Sunday, 30 June 2019
Saturday, 29 June 2019
Now you know what's meant by 'recycling':
Waste giant Biffa has been convicted of exporting banned waste such as plastics, food packaging and used nappies to China but is considering making an appeal.
The Environment Agency prosecuted Biffa Waste Services for sending the waste collected from households, which also included sanitary towels and condoms, that the company claimed was waste paper.
The export of unsorted household recycling waste from the UK to China has been banned since 2016.
The jury at Wood Green Crown Court found Biffa guilty of two breaches of the law in May and June 2015 as it did not accept the company’s version of events that consignments leaving its depot in Edmonton four years ago complied with the law because they comprised of waste paper.
Evidence gathered by investigators at Felixstowe port identified contents of seven 25-tonne containers bound for China to include glass, electrical items and metal.
The Environment Agency said its officers found “everything from women’s underwear and plastic bottles to metal pipes”.
It added: “Instead of waste paper, investigators discovered diverse discarded debris such as shoes, plastic bags, an umbrella, socks, hand towels, unused condoms, video tape, toiletries and electric cable.
“The nappies and sanitary towels gave off a pungent ‘vomit-like’ smell when inspected by Environment Agency officers.
The coming civil war in the Democratic Party won't be pretty
Brace yourself; there is a civil war coming soon in the Democratic Party.
At the heart of today’s Democratic Party is an identity crisis and an ideological struggle. In recent election cycles, these were pushed underground for the sake of party unity.
We heard the first rumblings of it during the 2016 election when Bernie Sanders gave Hillary Clinton a serious run for her money.
And now those differences threaten to come out in the open during the upcoming primary debates at an importunate moment when the party needs to unite to defeat President Trump.
But now is as good a time as any to solve the identity crisis in the party.
How to help the Democrats solve their problems
For starters, is the Democratic Party a party of the rich or a party of the little guy? For many years, they’ve been the party of the rich playing a good game of pretending to be for the little guy.
And the Democratic establishment does it in insidious ways that are too clever by half: they are for the marginalized guy or gal in the race, gender, and sexuality issues because, hey, that doesn’t hurt their and their affluent constituents’ pocketbook much.
But in the economic issues that matter, they often sock it to the average Democratic working-class voter: in the global trade deals that’ve offshored jobs and have decimated the American manufacturing base; in their looking the other way as illegal immigrants depress the wages of working-class Americans, and more.
But as long as they talk and talk and talk some more – about abortion and transgender rights and racism (not that these aren’t relevant issues), they can have their cake and eat it too.
But all this worked until 2016, but can’t be pulled off anymore. The Democratic establishment wing is still either clueless or stubborn, but they want good ol’ Joe Biden to come to the rescue and Make Oligarchic America Great Again.
But the restive Sanders, Warren, and Ocasio Cortez wing of the party won’t let them.
Democrats chose elitism over empathy in backing Hillary Clinton
But it isn’t just the Democratic Party establishment that’s the problem, it is the party’s voters that’ve changed. It has been for some time the party of the rich, and the party of college-educated, upwardly mobile, urban voters. There are, of course, minority voters and struggling legal immigrants in the mix, but working-class and lower middle-class voters who used to vote Democrat are right to feel alien in today’s Democratic Party.
Hillary Clinton revealed her economic elitism when she said in 2018 that she won in the “places that represent two-thirds of America’s gross domestic product. So I won the places that are optimistic, diverse, dynamic, moving forward...”
And this was the Democratic nominee! Where was the empathy and compassion for those who’ve been left behind in today’s global economy by forces outside their control like uncontrolled mass immigration, offshoring of jobs, automation? There was none, because she was out-of-touch and clueless.
And the dishonesty continues with the Democratic establishment wing. If Hillary had won in 2016, the party would’ve drifted further away from its working-class roots. But the defeat in 2016 has forced party establishment leaders like Joe Biden to now go through the performative motions of pretend-caring especially about white working-class voters.
Enter Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. Say what you will about them, but they are admirably trying to do some vital housecleaning in their party.
This progressive wing may seem crazy and socialist, and I don’t agree with them on some things, but at least their hearts are in the right place, and they are closer to the historic, progressive roots of the Democratic Party.
I left the Democratic Party in 2016 because I couldn’t stomach the dishonesty and duplicity. When you rip of their mask, what is revealed is troubling: the Party of Davos masquerading as the Party of Scranton, Pennsylvania, that essentially hoodwinks much of the electorate.
Yes, the establishment Republicans are no better, but this is a discussion about the Democratic Party.
It is OK, by the way, to be a party of and for the affluent, but at least don’t simultaneously pretend to be the party of the little guy.
I, for one, am looking forward to the coming civil war and some resolution.
Friday, 28 June 2019
Thanks in part to an ongoing reawakening of left politics amid rising inequality, questioning the tyranny of extreme wealth is fast becoming the stuff of mainstream political debate. And with the re-injection of class politics into the American political arena, there is growing momentum for previously unthinkable policies like a 70 percent top marginal rate and a sharply increased estate tax. (Minnesota representative Ilhan Omar also deserves credit for proposing an even higher top marginal rate of 90 percent).
The singling out of individual billionaires has also gained a foothold in mainstream politics, thanks in no small part, once again, to Bernie Sanders, who has made moral condemnation of the billionaire class, from Jeff Bezos to the Walton Family, his bread and butter. Asked about Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz’s prospective presidential run several weeks ago, for example, he curtly replied:
Why is Howard Schultz on every television in the country? Why are you quoting Howard Schultz? Because he’s a billionaire. There are a lot of people I know personally who work hard for a living and make forty, fifty thousand dollars a year that know a lot more about politics than Mr Schultz. But because we have a corrupt political system, anybody who is a billionaire, who can throw a lot of ads on television, suddenly becomes credible.
This sudden rupture in America’s longstanding political culture of obsequious deference to billionaires is overdue, to put it mildly, and the Democratic presidential primary race — which is going to run the gamut from progressives like Sanders and Elizabeth Warren to billionaire-adjacent candidates and maybe even actual billionaires — will be a testing ground for pro and anti-billionaire arguments alike.
Likely for this very reason, some centrist opinion-makers seem keen to plant their flags somewhere in the middle of the debate (where else?), defending the ultimate existence of billionaires while arguing there could, potentially, be fewer of them, maybe. A recent illustration of this position was the New York Times op-ed by Times contributor Will Wilkinson, of the soft-libertarian Niskanen Center, entitled “Don’t Abolish Billionaires — Abolish Bad Policy Instead.”
Wilkinson rightly recognizes that “enthusiasm for radical leveling” is “blossoming into a mainstream mood.” But he cautions, “I hope that [prospective Democratic nominees will] stick up for the idea that it can be morally kosher to bank a billion and that the existence of virtuous three-comma fortunes is a sign not of failure but of supreme policy success.”
His ensuing argument largely rests on a particularly bogus kind of syllogism: liberal democracies have billionaires. Liberal democracy is good. Therefore, billionaires are good. Wilkinson writes:
The empirical record is quite clear about the general form of national political economy that produces the happiest, healthiest, wealthiest, freest and longest lives. There’s no pithy name for it, so we’ll have to settle for “liberal-democratic welfare-state capitalism.” There’s a “social democratic” version . . . and there’s a “neoliberal” version. You may prefer one version over the other, but they’re not all that different. And in comparative terms, they’re all insanely great. The typical citizen of these countries is as well-off as human beings have ever been. These places are the historical pinnacle of policy success. But guess what? There are billionaires in all of them . . . So what’s the problem? Preventing billion-dollar hoards guards against the bad consequences of . . . having the best sort of polity that has ever existed?
He then proceeds to proffer an all-too-familiar narrative in defense of billionaires: namely, that some of them are innovators who have simply been rewarded for their contributions to society. There are therefore deserving billionaires and undeserving ones, and the former should be actively celebrated. In this telling, billionaires are a potentially, though not inherently, positive corollary of our economic system rather than a structural deficiency or failure.
A few things should be said about these arguments.
The first is a basic complaint about Wilkinson’s circular logic. System Y being better than System X is not a sufficient defense of System Y, even if its relative superiority can be agreed upon. Most members of the urban proletariat in nineteenth-century Europe were almost certainly materially better off than their equivalents in the Middle Ages, but the superiority of pre-democratic industrial capitalism to feudalism is not an argument for its superlative virtue. By the same token, the presence of billionaires in modern liberal or even social democracies is not in and of itself a defense of them.
And even with his qualifier attached (“in comparative terms”), Wilkinson’s characterization of all Western liberal democracies as “insanely great” is difficult to credit. The United States is the richest society in the history of civilization but also has obscene levels of poverty and inequality. As Meagan Day recently noted, Jeff Bezos makes the equivalent of the median US income every twelve seconds, but some 40 percent of Americans lack even $400 in reserve funds and are thus a single emergency away from disaster.
To state what should be obvious, these two facts are not unrelated. Vast concentrations of wealth in the hands of the few is both how and why there is so much poverty and insecurity among working and middle-class Americans, despite there being so much wealth overall. Thanks to their cumulative labor — in factories, schools, hospitals, care homes, restaurants, and throughout the economy — an immense amount of wealth is produced in a society like the United States, but much of it is expropriated by billionaires in the form of rents and capital income. No one earns a billion dollars, but hierarchical economic structures and a skewed political system ensure some nevertheless acquire it because of the property they own. A billion dollars, let alone the over $100 billion amassed by Jeff Bezos, is not a reward proportionate to someone’s social contribution. It’s institutionalized theft, plain and simple.
Nor is it the case that billionaires are just like regular citizens but happen to be wealthier than others. Wilkinson, to his credit, does at least acknowledge the potentially nefarious influence of the billionaire class on the institutions of democracy, but mostly elides it using the same circular logic:
The progressive idea here is usually that people with vastly more wealth than the common run of citizens wield vastly disproportionate political power and therefore imperil democracy and the equal worth of our basic rights. It’s a worry we’ve got to take seriously, but it’s based more in abstract theorizing than empirical analysis. Inspect any credible international ranking of countries by democratic quality, equal treatment under the law or level of personal freedom. You’ll find the same passel of billionaire-tolerant states again and again.
And contrary to what Wilkinson says, the threat described above is anything but an abstractly theorized one. As a class, billionaires visibly exert a tremendous and insidious influence on political decision-making, bankrolling key figures in both the Democratic and Republican parties and working overtime to mold legislation in their collective favor. Being a thousand, ten thousand, or a hundred thousand times wealthier than the average person invariably translates into a level of power and influence that is incompatible with the basic principles of democratic equality. To put it in the starkest terms possible, you can have a society with billionaires or you can have a genuine democracy, but you can’t have both. (Swedish social democracy may be somewhat more insulated from the threat posed by its billionaires than American liberal democracy, but it remains imperiled and compromised nonetheless.)
Far from being a necessity or even a basically tolerable corollary of prosperous societies, the obscene hoarding of wealth by a tiny few is an expression of deep and abiding injustice. The billionaire class is the modern, capitalist equivalent of the feudal landed gentry: acquiring its fortunes through the exploitative extraction of rents and wielding its immense wealth and power to tighten its illegitimate grip on both politics and the economy.
It’s a moral abomination we’d all be much better off without.
Thursday, 27 June 2019
Wednesday, 26 June 2019
(*) Ye Olde Yorkshire proverb, meaning "nothing is stranger than people".
How Gay Icon Renaud Camus Became the Ideologue of White Supremacy
The bizarre odyssey of the “great replacement” theorist shows that kitsch can kill.
A pioneering gay writer in the heady 1980s. A laureate of the Académie Française, a literary circle so rarefied that its members are known as les immortels. A radical champion of art for art’s sake who withdrew to a 14th-century château to live among the paintings and the pictures that were the only sources of meaning he ever seemed to recognize. These are all descriptions that might once have captured the essence of Renaud Camus. ,,
His trademark was fearlessness, as evinced in his 1979 autobiographical novel, Tricks, which recounts in unsparing detail a string of nonchalant homosexual encounters the narrator has in nightclub bathrooms and grimy apartments on both sides of the Atlantic. “I put saliva in my ass, kneeled on both sides of him, and brought his penis, which was not of a very considerable size, inside me without much difficulty,” we read of one such encounter. “He came the moment one of my fingers was pressed inside the crack of his ass.” That was Camus then.
