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Robin Simcox’s Racist and Anti-Semitic Links

Further respect to Zelo Street for adding a few more details about Robin Simcox and his membership of some very nasty right-wing organisations. Simcox is professional smirking slime-bucket Priti Patel’s choice for head of the Commission for Countering Extremism. I put up a piece about him yesterday, based on a piece about him in the latest issue of Private Eye noting that Simcox has some views himself that many might consider extreme. Like he’s a Neocon member of the Heritage Foundation, who backs sending terrorist suspect to countries where they can be tortured and further infringement on the rule of law. But that’s not all. According to Wikipedia, the Heritage Foundation denies the reality of climate change and is funded by the American oil giant, Exxon Mobil. It also promoted the false claims of voter fraud. This was done through Hans von Spakovsky, the head of the Heritage Foundation’s Electoral Law Reform Initiative, who made such fears mainstream in the Republican Party. Von Spakovsky’s work, you won’t be surprised to hear, has been completely discredited according to Wikipedia.

The Heritage Foundation, according to the Byline Times, have on their board Rebekah Mercer and her father, Robert Mercer, who funded Breitbart News, which in turn supported Cambridge Analytica. And it was Cambridge Analytica that introduced Donald Trump to Steve Bannon, who founded Parler. But it was Simcox’s links to the racist extreme right that was more worrying to that authors of the Byline Times’ article. In 2019 Simcox spoke at a meeting of the Centre for Immigration Studies. The CIS has been identified as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Centre. The CIS has for ten years circulated anti-Semitic and White nationalist materials, included articles written by supporters of eugenics and Holocaust deniers. According to Wikipedia, the CIS’ reports have been criticised as false or misleading and with poor methodology by experts on immigration. The Byline Times stated that in his work for the Heritage Foundation, Simcox promoted the work of several racist and anti-Muslim conspiracy theorists, including a supporter of the ‘Great Replacement’ theory, which has inspired many of the extreme right-wing terror attacks in recent years. He’s also been criticised for falsely equating British Islamic organisations with the Muslim brotherhood.

Simcox therefore has links to people, whose views could be described as genuinely Nazi. But as the Street notes, the self-appointed opponents of anti-Semitism are curiously silent about all this.

So who’s making their feelings known about this appointment? “Lord” Ian Austin? “Lord” John Mann? Wes Streeting? Stephen Pollard? John Woodcock? Margaret Hodge? Daniel Finkelstein? Crickets. If only Simcox had been pals with Jeremy Corbyn.

Zelo Street: Tory Anti-Semitism Link – No Problem! (zelo-street.blogspot.com)

Quite. But the above weren’t opponents of anti-Semitism per se. They were simply determined to destroy the Labour left and protect Israel and its persecution of the Palestinians. And as Tony Greenstein has shown ad nauseam, Israel has no problem collaborating with real Nazis if it will serve its interests.

Private Eye on Johnson’s Appointment of Neocon as Anti-Extremism Chief

A few weeks ago the Labour left staged an event on Zoom in which a series of Labour MPs and activists, including the head of the Stop the War Coalition, explained why socialists needed to be anti-war. They stated that after going quiet following the debacles of the Iraq invasion, Libya and elsewhere, the Neocons were being rehabilitated. There was therefore a real danger that the ideology behind those wars was returning, and Britain and America would embark on further imperialist, colonialist wars. And now, according to this fortnight’s Private Eye, for 16th – 29th April, 2021, Boris Johnson has appointed Robin Simcox, a Neocon, as head of the government’s Commission on Countering Extremism. Simcox is a member of the extreme right-wing Henry Jackson Society, firmly backing the wars in the Middle East. He also supported the rendition of terrorists to countries, where they would be tortured, as well as drone strikes and detention without trial. And when he was in another right-wing American think tank, the Heritage Foundation, he objected to White supremacist organisations also being included in the American government’s efforts to counter violent extremism.

The Eye’s article about his appointment, ‘Brave Neo World’, on page 14, runs

Robin Simcox, appointed as the new head of the government’s Commission on Countering Extremism (CCE), has neoconservative view that will themselves seem pretty extreme to many observers. He replaces Sara Khan, the first head of the CCE, which Theresa May set up in 2017 as “a statutory body to help fight hatred and extremism”.

Simcox was researcher at the neoconservative think tank the Henry Jackson Society (HJS), before leaving for the US to become “Margaret Thatcher fellow” at the conservative Heritage Foundation. He was also a regular contributor to Tory website ConservativeHome, writing there in 2011 that David Cameron was wrong to criticise neoconservatives “what has been happening in the Middle East is proving the neocons right” (ie that invasions could build democracies.

In a 2013 study for the HJS, Simcox argued: “Rendition, drones, detention without trial, preventative arrests and deportations are the realities of the ongoing struggle against today’s form of terrorism; they are not going to disappear, because they have proved extremely effective.” Rendition meant the US and UK handing terror suspects over to nations such as Libya or Egypt so they could be tortured for information. He complained that politicians “failed to adequately explain to the public” why these methods were needed and were “failing to explain that the complexities of dealing with modern-day terrorism meant that not all roads lead to a court of law”.

Simcox spent many years looking at Islamist terrorism, but at the Heritage Foundation he argued that making “white supremacy” the subject of a “countering violent extremism policy” was mostly driven by “political correctness” and could be “overreach”, regardless of the terrorist acts by white racists in the UK, US and elsewhere.

Simcox has been appointed interim lead commissioner of the CCE, possibly because bring him in as a temp means his recruitment wasn’t subject to the same competition and inspection as a permanent appointment.

Johnson has therefore appointed as head of the commission an extreme right-winger, who supports unprovoked attacks on countries like Iraq and Libya. The argument that these invasions were intended to liberate these nations from their dictators was a lie. It was purely for western geopolitical purposes, and particularly to remove obstacles to western political hegemony and dominance of the oil industry in the region. In the case of Iraq, what followed was the wholesale looting of the country. Its oil industry was acquired by American-Saudi oil interests, American and western multinationals stole its privatised state industries. The country’s economy was wrecked by the lowering of protectionist trade tariffs and unemployment shot up to 60 per cent. The country was riven with sectarian violence between Sunni and Shia, American mercenaries ran drugs and prostitution rings and shot ordinary Iraqis for kicks. The relatively secular, welfare states in Iraq and Libya, which gave their citizens free education and healthcare vanished. As did a relatively liberal social environment, in which women were to be regarded as equals and were free to pursue careers outside the home. And western intervention in the Middle East created an environment leading to the further, massive growth in Islamist extremism in al-Qaeda and then Daesh. And this has led to the return of slavery. This was Islamist sex-slavery under Daesh in the parts of Iraq under their jackboot, while Black Africans are being enslaved and sold by Islamists in slave markets that have reappeared in Libya.

Domestically, Simcox’s appointment is also ominous. He clearly doesn’t believe in human rights and the protection of the law. Just as he doesn’t believe in tackling White supremacist extremism, even though at one point there were more outrages committed by White racists than Islamists.

His appointment is part of continuing trend towards real Fascism, identified by Mike over at Vox Political, of which the Tories proposed curtailment of the freedom to demonstrate and protest in public is a major part. At the same time, it also appears to bear out the Labour left’s statement that the warmongers responsible for atrocities like Iraq and Libya are coming back. And I fear very much that they will start more wars.

The people warning against this and organising to defend real freedom of speech is the Labour left, whatever the Tories might say about ill-thought out legislation designed to outlaw ‘hate speech’. We need to support left politicos like Richard Burgon, Bell Ribeiro-Addy, Diana Abbott and Apsana Begum. The last three ladies, along with former head of Liberty, Shami Chakrabarti, held another Zoom event as part of the Arise festival of left Labour ideas, Our right to resist – the Tory attacks on our civil liberties & human rights, in March. We need to support the Stop the War Coalition, because I’m afraid the Tories and the Blairite right in the Labour party will start more wars.

Blair lied, people died. And Johnson lies as easily and as often as other people breathe. If not stopped, the Neocons will start more wars and more innocents will be massacred for the profit of big business.

Hitler’s Propagandakompanien and the Media Support for the Iraq War

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 14/04/2021 - 9:44pm in

Postscript are a mail order company specialising in books. Leafing through their catalogue for December 2020, I found one on the propagandakompanien, the Nazi reporters, photojournalists and film crew, who were placed in the German armed forces to provide positive coverage of the War. The book’s entitled The Propagandakompanien: Preparation, Development, Training and the Beginning of the Conflict, by Nicholas Ferard, published by Histoire & Collections. The entry for it in the catalogue reads

Formed in 1938, the ‘Propagandakompanien’ (Pk) comprised motorized units of reporters, film cameramen and photographers, all with military training and attached to Wehrmacht, Waffen SS or Luftwaffe forces. Reproducing many of the unit’s wartime photographs, this volume gives a full account of the organisation of the Pk and describes their work in print, film and radio during campaigns in Poland, France and the Eastern Front.

