Category Archives: Uncategorized

How many fingers am I holding up? or, Did you even see the video?

I didn’t want to watch another video of someone getting their head cut off. I was barely seventeen when video of WSJ journalist Daniel Pearl’s beheading was uploaded on the internet. The brutality of the Syrian Civil War, the children dead in pieces in Gaza, all of the other images of ISIS uploaded on to the internet were too much blood for me. And the fact that the video of James Foley kneeling in the hot sun next to a menacing, knife-wielding man was immediately yanked off of the internet meant for sure this video was more brutal than all the rest. Considering the sheer volume of grotesque imagery available on Youtube and Twitter, that which we cannot see must be more truly horrible. I asked a comrade if he saw the video, and he told me no, because that sort of thing wasn’t good for the mind. Everyone else said the same thing. And I had no desire to watch it. I could let others tell me about it.

But here’s my comrade telling me to watch it, go ahead and watch it. He sends me a live leak video. I watch it, and if James Foley really is dead, there is no conclusive evidence here – there is barely any gore, in fact no active representation of fatal violence (not counting Obama’s speech at the beginning). The only blood in the video is in the still image of a decapitated body whose face is covered in blood. And there is no way to say that it’s James Foley. As the shrouded menace grabs James Foley by the chin and begins to saw away at his neck, the movement is exaggerated and there is no blood. Fade to black. Fade up on the photo of a body that may be Foley’s. Fin.

Journalists now are either saying they have not seen the video or they are saying that the video clearly shows the beheading of James Foley.

A Jumbotron-sized screen in downtown Beijing shows the execution of American journalist James Foley on a continuous loop.

A gigantic video screen in downtown Beijing is showing gruesome footage of the beheading of American journalist James Foley by Muslim extremists and images of racially charged riots in the Missouri town of Ferguson. – “In busy Beijing, graphic video of James Foley’s beheading is shown over and over on a giant screen”  (NY Daily News)

 

…In the video Foley delivers a statement calling on his friends and family to “rise up against my real killers, the U.S. government.”

Then the ISIL member makes a statement. Speaking in what may possibly be a British accent, he identifies Foley and says his death is a direct result of American intervention in Iraq.

“So any attempt by you Obama, to deny the Muslims of living in safety under Islamic caliphate will result in the bloodshed of your people.”

He then beheads Foley. –“Video shows ISIL beheading of photojournalist James Foley” (Politico)

 

In the video posted Tuesday on YouTube, Foley is seen kneeling next to a man dressed in black. Foley reads a message, presumably scripted by his captors, that his “real killer” is America.

“I wish I had more time. I wish I could have the hope for freedom to see my family once again,” he can be heard saying in the video.

He is then shown being beheaded. –“Video shows ISIS beheading U.S. journalist James Foley” (CNN)

 

There is even an article in the BBC titled “Experts warn of trauma after watching Foley death video” – because while the footage of children hoisting decapitated heads high in Raqaa and stills from mass executions are brutal, sure, for some reason they don’t really compare to the trauma and brutality of watching a white American man allegedly begin to be murdered.

I don’t really know what has happened to James Foley, but the question of why we should pretend this video shows something that it does not deserves to be answered. Why the swift media blackout of the footage? Why the possible play-acting? Why the fake knife?

Maybe this all boils down to facts, and the refusal to share them with us, the refusal to follow-up on sources. Why was the media telling us that he was being held by the Syrian government until this video was released?

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Why are they still saying that?  Why is this man’s disappearance and alleged murder a casus belli that we are not allowed to review, one that journalists are steadfastly refusing to investigate?

And of course, we should ask the producer of this video – allegedly an ISIS guy – why bother to put something up that looked so weird, possibly fake? The organizing strategy of ISIS is clearly one of terror and nightmarish presentations of gore. Why did they leave it out for the Americans?

And now I really have to ask – how many fingers am I holding up? Do you see three? You’re wrong, it’s four. Try harder.

The Weaponized Naked Girl

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The 1976 film Network is the story of a failing television channel and its scheme to improve ratings by putting a crazy man on television. Howard Beale is driven out of his mind after he’s laid off to shield the bottom line. He is a widower, no real friends – a victim of the economic rearrangement of the 1970s. Promising to blow his brains out on live TV, Beale is suddenly the savior of the network as the ratings are higher than ever as a result of this outburst. He appears on television and delivers emotive appeals to his audience, reasoning that while he doesn’t know what do to fix the situation, he at least encourages everyone to “get mad”. But no mass movement erupts. Once his shares start to dip, the network assassinates him to pull their ratings out of the fire.

This is the usual synopsis you’ll receive. Network’s other story lines, the ones about Faye Dunaway’s sexually aggressive yet sexually vacuous character, the cynical manipulation of Black Power politics, are usually ignored. Everyone loves a story about a maniac street preacher. But Network is also about how the media is manufactured, how our pain and frustrations regarding the state of the world are manipulated for ratings, and how legitimate grievances are monetized under capitalism.

It’s a shame we miss out on that, because the media we consume today is just as cynically manipulated. It’s just as weaponized against the population as the media of a hundred years ago, but has now adopted new marketing techniques to sell, promote, and defend imperialism and capitalism. This is not to say that older techniques are not still used – some corruption is still as blatant as taking money or gifts – but other techniques have not been as examined, as thoroughly condemned. While sex and race are just as common as ever in the media’s worship of imperialism and capitalism, the new neoliberal strategies of atomization and the cult of the individual gives the old tropes of manipulation a fresh coat of paint:

We live in an era of flux. The old model of a creator or creative type—a person who does one thing well, and depends on institutions for support—is falling by the wayside. The creator of the future is a super-connected trans-disciplinary mutant: engaged and intellectually rebellious. Molly Crabapple has created everything from Occupy Wall Street posters and arts journalism of collapsing countries to murals on the walls of the world’s most exclusive nightclubs.  On stage, she delivers an energizing, take-no-prisoners talk on how creators—how everyone—can create a life of their own design, without asking permission. (Emphasis mine, from Lanvin Agency)

Atomization is the isolation of a person from their “institutions of support”, meaning, essentially, not just their fellow human being, but also the traditional ways of reading and perceiving knowledge, through history or dialectical reasoning. The atomized individual is “intellectually rebellious”, cut off from the ability to reason correctly and confused by constantly shifting parameters – relying on their own atomized and manipulated environment in order to successfully parse reality. A strategy as old as time is to successfully make the person feel like they came up with the idea to oppress themselves. The fresh coat of paint here is to make everyone relate to their own oppression in an intimate, ego-shaping way. The individual’s decision – once they choose oppression, of course – is a sacred decision; their reasoning and their motivations are private and autonomous. The oppressed are oppressed whether they choose to be or not – but the propaganda encourages the oppressed to accept it anyway, because it makes things easier for domination and atomizes society faster.

