For the next four days, I'll be doing my best to document the second annual Tatamagouche Summer Free School, posting photos and doing some experimentation with participatory reporting on the Free School Weblog.
While working on the above poster for the Anarchist [Bookfair] Cabaret, I came across this bit of feminist errata. As it turns out, Emma Goldman never actually said the words most famously attributed to her: "If I can't dance, I don't want to be in your revolution". The link tells the story of how the version entered circulation.
I searched Emma's texts for the statement; it was nowhere to be found. But Jack was so pleased, the festival was so soon, Emma looked so lively printed in red and black on a variety of rich background colors, that I hadn't the heart to register an objection in the name of scholarship. After all, the apocrypha appeared on a mere gross or two of T-shirts, which surely could not require the same standards of accuracy as, say, book blurbs extracted from book reviews--and the sentiment expressed was pure Emma indeed.
But history (and fashion) exploded so quickly in those hungrily feminist days that the slogan on the original shirt-run was soon dispersed and copied and broadcast nationwide and abroad, underground and above, sometimes, absent a text to be checked against, changing along the way like a child's game of Telephone, until Jack's initial lighthearted liberties had taken wing as quotable lore and soared up into the realms of myth.
When all my shirts from the original batch had been given away to friends and my own worn to a rag, I decided to buy another. Only the new shirt, purchased in an uptown bookstore, sported a different picture of Emma--this time in a floppy hat--and a different version of the by now legendary legend, different still from the one I sometimes flaunt on a button. But, hey, if you can't wear what you like, who wants to be in your revolution?
Friends, neighbours, global citizens:
I'm looking for work.
Know anyone who needs help with web design, interface design, photography, or layout?
Please consider pointing them to my portfolio.
This weekend, some anonymous activists posed as representatives of Canadian engineering megafirm SNC Lavalin and the World Bank, passing out pamphlets like these, and promoting internships and employment opportunities. Most of their target audience were students from McGill (arguably among Canada's most prestigious and empire-oriented universities), specifically MBA students who were attending a conference featuring speakers from the World Bank, SNC Lavalin, and Alcan, among others. The theatrical intervention, which contrasted/complemented the more traditional protest denouncing the World Bank, was a success, or so I hear.
I never posted an update from the second and third days of the National Conference on Media Reform because I had begun work on a more complete critique of the organizing. A week later, I've finished:
Send comments to dru at dru dot ca.
[Cross-posted to the Dominion Weblog]
After spending a long, sleep-deprived day of attending workshops, hearing speeches, and putting a whole lot of faces to a whole lot of names, I now must attempt to say something about what's going on at the National Conference on Media Reform.
Right now, I'm sitting in a session on holding the media accountable, where David Brock just used the word 'blogosphere'. Ugh.
But here are some of the overall themes:
- 2,000 people (and apparently hundreds were turned away) came to Saint Louis to attend a conference on media reform. It's pretty incredible.
- "We're winning." Speakers keep saying this, citing a list of victories, like when public pressure stopped the further rollback of media ownership regulations. I don't know if this is really true, but it seems incontrovertible that the media reform movement is gaining momentum in a pretty serious way.
- What's in the movement?
- Groups that hold media accountable (Youth Media Council, National Hispanic Media Coalition, Newshounds, Media Matters, FAIR) by pointing out lies, getting licenses revoked, and so on.
- Local projects to create free wireless internet networks in communities (and fighting evil legislation sponsored by Verizon that tries to shut them down)
- Efforts to get local radio stations to carry Democracy Now!
- And, of course, the creation of independent media.
- The "echo chamber". I think it was Naomi Klein who said it first, but people keep repeating it. Apparently, the problem isn't that the news isn't out there. Said Klein: "We have more than enough damning facts to bring down this government... every week. What we lack is the amplification." And again: "Every day, we hear a story that, if amplified, could bring down the government". So there has been a lot of talk about how to do this...
- ...which set things up nicely for Independent World Television, an effort to raise $25 milllion to start a progressive global television network led by Paul Jay. What seems to be setting the effort apart from any other pie-in-the-sky idea is that Jay (who used to produce Counterspin) seems to be very well connected, and plays the visionary role well. But the real test will be whether they can gain a big audience once they start to produce a show and put it out there. (Check out Evan's thoughts on IWT.)
- Despite some efforts by the organizers to keep things diverse on the panels, the conference is very white, and (right now, for example) David Brock is getting all kinds of questions, and people are basically ignoring the Youth Media Council person.
- I ran into Brian and Jessica from New Standard News, who are writing hard news every day.
- I chatted with a bunch of Indymedia types, and I'll repeat what I've said before about the structure and idea being resilient. There's a second generation of folks getting involved, and some of the old school is figuring out how to deal with burnout. And IMCs are buying buildings left and right. Philly has a building St. Louis has a building, and Urbana Champaign just bought the post office!!
- Juan Gonzales gave a good talk at the Corporate Media panel, drawing attention to some mostly-unknown history of media reform movements. Some of the overlooked examples he pointed out: C Everett Parker of the United Church, who led a grassroots movement to revoke the license of a KKK-controlled TV station in Mississippi and did other good work; The Cherokee Phoenix, which was the first Native American newspaper, founded in 1828; The Freeman's Journal, the first black-owned paper, founded one year earlier; the fact that the first Chinese-language daily newspaper was founded in Sacramento (though I can't find anything with a brief google). Gonzales talked a lot about organizing media workers, of which there are, by his count 300,000 in the US. He also warned against the easy "we are winning" rhetoric: "Capitalism has not survived for so long because it is foolish".
One good quote, from Norman Solomon, speaking on efforts to fight the Republican efforts to push PBS to the right:
If I'm starving, and have some crumbs, then I'm going to be pretty angry if you take those crumbs away. But I'm not going to say that it's my dream to get the crumbs back.
Shawn Ewald: What do we do now?
We have to want to win. It sounds obvious, but it's really not. The left generally does not behave as if it wants to win. Whether it's anarchists who think that organizing into small social cliques and doing whatever you feel like doing is going to change anything at all, or it's radicals of any stripe who think street battles with cops make a difference, or it's liberals who cling pathetically to the Democratic party, or it's people who think standing in the street and holding signs will stop a war, all of us may think we want to win, but our actions tell a different story. We have all unconsciously resigned ourselves to having low expectations. We all have accepted the constraints of simple rebellion, of mere dissent, of harmless objection. The left as a whole is gripped by a culture of impotence. We talk, we complain, we rave, we rage, we snipe, but few of us build anything, we have grown so used to complaining that we don't know how to do anything else.
To be fair, that's not really my experience. In Halifax, the post-summithopping activism is very much about building--though it's off to a slow start. A biodiesel cooperative, a free school, an organizating advocating alternatives to corporate culture, a farm: these are things that were decided upon and started by people I knew well in my one year in Halifax. It should be noted that some of these things are in disrepair, due to key organizers heading off to various corners of the globe, but I think most of projects will come to fruition in the mid- to long-term.
I don't have enough of an impression of Montreal to know what the dynamic is, but one factor that is different is that the activist population is much, much larger than that in Halifax. I'd venture that this inherently enables a level of insularity that might not be automatic in other cities. But there is also a lot of inter-group cooperation.
The thing that interests me the most right now is the lack of a winning strategy. I was talking to Justin Podur about this the other day. Here's how he characterized the conversation:
Today I spent some time with Dru from The Dominion talking about the Canadian media landscape and dreaming about media institutions that could have wide enough reach to be able to change the terms of the debate, and about political organizations with a strategy. That's about as far as we got, though.The looming question for me was "what is our strategy", and what our the goals that we are building it around? Put more assertively: we need to be able to imagine how to win, if we're ever going to.
Justin gave a good talk on this a while ago:
We are smart enough to understand that sedate protests with no trajectory represent no threat and are therefore ineffective. But we seem to think that small, militant protests with no trajectory are somehow better. We seem to think that police repression at militant demonstrations is good for the politicizing effect it has on the demonstrators who get repressed and lose confidence in the state. The scenario for social change seems to be an escalating cycle of protest and repression leading ultimately to state collapse. Again I have to say that I think that if that were to happen the result would be tragedy, and not only for ourselves. Given the state of our organization, the state of the forces of repression, the political consciousness of the population, the control of the media by the other side – the result would be a nightmare. I realize you could argue that the present is a nightmare – but that doesn’t give us license to act in ways that would make things worse, and things can get better or worse from here.