This is chillingly relevant to contemporary media manipulation and particularly the methods used by the American military-industrial complex to ensure media support for the Iraq invasion. Because they’re almost exactly the same. In their book End Times – The Death of the Fourth Estate, Alexander Cochburn and Jeffrey St. Clair of the radical American magazine Counterpunch collect a series of articles describing the way the American media censored itself and produced biased, propagandistic reporting in order to whip up public support for the Iraq invasion and George Dubya’s wretched ‘War on Terror’. And this included embedding journos in military units so that they would develop a positive sense of fellowship with them and so produce favourable reports.

One of the documentaries about the Nazis shown on the History Channel years ago had the simple title The Nazis – A Warning from History. It’s a good title, and far more relevant than I think the series’ producers realised. Because more and more aspects of the Nazi and Fascists regimes are being adopted by the current right-wing and ‘centrist’ administrations in America and Britain. A few days ago Mike on his blog listed the number of features of Fascism that were in Johnson’s Conservative party. It was a long list, and showed very convincingly that Johnson and the Tories are definitely Fascistic, although obviously they’re not quite appearing in uniform and holding torchlight rallies. Well, not just yet. One of the left-wing, anti-racist YouTubers said in an interview that he noticed several years ago that the Tories were adopting policies previously advanced by the BNP as British politics moved rightward. This is true. We are heading towards a Fascist dictatorship, especially with the Tories’ wretched Crime and Policing Bill which seeks to ban any kind of public demonstration if someone thinks its a nuisance or offensive.

And they’re using the same techniques the Nazis’ used to manipulate the media. Except that in Tory Britain, the media is a willing partner.

Graham Linehan’s Trans Day of Visibility: It’s Against a Harmful Ideology, Not People

I’m almost two weeks late writing about this, but I think it needs to be covered. On the last day of March, Graham Linehan and his conversationalists on The Mess We’re In channel held their own Trans Day of Visibility. As well as being the writer behind the awesome Father Ted, Linehan is very much a male feminist. He’s become notorious over the past few years for his opposition to the transgender ideology, along with Kellie-Jay Kean, Abigail Shrier, Benjamin Boyce, and the host of another YouTube channel, You’re Kidding, Right?. This last lady presents the arguments against the ideology from the perspective of a Black American woman, which is very enlightening. Especially when she forcefully tells the trans rights activists not to true to compare their ideology to the Civil Rights movement. One of her critics tried to tell her that she was the equivalent of the Klan. Her antecedents came from Georgia when the Klan were powerful and extremely frightening. She made it very, very clear that she was nothing like the Klan. But I digress.

Linehan is joined on his videos with Welsh feminist Helen Staniland and gay Canadian Arty Morty. Morty is, by his own admission, very much a part of the Canadian gay scene and worked as a bar man in a trans bar. Staniland is concerned about the threat to women and girls from biological men being allowed into female spaces on the grounds that they identify as women. Morty is particularly concerned that gender reassignment is being used as a form of conversion therapy to ‘cure’ gender non-conforming children and teens by parents who are afraid that their children will grow up gay. He’s particularly concerned as he was one of these kids. As a boy, he preferred to play with dolls, and he’s afraid that if he was a child today, he would have been put down as transgender and been put on the path to transition.

It was the ‘trans day of visibility’ a few weeks ago, and so Linehan and his friends have as guests in this video their transgender friends and supporters – Debbie Hayton, Miranda Yardlemort, Scott Newgent, and a transman who appears simply as Aaron. These gents and ladies give their perspective on the dangers of trans movement and ideology as transmen and women, and how they came to oppose it.

They did so for a variety of reasons. In the case of Yardlemort, it was through looking at what the gender critical feminists actually wrote for herself, and being horrified at the grotesquely exaggerated response by the trans activists to entirely reasonable points as well as the way opposing feminists were stalked, abused and maltreated. She was also concerned by the way the pro-trans stance of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Women actually invalidates those rights and endangers women. She was thrown off Twitter for such crimes as saying that there are only two genders, transwomen shouldn’t be allowed into women’s spaces, and that rape and death threat to women aren’t acceptable. Yardlemort has also suffered her share of bullying from trans activists, as when one tried to take her to court for alleged ‘transphobia’.

Debbie Hayton joined the anti-trans movement because she was afraid that their extreme claims would actually damage the trans movement, and make trans people less accepted. She argues that being gender critical does not mean being anti-trans. She and Helen Staniland looked back to a time when transwomen and women were largely in harmony with each other, although there was occasional conflicts over the inclusion of transwomen in female-only events, such as the Michfest women-only music festival.

They also talk about the vexed issues of pronouns. The attitude of Arty Morty is that, while he doesn’t believe that there should be laws demanding transgender people be referred to be their chosen pronouns, he has no problem doing so for decent people. It’s only the misogynists he refuses to call ‘she’.

Aaron made it very clear that he believes transitioning is beneficial for some people. It worked for him, but he didn’t have a mental illness. This is important, as some of those being diagnosed a transgender may simply be mentally ill or have a neurological condition like autism. He turned against the trans ideology three years ago from concerns about the homophobia. He’s afraid that the excesses of the trans activists, such as the attacks on J.K. Rowling, will eventually lead to a ban on transitions, which will harm those who really need them. He is also afraid, like Linehan, Staniland, Morty and the others, that children and vulnerable adults are being misdiagnosed as trans and consequently mutilated. Debbie Orlander also shares this fear, especially when it comes to children as young as four or five.

Scott Newgent makes the point that part of the problem is medical corporations, who stand to make a profit from these drugs and treatments, telling vulnerable people they have the solution. This is compounded by social media, as Twitter and other sites will not allow the opposing side to be heard. He also makes the point that the trans ideology is supported by genuinely good people, who want to do the right thing, and have been falsely persuaded that the trans issue is the same as gay rights and comparable to the struggle over gay marriage. He believes that there is a positive side to trans activism, but this is a problem as its acceptance leads also to the acceptance of the negative aspects as well. He and the others also take down some of the ridiculously inflated and entirely false claims of the trans activists. Over here in the Blighty, the trans activists wanted a ‘trans day of remembrance’ for all the transgender people, who’ve been murdered. Except the numbers of transgender people who’ve been killed over here is vanishingly small. No transpeople have been killed in Scotland, for example. Newgent makes the same point about similar claims in his part of the US. He attended a talk about trans rights, in which the speaker claimed that trans children in his state of South Dakota were in danger of committing suicide. Except they weren’t. No trans children have committed suicide there.

The peeps do, however, express concerns that these threats and prophecies of suicide may be self-fulling. There is the danger that people, who have been misled into transitioning, may kill themselves when they find that it is not the cure they have been promised. Lesbian girls may be particularly affected by this. One of them talks about how they’re horrified by the the people, who’ve been physically harmed by the treatment – people with osteopathy and shrunken hearts due to puberty blockers and the hormones they’ve been prescribed. There’s also the case of the medical doctor, who contacted Linehan in distress at being officially barred from telling upset trans people that J.K. Rowling does not in fact want to kill them.

The team talk about the toxicity and violence of the trans activists. One of them physically attacked a gender critical feminist, Cathy Brennan, at Speaker’s Corner, a situation made all the worse by the actions of Stonewall, the gay advocacy organisation. They also criticise the left for its handling of the debate. They state that the left is undemocratic, intolerant of free speech and has a problem with racism and misogyny. Stonewall by its actions over a number of issues has provoked a backlash, of which the gender critical movement is only one part.

Hayton is optimistic, believing that more people are turning against the trans movement and being aware how it affects women’s rights and children’s safeguarding, as well as the way it harms transpeople themselves. Fionne, another transwoman, is also optimistic, noting the success of the Keira Bell case. Like Aaron, she believes that medical transition should be an option, but only for adults, not children, who need psychotherapy and a more diverse approach. She believes that transpeople have made a mistake in demanding access to women’s spaces, and should instead have demanded their own, third spaces. Yardlemort actually emailed a number of LGBTQ organisations about the need for gay spaces away from transpeople, but none of them replied.

