Michael Parenti: Reflection on The Overthrow of Communism

Since putting work into this blog laboriously explaining pseudo-dissidence mostly makes me manna for trolls, intellectual parasites and plagiarists, I am free of all temptation to weigh in at length on Chelsea Manning’s rebirth as a 14-year-old fashion icon and anti-communist.

However, her recent stunt recapitulating the Cold War “truism” that Nazi Germany = The DDR = The Soviet Union requires an answer, especially given that this disgusting false equivalence is becoming increasingly popular in the Radicals for Rubes set.  Only a few weeks ago, that other avatar of proxy rebellion for credulous boobs, Ed Snowden, was saying pretty much the same thing.  Elsewhere there is much comparing of Confederate statue toppling to Lenin statue toppling in Ukraine.

There is absolutely no question that Manning and Snowden and those who would liken Lenin to Robert Lee are the most misleading kind of propagandist, regardless of how they see themselves. Therefore, the question of their motives for espousing this garbage is a far less pressing matter, I think, than that they and others are foisting it on impressionable nitwits in thrall to their celebrity and dissident cred.  With that in mind, I’m offering as disinfectant this excellent talk from Michael Parenti, which places the failings of communism in historical perspective.

Posted in Uncategorized | 17 Comments

Better Than Nothing: California @ACLU Chapters Break Ranks With Chickenshit Ass-Covering Statement

Since the ruling class will always periodically need paramilitary style fascist groupings, it surely won’t permit Charlottesville to be the death knell of First Amendment Absolutism, which is its main instrument for legitimizing fascism as a discourse and facilitating fascist organizing.

Hence, the national chapter of the ACLU has shamelessly dug in its heels, with this disgusting statement from Executive Director Anthony Romero, which recapitulates the childish bromides of Magic Paper Theory,  enumerates all the fine work the ACLU does for people who don’t wish to exterminate an entire race, and then callously and ridiculously insists that his organization’s Virginia chapter “made the right call” when it insisted Charlottesville make antifa counter-protesters conveniently available for murder by automobile.

Of course, as an alum of the Ford and Rockefeller Foundations, running errands for capital and its covert operations is precisely how Romero earns the big bucks. Shame clearly isn’t in his repertoire, as his infamous call to “Pardon Bush and Those Who Tortured” illustrates.

Things are more complicated for local chapter executives who likely earn a fraction of what Romero does, don’t have his CIA pass-through grooming, and will bear more culpability when things go wrong. Surely every ACLU chapter head is wondering if they’ll be the next one tasked by nazis to facilitate a crime. So let the ass-covering begin.

Yesterday, the executive directors of California’s three ACLU chapters issued the following statement:

There are troubling events planned in our state in the coming weeks. This is an incredibly painful and difficult time for millions of Californians.  For those who are wondering where we stand – the ACLU of California fully supports the freedom of speech and expression, as well as the freedom to peacefully assemble. We review each request for help on a case-by-case basis, but take the clear position that the First Amendment does not protect people who incite or engage in violence. If white supremacists march into our towns armed to the teeth and with the intent to harm people, they are not engaging in activity protected by the United States Constitution. The First Amendment should never be used as a shield or sword to justify violence.

The most obvious problem with this statement is the implicit distinction it makes between white supremacists and white supremacists who “incite or engage in violence.” Of course, a white supremacy rally is nothing but incitement to violence, given that there’s no peaceful way to dominate an entire race, and history shows that these groups do not limit themselves to theory.  It is this ludicrous distinction that is at the heart of objections to First Amendment Absolutism, much as the free speech assholes want to make it about intolerance toward bad opinions.

One can only guess how the California chapters will separate nazi wheat from nazi chaff under their new policy. Will they make prospective clients pinkie swear to no weapons before they secure their right to express racial hatred in dangerously confined public spaces? Will they make them forswear cars, since these are clearly weapons also?  Or will they err on the side of caution, and, based on Charlottesville, fail prospective clients on the imminence test outright?

Whatever the case, any exposure of how deeply stupid and dishonest is the ACLU’s quaint notion of “peaceful” white supremacy is to the good, even when its unwitting.

Posted in Uncategorized | 27 Comments

Boycott the @ACLU

Screenshot 2017-08-15 at 10.08.26 PM

As the resignation of an ACLU Virginia board member attests, the horrific violence in Charlottesville has provoked long-overdue tactical thinking on defending the First Amendment rights of people who want to kill you.

Charlottesville put the ACLU in the hot seat because its Virginia chapter took Unite The Right’s side in a permit dispute with the city. The city said it would only issue a permit for McIntire Park, a large green space at some distance from the town center, citing safety concerns. The Virginia chapter of the ACLU, along with the libertarian Rutherford Institute, insisted this was a violation of the participants’ First Amendment rights. A federal judge agreed and ordered the city to issue a permit for Emancipation Park, a comparatively small town square surrounded on all sides by busy streets.