I am saying that what we should really admire about movements in other places is that they understand their own context and act accordingly. We can’t say the same. Even our slogans betray us. “Become the Resistance inside Fortress North America” – this being a reference to the Iraqi resistance. “Globalize the Intifada” – this being a reference to the Palestinians. Again, on one level this is a statement of solidarity with people who are being demonized in mainstream culture and on that level it is very positive. But on another level it’s pompous. It’s embarrassing. What can we show them? Some small demonstrations with the same people showing up over and over. Some small groups where the members distrust and dislike each other. Some ‘coalitions’ of half a dozen people. Some ‘spaces’ booked on university campuses. Chavez in Venezuela had a strategy: create a party, win the elections, use referenda to pass constitutional changes, use the government to help movements solve problems in their communities, increase community control over the government. What is our equivalent?
The short answer is that we don't have one. How does one gain real political momentum for anti-imperialist causes in a rich, white country that has everything to lose by undermining empire? That's not a question that has an easy answer, and no real precedent exists that I know of. So it's easy to see how activists turn in on themselves or fixate on organizing. But that doesn't mean we shouldn't have a strategy. Of course it will inevitably be flawed, but it'll be a starting point. But we're not there yet.
My tendency, in complex situations, is to look for what is obvious and simple, in the negative. The most obvious problem that stand in the way of widespread social change is disinformation.
Real progress cannot be made on policies towards oppressed people at home or abroad without access to accurate information about what is going on. If people don't know about the crimes comitted in their name, they will be extremely unlikely to do anything about them.
People get most of their information from the media. This is doubly the case when one refers to international affairs.
Another premise: plain old information can (but won't necessarily) have political effect in Canada. It can be argued that this is the case here more than elsewhere (where other forms of power are more prevalent). Naturally, the mechanisms of broadcasting information are both coveted and closely guarded by their owners.
So the plan is simple: build an infrastructure that can deliver accurate information to a significant percentage of the Canadian population.
How to do this? Hard to say. There are some precedents, there are some possibilities. The point is to have a goal, and start work.
Since we started the Dominion almost two years ago, my conception of who is out there and what is possible is unrecognizably different from at the outset. I've met with dozens of people across the country and learned a whole lot about what is possible and what is needed. I still don't have a clue how, exactly to do it, but I have an idea that I (and others) might figure it out sometime in the future, if we keep doing what we're doing.
Another way of looking at it is that I've been gathering a list of the "raw materials" out of which media revolution might be fashioned. There are dozens of publications and groups out there. If they could work together, they would be a lot more powerful.
The problem right now, I think, is that these hundreds (thousands?) of people are occupied with the day to day work of publishing, broadcasting, or just keeping things going. There isn't really an occasion for collectively strategizing. I think there should be. I just haven't figured out what it is yet. And as far as I know, neither has anyone else.
How to build something new, without the obvious pitfalls of centralization (i.e. the iron law of oligarchy)?
Again, difficult to say. Again, something interesting will emerge if we work at it with even a vague idea in mind.
My current (vague) vision for the Dominion is of a widely-distributed print publication that exists in interdependent relationship with an entire ecosystem of independent media. It relies on the grassroots for information gathering and stories, and it polishes them into an engaging, non-moralizing, and easy-to read format, while reporting on what grassroots groups do with the information (whether it is marches, sit ins, or creating new institutions).
[additions, added April 7:]
That is to say, media of some kind is going to play a huge role in progressive social change, if it ever comes about.
The immediate problems we face in the creation of media that will play such a role are numerous but relatively simple:
- make it decentralized enough to be impossible to coopt
- make it centralized enough to keep the quality consistent and logistically reach the largest audience
- in addition to making it impossible to coopt, we must avoid becoming simply crushed
- make it self-renewing and self-replicating
To restate the whole thing in yet another way: if we want to gain popular support for arguments that aren't already popular (something the PR industry knows a bit about), there needs to be a compelling source of alternative information. Given the Canadian political status quo, it is difficult to see that happening without media.
Going out on a bit of a limb, I'd say that the creation of independent media needs to be everyone's first priority. Without it, we concede defeat--now, or later on.
Further out on the same limb, I would say that we need to collectively develop ways of communicating with and challenging the public that do not alienate them. We have the added burden of being accurate and truthful, instead of becoming PR firms in everything but content (and thus eventually in content too).
Ok, I'm rambling, but there will be more (and more focused) writing to come on this theme.
One good thing about travelling all the time is being able to finally put faces to the myriad personas and names that I encounter online. I lucked into being in Seattle for the Cascadia Anarchist Tech Skillshare (cAts), where lattice, kellan, evan, and gaba and many others who I hadn't "seen" before, online or off, spent the weekend geeking out and talking radical tech. I also met Paul Ford when I was in Brooklyn. One of the many benefits was a cool tshirt:
...which probably makes a lot more sense if you're a Debian user. I'm not, but I managed to absorb enough from the skillshare that I vaguely know that apt-get is a neat command that makes updating software easier or otherwise better on Debian than other Linux distros.
I also had some good discussion about open publishing with Salaud of the Portland IMC, using SubEthaEdit (formerly Hydra), a very cool little app that does one thing really well: it lets multiple people to edit the same text file in real time. Now, they just need to combine it with the hypertext capabilities and wiki interfacing of VoodooPad, and we'll be on our way to Xanadu.
Some ideas I meant to discuss, but didn't get around to, due to a persistant headache, overflowing Dominion work, and other web work... not to mention the packed schedule of geekery and many exciting ideas that the cAts people had lined up.
[Moved to its own seperate post, because it's long]
Voice Over IP
Someone made a comment about Cyberpunk becoming reality--the internet becoming its own world that you jack into, with its own norms, points of reference, etc. I find myself increasingly fascinated with the opposite direction: the internet as something that ties two ends together, but becomes increasingly invisible. Thus my focus on a newspaper that draws from online independent media but is aimed at the physical space we inhabit, on ways radio stations use the net to collaborate, and so on.
The latest technology to connect meaningfully to the internet is the phone, as seen in Jeremy Scahill's dramatic description of the work Evan and Co did in NYC during the Republican National Convention.
That's all. Just something I want to think about and learn more about.
The idea of credibility, which will also get its own post.
My buddy (and paulmartintime.ca co-conspirator) Rob Maguire is in Armenia researching the effects of privatization, and is posting photos, rants, and other things to his weblog: Project Communis.
George Monbiot: Choose Life
How many times have I heard students about to start work for a corporation claim that they will spend just two or three years earning the money they need, then leave and pursue the career of their choice? How many times have I caught up with those people several years later, to discover that they have acquired a lifestyle, a car and a mortgage to match their salary, and that their initial ideals have faded to the haziest of memories, which they now dismiss as a post-adolescent fantasy? How many times have I watched free people give up their freedom?
Peter Kropotkin: An Appeal to the Young
Let us first try to understand what you seek in devoting yourself to science. Is it only the pleasure - doubtless immense - which we derive from the study of nature and the exercise of our intellectual faculties? In that case I ask you in what respect does the philosopher, who pursues science in order that he may pass life pleasantly to himself, differ from that drunkard there, who only seeks the immediate gratification that gin affords him? The philosopher has, past all question, chosen his enjoyment more wisely, since it affords him a pleasure far deeper and more lasting than that of the toper. But that is all! Both one and the other have the same selfish end in view, personal gratification.
I have tried, for a while, but running two different weblogs doesn't seem to be working. For anyone who was holding out for a resurgence, I hereby officially place misnomer on the back burner, and indefinite hiatus.
Most of my commentary and news coverage will be directed towards the Dominion Daily Weblog.
I'll occasionally post a few times a month here, but without the expectation of regular readers.
Looks like the global anti-occupation protests went off fairly well, though not with anything like the millions that came out on February 15, 2003, which was a historic event by any reasonable standard.
Still, it's good to see the global local protest continue as a practice. If a few million people had come in cities around the world as they did today outside the context of last Feb 15, it would have been an indisputably profound event.
As it stands, over a few million in total total came out in cities across Canada, the US, all over Europe, Baghdad, and Australia, Japan, East Timor and many others as well.
Indymedia Global has some great photos from Baghdad, where Shias and Sunnis marched together in an apparently significant show of unity against the occupation. And google news will provide good overviews in the coming days.
My theory: if you have time to read this right now, you have time to take 2 minutes to call Alexa McDonough and ask her to take a strong stand in support of democracy in Haiti.
Her constituency office: (902) 426-8691
My reasoning: Calling Bill Graham is necessary but useless, because he won't change Canadian policy without a fight. The only way to make that fight happen is to convince McDonough, who is the NDP's Foreign Affairs critic, to loudly and publicly criticize Graham.
She already has the information. She just needs to know that you think she should stand up and say something.