Imperialism, too, wants invitations for military advisors, trade agreements, and foreign direct investment. Wars and battles can be disagreeable. Usually it’s preferable both morally and logistically when the oppressed ask for their own subjugation, argue for it themselves. Likewise, patriarchy seeks to subjugate by invitation. Women are told that patriarchy really does have nothing but the best intentions, that she can cleverly twist patriarchy on her own to make it “work for her”. In this way, we can compare the woman who feels violent pornography is empowering to the country which feels monoculture depending on the imperial markets is empowering. Under this paradigm, we the audience, must believe that if they are asking for it, we must respect their agency. Systems of oppression, however, do not simply disappear because they are somehow passively (or actively!) accepted by the oppressed. Indeed, systems prefer the acquiescence of the oppressed to conflict. This is why it is so important for us to be told that women love being prostitutes and how much happier developing countries are under capitalism. In many cases, this functions as a sort of shield for oppression – it’s their choice, after all! And we must respect that. And if not their choice, well then, certainly NATO has their best interests as individuals at heart. An argument about imperialism successfully becomes an argument about agency.

All of this is not just a successful tool for atomization, it is also a savvy marketing strategy for oppression. For this essay, I am going to write mainly on how imperialist-marketing techniques specifically corrupts feminism. While women who stand against oppression and imperialism are often excluded from public platform, or labeled as “crazy” otherwise, when standing for imperialism, misogyny, racism, and capitalism, women are seen as strong and independent-minded. When their representations of the aforementioned are attacked, these otherwise “modern” women simply melt back into stereotypical gender roles, and are posited as victims. I will present three case studies for this phenomenon that will seek to make this connection between feminism, traditional gender roles, agency and imperial aggression.

For the first case study, let’s take a look at a so-called feminist, modern group of women: FEMEN. The marketing strategy of this Ukrainian group is pretty simple to grasp. A photo of any FEMEN action usually includes a half naked blonde woman, political slogans scrawled across her breasts, her face contorted in pain and fear as a police officer or soldier, generally a man, attempts to tackle and arrest her. Here we have a twofold approach: one strategy is that instead of holding placards, these women use their bare breasts as “weapons” (their word, not mine) to trick an otherwise apathetic and disinterested male population into buying whatever it is they’re selling, while courageously doing this as wielders of their own agency, allegedly wielding it in the name of atomized feminism (what I call elsewhere “postfeminism“). This is greatly analogous to marketing strategies which seek to utilize female sexuality – we can see examples of this on any convention showroom floor.  They are simultaneously empowered by using their sexuality to sell their politics, while at the same time cynically bowing to traditional gender roles. The second part of the marketing strategy is to usually include the police. Their groping hands put these lovely blonde ladies in danger. They roughly claw at their exposed flesh. Like King Kong, these women are generally presented as helpless against their attackers, suspended in midair by the ruddy paws of the enemy who seeks to destroy us all. We are winked at by the titillating vision of half-naked attractive white women, offering their politics on their breasts as a way of appealing to the so-called essential nature of of piggish men, appreciative of their strong choices, angry that a man would stand in their way. 

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For sure, while I have lived both in worlds where women wear very little and quite a lot to promote their sexuality, I take no offense to either approach. But I am critical to an extreme when I see this sexuality weaponized, used to beat not just Russia over the head, but all of us, to crush discussion and promote unquestioning acquiescence in the name of agency, feminism and sexual liberation. The image of white breasts crumpled roughly in the dark hands of state violence – what’s there to safely discuss without stepping in a minefield?

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Odessa: FEMEN spokeswoman Ievgeniia Kraizma throwing a salute while 40 people are lynched and burned behind her in May 2014.

It didn’t surprise me to discover that FEMEN is represented by a smarmy Ukrainian neo-fascist, or that FEMEN has connections to Svoboda and dirty US money. It didn’t surprise me to see FEMEN photographed posing near the burning House of Labor in Odessa during a brutal lynching of red and left activists. What did surprise me was how successfully the FEMEN brand and their tactics have so far avoided a total exposure as fascist frauds. I suppose that many of my male comrades, and some of the female ones, feel uncomfortable discussing this, as many of us (as good Leftists) have been inoculated against discussing how a woman should display her sexuality. The dominant discussion about a woman’s choice simply forbids me from approaching a half-naked woman and calling her out on reactionary posturing. It will melt into my being a prude or jealous of her beauty. I cannot say if these women were expressing their honest-to-God sexuality while participating in these actions. I’ve never been to bed with them, I don’t know their hearts. I can just clearly see how their bodies, their bare skin, are weaponized towards reaction. As a woman, the marketing scheme disgusts me – a scheme to sell imperialism, patriarchy and racism. It’s a marketing scheme that results in the uncritical nodding along of so many while reds burn in Odessa. 

In a way, FEMEN’s schtick is much like Nazi pornography: the woman simultaneously representing sexual availability, traditional values, and also under threat by the dark barbarian other. The main difference here is that the woman herself is now an individual. It’s not just her body that must be protected from the barbarian horde; it is also her choice to portray herself thus that must be defended. Her reasons for being presented in this way are hers and hers alone – if she believes she is being counter-culture when being anything but, we cannot argue with this or else we are little worse than the cops clawing at her body. The defense is thus sealed against all criticism of tactics and ideology. 

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Their biggest applause line was “Be Pussy Riot! Anyone can be Pussy Riot!”

Another example of this paradigm in action is the Russian group Pussy Riot. What started as an anarchist-type art collective in Russia, with public fucking, sexual battery against women, and desecration of sacred spaces, soon became a cause célèbre for spook organizations like Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch. Their combined sexiness and intellectual rebelliousness were worshiped by unofficial Occupy spokespersons, their pouting faces immortalized as they were hauled off to a dreaded work camp. After their early release, as part of a general amnesty for mothers (my goodness – what a concept!) they went on tour of American prisons, grimly meeting with Bill DeBlasio and speaking on how much the prisons in Russia could be improved, perhaps to become more like the prisons in the US, where the rate of incarceration is historically unprecedented.

Of course, while Pussy Riot enjoys a rockstar reception in the United States, the same is not true for the Russian Federation, where the majority of the population regards the beautiful young women of Pussy Riot as deserving of punishment. In fact, a rarely-reported twist to the story is that the two women seen most as representing Pussy Riot, Nadezhda Tollokonnikova and Maria Alyokhina, were in fact expelled from their group. But this is irrelevant to the media in the United States, who are basically the managers and promoters of the group in the West, who seek instead to paint these women as dissidents who redeem our bad qualities (Rikers, etc) through their earnest, qualified eyes. We cannot get the same redemption from Chelsea Manning, rotting in prison now for four years with no general amnesty coming for her, as her acts did not exist to propagate empire, but rather to expose and destroy empire. Chelsea Manning’s inhumane imprisonment is not viewed with the same comradely concern as Pussy Riot, who pose for Vanity Fair once free and clear in New York City. Despite their strength of character and bravery in risking their lives (!) to tell the truth about Putin’s Russia, Pussy Riot remain fragile, petite girls who are in need of saving.