The team also debate whether Donald Trump was the only person, who would have been able to stop the progress of trans ideology. They feel we need more people like J.K. Rowlings, who stand up to the trans lobby simply out of principle without any benefit to themselves. Newgent states that he has sacrificed his own career for his principles. He states that when it comes to the treatment of children,

I am very much aware that this is a very emotive issue and that many of my readers don’t share my views on this topic. However, I strongly believe that Linehan and his guests here are correct, and that vulnerable people, particularly women and children, are being unnecessarily put on life-changing, harmful medical treatment. And there is a problem with biological men being allowed into female-only spaces, such as prisons. There have been a series of rapes of women prisoners by biological men, who have been placed in women’s prisons because they have identified, or claimed to identify, as women.

I don’t hate transgender people, and definitely don’t wish anyone to come to any harm, much less be killed. But there are genuine dangers here, but unfortunately the climate of liberal opinion and many ‘official’ gay organisations, like Stonewall, mean that the gender critical side is silenced and their arguments not heard.

As you can see from this video, Linehan and his friends very definitely don’t hate transpeople, although they do discuss some extremely dangerous and predatory individuals. And they clearly have friends and supporters in the trans community, who share their concerns.

At the very least, they need to be heard and listened to. The topic should not be the monopoly of intolerant trans activists.

Tory Flag-Waving Now Reaching Reaganite Proportions

Patriotism, someone once said, is the last refuge of the scoundrel. And the Tories have done their best to show how true this is, especially last week when it seemed that they wasted no opportunity to wave the flag. This also led them to generate more synthetic outrage towards the BBC. Charlie Stayt and Naga Munchetty raised Tory ire when Stayt joked about the relatively small size of the union flag on display during an interview with Matt Hancock or one of the other Tory ministers. This led to howls from the Tory press that the Beeb was sneering at the flag. They weren’t. They were laughing about the Tory’s sheer opportunistic use of it.

It’s no accident that they’ve started waving the flag in the weeks running up to the local elections. Their performance on health, the economy, Brexit and just about everything else has been dire. They’re still trying to privatise the health service by stealth, they insulted the nurses with a 2 per cent pay rise, which is in real terms a cut in their salaries, wages are still frozen, more people are being forced into real, grinding poverty, the queues at the food banks are as long as ever, or longer. The Brexit that Boris has been so desperate to ‘get done’ is spelling disaster for Britain’s manufacturing industry, and businesses dealing with the continent and ordinary Brits wishing to travel abroad are now faced with mountains of paperwork and bureaucracy. Bureaucracy which the Brexiteers blithely assured us wouldn’t happen. Hopefully this year will see us coming out of lockdown and the Coronavirus crisis. We’ve a far higher rate of peeps receiving the vaccine than the EU, but that shouldn’t distract attention from the colossal way the Tories have mismanaged the Covid crisis as a whole. As Mike’s pointed out in one of his articles, Tory bungling and corruption – they gave vital medical contracts to companies owned and run by their friends and supporters, rather than to firms that could actually deliver – that over 100,000 people have died of the disease. One of the good peeps on Twitter has shown how this compares to the numbers killed in some of the genocides and ethnic massacres that have plagued recent decades. And the report, which was supposed to show that Britain isn’t institutionally racist, has been torn to shreds with some of the academics cited claiming they were not properly consulted and seeking to distance themselves from it. And then there are the mass demonstrations up and down the land against their attempts to outlaw any demonstration or protest they don’t like under the guise that it would be a nuisance.

And so, with all this discontent, they’ve fallen back to Thatcher’s tactics of waving the flag at every opportunity. One of the hacks at the Absurder in the 1980s said that Britain had three parties – the patriotic party, who were the Tories, the loony party, which was Labour, and the sensible party, which was the SDP/Liberals. Which showed you the paper’s liberal bias even then. The SDP, Liberals and their successors, the Lib Dems. have sold out utterly, while after four decades of Thatcherism Michael Foot’s Labour party looks far less than loony. But the hack was right about the Tories and patriotism. Thatcher waved the flag as frantically as she could and constantly invoked the spirit of Winston Churchill and World War II. One particularly memorable example of this was the Tory 1987 election broadcast, which featured Spitfires zipping about the sky while an overexcited voice told the world ‘Man was born free’ and concluded ‘It’s great to be great again’.

Here’s another feature of Fascism that’s been adopted by the Tories to add to those on Mike’s checklist. Fascism is an ideology of national rebirth and revival. Thatcher was claiming she was making us great again, just as Donald Trump claimed he was doing for America. Just as Oswald Mosley called one of his wretched books The Greater Britain. And unfortunately, as Zelo Street has also pointed out, Fascists like the Nazis have also used people’s natural loyalty to their flag as a means of generating support for their repulsive regimes. British Fascism was no different. Mosley also made great use of the flag at his rallies, and this tactic was taken over by his successors in the National Front and BNP. This has been an embarrassment to ordinary, non-racist Brits, who simply like the flag. One of my friends at school was a mod. At the time, the union flag and British bulldog formed a large part of mod imagery without meaning that the person was a racist or White supremacist. During one of the art lessons my friend started painting a picture with those two elements – the union flag and bulldog. The teacher came over and politely asked him not to do so, as he was afraid people would like at it and come to the wrong conclusion. This was just after the 1981/2 race riots, so you can understand why. But it is frustrating and infuriating that ordinary expressions of reasonable patriotism or simple pop culture iconography have become suspect due to their appropriation by the Far Right.

But the real excesses of flag-waving were to be seen over the other side of the Pond in Reagan’s America. Reagan was wrecking his country with privatisation and an assault on what the country had in the way of a welfare state, while murdering the people of countries like El Salvador and Nicaragua by supporting Fascist dictators and their death squads. But, like Thatcher, he did everything he could to use the symbols of American nationhood. Like the Stars and Stripes. A Republican party political broadcast in 1984 or thereabouts showed the American flag being raised no less than 37 times. This was so bizarrely excessive that one of the Beeb’s foreign correspondents commented on it. As far as I am aware, no-one took him to task for sneering at it.

This flag-waving is part of the Tories attempts to present themselves as the preservers of British national identity, tradition and pride against the assaults of the left, particularly Black Lives Matter and their attacks on statues. I’m not impressed with the attacks on some of the monuments, like that of Winston Churchill, even though he was a racist. But in Bristol the only statue attacked was that of the slavery and philanthropist Edward Colston. None of the other statues in and around Bristol’s town centre of Edmund Burke, Queen Victoria, Neptune and the sailors who made my city a great port, were touched. And then there was the protest last week against the new school uniform policy at Pimlico Academy in London. This ruled out the wearing of large afro hair styles. So the students started protesting it was racist. The headmaster also raised the union flag, which led the statement from one of the students, Amna Mukhtar, that it weirdly felt like they were being colonised. And then some idiot burnt the flag in protest. The headmaster has now rescinded the school’s uniform code and taken the flag down. Now I gather that one of the Tories is now calling for every school to fly the union flag.

It all reminds me of the comments the late, great comedian Bill Hicks made when Reagan and his supporters were flying the flag and their outrage when a young member of the Communist party burned it. After making jokes about the Reaganite rage and hysteria, Hicks said that he didn’t want anyone to burn the flag, but burning wouldn’t take away freedom, because it’s freedom. Including the freedom to burn the flag.

Quite. And the Tories are wrecking our country and taking away our freedoms while cynically waving the flag.

So when they start spouting about it, use your scepticism and think of Hick’s comment instead. And vote for someone else.

Chris Hedges: The Evil Within Us

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 24/03/2021 - 3:44am in

Princeton, New Jersey (Scheerpost— Robert Aaron Long, 21, charged with murdering eight victims, six of whom were Asian women, at three Atlanta-area massage parlors, told police that he carried out the killings to eliminate the temptations that fed his sexual addiction. His church, Crabapple First Baptist Church, in Milton, Georgia, which opposes sex outside of marriage, issued a statement condemning the shootings as “unacceptable and contrary to the gospel.”

The church, however, also immediately took down its web site and removed videos, including one that was captured by The Washington Post before it was deleted where the church’s pastor, the Rev. Jerry Dockery, told the congregation that Christ’s second coming was imminent. And when Christ returned, Dockery said, he would wage a ruthless and violent war on nonbelievers and infidels, those controlled by Satan.

“There is one word devoted to their demise,” the pastor said. “Swept away! Banished! Judged. They have no power before God. Satan himself is bound and released and then bound again and banished. That great dragon deceiver – just that quickly – God throws him into an eternal torment. And then we read where everyone – everyone that rejects Christ – will join Satan, the Beast and the false prophet in hell.”