A quick summary of what I think should be advocated, from this excellent analysis:
The current crisis is not about supporting or opposing Aristide the man, but about defending constitutional democracy in Haiti. In a democracy, elections-and not vigilante violence-should be the measure of 'the will of the people.' Aristide has repeatedly invited the opposition to participate in elections and they have refused, knowing that they cannot win at the pollsAnd it should always be noted that to this day, the US is funding that opposition, with Canada's unflinching support.
Keep in mind, of course, that Haiti is facing a very likely military coup in the coming days, and that it can still be stopped with an absolute minimum of effort on the part of the US and Canada.
"Our gripe is historically specific. If everyone was busy with bullshit doctrinal debates we would prescribe a little anti-intellectualism. But that is not the case right now."
Without condemning or being too cranky, Liza Featherstone, Doug Henwood, and Christian Parenti argue that "activismists" dominate the left, and that there is a problem with this.
Adorno - who admittedly doesn't have the last word on activism, since he called the cops on University of Frankfurt demonstrators in 1968 - nonetheless had a good point when he criticized the student and antiwar movement of the 1960s for what he called "actionism." In his eyes this was an unreflective "collective compulsion for positivity that allows its immediate translation into practice." Though embraced by people who imagine themselves to be radical agitators, that thoughtless compulsion mirrors the pragmatic empiricism of the dominant culture - "not the least way in which actionism fits so smoothly into society's prevailing trend." Actionism, he concluded, "is regressive...it refuses to reflect on its own impotence."
Our point is not that there should be less activism. The left is nothing without visible, disruptive displays of power. We applaud activism and engage in it ourselves. What we are calling for is an assault on the stupidity that pervades American culture. This implies a more democratic approach to the life of the mind and creating spaces for ideas in our lives and political work.
Two interesting themes here, which I've been thinking about.
1. Anti-intellectualism. Michael Moore represents probably the best version of this: he uses a kind of dumbed-down lefty analysis in an entertaining way to draw attention to important issues. He does this by simplifying things, and appealing to humour and other emotions. It's wildly popular, and I won't condemn it. But it fails to address a fundamental problem in America (and Canada too, though it's more hidden here)--as the authors of the above piece put it, the "larger society's division between mental and physical labor".
Thinkers think, activists act. So you have this huge gap between Chomsky and the other A-list lefties on the one hand, and the righteous street-fighting youth on the other hand. This doesn't improve things at that basic cultural level.
2. Action for its own sake, on the basis of righteousness. There is a tendency, of which the authors provide many illustrations, to take action, and see that as a goal in itself. To act, one doesn't need a comprehensive account of reality--one just needs a reason. Chomsky, for example, might present a comprehensive view, but all I need to know as an activist is that the US is wrong, and that there are good reasons for saying this (want a list? go read chomsky.)
Thought, then, is bypassed. I can sympathize with this a great deal. At some point in high school, I distinctly remember thinking that activism is an easy way to add a depth of meaning to life that was not available before. There are these things that are deeply, fundamentally wrong with the world, and there are straightforward ways to oppose them. (A prof of mine characterized this as "upholding yourself" as opposed to "upholding the thing that is under consideration" (sweatshops, East Timor, whatever).)
At any rate, this is a way of thinking that I'm still trying to find my way out of. It's not a trivial process. The alternative is simply to understand, and to act on that understanding: not just that something is wrong, buy how, why, and when was it wrong before and how was it dealt with then?
Martin Heidegger (whose work I really like, despite the various issues surrounding his Nazi Party membership card and other related actions) takes this as far as it will go, arguing that authentic thinking and action are inseperable. The opening lines of An Open Letter on Humanism:
We are still a long way from thinking through the nature of action in a sufficiently resolute manner. We are generally willing to understand it only as the effecting of results, and we can see in what is effected only the reality that can be put to some use. But the nature of action is to accomplish something, to bring something to completion. To accomplish, to complete; that means: to unfold something so that it reveals the fullness of its nature, to escort it into this fullness, producere. Thus only that can really be accomplished which already is. Above all else, however, what "is" is being.
In activist terms: acting on something (the world) to transform it in a positive way is not possible without understanding that thing. The more it is understood, the more transformation is possible. The less it is understood, the more likely the fundamentals will remain unchanged.
There can be little doubt that understanding the world is a life-long and deeply complicated task. It's easy to slip into a closedness about topics once one reaches a certain point of immersion in information. (It's also more comfortable--one reason specialization is so popular in academia is that it allows for a point at which one can reasonably the expert in a tiny corner of the field. An unassailable position, except by someone who spends their whole career looking at the exact same things.)
The most useful thing one can do at that point is be open to being surprised.
The other day, I read the following on Matt Brennan's weblog:
Thing is, Ulanov wrote that in 1957. The voice of protest has always been around in popular culture, and it's scary to see how little the arguments have changed over the decades. Makes you wonder whether activists likedownhillbattle.org and the groups who preceded them (Ulanov was a big advocate for the economic independence of musicians in the 1950s) have studied the history of previous (failed) attempts to transform the economics of popular culture.
In every area that I'm interested in transforming (or thinking about transforming), there's a whole history that I'm inevitably not aware of. Just reading what Matt wrote gives me an extra reserve of humility to draw on when I approach the issue of how artists get paid in the future. And maybe I'll even spend some time in the library on the way to the Nova Scotia legislature to protest the cuts to arts funding, which will repeat themselves in the near future.
Wow, there's no North American mainstream coverage to speak of at the World Social Forum, which starts today. For those who hadn't heard, 80,000 people are expected to gather in Mumbai (formerly Bombay), India, to discuss ways to build social movements and more just ways of organizing society. Communists, anarchists, environmentalists, farmers, unionists, architects, fair trade advocates, and everyone else will hold hundreds of sessions discussing and sharing experiences, stories, techniques and skills.
I wish I was there.
One of the most interesting things about the forum this year is that it's set in India, which is in Asia. People in the west know very little about Asia, because the news coverage is about economics, a big disaster, or some war.
Le Monde picked up on this, titling their main article "A Leap Into the Unknown". A leap, that is, for all the European activists who are going to Mumbai. Who knows, for example, that All India Democratic Women, a women's rights group, has seven million members. Le Monde cites several other groups that have similar memberships bases.
This is interesting first of all because we seldom hear about Asian social movements in the west. The closest thing to mainstream coverage is the coverage of Falun Dafa, and its various problems with the Chinese government. As far as we know, the one billion people in India are helpless masses, participating from time to time in politics in the same status quo way that, say, most Americans do.
I can imagine that for each name on a map, there are hundreds of people (or thousands, or millions) working to improve things on a structural level. But it's something altogether different to see them in person, on their terms, in their place. (Or in my case, to read interviews with them online, and look at photos taken by people who are there.)
The other interesting thing is scale. Hearing about a country with a population of 1 billion, it's easy to imagine them as some homogenous mass, if only because understanding them each individually, or even in groups of 200,000, is a mental strain. Experiencing this anonymous mass as a series of individuals, with singular beliefs, practices, and experiences must be mind-blowing on some level.
That's not to say that the same thing doesn't happen while walking down the street in, say, New York. Living in NYC for a month one summer, I quickly developed mental mechanisms to block out having to deal with the shear magnitude of humanity around me.
The difference is that New York is here, a 13 hour car ride or a push of a TV power button away, constantly demanding to be reckoned with.
So long after the influx of thousands of westerners into Mumbai ceases to be mind-blowing, it will be important.
I personally look forward to the social connections that will be established between western activists and various movements in Asia (many countries are sending delegations to the Forum). At the very least, this will allow me--principally through the Dominion--to establish the connections to allow people in Asia to represent themselves to Canada without the intermediary of wire services or the rare correspondent who is not writing for the travel section.
If you haven't heard, Paul Martin (who is the Prime Minister of Canada) has threatened to sue PaulMartinTime.ca. The latter is a parody of Martin's official campaign site; they're saying we took their intellectual property. Canadian copyright law is much more strict than it is in the US. Parody has much less protection.
If we take it to court, it'll be a matter of setting the future precedent for cases like ours.
In any case, our site got some media attention out of the deal, including my first appearance in a Canadian Press article. It's like AP, but smaller and Canadian.
Mostly, I'm happy that the site is getting mainstream attention.
I ended up with a role in a short video that was made to promote Buy Nothing Day. It's fun.
If you don't mind downloading a 17 meg file, you can watch the movie [quicktime].
The media reform network has a petition about the FTAA and media democracy.
The bottom line with the FTAA is simple: even if it's the best thing ever for everyone (and there is every indication that it isn't), it's happening in secret, in reference to secreat documents, so there's simply no way to know.
A simple way to guess at the content of negotiations is to ask who has access to the process of creation. In this case, it's politicians and corporate lobbyists who have the most access, as well as the most momentum. It's not hard to guess at who the result will benefit, and at whose expense.
