Ok not gonna throw in on the Jacobin/Sarah Kendzior thing, other than to recommend this and this by Freddie DeBoer, who is always at his best when the topic is Twitter mobs. Even if you don’t agree with him, I think his pieces are a good jumping off point because they are well-reasoned and contain links to all the other opinion-havers, including, of course, Kendzior.   I think there are layers to this particular  dustup that Freddie doesn’t explore but that’s cool because I think it’s probably best not to dwell on this shit too long.

Update: There is a very good account in this witty infographic as well

I’m posting this because this blog is, among other things, a mausoleum for  ‘The Left’ — and therefore an appropriate place to entomb tweets in which David Graeber and Joshua Foust close ranks in bad faith around Kendzior, someone each man — curiously, when taken together — considers a like-minded colleague and friend. (more text below tweets)

If people are going to discuss this, I would like them to stay focused on what they think is going on in this odd trio, particularly with Graeber. I am interested in understanding how Foust, Kendzior and Graeber all intersect. Foust and Kendzior are colleagues at registan.net, a news site about Central Asia. I know very little about the site or their work for it, and unfortunately the Wikipedia entry for it was deleted last night. I don’t know how Graeber and Kendzior fit together at all.

I do find it odd that Graeber referred to Kendzior yesterday as a radical, since I don’t think she even sees herself that way. Indeed, for someone very certain of Kendzior’s brilliance, Graeber’s recent remarks do not suggest a high degree of familiarity with anything she does or with whom she does it. Kendzior has worked with Foust since at least 2003, yet in a tweet to me yesterday, Graeber claimed to not know who Foust is. Graeber also claimed that Kendzior has “no position on Ukraine“, when, in fact, she has written and tweeted about it quite a bit.

So what’s going on here?

I  am emphatically NOT interested in haggling over the merits of Kendzior’s complaints against Jacobin. I find Twitter beatdowns uniformly disgusting, mostly for reasons entirely separate from whatever points of view are being contested. I therefore won’t indulge anyone attempting to reproduce anything remotely similar here. I do want to express solidarity with Amber A’Lee Frost, Megan Erickson and Elizabeth Stoker since, even if one thinks it is ever useful or warranted to rake people of very modest influence over the coals for several days on Twitter, I don’t think any non-asshole would consider it reasonable in this case.  This beatdown is so larded up with bad faith and sexism — for all the talk of male violence, it is demonstrably a smear campaign against three women —  that I cannot retain respect for any person uncritically aligning with it, and that includes David Graeber.  I say this without endorsing or repudiating Frost’s piece, nor to invite a discussion of same.


Katha Pollitt, David Graeber Fight, Make Up, Put Libeled Marxists Behind Them

Notes on David Graeber and Conspiracism

Discussion of Thought-Stopping Dogmas

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114 Responses to Uh…

  1. Dirty says:

    USAID affiliated site. Coddles tyrants, etc.. Tons of tame local color pieces and poor editing.


    • Tarzie says:

      How deep are the USAID affliliations? I notice that one writer attests to having worked for that agency. Do you know if it goes any deeper than that?

  2. Yes, this is all very odd. Graeber must be aware Sarah Kendzior has done work for dubious NGOs like Freedom House and the New America Foundation. And he surely understands why this is relevant: she’s repeating an age-old anti-communist saw about ‘the Left’ being abusively misogynist. But when people pointed this out to Graeber he publicly denounced them as ‘rape culture apologists’. I can follow his reasoning of course – I understand why it’s seriously problematic to interrogate the victims of abuse – but it’s such an incredibly superficial line to take here. Everything was so transparent in this instance. The histrionics are totally unwarranted.

    Anyway, there’s a cached copy of the Registan Wiki page here: http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:ZcEHj3DTSmUJ:en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Registan+&cd=2&hl=en&ct=clnk

    On the face of it that’s not such a compelling find. The most interesting thing on there is probably the list of contributors, and obviously that’s available on the Registan site as well: http://registan.net/consulting-services/who-we-are/ But the Registan ‘About’ page does not appear very high up in the Google search results, whereas the Wiki page was/is somthing like second from the top. So, since the Wiki page was deleted yesterday, anyone out of the loop would have to do a little more clicking around to discover Kendzior’s connection to Joshua Foust, Nathan Hamm, Casey Michel, and the rest of the Registan cohort.

    Their neocon credentials aren’t really in dispute, and this is only tangentially connected to your Graeber/Foust/Kendzior intersection, but I can’t resist pointing out how ‘embedded’ they are:

    Nathan Hamm is the founding editor of Registan. Between 2007 and 2013 he held senior positions at SCIA and TSI Executive Consulting, two intelligence contractors working with the US government in Afghanistan and Central Asia. http://www.linkedin.com/in/nathanhamm Judging by his lawerly, mock-aristocratic tone in the Registan comment threads, I am almost certain he does some editing and page-pruning at Wikipedia.

    Joshua Foust also worked for TSI Executive Consulting around the same time as Hamm, and in fact went to Afghanistan where he worked alongside ‘field teams’ in order to ‘facilitate data sharing’. Also worked for Toffler Associates in 2007, where he ‘Designed and implemented collaborative system for the Defense Intelligence Agency, incorporating massively distributed collaboration and open source research into intelligence analysis as a part of the Full Spectrum Analysis pilot.’ Gross. http://www.linkedin.com/in/joshuafoust

    Casey Michel is a grad student at Columbia’s Harriman Institute – my eyes lit up when I saw this, because the Harriman Institute is where people like Bela Shayevich (the sole Russia editor at n+1 and a translator for Open Society Institute) met and worked with Katherine Holt to produce translations of Pussy Riot communiqués. It’s a sort of nexus of public/private post-Cold War intelligence and regime-change advocacy. Michel just started as an intern for International Crisis Group (ICG). Look at what ICG are recommending in Mali at the moment:

    “To the Security Council and countries contributing troops:
    5.  Increase without delay MINUSMA’s human and logistic resources, especially airborne capacity, until reaching full capacity.

    To the French authorities:
    9.  Maintain a rapid reaction contingent and intelligence gathering capacities on Malian soil to support the government and MINUSMA.”


    (This is at a time when fighting has mostly died down.)

    Matthew Kupfer is a Carnegie Fellow. He has worked for state-funded media outlet Voice of America, and International Research & Exchanges Board (IREX). President of IREX right now is W. Robert Pearson, of NATO – he was involved in US / NATO expansion in the ‘90s and oversaw US engagement in the Balkans. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/W._Robert_Pearson

    Kendzior has worked as a consultant for Freedom House and Geroge Soros’s Open Society Foundation http://wustl.academia.edu/SarahKendzior/CurriculumVitae (Lots of interesting stuff here.) She’s written for Radio Free Europe. She’s a recipient of a Title VI fellowship from the government (more about Title VI here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Resource_Center )

    I don’t know much about David Graeber. He belongs to that constellation of Occupy-affiliated leftist celebrities. He has endorsed Kendzior’s work in two interviews: http://www.salon.com/2014/06/01/help_us_thomas_piketty_the_1s_sick_and_twisted_new_scheme/ and http://antidotezine.com/2014/02/08/fun-with-graeber/

    He says Kendzior takes an interest in New York’s poor, downtrodden creative class:

    “What Sarah Kendzior is talking about is something that goes back to the 19th century, the birth of “Bohemia.”  Someone once said that Bohemians and Bourgeois people hate each other because Bohemians sacrifice comfort for the sake of pleasure, and the Bourgeois sacrifice pleasure for the sake of comfort.  But if you think about it, this crazy creative pleasure is where almost everything we consider worthwhile actually comes from.  The Bourgeois need it.  They can’t do without it, but they also have to hate it.

