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    I am playing catch up with the recent dust-up around the choice of tactics used by Antifa in the United States in it’s struggle against the proto-fascist elements energized by the current Republican Administration led by Trump.  There are several sources in this brief overview, first from a academic journal to help with the context of state violence, then a rough sketch of the position taken by Hedges and Chomsky, and finally the reply found in Counterpunch.  The last article from Counterpunch, is a retort to Chris Hedges, a voice on the credentialed left who has taken a stance against the violent tactics used by Antifa.

We’ll be visiting Hedges’ article (and criticism)on Truthdig in a later post, but for now, examining the question of violence and how it is used, and by who it is used by in society provides a stepping stone toward providing a more nuanced entry into this debate.  To better understand how (in just one way) the state uses violence to arrange society we turn to an article written by Carol Nagengast, in the Annual Review of Anthropology titled Violence, Terror, and The Crisis of the State (p. 24): 

“The state must be a state of mind that divides people into the purified and honest who do legitimate work and a politically suspect or criminal,
deviant underworld of aliens, communists, loafers, delinquents, even thieves, killers, and drug lords who do not. The violent dissident must be positioned
and repositioned as necessary, “in a negative relationship with middle-class rational masculinity, a model that ensures a relationship of dominance and
subordination … by locking the two into a mutually defaming relationship”

     (16:15,21). In the United States, the presumed idleness of the unemployed, the poverty-stricken, the drug user or gang member, the single parent, gay man or
lesbian woman (all the latter with overtones of promiscuity and contagious disease) is also seen as violence against the social body. It cannot be just any
old work; it must be work that contributes to what dominant groups have defined as the common good (153).

     The hegemony of respectable culture and good taste and the denigration of what is represented as the disgusting, degenerate, worthless, criminal lower
parts of the social body is so strong that, according to a poll conducted by the Washington Post and ABC News in September 1989, 66% of those surveyed
favored random searches of peoples’ houses, cars, and personal belongings, even if the police had no suspicion of any wrongdoing. Seventy-two percent
said they approved of censorship of any film depicting illegal drug use. People have been so inoculated with the fear of evil and with the myth of an essential
relationship of repression to the cure of society, that they are willing to give up some of their own rights for what has been defined as the good of the social
body

The questions the fascist/antifa situation embodies goes back to the genesis of why we have states in the first place and the techniques used (see the myth of the relationship between the use of repression to cure soceity) to maintain order in said States.  The use of fear to discipline society is nothing new, case in point, consider the the fear cultivated in the buildups to the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan.  The use/misuse of fear as a cultural motivator in Western society is being replayed yet again on the national (within the US) instead of international stage.   Looking toward answering the question of who gets to legitimately use violence in society with regards to the fascist/antifa question Noam Chomsky opines:

     “As for Antifa, it’s a minuscule fringe of the Left, just as its predecessors were,” Noam Chomsky told the Washington Examiner. “It’s a major gift to the Right, including the militant Right, who are exuberant.”  Many activists affiliated with the loosely organized Antifa movement consider themselves anarchists or socialists. They often wear black and take measures to conceal their identity.  Chomsky said, “what they do is often wrong in principle – like blocking talks – and [the movement] is generally self-destructive.”  “When confrontation shifts to the arena of violence, it’s the toughest and most brutal who win – and we know who that is,”

So, it would seem that Chomsky and Hedges, who cites this interview, believe that the antifa use of violence is not the correct course of action.  The counterpoint to their assertion comes in with

     “One crucial question in this regard is why the conversation about violence that is continually re-staged in the media overwhelmingly focuses on tactics of resistance by the underclasses. Among those who are vociferously proclaiming a pure form of “non-violence” as an unquestionable moral principle, who of them is arguing that this principle should be applied to the corporate state and all of its imperial endeavors? Alongside the countless statements reprimanding anti-capitalist activists for street scuffles, where are the articles calling for the dismantling of the military-industrial complex, the dissolution of the police force, or the abolition of the prison system? Why isn’t the debate around non-violence centered precisely on those who have all of the power and all of the weapons? Is it because violence has actually worked successfully in these cases to impose a very specific top-down agenda, which includes shutting out anyone who calls it into question, and diligently managing the perception of their actions? Is violence somehow acceptable here because it is the violence of the victors, who are the ones who presume to have the right—and in any case have the power—to define the very nature of violence (as anything that threatens them)?

     Clearly, the fetishization of non-violence is reserved for the actions of the underlings. They are the ones who, again and again, are told that they must be civil (and are never sufficiently so), and that the best way to attain their objectives is by obeying the moral dictates of those above. Let us recall, in this light, James Baldwin’s powerful statement in the context of the black liberation movement of the 1960s and 1970s: “The only time non-violence is admired is when the Negroes practice it.”

