A great video that dissects the boogeyman that seems to have taken on a life of its own within the ‘intellectual dark web’ or what most sane people would label the reactionary circle jerk, echo chamber and hug box all rolled into one. What is amazing is how the mainstream media actually treat the likes of Jordan Peterson, Stafan Molyneux and Faith Goldy as people worthy of being treated as though they were serious thinkers worth of a public platform and any legitimacy that is extended by virtue of given a public platform.
One more day to go – something I need to remember that if I am going to do overtime that I need to get to sleep earlier so then I’m able to fully recover for the next day. Last night I didn’t get to seep until around 3am and I had to get up at 10am to get to work by 11am – an extra hour of sleep would have really helped. That being said, I’m putting my name in for more hours – taking my iron pill each morning so that I keep up my immune system going into winter as to avoid getting sick like last year.
In the lead up to Anzac Day I think it is important to realise that what happened at Gallipoli serve as a reminder to future generations not to get sucked into being the cannon fodder for imperial powers playing out their family feuds with the blood and treasure of the working class all whilst ginning up their population on the hatred of the other. Three arrows does a great video about this very issue:
As cliche as it sounds – “The first casualty when war comes is truth” (attributed to Senator Hiram Johnson in 1917). Yes, it is a time to morn the dead but out of that morning should be a reminder to the future generations not to make the same mistakes. It is today unfortunately that once again we have the powers that be bending over backwards sucking up to the United States especially when one considers the American public completely clueless as to the impact of their voting decisions by deciding to vote in Donald Trump. While all this is happening we are have the usual foreign affairs experts and defence analysts in New Zealand believing that our lot still resides with a country who can’t accept that their century of dominance is coming to an end – no matter how many of the US based experts keep going on Bloomberg or CNBC to claim that the Chinese economy is about to spontaneously combust at any moment.
I’m watching at the moment the documentary called ‘The True Cost’ which investigates the environmental and social impact of the fashion industry. It is important to recognise the difference between what one could be called the traditional fashion industry vs. what has become known today as ‘fast fashion’. It is amazing when I hear people, even the political party I am a member of, keep convincing themselves that what we need is a ‘kinder, gentler capitalism’ instead of what we actually need to do – get rid of capitalism entirely. Just as you cannot live with ‘just a little bit of cancer’ you cannot live with a ‘little bit of capitalism’ because like a cancer it’ll eventually spread even with the best of intentions of trying to contain it.
The best example of that was the period from the end of WWII and the late 1970s where there was a consensus built around the idea of social democracy – to ensure that the gap between those at the top and those at the bottom didn’t widen to the extant as seen during the gilded age, that there were high taxes on high income earners and so on. Well, what happened? Like a cancer, the moment that those who had the money and power saw a weakness they started funding think tanks and academics (so-called ‘academics’ that were considered cranks by the mainstream economists but only kept their jobs because the rich and powerful kept propping up said fatalities etc due to large donations to said universities) but thanks to the rise of Reagan and Thatcher which came as a result of the stagnation of the 1970s (along with the lack of a serious critique and solution by the left) there was an opening provided to the right wing to re-emerge on the scene after a long period of dormancy. Here we are almost 40 years later and now dealing with the consequences in much the same way that the silent generation built the modern welfare state in response to what they saw and didn’t want their own off spring having to deal with.
In the wake of the Christchurch terrorist attack there has been a lot of soul searching but the one that has come to the forefront are things said by politicians (past, present and those who wish to enter politics) along with those in the media and how those ‘hot takes’ contributed, each it its own way, to moving the Overton window further to the right thus making what would have otherwise been unacceptable modes of discourse to suddenly enter into the mainstream. I am not saying that a single person caused it but rather it was a culmination of many different people over many years that fed into the monster. I’m going to put some observations out there and I’ll let you take from it what you like:
- I’ve had a look back at my time back when I had a YouTube channel and was involved in politics and I was always shocked even back then when politicians would stoke the flames of prejudice for political points scoring. Did I have some hot takes myself? off the cuff remarks? sure but they were never like what the likes of Winston Peters, Don Brash or recently a tweet regarding post by Stephen Berry (ACT Party candidate) from 2013. What was the most shocking thing I said? “marriage should be privatised” to which I was asked by a reporter “wouldn’t that allow polygamy?” and my response was a flippant “a girl and two guys, a guy and two girls – its all good”. Cringe worthy? sure, but hardly in the same ballpark of Don Brash and his “Kiwi/Iwi” campaign.