I heard a lot of these types of sermons by fundamentalist preachers during the two years I crisscrossed the country for my book American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America. I attended Bible studies, prayer groups, conventions, tapings of Christian television shows, rallies held by Patriot Pastors, talks by leaders such as James Dobson, D. James Kennedy and Tony Perkins and creationist seminars. I visited the 50,000-square-foot Creation Museum in Petersburg, Kentucky, took an Evangelism Explosion course, joined congregations at numerous megachurches for Sunday worship and participated in right-to-life retreats. I spent hundreds of hours interviewing scores of believers.

The simplistic message was always the same. The world was divided into us and them, the blessed and the damned, agents of God and agents of Satan, good and evil. Millions of largely white Americans, hermetically sealed within the ideology of the Christian Right, yearn to destroy the Satanic forces they blame for the debacle of their lives, the broken homes, domestic and sexual abuse, struggling single parent households, lack of opportunities, crippling debt, poverty, evictions, bankruptcies, loss of sustainable incomes and the decay of their communities. Satanic forces, they believe, control the financial systems, the media, public education and the three branches of government. They believed this long before Donald Trump, who astutely tapped into this deep malaise and magic thinking, mounted his 2016 campaign for president.

The killings in Atlanta were not an anomaly by a deranged gunman. The hatred for people of other ethnicities and faiths, the hatred for women of color, who are condemned by the Christian right as temptresses in league with Satan, was fertilized in the rampant misogyny, hypermasculinity and racism that lie at the center of the belief system of the Christian right, as well define the core beliefs of American imperialism. The white race, especially in the United States, is celebrated as God’s chosen agent. Imperialism and war are divine instruments for purging the world of infidels and barbarians, evil itself. Capitalism, because God blessed the righteous with wealth and power and condemned the immoral to poverty and suffering, is shorn of its inherent cruelty and exploitation. The iconography and symbols of American nationalism are intertwined with the iconography and symbols of the Christian faith. In short, the worst aspects of American society are sacralized by this heretical form of Christianity.

Believers are told that Satanic forces, promoting a liberal creed of “secular humanism,” lure people to self-destruction through drugs, alcohol, gambling, pornography and massage brothels. Long, who had frequented two of the massage parlors he attacked, was arrested on his way to Florida to attack a business connected with the pornography industry. He had attempted to block porn sites on his computer and sought help for his fascination with porn from Christian counselors.

The secular humanists, along with creating a society designed to tempt people into sin, are blamed for immigration programs that fuel demographic shifts to turn whites into a minority. The secular humanists are charged with elevating those of other races and beliefs – including Muslims whose religion is branded as Satanic – along with those whose gender identities challenge the sanctity of marriage as between a man and a woman and patriarchy. The secular humanists are believed to be behind an array of institutions including the American Civil Liberties Union, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the National Organization for Women, Planned Parenthood, the Trilateral Commission, the United Nations, the State Department, major foundations (Rockefeller, Carnegie, Ford), elite universities and media platforms such as CNN and The New York Times.

In D. James Kennedy’s book “The Gates of Hell Shall Not Prevail: The Attack on Christianity and What You Need to Know to Combat It,” he writes that although the United States was once a “Christian nation,” that is no longer the case because today “the hostile barrage from atheists, agnostics and other secular humanists has begun to take a serious toll on that heritage. In recent years, they have built up their forces and even increased their assault upon all our Christian institutions, and they have been enormously successful in taking over the ‘public square.’ Public education, the media, the government, the courts, and even the church in many places, now belong to them.”

The incendiary rhetoric creates an atmosphere of being under siege. It imparts a sense of comradeship, the feeling that although the world outside the walls of the church or the home is dangerous and hostile, there is a select community of brothers and sisters. Believers only owe a moral obligation to other Christians. The world is divided between comrades and enemies, neighbors and strangers. The commandment “Love your neighbor as yourself” is perverted to “Love your fellow Christians as yourself.” Nonbelievers have no place on the moral map.

When Christ returns, believers are told, He will lead the elect in one final apocalyptic battle against the people and groups blamed for their dislocation and despair. The secular world, the one that almost destroyed them and their families, will be eradicated. The flaws in human society and in human beings will be erased. They will have what most never had: a stable home and family, a loving community, fixed moral standards, financial and personal security and success and an abolition of uncertainty, disorder and doubt. Their fragmented, troubled lives will become whole. Evil will be physically vanquished. There will be no more impurity because the impure will no longer exist.

This externalization of evil, however, is not limited to the Christian Right. It lies at the core of American imperialism, American exceptionalism and American racism. White supremacy, which dehumanizes the other at home and abroad, is also fueled by the fantasy that there are superior human beings who are white and lesser human beings who are not. Long did not need the Christian fascism of his church to justify to himself the killings; the racial hierarchies within American society had already dehumanized his victims. His church simply cloaked it in religious language. The jargon varies. The dark sentiments are the same.

The ideology of the Christian right, like all totalitarian creeds, is, at its core, an ideology of hatred. It rejects what Augustine calls the grace of love, or volo ut sis (I want you to be). It replaces it with an ideology that condemns all those outside the magic circle. There is, in relationships based on love, an affirmation of the mystery of the other, an affirmation of unexplained and unfathomable differences. These relationships not only recognize that others have a right to be, as Augustine wrote, but the sacredness of difference. This sacredness of difference is an anathema to Christian fundamentalists, as it is to imperialists, to all racists. It is dangerous to the hegemony of the triumphalist ideology. It calls into question the infallibility of the doctrine, the essential appeal of all ideologies. It suggests that there are alternative ways to live and believe. The moment there is a hint of uncertainty the ideological edifice crumbles. The truth is irrelevant as long as the ideology is consistent, doubt is heretical and the vision of the world, however absurd, absolute and unassailable. These ideologies are not meant to be rational. They are meant to fill emotional voids.

Evil for the Christian fundamentalists is not something within them. It is an external force to be destroyed. It may require indiscriminate acts of violence, but if it leads to a better world this violence is morally justified. Those who advance the holy crusade alone know the truth. They alone have been anointed by God or, in the language of American imperialism, western civilization, to do battle with evil. They alone have the right to impose their “values” on others by force. Once evil is external, once the human race is divided into the righteous and the damned, repression and even murder become a sacred duty.

Immanuel Kant defined “radical evil” as the drive, often carried out under a righteous façade, to surrender to absolute self-love. Those gripped by radical evil always externalize evil. They lose touch with their own humanity. They are blind to their own innate depravity. In the name of western civilization and high ideals, in the name of reason and science, in the name of America, in the name of the free market, in the name of Jesus, they seek the subjugation and annihilation of others. Radical evil, Hannah Arendt wrote, makes whole groups of human beings superfluous. They become, rhetorically, living corpses before often becoming actual corpses.

This binary world view is anti-thought. That is part of its attraction. It gives to those who are alienated and lost emotional certitude. It is buttressed by hollow cliches, patriotic slogans and Bible passages, what psychologists call symbol agnostics. True believers are capable only of imitation. They shut down, by choice, critical reflection and genuine understanding. They surrender all moral autonomy. The impoverished language is regurgitated not because it makes sense, but because it justifies the messianic and intoxicating right to lead humankind to paradise. These pseudo-heroes, however, know only one form of sacrifice, the sacrifice of others.

Human evil is not a problem to be solved. It is a mystery. It is a bitter, constant paradox. We carry the capacity for evil within us. I learned this unsettling truth as a war correspondent. The line between the victim and the victimizer is razor thin. Evil is also seductive. It offers us unlimited often lethal power to turn those around us into objects to destroy or debase to gratify our most perverted desires or both. This evil waits to consume us. All it requires to flourish is for us to turn away, to pretend it is not there, to do nothing. Those who blind themselves to their capacity for evil commit evil not for evil’s sake, but to make a better world. This collective self-delusion is the story of America, from its foundation on the twin evils of slavery and genocide to its inherent racism, predatory capitalism and savage wars of conquest. The more we ignore this evil, the worse it gets.

The awareness of human corruptibility and human limitations, as understood by Augustine, Kant, Sigmund Freud and Primo Levi, has been humankind’s most potent check on evil. Levi wrote that “compassion and brutality can coexist in the same individual and in the same moment, despite all logic.” This self-knowledge forces us to accept that no act, even one defined as moral or virtuous, is ever free from the taint of self-interest. It reminds us that we are condemned to always battle our baser instincts. It recognizes that compassion, as Rousseau wrote, is alone the quality from which “all the social virtues flow.”

Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel said that “some are guilty, but all are responsible.” We may not be guilty of the murders in Atlanta, but we are responsible. We must answer for them. We must accept the truth about ourselves, however unpleasant. We must unmask the lie of our pretended innocence. Long’s murderous spree was quintessentially American. That is what makes it, along with all other hate crimes, along with our endless imperial wars, police terror, callous abandonment of the poor and the vulnerable, so frightening. This evil will not be tamed until it is named and confronted.

Feature photo | Original illustration by Mr. Fish

Chris Hedges is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist who was a foreign correspondent for fifteen years for The New York Times, where he served as the Middle East Bureau Chief and Balkan Bureau Chief for the paper. He previously worked overseas for The Dallas Morning News, The Christian Science Monitor, and NPR. He is the host of the Emmy Award-nominated RT America show On Contact.

The post Chris Hedges: The Evil Within Us appeared first on MintPress News.

No! Black Lives Matter Had Zilch to Do with Bristol Riot

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 23/03/2021 - 9:03pm in

More lies and racism from Nigel Farage and Andy Ngo. Yesterday’s big story was the riot in Bristol on Sunday night. A crowd had gathered during the day to protest the Tory’s wretched and abominable Police and Crime bill. This is another landmark in the Tories’ push to turn Britain into a Fascist state, as it would ban all protests or demonstrations if someone considered them a nuisance, as well as place further restrictions on Travellers. At the moment, the leaders or organisers of an illegal demonstration can be prosecuted and forced to pay a £10,000 fine. It may have been to avoid this that yesterday’s demonstration appeared not to have any clear leadership or organisational structure and this may have been one of the reasons it turned violent.

The crowd had originally been peaceful, assembling on Bristol’s College Green outside the Council House, sorry, ‘City Hall’. Most of the demonstrators had apparently left and gone home by the evening, when the crowd marched on the police station in Bridewell Street for a sit down protest. It was there that the protest became a riot. The police station was attacked, windows smashed and graffiti scrawled on the wall. Cars were also set at light, and the mob fought the police. Four policemen were reported to have been hospitalised, and seven protesters arrested.

It’s unclear who was responsible for the riot. Politicians from across the political spectrum yesterday condemned the rioters, including Bristol’s brilliant elected mayor, Marvin Reese. Reese called the riot ‘politically illiterate’, and made the point that it actually strengthened the Tories’ arguments for tougher measures against demonstrations. But people, who were at the demo claimed that the riot broke out when the police attacked the crowd. Mike’s put up a series of Tweets on his blog from one of the protesters, Adam Johannes, a Bristolian, who said that the police pushed people, kicked those on the ground, when the crowd pushed back, police in riot gear struck protesters on the head and sent in the attack dogs. Novara Media’s TyskySour discussed the riot and what it meant for left-wing protests in this country in their edition last night. They spoke to two people, who were present, one of whom was a journalist from the Bristol Cable. The journo believed that the riot was caused by the protesters. The other person believed that the police had started it with unprovoked attacks.

I don’t know which is true. The police have launched unprovoked attacks on demonstrators before, which the media has spun as the protesters attacking the police. The most notorious example of this was the police attack on the strikers at Orgreave colliery during the Miners’ Strike. The BBC reversed the footage of the attack to falsely accuse the strikers of attacking the police. One of the my cousins saw the police attacking members of the crowd during the Poll Tax demonstrations nearly thirty years ago. On the other hand, there are idiots who join demonstrations in order to provoke them to riot. One of my friends ran into one of these morons when he went to a Poll Tax demonstration with his mother.

But one this is clear. The riot had absolutely zero to do with Black Lives Matter. Or, indeed, any other left-wing organisation. But this hasn’t stopped the Fuhrage and Andy Ngo claiming that it did. Andy Ngo’s an Asian-American, but this hasn’t stopped him from supporting the American far right. He posted a series of Tweets stating that Bristol was England’s Portland, and that the rioters had raised hammers and sickles. The main groups at the riot, according to this observer from across the Atlantic, were Black Lives Matter, Antifa and Extinction Rebellion, among others. Well, he’s either lying or desperately needs glasses, because nobody in Britain has mentioned any of these groups. From what was shown on TV, the protesters were all, or overwhelmingly White. There was absolutely no connection to Black Lives Matter. As far as I can make out, there were no Antifa, Extinction Rebellion weren’t there either, and absolutely no-one, but no-one, was waving hammers and sickles. This is all just the product of Ngo’s fevered, Alt-Right imagination.

This didn’t prevent the man one of the commenters here calls ‘Niggle Frog-Face’ from also claiming that BLM were somehow involved. The Fuhrage tweeted “In Bristol tonight we see what the soft-headed approach to the anti-police BLM leads to. Wake up everyone, this is not about racial justice. These people want all-out anarchy and street violence … The BLM protests were anti-police, it is a key goal of the organisation. The worrying events in Bristol tonight are an extension of that. We have given into and encouraged the extreme left, and this is the result”. The peeps on Twitter responded by pointing out that Farage was only doing this because he was racist and hoping to stoke up further racism in the UK.

However, unfortunately I do feel that Farage may have a point. The right has accused the police of treating Black Lives Matter with a leniency that was not extended to White counter protesters. And it does seem that they are right. At some of the riots the police took the knee before the BLM protesters. There’s also video footage of the cops running away from BLM rioters, although such footage can be manipulated to present a false impression, as with the Orgreave film. On the other hand, the right-wing protesters, who turned out to stop further Black Lives Matter attacks on statues do seem to have been attacked and treated more harshly by the police. It is possible that the police’s admirable restraint in refusing to defend Edward Colston’s statue when it was pulled down by a group of BLM protesters in the summer may have encouraged some of the militants in the demonstration to believe that the police would act with a similar restraint if they rioted.

Whether that was the case or not, I don’t know. It’s a possibility. But what isn’t in doubt is that neither BLM nor the other groups were involved in Sunday’s riot. As for Bristol being England’s equivalent of Portland, I don’t know. I’ve never been to Portland. It might be a very nice place, despite being the scene of many of last year’s BLM riots. But, apart from the attack on Colston’s statue, Bristol hasn’t had any BLM riots. And the mob attacking the old slaver’s statue didn’t attack any of the other monuments in the area, property or police. Farage and Ngo are simply lying.

As for the wretched Police and Crime Bill, this certainly is an attack on our civil liberties which needs to be very strongly resisted.

But rioting will only strengthen the hands of those determined to turn this great nation into a Fascist police state.

For further information, see: Did POLICE turn Bristol ‘Kill the Bill’ protest into a riot? | Vox Political (voxpoliticalonline.com)

Zelo Street: Bristol – Farage Does A Racism (zelo-street.blogspot.com)

Policing Bill Sparks Riots In Bristol | #TyskySour – YouTube

The Trump Mediation

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 23/03/2021 - 6:11pm in

From 1984 into Brave New World

Whenever you hear a prominent American called a Fascist, you can usually make up your mind that the man is simply a loyal citizen who stands for Americanism.

—William Randolph Hearst, 1935

No matter who you vote for, the Government always gets in.


Trump has gone, but his legacy is filled with foreboding. ‘I will return in some form’, he prophetically declared as he left Washington on Joe Biden’s Inauguration Day for Mar-a-Lago, his ‘Winter White House’, where he appears to be setting himself up as president-in-waiting. At the end of four years of virtual war against established US democratic institutions and policies, Trump echoed General Douglas MacArthur’s famous statement after his flight from Japanese forces in the Philippines in the early stages of the Pacific War. What form might Trump’s return take? 

Our guess (a risky gamble in these times when almost anything seems possible) is that Trump will fade. There are doubtless many others, similar or worse, who could take his place. With the going of Trump, what he calls his ‘movement’ may also go. What crystallised around him was more an assemblage, a loose-knit, heterogeneous, motley collection of diverse persons and groups ranging from the extreme far right to the more moderate, whose organisational cohesion may be more illusory than real. Not yet a ‘Party Trump’, it is as likely to melt into air and go the way of most populist movements as it is to congeal into a longer-lasting force of opposition headed by Trump. 