These days, the author of Tricks is better known as the principal architect of le grand remplacement (the great replacement), the conspiracy theory that white, Christian Europe is being invaded and destroyed by hordes of black and brown immigrants from North and sub-Saharan Africa. Since 2012, when it appeared as the title of a book Camus self-published, the term “great replacement” has become a rallying cry of white supremacists around the world—the demonstrators who stormed through Charlottesville, Virginia, in August 2017; the man who killed 11 worshippers at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh in October 2018; and especially Brenton Tarrant, the suspect in the New Zealand mosque attacks in March. Tarrant posted his own “The Great Replacement”—a 74-page online manifesto—before murdering 51 people.
The day after the Christchurch shooting, I called Camus out of the blue, reporting for The Washington Post. He told me then that he condemned this kind of violence but that he ultimately appreciated the attention these episodes have brought to his arguments. Does he resent “the fact that people take notice of the ethnic substitution that is in progress in my country?” he asked rhetorically. “No. To the contrary.”
Camus, now 72, lives in Plieux, France, a peaceful afterthought of a town about an hour by car from the nearest train station. But when people are slaughtered in mosques in the antipodes, his phone starts to ring. Although he tweets constantly—even without the coveted blue check mark—public figures start to engage with him. And after a series of exchanges with French and foreign journalists, he has typically generated enough material for the online diary he publishes.
But he isn’t just a commentator. Camus was a candidate in May’s European Parliament elections. Although his party came in second to last—the Esperanto party won 10 times as many votes—his presence on the ticket was more than a stunt. He is a living symbol of a profound cultural shift in which Europe has abandoned its postwar creed of tolerance for identitarian anger. Days before the vote, a photograph emerged of a candidate on his ticket kneeling before a giant swastika. (Camus then withdrew from the election, assuring me that the swastika was “the opposite of everything I’ve fought for my whole life.”)
Camus is not the first person in France to feel that there are too many Muslims and too many migrants, nor has he refashioned this view in any particular way. What he does offer is a kind of cultivated spectacle, a performance of sorts: the outraged aesthete, stewing in an ancient stone chrysalis about the demographic decline of a society he deliberately avoids. If le grand remplacement is what Camus believes, it has also proved a surefire means of keeping himself in the papers when he might otherwise have been forgotten. One can think of Camus as a more successful version of Steve Bannon, whose designs in Europe have amounted to little more than a handful of appearances on television at the wrong times of day and an ostensible network of right-wing “schools” that are more accurately described as identitarian book clubs than as training grounds for the so-called populist elite Bannon vowed to create. Though Camus has announced no such grand ambitions, his impact has been much more profound. A forthcoming 2019 study conducted by the Institute of Strategic Dialogue, based on social-media analytics, depicts Camus as the top influencer on the subject of remigration, or the forced return of non-Europeans to their countries of origin. He ranked higher than Donald Trump.
Camus disputes the notion that he has undergone a transformation of any kind. “I think my life is united,” he told me recently. Tricks was an attempt to say what could not be said, and Le Grand Remplacement is the same. “Homosexuality could only be mentioned in an erotic context, and never in simple terms. Tricks is a paradoxical book that shows that what is told isn’t extraordinary, that there isn’t much to tell, in fact.” He sees himself as a truth teller, someone who merely records what should be clear for all to see. “The mission of the great writer in society is to go toward what is not said, the untold part of the discourse.”
Camus may be right in saying that he has been the same person throughout his writing life, but not necessarily in the way he thinks. What applies to each of his personas—edgy gay writer, avid Marine Le Pen supporter—is a particular embrace of, or at least aspiration toward, aestheticism. What seems to matter most is not whether something is true and not even whether something is good but whether something is beautiful, at least according to his definition. “The logical result of Fascism,” Walter Benjamin famously observed, “is the introduction of aesthetics into political life.”
Yet real taste eludes Camus; his self-presentation—a spotless three-piece suit the day I met him, a cavernous library strewn with books just so—is a little excessive. On his website, he gazes out onto empty fields in pensive profile like a living Rodin statue. What you see is an intellectual from central casting, a chatelain from a Netflix period piece. But the Kabuki is so stylized that what comes across is the artifice, not the essence. To interview Camus is to listen to the same lines he has already published and that he repeats constantly. “Racism turned Europe into a field of ruins. Anti-racism has turned it into a hyperviolent slum,” he told me. When he began to say it, I jotted the rest of it down before he even finished the sentence. We have seen this particular period piece before.
Aesthetics are the essence of le grand remplacement. For Camus, this is the defense of the beautiful society, the dogged and even violent pursuit of the pure. The problem, of course, is that le grand remplacement is not real: If demographic changes have been well-documented, the white utopia of his imagination has never existed in his lifetime. For the entirety of the 20th century, France has been home to one of the most ethnically diverse populations in Western Europe. Significant demographic changes occurred during decolonization in the 1960s and ’70s; the arrivals today are hardly unprecedented. Le Grand Remplacement purports to reveal the truth, but it is the lie, not “the untold part of the discourse.” As a matter of aesthetics, Le Grand Remplacement is kitsch, a dime-store distortion, a false image accessible to all that arouses base sensations—mostly pangs of nostalgia but also fits of rage. In the end, its tackiness is its strength.
It’s difficult to date the radicalization of Camus with any precision. But one crucial marker is l’affaire Camus, as it is still known, which saw him accused of anti-Semitism—allegations that ruined his then very considerable reputation and banished him from polite society forever. The shift in his public persona—from semirespected novelist to conspiracy theorist—entirely occurred after l’affaire. Le Grand Remplacement is many things, but most of all, it is the brainchild of a pariah, the scandalous rejoinder of a man who has nothing left to lose.
L’affaire began in April 2000, when Camus published La Campagne de France, an edition of his diary from 1994. In that book, he observed—with a sneer reminiscent of the diarists Jules and Edmond Goncourt, themselves no great admirers of Jews—that there were simply too many Jews on France Culture, the crown jewel of France’s national public radio. “They are roughly four out of five on every broadcast, or four out of six, or five out of seven, which on a national or almost official platform constitutes a net overrepresentation,” Camus complained.
The problem, he wrote, was not so much the number of Jews on France Culture as the fundamental impossibility for a Jew—even one whose family has been French for generations—to understand and explain French culture to a French audience. He lamented that “the French experience as it has been lived for 15 centuries by French people on the French soil” had “for its principal spokesman” members of “the Jewish race.”
Camus committed what in French cultural life is still the unforgivable sin: not just anti-Semitism but the kind of anti-Semitism that harks back to the invective of the 19th century, when proudly French Jews such as the military captain Alfred Dreyfus were condemned as foreigners and even as traitors. In much the same way, Camus, a man of letters himself, implied that iconic French writers such as Marcel Proust, who was half-Jewish, and Romain Gary, a Lithuanian Jewish immigrant, were only able to “explain this culture and this civilization in a way that to them is external.”
The French writer Marc Weitzmann, then a young journalist at Les Inrockuptibles, the bad-boy Parisian cultural weekly, was the first to hold Camus accountable. After he read the passages in La Campagne de France, he said, he invited Camus for a drink at Café Beaubourg, then as now a choice watering hole of Paris’s bon chic bon genre crowd. “That’s when I decided to write something, because the guy was so disgusting,” Weitzmann told me recently. “If he had just said, ‘I don’t like Jews’ and ‘Fuck you,’ that would have almost been fine, because at least that would have been coherent. But when I asked him, he told me that to write what pleased him did not make him anti-Semitic, and that the only word he regretted having written about the Jews was ‘race.’”
L’affaire was the beginning of the end: Friends stopped calling, the buzz surrounding his name was no longer positive, and reputable publishers started to drop him (these days he self-publishes). “It was a very unpleasant experience indeed,” he said. In his telling, he is the victim. “To me, it seemed to be the case,” he said of the observations he made. “I thought I could say it.” Nearly 20 years later, this is his summary of what happened: “Some people who don’t read, who know nothing about me, accused me of being anti-Semitic. Which is the most absurd thing in the world.” But the swastikas somehow follow him wherever he goes.
And Camus now has a number of prominent Jewish defenders, most notably Alain Finkielkraut, a household name in France and a hard-line conservative thinker who has taken his side since 2000. “[Camus] was speaking about a show on France Culture, and while he expressed himself in terms that were certainly maladroit, the campaign against him was totally unjust,” Finkielkraut, who has since invited Camus back onto his own popular France Culture program, told me recently. Demographic substitution, Finkielkraut said, is “not a conspiracy theory.” But he sighed when asked about Camus’s politics today and his frequent talk of “genocide by substitution.”
“He testifies to the anxiety of French identity, but he is so radical in his propositions. He’s become totally inaudible.” Apart from Finkielkraut, there is the polemicist Éric Zemmour, who further propagated Camus’s grand remplacement in two recent books, Le Suicide Français (2014) and Destin Français (2018). Zemmour may be a provocateur, but he is also a shrewd businessman: Both books topped best-seller lists in France for weeks.
Performing philo-Semitism—or at least anti-anti-Semitism—has become something of an obsession for Camus. These days, he has been painting a series of canvases that depict the Hebrew letter aleph. Likewise, in his platform for the European Parliament elections, he wrote that the creed of tolerance preached by liberal elites “has inaugurated a world where the Holocaust becomes more and more difficult to teach and where Jews are obligated to flee by the thousands.”
At the same time, like many on the contemporary far right—Trump, Hungary’s Viktor Orbán, and even Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu—Camus blames what he sees as a terrifying new world on a cabal whose character bears a striking resemblance to the old anti-Semitism of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. “Let’s say the Davocracy,” Camus writes, “the managerial governance of the world by Davos, by technology and by finance, by the abstract manipulation of figures, words, souls, thoughts and men.” Another example: After Charlottesville, he took it upon himself to publish—in English—another book, titled You Will Not Replace Us! Only one thing about Charlottesville bothered him: “It was ‘Jews will not replace us!’ that horrified me,” he said.
Camus told me that what was most painful about his experience with anti-Semitism was that “things were very ambiguous.” He meant by this not only that people were uncertain as to his character but also that they did not understand what he actually said. These days, he has abandoned nuance. As he put it, “Today there is no ambiguity.”
In much of French fin de siècle literature the figure of the aesthete is an aloof but judgmental presence. This judgmental aspect is perhaps the aesthete’s most defining attribute, for what truly motivates a person to seek an alternative reality of unadulterated beauty is a profound sense of disgust with the world as it is. There is no better evocation of this particular psychology than the character of Jean des Esseintes, the antihero of Joris-Karl Huysmans’s À Rebours, most commonly translated as Against Nature, perhaps the greatest treatise on the aesthete ever written. “His contempt for humanity deepened. He reached the conclusion that the world, for the most part, was composed of scoundrels and imbeciles,” Huysmans writes of des Esseintes. “Already, he was dreaming of a refined solitude, a comfortable desert, a motionless ark in which to seek refuge from the unending deluge of human stupidity.” There is more than a little des Esseintes in Camus: Both have withdrawn into worlds of their own design, entirely because of shared contempt for social evolution.
The aesthete is a natural reactionary, and Camus is no exception. Perhaps the most important thing to understand about Le Grand Remplacement is that it is primarily an aesthetic critique. His inspiration, he said, came when he was commissioned to write a 1999 travel guide to the Hérault, a rocky, arid region of vineyards and olive groves that surrounds Montpellier on France’s western Mediterranean coast. While researching the book, he told me, he stumbled upon a cluster of veiled Muslim women outside an ancient stone church. They did not belong there, he said. “Of course, it’s related to my taste for architecture, for heritage. There was something that wasn’t right. As if in a film on Louis XIV’s Versailles, some armored knights from the Middle Ages appeared. [That] would be an anachronism. In this case it was anatopism, something [in the wrong place].” Source.
In time, the image of these veiled women—about whom Camus said he could recall no concrete details—triggered in him a much broader anxiety. Le Grand Remplacement, he said, is not merely about the replacement of some people by others. It is also, he said, “the fact that everything is replaced by something else: the original by the copy, the authentic by the imitation, the object by its facsimile, writers by intellectuals, literature by journalism, journalism by information, information by fake news, Venice by Venice in Las Vegas, Las Vegas by Las Vegas in a Spanish desert or anywhere else.” But this is a logic that makes sense only if one accepts the premise that migrants and foreigners are somehow fake—ersatz copies of an authentic original they can neither understand nor interpret. “The fake is at the heart of global replacement,” he told me. “This is a world where everything is fake, where everything is the imitation of what things should be.”