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And here, generally, is where female sexuality is most successfully deployed against critical thought. In reading the objections as being about the bodies themselves, as opposed to the systems of power they represent in tension with one another, we are effectively silenced. We read critique of Pussy Riot and FEMEN as being attacks against their bodies themselves. Even their agency is pushed aside in moments of crisis. This is misogyny. Despite their right-wing stances, their cheering for imperialism, these women have successfully infiltrated modern protest movements such as Occupy Wall Street and piggy-backed onto a variety of causes, such as that of prison reform, refugee crises, LGBT liberation, and Cecily McMillan’s trial. They have entered these movements seamlessly, propagating disinfo and sowing division among actual activists, while going relatively unchallenged. The critics of their positions become “haters” or “stalkers”, or send them rape threats.


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Laurie Penny and friends

Our new young female pundit class is the final example of this phenomenon of weaponized naked girls. Writers such as Molly Crabapple, Laurie Penny, and Natasha Lennard have become new icons for a “counterculture” feminist-journalist ideal. But a quick look at the CVs of these women reveal them not as actual politically minded activists, but rather as ambitious pop-culture icons. Laurie Penny frames herself as a Harvard fellow and feminist voice for the “underclass” while cheering on the NATO attacks on Libya in 2011, Natasha Lennard smears anti-war activism as useless and boring, and Molly Crabapple now regularly reports dispatches from the Middle East, arguing for NATO intervention in Syria and the arming of foreign mercenaries there while chiding the Left for being against these things. Proving that naked photos of oneself are no barrier to success in the mainstream, Crabapple in particular has successfully turned her burlesque franchise into a platform to broadcast political propaganda, and is regularly printed in VICE, the New York Times, and invited on news channels such as MSNBC to opine on MENA foreign policy issues.   

I asked the question, why is a young woman like Molly Crabapple chosen to write about Syria, and not a young woman like Eva Bartlett? We could say it’s as simple as the fact that Crabapple supports NATO intervention in Syria, weaving a case for the need for intervention by bravely “risking her life” going 100 meters into Syria to report on the need for the Syrian government to be overthrown by foreign forces. Bartlett does not agree with this, but let’s also look deeper at what disqualifies her: she has worked as a regional organizer for ISM in Gaza, speaks Arabic, and has a firm grounding in the region. She has worked as a human shield for the Palestinian people against imperialist bombs. While this first-hand knowledge might qualify her to some, it would probably disqualify her from taking a job in professional journalism, as this would require a level of “objectivity” she clearly no longer possesses. 

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Commie-chic: all the chic, none of the commie

Crabapple, on the other hand, runs a burlesque franchise (“Dr. Sketchy’s”)  that features imperialist, racialized shows for the entertainment of a mainly-white male audience. Instead of this disqualifying her from a platform, it endears her to publications such as VICE, an imperialist, racialized burlesque show in its own right. She is a self-described mercenary entrepreneur and former naked girl who seemed to earn her credentials on reporting the topic of Syrian “revolution” by way of her being an unofficial spokeswoman and artist for Occupy Wall Street.

This position also offered her the opportunity to visit the prison camp in Guantanamo Bay, where hundreds of prisoners are denied basic rights as human beings and are currently on mass hunger strike. The stories of torture and mistreatment out of Guantanamo are not hard to find, including reports of a  CIA murder cover up, but these are conspicuously absent from Crabapple’s reporting. She instead spends most of her time with the guards and wardens of the prison camp, drawing pictures of the idyllic scenery and the equipment they use to torture the prisoners. She draws Guantanamo as overgrown and mysterious, lush and abandoned, a sort of Tim Burton set. It is no longer threatening, merely an uncomfortable afterthought. When questioning the purpose of this visit, I was asked “What could someone REALLY dig up on such a trip?” What indeed. So then the question becomes: why was this woman who did no journalism of note, who left out actual journalism of note from her report, allowed to visit such a blight on humanity if not to present an acceptable and non-threatening version of it to her audience?

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It’s clear then, that a woman such as this is not qualified to be considered a journalist, much less a “leftist” by any serious standards. She is simply a pop-culture propagandist, marketed to young leftists as an acceptable and attractive alternative to Thomas Friedman. Yet, when confronted with criticism on her position or credentials, Crabapple retreats into a victim’s shell. Her critics are “haters”, “jealous”, or “obsessed with her [sexually]”. Refugee Palestinian children become her sexual molesters while she simultaneously and bravely calls for their betterment – not through BDS or armed resistance, but *some*how. Likewise, the “left” pelts her with alleged rape threats while she is only trying to help them win broader exposure. Her sexuality as a woman simultaneously promotes and shields her. She even went as far as to paint a portrait of herself with various criticisms painted over her face – few of them were threats to her body, most of them to her politics, but certainly all one and the same in her artistic representation.

The racialized clarification to this scam is Crabapple answering for her profiting off imperialist burlesque by bringing out a performer from the show, to argue that what was seen – women dressed in “traditional” savage garb with tampons in their ears, killing one another for the sexual pleasure of the audience, was actually highly-developed satire or criticism of racism and imperialism in its own right. While Crabapple herself would not answer my questions regarding this show, how this sort of thing developed her brand, and its contribution to her views on imperialism, the performer she featured thanked her profusely for the opportunity to reinforce stereotypes next to racist copy written by a white man, implying that if she did not, this would be censoring women of color. This was a disclaimer added five years after the fact and only after I raised the issue. Again: we have racist, imperialist, misogynist discourse that is justified by agency, implying that to disagree with profiting off of these representations would in fact be racism or misogyny in its own right. This is neoliberalism at fever pitch.

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Racism and female sexuality have long been utilized to sell imperialist war. The Spanish American war, the mobilization of the KKK to protect white females from rape, the hijab-wearing beauties constrained by “Islamofascism” – these are all examples. For any case imperialist warmongering, I will show you a pretty young woman in danger. Not as if these women are in danger because of imperialist war, of course. They are almost always in argument of imperialist war. The brutal gang rape of young teenage girls by  American soldiers in Iraq  is simply not covered in the same way as Ghadaffi’s alleged Viagra-fueled rape squads. The gruesome blackmail used against females  and LGBT people by Mossad is simply not news compared to honor killings.