- It is possible to be critical of something without descending into hatred, racism and bigotry but to avoid that descent you actually have to know what the hell you’re talking about. Nothing irritates me more than reading a newspaper where the journalist is completely clueless about the subject that they’re reporting on – great, you have a journalism degree but that means diddly-squat in the grand scheme of things if you can’t even be bothered educating yourself about the difference between a niqqab, burkha, chador and a hijab. It is abundantly clear that there are far too many journalists who are grossly unqualified for the subjects they’re covering resulting in masses of misinformation being propagated with the newspapers themselves of little interest regarding accuracy. Then the situation is compounded by the fact that these media outlets are more concerned, when hiring, whether the person they’re interviewing has a ‘journalism degree’ rather than whether they’re qualified to cover a given subject. Friendly tip to the editor of the major newspapers in New Zealand – you don’t need a journalism degree to do something that any person with a humanities degree can do given that understanding primary and secondary sources, cross examining credibility and context etc. are part and parcel with getting a humanities degree – mine is in Religious Studies and Philosophy.
- People change and evolve – what they might have said 10 years ago might not represent them today and I am reminded of that when I was watching this video (at the bottom of this article) of a gentleman who went from being a neo-nazi to someone that fights neo-nazis. That maybe at the extreme end of the spectrum but the point is that people can change but whether you give them a second chance isn’t about what they claim now but what their actions actually are. Take Tucker Carlson for example, who has been raked over the coals for his racist and xenophobic views. Tucker Carlson is the prime example of what happens when you ignore the festering sore that is racism and xenophobia by writing off some like that as someone with ‘spicy hot takes’ when in reality he was making it pretty damn clear even in the early years what his views actually were. In other words it is all very well to say that what happened in the past is no longer you today but what have you done to distance yourself from that past?
- The social media companies need to do a better job at policing their platform and it wouldn’t require much effort. Take the second video from CBSN – a casual look through the comment section then combine that with all the people who downvoted the video – you’ve easily got 2000 people just then you can ban from the whole Google platform and then share those details with Facebook who can see whether any the of the details (email, IP address etc) match up with users on their platform. How long would it take? around 30 minutes worth of work.
- If you have a platform – look and learn about the type of people who are quoting what you write and who is reading your articles based on the feedback they provide either directly (assuming you publish on a website that has a comment section) or indirectly such as your article being shared on one of the big websites like Reddit. If you’re getting undesirable characters giving you ‘mad props’ for what you’re saying then maybe it is time you reflect on what you’re writing and whether those are the sort of people who you want your work to be associated with. If your intention isn’t to attract those sorts of people then have a good hard look at what you’re writing and how they’re interpreting it – if you’re using ambiguous language then the net result will always be an audience willing to inject their interpretation rather than allow you, the writer, to speak for yourself. Yes, and if it means you have to clarify what you mean when you use certain terms then expand and keep doing so ensure that no ambiguity is there – that it doesn’t require the user to know your repertoire of writing to understand what you mean as the user will only understand what you meant to say based on what you mention specifically in that article.
*sigh* don’t play dumb. It is an anti-immigrantion tweet especially when one understands it in the context of Senator John Cornyn’s support for a border wall – even though he tries to play both sides of the fence by giving the token appearance of not fully supporting Donald Trump’s wall building ambitions. Why do I think it is about immigration? Anyone who knows anything about Mussolini will know that he was talking about the dream to unify Italy through a common culture that binds the nation which is where the ‘we were the first to assert that more complicated the forms assumed by civilisation’ in which he viewed Italy as the heir to the Roman Empire (he had long standing dreams of ‘restoring the Roman Empire’ aka ‘Italian Civilisation’) but for that to happen you need to understand his position regarding race and culture:
Race? It is a feeling, not a reality. Ninety-five per cent, at least. Nothing will ever make me believe that biologically pure races can be shown to exist today.… National pride has no need of the delirium of race.
So it is important to understand that it was being said in context to his ‘restoring the Roman Empire’ meaning the creation of an empire where the subjects that empire were ‘Italianised’ so you ended up having a multi-racial but single culture (keep in mind that he held retrograde views regarding race but his views earlier on in his tenure as leader of the National Fascist Party were quite different to the views that Hitler and the Germany NAZI Party held) that binds together an empire. How does that fit into the immigration debate? Because the US is riddled with the constant dog whistle concern about ‘immigrants that don’t share Judeo-Christian values’ (see Fox News for that common talking point regarding the ‘culture wars’ that they keep alive by throwing the occasional Molotov cocktail into so it keeps it alive) so someone Senator John Cornyn jumps in and see’s it as an opportunity to linking being anti-immigrant to being pro-individual freedom by claiming that if the United Staes becomes more diverse (‘more complicated form of civilisation’ to paraphrase Mussolini) the greater the tyranny required to hold the country together as a result. So in Senator John Cornyn’s around about way he is saying, “if we want to preserve freedom we need to restrict immigration to ensure that we don’t become too diverse and thus require a tyranny”. This then feeds into the second big conspiracy theory that Republicans perpetuate and that is the accusation that Democrats like immigrantion because it means it allows them to expand the power of federal governments power to ‘hold the country together’ (along with that other chest nut that ‘new immigrants will be a locked in voting base for the Democrats’).