If the aesthete is a natural reactionary, he is also a natural xenophobe. Concerns about decline and decay often metastasize into prosaic prejudice toward a chosen other. In the 19th century, Édouard Drumont, France’s most notorious anti-Semite, railed against Jews primarily because of the threat he believed they posed to the patrimoine, France’s cultural heritage. It is often forgotten that Drumont—long before he wrote La France Juive (1886), the anti-Semitic screed that would ensure his notoriety—was an antiquarian who decried the modernization of his beloved Paris. His first book, Mon Vieux Paris, is a nostalgic reverie for a city destroyed by corrupt railroad companies, department stores, and the grand boulevards of Baron Haussmann. “Our traditions, our faith, our heritage of beliefs and ideas: all this constitutes the soul of la Patrie, which I defend,” Drumont wrote. As he researched his book, he became more interested in who was responsible for this attack on the material landscape and the built environment of his cherished homeland. “A light went off in my spirit,” he would later write in an 1892 article. “I was struck by the terrible power of this race that had, in a matter of years, trampled on the race of the ancient French.” Camus has identified a different enemy, but in 2019 he does not sound significantly different.
Camus can also be seen as a contemporary addendum to the long tradition of fascist aesthetics: the veneration of violence, the glamorization of death, and most of all, the transformation of the human subject into an object to be arranged as needed, recast if possible, and discarded if necessary. In 1909, Filippo Tommaso Marinetti, the founder of the Futurist movement and an avid supporter of Benito Mussolini, articulated the first concrete definition of fascist aesthetics in reference to Italy’s Ethiopian conquests. Marinetti wrote, “We want to glorify war—the only cure for the world—militarism, patriotism, the destructive gesture of the anarchists, the beautiful ideas which kill, and contempt for women.” Beauty, for him, was derived from the sheer scale of the spectacle as much as from an epochal clash. What he yearned for was a choreography of chaos, a Brueghel canvas brought to life. Only in such a cacophony can the human body reach its full potential, destructive though it may be.
Camus dreams and even fantasizes about identical scenes. In You Will Not Replace Us! he describes the doomsday battle on which his entire project is based, the ultimate showdown in which “replacists”—his name for those who support immigration and cultural diversity—are finally attacked by the newcomers they have foolishly championed. His emphasis is sexual, and the variety of beauty he evokes is derived from the image of an idealized male body dominating a weaker, decadent cousin. “Replacists will be eaten, devored [sic], absorbed, replaced by their replacers même,” Camus writes. “Replacists replace lambs by wolfs. They replace docile replacees, well prepared to their own repalcemement [sic] by excess of comfort, too much civilization, too little culture and constant propaganda, by rather agressive [sic] replacers, younger, more numberous [sic], testeronically [sic] superior, well fed by their replacees and fiercely identitarian (especially the muslims [sic] amongst them). Replacists will be gobbled up first. That is a meager consolation.”
And yet there is an important difference between Camus and the masters of the fascist aesthetic—the filmmaker Leni Riefenstahl, the novelist Louis-Ferdinand Céline, the poet Ezra Pound. If each was a bigot and an avowed supporter of a fascist regime, each was also a genuine artist whose talent cannot be denied in the name of moral bankruptcy—an uncomfortable reality that challenges critics to this day. But Camus, aesthete though he may be, is no such artist, regardless of his pretensions. He lacks both the formal talent and the vision. He is far better understood as fascist kitsch than fascist avant-garde, guilty of the same defects he blames for the decline of Western civilization: “imitation, ersatz, simulacrum, copies, counterfeiting, fakes, forgeries, lures, mimics.” The embrace of kitsch was apparent even in one of his early novels, Roman Roi (1983), a Cold War portrait of a made-up Central European nation called Caronia destroyed by totalitarianism. The novel is an elegy for a monarchy that never existed, a glorification of palaces that were never built, rites that were never practiced. Toward the beginning of the novel, one of the princes in Camus’s royal taxonomy restores “the medieval splendor” of a vanquished château. “He had the venerated image of the archangel placed on high,” Camus writes. “He had all the banners gilded with gold leaf all the way down to the gutters.” This is what counts for Camus: the gold leaf, far more than whatever structure it adorns.
In a landmark 1939 essay, the critic Clement Greenberg argued that kitsch—“the epitome of all that is spurious in the life of our times”—is “destined for those who, insensible to the values of genuine culture, are hungry nevertheless for the diversion that only culture of some sort can provide.” This is precisely Camus’s appeal: He dresses up garden-variety prejudice with literary allusions and highbrow references that attempt to present base, unfounded sentiments as art. But here the question of audience is key.
Who, after all, reads Renaud Camus in 2019? Not the literary critics who still study Céline and Pound. Camus’s target demographic is angry white men with no discernible culture or critical faculties who shoot up mosques and synagogues because it makes them feel superior. His work provides them with some kind of half-baked justification, based on the lie of le grand remplacement, which is indeed “the epitome of all that is spurious in the life of our times.”
Consider the following excerpt from “The Great Replacement,” the manifesto published online by Brenton Tarrant. He drew particular attention to his travels in France, the details of which have yet to be confirmed. “The final push was witnessing the state of French cities and towns. For many years I had been hearing and reading of the invasion of France by non-whites, many of these rumours and stories I believed to be exaggerations, created to push a political narrative. But once I arrived in France, I found the stories not only to be true, but profoundly understated.” Where had Tarrant been reading those stories? Perhaps Camus’s seminal achievement has been to show that kitsch can kill.
Monday, 24 June 2019
UK arms sales to Saudi Arabia unlawful, court rules
Campaigners have won a legal challenge over the UK government's decision to allow arms sales to Saudi Arabia, which is engaged in the war in Yemen.
Campaign Against Arms Trade argued the decision to continue to license military equipment for export to the Gulf state was unlawful.
It said there was a clear risk the arms might be used in a serious violation of international humanitarian law.
Judges said licences should be reviewed but would not be immediately suspended.
International Trade Secretary Liam Fox said the government would not grant any new licences for export to Saudi Arabia and its coalition partners while it considers the implications of the judgment.
A spokeswoman for Prime Minister Theresa May said the government was "disappointed" and would be seeking permission to appeal against the judgement.
Cos' there's nothing like a MEDICAL doctor and millionaire, advocating selling lethal weapons to the Saudi House of criminals!
Herr Fox, you are truly SCUM!
An old anti-Zionist claims the Israelis have Hasbara while the Palestinians don't even have a word for 'spokesperson'. Below is a tale of Hasbara on steroids.
A global influence campaign funded by the Israeli government had a $1.1 million budget last year, a document obtained by The Electronic Intifada shows.
Act.IL says it has offices in three countries and an online army of more than 15,000.
In its annual report, from January, Act.IL says its goal is to “influence foreign publics” and “battle” BDS – the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement for Palestinian rights.
Through its app, Act.IL issues “missions” to this troll army in exchange for “cool prizes” and scholarships.
The app directs comments towards news websites in support of Israeli wars and racism, while attacking Palestinians and solidarity campaigners.
The leaked report claims Act.IL’s app completes 1,580 such missions every week.
Act.IL’s report was obtained by The Electronic Intifada thanks to researcher Michael Bueckert.
Bueckert monitors the app, and posts screenshots of its missions to the Twitter account Behind Israel’s Troll Army.
The report was sent out to app users. You can read it the Electronic Intifada (the source of this post)
Sunday, 23 June 2019
Tucker Carlson: John Bolton a "Bureaucratic Tapeworm," Periodically Remerges To Cause Pain And Suffering
Video transcripts at RealClear Politics.
BRETT STEVENS, COLUMNIST, "NEW YORK TIMES": He [JoBo] is not the sort of caricature-ish hawk that he has been made out to be in some corners of the press.
I think someone like Bolton is going to restrain the isolationist impulses that have been really at the heart of Trump's foreign policy thinking.
CARLSON: Got that? John Bolton is going to restrain Donald Trump from avoiding war. And of course, that's exactly what he has tried to do from the very first day.
Saturday, 22 June 2019
Palestinians do not need to be lectured on how to meet Israeli and American expectations, nor should they ever aspire to imitate the undemocratic Israeli model.
In a TV interview on June 2, on the news docuseries “Axios” on the HBO channel, Jared Kushner opened up regarding many issues, in which his ‘Deal of the Century’ was a prime focus.
The major revelation made by Kushner, President Donald Trump’s adviser and son-in-law, was least surprising. Kushner believes that Palestinians are not capable of governing themselves.
Not surprising, because Kushner thinks he is capable of arranging the future of the Palestinian people without the inclusion of the Palestinian leadership. He has been pushing his so-called ‘Deal of the Century’ relentlessly while including in his various meets and conferences countries such as Poland, Brazil and Croatia, but not Palestine.
Indeed, this is what transpired at the Warsaw conference on ‘peace and security’ in the Middle East. The same charade, also led by Kushner, is expected to be rebooted in Bahrain on June 25.
Much has been said about the subtle racism in Kushner’s words, reeking with the stench of old colonial discourses where the natives were seen as lesser, incapable of rational thinking beings who needed the civilized ‘whites’ of the western hemisphere to help them cope with their backwardness and inherent incompetence.
Kushner, whose credentials are merely based on his familial connections to Trump and family friendship with Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, is now poised to be the colonial administrator of old, making and enforcing the law while the hapless natives have no other option but to either accommodate or receive their due punishment.
This is not an exaggeration. In fact, according to leaked information concerning Kushner’s ‘Deal of the Century,’ and published in the Israeli daily newspaper, ‘Israel Hayom’, if Palestinian groups refuse to accept the US-Israeli diktats, “the US will cancel all financial support to the Palestinians and ensure that no country transfers funds to them.”
In the HBO interview, Kushner offered the Palestinians a lifeline. They could be considered capable of governing themselves should they manage to achieve the following: “a fair judicial system ... freedom of the press, freedom of expression, tolerance for all religions."
The fact that Palestine is an occupied country, subject in every possible way to Israel’s military law, and that Israel has never been held accountable for its 52-year occupation seems to be of no relevance whatsoever, as far as Kushner is concerned.
On the contrary, the subtext in all of what Kushner has said in the interview is that Israel is the antithesis to the unquestionable Palestinian failure. Unlike Palestine, Israel needs to do little to demonstrate its ability to be a worthy peace partner.
While the term ‘US bias towards Israel’ is as old as the state of Israel itself, what is hardly discussed is the specific of that bias, the decidedly condescending, patronizing and, often, racist view that US political classes have of Palestinians - and all Arabs and Muslims, for that matter; and the utter infatuation with Israel, which is often cited as a model for democracy, judicial transparency and successful ‘anti-terror’ tactics.
According to Kushner a ‘fair judicial system’ is a condition sine qua non to determine a country’s ability to govern itself. But is Israeli judicial system “fair” and “democratic”?
Israel does not have a single judicial system, but two. This duality has, in fact, defined Israeli courts from the very inception of Israel in 1948. This de facto apartheid system openly differentiates between Jews and Arabs, a fact that is true in both civil and criminal law.
“Criminal law is applied separately and unequally in the West Bank, based on nationality alone (Israeli versus Palestinian), inventively weaving its way around the contours of international law in order to preserve and develop its ‘(illegal Jewish) settlement enterprise’,” Israeli scholar, Emily Omer-Man, explained in her essay ‘Separate and Unequal’.
In practice, Palestinians and Israelis who commit the exact same crime will be judged according to two different systems, with two different procedures: “The settler will be processed according to the Israeli Penal Code (while) the Palestinian will be processed according to military order.”
This unfairness is constituent of a massively unjust judicial apparatus that has defined the Israeli legal system from the onset. Take the measure of administrative detention as an example. Palestinians can be held without trial and without any stated legal justification. Tens of thousands of Palestinians have been subjected to this undemocratic ‘law’ and hundreds of them are currently held in Israeli jails.
It is ironic that Kushner raised the issue of freedom of the press, in particular, as Israel is being derided for its dismal record in that regard. Israel has reportedly committed 811 violations against Palestinian journalists since the start of the ‘March of Return’ in Gaza in March 2018. Two journalists - Yaser Murtaja and Ahmed Abu Hussein - were killed and 155 were wounded by Israeli snipers.
Like the imbalanced Israeli judicial system, targeting the press is also a part of a protracted pattern. According to a press release issued by the Palestinian Journalists Union last May, Israel has killed 102 Palestinian journalists since 1972.
The fact that Palestinian intellectuals, poets and activists have been imprisoned for Facebook and other social media posts should tell us volumes about the limits of Israel’s freedom of press and expression.