This is not to gainsay the shock of the storming of the Capitol on the otherwise ritualistic day of the confirmation of Biden’s victory, perhaps the peak moment that effectively concludes the transitional period conventional in the American democratic cycle. Such a liminal space is a relative retreat and suspension of the state political order as the presidency is renewed or changed. This is often a festive time given to all kinds of political excess, when the people vent their potency in the selection of those who are to rule them. Trump encouraged and intensified the potential chaos of liminality at its peak when, ideally, it should subside and political order be fully restored. He aimed to disrupt this critical moment and to maintain his uncertain presence as the Lord of Misrule, if not necessarily to effect a coup. Trump promoted, even if unwittingly, a moment of extreme chaos that was all the more intense for the time of its occurrence, when the participants themselves blew out of control.

Light of the Capitol/Night of the World

In the nightmare of the event, newscasts presented visions of a future filled with fascist and Nazi images and other associated symbols. There was a strong sense of dialectical collapse along the lines of Hegel’s ‘Night of the World’, in which forces in opposition dissipate against each other and lose their meaning. The representatives of the nation cowered under their desks and fitted gas masks, while those who would challenge them, in festive mood and drunk with brief power, put their feet up on desks, aping their masters, and carried off the mementos and spoils of their invasion. Exuberant chants of ‘this is our house’ echoed down the corridors of power. 

Shades of the past paraded in the present, foremost among them that of the enduring trauma of the rise of Nazi Germany. What Sinclair Lewis had warned in It Can’t Happen Here—a Hitler-esque rise to power at the centre of the democratic world—anticipated by all sides from the early days of Trump’s apotheosis, seemed actually to be materialising. This accounts for the excitement on the steps of the Capitol—‘This is America 2021, y’all!!’ Arlie Hochschild captured the millenarian Nuremberg feel of Trump’s campaign rallies when researching Strangers in Their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American Right, her excellent ethnography of the white far Right and their sympathisers in Louisiana, America’s poorest state and a Trump heartland. Hochschild recounts at a lecture to the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation in Berlin a scene reminiscent of the opening frames of Leni Riefenstahl’s The Triumph of the Will when Trump’s plane, ‘Trump Force One’, appears through the clouds as if from heaven. It descends ‘down, down, down’ to the waiting crowd, electrified in expectation of the saviour’s endlessly repeated sermon of redemption for the deep resentment they feel at having been pushed aside from the promise of the American Dream.  

But here is the point: the immediate reaction to the storming of the Capitol was further confirmation of the real and present danger of Trump’s fascist threat, fuelled by the rumblings of the class war that Trump has inflamed and exploited. It is a liberal fear, mainly of the Democrats, but including some Republicans, who are the chief targets of Trump’s attacks. His demonisation of elite liberal value (marked by accusations of moral perversities aimed at unmasking liberal claims to virtue) is at one with his condemnation of the liberalism of federal political and social economic policies. These he presents as contributing to the abjection of mainly the white working class and the poor, which is to be seen as a consequence of the rapidly increasing power of global corporations, policies of economic globalisation, and the privileging of minorities, refugees and recent immigrants. It might be remembered at this point that the violence of the Capitol invasion, the marked involvement of military veterans, the carrying of weapons and baseball bats, and the reports of pipe bombs that shocked so many reflect the fact that most modern states are founded in violence. This is particularly the case in the United States, where the US Constitution’s Second Amendment protects the right to bear arms in defence of democratic rights. In an important sense, the violence of those invading the Capitol refracts back at the middle classes the very violence that underpins the structure of their rule. If liberal virtue was shocked by the events of 6 January, it was also confronted with the violent paradox deep in its democratic heart. Thus, this paradox slipped into paroxysm at a critical moment in American political history. 

The transitional figure of Trump feeds on the prejudices of his intended constituencies and exploits an already ill-formed class awareness, building on ready commitments and vulnerabilities—the well-rehearsed fascist and populist technique—and creating indeed a false consciousness (there is no other way to say it) that is not only destructive but, in the hands of the likes of Trump, integral to intensifying the feelings of impotence and the miseries that give Trump his relative popularity. Slavoj Zizek says as much in what he describes as ‘Trump’s GREATEST TREASON’.

Arnold Schwarzenegger, ‘The Governator’, was quick to counter the white-supremacist, Proud Boy and Oath Keeper elements highly visible in media newscasts with a Conan the Barbarian performance. This was his take on the dominant brand of Make America Great Again. He focused on his own immigrant passage from his native Austria and its Nazi associations to the liberated American world of his success. For Schwarzenegger, the Capitol invasion and its vandalism equated to Kristallnacht. Noam Chomsky likened the storming to Hitler’s Beer Hall Putsch of 1923, observing that it effected a greater penetration to the heart of power than did Hitler’s failed attempt. But Chomsky, with characteristic acuity, added that the fascist danger lies in the anti-democratic class forces (including electoral and political manipulations on all sides) that provide the fertile ground for fascism.

Rupture and the corporate state

The Rise and Fall of Trump (not discounting the possibility that Humpty Dumpty might come together again, which is the fear of the master narrative) may be understood as expressing a transition between two moments of capital during which one formation morphs into another. Trump is the embodiment, instrument and anguish of this transition, a tragic figure in a theatre of the absurd. Grand Guignol almost, but in Gothic American Horror Story style. The accession of Biden is the apotheosis of the new; in the hopes of most, he is a vehicle for healing the divisions in America that Trump brought to a head and are still very much present. But Biden’s rise has ominous oppressive indications of its own.

The events Trump have all the hallmarks of the rupture of transformation or, better, transmutation. The millenarian spirit that Hochschild captures in her account is one born in the capitalist ideology of the American Dream; fortified in the religious fundamentalism of Trump’s many followers, it revitalises their hopes of the Dream in the face of abject failure. The rallies and the impassioned actions of those invading the Capitol were filled with revitalising energy. Such millenarian explosions, distinct in their own historical contexts, have occurred at many points in global history. They were apparent at the dawn of capitalism in Europe, at later moments of crisis and redirection in capital up to the present—indeed at the inception of the Nazi horror—and at points of the disruptive expansion of capital in the Western imperial/colonial thrust, as in the cargo movements of the Pacific. 

The rupture of transmutation in capital, the crisis that the Trumpian progress manifests, is an instance of what Marx and others have understood to be its creative–destructive dynamic. In this way, capital reproduces, renews and revitalises its potency against the contradictions within and limitations to its profit motive that it generates within itself, as well as those thrown up against it in the process of its expansion and transformation.  

The circumstances underpinning the current transmutation in capital relate to the revolutions in science and technology—those associated particularly with the digital age and advances in biotechnology—to a large extent driven by capital and motivated by profit. The rapid development of capital (and especially that of the still dominant, if declining, American form) has been driven by innovations in knowledge and technology (something that Marx and many others admired about America). What became known as the nation state (the dominant political form that nurtured capital) and the class orders that were generated in capital and necessary to it (not to mention the overpopulation and ecological disasters that grew in capital’s wake) also constituted barriers and limitations to capital’s growth.

The new technological revolutions are a response to such system-driven imperatives and crises. They have, in turn, effected revolutions in production and consumption (creating new markets and increasing consumption; reducing the need for human labour and the resistances that brings; overcoming problems in and opening up novel lines of distribution), forcing the distress of unemployment on a larger proportion of the population (especially among the erstwhile working class), creating impoverishment and uncertainties reaching into the once affluent middle classes (as captured in the neologism the ‘precariat’), shifting class alignments and redefining the nature and value of all forms of work and of the working day (the expansion of zero hours and the sense of the return of a bygone era). 

The current technological revolution is a key factor in the extraordinary growth in the monopolising strength of corporations such as Google, Amazon or even Tencent. The dot.com organisations (the flagships and spearheads of capitalist transformation, with huge social transmutational effect) have wealth that dwarfs that of many states, and they are functioning in areas once controlled by the state (the current race to colonise space is one). Indeed the corporate world has effectively invaded and taken over the operation of nation states. This is most noteworthy in those state forms influenced by histories of liberal social democracy in Europe and Australia, which have tended to draw a sharp demarcation between public interest and private enterprise. The nation state and its apparatuses of government and institutions for public benefit have been corporatised to the extent that many government bureaucracies have not only had their activities outsourced to private companies but also adopted the managerial styles and ruthlessness of some corporate business models. This corporatisation of the state has aligned it much more closely with dominant economic interests in the private (now also public) sectors than before, and enables a bypassing of state regulation, even the regulatory apparatus that once sustained capitalist interests, but which had become an impediment to capitalist expansion. 

These changes have wrought socio-economic and political disruption and distress globally, and most especially in the Western hemisphere. This is not merely collateral damage. The revolution in science and technology has been a key instrument in effecting social and political changes via destruction, for the regenerative expansion of capital. It is central to the re-imagination of capital at the opening of the twenty-first century. 