    “There’s a feeling in our culture that play, that creativity is almost demonic.  You need it to drive the engine, but it scares you.  You need to isolate it, put it someplace where it’s not that dangerous.  We have to isolate it from the political domain—any kind of imagination or sense of play or fun is only going to lead to the Gulag; any kind of transformative, visionary politics scares us.  Creativity is something that we obviously need, and we talk as if we like it all the time, but really we don’t.”

    This is all fairly tired and politically useless. The bourgeois/bohemian distinction is vanishingly small. And it’s absurd for him to focus on this stuff, considering the number of very real, concrete issues such as the US incarceration rate, the fact that the inmate population is disproportionately black, expansion of electronic surveillance, ongoing low-level civil war in Ukraine, the proxy war in Syria, etc. In another era we might have expected leftists – even celebrity leftists – to speak out against all this, urgently and directly. As it stands we have self-consciously ‘millennial’ publications like n+1 and Jacobin, entrepreneurial corporate-aligned journos like Kendzior and Molly Crabapple, and comfortably academic theorists like Graeber, none of whom are consistently engaging with these subjects or their implications. With all of these clearly indefensible government policies continuing, how is that Occupy Wall Street turned into a big, leaden demand for more jobs for creative bobos? (Maybe that’s an unfair characterisation, but this is the form in which the image of OWS endures.)

    My understanding is that Graeber coined ‘Occupy’ and helped to solidify its branding, although he does say others were responsible for organising. In one of those interviews above he mentions Kendzior alongside Astra Taylor, the director of the Zizek biopic. Astra Taylor, Zizek, Graeber were all present and visible at Occupy, and they all helped to pull OWS into this ineffectual pro-‘creative class’ mode. Astra Taylor collaborated with n+1’s Keith Gessen to produce the Occupy Gazette: http://www.versobooks.com/blogs/881-a-roundtable-with-the-editors-of-occupy Gessen actually states here that they decided to do the Gazette after he saw Communists handing out material:

    “The first time I came to Zuccotti Park a woman handed me a leaflet from the CPUSA, and I thought: If the Communists can hand stuff out, so can we! But what?”

    So many of their practices resemble blatant, predictable attempts to undermine any real anti-capitalist sentiment. I mean even the way David Graeber mentions the Gulag in the quote above. There’s this breveted class of writers and academics who are helping to bring disillusioned young people back into the fold, and to scare them away from real change. It almost seems to be coordinated.

    • Tarzie says:

      Wow. You are the master sleuth and interpreter of this stuff.

      I had put Graeber in a completely different class but his unqualified alignment with Kendzior’s smear campaign puts him in a very new light and does sort of draw attention to what’s missing from his politics. I have always found his enthusiasm for Occupy after all was said and done, kind of odd, since I share all your misgivings about it and more.

      I also find it really strange, at least at first glance, that Jacobin is the focus of the present attack, because I have always seen Jacobin as being in that superficial, harmless vein you describe so well here. If this whole thing does involve some deliberate attack on anti-capitalists, then it seems Jacobin and and Frost are really just pretexts to amplify ‘The Left has a Rape Problem’ meme, though Kendzior is certainly taking no prisoners when it comes to smearing the women involved. Her remarks about Elizabeth Stoker yesterday border on libel and the way Josh Foust amplifies them in his tweets — the lines about bragging about discipline — looks really, really suspect. All this for Elizabeth Stoker, an extremely innocuous Catholic feminist? It really could not be weirder.

      • I was also surprised that Jacobin was under fire, although as @m_anyfesto pointed out this attack coincided with them publishing some half-decent anti-imperialist articles. (They put up something about Human Rights Watch being cozy with the US government, and they had a piece condemning leftist support for the war in Afghanistan. Of course these aren’t really ‘bombshell’ articles, but they signalled a welcome change of tack.) But now I think impressionable onlookers are expected to choose between Dave and Doug (Henwood). That’s the outcome of the exercise. The people Graeber publicly smeared are not aligned with either camp. With Henwood you get insensitive intolerance for vital civil rights movements (as you pointed out yesterday); with Kendzior (and by implication Graeber) you get creeping indifference to imperialism. (Actually you get this with Henwood as well.)

      • Tarzie says:

        Lesser evilism all down the line. At best.

        Fuck. All. These. People.

      • I take the anti-Jacobin efforts as possibly indicating that derailing *any* authentic Left political energy is important to the political establishment (whatever that is). Nipping things in the bud is much easier than cutting down whole gardens.

    • Plussed says:

      “It almost seems to be coordinated.”

      Yup and I don’t think one even needs to go to the lengths that you have – but please keep doing it, nice work – to expose the collusion of “leftist” luminaries especially during the, IMO, psyop of Occupy (psyOccupy?) movement. Graeber et al may be unwitting dupes but they are dupes nonetheless. Here are some other aspects of Occupy that I found illuminating.

      1) The “discovery” by Occupy that color-revolutionaries – Popovic et al – had been involved with a number of Occupy offshoots and had ties to US intel. And that these are just the ones they we know about.

      2) The appearance of fake-leftist celebrities at Occupy such as David Van Cortlandt Crosby and others performing in the streets. Once can be sure that US Intel is cooking up another campaign via e.g., HRW/Amnesty etc when the celebrities start appearing. Seriously, it’s like a tell-tale sign at this point.

      3) The forced – from the top down – apoliticality of the movement from the get-go and complete and utter suppression of anything resembling real anger/outrage. A Tobin Tax will just fix everything boys and girls. Let’s all do the Human Megaphone again! Wheeeee

      4) Lastly, I believe that as Occupy was a psychological operation it was meant/planned to – as you say – keep the disillusioned within the fold by 1) providing them with innocuous – e.g., Tobin Tax – avenues WITHIN the system in which to invest their energies and 2) scare the fuck out of anyone who might entertain really taking a stand. As the great “Cats Not War” blog/post about psyops that Tarzie linked to a while back a la GG/Omidyar reminded us, the US Intel agencies have been utilizing psyops in many different varieties for a long time. My personal belief – i.e., I don’t have any evidence, sorry – is that a lot of the “police on peaceful protestor” violence that was captured over and over and over again on camera was planned/deliberate and that in addition to peppering the Occupy movements with agent provocateurs mean to stir up shit if need be, there were also “willing victim” plants who would be paid/promoted to take beatings/macings/pepper spray – or position other unwitting dupes – on camera and with as much hysterical screaming/drama as possible. Some of the stuff was so blatant – and yes I do believe that US cops/LE officers are shitass sadists who do this stuff all the time – that it seemed a bit weird upon viewing it again and again. Like it was meant to be seen – cf. the WTC towers falling – over and over again until an indelible psychological impression was made: don’t go to protests, kids. Added, the Zucotti Park raid in which people’s devices – the horror! – and other property were blatantly totaled and destroyed for no fucking reason other than so that pictures could be taken of everything afterwards also seemed a bit odd. Yes, cops will do this shit naturally but something seemed a bit off. As if there was an aura of theatricality to much of it. One of the hallmarks of a good psyop is that there’s almost no way a layperson is able to call bullshit without sounding paranoid but in this day and age there’s reason to be unfortunately. Just ask those regular people living in the “color revolution”/”Arab Spring” countries.

      Yes, I’m a cynical fucker but as your research clearly shows something totally stinks with all these folks. Even though many on the “left” may now understand that the entire Syrian “uprising” for example – also begun in 2011 – was yet another US Intel “color revolution”-esque psyop meant to catalyze our nefarious machinations in that country, these same people won’t look at other “events” closer to home – and which they may have participated in – and think about the potential for manipulation/fabrication by the very same intelligence agencies who have just as long of a domestic track record.


      • thedoctorisinthehouse says:

        This all sounds worth considering and if it didn’t happen at Occupy it could happen anywhere.
        Still can’t help laughing that the same reasoning would make every histrionic left street talker a false flag meant to discredit activists and scare off normals.