It is also worth mentioning that in June 2018, the Israeli Knesset voted for a bill that prohibits the filming of Israeli soldiers as a way to mask their crimes and shelter them from any future legal accountability.
As for freedom of religion, despite its many shortcomings, the Palestinian Authority hardly discriminates against religious minorities. The same cannot be said about Israel.
Although discrimination against non-Jews in Israel has been the raison d’être of the very idea of Israel, the Nation-State Law of July 2018 further cemented the superiority of the Jews and inferior status of everyone else.
According to the new Basic Law, Israel is “the national home of the Jewish people” only and “the right to exercise national self-determination is unique to the Jewish people.”
Palestinians do not need to be lectured on how to meet Israeli and American expectations, nor should they ever aspire to imitate the undemocratic Israeli model. What they urgently need, instead, is international solidarity to help them win the fight against Israeli occupation, racism and apartheid.
ELLIOTT ABRAMS, TRUMP’S PICK TO BRING “DEMOCRACY” TO VENEZUELA, HAS SPENT HIS LIFE CRUSHING DEMOCRACY
ON DECEMBER 11, 1981 in El Salvador, a Salvadoran military unit created and trained by the U.S. Army began slaughtering everyone they could find in a remote village called El Mozote. Before murdering the women and girls, the soldiers raped them repeatedly, including some as young as 10 years old, and joked that their favorites were the 12-year-olds. One witness described a soldier tossing a 3-year-old child into the air and impaling him with his bayonet. The final death toll was over 800 people.
The next day, December 12, was the first day on the job for Elliott Abrams as assistant secretary of state for human rights and humanitarian affairs in the Reagan administration. Abrams snapped into action, helping to lead a cover-up of the massacre. News reports of what had happened, Abrams told the Senate, were “not credible,” and the whole thing was being “significantly misused” as propaganda by anti-government guerillas.
This past Friday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo named Abrams as America’s special envoy for Venezuela. According to Pompeo, Abrams “will have responsibility for all things related to our efforts to restore democracy” in the oil-rich nation.
The choice of Abrams sends a clear message to Venezuela and the world: The Trump administration intends to brutalize Venezuela, while producing a stream of unctuous rhetoric about America’s love for democracy and human rights. Combining these two factors — the brutality and the unctuousness — is Abrams’s core competency.
Abrams previously served in a multitude of positions in the Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush administrations, often with titles declaring their focus on morality. First, he was assistant secretary of state for international organization affairs (in 1981); then the State Department “human rights” position mentioned above (1981-85); assistant secretary of state for inter-American affairs (1985-89); senior director for democracy, human rights, and international operations for the National Security Council (2001-05); and finally, Bush’s deputy national security adviser for global democracy strategy (2005-09).
In these positions, Abrams participated in many of the most ghastly acts of U.S. foreign policy from the past 40 years, all the while proclaiming how deeply he cared about the foreigners he and his friends were murdering. Looking back, it’s uncanny to see how Abrams has almost always been there when U.S. actions were at their most sordid.
ABRAMS, A GRADUATE of both Harvard College and Harvard Law School, joined the Reagan administration in 1981, at age 33. He soon received a promotion due to a stroke of luck: Reagan wanted to name Ernest Lefever as assistant secretary of state for human rights and humanitarian affairs, but Lefever’s nomination ran aground when two of his own brothers revealed that he believed African-Americans were “inferior, intellectually speaking.” A disappointed Reagan was forced to turn to Abrams as a second choice.
A key Reagan administration concern at the time was Central America — in particular, the four adjoining nations of Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, and Nicaragua. All had been dominated by tiny, cruel, white elites since their founding, with a century’s worth of help from U.S. interventions. In each country, the ruling families saw their society’s other inhabitants as human-shaped animals, who could be harnessed or killed as needed.
But shortly before Reagan took office, Anastasio Somoza, the dictator of Nicaragua and a U.S. ally, had been overthrown by a socialist revolution. The Reaganites rationally saw this as a threat to the governments of Nicaragua’s neighbors. Each country had large populations who similarly did not enjoy being worked to death on coffee plantations or watching their children die of easily treated diseases. Some would take up arms, and some would simply try to keep their heads down, but all, from the perspective of the cold warriors in the White House, were likely “communists” taking orders from Moscow. They needed to be taught a lesson.
The extermination of El Mozote was just a drop in the river of what happened in El Salvador during the 1980s. About 75,000 Salvadorans died during what’s called a “civil war,” although almost all the killing was done by the government and its associated death squads.
The numbers alone don’t tell the whole story. El Salvador is a small country, about the size of New Jersey. The equivalent number of deaths in the U.S. would be almost 5 million. Moreover, the Salvadoran regime continually engaged in acts of barbarism so heinous that there is no contemporary equivalent, except perhaps ISIS. In one instance, a Catholic priest reported that a peasant woman briefly left her three small children in the care of her mother and sister. When she returned, she found that all five had been decapitated by the Salvadoran National Guard. Their bodies were sitting around a table, with their hands placed on their heads in front of them, “as though each body was stroking its own head.” The hand of one, a toddler, apparently kept slipping off her small head, so it had been nailed onto it. At the center of the table was a large bowl full of blood.
Criticism of U.S. policy at the time was not confined to the left. During this period, Charles Maechling Jr., who had led State Department planning for counterinsurgencies during the 1960s, wrote in the Los Angeles Times that the U.S. was supporting “Mafia-like oligarchies” in El Salvador and elsewhere and was directly complicit in “the methods of Heinrich Himmler’s extermination squads.”
Abrams was one of the architects of the Reagan administration’s policy of full-throated support for the Salvadoran government. He had no qualms about any of it and no mercy for anyone who escaped the Salvadoran abattoir. In 1984, sounding exactly like Trump officials today, he explained that Salvadorans who were in the U.S. illegally should not receive any kind of special status. “Some groups argue that illegal aliens who are sent back to El Salvador meet persecution and often death,” he told the House of Representatives. “Obviously, we do not believe these claims or we would not deport these people.”
Even when out of office, 10 years after the El Mozote massacre, Abrams expressed doubt that anything untoward had occurred there. In 1993, when a United Nations truth commission found that 95 percent of the acts of violence that had taken place in El Salvador since 1980 had been committed by Abrams’s friends in the Salvadoran government, he called what he and his colleagues in the Reagan administration had done a “fabulous achievement.”
The situation in Guatemala during the 1980s was much the same, as were Abrams’s actions. After the U.S. engineered the overthrow of Guatemala’s democratically elected president in 1954, the country had descended into a nightmare of revolving military dictatorships. Between 1960 and 1996, in another “civil war,” 200,000 Guatemalans were killed — the equivalent of maybe 8 million people in America. A U.N. commission later found that the Guatemalan state was responsible for 93 percent of the human rights violations.
Efraín Ríos Montt, who served as Guatemala’s president in the early 1980s, was found guilty in 2013, by Guatemala’s own justice system, of committing genocide against the country’s indigenous Mayans. During Ríos Montt’s administration, Abrams called for the lifting of an embargo on U.S. arms shipments to Guatemala, claiming that Ríos Montt had “brought considerable progress.” The U.S. had to support the Guatemalan government, Abrams argued, because “if we take the attitude ‘don’t come to us until you’re perfect, we’re going to walk away from this problem until Guatemala has a perfect human rights record,’ then we’re going to be leaving in the lurch people there who are trying to make progress.” One example of the people making an honest effort, according to Abrams, was Ríos Montt. Thanks to Ríos Montt, “there has been a tremendous change, especially in the attitude of the government toward the Indian population.” (Ríos Montt’s conviction was later set aside by Guatemala’s highest civilian court, and he died before a new trial could finish.)
Abrams would become best known for his enthusiastic involvement with the Reagan administration’s push to overthrow Nicaragua’s revolutionary Sandinista government. He advocated for a full invasion of Nicaragua in 1983, immediately after the successful U.S. attack on the teeny island nation of Grenada. When Congress cut off funds to the Contras, an anti-Sandinista guerrilla force created by the U.S., Abrams successfully persuaded the Sultan of Brunei to cough up $10 million for the cause. Unfortunately, Abrams, acting under the code name “Kenilworth,” provided the Sultan with the wrong Swiss bank account number, so the money was wired instead to a random lucky recipient.
Abrams was questioned by Congress about his Contra-related activities and lied voluminously. He later pleaded guilty to two counts of withholding information. One was about the Sultan and his money, and another was about Abrams’s knowledge of a Contra resupply C-123 plane that had been shot down in 1986. In a nice historical rhyme with his new job in the Trump administration, Abrams had previously attempted to obtain two C-123s for the Contras from the military of Venezuela.
Abrams received a sentence of 100 hours of community service and perceived the whole affair as an injustice of cosmic proportions. He soon wrote a book in which he described his inner monologue about his prosecutors, which went: “You miserable, filthy bastards, you bloodsuckers!” He was later pardoned by President George H.W. Bush on the latter’s way out the door after he lost the 1992 election.
While it’s been forgotten now, before America invaded Panama to oust Manuel Noriega in 1989, he was a close ally of the U.S. — despite the fact the Reagan administration knew he was a large-scale drug trafficker.
In 1985, Hugo Spadafora, a popular figure in Panama and its one-time vice minister for health, believed he had obtained proof of Noriega’s involvement in cocaine smuggling. He was on a bus on his way to Panama City to release it publicly when he was seized by Noriega’s thugs.
According to the book “Overthrow” by former New York Times correspondent Stephen Kinzer, U.S. intelligence picked up Noriega giving his underlings the go-ahead to put Spadafora down like “a rabid dog.” They tortured Spadafora for a long night and then sawed off his head while he was still alive. When Spadafora’s body was found, his stomach was full of blood he’d swallowed.
This was so horrific that it got people’s attention. But Abrams leapt to Noriega’s defense, blocking the U.S. ambassador to Panama from increasing pressure on the Panamanian leader. When Spadafora’s brother persuaded North Carolina’s hyper-conservative GOP Sen. Jesse Helms to hold hearings on Panama, Abrams told Helms that Noriega was “being really helpful to us” and was “really not that big a problem. … The Panamanians have promised they are going to help us with the Contras. If you have the hearings, it’ll alienate them.”
… And That’s Not All
Abrams also engaged in malfeasance for no discernible reason, perhaps just to stay in shape. In 1986 a Colombian journalist named Patricia Lara was invited to the U.S. to attend a dinner honoring writers who’d advanced “inter-American understanding and freedom of information.” When Lara arrived at New York’s Kennedy airport, she was taken into custody, then put on a plane back home. Soon afterward, Abrams went on “60 Minutes” to claim that Lara was a member of the “ruling committees” of M-19, a Colombian guerrilla movement. She also, according to Abrams, was ”an active liaison” between M-19 ”and the Cuban secret police.”
Given the frequent right-wing paramilitary violence against Colombian reporters, this painted a target on Lara’s back. There was no evidence then that Abrams’s assertions were true — Colombia’s own conservative government denied it — and none has appeared since.
Abrams’s never-ending, shameless deceptions wore down American reporters. “They said that black was white,” Joanne Omang at the Washington Post later explained about Abrams and his White House colleague Robert McFarlane. “Although I had used all my professional resources I had misled my readers.” Omang was so exhausted by the experience that she quit her job trying to describe the real world to try to write fiction.
Post-conviction Abrams was seen as damaged goods who couldn’t return to government. This underestimated him. Adm. William J. Crowe Jr., the one-time chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, tangled fiercely with Abrams in 1989 over the proper U.S. policy toward Noriega once it become clear he was more trouble than he was worth. Crowe strongly opposed a bright idea that Abrams had come up with: that the U.S. should establish a government-in-exile on Panamanian soil, which would require thousands of U.S. troops to guard. This was deeply boneheaded, Crowe said, but it didn’t matter. Crowe presciently issued a warning about Abrams: “This snake’s hard to kill.”
To the surprise of Washington’s more naive insiders, Abrams was back in business soon after George W. Bush entered the White House. It might have been difficult to get Senate approval for someone who had deceived Congress, so Bush put him in a slot at the National Security Council — where no legislative branch approval was needed. Just like 20 years before, Abrams was handed a portfolio involving “democracy” and “human rights.”
