicitly. Omnipresence, repetition, and simplicity are all that are required.

Take the most recent example: “America is a center-right nation” stated with an elected official during an election response interview. The interviewer never asked for verification or questioned the position, and then the statement was repeated several times over the next few days as a talking point. (I emphasize that term because I would like to highlight its age. Remind yourself of its vintage.) The claim has been debunked and accepted.

This is a pattern. Factitiousness is ideal, because the subject is the impossible: an explanation for American mood shifts. Truth is irrelevant before a simple, repeated slogan, catchphrase, or myth. It enters the conversation as something easily remembered and understood, something that ends a mystery. The ideal talking point is a myth because it aids a television/radio/newspaper audience’s and writer’s desire to have a simple explanation for a matter that can only be understood tenuously. (E.g. “The stock market fell because investors took the possibility of a Clinton presidency seriously” — Myron Kandel, 1992.)

We have read 1984 and “Politics and the English Language,” and yet how many people will unthinkingly use the word “unborn?” That word is a lexically nonsensical item from the arsenal of the anti-abortion forces, who are not conservative, but rather best spoken of as coercive (U.S. law is that abortion is freely legal, so these people wish to change from the status quo in a radical manner; that’s not “conservative”). “Climate change” is a partisan euphemism without meaning, and it is reported as a neutral and accurate term.

Postman wrote at precisely the time and place where we were beginning to feel the pain of capitulation to the talking point. This device – a simple declarative statement that all persons are to say, was a television strategy. In the days of radio, even when the Nazis were exploring radio hypnotism (really), such a concept was not possible. Parties would not obey leadership well enough until the 1980′s GOP, which controlled access to television interviews well. (Recall that the Nazi party preferred a single speaker. The Newt Gingrich whip era was marked by managing interview access and candidate access to election funds, and the RNC controlled the bulk of the funds.)

Neil Postman’s featured example was USA Today: it was sold in newspaper boxes that looked like pedestal television sets, and its format was in color, with breaks in coverage by boxes and sidebars that resembled the commercials and cut-aways. Its articles boasted an obvious thesis and then reiteration without development. He saw this model, whereby all political discourse would be thesis:illustration:diversion:thesis, as corrosive to political thought itself and suitable only to complacence. In a sense, his fears and his readership’s fears were founded on the new political reality. 1984 had been, after all, horrifying, but no one was yet sure how.

The actual 1984

1984 was a year of serious anger for the left in the United States. Ronald Reagan won a second term, despite alienating at least half of the nation. Furthermore, television, far more than newspapers or radio, repeated the political “spin doctor” line that the election had been a historic landslide. The whole of the left and moderate center was told that it neither mattered nor existed.

Like the 1972 Nixon re-election, which could be explained away, the Reagan re-election suggested that American voters were not capable of enlightened self-interest, that they would gladly vote for a catchphrase over sense. Reagan’s executive in the first term had been stocked with people who hated their jobs. His Interior Secretary was the infamous James Watt, who believed that the U.S. government simply shouldn’t have any public lands. His head for the Department of Education sought to eliminate his department. His Department of Energy official believed that there should be no governmental role in promoting an energy policy at all, that laissez-faire in an age of large oil corporations was best. His Labor Secretary was against unions. His Department of Transportation wanted to reorganize transportation so that rails (which were national) fell to disuse and long haul trucking supplied goods from ports, without dreaded union workers. In short, every single component of governmental function and contract with taxes, except the military, had been at least maligned, if not actively fought.

Reagan’s rationale was not convincing, either. David Stockman’s “supply side economics” never achieved (and has not since) academic support, and the population soon saw it as “trickle down.” James Watt argued that the reason for privatizing all federal lands was so that the U.S. would use up all of its energy reserves, as God had granted him a vision of a coming civil war, when the western states had oil and the eastern states did not; it was his mission to divert that into a foreign war, where the United States would go to war with the heathen middle east at Armageddon, and Reagan had introduced us to government by saints and prophecy. That got re-elected?

What’s more, by 1984, and certainly by 1988, the mythic structures were in place in a media narrative that the 1984 Reagan victory was one of the greatest landslides in history and that all of America was with Mr. Reagan. A pre-condition of this narrative was accepting Reagan’s own talking point that Watergate had weakened American “character” and that Jimmy Carter had been “weak.” Once that bit of political campaigning became the Truth, then it was necessary to protect the president. Charles P. Pierce, speaking of Iran-Contra and the utter silence of newspaper as well as television on the subject, wrote

“by 1986 . . . our elite institutions formed an iron circle to keep [Congressional investigations] from happening to Ronald Reagan and his people because the country ‘couldn’t take another failed presidency.’ (As illustrated in On Bended Knee, Mark Hertsgaard’s essential account of the lapdog press under Reagan, even Washington Post publisher Katherine Graham . . . was concerned that the press might go too far.)” 