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In addition, there is a tendency in yellow journalism to present female sexuality as a way to sell papers. It works so well for nearly every other facet of capitalist consumerism. And there is a tendency in journalists of all stripes and shapes to be connected to intelligence services, also in service of imperialist intervention and war. From a desire to access to simple laziness, journalists play into the hands of the government on nearly all fronts, but particularly when it comes to imperialism. Why keep a foreign bureau open when you can get information from the government and send pundits along embedded with soldiers and State Department coordinators? All of this together creates a situation ripe for exploiting the entire public, but throw in the parts about feminism, and now reds and other sorts of anti-imperialists will be lured by this siren’s call. It’s not hard to conjure up desired personalities to deliver your message in this system, not hard to produce the actors needed to play all the parts of the media narrative. It’s not just spooks sneaking around recruiting people for their schemes, it’s a whole society that’s been primed to loathe communism and national liberation.

Women with guns in their hands fighting against imperialism are mostly absent from this kind of imperial discourse, except to mockpity or belittle them. I mean, look at that last link. It’s to an article about FARC’s female soldiers and it’s titled “Jungle Fever”. In this discourse, all women are victims and silly dupes – wandering children, looking for someone to help them. The ones with a voice are loud and proud about their imperialist message, and then it is their bodies under attack if their message is objected to – not imperialism, not capitalism. 

But I reject this. These expressions of female sexuality are not earnest, and are just as false as any other patriarchal representation of women, not because the women and their actions are themselves false necessarily, but because these presentations have been weaponized by third parties to serve imperialist and patriarchal ends. They are mediated expressions. I cannot speculate on whether or not these individual women are knowingly complicit in this. I can only struggle against the broader tendency to use female bodies in this grotesque manner.

Today’s young female journalist-pundits have created the perfect storm for this sort of discourse, and it is their presence that introduces groups like Pussy Riot and FEMEN to the rest of us, helpfully putting it all in context. Their support of imperialism, combined with their self-promotion as empowered savvy “burlesque dancers” or “naked girls”, combined with their self-portrayal as frightened women under attack, is effective in triggering silence from the left. Professionally donning the sheep’s wool of just-another-activist-chick while quite literally endorsing capitalism and its products, they fold criticism of their work and their marketing strategy into criticisms of themselves, and as they have been crafted to appeal mainly to a certain demographic, the attack is not just on themselves, but also on their fans and their sense of taste. These women are not just sexy, hinting at their sexual availability, but also vulnerable to attack. Like Clemencia Arango, they are young, innocent, beautiful, naked and must be saved.

So, the nakedness, while making these women appealing yet vulnerable, also shields them – their openness and frankness alluding that their presentation of themselves as coy young ladies is of their own agency, that it was their decision to market themselves thus. Therefore, it would be anti-women, certainly anti-female sexuality, to attack the media as using the nakedness as a screen for pro-NATO positions. No consideration is given, perhaps, that their rising to the top is a result of imperialism and patriarchy, a deeply integrated media propaganda machine.

They are, in a strange way, much like the young, innocent, beautiful and naked women who NATO must intervene to “protect” – at least, they are both supported and promoted by the same paradigm of patriarchal imperialism and capitalism. And since the marketing appeal is clearly not just their excellent reporting, but also their packaged sexuality and so-called “girlfriend experience” complete with Instagram photos and voyeuristic members-only performances, this means that an attack on them is not just an alleged attack on their sexuality, but on their male audience as well.

And I must stress here, before I receive backlash, that I have no idea who any of the above women are on an individual level. I don’t know what drives them. I cannot say for one way or the other that they are aware of how they are being weaponized against the world’s oppressed majority; I can only say that they are. Neoliberalism lays out its demands in a simple way for white women who want to make it in this world: we are to be subservient, our consent made available for public sale, and for our hearts to go out to our men and women in uniform as they fight to keep the barbarians at bay who would throw a hijab over our nakedness. As for fighting women of color and women battling on imperial fronts – if they do not exist to arouse or be laughed at, they simply do not exist at all. And while we wrestle with our deeper questions of identity, atomization, feminism and racism, imperialist bombs quicken their pace, spreading their destruction over the rest of the world.

I’m leaving again

Do you know what’s messed up? When 150,000 people are having their water shut off by capitalists in Detroit. The government there let it happen. People didn’t pay their water bills, so now they don’t get water.

I was born in a country where this happens.

There are camps set up on army bases right now in this country filled with thousands and thousands of children. They live behind barbed wire, they share a bathroom with 600 other kids. Most are children who are running from a brutal, US-backed coup in Honduras, where hundreds of children have been disappeared this year so far. Still, the white racists stand by the side of the road and hurl slurs and threats at these children as they are bussed in.

Many of the people I love live here.

The homeless are miserable, sick, need help and a place to stay. Every day on the train, the collective cringes as “Ladies and gentlemen,” loudly interrupts everyone’s game of solitaire. There are over 60,000 homeless in New York City, where the average rent is over $3,000 per month. There are around 23,000 homeless children in the same city that shelters all the banks, the NYSE. The New York Times.

So I’m leaving again.

Honestly, it makes me a little crazy living here. I need a break, and I have the opportunity to go elsewhere, doing something that makes me feel useful. Not that I didn’t feel useful organizing or working in publishing. I learned a lot. I met amazing people and stood in solidarity with them. I wrote a book. But my heart is in hiding here, it’s too painful right now. I was born here and my family lives here, but this government makes me crazy and I have to go for a minute. There are hardships elsewhere but I feel like I do better and work more effectively elsewhere for the time being.

I was heartened to meet so many amazing comrades, who all do such hard work. I will do what I can. I’m leaving my books here, so I’ll be back.

Nobody Politics

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You may learn in time that “activism” and militancy is the highest stage of alienation.

Do you really think it matters whether you “oppose” imperialism or not. Your yelling and “loud” opposition is utterly ineffectual and impotent.

She’s a bit too “enthusiastic“. I think she’s slightly over-estimating her self-importance and that of those she associates with.

What is a troll? Accused of anonymity and distasteful disagreement, a troll is a nobody. Nobodies inhabit the earth in billions, just numbers on a census, silenced from debate and discourse. A troll is a nobody who goes against what good nobodies are supposed to be doing: acquiescing, marching behind somebodies, those unique souls imbued with a sense of authority by the powers that be. This class of somebodies include tenured professors, experts, pundits, image-conscious journalists, celebrities and politicians.

I laughed when Professor Rechtenwald left the above paternalist comments on my recent essay on the urgent necessity of anti-imperialism. I currently pay for a shared studio with vermin on a street where people are murdered, I make $15 an hour as a temp in New York; no one has to tell me I’m alienated. I do not disagree that militancy and activism are results of alienation. Word on the street is that this is how revolutionaries live: cut off from all sorts of things, certainly from the teat of NYU positions. But his comments got me thinking about unimportant nobodies versus very important somebodies, and I’d like to make some comments about nobody politics.

As much as anyone wants to beat up on Stalin and Mao for “cults of personality”, we have a strange blind spot towards our utterly bizarre celebrity culture.