      • diceytroop says:

        Wow: you just wrote 2,000 of the most absurd words I’ve ever read. Graeber didn’t create Occupy, nor did ANY of the other names you mentioned up there: Occupy *was* genuinely spontaneous and a confluence of a million convergent things. It was *not* about the “Tobin Tax” or any reformist goals — the suggestion that it was really is proof positive that you actually don’t know much about Occupy at all.

        What you’re engaging in is conspiracism, pure and simple, and it sounds as sick coming from left radicals as it does from anyone. How about: don’t invent a false narrative that silences and invisibilizes the thousands of people who actually got close enough to Occupy to see all the way through it, who took arrest after arrest and spent thousands of hours ACTING RADICALLY. I don’t care what your motivations are for twisting everything into an absurd conspiracy theory; it’s our lives. You’ve got no right.

        If you want to understand the mindset of the people who drove Occupy in NYC pick up Mark Bray’s book “Translating Anarchy.” And next time, show the fuck up.

      • Tarzie says:

        Graeber didn’t create Occupy, nor did ANY of the other names you mentioned up there: Occupy *was* genuinely spontaneous and a confluence of a million convergent things.

        I agree that Plussed got a lot wrong and I have no fucking idea what the Tobin Tax even is, but what you’re saying here also isn’t entirely true. The various descriptions of Occupy’s early days, including the time leading up to it, do suggest there were people who were meeting separately, including Graeber, to give the movement the shape they preferred. I think Graeber even says this himself. This is not to say that they were up to no good, but simply to say that as in all movements, there were various groupings of people doing things offline amongst each other to impart an organized influence. It is self-evident that some of these groupings will have more influence than others.

        As for conspiracy, anyone who insists there weren’t operatives dispatched to contain the uptick in class consciousness brought on by the financial crisis, is either unfamiliar with movement history, or is momentarily ignoring that history for rhetorical purposes. Kneejerk anti-conspiracism is as baseless as lizard people theories, and does a whole lot more heavy-lifting for state repression.

        I think it’s entirely fair to look at Graeber and anyone he is associated with in a more skeptical light as he now makes common cause with career imperialists acting in the worst imaginable faith to smear Marxist feminists and radicals generally. I am inclined to think he is simply a petty, extremely reckless asshole settling scores with Jacobin, but that’s no less speculative than any other theory one may have about his motives.

        I disagree about Plussed’s rights. Plussed can say whatever s/he wants short of libeling individuals and trolling, and people are equally at liberty to contest what Plussed says, as you have helpfully done. Thanks.

    • Tarzie says:

      Apparently Graeber didn’t appreciate this comment.

  3. Dismayed says:

    Another insidious Graeber tweet was this one:

    davidgraeber: rape culture apologists I’ve now blocked: @PhilGreaves01, @RedKahina, @joolsd

    I’ve found @PhilGreaves01 to be an excellent source for anti-imperialism commentary. For example, Greaves wrote a powerful expose of Molly Crabapple’s shilling for the US in its bloody efforts to overthrow Assad. It’s still worth reading: http://notthemsmdotcom.wordpress.com/2014/03/15/867/

    It’s interesting to me that Graeber wants all 30,000 of his followers to believe one of Twitter’s most serious anti-imperialists and exposer of pseudo-leftist shills is rape apologist. Fuck. It’s downright creepy.

    • ) says:

      [Comment removed. Commenter was given opportunity to substantiate potentially libelous comment and did not take it.]

  4. Happy Jack says:

    Not on twitter, so haven’t been following the twists and turns here, but I noticed this SarahK made mention of Bady. As someone who thinks Bady is an idiot, I don’t have much interest, but noticed some agreement between her and Graeber. Is this a chance to knock Bady down a peg? A fight for the crown of academic anarchist? Trash the brand of Pepsi to boost Coke?

    • Tarzie says:

      Don’t think this has too much to do with Bady, though this fight does give Graeber an opportunity to settle scores. Something Sarah K said suggested Bady and Graeber had a falling out. Graeber and Jacobin have also long hated each other.

  5. sunchoke says:

    as someone said yesterday, Graeber’s always ingested a goodly dose of liberal feminism with his so-called anarchism. His basic problem is intellectual laziness that seems to be symptomatic of all prolific intellectuals. Look at his description of 60’s political movements in “Direct Action” and essays on the internet. His analysis is that “2nd wave” feminism came about as totally natural response to the New Left’s misogyny. Now, there was definitely misogyny within the New Left, but if you go back and examine the history the reality is more complex. The misognyistic elements were amplified or created whole cloth. The Stokely Carmichael case is paradigmatic. As I understand it, his comment about ‘the place of women within the movement’ as ‘prone’ was basically said in the voice of a character such as one might see on late night sketch comedy: part of a routine, intentionally scathing/ribald, and for the entertainment of a group of people sitting on a dock drinking. Somehow, these comments were the next day reported on the front page of MSM papers as Carmichael’s actual position. In reality he was probably much less misogynist than men of his generation (or our generation). Graeber just recounts the ‘standard’/false/psyop version as the truth. Please note, I came to research these questions precisely because I read and was inspired by Graeber’s overly long works! I have brought this to his attention on Twitter, but (dashes!) he clearly failed to follow up with the research. Intellectual laziness has real world consequences, Dave.

    I hope you don’t think this is a pointless digression. Yesterday was basically the exact same thing. Some faux pas that was corrected on request somehow came to be this huge glaring flaw of THE LEFT, laying bare its misogyny. Seemingly, the Kendzior/Foust axis would like to establish itself as a new, imperial Left, and if successful discrediting Graeber and his ilk will be trivial.

    I’d just like to take this opportunity to apologize sticking up for Graeber and Zizek to whatever extent I did. Zizek would seem to be committed to vile political projects and whatever his virtues may be who cares.

    • willmcjunkin says:

      Your remarks about taking inspiration from Graeber then having your eyes opened mirror somewhat my experience with Zizek. Especially after seeing his ham-handed response on the Ukraine situation, I think I might be moving in your direction. But I’d be interested in hearing a little more about what “vile projects” you have in mind here, if you care to elaborate.

      FWIW, I saw Graeber knocking Zizek on Twitter some time back after hearing him speak, saying something to the effect that there was no there there. Then there was the recent Chomsky-Zizek set-to, which kind of went nowhere. So even if there is a Kendzior/Foust axis, sometimes the left scene seems to me to have more of a Tower of Babel/tale told by idiots (i.e. egos defending academic turf) quality than anything else. Then again, maybe I’m wrong and the truth is a little more sinister.

      • Tarzie says:

        sometimes the left scene seems to me to have more of a Tower of Babel…Then again, maybe I’m wrong and the truth is a little more sinister.

        I think the propaganda system at this point is largely a self-regulating organism, that will do symbiosis with lefts that are innocuous or power-fortifying and destroy or repel any that aren’t. History shows that every now and again it needs a little deliberate help, but most of the time runs on its own. That there is dissensus among all the system-enabling left icons certainly doesn’t disprove “sinister stuff”, the existence of which is not at all in question.

        While the particulars are never fully known, infiltration and PsyOps are demonstrably commonplace. It’s proof of how well the whole damn thing works that lefties feel obliged to still always wonder, at least in public, and to even castigate people who are better informed but less circumspect. I think it can be useful, for all kinds of reasons, to attempt inferences based on what power wants, the means it has for getting what it wants, and how that might influence it’s relationship to a mediated ‘Left’ dominated by a rather small gaggle of intellectuals.

      • sunchoke says:

        tl;dl Zizek worked as a speechwriter for the governing party when Slovenia split off from Yugoslav Republic and controlled the paper that served as party organ. Part of the deal for the LibDems to get power apparently was to expel 25,000 noncitizens in a population of 2.5 million. Here’s some proof this really took place:

        Here’s an interview from the time where Zizek really truly lies about what went on.