So, what is the answer here?  How effective will violent leftist action be, and will the backlash further empower state repression?   Will the backlash continue to inoculate the citizenry with fear of violent ‘leftist violence’ thus justifying an increase in state use of coercive and repressive force against the left even though the initiators of said violence (aka the proto-fascist/nationalist Right in the US) are ultimately responsible for the situation in question?

 

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   This excerpt from Paul Street’s essay, “Bob Kerrey, Fulbright University, and the Neoliberal Erasure of History.”

Mistakes Happen

“And besides, the conventional imperial American exceptionalist wisdom holds. mistakes happen. It’s true, dominant media and reputable intellectuals acknowledge, Uncle Sam and his innately gallant gendarmes occasionally make “mistakes” in their inherently noble (because American) zeal to improve an often nasty and unruly world. It’s a messy, imperfect planet on which the intrinsically benevolent, peace- and freedom-loving United States struggles selflessly to make its righteous mark. Slip-ups and oversteps occur. “Mistakes,” you know, like the so-called Vietnam War and its many My Lais and Thanh Phongs. “Mistakes” like the U.S. invasion of Mesopotamia, which led to the premature death of more than a millions Iraqis. Still, the reigning American thought-habit holds, U.S. intentions are always virtuous. The “blunders” take place in the context of an ugly and dangerous world where evil is rife – a world where the United States always strives mightily to stay morally upright while dealing with “bad guys” like “the Viet Cong” (the American military and media’s racist label for Vietnamese revolutionaries who fought for national independence and social justice). As Bill Clinton’s second Secretary of State Madeline Albright (the one who said that the death of more than half a million Iraqi children through U.S-led economic sanctions was “a price worth paying” for the advance of U.S. foreign policy goals) once explained, “The United States is good…We try to do our best everywhere.”

We must never forget how splendid we are, something that makes it essential for us to toss vast volumes of U.S. “foreign relations” (imperial) history down Orwell’s “memory hole.”

[Source:Counterpunch]

From Counterpunch:

 

“Jill Stein, the Green Party’s nominee for president, has been the sudden target of attacks from all corners of online media since the official end of Bernie Sanders’ campaign at the Democratic National Convention. Outlets like the Washington Post, New York Magazine and Gizmodo have assaulted Stein by using out-of-context quotes to assail her, wrongly, for being anti-vaccination and anti-WiFi, which is a code for being “anti-science.” This allows us a unique opportunity to confirm the structural role of the media as hypothesized by Noam Chomsky and Edward Herman in Manufacturing Consent: that the media is a propaganda arm for the elite and powerful, and is used to condition us to accept the bounds of socio-political discourse as set by the ruling class. It also shows us the desperate need we have for an alternative media culture to counteract mainstream discourse.

The attack on Stein (and not, conveniently, on Gary Johnson), is linked to the need by the elite to de-legitimize A.) critics of neoliberal policies and B.) potential alternatives to the political status-quo. Trump and Clinton have had and will have no discussion about thirty years of neoliberalism and austerity. Sanders gave a voice to those within the Democrats who were willing to question, but since his defeat momentum on the left has shifted to Stein and the Green Party. It is, granted, still early, but the outpouring of support means there is a possibility the left could begin to regroup outside the Democratic Party. Real success for Stein could mean a permanent presence on the national stage for the left, to which a president Clinton or Trump would have to answer and which would be able to build an entirely different ideological discourse in the United States.”

The treatment of Jill Stein should be an interesting application of the propaganda model.  What we’ve seen during the election cycle confirms much of what Herman and Chomsky hypothesized – issues that affect the public are not being discussed, there is an acceptable line of questions, answers, and responses that are allowed in the media – the rest are swept to the margins and actively ignored.

Is there any wonder left as to why the American people look so dimly on their Congressional representatives?  They are supposed to speak for the people, yet strangely enough, once elected other interests seem to take precedence.

You can read about the Propaganda Model of Herman and Chomsky here.

 

“A generation ago, a post-modern cult now known as “identity politics” stopped many intelligent, liberal-minded people examining the causes and individuals they supported — such as the fakery of Obama and Clinton;  such as bogus progressive movements like Syriza in Greece, which betrayed the people of that country and allied with their enemies.

Self absorption, a kind of “me-ism”, became the new zeitgeist in privileged western societies and signaled the demise of great collective movements against war, social injustice, inequality,  racism and sexism.”

-John Pilger.  A World War has Begun:Break the Silence

As far as concise descriptions of the state of the GOP in the US go, this is fairly accurate and sadly amusing all at the same time.