This is particularly so in the United States, whose socio-political order is historically one of corporate state formation, which accounts for its long-term global political-economic domination. Some renewal in leftist thought (with Bernie Sanders, for example) is an index of the depth of distress that is being experienced, although the ideological and counteractive potency of the American Dream fuelled especially in fundamentalist Christianity suppresses such potential, contributing to the intensity and passion of the Trump phenomenon. The ideological distinction of that phenomenon aside, the dynamic of populism is reflected everywhere across the globe.

One common feature of this is the rejection of political systems associated with nation-state orders and, to a marked extent, the largely bipartite party systems vital in the discourses of control and policy of modern nation states. Trumpism and other populist movements (in Europe notably) complain of the alienation of the state and its proponents from the interests of the mass. The expansion of corporatisation and the further hollowing out of the state, the corruption of its public responsibilities by corporate interests, is effectively what Trump was promoting in his presidency. It is a potent dimension of the Trump paradox and a major irony of the Capitol invasion that, for all the apparent fascist tendencies, it was the spirit of reclaiming democracy (admittedly of the freebooting kind) in an already highly corporatised establishment (subject to great corporate capitalist interest) that Trump’s actions were directed to expanding. An important figure in this respect is the Silicon Valley venture capitalist Peter Thiel. The tech billionaire, early investor in Facebook and founder of Paypal was an early Trump supporter and named part of Trump’s transition team in 2016. His book, Zero to One, based on his lecture courses at Stanford University, argues for a corporate-technocratic governance beyond older forms of government. 

From panopticon to coronopticon

COVID-19 has highlighted the social devastation of the destructive/creative dynamic of capitalism’s transformation. Class and associated ethnic inequities have everywhere been shown up and probably intensified by a pandemic that is starting to equal, if not surpass, the devastating effect of two world wars. Like them it is a clearing ground for capitalist exploitative expansion—something like Naomi Klein’s disaster capitalism. Under the shadow of the virus, labour demands are being rationalised and the cutting back of employment and its benefits legitimated, and governments are pumping capital into economies in a way that protects consumption in an environment where there is declining occupational opportunity and income. The idea of a universal basic income is being seriously discussed, which would offset some of the contradictions in a transformation of capitalism that is reducing our dependence on labour and endangering consumption through automation and digitalisation. While the poor are getting poorer the rich are getting richer, most notably those heading the revolutionary technologies of the digital age and biotechnology, the competitive race to secure viable vaccines against the virus being one example. 

There is a strange synchronicity linking the pandemic with the dynamic of capitalism’s transmutational corporatisation of the state. The virus reproduces and spreads in a not dissimilar dynamic. Indeed, COVID-19 in some ecological understandings is the product of the acceleration of globalisation, effected in those processes of capitalism’s transmutation associated with corporate expansion and corporatisation of the nation state. As a crossover from animal to human bodies, the virus is one manifestation of increased human-population pressure on wild animal territory, the closer intermeshing of animal and human terrains. The scale of the pandemic is, of course, a direct consequence of the time-space contraction and intensity of the networked interconnections of globalisation. 

State surveillance has intensified as a by-product of combatting COVID, which is also its legitimation, with digitalization the major surveillance instrument.  The digital penetration of every nook and cranny of social life (see Shoshana Zuboff’s The Age of Surveillance Capitalism or Netflix’s The Social Dilemma) is interwoven with the commodification of the social and personal for profit—economising individuals calculating the costs and benefits of their social ‘interactions’ (the YouTube or Kuaishou ‘influencer’, the hyped TED talker as Foucault’s entrepreneurial self, cut, pasted, uploaded and remixed). The management of COVID, demanding social isolation and the disruption of ordinary social life, has exponentially increased the role of the digital as the primary mediator of the social and a commanding force in its constitution. COVID has been revealed as a kind of social particle accelerator. More intensively than ever, the realm of the social is being re-imagined, re-engineered and re-mastered as a digital-social, a ‘Digisoc’ or ‘Minisoc’, constrained and produced within algorithmically preset parameters. Here is Peter Weir’s film The Truman Show radically updated. And, as with Truman, the space of freedom is also and at the same time experienced as a space of unfreedom. This manifests in the deep ambivalence many feel about the new technologies they daily live with and through. The digitised social is often presented as a new agora, a liberating ‘space’ in which new, progressive ideas and directions are enabled, operationalised and indeed optimised. The internet has become a site of multiple struggles in which class forces and new potentials for social difference and proliferating identity-claims are continually emerging. The freedom of the internet has provided exciting opportunities for many. But such freedom also and at the same time contributes to conspiracy on all sides. As has been made clear in the two elections featuring Trump, the superpower of corporations such as Google and Facebook threatens to install a domain of hyper-control. Digital walls and electronic fences are appearing everywhere in the age of the global ‘splinternet’.

The hegemonic and totalising potential for the ruling bodies of the corporatising state who control the digital is as never before. This is so not just in the global scale of network reach but in the heightened degree to which controlling bodies can form the ground of the social, radically remodel, engineer and design reality in accordance with dominant interests, and, where motivated, shut out anything that threatens their order. Awareness of this has driven a fury of censorship and self-censorship on all sides—Trump’s threatened TikTok ban becomes Twitter’s actual Trump ban. 

From 1984 to Brave New World 

Trump and Trumpism are moments in the transitional, transmutational process of capitalism outlined above and of the formation of new social and political orders. Echoing the past, they express its transmutation (and its agonies) rather than repeat it. Trump and Trumpism manifest the contradictions of such processes, being agents and agencies of the transmutations in the social and political circumstances of life that are in train, themselves forces in the bringing forth of a future that, in some respects, is already being lived.

Trump himself can be described as an In-Betweener, a bridge into the new realities, both a force in their realisation and a victim.

His manner and style, the brutal no-holds-barred amorality, is familiar from the captains of industry and robber barons of an earlier age, who built capitalist America and crushed working-class resistance by all means, more foul than fair. Trump maintains the style but in reverse redemptive mode. In his shape-shift he presents as supporter of the working classes, not their nemesis, as did his forerunners. However, his authoritarian business manner, of The Apprentice’s ‘You’re fired’ fame, matches well the managerialism of the present. He is an exemplar of contemporary venture capitalism, and most especially  of profit from non-industrial production (often anti-production) gained from real estate, property transfer, asset stripping and the expanding gaming and gambling industries (symptoms of the crises of the transformation in capital) from which some of Trump’s key supporters come.

Trump’s reactive anti-immigrant nationalism and Make America Great Again rhetoric not only appeal to the white Right of his constituency but is an engagement of past rhetoric to support new political and economic realities. Trump’s economic war with China stressed re-industrialisation, but it was also concerned with counteracting China’s technological ascendancy (see Clinton Fernandes’ ‘The China Divide’ in Arena no. 4), especially in the realm of the digital, a major contradiction born of the current globalising transmutation in capitalism involving transfers of innovatory knowledge. 

Trump anticipated the risk to his presidential re-election and it manifested the dilemmas of his in-betweenness. His inaction with regard to the pandemic was consistent with the anti–Big Government policies of many Republicans and the American Right who are so much a part of QAnon conspiracies, but also centred on the concern to reduce government interference and modify regulation in capitalist processes, a strong theme in current transitions and transformations of the state and capital. Trump’s cry that the election was stolen was excited by the circumstances of the pandemic. His attack on postal votes related to the fact that the pandemic gave the postal vote an unprecedented role in the election’s outcome, by by-passing and neutralising the millenarian potency of his mass rallies, already reduced in numbers by fear. Trump sensed that the COVID-inspired move to ‘working from home’ and ‘voting from home’ would fence in his base of support. 

Trump took full advantage of the digital age, his use of Twitter and Facebook a marked feature of his style of rule. His practices here especially looked forward to the politics of the future, a politics increasingly bounded and conditioned in societies of the image. Following the events at the Capitol, Trump’s own Custer’s Last Stand to allay his fate, his cyberspace and internet accounts were switched off. He has been cancelled by the new digitally authoritarian corporate powers (who arguably benefited the most from the Trump era and profited greatly under pandemic conditions), which are behind the new society of the image, in which he was a past-master and within which he had largely established his identity (see Roland Kapferer’s ‘Trump as Singularity’ in Arena Magazine no. 143). 