Celebrity is a gorgeous date for neoliberalism. The cult of the individual manifests itself as worshiping the individual traits of those we have never met or spoken with. We need to see cellulite, we need to read interviews, we need to breathlessly pour over family photos of intimate gatherings on their timelines. This cult of celebrity is encouraged by and exists for the purposes of capitalism. Celebrities mean celebrity endorsements, of course, but they also foster a sense of individual worship. The difference between Stalin and an American celebrity is that Stalin was seen as the embodiment of the Soviet Union and its values, while we love our celebrity because of her individual qualities, namely her saucy attitude, sizzling hot fashion sense, and her performances for us – be they on stage or on Instagram. Stalin never posed for centerfolds, he never gave out fashion tips or spoke about his family and personal relationships at length. He was a portrait, a ghost of an actual individual, an iconic face that meant nothing to most of us on an individual scale.

For sure, our present ruler in the United States indulges in this celebrity, playing to memes or appearing on ironic hipster webisodes. But mainly, we eat up our information from the New York Times op-ed pages. We are told how to think about things by columnists that indoctrinate us with capitalism’s smokescreens and lies, revealing just as much about themselves in the process. These are important people. This pundit class that gets asked to speak and sign autographs are very important people. Their opinions are considered authoritative and valid. They must be smarter, more hardworking than all of us. They must have access to different, better information. After all, they are there for a reason, no?

Much of the authority bestowed on us by capitalism correlates to our socio-economic status and relationship to the means of production. Law makers, politicians, professors, millionaires – by and large these actors come from a certain class, and are generally white and male. What then, of the other voices we see represented  – who are they meant to appeal to? Like the indigene begging for NATO intervention, feminists incessantly speaking about sex work, the person of color arguing that we are in a post-racial society: celebrity pundits must also appeal to power.

I wrote on this about a year back. I wrote about American radicalism and the sacrifices that had to be offered to count yourself among the likes of Assata Shakur, Malcolm X, Fred Hampton, John Brown, Bill Haywood, and others. I wrote that the person embraced and encouraged along by the imperialist machine would be suspect, because being an actual radical can be fatal. There are dead workers buried all over this country from crushed strikes that are testimony, among others in unmarked graves. But now there are radicals who promote Pussy Riot, who cheer on the bombing of Libya, who hustle hard for imperialism, who endorse products. Radicals who make lots of money on the stock market and buy brownstones (oh, maybe they give some of their money away, but probably not to the Naxalites). These people also happen to be Somebodies. They are pulled in towards the heart of Empire and so are rewarded not just with wealth and power, but also a platform to speak from. This is somebody politics.

But let’s talk about nobody politics. On the other end of the spectrum, we have those who are hungry, those who are poor and frustrated. These are nobodies. These are the alienated. They are the ones who die under NATO bombs. They are the ones vaccinated without giving informed consent, their signatures forged. These are the youth, the people of color, the poor. They are nobodies. Their voices are seen as insignificant.  Their opposition to imperialism and capitalism is, as Professor Rechtenwald tells me, meaningless, utterly ineffectual and impotent. The militant activists are alienated, not important.  Nobody politics are for nobodies. Somebody politics are for somebodies. So, if you’re a nobody, why not try shilling somebody politics for a change? It may even result in a respite from the alienation, may help one bootstrap their way into a book deal or high-paying job.

Or not. As the numbers tell us, opportunity for youth, people of color, and other oppressed communities is nonexistent compared to the exciting lives of our favorite celebrities. They jet around the world on company money, endorse products for easy cash, and spend an awful lot of time reinforcing to us how empire is blameless and there’s really no other way that things could be. You get the freelance journalists hustling for a staff position. You get the academics hustling for a book deal. You get a lot of hustle from lawmakers, artists – in fact let’s just call then “somebodies” – for just straight-up payoffs and bribes.

Meanwhile, the nobodies hustle for rent, debt, and hospital bills. In fact, the more of a nobody they are, the more they owe, the more they “hustle”. The nobodies hate capitalism. The nobodies hate imperialism. The nobodies hate racism, the nobodies hate sexism. The nobodies hate poverty. They hate hustling. Nobodies want free housing, education, healthcare, food and guaranteed employment. They hide their faces or don’t speak up because they know what they want goes against what those in power want for them. If they are too loud with their discontent, there is a crackdown, minute pressure points in society the people in power can press, releasing spurts of misogyny, racism, xenophobia, and mass incarceration. The somebodies know how to shut nobodies like me up – that’s how they stay in power.

So I laughed when Professor Rechtenwald tried to do me a favor and remind me how unimportant I am. Yes, professor: I have bed bugs, rats, a low-paying temp job, tens of thousands in debt, and unstable access to healthcare. Everything in my life serves to remind me of my unimportance, my alienation. I get it. I’m a nobody. And I live on a street in a neighborhood full of nobodies. A city and country, a world full of nobodies. I write under a pseudonym and I hide my face, among other reasons, because there really is nothing so special about me. I’m not important. Not much unique. I’m just one of many gunning for your class, gender, sexual, and racial privilege with my politics, which I have decided to speak up about. I’m not a celebrity, not quirky and sexy and talented and nodding along with empire, I’m a nobody. Now, move along. We’re talking nobody politics with other nobodies.

Let’s talk discipline

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Our world is in crisis and we have no idea how to confront it. We are groping in the dark, often alone in our concern. The radical groups that gather to organize are small, timid, and fleeting. Noncommittal. Meanwhile, the terror grows. Massive NATO wargames in the Baltic. Fascists on the march in Europe, Asia, the Middle East, South and Central America. Here, even, in the United States; widespread anti-immigration and chauvinist sentiment, millions of economic refugees coupled with worsening conditions for all of us: decaying infrastructure, a welfare state hacked to pieces, the evaporation of jobs that pay a living wage. And the rich get richer, of course, but what else? The left, the actual last vestiges of the left worldwide, is being wiped out. Red activists thrown from windows or chased underground, into hiding. Assassinations in Greece, the dismantling of the PFLP in Palestine, a possible final assault against the Naxalites in India, raids of activists houses, arrests, disappearances. Mass incarceration in the imperial core. Extralegal prisons and kill lists. Weaponized, remote controlled airplanes, deployed in dozens of countries. Massive foundations run by billionaires such as Bill Gates wreck the people of the global south, destroying infrastructure and forcibly sterilizing and killing women and girls as test subjects and foreign markets for poison. The KKK is arming itself. These things are happening; the situation isn’t comparable to any other we have faced.  Chemical weapons, poisoned food and water, a planet that is crumbling around us. There is also the surveillance state, ever-present in our homes, our pockets: all of our data, photos, communications, purchases, deepest secrets, now all cataloged and ready to be used against us. And the protest movements in the West seem more determined to overthrow foreign governments targeted by US-NATO than to overthrow capitalism.