1st-rule-plutocracy“It is important to bear in mind that the Republicans have long abandoned the pretence of functioning as a normal parliamentary party. Rather, they have become a “radical insurgency” that scarcely seeks to participate in normal parliamentary politics, as observed by the respected conservative political commentator Norman Ornstein of the right-wing American Enterprise Institute.

    Since Ronald Reagan, the leadership has plunged so far into the pockets of the very rich and the corporate sector that they can attract votes only by mobilising sectors of the population that have not previously been an organised political force, among them extremist evangelical Christians, now probably the majority of Republican voters; remnants of the former slave-holding States; nativists who are terrified that “they” are taking our white Christian Anglo-Saxon country away from us; and others who turn the Republican primaries into spectacles remote from the mainstream of modern society—though not the mainstream of the most powerful country in world history.”

-Noam Chomsky, in discussion with Vijay Prasad on Counterpunch.

 

It would seem that the GOP has just said ‘fuck it’ and have laid bare their plutocratic intentions – yet people who are clearly not Plutocrats vote for them.  Consider the amount of propaganda required to dupe the poor into voting for the rich.

On a related note, the Canadian election is whirling along.  The people who are engaged in politics remain engaged, those who don’t care still don’t care – regardless of how long parties have to campaign.    A big thank you to the current conservative government for extending the election period for no other reason than their own political advantage.  :/

Murder, by the numbers.

 

“Matters were moving toward a climax. Reliant on bulletins from the Predator crew, the captain commanding the raiding party on the ground had interpreted the news that the convoy was now heading away from the Americans on the ground as confirmation not only that the enemy was “maneuvering” but that it contained an HVI (high-value individual), always a priority target for U.S. forces in this war. He gave the order to strike. The helicopters would take the first shot. The helicopter crews, who had come on the scene late, were simply informed that there had been positive identification of three weapons, at a minimum, along with twenty-one MAMs, and that they were “clear to engage.” No one had told them about adolescents, still less children. Two continents and an ocean away, the reaperdronePredator crew in Nevada made their own final preparations for action.

8:35 a.m.

Pilot: Alright, so the plan is, man, uh, we’re going to watch this thing go down and when they Winchester [run out of ammunition] we can play cleanup.

Sensor: Initial plan: without seeing how they break up, follow the largest group.

Pilot: Yeah, sounds good. When it all comes down, if everybody is running in their separate direction, I don’t care if you just follow one guy, you know like whatever you decide to do, I’m with you on it . . . as long as you keep somebody that we can shoot in the field of view I’m happy.

The crew was now making final preparations for the attack, arming the missile and going through the final checklist. The sensor operator reminded his intelligence colleague to focus on the business at hand.

8:45 a.m.

Sensor: Hey, MC.

Mission intelligence controller: Yes?

Sensor: Remember, Kill Chain!

MIC: Will do.

The first missile from the lead helicopter scored a direct hit on the pickup, instantly killing eleven passengers. The two following SUVs jerked to a halt, and the passengers began frantically to scramble out. The second missile hit the rearmost vehicle, but in the engine block, which absorbed enough of the blast to allow some of the passengers to escape. Four died immediately. The third missile missed the middle SUV, barely, with the blast blowing out the rear window as passengers bailed out. As a matter of routine, the attackers pursued these squirters, their word for people fleeing a strike, with 2.75” rockets, though all of these missed.

Then someone noticed something strange. The people who had escaped were not running.

8:52 a.m.

Sensor: That’s weird.

Pilot: Can’t tell what the fuck they’re doing.

Safety observer: Are they wearing burqas?

Sensor: That’s what it looks like.

Pilot: They were all PIDed as males. No females in the group.

Sensor: That guy looks like he’s wearing jewelry and stuff like a girl, but he ain’t . . . if he’s a girl, he’s a big one.

Despite the sensor operator’s hopeful theory, these were not Taliban in drag but women who had scrambled out and were waving their brightly colored scarves at the circling helicopters, which eventually ceased fire. Twenty-three people had been killed, including two boys, Daoud, three years old, and Murtaza, four. Eight men, one woman, and three children aged between five and fourteen were wounded, many of them severely.

9:10 a.m.

Mission intelligence coordinator: Screener said there weren’t any women earlier.

Sensor: What are those? They were in the middle vehicle.

Mission intelligence coordinator: Women and children.

The conversation in the Nevada trailer was losing its previously jaunty tone, as MAMs became mothers, and adolescents turned back into children.

9:15 a.m.

Pilot: It looks like, uh, one of those in the, uh, bright garb may be carrying a child as well.

Sensor: Younger than an adolescent to me.

Safety observer: Well . . .

Safety observer: No way to tell, man.

Sensor: No way to tell from here.

Soon afterward the Predator turned and flew away ahead of bad weather that was moving in from the west.