By the beginning of 2002, Venezuela’s president, Hugo Chavez, had become deeply irritating to the Bush White House, which was filled with veterans of the battles of the 1980s. That April, all of a sudden, out of nowhere, Chavez was pushed out of power in a coup. Whether and how the U.S. was involved is not yet known, and probably won’t be for decades until the relevant documents are declassified. But based on the previous 100 years, it would be surprising indeed if America didn’t play any behind-the-scenes role. For what it’s worth, the London Observer reported at the time that “the crucial figure around the coup was Abrams” and he “gave a nod” to the plotters. In any case, Chavez had enough popular support that he was able to regroup and return to office within days.
Abrams apparently did play a key role in squelching a peace proposal from Iran in 2003, just after the U.S. invasion of Iraq. The plan arrived by fax, and should have gone to Abrams, and then to Condoleezza Rice, at the time Bush’s national security adviser. Instead it somehow never made it to Rice’s desk. When later asked about this, Abrams’s spokesperson replied that he “had no memory of any such fax.” (Abrams, like so many people who thrive at the highest level of politics, has a terrible memory for anything political. In 1984, he told Ted Koppel that he couldn’t recall for sure whether the U.S. had investigated reports of massacres in El Salvador. In 1986, when asked by the Senate Intelligence Committee if he’d discussed fundraising for the contras with anyone on the NSC’s staff, he likewise couldn’t remember.)
Israel and Palestine
Abrams was also at the center of another attempt to thwart the outcome of a democratic election, in 2006. Bush had pushed for legislative elections in the West Bank and Gaza in order to give Fatah, the highly corrupt Palestinian organization headed by Yasser Arafat’s successor, Mahmoud Abbas, some badly needed legitimacy. To everyone’s surprise, Fatah’s rival Hamas won, giving it the right to form a government.
This unpleasant outburst of democracy was not acceptable to the Bush administration, in particular Rice and Abrams. They hatched a plan to form a Fatah militia to take over the Gaza Strip, and crush Hamas in its home territory. As reported by Vanity Fair, this involved a great deal of torture and executions. But Hamas stole a march on Fatah with their own ultra-violence. David Wurmser, a neoconservative who worked for Dick Cheney at the time, told Vanity Fair, “It looks to me that what happened wasn’t so much a coup by Hamas but an attempted coup by Fatah that was pre-empted before it could happen.” Yet ever since, these events have been turned upside down in the U.S. media, with Hamas being presented as the aggressors.
While the U.S. plan was not a total success, it also was not a total failure from the perspective of America and Israel. The Palestinian civil war split the West Bank and Gaza into two entities, with rival governments in both. For the past 13 years, there’s been little sign of the political unity necessary for Palestinians to get a decent life for themselves.
Abrams then left office with Bush’s exit. But now he’s back for a third rotation through the corridors of power – with the same kinds of schemes he’s executed the first two times.
Looking back at Abrams’s lifetime of lies and savagery, it’s hard to imagine what he could say to justify it. But he does have a defense for everything he’s done — and it’s a good one.
In 1995, Abrams appeared on “The Charlie Rose Show” with Allan Nairn, one of the most knowledgable American reporters about U.S. foreign policy. Nairn noted that George H.W. Bush had once discussed putting Saddam Hussein on trial for crimes against humanity. This was a good idea, said Nairn, but “if you’re serious, you have to be even-handed” — which would mean also prosecuting officials like Abrams.
Abrams chuckled at the ludicrousness of such a concept. That would require, he said, “putting all the American officials who won the Cold War in the dock.”
Abrams was largely right. The distressing reality is that Abrams is no rogue outlier, but a respected, honored member of the center right of the U.S. foreign policy establishment. His first jobs before joining the Reagan administration were working for two Democratic senators, Henry Jackson and Daniel Moynihan. He was a senior fellow at the centrist Council on Foreign Relations. He’s been a member of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, and now is on the board of the National Endowment for Democracy. He’s taught the next generation of foreign policy officials at Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service. He didn’t somehow fool Reagan and George W. Bush — they wanted exactly what Abrams provided.
So no matter the gruesome particulars of Abrams’s career, the important thing to remember — as the U.S. eagle tightens its razor-sharp talons around yet another Latin American country — is that Abrams isn’t that exceptional. He’s mostly a cog in a machine. It’s the machine that’s the problem, not its malevolent parts.
Comrades @ TI.
Friday, 21 June 2019
Attacks on three sites were planned in response to the shooting down of a US unmanned drone this week.
Mr Trump said he had called off strikes after being told 150 people would die.
He tweeted: "10 minutes before the strike I stopped it, not proportionate to shooting down an unmanned drone."
Unfortunately the latter part of our headline is fake news.
VENEZUELAN opposition politician Juan Guaido and his cronies have been accused of embezzling funds raised at a Colombian concert for humanitarian aid and lavishly spending it on hotels, nightclubs and expensive clothes.
They are also accused of planning to beg Colombian President Ivan Duque to help channel funds through an NGO to pay for assassins from other Latin American countries in their bid to destabilise Venezuela.
Foreign Minister Jorge Rodriguez made public documents including WhatsApp screenshots and photographs which purported to show a “network of corruption” led by Washington-backed Mr Guaido, who seeks to oust the democratically elected President of Venezuela Nicolas Maduro.
He revealed screenshots of conversations between Roberto Marrero and a person known as “Rossana de Cucuta” — named after the Colombian border city — in which Mr Marrero agrees to pay between US$500,000 (£399,310) and $700,000 (£559,118) per day in order to hire the hitmen.
Mr Rodriguez alleged Mr Guaido was asked to seek help from the Colombian president in finding an NGO where funds of up to $1 trillion (£798.24 billion) could be held.
The minister reported that Venezuelans with criminal records were sent to Colombia posing as military exiles to collect the cash.
Right-wing Miami-based newspaper the PanAm Post claimed that Mr Guaido had placed Rossana Barrera, the sister-in-law of his right-hand man Sergio Vergara, and Kevin Rojas of the Popuar Will party in charge of distributing the funds to Venezuelans in Colombia.
But it soon became apparent the pair were living beyond their means.
PanAm editor Orlando Avendano claimed he had obtained receipts that “show excesses and several very strange invoices signed on the same day and with identical writing styles, almost all without a stamp, for almost a million dollars worth in hotels, nightclubs, restaurants and a lavish lifestyle.”
Secretary general of the Organisation of American States Luis Almagro has called for an investigation that would clarify the “serious charges,” identify those responsible and hold them accountable.
Thursday, 20 June 2019
Our Man in Zion
Agent Hoffman, our anti-Zionist-man-undercover guy in the Britzio movement continues to deliver more than his modest paychecks warrant.
He's now managed to get himself (and an unsuspecting mark - Damon Lenzner) arrested for and convicted of Thuggery and Physical Intimidation of Sandra Watfa.
They were both fined, sentenced to community and restraining orders. Lenzner was subject to a curfew and an electronic tag. They were also barred from approaching Sandra Watfa, the woman they harassed or Mr Haverty-Stacke, whom Lenzner punched. Reports can be found in Electronic Intifada, the Jewish Chronicle and Jewish News.
Wherever (Agent) "The Hoff" goes, British Zionism is shown to be the thuggish pro-Israel enforcers that they are and occasionally in the dock for their trouble. Well done, Comrade Hoffman!
And he's great at keep digging when in a hole:
When he was first informed that he was going to be prosecuted Hoffman accused the Crown Prosecution Service and the Police of ‘institutional anti-Semitism’ (in fact he called the CPS ‘institutionally anti-Israel but since all opposition to Israel in Hoffman’s book is ‘anti-Semitism’ then that is what he really meant).
Wednesday, 19 June 2019
They're being aggressive with us!!!
Conservative psychologist/alt-right guru Jordan Peterson officially announced that he is launching what he calls a “free speech platform” known as Thinkspot.
Per the Joe Rogan podcast this week, I'm backing a new platform called thinkspot, currently in Beta. Get on the waitlist here, exciting announcements coming very soon.
Peterson insists that Thinkspot will adhere to his principles of anti-censorship so strongly that the platform will only ban or remove users if it is ordered to do so by the U.S. court of law. Because there’s no way that could go horribly wrong.
Peterson called for more testers of the site on his Twitter account. He said: “I’m backing a new platform called Thinkspot, currently in beta. Get on the waitlist here, exciting announcements coming very soon.”
Comments on the site would be voted on by users on a thumbs up or down basis. “If your ratio of down votes to up votes, falls below 50/50, then your comments will be hidden,” Peterson said.
Blimey, it seems Peterson is trying to build-in some Conservative bias, right from the off!
So what are you waiting for? Get on that waiting list NOW!
Tuesday, 18 June 2019
WASHINGTON — The United States is stepping up digital incursions into Russia’s electric power grid in a warning to President Vladimir V. Putin and a demonstration of how the Trump administration is using new authorities to deploy cybertools more aggressively, current and former government officials said.
In interviews over the past three months, the officials described the previously unreported deployment of American computer code inside Russia’s grid and other targets as a classified companion to more publicly discussed action directed at Moscow’s disinformation and hacking units around the 2018 midterm elections.
Advocates of the more aggressive strategy said it was long overdue, after years of public warnings from the Department of Homeland Security and the F.B.I. that Russia has inserted malware that could sabotage American power plants, oil and gas pipelines, or water supplies in any future conflict with the United States.
But it also carries significant risk of escalating the daily digital Cold War between Washington and Moscow.
The administration declined to describe specific actions it was taking under the new authorities, which were granted separately by the White House and Congress last year to United States Cyber Command, the arm of the Pentagon that runs the military’s offensive and defensive operations in the online world.
But in a public appearance on Tuesday, President Trump’s national security adviser, John R. Bolton, said the United States was now taking a broader view of potential digital targets as part of an effort “to say to Russia, or anybody else that’s engaged in cyberoperations against us, ‘You will pay a price.’”
Power grids have been a low-intensity battleground for years.
Since at least 2012, current and former officials say, the United States has put reconnaissance probes into the control systems of the Russian electric grid.
But now the American strategy has shifted more toward offense, officials say, with the placement of potentially crippling malware inside the Russian system at a depth and with an aggressiveness that had never been tried before. It is intended partly as a warning, and partly to be poised to conduct cyberstrikes if a major conflict broke out between Washington and Moscow.
The commander of United States Cyber Command, Gen. Paul M. Nakasone, has been outspoken about the need to “defend forward” deep in an adversary’s networks to demonstrate that the United States will respond to the barrage of online attacks aimed at it.
“They don’t fear us,” he told
the Senate a year ago during his confirmation hearings.
But finding ways to calibrate those responses so that they deter attacks without inciting a dangerous escalation has been the source of constant debate.
Mr. Trump issued new authorities to Cyber Command last summer, in a still-classified document known as National Security Presidential Memoranda 13, giving General Nakasone far more leeway to conduct offensive online operations without receiving presidential approval.
But the action inside the Russian electric grid appears to have been conducted under little-noticed new legal authorities, slipped into the military authorization bill passed by Congress last summer. The measure approved the routine conduct of “clandestine military activity” in cyberspace, to “deter, safeguard or defend against attacks or malicious cyberactivities against the United States.”
Under the law, those actions can now be authorized by the defense secretary without special presidential approval.
“It has gotten far, far more aggressive over the past year,” one senior intelligence official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity but declining to discuss any specific classified programs. “We are doing things at a scale that we never contemplated a few years ago.”
Since the 2008 financial crisis, we have been consistently told that the economic recovery is going to plan. The problem with this line is that very few people believe it – and even fewer have seen it.
So what is the gap in capitalist thinking that stops the real economy recovering? Why is the one percent now concerned about capitalism’s ability to deliver all it has promised? And is the current economic malaise across developed economies permanent or just a passing trend?
Host Ross Ashcroft is joined by the Marxist Professor of Economics, Richard D. Wolff, to find out what’s next for an economic system that now looks intellectually bankrupt.
Fellows @ RT.
Monday, 17 June 2019
In these times of tensions being ratcheted up between Iran and the US, once again questions arise with regards to who is telling the truth about the tanker attacks in the Strait of Hormuz and who is lying. Of course we're inevitably reminded of the US's 'faulty' intelligence assessments re. Saddam Hussein's WMD capabilities.
But barely a decade before another Big Lie was used to manufacture consent on pushing Iraqi forces out of Kuwait.
The Girl Who Sold the War to America
Preciously, twenty-six years ago, when the Iraqi soldiers entered Kuwait, a story started to surface about the premature Kuwaiti babies taken out of incubators and being left to die. This news quickly spread in the American media and this claim was supported by a study conducted by the Amnesty International. This was further supported by an account of a teenage girl known as Nayirah.