There is, of course,  no question now that the city’s safety concerns were fully warranted, as the location of the gathering in a crowded, downtown area is inseparable from both the presence and lethality of the car a white supremacist used to kill one counter-protester and injure many others. We can’t know how things would have panned out in McIntire Park, especially since we can’t know for sure whether or not Unite the Right would have obeyed the city’s order to congregate there.  However, Unite The Right’s organizers clearly felt that getting the permit for the smaller park was in their interest which means, as any dumbass could certainly infer, it’s probably not in anyone’s else’s. That state GOP lawmakers have been pushing bills to shield drivers that hit protesters makes the point especially clear.

But no! It is in our interest! Slippery slopes! Precedent! Brandenberg! We’ve heard the drill so many times and in case we hadn’t, lifelong fascist groupie Glenn Greenwald was on hand at The Intercept to fill us in.  Naturally, Greenwald didn’t depart from the usual schtick of eliding concrete, qualitative differences between white supremacy and actual discourse, maligning the ACLU’s critics as authoritarians and hypocrites, and insisting without a shred of hard evidence that a First Amendment victory for a nazi that will smash you with a car is a victory for us all.

I’ll fight the temptation to digress at length on why Greenwald is such a fitting defender of the ACLU during this blood-soaked moment. Greenwald’s interesting career — particularly his five-year stint as legal counsel to racist shooting spree inciter Matthew Hale — beautifully illustrates just how fine the line between First Amendment absolutist and actual fucking fascist really is. But I’ll confine myself to the present moment, and say that in the best of times, absolutist doctrine like what Greenwald routinely excretes is ahistoric, infantile, right-wing and pernicious, as I exhaustively illustrated here.

To trot this bullshit out now, taking no meaningful account of the present political terrain nor the specifics of a case in which a woman was murdered is simply despicable. That the ACLU has mostly outsourced the excuse-making to people like Greenwald, while it ostentatiously denounces the nazis to whom it provides material support, makes this whole spectacle particularly disgusting. In the wake of so much carnage, the ACLU owes the public a thorough explanation regarding its Virginia chapter’s involvement in the Charlottesville case. Specifically, it should answer the following questions which, tellingly and predictably, no representative of the ACLU has, to my knowledge, addressed:

1. The perennial justification for legal aid to fascists is that precedents set in cases against them will invariably be used against other groups. Given that Charlottesville simply wanted to move the protest, and that there is already precedent to support this — see First Amendment Zones, for example — what was the tactical basis for supporting Unite The Right in this case?

2. When announcing that the city would only permit the demonstration if it were moved to McIntire Park, Charlottesville police chief Al Thomas said:

Having the demonstration at McIntire Park is safer because the park is large enough to accommodate the size of the anticipated crowd. It also avoids a situation whereby overflow crowds spill into the streets, as would likely occur at Emancipation Park.

This is just part of the city’s rationale for moving the rally, which all by itself seems sufficient to warrant the move. Given what actually happened, it seems downright prescient.

Since domination through violence is the essence of white supremacist ideology, and that violence at their gatherings has been escalating in the past year, and that commenters on nazi websites like The Daily Stormer were promising violence days ahead of the rally, why did you threaten to sue the city within 24 hours if its officials could not “explain in more than just generalities its reasons for concluding that the demonstration cannot safely be held in Emancipation Park.” What rationale could they have provided that would have satisfied you?

3. Given that Unite The Right already had legal assistance from The Rutherford Institute, a conservative civil liberties group, and the nazi attorney Kyle Bristow, why did the ACLU become involved at all? Since the ACLU doesn’t take on all First Amendment-related cases, shouldn’t client need govern decisions as to where ACLU deploys its finite resources? If need doesn’t govern these decisions, what does? Can you list the other cases in which you’ve been involved recently that didn’t directly benefit violent white supremacists?

4.  Since there is little evidence that public safety factors into your tactical considerations at all, the demand that you answer the questions this case raises — or face a boycott — seems beyond reasonable. Given that your response to critics — when you respond at all — has been to blame the police that warned against the use of Emancipation Park in the first place and to belittle detractors as authoritarians and in-fighters, why should any anti-fascist concerned with their safety and that of their friends continue to support either the ACLU’s Virginia chapter, or the national organization that has also declined to meaningfully address this case?

5. In light of the violence in Charlottesville, and the increased likelihood of violence at other neo-nazi rallies, will the ACLU continue to intervene against cities that attempt to thwart or regulate these events?

As my regular readers know, I think first amendment absolutism aids and abets fascist violence generally. Therefore, making too much of the ACLU’s culpability in this case risks minimizing their culpability on a broader scale.  Nonetheless, I think seeing how the ACLU responds, or doesn’t, to a threatened boycott, will provide newcomers with an opportunity to see how disingenuously the ACLU operates in real time. It’s certainly far past time to demand specific rationales from the ACLU that take account both of how toxic and dangerous neo-nazis are, and how, historically, First Amendment absolutism has favored reactionaries in relation to militants on the Left, particularly Black militants. The usual platitudes about slippery slopes require evidence.