By the way, the linking of fascistic thought to freedom is nothing new, Mussolini linked the idea of having a single unified culture that bound a nation together to the ‘freedom of the individual’ just as Oswald Mosley made the same claim that the he would create a ‘new democracy’ a ‘real democracy’ but we all know what they really mean when fascists use such terms – devoid of specifics so as to allow the average person to interpret it six ways to Sunday resulting in no one really understanding what the true interpretation was unless one was in the inner circle aka ‘the vanguard’.
Long story short, Senator John Cornyn’s quotation of Mussolini is nothing more than a dog whistle – those who know what Mussolini meant and those too clueless will treat it like a magic 8 ball where they view what ever they want to see it it. As for his latest defence:
Either Senator John Cornyn is completely ignorant of history (therefore he shouldn’t be a senator in the first place) or he knows exactly what was put out for ‘those in the know’ but he is trying to muddy the water with some plausible deniability – “oh yeah, that sounds like a good explanation, I’ll run with that” seems to be the decision he made regarding in the above tweet.
With the self appointment Juan Guaidó in Venezuela the interesting part of this whole turn of events is how there was a plan of regime change that pre-dates Trump – that the ‘deep state’ (a term that some on the left and the right like to use – a term I try avoid because it undermines ones credibility given the air of ‘conspiracy theorist’ that comes with it) has an agenda already and the most can do is nudge it a particular direction but has very limited scope on changing the over all policy. For example, Elliott Abrams (yes, the same person involved in Iran-Contra) was rumoured to have been rejected for an undersecretary position by Trump has come back as the COO of regime change (link).
Remember the Trump promise of no more regime change? No more foreign wars? No more nation building? I think about this in the light of Obama where his slogan was ‘no more stupid wars’ and ‘no more nation building’ and what happened? The United States went from 2 wars to 7 wars, then there was the Arab spring and given what is known about the Venezuelan opposition the obvious question is how organic were those protests in Syria for example or was it the dirty tricks department within the government doing some off the books shit stirring to necessitate the actual government to officially do something or say something what is happening in said countries.
What is also interesting is the degree in which Jair Bolsonaro was supported by outside actors particularly when you consider that the United States support far right paramilitary groups within Ukraine that carry paintings of Stepan Bandera at their rallies – branding him as a ‘nationalist patriot’ when in reality he was a NAZI collaborator. The media of course branding all these rallies as ‘Ukrainians yearning for their freedom from the yoke of Russian oppression’ whilst spending zero time investigating the man in the painting that any given participant was carrying at the front of the rally.
Anyone starting to see a pattern here? Supporting the far right – be they the far right fascist organisations I Ukraine, Brazil, Venezuela etc. or militant Islamic fundamentalist groups that the United States supported in Syria whilst the mainstream media labelled these vile groups as ‘freedom fighters’. When it comes to the heavy lifting about researching into the background of these groups it is left up to the alternative media, primarily left wing, to do the necessary heaving lifting to find out what these so-called ‘freedom fighting’ groups are actually about – we quickly find that they do a lot of fighting but they do very little in the way of advocating for freedom other than the freedom for multinationals to screw over the bottom half of the population. It goes back to the troubling practice of supporting groups that happen to be the enemy of Americas enemy (aka the enemy of my enemy is a friend of mine) whilst ignoring the blow back that can occur Here is a great book on that very topic (link) where the author outlines that this strategy is hardly new and yet it appears that nothing is learned – either that or that the powers that be in the United States don’t care about the blow back.