Looking for basics? Global Exchange has a list of frequently asked questions.
Some of the monkeyfist folks are talking about trying to take one or two courses from MIT--the one currently being discussed isFundamentals of Public Policy. They're not actually going to MIT, but using the lecture notes and reading lists that MIT has put online as a part of its Open Courseware project. They're talking about taking the course together, and setting up a weblog to collaboratively compile discussion and links to relevant online reading.
The idea, of course, is that anyone who wants to take the course after us will be able to access the discussions and links that we compiled while taking the course. Ideally (i.e. with enough engaged participation), this would result in a kind of cumulative, evolving (dare I say "open source"?) curriculum.
Sounds like fun. For now, it would be nice if a bit more (or any) of the reading list was online (and not so full of broken links).
An interesting story about how From the Wilderness (the CopvsCIA folks) got a full page ad in the Washington Post, and what effect it had.
"Suddenly, the 'inevitability' of the project of Corporate Globalization is beginning to seem more than a little evitable." Another great speech from Arundhati Roy, who is eloquent.
A bit of wisdom from IF Stone: "The only kinds of fights worth fighting are those you're going to lose, because somebody has to fight them and lose and lose and lose until someday, somebody who believes as you do wins. In order for somebody to win an important, major fight 100 years hence, a lot of other people have got be willing -- for the sheer fun and joy of it -- to go right ahead and fight, knowing you're going to lose. You mustn't feel like a martyr. You've got to enjoy it."
(From Quebec City FTAA protest, April 2001)
Geert Lovink's The Art of Being Independent is an interesting critical summary of the problems that activists have with Non-Governmental Organizations and their embracing of corporate structure and culture.
From Nettime: An online action for the Spanish local elections
Creating a legal political coalition called Otra Democracia Es Posible and presenting candidatures in towns, so the Electoral Administration must print ballots saying that "another democracy is possible" and must distribute them to all the voting locations of the towns where lists are presented. So many voters will see them just before performing their almost single act of active democratic participation of the year (if so).
There is no aim to obtain votes, nor representants, nor we expect to change anything in the current Spanish """democratic""" system. We don't even pretend with this action to answer the question "what other democracy??". We just want to contribute spreading the question to the society.
I have a fairly high predisposition towards this kind of direct action: it's simple and easy to implement, it spreads quickly, a lot of people can feel confident participating, and it opens up (if only a little) the possibility for questioning and discussion on topics of crucial importance.
There are now some photos of the local march here in Sackville.
I've been spending most of my time updating the coverage of anti-war activism for Indymedia Maritimes. I also put together a reading list of articles which (I think) are essential for anyone who wants to be informed about the (still preventable) war.
Hearing that 10 million people came out on Saturday has put me into some kind of activist overdrive, so I've been churning out material like mad... and at the expense of schoolwork, which seems less and less relevant.
There's a great photo of my friend Robert Force at the protest in Seattle.
Between 5 and 12 million people in over 600 cities worldwide protested against a US war on Iraq yesterday. From reading the police estimates, I suspect it's pretty close to 9 or 10 million. London, Madrid, Barcelona, and Rome had well over a million each, and a large number of cities had 100,000+.
I made a poster [200k, pdf] to help convey the magnitude of the event. Suitable for home, office, or telephone poll use.
Photos from protests on every continent provide a good sense of the massive scale of the event.
Even if it was 4 million, I can't really see how it wouldn't be front page news everywhere. But the politicization of crowd numbers and the power of willful ignorance can never be underestimated. Police managed to whittle the New York City figure down to 100,000 (Organizers say 800,000, Indymedia says 500,000), and CNN talked about "as many as 500,000" in London when the rest of the media was saying one million or more.
That's why I made the poster.
The governing body of the small town of Sackville, NB, where I live passed a strongly worded anti-war resolution the other night. Sackville is one of the first towns in Canada to do this, by the looks of it.
Update: after a long debate, the Mount Allison Students' Administrative Council passed a similar resolution.
Poets Against the War is a project to collect poems and signatures from poets protesting war with Iraq. It is led by Sam Hamill, the founder of Copper Canyon Press (which is located in Port Townsend, close to home). It's featured in the NYTimes and Seattle Times.
[update: Mr. Hamill's move is now noted on google news with a considerable number of related stories.]
The industrious folks at the NYC Independent Media Center have produced a colourful 36x24" map of the "US Terrorist Infrastructure", marking the locations of war criminals and terrorists who reside in the US, chemical weapons, think tanks that formulate ways to terrorize other countries, nuclear weapons manufacturing and storage, as well as the agencies and corporations that fund terrorist activities. It's free for download in pdf, and copies can be ordered for $7.
In other news, the World Social Forum in Porto Allegre, Brazil has over 100,000 attendees this year. Anarchogeek has been covering the proceedings and linking to other sources. Indymedia also has lots of good coverage. Even more from Google news.
The World Social Forum was originally started as a counterpoint to the World Economic Forum, where leaders, CEOs, NGO types, investors, "visionaries" and other bigwigs get together in Davos, Switzerland to discuss in secret how best to (ahem) fix the problems of the world. Problems like barriers to the free movement of capital (which is the answer to everything, of course), I'm guessing. But it's secret, so who knows. In any case, I was glad to see that most coverage of the WEF in Davos this year has focused on the ways in which various leaders have used it as a platform to condemn US aggression.
Mostly, I'm still surprised at how few people find something fundamentally wrong with the most powerful people in the world getting together to hobnob, discuss, and make deals in secret.
Today was the latest global day of demonstrations against war with Iraq. Folks are saying 200,000 people turned out in DC, 20,000 in Los Angeles, 80,000 in San Francisco. Crowd estimates will be better tommorrow. In Canada alone, over 20 cities held similar demonstrations (including here in Sackville: pop. 5000, temperature -20C).
One can follow the ever-annoying and bizarre politics of crowd estimates and coverage at Google News. (Describing 200,000 people as "thousands" isn't accurate. In fact, it's misleading.)
There are numerous city council resolutions opposing war in Iraq.
Two interesting posts from a woman who is travelling through India while doing work with an unnamed women's rights organization:
Hateful thoughts "Yesterday I hated men. But today I feel much better."
Hyderabad. A vivid account of a few days at the Asian Social Forum.
Jaggi Singh, that Canadian activist with name recognition, doesn't seem to have any luck with police. After being arrested at the 1997 APEC conference in Vancouver and kidnapped by Mounties in Quebec City in 2001, he has most recently been nabbed, interrogated and beat up by Israeli
thugs immigration officials.
Incidentally, The New Forum has been full of frequently updated, wholesome CanCon lately.
The BBC has some decent coverage of the situation in Venezuela. The story actually deals with background information and the history of the current protests and economic situation. Amazingly, this kind of coverage is largely unheard of.
I find that a good way to understand the current situation in Venezuela is to imagine that a president and senate majority were elected on a basic left-wing platform of wealth redistribution, a living wage, stopping the "war on drugs'" exclusive focus on the poor, cutting back some of the really brutal exploitation and repression in foreign policy (IMF, WB), etc.
What would the reaction look like? First, corporations and rich people would effectively go on strike, pulling out of investments everywhere, and even shutting down key services (all of which are now mostly privatized). The media and armies of pundits would go completely nuts, dismissing the government as illegitimate (no matter how many voted for it) and using any possible excuse to create a huge scandal.
As a result, the economy would go down the tubes, and in the chaos that ensues, all kinds of bureaucrats would make off with taxpayers cash. Hundreds of millions of dollars are already unaccounted for in the Pentagon's budget, and this is when things are operating smoothly.
The immense power controlled by the media, wall street, and the rich is a very straightforward reason why a left wing party will probably never be elected in the US, no matter how much of the population is poor.
But it did happen in Venezuela. Chavez, the left-wing president who was elected with 60% of the vote (many of those being poor people) bears the blame for the economic chaos that is happening.
I, for one, think that we are a little too quick to say that economic policy that benefits someone other than the existing elite "causes" the economy to melt down. What really causes it is the fact that the corporations and uber-rich will not tolerate anyone denying or even questioning their privilege to get first dibs on economic spoils. Who hasn't noticed that Wall Street responds to even the slightest talk of, say, an increase in the minimum wage by falling 10%?
We've gotten to the point where, due to this collosal concentration of power, "the market" is seen as both inevitable and supremely beneficial, even democratic (see Thomas Frank's One Market Under God for examples). But this cultural kow-towing to economic systems is what allows the wealth and power to concentrate further.