How to Sell a War: (about 28')
Her story quickly circulated on every news channel in the United States, later utilized by the Bush government to illustrate why the United States must interfere in the foreign dispute.
However, it was later revealed that Nayirah Al-Sabah was the daughter of Saud Nasser Al Saud Al Sabah, a Kuwaiti ambassador, and the story about the babies being taken from the incubator had been constructed as part of a public relations strategy, financed by the Kuwaiti authorities.
Saddam Hussein and his government were once allies with the United States; later he was exhibited as the bad guy in the testimony that made the Americans start the Gulf War.
The attack on Kuwaiti soil implied a revolutionary modification in the partnership between the two nations; the Bush government tried to rationalize its interference in the war by exhibiting a story depicting the Americans as the sponsor of independence and assisting the men, women, and children of Kuwait – who were the ‘victims’ by participating in a dispute with Iraq – the child-slayer.
All through the Cold War, Iraq was a conventional friend of the Soviet Union, however when Saddam Hussein’s became the ruler of the new Iraqi government, increasing trepidation from its neighbor Iran, along with the expulsion of the terrorists from that nation, transformed the relationship with the Americans. Hussein’s government was supplied with financial and military services, which helped them in the warfare against Iran, that went on for eight years. The war contributed to the mortality rate of more than a million troops, along with civilians casualties from both the nations, naturally leaving both nations in financial havoc.
However, compelled by their post-war situation – such as being in debt of more than $50 billion – The Republic of Iraq penetrated Kuwait on 2nd of August in 1990 – and their cause for hitting on them was because Kuwait was stealing their oil.
After the invasion, Kuwait was conquered and annexed to Saddam Husain’s government as one of its states. The U.N. released a decision on that same day, saying that it was not in the favor of the penetration and recommended Iraq to end its hostile activity.
But it didn’t stop there, there were many accounts on injustice being done after the invasion had happened, and the nation was supposedly being looted by Iraqi soldiers.
Problems occurred in finding a diplomatic option, that in the end, finished with the United Nations approving joint interference in the dispute, which included, most notably an attack on Kuwait that was later revealed to be as Operation Desert Storm.
Within the time span of no more than two months – that is after the Americans invading Kuwait – the Iraqi soldiers were defeated and were left with no other option but rather of returning back home; as the joint forces entered the soil of Iraq, which meant putting pressure on the Iraqi government for an indefinite ceasefire and to tell them that the United States was in control of Kuwait.
However, the Gulf War was the first battle that was aired live by CNN. They were given full access to the front lines in return for a total control over what they wanted to show – this eventually resulted in constant allegations towards the channel for altering the actuality of combat to gain favored support.
However, in 1992, it was uncovered that Nurse Nayirah’s account hadn’t only been false, but an important part of the Citizens for free Kuwait, a public relations plan staged by Hill & Knowlton (one of the largest and most influential public relations organization in the United States). The teenager who testified under the title and name ‘Nurse Nayirah’ was, in reality, the offspring of the Kuwaiti Ambassador to the United States at that time, who was also present at the location where his daughter was presenting lies, later viewed by millions of Americans on that day.
Furthermore, no evidence was ever found that Iraqi troops had slaughtered infants in Kuwait by removing them from incubators. Yet, babies did die when Kuwaiti physicians left their country because of the situation their nation was in. Amnesty International, which, in the beginning had verified the accounts, released a report in which they took back their support for Nurse Nayirah’s fake testimony.
Identical stories have appeared in the Syrian war that started off in six years ago; for instance, a number of accounts reported power surges across the country because of which the hospitals throughout the country have caused newborn babies to expire in non-working incubators.
Sunday, 16 June 2019
by Nancy Fraser
Whoever speaks of “crisis” today risks being dismissed as a bloviator, given the term’s banalization through endless loose talk. But there is a precise sense in which we do face a crisis today. If we characterize it precisely and identify its distinctive dynamics, we can better determine what is needed to resolve it. On that basis, too, we might glimpse a path that leads beyond the current impasse—through political realignment to societal transformation.
At first sight, today’s crisis appears to be political. Its most spectacular expression is right here, in the United States: Donald Trump—his election, his presidency, and the contention surrounding it. But there is no shortage of analogues elsewhere: the UK’s Brexit debacle; the waning legitimacy of the European Union and the disintegration of the social-democratic and center-right parties that championed it; the waxing fortunes of racist, anti-immigrant parties throughout northern and east-central Europe; and the upsurge of authoritarian forces, some qualifying as proto-fascist, in Latin America, Asia, and the Pacific. Our political crisis, if that’s what it is, is not just American, but global.
What makes that claim plausible is that, notwithstanding their differences, all these phenomena share a common feature. All involve a dramatic weakening, if not a simple breakdown, of the authority of the established political classes and political parties. It is as if masses of people throughout the world had stopped believing in the reigning common sense that underpinned political domination for the last several decades. It is as if they had lost confidence in the bona fides of the elites and were searching for new ideologies, organizations, and leadership. Given the scale of the breakdown, it’s unlikely that this is a coincidence. Let us assume, accordingly, that we face a global political crisis.
As big as that sounds, it is only part of the story. The phenomena just evoked constitute the specifically political strand of a broader, multifaceted crisis, which also has other strands—economic, ecological, and social—all of which, taken together, add up to a general crisis. Far from being merely sectoral, the political crisis cannot be understood apart from the blockages to which it is responding in other, ostensibly nonpolitical, institutions. In the United States, those blockages include the metastasization of finance; the proliferation of precarious service-sector McJobs; ballooning consumer debt to enable the purchase of cheap stuff produced elsewhere; conjoint increases in carbon emissions, extreme weather, and climate denialism; racialized mass incarceration and systemic police violence; and mounting stresses on family and community life thanks in part to lengthened working hours and diminished social supports. Together, these forces have been grinding away at our social order for quite some time without producing a political earthquake. Now, however, all bets are off. In today’s widespread rejection of politics as usual, an objective systemwide crisis has found its subjective political voice. The political strand of our general crisis is a crisis of hegemony.
Donald Trump is the poster child for this hegemonic crisis. But we cannot understand his ascent unless we clarify the conditions that enabled it. And that means identifying the worldview that Trumpism displaced and charting the process through which it unraveled. The indispensable ideas for this purpose come from Antonio Gramsci. “Hegemony” is his term for the process by which a ruling class naturalizes its domination by installing the presuppositions of its own worldview as the common sense of society as a whole. Its organizational counterpart is the “hegemonic bloc”: a coalition of disparate social forces that the ruling class assembles and through which it asserts its leadership. If they hope to challenge these arrangements, the dominated classes must construct a new, more persuasive common sense or “counterhegemony” and a new, more powerful political alliance or “counterhegemonic bloc.”
To these ideas of Gramsci, we must add one more. Every hegemonic bloc embodies a set of assumptions about what is just and right and what is not. Since at least the mid-twentieth centur
y in the United States and Europe, capitalist hegemony has been forged by combining two different aspects of right and justice—one focused on distribution, the other on recognition. The distributive aspect conveys a view about how society should allocate divisible goods, especially income. This aspect speaks to the economic structure of society and, however obliquely, to its class divisions. The recognition aspect expresses a sense of how society should apportion respect and esteem, the moral marks of membership and belonging. Focused on the status order of society, this aspect refers to its status hierarchies.
Together distribution and recognition constitute the essential normative components out of which hegemonies are constructed. Putting this idea together with Gramsci’s, we can say that what made Trump and Trumpism possible was the breakup of a previous hegemonic bloc—and the discrediting of its distinctive normative nexus of distribution and recognition. By parsing the construction and breakup of that nexus, we can clarify not only Trumpism, but also the prospects, post Trump, for a counterhegemonic bloc that could resolve the crisis. Let me explain.
The Hegemony of Progressive Neoliberalism
Prior to Trump, the hegemonic bloc that dominated American politics was progressive neoliberalism. That may sound like an oxymoron, but it was a real and powerful alliance of two unlikely bedfellows: on the one hand, mainstream liberal currents of the new social movements (feminism, antiracism, multiculturalism, environmentalism, and LGBTQ rights); on the other hand, the most dynamic, high-end “symbolic” and financial sectors of the U.S. economy (Wall Street, Silicon Valley, and Hollywood). What held this odd couple together was a distinctive combination of views about distribution and recognition.
The progressive-neoliberal bloc combined an expropriative, plutocratic economic program with a liberal-meritocratic politics of recognition. The distributive component of this amalgam was neoliberal. Determined to unshackle market forces from the heavy hand of the state and from the millstone of “tax and spend,” the classes that led this bloc aimed to liberalize and globalize the capitalist economy. What that meant, in reality, was financialization: the dismantling of barriers to, and protections from, the free movement of capital; the deregulation of banking and the ballooning of predatory debt; deindustrialization, the weakening of unions, and the spread of precarious, badly paid work. Popularly associated with Ronald Reagan, but substantially implemented and consolidated by Bill Clinton, these policies hollowed out working-class and middle-class living standards, while transferring wealth and value upward—chiefly to the one percent, of course, but also to the upper reaches of the professional-managerial classes.
Progressive neoliberals did not dream up this political economy. That honor belongs to the Right: to its intellectual luminaries Friedrich Hayek, Milton Friedman, and James Buchanan; to its visionary politicians, Barry Goldwater and Ronald Reagan; and to their deep-pocketed enablers, Charles and David Koch, among others. But the right-wing “fundamentalist” version of neoliberalism could not become hegemonic in a country whose common sense was still shaped by New Deal thinking, the “rights revolution,” and a slew of social movements descended from the New Left. For the neoliberal project to triumph, it had to be repackaged, given a broader appeal, linked to other, noneconomic aspirations for emancipation. Only when decked out as progressive could a deeply regressive political economy become the dynamic center of a new hegemonic bloc.
It fell, accordingly, to the “New Democrats” to contribute the essential ingredient: a progressive politics of recognition. Drawing on progressive forces from civil society, they diffused a recognition ethos that was superficially egalitarian and emancipatory. At the core of this ethos were ideals of “diversity,” women’s “empowerment,” and LGBTQ rights; post-racialism, multiculturalism, and environmentalism. These ideals were interpreted in a specific, limited way that was fully compatible with the Goldman Sachsification of the U.S. economy. Protecting the environment meant carbon trading. Promoting home ownership meant subprime loans bundled together and resold as mortgage-backed securities. Equality meant meritocracy.
The reduction of equality to meritocracy was especially fateful. The progressive-neoliberal program for a just status order did not aim to abolish social hierarchy but to “diversify” it, “empowering” “talented” women, people of color, and sexual minorities to rise to the top. And that ideal was inherently class specific: geared to ensuring that “deserving” individuals from “underrepresented groups” could attain positions and pay on a par with the straight white men of their own class. The feminist variant is telling but, sadly, not unique. Focused on “leaning in” and “cracking the glass ceiling,” its principal beneficiaries could only be those already in possession of the requisite social, cultural, and economic capital. Everyone else would be stuck in the basement.
Skewed as it was, this politics of recognition worked to seduce major currents of progressive social movements into the new hegemonic bloc. Certainly, not all feminists, anti-racists, multiculturalists, and so forth were won over to the progressive neoliberal cause. But those who were, whether knowingly or otherwise, constituted the largest, most visible segment of their respective movements, while those who resisted it were confined to the margins. The progressives in the progressive neoliberal bloc were, to be sure, its junior partners, far less powerful than their allies in Wall Street, Hollywood, and Silicon Valley. Yet they contributed something essential to this dangerous liaison: charisma, a “new spirit of capitalism.” Exuding an aura of emancipation, this new “spirit” charged neoliberal economic activity with a frisson of excitement. Now associated with the forward-thinking and the liberatory, the cosmopolitan and the morally advanced, the dismal suddenly became thrilling. Thanks in large part to this ethos, policies that fostered a vast upward redistribution of wealth and income acquired the patina of legitimacy.
To achieve hegemony, however, the emerging progressive neoliberal bloc had to defeat two different rivals. First, it had to vanquish the not insubstantial remnants of the New Deal coalition. Anticipating Tony Blair’s “New Labour,” the Clintonite wing of the Democratic Party quietly disarticulated that older alliance. In place of a historic bloc that had successfully united organized labor, immigrants, African Americans, the urban middle classes, and some factions of big industrial capital for several decades, they forged a new alliance of entrepreneurs, bankers, suburbanites, “symbolic workers,” new social movements, Latinos, and youth, while retaining the support of African Americans, who felt they had nowhere else to go. Campaigning for the Democratic presidential nomination in 1991/92, Bill Clinton won the day by talking the talk of diversity, multiculturalism, and women’s rights, even while preparing to walk the walk of Goldman Sachs.
