Posted by: quiscus | May 19, 2011

May 19, 2011

1.  “Alan Bock, RIP
Alan was the author of four books: Ecology Action Guide (1970), The Gospel Life of Hank Williams (1976), Ambush at Ruby Ridge (1995) and Waiting to Inhale: The Politics of Medical Marijuana (2000).

Alan  was a very personable guy: easygoing, he exuded an aura of benevolence and good will. He was such a nice guy that, back when we were just starting out, he agreed to write a column for us for no payment: he was the longest-running columnist second only to myself, with his first piece posted in 1999.

He worked at the Register for nearly 30 years, and his was a respected voice in the editorial department: a hardcore libertarian, he was nevertheless very far from a humorless ideologue concerned only with politics. As he wrote in his farewell column for the Register:

“There are plenty of things more important than politics: your family and friends and treating them right, the search for spiritual meaning in an often confusing and ambiguous world, art, music, science, simple enjoyment of the good things in life, struggling to make good choices rather than destructive ones, and supporting your children in their intellectual endeavors and at soccer and softball games. All these challenges, however, can be handled better – not necessarily easily, but better – in an atmosphere of personal liberty and freedom to make one’s own choices than in a repressive regime that makes choices for you and forces them on you.”

http://www.antiwar.com/blog/2011/05/18/alan-bock-rip/

2.  “Dressing like a Terrorist
One argument in particular keeps arising: the notion that Rahman and Zaghloul deserve what happened to them because they dressed like terrorists. The reasoning goes like this: Muslims commit terrorism; Muslims look a certain way; a certain look thus portends the possibility of terrorism. In short, those who appear to be Muslim are worthy of extra scrutiny because they are more likely to be terrorists than other people.

The belief that Muslims are more likely than others to commit terrorism, however, is a myth. Europol reports that in 2010, out of 249 acts of terrorist violence in Europe, only 3 were attributable to Muslim extremists. Then there is the issue of what constitutes “Muslim” dress. Since the 1.5 billion Muslims in the world live everywhere from Sao Paolo to Djakarta and Johannesburg to Tashkent, they do not exactly have a prescribed uniform. Then, some of what Americans think is “Muslim” fashion isn’t. Bigots bother the poor Sikhs all the time for wearing a turban and tunic. Even Rahman and Zaghloul wore different types of clothing on the day they were profiled.”
http://www.juancole.com/2011/05/salaita-dressing-like-a-terrorist.html

3.  “Escaping the Matrix
Are you ready for the red pill?


The defining dramatic moment in the film The Matrix occurs just after Morpheus invites Neo to choose between a red pill and a blue pill. The red pill promises “the truth, nothing more.” Neo takes the red pill and awakes to reality–something utterly different from anything Neo, or the audience, could have expected. What Neo had assumed to be reality turned out to be only a collective illusion, fabricated by the Matrix and fed to a population that is asleep, cocooned in grotesque embryonic pods. In Plato’s famous parable about the shadows on the walls of the cave, true reality is at least reflected in perceived reality. In the Matrix world, true reality and perceived reality exist on entirely different planes.

The story is intended as metaphor, and the parallels that drew my attention had to do with political reality. This article offers a particular perspective on what’s going on in the world–and how things got to be that way–in this era of globalization. From that red-pill perspective, everyday media-consensus reality–like the Matrix in the film–is seen to be a fabricated collective illusion. Like Neo, I didn’t know what I was looking for when my investigation began, but I knew that what I was being told didn’t make sense.

The management of discontented societies
The postwar years, especially in the United States, were characterized by consensus politics. Most people shared a common understanding of how society worked, and generally approved of how things were going. Prosperity was real and the matrix version of reality was reassuring. Most people believed in it. Those beliefs became a shared consensus, and the government could then carry out its plans as it intended, “responding” to the programmed public will.

The “excess democracy” of the 1960s and 1970s attacked this shared consensus from below, and neoliberal planners decided from above that ongoing consensus wasn’t worth paying for. They accepted that segments of society would persist in disbelieving various parts of the matrix. Activism and protest were to be expected. New means of social control would be needed to deal with activist movements and with growing discontent, as neoliberalism gradually tightened the economic screws. Such means of control were identified and have since been largely implemented, particularly in the United States. In many ways America sets the pace of globalization; innovations can often be observed there before they occur elsewhere. This is particularly true in the case of social-control techniques.

The most obvious means of social control, in a discontented society, is a strong, semi-militarized police force. Most of the periphery has been managed by such means for centuries. This was obvious to elite planners in the West, was adopted as policy, and has now been largely implemented. Urban and suburban ghettos–where the adverse consequences of neoliberalism are currently most concentrated–have literally become occupied territories, where police beatings and unjustified shootings are commonplace.

So that the beefed-up police force could maintain control in conditions of mass unrest, elite planners also realized that much of the Bill of Rights would need to be neutralized. (This is not surprising, given that the Bill’s authors had just lived through a revolution and were seeking to ensure that future generations would have the means to organize and overthrow any oppressive future government.) The rights-neutralization project has been largely implemented, as exemplified by armed midnight raids, outrageous search-and-seizure practices, overly broad conspiracy laws, wholesale invasion of privacy, massive incarceration, and the rise of prison slave labor (2) . The Rubicon has been crossed–the techniques of oppression long common in the empire’s periphery are being imported to the core.

In the matrix, the genre of the TV or movie police drama has served to create a reality in which “rights” are a joke, the accused are despicable sociopaths, and no criminal is ever brought to justice until some noble cop or prosecutor bends the rules a bit. Government officials bolster the construct by declaring “wars” on crime and drugs; the noble cops are fighting a war out there in the streets–and you can’t win a war without using your enemy’s dirty tricks. The CIA plays its role by managing the international drug trade and making sure that ghetto drug dealers are well supplied. In this way, the American public has been led to accept the means of its own suppression.

In the prosperous postwar years, consensus politics served to manage the population. Under neoliberalism, programmed factionalism has become the front-line defense–the matrix version of divide and rule.

The covert guiding of various social movements has proven to be one of the most effective means of programming factions and stirring them against one another. Fundamentalist religious movements have been particularly useful. They have been used not only within the US, but also to maximize divisiveness in the Middle East and for other purposes throughout the empire. The collective energy and dedication of “true believers” makes them a potent political weapon that movement leaders can readily aim where needed. In the US that weapon has been used to promote censorship on the Internet, to attack the women’s movement, to support repressive legislation, and generally to bolster the ranks of what is called in the matrix the “right wing.”
http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article28139.htm

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