Ideally, I would like people to consider the possibility that First Amendment absolutism is a means by which finance capital can keep fascism and white supremacy on life support, right out in the open, so that fascist groupings, in accordance with their history, can act as paramilitaries for the ruling class in times of crisis.  I reject the idea gaining purchase among the most shallow antifa factions that the vermin who descended on Charlottesville represent the country’s dark heart. It is no elision of this country’s genocidal history, or its systemic racism in the present, to accurately observe that these pernicious living caricatures are far fewer in number than people actively opposing them in myriad ways right now. Noting their uncanny resemblance to US-supported fascists in Ukraine and Venezuela also does not minimize the organic element that this “movement” taps into. The point is that this type of classic fascism is on the way down and we should hasten its death.

Legitimizing it as a mere collection of “bad views” with any fucking entitlement at all to the public square is the opposite of killing it. When you consider the ACLU’s billionaire sponsors, the career trajectory of its staff people and its star attorneys, it is entirely realistic to view it as akin to NGOs in other countries, which act as pass-throughs for finance capital to nazis and other riff raff to suppress factions and movements inimical to its interests. Therefore, regardless of how individual members and staffers see themselves, it is realistic to regard the organization and its champions as objectively fascist, and treat them accordingly.

Posted in Uncategorized | 18 Comments

Fact check: study shows transition makes trans people suicidal

After the last two reblogs, I almost instantly regretted it, not least because the middle position I stake out between so-called TERFS and trans militants results in internet outcomes only a masochist could love.

You really haven’t lived, though, until a congenial, seemingly reasonable Marxist approvingly emails you an essay from a right-wing Christian think tank and then snarks when you balk. What’s so striking to me about the cruder trans excluders is the combo of religious zeal and paucity of evidence for all their fuss. This combo to me, coupled to a deep conviction that the people they target for pathologizing and ostracism are monsters if they object too stridently, is often a sign of working backwards from a bias, and is among the reasons why my middle position is somewhat less middle lately.  I’ll clarify that when, somewhat later this week,  I engage down in comments.

Since, sadly, the belligerent vulgarizing of radfem critique continues on radical Twitter, by people who seem utterly convinced that they’re punching up, I am going to own up to, and apologize for, the glaring omission of a trans voice from my “both sides” reblogs the last time around. I am commending my readers to this Trans Advocate interview by Cristan Williams with Swedish researcher Cecilia Dhejne. I’ve chosen it because Dhejne co-authored a study that is among the most widely used to pathologize and fear-monger around trans people.

The Wall Street Journal, Washington Post  and Fox News are among the many mainstream sources that have cited the study to cast trans people in a negative light, particularly to the effect that gender confirming medical treatment doesn’t help them. The Christian think tank essay I mentioned above also cites it. These negative pieces citing the study clearly furnish a lot of the talking points bouncing around the internet at the moment. This is my main reason for boosting this six-year-old interview with Dehne, who lucidly explains the extent to which trans opponents have grossly misrepresented her work while clarifying what it actually shows.

Williams: Before I contacted you for this interview, were you aware of the way your work was being misrepresented?

Dhejne: Yes! It’s very frustrating! I’ve even seen professors use my work to support ridiculous claims. I’ve often had to respond myself by commenting on articles, speaking with journalists, and talking about this problem at conferences. The Huffington Post wrote an article about the way my research is misrepresented. At the same time, I know of instances where ethical researchers and clinicians have used this study to expand and improve access to trans health care and impact systems of anti-trans oppression.

Of course trans medical and psychological care is efficacious. A 2010 meta-analysis confirmed by studies thereafter show that medical gender confirming interventions reduces gender dysphoria.

You can read the rest here.

Posted in Uncategorized | 22 Comments

Shirley there’s nothing more to say on the subject of radfems vs transwomen

In the interest of a robust discussion, and in light of my own fence-sitting on this issue,  I’m commending my readers to this four year old post by the great Twisty Faster at I Blame the Patriarchy, who is both an old school rad fem and a prolific supporter of trans women.

There are three aspects of this trans “debate” that particularly chap the spinster hide. One is that it is even considered a debate. Is there anything more demeaning than a bunch of people with higher status than you sitting around debating the degree to which they find you human? I don’t think so.

The second hide-chap is the main anti-trans “argument.” It goes:

Unless you were born a woman, how can you really know what women’s oppression means? You benefited from male privilege once; how can we trust you? Your male junk threatens us. You mock us with your affected femininity. You’re not authentic.

This argument is phobic and dumb. It proceeds from, among things like fear and internalized misogyny, the premise that there exists a standard or authentic “woman’s experience” of oppression that derives entirely from childhood indoctrination and imbues the experiencer with some kinda moral authority. The premise is false. An experience of womanhood is not the experience of womanhood. Take, for example, the issue of privilege:

Some women have a little privilege. Some women have a shit-ton of privilege. Some women have a shit-ton of privilege and then lose it. Some women have zippo privilege and then get some later. Some women only ever have zippo, period. Some women are atheists, have short brown hair, drive red Fords, have scars where their sex organs used to be, can’t get health insurance, eat only vegetables and shave their mustaches.

Source: I Blame the Patriarchy


Posted in Uncategorized | 10 Comments