        This for me, even if everything else is untrue, is enough to seal the deal that Zizek’s analysis of contemporary political events is likely to be bullshit. This combined with the Guardian article on a Roma attacked by violent mobs is just too much to even trust he has good intentions Apparently he is a fascist in the final analysis (sucks, don’t it? I wasted my time reading his books, too).

  6. Eric says:

    Frankly I don’t have much to add to the excellent comments above re: ideological and opportunistic motivations for this alliance, but I’ll just say that an odious character like Foust chiming in should make anybody with sense suspicious of the whole ordeal.

    One thing I do find interesting is how Newsweek picked up the story so quickly. Even if this didn’t begin as some sort of coordinated campaign, which given my observation of twitter mobs I’m inclined to believe it didn’t per se, I certainly think some of the vultures circling the situation see an opportunity and are running with it.

    • Tarzie says:

      some of the vultures circling the situation see an opportunity and are running with it.

      Yes, precisely. As with every other spectacle, how it started ultimately becomes secondary to what it becomes.

  7. willmcjunkin says:

    Thanks, sunchoke. I was broadly aware of that background, but hadn’t explored it in much detail. May be time to do just that.

    Tarzie, well said and I certainly agree with you on the usefulness of making certain targeted inferences.

  8. Dan H says:

    I think Graeber and Kendzior originally met through This Is Hell!, and if Im remembering correctly it was within the last year.

  9. I don’t know nothing about nothing about these people. So, my first reactions were pleasantly Victorian: a tempest in a tea pot, I thought. In spite of the obvious heat at the center, this seemed a very local argument between apparent teenagers. Even given the Newsweek link, I doubted the sound of angry voices would travel very far.

    Then, I read Freddie’s two pieces, and I got a lot more gloomy. Because it’s not just a small thing, it’s a miniature, a tiny model of something that is real and much larger. The uninformed misunderstandings ( /pile-on rumour spreading and arm-waving exaggeration), and the intentional misunderstandings ( /lying) – both on twitter and in the various comment sections – are just like the kind of stuff that has made it so hard to publicly raise questions about choices made by, say, a Greenwald or a Chomsky…. or, indeed, to have any serious political conversation online.

    I know my naive and privileged liberalism is showing, but if we can’t have a conversation in good faith, where we assume people mean what they say, and where words mean today what they meant yesterday, then how can democracy happen? How can democracy happen if – even between authors, activists and academics – social and political discourse becomes the equivalent of a YouTube comment thread?

    • Tarzie says:

      How can democracy happen if – even between authors, activists and academics – social and political discourse becomes the equivalent of a YouTube comment thread?

      Scaling back. Not involving oneself in any enterprise where you are obliged to argue first principles or accept on faith anything someone says. I think people need to realize, the people dicking up our dissent are only as important as we allow them to be. This mediated dissent is for the birds. I only talk about it to warn people off of it. If it’s mediated, it ain’t worth a fuck, basically.

  10. haptic says:

    Twitter is a formicarium for the ‘left’.

    • sheenyglass says:

      “Formarium”. Nice word.

      Although I would say that twitter is the “formicarium” (man that’s a fun word) for the performance of leftist as an identity rather than the left. I’d like to think there are bunches of leftists out there too busy advocating to get involved in these twitter bullshitstorms. In a not rigorous at all analysis, it seems like the most prominent participants tend to be academics/grad students, journalists and other “thought leaders” rather than the more meat and potato activist/organizer types. Then again, maybe I’m just a naive, yet lazy, optimist.

      Relatedly, I think Freddie DeBoer is strong on twitter mobs because he is strong on the performative aspect of the internet left generally (I like his phrase “liberal peacocking” in particular).

  11. rabidrot says:

    Just saw this tweet (via a retweet from Graeber):

    Max Kaiser’s guest tonight, David Graeber’s take on the Elites control mechanisms http://www.strikemag.org/bullshit-jobs/


  12. Bitman says:

    How does one send a private message to Tarzie? I have a question about protocol here, as a rather innocuous comment of mine has been deleted after a day’s time.

    • Tarzie says:

      No need to send a private message. Reread the guidelines set forth in my post, then try again.

      This time, do not attempt to go outside the guidelines under the pretext of seeking clearance to do that, nor by providing links that attempt to do that.

      • Bitman says:

        The links went outside your guidelines. I apologize for that.

        But I’m not sure why it wasn’t OK to ask you to reconsider your discussion framing. I asked, and your silence answered the question for me. Message taken. I didn’t post again in the thread until I noticed the deleted post.

        I’ll note you yourself have now gone outside your own guidelines below. So did others upthread. As someone who has complained (rightly) about TI’s “cherry picking” of comments, I’d ask you to consider the climate created when non-hostile, non-trolling posts like mine are disappeared without comment or explanation, particularly while other posts outside your guidance are tolerated.

        Tell me my post is out of bounds – fine. Delete it with comment if you feel you must. Just be fair, because otherwise it seems like you just don’t want anything posted that might be construed as positive about Kendzior (who I happen to agree acted badly in this affair, and about whom I know nothing other than she’s written some stuff I’ve found useful).

      • Tarzie says:

        Sarah Kendzior is a person who lied over and over and over again to destroy three women and smear radicals as a political class, and who places among her friends and allies Josh Foust — a career imperialist — who also lied over and over and over again to destroy three women and smear the left as a political class.

        I am no more interested in arguing the merits of these people than the merits of fascism. To even have the argument is corrupting in itself. If you would, in fact, still attempt to defend them, or at least impress upon me their good works, I truly don’t care about your censure for the hypocrisy of telling you to go to hell. Your ethical system is clearly shit, so feel free to apply it all you like to me. I’ll be indifferent.

        I have allowed some discussion from less sympathetic voices because they raised issues that haven’t been discussed enough. This is what so many of you assholes just don’t get. These ‘sides’ are not equal. The side you want to defend has more social clout — Newsweek even disgustingly amplified their smears for them –and is also more ruthless. Consequently we have heard Kendzior’s side, again and again so there is no need to hear it anymore. Your failure to grasp asymmetry of this kind is no doubt what leads you to your banal comparison to Greenwald. I will plead guilty to feeling disobliged of hearing ‘both sides’ when one side is already quite loud and everyone else fears their wrath. If you’re too stupid to understand the difference between that and the theatre going on at the billionaire’s place, I’m afraid you’ll have to puzzle it out on your own.

        I suppose I can concede that, yes, I should have been more blunt and simply said in my post, I don’t want to hear any more bullshit in defense of smeary defamers and liars. Consider it said now. I don’t want to hear it. If you honestly think good works re internships is something I should factor into this, as if it makes a goddamn difference, I can’t imagine why you read this blog, honestly.

        Your last paragraph suggests you have some sort of leverage over what I do here. You don’t. As I have said, I am indifferent to your judgements. Everyone can play the ostracism game, so let me make clear: I don’t want even the most peripheral members of Sarah’s crew anywhere near this place. This isn’t a simple disagreement. This is about basic principles. Unlike far too many others I feel no moral confusion about a mob that persecutes women in the name of protecting them. By their own account, Team Kendzior won Twitter. So go run with them on Twitter.

  13. Eric says:

    Now someone who used to write for a PJ media, who’s apparently found a second career as a left wing concern troll, is saying anybody who questions SK is aiding a plot by Jacobin et. all to kick everybody who is not a white male out of the left. This whole thing is officially beyond parody.

    • Tarzie says:

      I know, I saw that. He also has a background rich with ties to right-wing think tanks and NGOs.