The overriding image of the Capitol invasion and carried across most networks has been that of the occupation of the heart of American democracy by those who would threaten its ideals. The media have concentrated on what was the dominating presence of the extremist, macho, white American far Right parading symbols of a racist past combined with clear references to not-so-distant memories of fascism and Nazism. There were others there more moderate in opinion and representative of other class fractions, if still mostly white, whose presence, however, does not reduce the fear of fascism, possibly as in Nazi Germany, when what seemed to be small groups of extremists hijacked power to unleash the horrors that followed. Something similar could be said to have happened in Russia, leading to Stalinism. These were the worlds of George Orwell’s 1984, in which some of the major ideals of the time flipped into their tragic negation. Such events were very much emergent realities of the nation state: imperialist wars, and the class forces of the particular moment in the history of capitalism and its social and political formations. There is no statement here that this could not happen again.

What we are saying is this: a different authoritarian and oppressive possibility may be taking shape—not of the fascist past but of the future. This is a future that Trump was mediating, and that may yet be realised, despite the great hope to the contrary in the accession of President Biden. Perhaps this prospect can be seen as more akin to Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, born in the current transmutations of capital (and its class agonies) and in the circumstances of the radical technological revolutions of the digital era, involving the apotheosis of the corporatisation of the state, the corporate state emerging out of the ruins of the nation state. 

Huxley depicted a world centred on production and efficiency, a bio-technologically conditioned global system of perfect rational, optimised order. The class conflicts of the past are overcome here; everyone accepts their predetermined place. It is a post-human reality in which the foundation of human beings in their biology and passions is transcended. It is a somatised, artificially intelligent world of the image and promiscuity. Those who do not fit or who resist are fenced out. 

Biden’s inauguration, for all its upbeat ceremonial spirit, had some intimation of such a future, taking into full account the security constraints of its moment: to protect against the murderous unchecked rampage of the virus and the threat of the attack of right-wing militias. The stress on this, it may be noted, has an ideological function to distance what is about to come into being from the vastly more visceral world of Trump and so evident in the invasion of the Capitol—what Biden in his inauguration speech called an ‘uncivil war’.

The scene of the perfectly scripted inauguration was virtually devoid of people. Apart from the dignitaries and all-important celebrities, there was the highly selected order of the society of the corporate state. Where the general populace would normally crowd was an emptiness filled with flags and protected by troops—more troops than are currently stationed in Afghanistan. Those who might disrupt the proceedings—Hillary Clinton’s ‘deplorables’, Huxley’s ‘resistant savages’—were fenced out. It was a totalising and constructed digital media image presenting a reality of control, harmony and absolute surveillance. 

To Be Continued.

Tories Killing Free Speech and Democracy in the Name of Stopping ‘Nuisance’

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 16/03/2021 - 8:51pm in

Following the Met police’s rough manhandling of the women at the vigil for Sarah Everard on Clapham Common and the consequent outcry, our smirking excuse for a home secretary, Priti Patel wishes to introduce legislation with the explicit intention of limiting public protest. This, as Mike and the good peeps on Twitter have pointed out, is Fascism. It’s suppression of the fundamental right to public protest. The intention is to stop criticism of the government. But the Tories are past masters in lying, and so they’ve dressed this latest assault on democracy up as somehow empowering the public. They’re not doing it to stop free speech, you see. They’re trying to empower local communities, who may find themselves seriously disrupted by noisy protesters. It’s about stopping them making a nuisance of themselves. And so the proposed legislation will, if passed, allow the authorities to cancel a demo if even a single person complains about it.

There’s a quote, which unfortunately I’ve largely forgotten, which states that Fascism never comes as a repressive force. It always presents itself in friendly terms until it is too late, the concentration camps have been put up and thugs in jackboots are stamping on human faces, to use George Orwell’s metaphor. There’s another quote that says that the totalitarianism of the future won’t present itself as an oppressive tyrant, but as society’s benevolent, obedient servant. Patel’s wretched bill surely bears out the truth of this statement. It’s Fascism all right, but dressed up as defending local communities’ right not to have their peace and quiet spoilt by anything as vulgar as an enraged or concerned public.

While Priti Patel is trying to push the bill through parliament now, it isn’t just her that’s behind it. It’s a Tory idea that’s been around since ‘Dodgy’ Dave Cameron was in No. 10. He also tried to pass it, but with no success. Now, almost a decade later, the Tories are trying again.

The Labour party plans to oppose the bill. So should everyone who values democracy and free speech, regardless of party. And including and particularly Tories. One of the Transatlantic Conservative sites I used to read several years ago was opposed to government legislation outlawing Holocaust denial. There was a debate at the time over whether the Canadian government should join other countries in banning it. This was just during the Conservative Harper administration. The Jewish owner of the site was against this, arguing that Conservatives should not support legislation limiting free speech. If the precedent was set, then it would give a weapon to the Tories’ enemies, who could use it to their own advantage. Exactly. And I have come across Tories who are genuine, passionate defenders of free speech. Years ago Lobster reviewed a book written by one of them, which recognised that every democratic freedom we now enjoy isn’t a natural outgrowth of the development of some transcendent principle of freedom and democracy inherent in British or western society. No, these freedoms are the hard-won results of bitter struggles. And Patel’s vile legislation makes it very clear that struggle is far from over.

People are already organising petitions and planning protests against the bill. I received this email from Democracy Unleashed, laying out the arguments and asking me to sign a petition against it, which I did. It runs

‘Once again, the government is attempting to force controversial legislation through Parliament without proper scrutiny.

The Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill contains provisions that could land peaceful protestors with up to ten years’ imprisonment if their protest is deemed capable of causing “serious annoyance” to any section of the public. 

Did the People’s Vote marches cause “serious annoyance”? What about Black Lives Matter? Or Extinction Rebellion? Or March for Women? Or Stop The War Coalition? Which one of those protests do you think the Home Secretary would ban under this new legislation?

I will not be silenced

Many thousands of people take part in hundreds of protests across the United Kingdom every year. In most cases, a little bit of nuisance is what gets them noticed and their messages heard. Whether or not you agree with their cause, their right to protest is an essential part of a healthy democracy and any legislation that dilutes that right should be subject to very careful scrutiny indeed. 

We don’t think protestors campaigning passionately (or noisily) but peacefully for a cause should face the possibility of a prison sentence just because the Home Secretary has decided that someone might find their protest “seriously annoying.”

This legislation represents a serious attack on the foundations of our democracy and history tells us that such attacks often signal the beginning of something more sinister. We need to wake up to the threat and do something while we still can.  

Sign the petition to tell the Home Secretary that government cannot be allowed to bury our democratic rights just because it suites them to do so. 

I’ll sign the petition

Help us make this the loudest protest possible by sharing the petition on Facebook, Twitter and WhatsApp with the hashtag #SeriouslyAnnoyed. ‘

We have to oppose this bill, otherwise democracy in Britain will be as hollow and meaningless as Singapore. You have the right to speak in public there about political issues, but you have to register with the police in advance, who have the power to turn you down and arrest you. Needless to say, people aren’t exactly lining up at the Singaporean equivalent of Speaker’s Corner.

And that’s the kind of empty, hollow democracy Priti Patel and her predecessors want for Britain.

What was the “Is Trump a Fascist?” Debate Really All About?

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sun, 14/03/2021 - 5:07am in

I have a new piece up at The New Yorker. I take stock of the debate over whether Trumpism is an authoritarian/fascist/tyrannical formation.

Throughout the Trump years, I consistently argued that that what I call the strongman thesis (just as a catch-all way of describing the various terms that were used for Trumpism) was not the most helpful way of thinking about what was going on with Trump or on the right. In this piece, I try to step back from that debate and examine what was really driving it.

Long story short: where liberals and leftists saw power on the right, I saw, and continue to see, paralysis. Not just on the right, in fact, but across the political spectrum.

And in an odd way, it was the centuries-long dream of democratic power that helped frame liberals’ and the left’s misunderstanding and misrecognition of our ongoing political paralysis.

As I argue in the piece’s conclusion:

This is the situation we now find ourselves in. One party, representing the popular majority, remains on the outskirts of power, thanks to the Constitution. The other party, representing the minority, cannot wield power when it has it but finds its position protected nonetheless by the very same Constitution.

We are not witnesses to Prometheus unbound. We are seeing the sufferings of Sisyphus, forever rolling his rock—immigration reform, new infrastructure, green jobs—up a hill. It’s no wonder everyone saw an authoritarian at the top of that hill. When no one can act, any performance of power, no matter how empty, can seem real.

Anyway, have a read of the piece at The New Yorker, and after you’re finished, feel free to weigh in here with your criticisms, complaints, compliments, and queries.