So when I start to speak about conspiracy here, about propaganda, psyops and intelligence, I hope you will cut me some slack. We have to admit that there is a ruling class, that its purpose on this planet is to accumulate more capital at the expense of the workers. As we have seen, they will do anything to ensure this. They will rape, murder, plunder, lie, cheat, steal, whatever. We should be able to agree on this before proceeding.

To connect the worsening situation abroad to the one at home is risky business, because it is something that has strong potential to heighten political consciousness and rally the people. The United States is not going to willingly let go of its power worldwide. Fascism is capitalism in crisis. When we can no longer be controlled by our more basic needs and desires, fascism comes along to make every space hostile towards organizing against the capitalist state. It can contain popular resistance on a very micro-level. Walking outside and seeing that everyone already has you in their sights will check your behavior. So too will thinking somewhere in the back of your head that your communications are being monitored or at least stored somewhere, if not by the government, then by Google or your bank.

So maybe this is part of the reason why nobody shows up to meetings, or if to meetings, then not to street action. After all, despite this growing sense of urgency and fear in our stomachs, the media assure us that all is relatively well. Even the leaks about our surveillance program are meted out in bite-sized chunks, celebrated with much fanfare, rolled out with showman style. We go home and scratch our heads as nothing happens – what did all of those fireworks really mean? Like “Big Brother is Watching You” signs, we are being told quite frankly that our communications are monitored. What is missing from the leaks is our new COINTELPRO. But we know the cops are busy. We know mercenaries are all the rage nowadays, and corporate spies as well, so why even just constrain ourselves to the CIA and FBI? When there is a crackdown, we should be ready. And we should be aware that a crackdown is coming. It doesn’t matter how ineffectual or small the Left might be, we will see a crackdown anyway – that’s how this works.

So why are we giggling when there is a panel at Left Forum called “Zizek must be destroyed“? The facts are clear. Molly Klein invites us to consider the possibility that the Left is being targeted for infiltration and destruction. Is that so much to ask? I heard someone walk out of the panel huffing, “Well, I know Zizek is a racist, but that’s just crazy.” Are you kidding me? If Zizek is a racist, if he supports ethnic cleansing, if he sides 100% of the time with an imperialist agenda, if he spends much of his efforts presenting a grotesque caricature of a “Marxist” and misattributing Goebbels quotes to actual revolutionary Marxists, shouldn’t we be concerned? Apparently, a time of dark reaction such as this is the wrong time to consider the possibility.

Likewise, if a woman who has taken money from some of the more powerful foreign-policy shapers on the stage today – Al Jazeera, Open Society, Freedom House, New America Foundation – suddenly decides, 24 hours after the first decent anti-imperialist article has run in Jacobin magazine, to slander all the masthead and yes, even the “Left” itself, with allegations of supporting rape, shouldn’t we pause and think on that? Considering our circumstances, shouldn’t we at least consider the possibility? When national security advisors and contractors start to chime in, isn’t that weird? Molly Crabapple, a cheerleader for NATO intervention on many fronts, also participates in this labeling of the Left as rapist and misogynist (if not just jealous of her success). Of course, this is a woman who receives all-expenses paid trips to Guantanamo Bay and forgets to mention the murder and torture coverups covered in Harper’s, and whose partner and room mate (Fred Harper, pictured) is quite literally an Army propagandist. Taking these sorts of people into our conversations on good faith is the same as allowing an oil-industry showman to enter the debate on climate change – they have a vested interest in obscuring the truth, which they do. They are not revolutionaries. Their place here is too comfortable, too dependent on the status quo. We must not forget that the ruling class does not value honest debate – there are millions of dead bodies that can testify to this – and they will only enter into it when they see a tactical advantage.

I have a hefty bag full of complaints about the Jacobin “Brand” and its DSA style publication, its political posturing and its entrepreneurial propaganda, it’s misogynist mishaps and its unreliable grasp of history, but even I cannot help but notice it’s sometimes the best we’ve got in terms of widespread organization and messaging. And so, if someone comes punching left, I’ll take the opportunity to throw myself behind a party I don’t feel so hot about, because I realize the fash are coming. We have to hold the line until we get our act together.

It’s necessary to buy time and space while harrying the enemy: US-NATO imperialism, capitalism and its disciplining of resistance. I wish people would stop seeing this as a battle of egos and leadership positions – leader of what, really? – and instead come at this like we need communism yesterday. We need an end to imperialism now. We need this system yanked from the walls and we need the people of this world, this planet itself, to survive until we can get our acts together. So we shouldn’t take part in these games, and we shouldn’t be seduced into thinking we can all get tenured positions and six figure book deals. The folks with the tenured positions and six figure book deals have them for a reason, and it sure ain’t because they have a strong line on anti-imperialism.

Assess our global and local situation with a rational mind, as if you’re looking back, reading up on it in a history book. Divorce yourself from the equation. If someone suggests something that sounds conspiratorial, don’t laugh. Listen and learn. Even the craziest person speaks some degree of truth. Realize that the enemy’s technological capabilities are almost beyond imagination. Remember that our government is a pay-to-play system. Recognize that the planet and its lower 85% are stewing in pain and misery. Just because the television and internet say that our situation is mostly a bed of roses doesn’t mean it actually is. That’s propaganda. To get on stage and speak the truth would not get you killed necessarily, but it will get you laughed off, shut down and shunned.

Someone claims they think their calls are being monitored, they take their battery out of their phone when they talk to you. This will earn you oh really? smiles. To suggest that Zizek is a part of a greater imperial project and attack against the Left will earn you laughter and nasty drooling from old rich men. To suggest that a sudden, vicious attack against Jacobin magazine (after they published their first solid anti-imperialist article might I add! Good show.) that possibly more than a million viewers read is possibly a coordinated operation is going to make people embarrassed to be seen with you. But hey, considering the fact that Leftist youth are being kidnapped, assassinated, murdered, physically and mentally intimidated worldwide right now, while pretty much ALL other youth is further immiserated, unable to focus on much more but a livelihood, maybe it’s actually not so much of a stretch to think there may be those with less than helpful agendas among us? And to consider that the FBI regularly entraps vulnerable or mentally ill Muslims, targets antiwar and peace activists, prosecutes disaffected youth more stringently than rightwing terrorists, makes it clear an organized crackdown does not need to be legitimated by an organized threat.

And yes, as a young red, you actually have a great deal of responsibility and opportunity to fix this situation. But first and most importantly, properly situation yourself within history and your current environmental conditions. This includes taking full stock of what’s around you, what could be happening. We should operate fearlessly as much as we can while realizing that yes, we will be subject to pressures for doing so. What is most important, though, is to have each other’s backs. We have disagreements about all sorts of things, but when the fash is bearing down on us, I’m going to put off my sectarian arguments  until we’re in the clear. When I see them punching left, I will punch right. When they punch down, I will punch up. It’s the least I can do to hold the line under such conditions.