    • Nicecore says:

      I joined Twitter to try and make sense of all this, and wow. It’s hard to tell what people’s actual positions are if you aren’t intimately familiar with their work because there is so much sarcasm and veiled references. For anyone else who isn’t on Twitter, Tarzie retweeted this from someone a bit ago and it helped me put some of it together:


      At first I thought you were talking about Sarah Jeong in this comment, Eric. She had a tweet that went something like, “I’m so finished with all white leftists.”

      • Tarzie says:

        Yeah I think that infographic is good and mostly accurate.

      • Eric says:

        Yeah I can see how you might think I was referencing Jeong there.. Generally I’ve actually been avoiding her timeline since the only thing I was interested in with regards to this beyond being disgusted was the reaction of the rank and file that seemed to be driving a lot of this..

      • Tarzie says:

        Jeong is repulsive.

      • Eric says:

        Apologies to anybody still reading this thread for the structure of that sentence, but I think you can get the gist of what I was saying.

  14. dfdfdf says:

    Where are these rape threats everyone keeps talking about? Where can I see what’s actually being said to her?

    • Tarzie says:

      You can’t ask that question. Even though she has lied repeatedly to defame people, our concerns for women’s safety demand that the original claims of rape threats from communists be taken at face value. We must also never ask how one discerns the difference between an authentic communist sending you a rape threat and a random woman-hating whacko or provocateur. Since The LEFT HAS A RAPE PROBLEM and senders of rape threats never lie, these distinctions are presumably quite simple for someone that David Graeber affirms is brilliant despite her wild misreadings of everything every woman involved wrote.

      If all of this is not obvious to you, you have issues, bro. If you’re a woman, you’re a bad feminist.

      Now that we’ve had this little talk, let’s leave it there. We’re kinda off topic.

      • haptic says:

        Would it be on-topic to abstractly discuss the religious thought structure you (sarcastically) describe here?

      • Tarzie says:

        Sure. I am not obsessed with staying on topic. I just didn’t want this joint to replicate the shitstorm and I especially can’t hear any defense of Kendzior and her posse right now. I think looking at the dynamics of these campaigns is useful, though.

      • haptic says:

        I am at a loss as to how to discuss this, because it doesn’t seem to be possible without being attacked and branded with some or other pathologizing label.

        I am troubled by the strategy of embracing thought-terminating dogmas, adopted by left movements in defense of oppressed groups. The strategy originates in diverse academic theories which developed languages for describing a more detailed landscape of oppression than was describable in the Marxist tradition. Those theories, having gathered acceptance outside of academic communities in recent years, but with some elision of context and nuance (transitioning from theology to religion), have seen the attempted implementation of the strategy.

        I do not question the defense of oppressed groups. I do not question that the strategy in question is well-motivated either, at least by some. But I think the strategy not only undermines its declared goal, but its prevalence within the left opens huge and fatal vulnerabilities.

        I understand where the sentiment expressed here comes from:

        our concerns for women’s safety demand that the original claims of rape threats from communists be taken at face value

        I actually think there is something good and well meaning being subverted in what you described here. It seems adverse to subject an apparent victim of a violent act to any kind of scrutiny. I appreciate where this is coming from. But I also appreciate that something is going wrong with it.

        As I understand it, this kind of strategy is a deliberate decision to short circuit rationality and basic epistemology in order to more fairly weigh the scales of cognitive bias in favor of the oppressed. We recognize that people living in a patriarchal or a racist or a homophobic society too easily and far too frequently/habitually depart from rationality in order to come down on the side of the oppressor, so we commit to do the same: to purposefully depart from rationality – brooking no argument – in order to stand on the side of the oppressed.

        We then commit to the use of primitive and negative forms of group psychological behaviour (now rehabilitated as mechanisms of social justice) so that we can group-shame and mob the alleged abuser (normally completely unsuccessfully) into repentance and the performance of public remorse.

        We make an affirmative leap to conclusions on principle: any claim of victimhood is a priori true. Anyone who hesitates before that leap must be publicly humiliated. We must pursue their ritual destruction with the zeal of scientologists.

        What’s more, we also reinforce our commitment by committing to the use of the same strategies against anyone who challenges them. It may not be questioned whether these strategies achieve justice in practice – that they do is a priori true, and the penalty for public speech acts which deviate from this is also social pathologization and ostracization.

        This is, as I say, well motivated, but unworkable. It includes an assumption that it will always be perfectly clear and self-evident who the victim is, prior to the embrace of the a priori truth that the victim is a victim. It creates a whole series of shortcuts to the rhetorical highground. Those rhetorical shortcuts are not exclusively available to genuine victims. They are wide open. Once adopted widely within a community, what do people expect but that the most sociopathic, brutal, ruthless victimizers will abuse those rhetorical shortcuts, surging towards the rhetorical highground, inverting the entire voluntary system of victim-supporting left norms into a mandatory, dogmatic system for victimizing people? Are we to believe that bullies, sociopaths and petty tyrants are going to deny themselves the instant advantage given by exploiting one of these rhetorical shortcuts? Are we asked to suppose that this does not happen?

        I am not suggesting that individuals who belong to various oppressed minority groups are not legitimately oppressed, nor that there isn’t a general duty to address this in solidarity and commitment to a sense of wider community. I am suggesting that it is a problematic strategy for protecting the oppressed to extend the affirmative action principle to the basic principles of reasoning by which we come to know what is and is not true, so that individual people of color and individual women and other individuals, by virtue of their membership of a particular group, and those who align themselves with those groups, are afforded socially enforced (and sometimes absolute) free kicks in a game whose only hope of working is that everyone plays by the same (logical) rules.

        I do not believe that this argument makes one a rape apologist, or a racist or a manarchist, or a men’s rights activist, or a misogynist or a homophobe. I believe that this argument attempts to retrieve some generalizable criteria which are necessary to make any sort of objective judgment at all about who is a rape apologist, or a racist, or a manarchist, or a men’s rights activist or a misogynist or a homophobe. I do not believe, as it became fashionable to believe, that idealized rationality is itself a mechanism of oppression. I think idealized rationality is largely independent of value judgments, and is as essential a tool of those seeking justice as it is of those who seek to self-enrich, or some other negative social utility. We are imperfect, and abandon rationality in insidious ways in service of a sophisticated complex of cognitive biases, and we do need to work against those biases, but we do that in the return to rationality, not in punching holes in it in the name of victims.

        Generalizing from the instant case of the victimizer, the voluntary embrace of these norms by the wider left community often seems to result in whole crowds of people, in situations like the Sarah Kendzior case, shouting down others raising apparently valid questions on the basis that orthodoxy demands they shouldn’t have to give a fuck about facts as they dedicate their energies to ruining the social, emotional and professional lives of their designated targets. The outcome is determined from the moment someone invokes a thought-terminating dogma: the pariah is immediately identified, and no amount of discussion will be allowed to penetrate the ironcast effectiveness of apelike herd behavior.

        The network effect of social enforcement mechanisms and group behavior means that any given callous sociopath can potentially co-opt a huge number of secretly terrified, dogma-observant exhibitionist lefts to extract a pound of flesh. It also seems as if, in time, every even marginally public left personality who embraces this strategy for social justice for minorities eventually becomes targeted by it, which can either suggest their zeal is matched by the secret guilt of a hidden oppressor, as some have argued, or that it is actually a terrible, capricious, unpredictable and unreliable method of pursuing social justice.

        The local effect is that the cause of justice for members of minority groups is undermined, because when you punch out rationality, you remove the means to adjudicate: the means to make the private judgment about who is a victim and who is not: a judgment you actually have to be able to make in order to decide on which side of any given case justice lies. Up is down and left is right. Victims blur into victimizers. It’s chaos, and in the chaos, some really toxic personalities are handed an advantage. It seems to me we are really no closer to justice. But even if we were we couldn’t know it, because we have fenced off the vantage point from which we might be able to make that judgment.