The Defeat of Reactionary Neoliberalism
Progressive neoliberalism also had to defeat a second competitor, with which it shared more than it let on. The antagonist in this case was reactionary neoliberalism. Housed mainly in the Republican Party and less coherent than its dominant rival, this second bloc offered a different nexus of distribution and recognition. It combined a similar, neoliberal politics of distribution with a different, reactionary politics of recognition. While claiming to foster small business and manufacturing, reactionary neoliberalism’s true economic project centered on bolstering finance, military production, and extractive energy, all to the principal benefit of the global one percent. What was supposed to render that palatable for the base it sought to assemble was an exclusionary vision of a just status order: ethnonational, anti-immigrant, and pro-Christian, if not overtly racist, patriarchal, and homophobic.
This was the formula that allowed Christian evangelicals, southern whites, rural and small-town Americans, and disaffected white working-class strata to coexist for a couple decades, however uneasily, with libertarians, Tea Partiers, the Chamber of Commerce, and the Koch brothers, plus a smattering of bankers, real-estate tycoons, energy moguls, venture capitalists, and hedge-fund speculators. Sectoral emphases aside, on the big questions of political economy, reactionary neoliberalism did not substantially differ from its progressive-neoliberal rival. Granted, the two parties argued some about “taxes on the rich,” with the Democrats usually caving. But both blocs supported “free trade,” low corporate taxes, curtailed labor rights, the primacy of shareholder interest, winner-takes-all compensation, and financial deregulation. Both blocs elected leaders who sought “grand bargains” aimed at cutting entitlements. The key differences between them turned on recognition, not distribution.
Progressive neoliberalism mostly won that battle as well, but at a cost. Decaying manufacturing centers, especially the so-called Rust Belt, were sacrificed. That region, along with newer industrial centers in the South, took a major hit thanks to a triad of Bill Clinton’s policies: NAFTA, the accession of China to the WTO (justified, in part, as promoting democracy), and the repeal of Glass-Steagall. Together, those policies and their successors ravaged communities that had relied on manufacturing. In the course of two decades of progressive neoliberal hegemony, neither of the two major blocs made any serious effort to support those communities. To the neoliberals, their economies were uncompetitive and should be subject to “market correction.” To the progressives, their cultures were stuck in the past, tied to obsolete, parochial values that would soon disappear in a new cosmopolitan dispensation. On neither ground—distribution or recognition—could progressive neoliberals find any reason to defend Rust Belt and southern manufacturing communities.
The Hegemonic Gap—and the Struggle to Fill It
The political universe that Trump upended was highly restrictive. It was built around the opposition between two versions of neoliberalism, distinguished chiefly on the axis of recognition. Granted, one could choose between multiculturalism and ethnonationalism. But one was stuck, either way, with financialization and deindustrialization. With the menu limited to progressive and reactionary neoliberalism, there was no force to oppose the decimation of working-class and middle-class standards of living. Anti-neoliberal projects were severely marginalized, if not simply excluded, from the public sphere.
That left a sizeable segment of the U.S. electorate, victims of financialization and corporate globalization, without a natural political home. Given that neither of the two major blocs spoke for them, there was a gap in the American political universe: an empty, unoccupied zone, where anti-neoliberal, pro-working-family politics might have taken root. Given the accelerating pace of deindustrialization, the proliferation of precarious, low-wage McJobs, the rise of predatory debt, and the consequent decline in living standards for the bottom two-thirds of Americans, it was only a matter of time before someone would proceed to occupy that empty space and fill the gap.
Some assumed that that moment had arrived in 2007/8. A world still reeling from one of the worst foreign policy disasters in U.S. history was then forced to confront the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression—and a near meltdown the global economy. Politics as usual fell by the wayside. An African American who spoke of “hope” and “change” ascended to the presidency, vowing to transform not just policy but the entire “mindset” of American politics. Barack Obama might have seized the opportunity to mobilize mass support for a major shift away from neoliberalism, even in the face of congressional opposition. Instead, he entrusted the economy to the very Wall Street forces that had nearly wrecked it. Defining the goal as “recovery” as opposed to structural reform, Obama lavished enormous cash bailouts on banks that were “too big to fail,” but he failed to do anything remotely comparable for their victims: the ten million Americans who lost their homes to foreclosure during the crisis. The one exception was the expansion of Medicaid through the Affordable Care Act, which provided a real material benefit to a portion of the U.S. working class. But that was the exception that proved the rule. Unlike the single-payer and public option proposals that Obama renounced even before health-care negotiations began, his approach reinforced the very divisions within the working class that would eventually prove so politically fateful. All told, the overwhelming thrust of his presidency was to maintain the progressive neoliberal status quo despite its growing unpopularity.
Another chance to fill the hegemonic gap arrived in 2011, with the eruption of Occupy Wall Street. Tired of waiting for redress from the political system and resolving to take matters into its own hands, a segment of civil society seized public squares throughout the country in the name of “the 99 percent.” Denouncing a system that pillaged the vast majority in order to enrich the top one percent, relatively small groups of youthful protesters soon attracted broad support—up to 60 percent of the American people, according to some polls—especially from besieged unions, indebted students, struggling middle-class families and the growing “precariat.”
Occupy’s political effects were contained, however, serving chiefly to reelect Obama. It was by adopting the movement’s rhetoric that he garnered support from many who would go on to vote for Trump in 2016 and thereby defeated Romney in 2012. Having won himself four more years, however, the president’s newfound class consciousness swiftly evaporated. Confining the pursuit of “change” to the issuing of executive orders, he neither prosecuted the malefactors of wealth nor used the bully pulpit to rally the American people against Wall Street. Assuming the storm had passed, the U.S. political classes barely missed a beat. Continuing to uphold the neoliberal consensus, they failed to see in Occupy the first rumblings of an earthquake to come.
That earthquake finally struck in 2015/16, as long-simmering discontent suddenly shape-shifted into a full-bore crisis of political authority. In that election season, both major political blocs appeared to collapse. On the Republican side, Trump, campaigning on populist themes, handily defeated (as he continues to remind us) his sixteen hapless primary rivals, including several handpicked by party bosses and major donors. On the Democratic side, Bernie Sanders, a self-proclaimed democratic socialist, mounted a surprisingly serious challenge to Obama’s anointed successor, who had to deploy every trick and lever of party power to stave him off. On both sides, the usual scripts were upended as a pair of outsiders occupied the hegemonic gap and proceeded to fill it with new political memes.
Both Sanders and Trump excoriated the neoliberal politics of distribution. But their politics of recognition differed sharply. Whereas Sanders denounced the “rigged economy” in universalist and egalitarian accents, Trump borrowed the very same phrase but colored it nationalist and protectionist. Doubling down on long-standing exclusionary tropes, he transformed what had been “mere” dog whistles into full-throated blasts of racism, misogyny, Islamophobia, homo- and transphobia, and anti-immigrant sentiment. The “working-class” base his rhetoric conjured was white, straight, male, and Christian, based in mining, drilling, construction, and heavy industry. By contrast, the working class Sanders wooed was broad and expansive, encompassing not only Rust Belt factory workers, but also public-sector and service workers, including women, immigrants, and people of color.
Certainly, the contrast between these two portraits of “the working class” was largely rhetorical. Neither portrait strictly matched its champion’s voter base. Although Trump’s margin of victory came from eviscerated manufacturing centers that had gone for Obama in 2012 and for Sanders in the Democratic primaries of 2015, his voters also included the usual Republican suspects—including libertarians, business owners, and others with little use for economic populism. Likewise, the most reliable Sanders voters were young, college-educated Americans. But that is not the point. As a rhetorical projection of a possible counterhegemony, it was Sanders’s expansive view of the U.S. working class that most sharply distinguished his brand of populism from that of Trump.
Both outsiders sketched the outlines of a new common sense, but each did so in his own way. At its best, Trump’s campaign rhetoric suggested a new proto-hegemonic bloc, which we can call reactionary populism. It appeared to combine a hyper-reactionary politics of recognition with a populist politics of distribution: in effect, the wall on the Mexican border plus large-scale infrastructure spending. The bloc Sanders envisioned, by contrast, was progressive populism. He sought to join an inclusive politics of recognition with a pro-working-family politics of distribution: criminal justice reform plus Medicare for all; reproductive justice plus free college tuition; LGBTQ rights plus breaking up the big banks.
Bait and Switch
Neither of these scenarios has actually materialized, however. Sanders’s loss to Hillary Clinton removed the progressive-populist option from the ballot, to no one’s surprise. But the result of Trump’s subsequent victory over her was more unexpected, at least to some. Far from governing as a reactionary populist, the new president has activated the old bait and switch, abandoning the populist distributive policies his campaign had promised. Granted, he canceled the Trans-Pacific Partnership. But he has temporized on NAFTA and failed to lift a finger to rein in Wall Street. Nor has Trump taken a single serious step to implement large-scale, job-creating public infrastructure projects; his efforts to encourage manufacturing were confined instead to symbolic displays of jawboning and regulatory relief for coal, whose gains have proved largely fictitious. And far from proposing a tax code reform whose principal beneficiaries would be working-class and middle-class families, he signed on to the boilerplate Republican version, designed to funnel more wealth to the one percent (including the Trump family). As this last point attests, the president’s actions on the distributive front have included a heavy dose of crony capitalism and self-dealing. But if Trump himself has fallen short of Hayekian ideals of economic reason, the appointment of yet another Goldman Sachs alumnus to the Treasury ensures that neoliberalism will continue where it counts.
Having abandoned the populist politics of distribution, Trump proceeded to double down on the reactionary politics of recognition, hugely intensified and ever more vicious. The list of his provocations and actions in support of invidious hierarchies of status is long and chilling: the travel ban in its various versions, all targeting Muslim-majority countries, ill disguised by the cynical late addition of Venezuela; the gutting of civil rights at Justice (which has abandoned the use of consent decrees) and at Labor (which has stopped policing discrimination by federal contractors); the refusal to defend court cases on LGBTQ rights; the rollback of mandated insurance coverage of contraception; the retrenchment of Title IX protections for women and girls through cuts in enforcement staff; public pronouncements in support of rougher police handling of suspects, of “Sheriff Joe’s” contempt for the rule of law, and of the “very fine people” among the white-supremacists who ran amok at Charlottesville. The result is no mere garden-variety Republican conservatism, but a hyper-reactionary politics of recognition.
Altogether, the policies of President Trump have diverged from the campaign promises of candidate Trump. Not only has his economic populism vanished, but his scapegoating has grown ever more vicious. What his supporters voted for, in short, is not what they got. The upshot is not reactionary populism, but hyper-reactionary neoliberalism.
Trump’s hyper-reactionary neoliberalism does not constitute a new hegemonic bloc, however. It is, on the contrary, chaotic, unstable, and fragile. That is partly due to the peculiar personal psychology of its standard-bearer and partly due to his dysfunctional codependency with the Republican Party establishment, which has tried and failed to reassert its control and is now biding its time while searching for an exit strategy. We cannot now know exactly how this will play out, but it would be foolish to rule out the possibility that the Republican Party will split. Either way, hyper-reactionary neoliberalism offers no prospect of secure hegemony.
But there is also a deeper problem. By shutting down the economic-populist face of his campaign, Trump’s hyper-reactionary neoliberalism effectively seeks to reinstate the hegemonic gap he helped to explode in 2016. Except that it cannot now suture that gap. Now that the populist cat is out of the bag, it is doubtful that the working-class portion of Trump’s base will be satisfied to dine for long on (mis)recognition alone.
On the other side, meanwhile, “the resistance” organizes. But the opposition is fractured, comprising diehard Clintonites, committed Sanderistas, and lots of people who could go either way. Complicating the landscape is a raft of upstart groups whose militant postures have attracted big donors despite (or because of) the vagueness of their programmatic conceptions.
Especially troubling is the resurgence of an old tendency on the left to pit race against class. Some resisters are proposing to reorient Democratic Party politics around opposition to white supremacy, focusing efforts on winning support from blacks and Latinos. Others defend a class-centered strategy, aimed at winning back white working-class communities that defected to Trump. Both views are problematic to the extent that they treat attention to class and race as inherently antithetical, a zero-sum game. In reality, both of those axes of injustice can be attacked in tandem, as indeed they must be. Neither be can be overcome while the other flourishes.