Sane governance, it seems to me, is only possible on the basis of an honest assessment of why things are the way they are. If global capitalism really is the way to go (I have my doubts), then its supremacy should only be based on an argument that despite the fact that it concentrates money and power in the hands of very few, it is still the best system. Of course, once one concedes this utterly obvious point, it's hard to justify the current system, except by arguing that anything else will lead to disaster.
But if such an honest (and really quite obvious) assessment were commonly acknowledged and widely held, then the concentration of power would have alread lost its hold on public discourse, and the rest of its power (economic, political) would be perpetually checked. Things would already be a bit better.
Some great activist propaganda/art that I happened upon at Indymedia Sverige (Sweden)
Wow. From what I can tell, the media is spinning like crazy in their coverage of recent events in Venezuela.
What happens: Two million people take to the streets in opposition to the wealthy minority who supports removing Chavez from office. Most of these demonstrations are peaceful, but in one state, some protesters smash a TV studio. During the coup attempt, the TV stations had broadcast lies and misinformation, at one point reporting that Chavez had "resigned".
What gets reported: "Hundreds of supporters of President Hugo Chavez ransacked one TV station and surrounded others across Venezuela, accusing them of backing a general strike to force his ouster. " -- the AP lead, featured on Fox News, CNN, Toronto Star, many, many others.
What happens: The management and owners of the oil company, foreign-owned banks, and northern chains like McDonald's, in cooperation with some sympathetic union bosses, lock out workers.
What gets reported: A general strike.
It's remarkable. Every mainstream media outlet is simply assuming that it's a strike, while providing no details as to who exactly is "striking," and why (except that, whoever they are, they're against Chavez).
From a protest against CNN's pro-war coverage.
In other news, Indymedia Iran is in the works, which is good. I've heard that they have a couple thousand people signed up to their mailing list, equally divided between those living in Iran and abroad. They just posted their first bit of coverage, and a site is undoubtedly forthcoming.
Annual military spending globally is over $780 billion. The US alone accounts for over $343.2 billion in military spending annually.
What the World Wants is a simulation project that attempts to calculate the cost of various basic needs of humanity, which include:
Eliminate Starvation and Malnourishment
Provide Health Care & AIDS Control
Provide Clean Safe Water
Provide Clean, Safe Energy: Efficiency
Provide Clean, Safe Energy: Renewables
Retire Developing Nations Debt
Prevent Soil Erosion
Stop Ozone Depletion
Prevent Acid Rain
Prevent Global Warming
Eliminating Nuclear Weapons
According to their reckoning, all of the above would cost (annually) approximately 30% of the world's annual military spending. If we go with their estimates, it would take ten years for stable versions of all of the above to be put into place.
They also have fun comparative costs. For example, eliminating starvation would cost approximately 55% of what Americans spend on weight loss programs each year.
Each category is accompanied by an account, with references, so it's possible to dispute each one, and I have no idea if the estimates are realistic or not. I hardly need to point out, though, that that is most definitely not the point.
If the over-developed world didn't attach all kinds of self-interested strings to "aid for Africa" deals like NEPAD, then something useful might get done with the relatively tiny sums that we devote to foreign aid. Of course, most of what counts as foreign aid consists of direct or indirect subsidies of western business. Whether we make aid conditional on changes to economic policy or just hand it over to US companies (e.g. lucrative contracts for textbooks in Afghanistan, then and now), the little money that is supposed to be doing good is mostly funneled back to Wall Street or its other G8 equivalents.
I won't pretend that anything like a ten year devotion of 30% of military budgets to humanitarian programs is possible, but every once in a while, it can't hurt to stop and ask: what if we actually wanted to do something about the world's problems, and not just look like we're doing something?
Heck, the US could do this on its own, and end up with more power and economic clout than any military initiative could ever achieve. It would be a great way to shut up all those pesky European "anti-Americans", leave the vast majority of the world's population in awe, and defuse the rage of those who support terrorists. And who could attack so generous a country without pissing off all the people who benefit from these programs?
I am, of course, dreaming, but it's worthwhile to ask why this is the case.
Why am I dreaming, you ask? Good question. Three quick answers: racism, fear, ignorance, and an overwhelming asymmetry in access to politicians. Those are themes that have been and will be expanded extensively.
(What the World Wants links via Beyond Greed)
Judge acquits Bush protester, scolds police (via ftrain)
Police testified that Neel was arrested after refusing to enter a fenced area, designated as a free-speech area, during Bush's Labor Day visit to Neville Island, 10 miles northwest of Pittsburgh.
Looks like their still at it with the "free-speech areas". What a strange concept.
Also via ftrain, some great photos of NYC.
Indymedia turned three on Saturday. From nothing to a global media organization with over 100 local media collectives participating in three years isn't bad. I'm looking forward to seeing what that turns into in the next three years.
Apparently, the first amendment now only applies in designated "first amendement zones". This would be funny if it were in a darkly comic novel about the near future. (via daily churn)
Looks like the newspaper of record is at it again with the chronic under-estimates of protest turnouts. The estimates in the newspapers listed by google range from 350,000 to "over half a million". Some keep it vague by saying "hundreds of thousands" or "tens of thousands", but the Times is the only one saying 100,000. Still, it's better that they covered it all. When 350 to 500,000 people came out to an anti-war protest in London, the Times ignored it in favour of a story on British education bureaucracy.
David Horowitz: 100,000 Communists March On Washington To Give Aid and Comfort to Saddam Hussein
WTF? Horowitz lost his mind quite a while ago, but then again, it doesn't matter how nuts you are if you can get millions for running a think tank that spews nonsense in the ideologically correct general direction.
At least he got the crowd estimate right.
Dang, I just figured out what I want to be for halloween, but a bit late.
"Citizens for a Legitimate Government" has compiled a long list of anti-war protests which took place on October 26. 220 cities are listed, along with estimates of turnout and links to local coverage.
Tom Tommorrow writes:
The prowar types would love to play this down, I'm sure, but this is huge. It took years for the Vietnam era protests to reach this level.
Robert Jensen: The American Political Paradox: More Freedom, Less Democracy (via DailyChurn)
legal protections for freedom of expression have expanded and the culture's commitment to free speech has become more entrenched, which is all to the good. But at the same time, the United States today is a far less vibrant political culture than it was then. This is the paradox to come to terms with: How is it that as formal freedoms that allow democratic participation have expanded, the range and importance of debate and discussion that is essential to democracy has contracted? How is it that in the United States we have arguably the most expansive free speech rights in the industrial world and at the same time an incredibly degraded political culture? How did political freedom produce such a depoliticized culture?
Going back to the excellent talk given by Arundhati Roy, there's a bit that describes the inadequacy of the word "globalization" -- or the difference between global justice and corporate globalization -- quite succinctly:
Today Corporate Globalization needs an international confederation of loyal, corrupt, preferably authoritarian governments in poorer countries to push through unpopular reforms and quell the mutinies. It needs a press that pretends to be free. It needs courts that pretend to dispense justice. It needs nuclear bombs, standing armies, sterner immigration laws, and watchful coastal patrols to make sure that it's only money, goods, patents, and services that are being globalized - not the free movement of people, not a respect for human rights, not international treaties on racial discrimination or chemical and nuclear weapons, or greenhouse gas emissions, climate change, or god forbid, justice. It's as though even a gesture towards international accountability would wreck the whole enterprise.
Interview with Naomi Klein, who has a new book out. I noticed that it debuted at #2 on the Globe and Mail's hardcover nonfiction bestseller list, right behind Chomsky's 9-11, which has been #1 pretty much since it came out last fall.
As Kellan noticed, the NY Times and Washington Post don't think that 400,000 people (according to Rupert Murdoch's Sky News) turning out for an anti-war protest is newsworthy. At least, not as newsworthy about protests about a ban on fox hunting or a conflict about crading college entrance exams in the UK.
Arundhati Roy lays it all out in what could be the global justice speech to end all global justice speeches. She covers almost every major topic in a succinct and eloquent way. If you read nothing else about global justice (the movement formerly known as "anti-globalization")...
And then there are the things that one would have preferred not to hear about.
They do it. The only trouble Howard, is that in India right now, I think few Americans know about this, but in March this year, the BJP which is the Bharatija Janata Party is part of what they call the Sangh Parivar, a whole sort of family of Hindu right wing organizations. The BJP is the political end of it and what's called the RSS - the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh - is the cultural guild. Now the Prime Minister, the Home Minister, the disinvestment minister, all these people belong to the RSS. The RSS has been preparing the ground for this kind of right wing - India is only for the Hindus thing - since the late '20s and they are open admirers of Hitler and his methods and so on, and in March this year there was a massacre of Muslims in Gujarat. As soon as the massacre was over, the Gujarat government, headed by the BJP, wanted to hold elections because they felt that they would win the election because they'd polarized the vote.