Even as the wreckage burned and shell-shocked survivors stumbled about, news was beginning to spread. Local villagers were soon on the scene, and within an hour Taliban radios were broadcasting word that “forty to fifty civilians” had been killed by an American air strike. By early afternoon, the reports had reached the Palace, the crenellated nineteenth-century fortress in the middle of Kabul that housed President Hamid Karzai. Meanwhile, U.S. military communications were proving rather less efficient.

The sudden, silent, flash of the first missile that incinerated the pickup and passengers on their screens caught most of the spectators in Afghanistan and the United States entirely by surprise. The intricate network of observation, control, and communication linking the myriad headquarters and intelligence centers stretching between Nevada and Kabul had somehow failed to alert participants—other than the crews actually pulling or preparing to pull the triggers—that events had reached their natural conclusion, and people were about to die. Then, even when it was almost immediately clear that things had not gone according to plan, the news moved at glacial speed through the U.S. command system. Messages rumbled back and forth between different headquarters regarding BOG (boots on the ground), meaning sending someone to have a close-up look at the scene for BDA (battle damage assessment).

Eventually helicopters were sent to bring the raiding party itself to the site where the dead bodies, or at least those that were intact, had been laid out by villagers who had flocked to the scene. The captain, according to a brother officer, was in a state of panic, searching fruitlessly for a weapon, anything, that would justify this as a legitimate target. “He wasn’t finding anything. I think it overwhelmed him.” Special Operations Task Force headquarters meanwhile told him “not to second-guess yourself; we’ll figure it out later.”

The captain was not the only officer to panic. Despite the services of a multibillion-dollar system of intelligence and communication, it took twelve hours for news that the U.S. had killed twenty-three civilians to make its way up the chain. Despite confirmation from the helicopter crews, the Predator team, and the troops that arrived on the scene, successive layers of Special Operations commanders refused to report CIVCAS (civilian casualties). Bizarrely, the technology was less efficient than the Taliban’s. With the inflated volume of traffic, emails were taking four and a half hours to move through the classified system from Kandahar to Kabul.

Only when surgeons at a Dutch military hospital talked to their U.S. counterparts about the wounded civilians that had just been admitted was the truth officially disclosed, but by that time, anyone in Afghanistan with a radio already knew. At the time, Stanley McChrystal, the U.S. and allied commander, was laboring to garner support among Afghans by restricting airstrikes in an effort to reduce civilian casualties. He was not pleased to hear the belated reports from Uruzgan, and raced over to President Karzai’s palace to tender his apologies. “I express my deepest, heartfelt condolences to the victims and their families. We all share in their grief,” he declared on Afghan television two days later. “I have made it clear to our forces that we are here to protect the Afghan people. I pledge to strengthen our efforts to regain your trust to build a brighter future for all Afghans.”     

Families of the dead ultimately received $5,000 each, plus one goat.”

[Source:Counterpunch]

Fascinating article by Thomas Barker- here is the conclusion.  Find the rest on Counterpunch.

[…]

Conclusions

As with so much of the racial tension in the United States, the origins of the present situation can be traced back to slavery. In his ground-breaking work on the American slave system, the historian John Blassingame has suggested that black passivity in the antebellum South existed primarily in the minds of whites—on the one hand, to justify white paternalism, and, on the other, to dispel the fear that they felt toward slaves: ‘Like a man whistling in the dark to bolster his courage, the white man had to portray the slave as [passive].’ Although, of course, much has changed since the transatlantic slave trade, there is no reason to suspect this ideology has been altogether vanquished. The underlying cause, it seems, is still fear – a fear which drives liberals to identify black victimhood only with the passive. However, fear does not only manifest itself as whistling in the dark, or in the lies told to maintain high spirits, but also in the clenched fist – poised, ready to defend. The liberal media’s bitter condemnation of black radicals as mindless killers is the expressive form of this anger, of this perceived insurgent threat. And so they should feel threatened – they have no stake in eliminating racial oppression. It is, simply put, not in their class-interest.

Though, of course, the Eric Garners and the Trayvon Martins of history are deserving of immense respect, and their murderers bitter condemnation, we must not be fooled into canonizing only those who the liberal media consider to be true victims. In the fight against racism in the US, it is frequently those who fight the hardest, who in every respect give their lives to the struggle, that are excluded from the liturgy of black victims. Indeed, such individuals are frequently portrayed as the opposite, as perpetrators of unjust violence. The ideology of black victimhood which predominates in the liberal media would have us believe that only the helpless can be victims – on the contrary, I argue that those who use violent methods in the struggle against racist oppression are victims nevertheless, and worthy of remembrance. To be sure, it is only through an appreciation of such individuals that a legitimate strategy for racial equality will emerge.

Remember Garner, yes. But also remember Little Bobby Hutton, Fred Hampton, and Malcolm X.

 

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