I was watching a video from Vanity Fair (link) and it was a great interview with ex-Republicans but I was disappointed that there was very little time spent on the historical roots of how the Republican Party ended up where it is. Sure, they touched on it but it never really went into any depth – it is like when the media talk about how civility has disappeared in politics but they ignore the Willie Horton ads during the 1980s, the conspiracy theories regarding the Clintons and Vince Foster, the rumours spread by the GWB campaign regarding McCain and an illegitimate child by asking a question that instilled distrust of McCain in the minds of primary voters, then there is the Cadillac welfare queen to which there was no evidence, then there was the work that Lee Atwater talked about in this video (link) and then there is the war on drugs by Nixon which was a way to undermine the anti-war hippies and the black liberation movement like the Black Panthers as noted in this article (link)
Americans have been criminalizing psychoactive substances since San Francisco’s anti-opium law of 1875, but it was Ehrlichman’s boss, Richard Nixon, who declared the first “War on Drugs” in 1971 and set the country on the wildly punitive and counterproductive path it still pursues. I’d tracked Ehrlichman, who had been Nixon’s domestic-policy adviser, to an engineering firm in Atlanta, where he was working on minority recruitment. At the time, I was writing a book about the politics of drug prohibition. I started to ask Ehrlich man a series of earnest, wonky questions that he impatiently waved away.
“You want to know what this was really all about?” he asked with the bluntness of a man who, after public disgrace and a stretch in federal prison, had little left to protect. “The Nixon campaign in 1968, and the Nixon White House after that, had two enemies: the antiwar left and black people. You understand what I’m saying? We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or blacks, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities. We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did.”
Nixon’s invention of the War on Drugs as a political tool was cynical, but every president since — Democrat and Republican alike — has found it equally useful for one reason or another. Meanwhile, the growing cost of the Drug War is now impossible to ignore: billions of dollars wasted, bloodshed in Latin America and on the streets of our own cities, and millions of lives destroyed by draconian punishment that doesn’t end at the prison gate; one of every eight black men has been disenfranchised because of a felony conviction.
So this whole hysteria about the lack of civility is a fig leaf for what the establishment are really pissed off about – not the policies that Trump is doing because they’re quite happy with that as demonstrated by corporations happy to wave the ‘we’re socially aware and inclusive’ then turning around as Tim Cook did and turn up to a Republican fund raiser after 40 years of running on a platform of being anti-LGBT rights not to mention anti-women legislation around reproductive rights. So the complaints but the biggest so-called ‘anti-trumpers’ has nothing to do with the policies but the presentation – if it were a Mitt Romney or a John McCain then the establishment would be happy because there would be a velvet glover over the iron fist – the sweet chaser to go down after the bitter and unpopular medicine that those in the top 1% want passed for their own benefit.
Getting back to the right wing drift – this has been occurring for over 80 years right back to when the modern welfare state (at least in a pretty weak form when compared to other anglophone countries not to mention continental Europe) that was set up by the Franklin D. Roosevelt administration. Ever since the establishment of the modern welfare state in the United States the Republican Party could never accept it in the same way that centre right parties around the world accepted that it is now the reality – that the debate was around the edges on how things could be done better rather than getting rid of such policies in their entirety. The anti-FDR didn’t really start to heat up until the late 1960s with the move of the Dixiecrats from Democrats to Republicans with the dog whistle politics of the southern strategy then add the unholy alliance with the religious right and then there was the ‘Reagan revolution’ that did ZERO during the 1980s as HIV/AIDS rampaged through the LGBT community all whilst white middle America looks back fondly on the very president who allowed a manageable situation to spiral out of control. Then there was the Willie Horton ad – an ad that would never have gain steam if it weren’t for the mainstream media outlets playing it over again over again (Barbra Streisandeffect anyone?) then the super predators by the Clintons to one up the Republicans, then there ‘end of welfare as we know it’ which the unholy alliance between the Republicans and Bill Clinton – all during this time the Republicans moved further to the right and the Democrats followed them.
So this drift to the right and the drift to the extremes isn’t some sort of new creation thanks to Trump but rather Trump threw away the dog whistle and replaced it with a vuvuzela, gone are the code words, the ‘wink, wink, nudge, nudge’ and now it is just up front with it. Where as in the past the Republicans were able to BS around the edge and give themselves plausible deniability in polite company, in the case of Donald Trump there is no filter – what you hear is what he believes and when given the opportunity to walk it back he then doubles down on what he said and says some more. Trump is the Republican Party when what is talked about close doors at fancy dinner parties is bought out into the open and the pretence of politeness is removed. When you hear the mainstream media treat Trump as an aberration what they’re really saying is, “don’t focus on the policy, don’t focus on how Trump’s economic policies are no different than the corporate Democratic side…get angry at how he uses mean words and doesn’t say nice things”. Case in point; Nanacy Pelosi ‘pay-go’ promise (link) which will necessitate one of two choices; reversing the Bush and Trump tax cuts or institute heavy cuts to balance the budget which will put the US into a recession. It appears that where the Republicans go the Democrats are sure to follow under the guise of being ‘moderate’ and ‘bipartisan’ even if the end results are horrific and anything but moderate.