Related:

In Praise of Conspiracy Theory: http://www.midnightnotes.org/pdf00010wages.pdf
Dissent Commodities: http://fables-of-faubus.com/n+1
Zizek Delenda Est: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IrEJW3INm58
Take Your Drip and Stick It! http://ohtarzie.wordpress.com/2013/09/10/fuck-the-guardian-take-your-drip-and-stick-it/
Unity of the Working Class against Fascism:  https://www.marxists.org/reference/archive/dimitrov/works/1935/unity.htm

 

 

 

somatophobia IV: consumer-oriented ideology

Does everyone feel so replaceable?

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First introduced in 2010 after nearly a decade of development, the Roxxxy line now includes RoxxxyGold, RoxxxySilver, and RoxxxyPillow, as well as Rocky. Only RoxxxyGold comes equipped with a ‘personality,’ although RoxxxySilver will talk during sex. RoxxxyPillow, the least expensive model, is only the torso, head, and three ‘inputs’ – vagina, anus, and mouth. Unlike the other models, which are full-sized, RoxxxyPillow can be tucked away discreetly when not in use.

from Leah Reich

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Forty bucks and a car with a front seat can get you sucked off. But you want someone … nice. Pretty. “Classy.” Innocent enough. You’re a tech guy. You want a Stanford girl.

The good news: Cute, bored, slightly-short-on-cash Stanford girls are a dime a dozen. Plus $200 to $300 up front. But it’s not an easy thing, the blowjob. Here’s a step-by-step guide.

from Melissa Gira Grant

Nice girls don’t get into politics: on the sentencing of Cecily McMillan

I once told my grandfather about what I was reading in school. I was reading Emma Goldman at the age of twenty. I thought he could appreciate it somehow; his father was an organizer with the IWW, blacklisted and imprisoned for it. Instead he turned, touched my hair in a tender way, and told me that “Nice girls don’t get into politics.” 

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Yesterday, Cecily McMillan was given a sentence of 90 days in prison and 5 years of probation. For the trial, McMillan and her defense portrayed her as an antithesis to the caricature of the “smelly hippy” protester. McMillan also said from the stand that she was not a communist. She wore pearls to the trial and portrayed herself as a normal, reasonable, smiling woman. From this portrayal and towards the logical end of the trial itself, in addition to probation and jail time, she was given the order to attend mandatory mental health counseling.

Ulrike Meinhof was murdered in her cell by the West German government. A mother, Meinhof was berated for abandoning her family to take up the cause of guerilla war. After her death, an autopsy was performed, and she was said to have a tumor in her brain that, according to her captors and murderers, must have contributed in some way towards her political beliefs and actions. Simply put: a white woman who objects or acts in self-defense against a society that worships the body parts of white women is seen as crazy, not nice. She needs mental health counseling, brain surgery, a good fuck to get better.   

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To avoid a draconian sentence of 2-7 years for defending herself against police violence, McMillan was forced to forgo her radicalism and appear as non-threatening and complacent to the system that put her in Rikers as possible. McMillan very emphatically said she was not a communist. She said that she had protested alongside cops in the past. She dressed up in normie drag: white pearls, make-up, very professional, very smart. More importantly, her defense atomized the incident, making the trial less about the repressive state violence used to crush a legal, non-violent protest, and more about an individual (herself) responding to another individual (Grantely Bovell) who grabbed her breast. The defense was not interested as portraying her as emblematic – they strategically broke down the situation into bite-sized individual pieces that the jurors and the judge were more likely to swallow. 

The defense strove to make McMillan appear as a sane, well spoken, middle class lover of humanity. And she is. But despite all of this, she was still sentenced to jail time and 5 years probation, with the bourgeois state that did such violence against her now having a very active and constant presence in her life for years to come. Most importantly, she will be psychologically evaluated and treated by the very machine of horror she protested against. Any traces of a larger social experience must be erased from her mind. The state of New York makes the case that if she really is a pearl-wearing, cop-respecting white cis woman, she must need psychological treatment in order to retake her social place in good standing. If she has PTSD from living under capitalism, from being beaten by the police, she must learn to accept that it was her fault with the way her mind worked – after all, she was found guilty. The bourgeois state sees her as broken, malformed somehow. Instead of the bourgeois state itself and it’s mechanisms of violence coming under scrutiny and re-evaluation, it is she who must be reformed and made whole by bourgeois justice. 

The pig who assaulted her, meanwhile, is vindicated in his action. He will probably receive a promotion. 

Somatophobia pt. III

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Do you think Glass will change how artists perceive their own art, if they use it? 

Molly Crabapple: Drawing while wearing Glass is incredibly distracting. You keep having this Pavlovian drive to look at the little image on the glowing cube, as opposed to the big world in front of you, which is really one of the downfalls of mobile tech in general. When it’s hacked to run uStream, the little image in the Glass is the same as what’s in front of me in the real world — and I find myself wanting to look at that little image.

Are there going to be contact lenses in 10 years that use facial recognition to tie people to their Facebook accounts?

Was it hard to narrow your focus to exclude the Glass? And, if so, do you think that it’s going to be difficult for others as well? 

Crabapple: Very hard. I think that’s the point: to colonize daily life and make it seamless with the network. Even the term “Explorers Program” is unintentionally sinister. Explorers historically haven’t been neutral. They’ve been the shock troops for an empire taking over a new place.

Is it bad that Google wants to insert more Internet into our lives? 

Crabapple: I wouldn’t moralize like that. It’s Google’s nature. Companies want more market share. [What if] you could make reality itself that thing you get market share of?

[…]Which is incredible, from a technological point of view. Crabapple: It really is. That’s the fascinating, fantastic part of it. It’s black magic, the world literally from another’s eyes.

 

from CNET interview, December 2013 

 

To get a “true” photo, you need to remove artifice. This means removing art. Art’s opposite is bulk surveillance. Drones, CCTV, ultra-fast-ultra-high-res DSLR, our fingers stroking our iPhones or tapping at Google Glass. Omnipresent cameras suction up reality without curation. We’re at the finest time in history to see stars, or anyone, photographed looking like hell. 

For women, this surveillance is far harsher than posed artificiality. Under the regime of phone cams, you must be ever photo-ready. Never wrinkle your forehead. Never let your belly out. When Jezebel pays for leaks of raw photos, they mirror tabloids that mock famous cellulite. Noble justifications aside, both rip away a woman’s control over her own image. Both profit off nonconsensual exposure. Behind both is a nasty whisper: “You pretended to be perfect. We caught you. You are not.”

Media concern-trolls Photoshop’s effect on teen girls. Meanwhile, teen girls use iPhone retouching apps to construct media of themselves. 

A teen girl knows the lies behind photography best. When she takes selfies, she’s teaching herself what were once trade secrets. Now she’s the one who angles, crops, and blurs. 