        I am struck by the fact that most of the people who profess membership of the intersectionist faith within the left academe (membership, that is, of a movement which aims to explore how mechanisms of oppression intersect, and to generate solidarity among the victims of gender, race and class divisions) seem to spend much of their time in aggressive piss fights with members of other oppressed groups over how precisely to chart the hierarchy of oppression.

        The global effect of all of this, for a wider left which is presumably expected to adopt these norms, is that we have an openly declared list of explicit vulnerabilities – voluntary logic gaps – which are open for exploitation by people who are natural and involuntary sociopaths, and, worse, by organizations that have an interest in deliberately creating and encouraging conflict and fracture within the left.

        I confess, I think it is a disease of the mind, whose ultimate victim is the hope of a left that has any cohesion or consistent approach to the radical transformation of the world in line with any bill of shared values or aspirations. Watching the ‘intellectual left’ hammer out the sacred creed of this morbid cult of victimhood is like watching a leper colony in the last stages of making a bleak, mutual death wish come true.

        I do not know what the alternative is. The whole thing leaves me despondent.

      • Tarzie says:

        Haptic, I do so love your comments. I have nothing to add here, but that won’t stop me.

        I’m kind of a simple person, so I don’t take as nuanced a view of this as you do. I feel kind of like Bart Simpson demonstrating one hand clapping here, but I think taking the word of oppressed people should be the default until there are empirical reasons to do something else. I would say that an unmitigated stream of libels against other women is a compelling reason, as is an attention-getting campaign by someone complaining about people drawing attention to her.

        I also think that one can be true to the principal of taking the victim’s word by default but realizing the logical extent of their authority. I don’t think receiving rape threats lends any authority to statements suggesting that radicals are uniquely prone to rape and rape threats. I also don’t think Kendzior can know the political affiliation of the people making anonymous threats. How does she know they’re not right-wing provocateurs or an opportunist writing for Newsweek?

        There is also the status of the person or class the victim claims to have been victimized by to consider. Kendzior’s campaign would have certainly been made much more difficult, and regarded with much more suspicion, if the disagreements leading to the threats were with African American communists. The completely marginal status of radicals clearly counts for nothing here against a neoliberal white academic connected up to the eyeballs to imperialism. That particular tension isn’t even part of the narrative.

        I honestly don’t believe this kind of discourse, which as you correctly say, provides endless opportunities for “the most sociopathic, brutal, ruthless victimizers” is being maintained by people’s good intentions. To the contrary, I think it’s the opportunists that are shielding it from scrutiny. I suppose there are exceptions, but on Twitter, these campaigns always seem to shove people to the right. I think better norms, that honor the word of the oppressed, but nonetheless keep the wolves out, could easily be established if people in high places would just speak up.

      • haptic says:

        Tarzie, you are arguing for the same sort of nuance I feel is missing, and sometimes feel is practically impossible given the way people behave. But your comments ameliorate the gloom a bit.

        I think taking the word of oppressed people should be the default until there are empirical reasons to do something else.

        I agree. What bothers me is that the form the discourse has taken, in its vernacular application, seems to be that taking the word of oppressed people is mandatory. That literally seems to be what people are arguing in some of these threads you linked to.

        I would say that an unmitigated stream of libels against other women is a compelling reason, as is an attention-getting campaign by someone complaining about people drawing attention to her.

        So would I, but what figures like Graeber seem to be arguing above is that they are not compelling reasons. That they ought to be off limits.

        And this is wrong, but it doesn’t seem to matter, because the Kendzior crowd outgunned dissent on it. It seems that the only principle that can be widely embraced (the lowest common denominator) is an absolute one. Anything more nuanced just can’t catch on. A disappointingly stupid throng embraces it. Smarter lefts either disingenuously lean whichever way the wind is blowing to get ahead, terrified of leaning too little or too late, or resort to quietism.

        Or, well, do what you do, which is to say what you think and take the pushback. But it’s clearly an unpleasant position to be in, a lot of the time.

        I also think that one can be true to the principal of taking the victim’s word by default but realizing the logical extent of their authority.

        Again, that’s the sort of rational, correct application of the principle at issue that will bring the mob, but you know all about that.

        The completely marginal status of radicals clearly counts for nothing here against a neoliberal white academic connected up to the eyeballs to imperialism.

        Right, but parallel to the marginalization of radicals within the notional left space, otherwise sympathetic leftwards-bound observers are turned off involvement with the general left project by the manifest ugliness of the most visible self-proclaimed lefts: the ones doing the beat down. Who wants to be a part of something that looks like that?

        I honestly don’t believe this kind of discourse, which as you correctly say, provides endless opportunities for “the most sociopathic, brutal, ruthless victimizers” is being maintained by people’s good intentions. To the contrary, I think it’s the opportunists that are shielding it from scrutiny.

        Perhaps you are right. I feel I have to assume some good intentions. I can’t read their minds. I think a lack of thoughtfulness and a propensity for religious behavior and group mentality accounts for a lot of it.

        I think better norms, that honor the word of the oppressed, but nonetheless keep the wolves out, could easily be established if people in high places would just speak up.


      • Tarzie says:

        So would I, but what figures like Graeber seem to be arguing above is that they are not compelling reasons. That they ought to be off limits.

        Unless, of course, you’re rape survivor Megan Erickson, whose victim authority seems to have expired entirely. No one doubts she was raped, but her rape gets her none of the right-about-everything authority loaned out to serial liar Kendzior based on an alleged threat. The link to SK’s tweet was removed immediately after SK’s demand while Erickson’s letter remains online at Newsweek. A Harvard Law feminist calls her a hypocrite for wanting it taken down and admonishes her for invoking the state to “censor” Newsweek’s hatchet job. Her husband is belittled for melting down on Twitter. Her admirably blunt reply to Kendzior’s first mischaracterization is not retroactively made less rape-apologetic. And so on…

        This is where Graeber and co tip their hand. None of this shit is applied with any consistency. I reckon Graeber’s main interest is less women’s safety than settling scores with Jacobin, which he loathes. There was pent-up feminist ally misogyny to let loose. So logic and empiricism are demanded when necessary — Frost’s piece was widely belittled for its lack of rigor and seriousness — and ‘I, a victim, know a guy’ applies when conditions are optimal for that. Winning and losing is truly just a simple matter of social capital + unscrupulousness. We knew everything we needed to know from these women’s timelines and their follower counts. We might as well have just added it up when it commenced, declared Sarah K the winner from the beginning and compelled the losers to make purchases from her Amazon Wish List if they wished to remain welcome.

        The bottom line is, these people are not acting in good faith and they never will. To call this toxic discourse is too kind because it doesn’t encapsulate how mind-numbingly stupid it is. We need to give this thing they’re doing a name and declare ourselves the Left that doesn’t do that, regarding people that do as we would hungry zombies, which is actually quite close to what they are. I see no alternative that does not require repudiation and disengagement at the very least.

      • haptic says:

        That seems to describe it well. It is just a special case of using ostensibly honorable principles as pretexts for the will to power.

        If I have any bright ideas for names for That Left, I’ll be sure to post them.

      • Tarzie says:

        The Zombie Left

  15. thanos says:

    Did this always happen? Did people used to have a sense of solidarity, “comrade”-liness, tact, whatever? I’ve become very suspicious of the “circular firing squad” meme, which is so gestural and homogenizes so much. Because there really is a difference between, I don’t know, two socialist parties disagreeing about some substantive issue and therefore not acting in alignment on that issue–but doing so in other cases–and this. Because this, among other things, was someone with a powerful media platform making broad claims about “the left.” Now, “the left” can mean many different things and can mean nothing, but if, at a minimum, it means aligning your concerns with those of the dispossessed and disempowered–and I think that works pretty well, whether or not you see it in terms of class–then you understand immediately that you are not coming from a position of power, you are speaking from a position of strategic weakness, you are maybe even speaking on behalf of that position, depending on your audience. You understand yourself as involved in a struggle and not just commenting from a position of spectatorship.