All over India they have what are called (untranslatable) which are branches where young people, 10-year-old children, are being indoctrinated into religious bigotry and hatred, and how to create communal trouble, and how to rewrite history books, and all this is happening. So the Fascists will definitely mess it up. In fact the reason they're so desperate is because in State after State they were losing the election. But you see, now, whether they're in power or not, they've injected this poison into the veins of a very complex country and that's very frightening, very, very frightening, to have to deal with on a daily basis.
You cannot imagine the things that happened in Gujarat - little children were... 2,000 people were killed, women were raped, women had their stomachs slit open and their fetuses pulled out. Not one or two but many, many. Little children were forced to drink petrol then matches were put down their throats and they just blew up like bombs. It's a very, very frightening situation just now. This government in India keeps saying, we're natural allies of the U.S. So there hasn't...it's not just a coincidence that this was not reported or that it's being suppressed. The whole nuclear flashpoint with Pakistan was mostly due to the fact that the Indian government wanted to distract attention from - the world's attention from - Gujarat to this, and it was very, very successful in doing that.
And some that we have to hear.
I'd never been to Pakistan. Delhi and Pakistan - I mean Lahore - are maybe a one-hour flight away from each other. I went to Pakistan last month. I had to go from Delhi to Dubai to Islamabad to Lahore. It took me 18 hours. There is so much in the Indian press and equally in the Pakistan press about anti-Indian demonstrations and anti-Pakistan demonstrations and we're all going to kill each other and everybody hates everybody and so on. I landed in Lahore and within seconds we were all sitting at this dining table and I felt like I was in Delhi. It was just so sad and the audience that came... people were just in tears, not because of me or what I said or anything, just because it's such a relief not to always be subjected to this media's representation of government positions. I really feel that the media, the corporate media, has played a terrible part in all this and people are just going to have to blow holes in this dam between them and insist on listening to independent real voices, real human beings.
Global Indymedia has a lot of great coverage of the IMF/World Bank protests in DC (5,000-10,000 turnout, including Monkeyfist's Bijan and Kendall), and the anti-war protests in London (est. 500,000 !).
Five hundred thousand people. Yowza.
I've been discussing free speech again, and thinking about what is legitimate direct action.
Recently, the cover of the Globe and Mail featured an incident at Concordia University in Montreal, where Benjamin Netanyahu (former Israeli PM), was scheduled to speak.
About 200 protesters -- including a small number of Jewish students, though who knows who was doing what -- suceeded in shutting down the Netanyahu's talk by crowding around the building and blocking the entrance. After police tried to move them with tear gas and pepper spray, some chairs were thrown and windows were broken. No one explicitly threatened Netanyahu with violence, but he decided not to speak. The Canadian press reported:
Mr. Netanyahu was never in the building and his handlers had said he would not give his speech unless his safety could be guaranteed.
Following the incident, there was a bit of an uproar about freedom of speech, and how Netanyahu's right to speak had been violated. This seems a little of bizarre on the face of it, since he chose not to speak, and I haven't seen any report of a credible threat to his safety.
But I'm interested in whether intending to keep someone like Netanyahu from speaking can be morally (and tactically) justified. I haven't reached a conclusion yet, but what follows is a sketch of the tools I think are useful in thinking about freedom of speech and direct action.
Would freedom of speech in this case (a speech on a university campus) apply to everyone? Would a neo-nazi who advocated the removal of Jews from Israel be allowed to speak, and if he was, would it be justifiable to use nonviolent direct action to keep him from speaking?
Answer: if hate speech is intolerable, then yes. So is it hate speech or intolerable?
If it was legal for someone like the hypothetical neo-Nazi to speak, but I knew/was convinced that it was politically unacceptable (i.e. greater harm would come from giving him a space to spread hate than would come from establishing an exception to free speech), then what course of action is available to me, politically?
Answer: write a letter opposing his right to speak, demonstrate, hold a counter-speech, petition the proprietors not to let the speech happen, or organize to physically prevent him from speaking or prevent the space being used without hurting anyone.
How much less legitimate is physical prevention compared to more "civil" means?
This raises some other interesting questions. What the protesters did was create a situation in which it was undesirable for Netanyahu to speak. This happens all the time. Notably, at Izzy Asper's newspapers, where all but the bravest columnists are afraid to criticize Israel or Jean Chretien for fear of losing favour with their employer, and even the brave ones have been fired in a few notable instances. Interestingly enough, Asper was the man responsible for bringing Netanyahu to Concordia.
Clearly, there is a difference between Asper creating conditions in which columnists are extremely likely to choose not to criticize Israel and some students creating conditions in which it is undesirable or more difficult for Netanyahu to speak. But I think the difference is one of the right of ownership and the fact that there are no laws against controlling the content of a newspaper you own, no matter the public importance.
The answer, then, is that to some extent, everyone is involved in making some positions more or less desirable for other people. The question is of degree, and whether the likely ends justify the means.
Next question: is Netanyahu worthy of censure, and to what extent?
Netanyahu is worthy of censure to the extent that his views are politically abhorrent. According to more than a few sources, he is a leading advocate of toppling the Palestinian authority, and was instrumental in stepping up the building of settlements in the west bank, escalating tensions between Palestinians and Israelis to a large degree. Some might emphasize other things or call the aformentioned sources anti-Semetic. I'll leave the question open.
A few questions remain.
Is direct action (especially if it is successful) worth setting the precedent for other dedicated groups with strongly-held opinions to do the same?
If I take part in a protest against Israeli policies, will I be inadvertantly supporting people who really are anti-semetic?
The gain in media exposure is indisputable (100-student passive, peaceful protests don't make the cover of the Globe), but are perceptions of the cause being spoken for skewed by perceptions of it being against freedom of speech (thanks in no part to punditry and skewed reporting)?
The project seems like a perfect example of mutual aid (or something along those lines)... People volunteer and learn how to build and set up a cheap linux box, and people in Equador get free computers.
People come to Free Geek because they want to "remove the mystery" of how computers work, Sano says. "And that's the thing that prevents many people from interacting with computers, that mystery. It's what keeps them on that side of the digital divide." After a volunteer has assembled five computers, or "Freek Boxes," he gets to take the sixth one home.
There were between 75,000 and 100,000 protesting various wars in Washington DC last weekend. That's well over the number of people who showed up in Quebec City. As usual, the corporate media made the numbers fuzzy by saying "thousands", "over 10,000", or "50,000"; the last figure is the estimated number of people attending the largest march, which was one of many.
Funny thing, that. When the Washington Post covered the pro-Israeli rally on April 15, they noted that "by 2 p.m., Metro had carried 354,220 passengers today, or 54,604 more than it did by the same time last Monday." That has to be absolutely the most charitable way possible to assess the number of protesters, as it takes into account pro-Palestinian counter-protesters, media and other observers who were probably bustling back and forth, as well as protesters who rode the subway twice. Such methods (or even accurate ones), however, suddenly disappear when it's people protesting against what the media has, not without a little outside influence, decided is a valid protest and what is not.
As I mentioned a few days ago, the effect of ideology on something as simple as covering the number of people to come out to a protest is bluntly evident. During the anti-FTAA protests in Quebec City a year ago, the local media (who wasn't really pro-protester, just, I hypothesize, less influenced by powerful interests) reported that upwards of 75,000 people had come out. The Globe and Mail (one of two national dailies in Canada) reported 50,000 or so, and the NYTimes noted 20,000. It's not as though there aren't accurate ways of determining these things (or skewing them in the other direction, as the case may be).
I was telling my roommate about the phenomenon I just described this morning, and he smiled wryly and said "conspiracy." So I felt compelled to rant, er, explain that there's a perfectly non-conspiracy theory that explains how these things happen rather accurately. There's pressure from various people and groups; notably, those with the power to pull advertising or fire writers, those who can criticize the media publicly (and get attention doing it), and those upon whom the media is dependent for access to information (notably, the pentagon, white house, and other government). These power structures are constantly reaffirming and perpetuating themselves by hiring writers, editors, and journalists who aren't willing or don't feel the need to tread outside the accepted range of debate. It's still surprising when stuff as blatant as the misconstrual of available data happens, but there's a way to account for it that doesn't require talking about men with cigars in rooms with leather walls making calls.