It’s fair to say that Reagan radicalized young liberals in the United States as much as Margaret Thatcher did in the U.K. — not only opposing the interests of the poor, but doing so with contempt and blame. The talk of the “strapping young buck” getting T-bone steaks with Food stamps (Reagan, 1980) not only invoked Klan language, but blamed the poor for poverty and accused all of the poor of moral defect. To the president, students were, as he had already said with protests in California, criminals or Communist dupes, and Reagan’s FBI had been instructed to infiltrate peace groups to find their Soviet backing. (Hadn’t Hoover demonstrated that the FBI would find what it was told to find, even if it wasn’t there?) His attorney general, Ed Meese, went through three different committees with stacked membership to prove that pornography caused rape. Thus, civil libertarians, international relations, and labor – all elements of the progressive/left in the U.S. were not merely opposed, but insulted and demonized during Reagan’s administration. In that respect, George W. Bush proved a worthy successor. Twelve years of the voices of capital and coercion followed 1980, at least.

1984 was a pivot when the more far sighted saw how the game was going to be played, and Neil Postman was one of them.

In 1984, anyone with a moderate or liberal stance not only felt disheartened, but was being told, daily, that she or he simply did not exist. What was on the air was the first national arrival of Roger Ailes. Ailes would institute the “repeat the talking point in response to any question” philosophy. He would engineer “deception on page one, retraction on B-10” media management strategy. He would work slogans. Old stuff, but he made it a playbook and learned how to feed television.

Ailes would play to the needs of the press. As the press needed a story – one with a beginning, middle, and end that fit in a two to five minute window so as to make room for commercials and tossing to Diane with weather on television or fitting between color graphics for the USA Today – Ailes learned and taught the micro-narrative. Each issue was really very simple, after all, and people needn’t bother with all of those contradictory details that East Coast elites were trying to bore them with.

He taught his clients to reshape reality to television. This made their reality persuasive and repetitive. That made it real. If television, by its nature, reduces reality to a transient image, Ailes taught his clients to reduce issues as diverse as taxation and endangered species to single frames of picture to be picked up by that format.

Neil Postman’s Amusing Ourselves to Death captures the first sores on the patient. It was hard in 1984 not to see the pock marks and bubos and not think that we had measles or plague. The observations in the book were valid, as political conversation was being dominated by a pictographic medium. He did not foresee the Internet, but the Internet, after the allocation of dot com domains, would grease the skids on existing trends by visualizing the communicative experience and encouraging discussions as long as a screen – with screens going from twenty-four lines up to sixty and then down to eight. (Please, no comments about how your Linux box has a super monitor that’s 25′ tall and more lines than a public toilet in Mexico City; I’m referring to averages.)

Postman was writing from the middle of a river of change. He was right about the change, but he didn’t note the real gravity behind the current: market capitalism and corporate capital accumulation. He never understood what Orwell had.

USA Today and its color blurb was bound to fail to fundamentally change writing. No medium can entirely ape another, after all. What Postman might have noticed, though, was what USA Today itself crowed about upon its appearance: the ability to spin off “local” editions from a central body as if a papier-mache hydra. It was going to achieve highest possible profits with the lowest number of “talent” workers. It was, in short, an announcement of a way to work around writers. Few thought, in 1984, that it would be followed, but this was an opening shot in the war on labor in service of investors.

(Newspapers, television, radio are capable of complexity, but the simple message won because a story without details is a story that no one objects to. Analysis is less profitable than press releases, and someone is always confused. With each media merger in newspapers, there was an intensification of the capitalist’s position (not management, but investor/stock) over the service or production’s. The number of newspaper owners reduced dramatically during the Reagan and Bush Pere years (link has tables but not directly to the point), and bottom line was best served by having one or two name writers (and opinion pieces, because those generate letters and anger) and eliminating the rest. The USA Today model has reliable costs and profits.

On television, twenty-four hour news seemed like a nominal innovation, but it never was. Even in the earliest Ted Turner years, CNN never devoted time to extended analysis, the way its founder had promised. Its opinion shows began as analysis, but we know what happened to “Crossfire” and the rest. The network found itself with repetition. It quickly became a thirty or sixty minute newscast repeated throughout the day and interrupted only by segments and shows. This made it, in effect, no challenge, no difference. Once it was purchased by a corporation with a ‘better idea’ of how to monetize the news, we saw the chyrons, imitations of Fox News programming, and opinion shows galore.