    And that’s why you would not make statements like “The Left has a rape problem.” This is why people got pissed about Bill Cosby saying things like “the lower economic people aren’t holding up their end of the deal.” Even if–especially if–like Cosby, you’re not lower class, you don’t speak down to the people you’re claiming to want to help, and you don’t appoint yourself their spokesman and then slander them. This is an incredibly practical principle that follows naturally from an understanding of struggle as an active participatory process.

    We shouldn’t assume that people who don’t get this are simply enemies, because for some it really is a matter of not thinking this through. (It might imply a certain lack of investment that suggests “no great loss” if they are turned off.) But I’ve gotten interested in the psy-op thing–and observing the reactive smug tics–because we’re not actually at risk of being overly suspicious of vitiating ideology. I just don’t see how disagreement in itself is somehow what’s preventing some kind of solidarized active left movement from making headway, and I sure as hell don’t see those suspicions being leveled over every disagreement.

    • iforg.otmy@ema.il says:

      “We shouldn’t assume that people who don’t get this are simply enemies, because for some it really is a matter of not thinking this through.”

      We probably should not. Yet, people, who buy into this shit, get dumber by the minute as you can watch tweet by tweet with Graeber. It wasn’t that hard to notice the bad faith and outright falsehood of the accusations, I would expect friends to correct her (in DM) not amplify it with outright lies of their own. If anyone joining in the hunt suffered any value conflict / cognitive dissonance in the process, they won’t resolve it by retracting / apologizing rather than dumping those values. Thus “I would crack skulls for Sarah Kendzior.” is now a perfectly progressive sentiment among “women writers with a large following” even if those skulls may be those of less successful peers. Enjoyed the hunt? Please feel free to join in next time.

      It almost feels as if Elias Canetti described this shit in “crowds and power”.

    • Tarzie says:

      I’ve become very suspicious of the “circular firing squad” meme, which is so gestural and homogenizes so much.

      Likewise. I am finding all the usual hand-wringing and finger-waving over The Left’s self-destructiveness particularly insufferable, since this particular crusade was so deeply fucking wrong and weird. When things are such that people are making common cause with Newsweek and Joshua Foust to smear Marxist feminists and the radical left generally, anyone who isn’t entertaining provocation seems a little starry-eyed to me.

      But, of course, out there in the world of acceptable discourse, it’s just the opposite. Only a kook would try to connect any dots here. It’s kind of ironic that before this happened, members of the Pando and Jacobin crews were smugly ridiculing the Left Forum panel about Zizek being a PsyOp. Some of them are now making a fuss over Kendzior’s ties to Freedom House, but I doubt their position on the Zizek panel has changed. Everyone has to keep one foot in being sensible. Kendzior maybe but Zizek? That’s crazy!!!

      you are speaking from a position of strategic weakness…and that’s why you would not make statements like “The Left has a rape problem.”

      If I understand you correctly you’re mostly speaking tactically here, because shit like ‘The Left Has a Rape Problem’ will be picked up by non-Lefts acting in the worst possible faith, as Newsweek did. However, this can be kind of thorny because abusers get leverage from that kind of secrecy. I know of a case in a LGBTQ organization where a sexually harassing board member was immunized by these kinds of concerns.

      For me, the main reason you don’t say ‘The Left has a rape problem’ is that it strongly suggests The Left is uniquely bad where rape is concerned and there is, as far as I know, no evidence to back it up. That’s also the best argument against Bill Cosby’s remarks for me. These are just wild generalizations. Part of the Kendzior package is a lot of bullshit about ‘lived experience’ vs actual data. This kind of summarizes it — “So we’re debating Piketty’s accuracy now? You don’t need a French economist to know you can’t pay your bills.” It places anything she believes above scrutiny. Add to that the taboo on doubting anything a person making claims about rape says, and you have quite a little petrie dish for immunized opinion-having and shit-stirring. It was wise of her to campaign against Frost, because as her piece made plain, she is opposed to this degraded ‘I know a guy’ discourse and also the no-bros culture that protects it.

      We shouldn’t assume that people who don’t get this are simply enemies, because for some it really is a matter of not thinking this through

      I dunno. To me these things take their strength mostly from people’s willingness, indeed eagerness, to pile on without familiarizing themselves with the facts at all. In the early stages, many of them clearly believed Jacobin had not only mocked Kendzior but that they had linked to actual rape threats. They were quite happy to start viciously trashing Frost and Erickson without having inconvenienced themselves with anything the two women actually wrote. Then Kendzior completely distorted what Stoker had written and they piled on her. I can’t imagine what is meant by a ‘left’ this non-analytical and pugilistic and that follows an ethos that puts Mark Ames’s pieces on Omidyar beyond serious consideration, but is quite happy to throw in beside Josh Foust and some Newsweek shitstain to trash Marxist women. I keep hoping one day there will be some morning-after regret once the psychosis subsides, but instead, social climbing dipshits like Aaron Bady write thinkpieces that literally say Truth is whatever the mob says it is. Having been the object of a beatdown myself I am not at all inclined to be charitable toward this. It’s anti-intellectual, vicious and gives the greenest of lights to provocateurs and propagandists. Zero tolerance for this bullshit. I write off people completely for no reason but involving themselves in this stuff. If these people aren’t my enemies, they’re sure as fuck not my friends.

      • Having been the object of a beatdown myself…

        Perhaps this is a bit off topic, but it seems like a good moment to reflect on my involvement in that. I pulled my archive so I could go back and look over our interactions, and boy did I annoy you with a lot of stupid shit. Sorry.

        I think the straw that broke the camel’s back came when I RT’d this tweet:

        I thought it was ironic (the mob reflecting on it’s own idiocy by quoting you, multi-level satire, or whatever), but the effect was just to add to the shitstorm. I should have just left it alone, but I didn’t, so I apologize.

        I feel like I’ve learned a lot over the last year of largely avoiding Twitter and reading your blog, and especially from following this latest incident. If I ever return to posting, hopefully I’ll manage to engage with it more strategically. Discussions like this thread are an important part of learning how to use quasi-democratic forums like Twitter productively. By learning to navigate the roiling sea of celebrity narcissism without losing ourselves in it, we might have a chance of rescuing some people who would otherwise drown in the stupidity. Direct, mutual education is where we find hope if we are going to find it anywhere.

        If we are going to build better, horizontal, anti-capitalist social networks, we are going to have to find people to build them with us. Maybe most of that work can be done offline, but we will probably have to use capitalist structures like Twitter as well, at least for now, with all the broadcasted stupidity that this entails.

      • babaganusz says:

        “To me these things take their strength mostly from people’s willingness, indeed eagerness, to pile on without familiarizing themselves with the facts at all.”

        this, so hard, as some of the kids once said.
        encapsulates my deepest fears about anything that could be labeled a ‘mob [mentality]’ but it seems that every time i see it articulated (or attempt articulation) it is dismissed as some kind of elitist pearl-clutching. thank you for the reminder that [though elitists and pearl-clutchers lurk nearly everywhere – Paranoia, anyone?] there is much more to it.

  16. Bitman says:

    For the record, I hadn’t heard anyone’s “side” in the way you seem to think I and everyone else here has. The ridiculous allegation that I am in some way or part of “Sarah’s side” is completely baseless. I know none of the parties here, have had no contact with any of them ever, and knew next to nothing about any of them 48 hours ago. Now after reading summaries of the matter I know a little more.