Dozens of Israeli flags fluttered in gentle breezes and scores of homemade signs bobbed under a perfect sun as supporters of Israel massed on the west side of the U.S. Capitol today in an impassioned defense of its right to strike back against Palestinian attacks against civilians.I've been to a few protests with similar weather conditions, but never has any description (even on sites like Indymedia) approached the sappy romanticization and one-sidedness contained in that article. The intentionally vague and inflated estimates of turnout are just the icing on this sickly sweet cake. In coverage of the Quebec City protests, however, the number of 75,000 reported by the local media had dwindled to 20,000 by the time the NYTimes had got around to covering it, and one had the impression that it consisted of solely of spoiled, violent white kids, not the crowd that had come from all over the continent to protest peacefully, or the hundreds of people dancing in the streets, even as tear gas filled the air. I'm romanticizing only a little; it was quite moving.
"Words don't work here," said Sausen, 56, a businessman, who said he was "overjoyed" with Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon's decision to get tough. "I think he should be tougher," he said.Want to feel sad? You can read the weblog entries of people who attended the rally.
Tom Tommorrow summarizes a talk given by Tariq Ali. The speech by the Marine General he quotes at the end is very interesting.
Updates will be few and far between until April 26, the make or break deadline for a large number of essays that I need to finish. But I bet you haven't read that many of my articles yet, so that should keep you busy.
A statement by Asaf Oron, one of the 251 Israeli soldiers who have refused to serve in the occupied territories.
You get used to it in a hurry, and many even learn to like it. Where else can you go out on patrol - that is, walk the streets like a king, harass and humiliate pedestrians to your heart's content, and get into mischief with your buddies - and at the same time feel like a big hero defending your country? The Gaza Exploits became heroic tales, a source of pride for Giv'ati, then a relatively new brigade suffering from low self esteem.
For a long time, I could not relate to the whole "heroism" thing. But when, as a sergeant, I found myself in charge, something cracked inside me. Without thinking, I turned into the perfect occupation enforcer. I settled accounts with "upstarts" who didn't show enough respect. I tore up the personal documents of men my father's age. I hit, harassed, served as a bad example - all in the city of Kalkilia, barely three miles from grandma and grandpa's home-sweet-home. No. I was no "aberration." I was exactly the norm.
Already on the bus ride to the Gaza strip, the soldiers were competing with each other: whose "heroic" tales of murderous beatings during the Intifada were better (in case you missed this point: the beatings were literally murderous: beating to death). Going on patrol duty with these guys once was all that I could take. I went up to the placement officer and requested to be given guard duty only. Placement officers like people like me: most soldiers can't tolerate staying inside the base longer than a couple of hours.
And just to keep things positive, here's Neve Shalom/Wahat Al-Salam (the "Oasis of Peace"), a bilingual community where Palestinians and Israelis live, work, and go to school together.
Some notes on what's going on in Argentina, from various sources.
Americas.org has some excellent coverage of the various forms of direct democracy being practiced all acrossed Argentina.
The Philadelphia Indymedia Center has a site about Alternatives to Corporate Globalization, which is surprisingly comprehensive and well articulated. A comprehensive overview with links to good pages on each topic.
Sylvia's Flives and Knowers (unofficial name) are pretty darned cool.
The following is an email from the President of George Washington University, in which he outlines the plan to shut down and evacuate GWU for the duration of the IMF/World Bank meetings (and subsequent protests), to "protect the community". They're even giving students money for airfare (!!!!). (thanks to kendall of monkeyfist for forwarding this to me :P)
Seattle Indymedia has some fairly extensive documentation of what happened at the reclaim the streets (which I mentioned a few days ago), including photos.
Looks like some of the violent protesters in Genoa were actually Carabinieri.
SLAPP stands for "Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation". It's too bad cops don't handcuff and pepperspray corporate lawyers when they jaywalk.. or worse. (Not that I think cops should beat people at all. If they're going to, though, the punishment should fit the crime, and profiting from others' suffering and silencing dissent is a lot worse than Jaywalking while Anarchist or Driving while Black.)
A year in the slammer couldn't keep her mouth shut
and J. Edgar Hoover couldn't move her from my heart
Emma! Emma! Emma Goldman!
[another piggy tune, 2.7MB]
David Grenier, writer, bowler and domestic terrorist tries to Reclaim the Streets.
One kid stepped forward and the cops tackled him and slammed his face into the pavement. This is what the cops wanted. They could now call us "violent potesters" because we were protesters in a violent situation they had created.
The real shits and giggles part of all this is that there were two groups on the street that day. One group carried guns and clubs, used chemical agents on unarmed civilians, made up laws as they went along (you can’t share food in the park, for example), and used violence to advance their boss' political career and try to intimidate folks from exercising their freedoms if those freedoms conflict with commercial interests. The other group gave food out freely, tried to avoid conflict by staying on the sidewalk, and was armed only with puppets and costumes. Yet the cops are praised in the media by the politicians, while the FBI has labeled Reclaim the Streets a terrorist organization.
So what the media really means when they say "protesters clashed with police" is "police brutally beat and sprayed poisonous chemicals at protesters, who were committing serious crimes, such as jaywalking."
"South Carolina is a strong right-to-work state and a citizen's right not to join a union is absolute and will be fully protected." Apparently.
A story about Anarchism in the mainstream media. Who'd have thought it possible?
I've been using the term Left Wing Wacko to describe myself and my activities, especially when visiting folks back home. Now I know I was using it accurately.
Dave Grenier on Poetry Slams.
An interesting theory about Japanese culture.
Paul Ford posted a long, eloquent rant about the media's "he deserved it" reaction to the police shooting of Carlo, social change, and being radical.
What bugs me, though, is stupid, willful ignorance, which is what the globalization folks and the media seem to be making their their specialty. I'm stunned that the people in the IMF, or the WTO, or the police chiefs, or the TV anchorpeople and magazine columnists could be such amazing, amoral shitheads. We're talking about human-defined economic systems, not some God-given stone-inscribed systems of truth.
The constantly repeated myth is that the protesters are misinformed and the people in the WTO are well-informed, but I have yet to see evidence that the WTO's strategies are so scientifically valid as to be immune to outside criticism. And there is no reason that criticism should come only from academics and government wonks; people have every right in the world to cry "bullshit!" Except we don't actually seem to have that right, unless we want a good beatdown from cops, or tear gas Q-tipped onto our eyes.
David Grenier has a great set of links about the Genoa protests. More than I have time to look through, but good ones. I too assumed that Giuliani had been attacking the cops with the fire extinguisher, and that the shooting might have been justified as self defense, had it not been lethal or with live ammunition. I guess I swallowed the (corporate) media's spin whole. Dang.
I went to a protest today at the Italian Consulate in NYC. People had big pictures of Giuliani, a guy sang a song, and a number of people spoke. Some were a little long winded. A brief skirmish happened when some socialist folks started ranting about revolution and a strong central government, and others were not really interested in hearing it. Chants and drums followed. It was more painful than anything, to see real, yet unnecessary 'consequences', and to take note of the indifference of the rest of the world, whom I encountered on the street as I walked away, on the subway, and while having a drink later that night.
Police Raid Activist Centre, Indymedia Centre in Genoa. Over 40 injured, some in critical condition. Aftermath (photo). More photos and reports.
I don't know what to say.
Just in case I start thinking that people use their own neurons... (this was sent to me in response to my essay, Shedding Democracy for Tears)
I, like you, think there should be a better way to control a violent crowd other than tear gas. I advocate the use of live ammunition by snipers. It is a cleaner, more precise, more effective use of force. I have been exposed to tear gas, and while not pleasant, it can be countered. So if the police would simply shoot to hit kneecaps and elbows, could stop the anarchists while saving innocent the discomfort caused by tear gas. Thank you for your time. Scott ForbesA number of people also contacted Monkeyfist to say that the young Italian who was shot twice and run over twice by police "deserved it". I wonder what kind of crack you have to smoke...
I got this bit of truth in photography about the Quebec City protests from a mailing list, though they apparently appeared in the FTAA zine.
A shocking account by a volunteer medic who was in Quebec City.
The cops advanced down Cote D'Abraham, shooting tear gas like crazy and shooting rubber bullets down alleys and driveways. When they reached the clinic they marched everyone who was in the alley (the decontamination space) out at gunpoint. This included many medics and their patients, even seriously injured ones. The cops forcibly removed all the protective gear from everyone, including gas masks, vinegar bandannas and any goggles, saying "No more protection for you guys!".I was in the CMAQ centre when this happened, and heard the same story from a number of people who were there. The medics had to set up in the lobby of the CMAQ building as a result.
The Globe and Mail, which I must note for its disproportionate share of morons, has an interesting article on Jaggi Singh, an activist who has become a martyr of sorts after he was kidnapped by police. He came to Mount Allison and spoke about the FTAA a few months ago; he was smart and articulate, but made it clear that he and his colleagues were there to inform, not to lead. It's ironic, then, that he makes headlines on a regular basis now that he's in jail for no other apparent reason than the fact that he disagrees (strongly) with the police and government, and is willing to do something about it. Really ironic.