 

Molly Crabapple, from VICE magazine, May 2014

 

It seems as though a woman’s best friend is the filter. Empower oneself by casting away the harsh modes of reality, harness your surveillance to curate a sense of self. You do not exist. You are what you make yourself. In this world, a woman is simultaneously untouched and completely dominated by market forces, forces that allegedly transcend morality. Without the body, without a sense of self to ground her, a woman is both the center of the world while also absolutely nothing at all. The empowered woman in this world is an entrepreneur, smart enough to capitalise off her transient, photoshopped sexiness. Shill for profit, preaching the just neutrality of the markets. The new feminist is a spear for empire, empty and unstoppable, oblivious to the forces that drive her. Attempting to argue one’s agency while being hurtled through the air towards a no-fly-zone. 

Decorum, Dissent, & the Texas Democratic Party

Card handed to me by unsuspecting Texas Democratic Party staff.

In the first few hours of June 21st, 2013, citizens overwhelmed the proceedings of a committee hearing in Texas for an unscientific and inhumane piece of legislation. HB60, later SB5, would have further restricted abortion access to five clinics across the state leaving no providers west of Interstate-35. After being insulted and arbitrarily warned off by the committee’s chairman, the people protested against the government during the first battle of decorum vs. dissent. Starting with my own testimony about seven and a half hours in, we ran the chairman off and forced remaining politicians to do their jobs by staying and listening to more testimony until 4am that morning. This pattern of dissent and ceasing with the theater of “decorum” continued for the rest of the fight against SB5. When the clock struck midnight on June 26th , it was the unelected citizens who nullified the special session by overpowering attempts to vote on the bill with 20 minutes of sustained screaming, cheering, clapping, and singing.

Photo by the Texas Tribune

Photo by the Texas Tribune

The entire effort was only possible because a critical mass of Texan women and their allies were scared and angry enough to travel to the Capitol to do the job of real dissent. When it was crunch time, the people watched Democratic senators get steamrolled by their own protocols of decorum and resign themselves to failure. Even after the midnight protest, the people witnessed the manipulation of official state records in an attempt to reflect a timely vote that never happened. Throughout, the government tried and failed to justify its own presence and proceedings. Alternatively, people resisted submission at each crucial turn of the fight for women’s rights. Before the final citizens’ filibuster, it’s true that one female state senator picked up on the brevity of the people and bucked decorum before the replacement Senate chair. It’s also true that another female state senator sacrificed her body for 13 hours in the hopes of defeating SB5 though legislative procedure and proper decorum.

Just a fraction of the political class which has brought Texas to its knees in 2013

Just a fraction of the political class which has brought Texas to its knees in 2013

Frankly, I’m not willing to rah-rah about those female politicians for much longer. It was their job to perform that way. Millions of Texans have been suffering in silence for much longer than those women endured for one Monday. The state’s abysmal human rights and quality of life records are not only due to the malfeasance of one political party. For the past thirty years, the acquiescence and lack of class-consciousness by our other “major” party also helped shuttle Texans and their families along a stultifying descent. None of that suffering, waiting, or hoping seems to matter a week and change after the SB5 rebellion. The Texas Democratic Party (TDP) revisionism is already beginning to set in. Their newest star, Sen. Wendy Davis, is describing the citizen’s filibuster as “true democracy,” instead of the rejection of the official democratic process that it really was. Headlines of many fundraising emails should indicate that the people shut government down but instead we are credited with helping this party or that party (but especially the Blue Team) further their mission to fight for the rights of women or the unborn. Also, could you spare some money or free labor for this or that campaign?

Today, at 12pm a rally is being held by a coalition of women’s health providers and Democratic party organizations to herald the beginning of the 83rd legislature’s second special session. It will be a final movement in the government’s three part symphony of failure. This second emergency session  promises to prop up the careers of Republicans and Democrats already elected to the Texas legislature. Along with some truly helpful information presented by women’s health providers, there will be “opportunities” to be deputized to vote and to thank all of the current politicians for their “hard work”. If you or your opinions are needed, the coalition will be happy to snap a picture or video of you in the Capitol auditorium for safekeeping. And oh, here is what the organizers of the rally think that the women in desperate need of healthcare want to see on stage:

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Those in attendance today need to remember that the needs of the working poor and most vulnerable in Texas still aren’t being addressed by this second special session or either political party. Already, the lack of diversity and shallowness of that rally lineup has angered some Texan women of color enough to refuse participation in the rally. I am begging the people who identify as Texas Democrats or liberals to demand more space and time for the citizens to guide this process free of TDP manipulation or stage dressing. Many of the people who will attend the rally and trainings look like and come from the same class of those who already enjoy the easiest access over candidate selection and legislative direction. This privilege comes with duty, the duty to ask party staff and officials where all the millions of dollars and hours of human capital went during thirty years of failure. Party consultants and those enriched by decades of stagnation need to be tested like the politicians and their procedures were on June 26th.  The direct action that stopped SB5 can continue and may still be led by unelected Texans — if the party faithful can remain in dissent.

 

on somatophobia more generally, or, is “Food a haven for reactionaries”?

T’ai: I hadn’t even read the newest piece and I came to a bunch of the same conclusions about food politics today when reading this article on Gawker. Somatophobia and the fear of hunger.

Em: Yes, it’s horrible.

T’ai: Or rather, you don’t deal with the suffering or need by eliminating the instrument which suffers or needs. Wanting tasty food isn’t a curse. These people probably get angry when they involuntarily sneeze, or laugh. Optimizing nutrution is a great goal, but it’s really wrong to act like something that isn’t whatsoever pleasant to eat is anywhere near to optimal. It really does come down to a weird hatred of being bodied, or anything involuntary, like sneezing or laughing or orgasms.

Em: It’s a weird contradiction. Capital demands individual units, but people seek to discard their own units in an individualistic way. It’s possible that the individual desire to escape the body is the unfocused individual desire to escape capitalism.

T’ai: It’s true that it’s possible to be denied agency by immaterial things, like drug addiction. Which is why I think that “do what you want because it’s your body/drug politics” are stupid. But, like, that doesn’t make every single biological or psychological need a sort of oppression. Things like the need for food can be vehicles for actual oppression, obviously.

Em: Like through capitalism, commodification. All of those items: hunger, sex, disease, they have all been commodified.

T’ai: Yeah, there’s something very No Alternative about it. I feel like the sort of person who is into this displays a really weird desire to escape (and indeed destroy) the human body/condition as such; eliminating biological and psychological needs instead of fulfilling them, uploading one’s mind, and so on. There’s something that bothers me about a viewpoint that sees suffering human bodies (in whatever fashion) as a thing to be made obsolescent rather than a thing to be treated more respectfully and humanely.

Em: Even eliminating them! Eliminating suffering bodies is easier than treating them, for capital.

T’ai: Yeah…