Once more, media ownership shrank in the Clinton years, and the result was, again, the very same simplification of the labor side of the industry. Even as story after story appeared on radio and in print about media consolidation, media consolidated anyway. Jobs, then papers, disappeared. Behind the desk at television, the same was happening. Why have multiple correspondents, when opinion shows allow a politician to serve his or her needs and work for cheap? Why have dozens of reporters, when an attractive desk anchor can read information derived from wire services? Salaries for these “hosts” went up while off-camera reporters disappeared, and the hosts were treated as special people. David Gregory at NBC may be the most notoriously self-involved of the group, but he is not alone. (After the New York Times revealed that NBC had hired “retired” generals as experts who were part of a Pentagon information control program, Brian Williams took ten days to respond to the piece, and, when he did so, on April 30, 2008 (quoted in Glen Greenwald’s column), it was with emphasis on how his detractors did not know staff rank generals the way he did, and that these were honest men, and his personal friends. That these were legal violations and that he inserted his own privilege above the public’s and identified himself with a particular class of “insider” was as notable as his contempt for the journalists who were calling on him to stop using paid informants from the administration.)

A prima donna is paradoxically easier for a corporate structure and the real Big Brother to handle than a host of reporters. The fewer “talent” and “labor” personalities, the less likelihood there is of organization or dissent, and, with sufficient pay, a host can identify with the corporation’s interests. Contemporary centerpiece anchors are ideologically more akin to actresses and actors than reporters. Asking them why their report used blind sources is no better than asking a stunt man why the hero drives a Mercedes. Asking Brian Williams why his show continues to call upon a general from a Pentagon propaganda campaign is like asking the actress why the director shot the scene with a hand held camera.

1984 breaks out of the brush: 2003

By 2003, the current had eroded the landscape of information in the U.S. The respite and false dawn of “citizen journalism” by the Internet had and remained difficult to assess. Even when there were palpable results, they were imperceptible to those outside of the immediate area (one reason we love our Internet meeting places).

In 2003, George W. Bush prepared to invade Iraq. We had Big Brother at this point, as we had only one point of Truth. It is fashionable and accurate to point at the mendacity and corruption of Judith Miller and Robert Apple at New York Times, both of whom appeared on the front page and above the fold, one newspaper should never have carried the sole responsibility for a nation of two hundred and ninety million people. Nor should two reporters’ failures have been sufficient to mask such obviously false pretenses for war. Twenty years earlier, it would have been inconceivable that New York Times would have been the only arbiter of objective reality. As we will recall, it is when one media service, no matter what it is, becomes the only place where something gets to be true that it gets co-opted. That is how Eric Blair’s BBC could be Big Brother, and it is how it was easy to control New York Times and four networks with generals who are Real Characters and Men of Integrity.

At one point (September 12, 2002), George W. Bush gave the Iraqi government forty-eight hours to prove that there were no weapons of mass destruction in the nation. This is an elementary fallacy. No one may prove a negative, and no one can prove that a nothing exists. However, there was no dissent inside the U.S. information analysis circles, and certainly none on television. This alone proves that there are no analysts on television. The Congressional Research Service saw the problem plainly enough, and yet members of Congress acted ignorant of the posture the U.S. had taken, and certainly spoke that way.

The day that best showed how gargantuan the power of capitalized media’s interest in the placation of the populace and iteration of corporate growth (ostensibly by grand new markets in democratic Iraq) was arrived on February 15th, 2003. That was a day when the full strength of Internet citizen journalism and activism met television. It is when Big Brother opened the memory hole.

On the day past Valentine’s Day, 2003, there were world-wide protests against going to war in Iraq. Almost every large city in the U.S. had significant protests. In New York City, five hundred thousand people marched against invasion. While Cheney, and sometimes Bush, would speak of Iraq as somehow linked to the attacks on New York, New Yorkers wanted none of it, and we made that clear. London and Berlin saw even more massive protests.

I ask you. . . any of you. . . to look through the archives of coverage for the 16th. Coverage of the protests revealed that television and newspaper reporting was serving some interest other than the public’s right to know.

The New York Times had a brief story by Brian McFadden emphasizing that the crowd did not have a permit and was just there. Network news said a “large group” marched, and the size of domestic crowds was not given. A person not inside a large city at the time of a protest would have gotten the story that “some people marched, but that’s all.” Even people in the outer boroughs of New York would have gotten the impression that, “Some law breaking leftists assembled.”