I have to admit that I too had a damn good laugh at what happened to Alex Jones not because I agree with what happened but rather because of the wailing and gnashing of teeth that unfolded afterwards where Alex Jones insisted that his rights were being violated. Now, I have have some issues with what took place but I laughed primarily because the same ones who complained about Alex Jones so-called rights being taken away were the same ones who claimed that a private business had the right to refuse service for what ever reason when it came to the gay couple wanting to have a wedding cake baked. You can’t have it both ways – claiming to say that private businesses have the right to discriminate and do what they want yet when you’re on the receiving end of a business decision that you suddenly turn around and say, “well, I’m going to carve out an exemption here, here and here because I was negatively impacted so therefore I’m exempted to the philosophical stance I declared before”.
That all being said I’m going to do some numbered observations in no particular order other than it allows me to keep track of what I want to say without it turning into a spaghetti mess:
1) YouTube, Twitter, FaceBook/Instagram constitute what one could classify as a natural monopoly – a monopoly by itself is marketing dominance but there is always a change that a competitor can emerge assuming where as a natural monopoly has barriers to entry that are necessarily the result of the action by the dominant player but because of high barriers to entry because of high start up costs, long periods of losing money before one creates the economy of scale before even the remotest possibility of profitability even appears to be possible. That doesn’t even touch on the inertia associated with getting people to not only look at your platform but to also entice content producers to target your platform such as offering a greater share of advertising revenue. Earlier on it may have been easier on the early days before YouTube gained traction but these days unless you’re aiming for a niche such as Vimeo being for independent films along with Vimeo charging for additional services, storage space, live streaming facilities and other services that YouTube doesn’t offer.
2) Because of that natural monopoly one could compare YouTube (and others) to something akin to say a transmission network which in the case of New Zealand it is Kordia which runs the television transmission network and thus might need to come under some regulation due to its dominance and the natural monopoly like position that it has in the market. Justice Kennedy for example in the case of Packingham vs. North Carolina where he compared Facebook (and by extension social media such as Twitter, YouTube etc) as the public square – where people come to meet and organise in much the same way that 100 years people would meet and form political parties or organise a protest or hold meetings to share ideas.
3) There as been anger focused at YouTube/Google for demonetisation of videos that touch on sensitive subjects but one has to remember that this started originally by those on the crazy left (or as Martyn Bradbury calls them ‘the woke left’) and the crazy right where both sides threatened to boycott companies that advertise on videos that said groups of people find objectionable with the crazy left getting a lot more traction than the far right but the effect has been YouTube just going, “fuck it, I don’t want to have to deal with this shit” and thus putting their algorithm on paranoia level 11 so even the most innocuous videos discussion a sensitive matter is instantly demonetised. The effect has been that it has reduced revenue streams for independent media which has necessitated the rise in the number of outlets now pushing for people to make Patreon contributions just to keep their head above water.
So in a fit of self righteous indignation the extremes have not only hurt the other side they’ve also hurt themselves in the process. The same situation is happening now with some left wing outs crowing and gloating about Alex Jones being kicked off but now it has kicked off a round where left wing groups and activists are also being kicked off as well with claims that they’re ‘bots’ even though such people have been interviewed and said, “yes, this is actually a legitimate group and we actually do have legitimate members”. Jimmy Dore noted this recently on his show:
4) If there are going to be rules then there should be a consistent application of the rules rather than ignoring a problem then only acting when there a spotlight put on is there a knee jerk reaction by said organisations to make it appear as though they actually give a toss. I’ve reported so many scam pages and phishing pages along with spammers on Facebook yet they do nothing – months later (when I used to have a account) those accounts would continue existing, those pages still operating their scams and Facebook doing nothing. If Facebook were serious they could deal with it tomorrow but they don’t in much the same way that Twitter could deal with it but they don’t.
5) There was much opining by some about how algorithms create echo chambers because on what you watch or read on the various platforms by suggesting you more and more content along that line fo thinking thus is speculated by some that it cements extremist views in some peoples minds. If they want to provide Alex Jones with a platform but not elevate him then there is simple solution – STOP CURATING CONTENT. If you stop curating content and users were forced to look for what they wanted then it would slow down the propagation of conspiracy theorist nutcases. For someone like me, if I am interesting in something I will go and find it, I don’t want these platforms second guessing what I want.
6) The situation with the Apple iTunes Podcast is slightly different in that the iTunes Podcast system is merely an aggregation service where the hosting is done by a third party, you open up an account with Apple iTunes then point your podcasting account on Apple to where your podcasts are hosted through the use of RSS feeds. Long story short it is akin to an advertisement platform saying, “no, we won’t advertise your content” so it is slightly different to the situation with Facebook/Instagram, Twitter and YouTube.