Mr. Singh argued that the government was using the People's Summit as a way to co-opt the opposition and marginalize certain groups and ideas. It all came down to the ultimate choice between accepting to sit-down with the leaders or to fight them from the outside. Mr. Singh choice was unequivocal.Too bad the Globe's copy editing staff is asleep at the wheel. The article is decent, though it (like everything else in the mainstream media) avoids looking too closely at, much less understanding, the ideas involved.
"To what extent can you convince a tiger to become a vegetarian," he said in making his case for a direct confrontation rather than siding with the more mainstream left-wing groups.
It really comes down to a very simple question: should money translate cleanly into power for whoever has it?
In other words, should having a lot of money give whoever holds it the potential to control natural resources, the media, politics, education, and health care? Should there not be other ways of delegating power over the institutions that shape our lives and the planet?
If there's anything that was reinforced for me in Quebec, it's the fact that an increasing number of people have a problem with the trend towards the Commodification of Everything. More forcefully, I'm having trouble seeing how any kind of effective democracy can happen within capitalism. I can still imagine how capitalism can be just and not as violent as it is if it is governed by democracy.
Thirdly, I get the distinct impression that a lot of people think that democracy and elections are synonymous, and I disagree completely. 31 rich males in a room secretly discussing the future of the western hemisphere is not democracy. On the other hand, I am extremely encouraged to see what I believe are elements of actual democracy taking hold among protesters and activists. Affinity groups making decisions by consensus, Food Not Bombs providing free food to the visitors, thousands of hours of volunteer effort in organizing places for people to stay and spaces for teach-ins, training, meetings and discussions, the creation of alternate sources of information. All this is, in my understanding, a sign of democracy at work. And it's all done for the love of an idea, not money or anything other material gain.
What if these people were paid, even minimally, for their work? It's not hard to see how a alternative system is feasible, at the very least.
Looks like I'm headed to Quebec City after all. I'll be interviewing people, taking pictures, and maybe doing some volunteer work for CMAQ (Centre for Media Alternatives Quebec).
Here's a list of links that I came up with for Indymedia Maritimes:
In late April, world leaders from North, South, and Central America (excluding Cuba) will be meeting in Quebec City for the Summit of the Americas, where issues of economic integration, human rights, and democracy will be discussed. However, attention has been the most focussed by far on the Free Trade Agreement of the Americas (FTAA), which is in a sense the sequel to NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement), but extended to include most South and Central American nations.And since everyone is in a posting mood from the day of introductions, post your opinions about the FTAA, activism, Free Trade, and democracy below, and discuss amongst yourselves while I desperately try to finish some of my essays.
The amount of attention paid to the FTAA is due to a number of reasons. The following links point out a number of issues many citizens have with the agreements being negotiated.
- The Council of Canadians has an introduction to some of the issues concerning the FTAA.
- Maude Barlow has published an analysis of GATS (General Agreement on Trade in Services) in The Ecologist.
- The Summit of the Americas Information Network is an official site.
- The FTAA also has an official site.
- The top ten reasons to oppose the FTAA outlines more issues succinctly.
- StopFTAA.org has some information, and a newswire.
- Common Dreams is a source of criticism of the FTAA.
- CMAQ, the Center for Media Alternatives, Quebec, is providing independently produced coverage of the Summit, in conjunction with the Independent Media Center.
- Public Citizen also has information about the FTAA.
- Global Exchange is a human rights organization with a good deal of educational information about the FTAA and its alternatives.
Now that you have educated yourself about the issues concerning the FTAA, there are a number of ways to take action (assuming you come to similar conclusions as the thousands of activists headed to Quebec in April):
Opération Québec Printemps 2001 has listings of teach-ins, events, and other logistical information.
- Quebec2001.net has a great deal of similar kinds of information, but focussed on Quebec.
- The Field Guide to the FTAA Protest in Quebec City is an exhaustive source of information essential to anyone headed to Quebec.
- Guess what, we've got rights is a citizen's guide for dealing with police, and knowing the rights and responsibilities of police officers and citizens.
An oft-repeated debate about free speech, free trade, censorship, and the like.
I find I'm getting more and more picky about what I write on misnomer, but the net result is not an increase in the quality of my postings, but a decrease in the frequency of them. All kinds of stress, exams, Argosy stuff, etc. might have something to do with that.
David Suzuki is on campus today, and gave an impressive speech this afternoon on biotechnology. His main point was that we need to be a lot more slow and careful when dealing with the potential benefits of biotech, for a few different reasons. First, we've been wrong a lot in the past (DDT and CFC's were previous miracle chemicals gone wrong), and it is likely that most of what we know about genetics now is wrong. "That's how science works", though he noted that we tend to artificially construct linear stories about scientific development. Second, there is no huge necessity to get transgenic organisms on the market. Feeding starving third world countries is the major reason put forth, but if one looks at the GM foods on the market, they consist almost uniquely of luxury foods for rich countries, and there is no reason to grant patents on genes. Stopping patents would slow down research, but that's not a bad thing; au contraire, we need the process to be cautious, and slowing it down is the first step.
One of the most interesting points he made, tangental to his main argument, was the strong claim that offering BSc degrees at a liberal arts institution is simply wrong. He pointed out that the across the board split between Science and Arts is simply ridiculous, because the result is that all the lawyers, politicians, and business people wind up having no scientific background, while scientists have no ethical, moral, or humanities background. Science engenders fundamental changes in society and government, and vice versa.
I'm off to his second speech now. More later.
A plainclothes police officer beating a protestor. What an incredible, powerful photo. The original (850kb!) picture is here, along with the story behind the guy snapped it while getting beat up.
The World Bank is totally corrupt and utterly insane. Case in point: the Toxic Memo.
You try to brag? You get your rhymes from a grab-bag. [listening to LL Cool J, for some reason]
Rachel Whiteread's sculpture on Trafalgar Square is pretty darned cool.
Dialogues by Aristotle found?. That would be cool. (note: we don't currently have any of Aristotle's dialogues, only his manuscripts... or are they transcripts?). What annoys me about that article is the utterly stereotypical characterization of - especially Sappho. I don't know much, but I know Sappho wrote a lot more than lesbian erotic poems.
Want to look like an activist (or carry political literature) and travel to Canada? Sorry, you're not allowed.
Your chances of entry will also be increased if you travel alone, well dressed, possibly by train or bus (such as Greyhound). Destination other than Quebec City should be a priority, such as Montreal or Toronto.
It's a familiar story. Apparently free trade doesn't apply to people carrying literature of political dissent (pun intended).
I like Jorn's idea of an alternative to streaming video on the web, but when he first mentionned it on alt.hypertext, I had a little different idea of how it might work. Instead of having an article with one picture, and a link to a video clip (a la CNN, Reuters web sites), why not integrate the two, i.e. have higher resolution key frames from a video clip running down the right side of the text narrative. These "key frames" could either be a pseudo-animation (showing motion over 1 second), or they could be photos illustrating salient points in the article.
IIRC, Scott McCloud's Understanding Comics covers some different ways of illustrating sequential movement. The visual narrative could be a linear sequence, or a non-linear set of photos.
Also, I figure the photos should be slightly-larger-than-thumbnails, so they would have more clarity than a RealVideo clip (not too hard :>), but a higher-resolution version would always be a click away.
More on the Amazon Honor System:
The Amazon Honor System does not charge registration fees, set-up fees, or fixed participation fees. We do, however, charge transaction fees based on the amount of money you receive. The fee schedule is very simple. For each payment you receive, we will charge $0.15 plus 15% of the total transaction amount. The person making a payment is not charged any fees at all.15% is a lot, but I guess it's low enough to not be totally unreasonable. Makes me worry that thanks to the .com slump, real micropayments are a ways off. And that people trying to send each other small amounts of money will be exploited for a while yet. Amazon is obviously in a position to leverage their installed base in this way.
In the past few weeks or so, I've started to realize how uneducated I was about Mozilla. This article provides a few key facts/claims:
Because of this DOM, XML, and Cascading Style Sheet (CSS) support, programmers can now use the elements they need from Mozilla to build their own unique applications.
"Now," Collins said, "Mozilla is more cross-platform than Java."
I wonder how many people have criticized Mozilla in public, and know even less than I do. I'd venture that there are quite a few. Seems like the fact that information is so readily available and distributable on the net makes it hard for people to do research before declaring their opinions loudly. That, or there's so much misleading opinion out there that no one ever gets to the basic facts. Not that this is a new problem, just that it's less excusable now.