For those who took part, the consequences were different. The A.N.S.W.E.R. Coalition received full investigation, infiltration, and prosecution for its organizing. (They were linked to the KGB, I heard . . . while I was in the crowd at the march.) Thus, the punitive element of power showed up, and elderly were trampled by horses. I was an eye witness to horses trampling peaceful protesters. That story, due to law suits against the police, would appear in the New York papers. (It is hardly worth noting the coverage of Glenn Beck’s “rally” in 2011, which drew 2,000 – 10,000 people after weeks of promotion, was vast, despite its ideological content being incoherent.)

Merely Drugged?

What happened in 2003 was not a series of mistakes. No matter how frequently reporters say that the lead-up to the Iraq war was an aberration, it keeps happening, and along the same lines. After that “mistake,” all of the major television news services employed “military experts” that were supplied by the Pentagon as part of an information control program, which constituted overt propaganda against the U.S. population. The W. Bush administration sent out press releases that imitated, with actors and actresses, news “packages,” and television stations ran them as if they were wire service reports. The same administration had scrubbed information from the CDC’s website, had suppressed NASA global warming information, and had placed false reporters in press conferences (the “Jeff Gannon” episode was not isolated, we must recall; it was most comically salacious). “Transit packet” data became a necessity (war powers, you see (see James Riesen’s State of War), and so warrantless wiretapping went on, and then it expanded and expanded. FBI, three years later, would ask Sprint alone for the GPS location of customers nine million times. From the shooting of unarmed terrorists to the use of drones to the killing of U.S. citizens, today’s press, across the lines (with some small-readership exceptions like us), avoids any question that might be unpleasant and any answer that might be complex or ambiguous.

No, the lack of questions before Iraq was not a “mistake,” except in the past tense, the way all mistakes on television are — an hour filling self-analysis opinion show.

1984 is the story of a dissenter. It is the story of a person who keeps on looking and being baited down his journey. He finds himself eventually tortured to the point of a breakdown. Two plus two equals whatever the state wants it to equal, after all. By 2003, we had television reporters laughing that “Barney and Friends” was being used as psychological torture, and people who were “the worst of the worst” were finding themselves in “black site” prisons where they were in cramped, dark boxes with stinging insects on them (see Jane Mayer’s The Dark Side). By 2010, we would have Bradley Manning arrested but not found guilty of anything – charged with a crime that is questionable in and of itself – being kept awake, exposed to psycho-sexual humiliation, and, of course, in isolation as a matter of course.

What did the reformed, contrite television media say about that? What have they said about torture itself? “Some people say it’s bad,” they report, and yet “enhanced interrogation” is now in their style sheet. Like “center right country,” it has left the political agent’s desk at MiniTru and gone into regular parlance. Like “unborn,” it has become a common term. Who did the television networks ask when assessing the damage of the leaked material? The same men who had been the experts in Iraq and on the payroll of the information campaign. How did they assess whether “lives would be lost?” They asked the people who had said that lives would be lost. Repetition of the simple story.

Meanwhile, nations and nationals ask about personalities and the warring armies. They want to know who is up and down in the polls, whether this or that law will move forward. While those things are important, the message of 1984 was that the real power was the flow of power and capital.

The story of the debt goes on. Each nation must pay banks to have growth, because the banks are the center of all things. This is the simple story, the central story, the lie. So long as Greeks do without, Spanish suffer, Irish are unemployed, and all pay the banks to make them ‘healthy,’ then all shall be well, and the common man will benefit when those same banks feel like doing what the government could do without them: lend to business. This capital is not money; it is power. It is the ability to control the labor and life of the people, who must be kept at bay.


The difference between 1948 and 2012 is that there are no Keynesians around with power to point out the obvious: 2+2 = 4. The three sided conversation of 1948 had Marxists, Keynesians, and Capitalists. Today’s conversation has one voice repeating itself, like a boot stamping on a human face forever. We may feel that capital serves people, and people do not serve capitalists, may feel that we might sacrifice for common defense, but not the lies of common debt; no more is there a place for such a voice.

Nevertheless, we can rejoice, as I understand that the chocolate ration will be increasing from four grams to two grams soon, and I am told that gasoline prices have gone up from $3.84 a gallon to $3.35 a gallon and will unseat the chancellor.