In today’s context, however, proposals to back-burner class concerns pose a special risk: they are likely to dovetail with the Clinton wing’s efforts to restore the status quo ante in some new guise. In that case, the result would be a new version of progressive neoliberalism—one that combines neoliberalism on the distributive front with a militant anti-racist politics of recognition. That prospect should give anti-Trump forces pause. On the one hand, it will send many potential allies running in the opposite direction, validating Trump’s narrative and reinforcing his support. On the other hand, it will effectively join forces with him in suppressing alternatives to neoliberalism—and thus in reinstating the hegemonic gap. But what I just said about Trump applies equally here: the populist cat is out of the bag and won’t quietly slink away. To reinstate progressive neoliberalism, on any basis, is to recreate—indeed, to exacerbate—the very conditions that created Trump. And that means preparing the ground for future Trumps—ever more vicious and dangerous.
Morbid Symptoms and Counterhegemonic Prospects
For all these reasons, neither a revived progressive neoliberalism nor a trumped-up hyper-reactionary neoliberalism is a good candidate for political hegemony in the near future. The bonds that united each of those blocs have badly frayed. In addition, neither is currently in a position to shape a new common sense. Neither is able to offer an authoritative picture of social reality, a narrative in which a broad spectrum of social actors can find themselves. Equally important, neither variant of neoliberalism can successfully resolve the objective system blockages that underlie our hegemonic crisis. Since both are in bed with global finance, neither can challenge financialization, deindustrialization, or corporate globalization. Neither can redress declining living standards or ballooning debt, climate change or “care deficits,” or intolerable stresses on community life. To (re)install either of those blocs in power is to ensure not just a continuation, but an intensification of the current crisis.
What, then, can we expect in the near term? Absent a secure hegemony, we face an unstable interregnum and the continuation of the political crisis. In this situation, the words of Antonio Gramsci ring true: “the old is dying and the new cannot be born; in this interregnum a great variety of morbid symptoms appear.”
Unless, of course, there exists a viable candidate for a counterhegemony. The most likely such candidate is one form or another of populism. Could populism still be a possible option—if not immediately, then in the longer term? What speaks in favor of this possibility is the fact that between the supporters of Sanders and those of Trump, something approaching a critical mass of U.S. voters rejected the neoliberal politics of distribution in 2015/16. The burning question is whether that mass could now be melded together in a new counterhegemonic bloc. For that to happen, working-class supporters of Trump and of Sanders would have to come to understand themselves as allies—differently situated victims of a single “rigged economy,” which they could jointly seek to transform.
Reactionary populism, even without Trump, is not a likely basis for such an alliance. Its hierarchical, exclusionary politics of recognition is a surefire deal-killer for major sectors of the U.S. working and middle classes, especially families dependent on wages from service work, agriculture, domestic labor, and the public sector, whose ranks include large numbers of women, immigrants, and people of color. Only an inclusive politics of recognition has a fighting chance of bringing those indispensable social forces into alliance with other sectors of the working and middle classes, including communities historically associated with manufacturing, mining, and construction.
That leaves progressive populism as the likeliest candidate for a new counterhegemonic bloc. Combining egalitarian redistribution with nonhierarchical recognition, this option has at least a fighting chance of uniting the whole working class. More than that, it could position that class, understood expansively, as the leading force in an alliance that also includes substantial segments of youth, the middle class, and the professional-managerial stratum.
At the same time, there is much in the current situation that speaks against the possibility, any time soon, of an alliance between progressive populists and working-class strata who voted for Trump in the last election. Foremost among the obstacles are the deepening divisions, even hatreds, long simmering but recently raised to a fever pitch by Trump, who, as David Brooks perceptively put it, has a “nose for every wound in the body politic” and no qualms about “stick[ing] a red-hot poker in [them] and rip[ping them] open.” The result is a toxic environment that appears to validate the view, held by some progressives, that all Trump voters are “deplorables”—irredeemable racists, misogynists, and homophobes. Also reinforced is the converse view, held by many reactionary populists, that all progressives are incorrigible moralizers and smug elitists who look down on them while sipping lattes and raking in the bucks.
A Strategy of Separation
The prospects for progressive populism in the United States today depend on successfully combating both of those views. What is needed is a strategy of separation, aimed at precipitating two major splits. First, less-privileged women, immigrants, and people of color have to be wooed away from the lean-in feminists, the meritocratic anti-racists and anti-homophobes, and the corporate diversity and green-capitalism shills who hijacked their concerns, inflecting them in terms consistent with neoliberalism. This is the aim of a recent feminist initiative, which seeks to replace “lean in” with a “feminism for the 99 percent.” Other emancipatory movements should copy that strategy.
Second, Rust Belt, southern, and rural working-class communities have to be persuaded to desert their current crypto-neoliberal allies. The trick is to convince them that the forces promoting militarism, xenophobia, and ethnonationalism cannot and will not provide them with the essential material prerequisites for good lives, whereas a progressive-populist bloc just might. In that way, one might separate those Trump voters who could and should be responsive to such an appeal from the card-carrying racists and alt-right ethnonationalists who are not. To say that the former outnumber the latter by a wide margin is not to deny that reactionary populist movements draw heavily on loaded rhetoric and have emboldened formerly fringe groups of real white supremacists. But it does refute the hasty conclusion that the overwhelming majority of reactionary-populist voters are forever closed to appeals on behalf of an expanded working class of the sort evoked by Bernie Sanders. That view is not only empirically wrong but counterproductive, likely to be self-fulfilling.
Let me clear. I am not suggesting that a progressive-populist bloc should mute pressing concerns about racism, sexism, homophobia, Islamophobia, and transphobia. On the contrary, the fight against all of these harms must be central to a progressive-populist bloc. But it is counterproductive to address them through moralizing condescension, in the mode of progressive neoliberalism. That approach assumes a shallow and inadequate view of these injustices, grossly exaggerating the extent to which the trouble is inside people’s heads and missing the depth of the structural-institutional forces that undergird them.
The point is especially clear and important in the case of race. Racial injustice in the United States today is not at bottom a matter of demeaning attitudes or bad behavior, although these surely exist. The crux is rather the racially specific impacts of deindustrialization and financialization in the period of progressive-neoliberal hegemony, as refracted through long histories of systemic oppression. In this period, black and brown Americans who had long been denied credit, confined to inferior segregated housing, and paid too little to accumulate savings, were systematically targeted by purveyors of subprime loans and consequently experienced the highest rates of home foreclosures in the country. In this period, too, minority towns and neighborhoods that had long been systematically starved of public resources were clobbered by plant closings in declining manufacturing centers; their losses were reckoned not only in jobs but also in tax revenues, which deprived them of funds for schools, hospitals, and basic infrastructure maintenance, leading eventually to debacles like Flint—and, in a different context, the Lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans. Finally, black men long subject to differential sentencing and harsh imprisonment, coerced labor and socially tolerated violence, including at the hands of police, were in this period massively conscripted into a “prison-industrial complex,” kept full to capacity by a “war on drugs” that targeted possession of crack cocaine and by disproportionately high rates of minority unemployment, all courtesy of bipartisan legislative “achievements,” orchestrated largely by Bill Clinton. Need one add that, inspiring though it was, the presence of an African American in the White House failed to make a dent in these developments?
And how could it have? The phenomena just invoked show the depth at which racism is anchored in contemporary capitalist society—and the incapacity of progressive-neoliberal moralizing to address it. They also reveal that the structural bases of racism have as much to do with class and political economy as with status and (mis)recognition. Equally important, they make it clear that the forces that are destroying the life chances of people of color are part and parcel of the same dynamic complex as those that are destroying the life chances of whites—even if some of the specifics differ. The effect is finally to disclose the inextricable intertwinement of race and class in contemporary financialized capitalism.
A progressive-populist bloc must make such insights its guiding stars. Renouncing the progressive neoliberal stress on personal attitudes, it must focus its efforts on the structural-institutional bases of contemporary society. Especially important, it must highlight the shared roots of class and status injustices in financialized capitalism. Conceiving of that system as a single, integrated social totality, it must link the harms suffered by women, immigrants, people of color, and LGBTQ persons to those experienced by working-class strata now drawn to rightwing populism. In that way, it can lay the foundation for a powerful new coalition among all whom Trump and his counterparts elsewhere are now betraying—not just the immigrants, feminists, and people of color who already oppose his hyper-reactionary neoliberalism, but also the white working-class strata who have so far supported it. Rallying major segments of the entire working class, this strategy could conceivably win. Unlike every other option considered here, progressive populism has the potential, at least in principle, to become a relatively stable counterhegemonic bloc in the future.
But what commends progressive populism is not only its potential subjective viability. In contrast to its likely rivals, it has the further advantage of being capable, at least in principle, of addressing the real, objective side of our crisis. Let me explain.
As I noted at the outset, the hegemonic crisis dissected here is one strand of a larger crisis complex, which encompasses several other strands—ecological, economic, and social. It is also the subjective counterpart of an objective system crisis to which it constitutes the response and from which it cannot be severed. Ultimately, these two sides of the crisis—one subjective, the other objective—stand or fall together. No subjective response, however apparently compelling, can secure a durable counterhegemony unless it offers the prosect of a real solution to the underlying objective problems.
The objective side of the crisis is no mere multiplicity of separate dysfunctions. Far from forming a dispersed plurality, its various strands are interconnected, and they share a common source. The underlying object of our general crisis, the thing that harbors its multiple instabilities, is the present form of capitalism—globalizing, neoliberal, financialized. Like every form of capitalism, this one is no mere economic system, but something larger, an institutionalized social order. As such, it encompasses a set of noneconomic background conditions that are indispensable to a capitalist economy: for example, unwaged activities of social reproduction, which assure the supply of wage labor for economic production; an organized apparatus of public power (law, police, regulatory agencies, and steering capacities) that supplies the order, predictability, and infrastructure that are necessary for sustained accumulation; and finally, a relatively sustainable organization of our metabolic interaction with the rest of nature, one that ensures essential supplies of energy and raw materials for commodity production, not to mention a habitable planet that can support life.
Financialized capitalism represents one historically specific way of organizing the relation of a capitalist economy to these indispensable background conditions. It is a deeply predatory and unstable form of social organization, which liberates capital accumulation from the very constraints (political, ecological, social, moral) needed to sustain it over time. Freed from such constraints, capitalism’s economy consumes its own background conditions of possibility. It is like a tiger that eats its own tail. As social life as such is increasingly economized, the unfettered pursuit of profit destabilizes the very forms of social reproduction, ecological sustainability, and public power on which it depends. Seen this way, financialized capitalism is an inherently crisis-prone social formation. The crisis complex we encounter today is the increasingly acute expression of its built-in tendency toward self-destabilization.
That’s the objective face of crisis: the structural counterpart to the hegemonic unraveling dissected here. Today, accordingly, both poles of crisis—one objective, the other subjective—are in full flower. And, as already noted, they stand or fall together. Resolving the objective crisis requires a major structural transformation of financialized capitalism: a new way of relating economy to polity, production to reproduction, human society to nonhuman nature. Neoliberalism in any guise is not the solution but the problem.
The sort of change we require can only come from elsewhere, from a project that is at the very least anti-neoliberal, if not anti-capitalist. Such a project can become a historical force only when embodied in a counterhegemonic bloc. Distant though the prospect may seem right now, our best chance for a subjective-cum-objective resolution is progressive populism. But even that might not be a stable endpoint. Progressive populism could end up being transitional—a way station en route to some new, postcapitalist form of society.
Whatever our uncertainty regarding the endpoint, one thing is clear. If we fail to pursue this option now, we will prolong the present interregnum. And that means condemning working people of every persuasion and every color to mounting stress and declining health, to ballooning debt and overwork, to class apartheid and social insecurity. It means immersing them, too, in an ever more vast expanse of morbid symptoms—in hatreds born of resentment and expressed in scapegoating, in outbreaks of violence followed by bouts of repression, in a vicious dog-eat-dog world where solidarities contract to the vanishing point. To avoid that fate, we must break definitively both with neoliberal economics and with the various politics of recognition that have lately supported it—casting off not just exclusionary ethnonationalism but also liberal-meritocratic individualism. Only by joining a robustly egalitarian politics of distribution to a substantively inclusive, class-sensitive politics of recognition can we build a counterhegemonic bloc that could lead us beyond the current crisis to a better world.