As Faust said: “When concepts fail, words arise.” by Don Mikulecky

3:55 pm in Uncategorized by Anti-Capitalist Meetup

The remainder of the title would not fit: “The destruction of language in politics”.  The series this is a part of has the labels:Anti-capitalist meet-up and anti-capitalism.  No better a way to introduce my topic.  Those are “buzz words” and have been around for a very long time.  What do they mean?  I would guess that the vast majority of the people who use these words along with “communism”, “socialism”, “democracy” , “freedom”, liberty”and many others have no real idea what they are talking about.  Political exchanges are the “good guys” and the “bad guys” just like in our Western movies.  But many of us are more sophisticated or at least we think we are.  Read the diaries here and you will be able to see what I am getting at.  Language is a very interesting thing.  We have dictionaries and now the Google and Wikipedia sources for word meanings.  The technology is racing ahead faster than we can comprehend.  Umberto Eco calls it the modern magic.  We use it like magic not really knowing how it works or where it originates.  This diary is meant to blow your mind.  It comes from the strange creature I am, a hybrid between scientist (but very unconventional), political activist (but very radical and unconventional) and citizen of the world rather than of a Nation.  Oh yes I am an American citizen because that’s the way things have to be at this point in time.  It will change, but I will be dead.  When I die I cease to exist. I am 76 now.  If I haven’t turned you off yet read on below.  I hope to shock you.

First of all, how anyone can be anything but “anti-capitalist” at this point in time is beyond my comprehension.  Clearly the plutocrats that run the show have no love for capitalism.  If they did they would practice it.  Here  we are into words and their meaning.  Give me a definition of capitalism that fits where we are today.  You can’t.  We have a system that has evolved to a point that words do not exist to describe it.  Show me a place where the words “socialist” or “communist” have meaning.

What is worse about these names is that they imply something that can be defined out of context.  If there is one “capitalism” there are many.Each depends on context.  Context dependence is my field of study in a way.  I study complex systems.  They are not something that the reductionist science that has produced modern technology are even remotely like.  We live in a world of machines and mechanisms even though our economic myths try to convince us otherwise.  The real world, on the other hand, is not a world of machines and mechanisms.  Thus we are out of touch with the real world.  Very much out of touch.  If you understand this you understand why our words have so little meaning.  They describer a mythical, fairy tale world.

But we deal in facts and figures you say!  Facts and figure only have meaning in a context.  If the context is unreal they tell us nothing.  One of my sources is George Lakoff.  His wisdom has clearly failed to register among us.  I won’t even try to repeat it here.  It falls on deaf ears among political “experts”.  Unfortunately these very same experts continue to wonder why “people vote against their best interests” and why the likes of Romney and his ilk can give Obama a challenge.  It is humorous to me that this theater goes on unchallenged and that no one has caught on that they are playing a game that stabilizes a system that they claim to want to change.

Let’s get back to the words thing.  We live in a world that is run by corporations that have no National loyalty.  Is this Capitalism?  Certainly not as Marx saw it.  We live in a “Nation”?  We vote to “elect” our leaders?  How many of these myths can one swallow?  Apparently they are very palatable.

I have asked here what difference the outcome of the 2012 election in this country will have on the global system we are a part of.  I had no real response.  Slowly, very slowly, the  realization that as we we gave away our industrial capacity to feed the “capitalists” we lost our clout as well.  The global plutocrats (another inadequate word in this modern context) have castrated us and we are really no longer a “Nation” in the old sense of the world.  They have as little loyalty to Nations as they do to any other entity that lacks the power to stop them.  Yet we live with myths and myths are fed by words.  words need not have meaning if they can trigger the wanted responses (Lakoff).

Social evolution is now driven mainly by technology.  Communication is instant.  The rate of change is beyond comprehension.  Meanwhile we plod along believing words we used in the past can  help us in this context.  We have lost touch with the concepts and we have used words to pretend we know what we are doing.  Faust was clear when he made this observation.  I wonder what he would say if he could see us now?

An interesting coincidence as a foot note:  This diary appeared as I came on to finish this one and it is very much relevant. Slang dissected The contrast between slang, which evolves very rapidly, and political jargon which is basically static, is very interesting.  Political language is not alive in the sense that slang is.  Some new terms come in fleetingly (etch-a- sketch, for example or mission accomplished)  but they have not the same way of becoming viral. I suspect that this helps make my point.  Our political language is locked to obsolete concepts but it is locked.  The self referential side of this is that it therefore makes new concepts hard to find their way into the discussion.  For one reason there is no common language to use to bring them into our consciousness.  The old words are buzz words and they evoke the old concepts.