    Here’s what I think you’re missing:

    Let’s stipulate that Kendzior’s a snake (meaning her current opportunistic mischaracterizations are part of a long-running pattern). The question becomes: why didn’t Frost expect something like this from her? To paraphrase John Le Carre’s upbraiding of Salman Rushdie in a decidedly different (but nevertheless relevantly similar) context, when Frost posted that Tweet, she was deciding to take on a known enemy, only to scream “foul” when that enemy acted in character. That enemy’s character may be despicable and her behavior repulsive, but that doesn’t mean Frost’s own motivations and actions should be immune from examination here. Why not face that?

    I certainly don’t think Frost deserved Kendzior’s lies and the onslaught (such as is was), but she isn’t a complete innocent in this matter. She provided the impetus for Kendzior’s character to express itself as it did in this instance, and then things clearly took on a life of their own.

    Twitter burned Frost too, I presume from you comments? Seems you feel burned as well, judging by your bizarre injunction that I “go run” with “them” on it! But I don’t tweet. I follow people, but I think it’d be better if people on the left did as little valorizing of corporate social media platforms as possible. It’s hard not to use them, though, when you’re trying to make a name for yourself, isn’t it?

    Given that Frost herself was at least somewhat surprised at the depths of Kendzior’s mendaciousness and capacity for attracting large-ish media to this otherwise small discursive matter, I wouldn’t be so damn quick to assign to me or anyone else the correct assessment we’re supposed to have of this situation. My sympathies are with Frost as well, and with the others smeared. That sucks. But there’s a bigger picture here about how to build and strengthen radical left networks that I frankly care more about. Here’s a hint: it won’t be done on Twitter or Facebook.

    • Tarzie says:

      I assumed that since you were attempting to offer mitigating information about Sarah Kendzior’s conduct you were well aware of the situation. How odd to attempt to explain/offset behavior you’re not entirely aware of. I’ll take you at your word though. By ‘side’, I simply meant the group that would defend her, whether they know her or not.

      I am really not interested in figuring out what share of the blame belongs to Frost for underestimating Kendzior’s ruthlessness. She may have expected a little Twitter argument and no more. I don’t give a shit what she expected. It doesn’t mitigate anything Kendzior and her mob did. People take swings at each other all the time in this realm. The worst you can say is that she was reckless, but Kenzior owns her smears. Frost stayed offline and wasn’t around to scream ‘Foul’ or anything else, but she was also not the only woman getting hammered. You don’t seem to know this.

      If you are interested in getting a better sense of the conflict, I recommend this. http://imgur.com/a/nUX1A

      As far as me feeling burned, yeah I do, because I find all these crusades depressingly stupid, dishonest and vile and don’t like to see decent people viciously attacked by creeps out to ruin them. Weird, huh? This clusterfuck was particularly disquieting in that in addition to being a smear campaign against three women, it’s part of a larger campaign against radicals. It didn’t start with this and it won’t end with it either.

      I completely agree “there’s a bigger picture here about how to build and strengthen radical left networks that I frankly care more about.” So it’s disappointing and really rather odd to me that you opened with some bullshit links about Kendzior’s work on internships. This might be more fun for both of us if you moved onto this building and strengthening stuff you’re interested in and set the matter of Kendzior and Frost aside.

  17. Bitman says:

    Glad to move on from it and to the larger issues.

    I suppose all this struck a nerve for me since I am a strongly disinclined to believe that corporate interactivity platforms will ever be domesticat-able along lines favorable to left organizing, or even simply to the point where decent people can have a reasonable expectation of safey from discursive assaults. I love the internet: it’s just not my friend, especially the corporate social media sphere. It is, literally by definition, a hostile space. The economies of these platforms are built on the ruthless, continual exploitation of every digital act performed within them. This cannot be fully gotten around (of course there are variations between the levels of “extractiveness” from platform to platform, and Twitter’s policy is better than lots of other spaces, but as a rule the “terms of service” agreements for any big corporate platforms are constructed to enhance the ability for those platforms to maximize the value they can extract from the activity on the site over time). The fact that that exploitation isn’t usually felt by most people is deeply sad and highly problematic politically.

    The terms of service ensure that in order to participate in these spaces we must agree to give over control of the means for producing our own sociality within them (as Marc Andrejevic puts it). Anti-capitalist lefts should be very wary of doing this. I recognize the current impracticality of avoiding them completely, but this should be an express, public future goal.

    I would also add that, at least for the foreseeable future, radicals are going to be outnumber-able in those spaces whenever an opportunity to discipline radical thought arises (as in this case), and so it seems we have another reason to be more judicious in our use of corporate social media platforms. There are other ways we might go but they take time.

    • Tarzie says:

      I completely agree with you on this and would add that these large social network monopolies have solved a lot of the problem of opinion management for The Rulers that the internet originally posed. Twitter makes it very easy to manipulate and distract people.

      • Jay23 says:

        On that note – after reading this whole thread, my takeaway is that I am missing nothing, absolutely nothing, by foregoing a twitter account. Am I just a Luddite? It just sounds like a 15-dimensional youtube comment thread spewing out nonsense in every direction.

      • Tarzie says:

        It’s actually worse than that.

        If you’ve resisted it this long, I don’t recommend starting now. I envy people that leave Twitter or have never started. It’s like smoking. It’s just a habit, an avoidance mechanism mostly.

        I think, that, especially from the standpoint of being a person oriented toward social change, there are million better ways to spend your time. The people of Twitter are improving nothing.

      • haptic says:

        I think you are missing a bird’s eye view of the hard limits on left organization imposed by human biology and psychology.

      • Tarzie says:

        That’s a tantalizing thought. Feel free to elaborate if you’re inclined.

      • haptic says:

        Imagine there was a recipe for utopia which was conceivably possible, where all of the possibilities were mapped out, but which required that 90% of living human beings were able to solve a mathematical problem to a particular standard which, statistically, only 2% of human beings, even given equal and full tuition, ever come to be able to solve. The natural distribution of faculties within the human population is just such that only a small percentage can hope to practically meet this standard. There is a baseline inequality in the distribution of faculties. That utopia is practically unattainable.

        Now imagine the same scenario, but where there is no 2%. No human being can practically attain to the required standard. However, in this scenario, it is possible to imagine people attaining to the required standard, and it is not clear (there is no evidence to suggest) that no person can attain to the required standard. In fact, there is no reason to imagine that the utopia is practically unattainable, even though it is. Many strive for it, bewildered by repetitive failures, but hope springs eternal.

        Return to reality, retaining the idea of the distribution of faculties across a population, but exploding the math problem, so that what we are actually talking about are psychological factors (hard facts about the distribution of psychological traits within human populations) which govern in-group out-group behavior; the pull of the will to power within groups; the extent to which bandwagonlike and lynchmoblike behavior is compulsive and unavoidable in large groups of people and irresistable for all but a few socially disenfranchised people; the extent to which it is realistic that a large number of people can subscribe to a political philosophy without it becoming bastardized and reduced to something which exacerbates those other tendencies, etc

        The prevalence of these factors may or may not be anathema to left organizing. There have to be possible worlds in which the standards of engagement assumed by left movements are quite attainable given the hard and unchangeable realities of human psychology, and other possible worlds in which left organizing is just (unbeknownst to us) unrealistic, given the hard and unchangeable realities of human psychology.

        Unknowable, that is, because for most of the history people have only ever been able to observe these movements from the ground, and have never appreciated how they operate at a large scale. But Twitter, in a way, allows you to observe things happening very fast, and at a large scale, and therefore perhaps enables induction as to the viability of left organizing, given the hard limits of human psychology.

        But all of this is just conjecture.

      • Dan H says:

        Twitter is an awfully shallow tool to use to condemn human malleability. I don’t necessarily disagree that leftist notions cannot spread thoroughly enough throughout the population, but twitter is just so fucking vapid… 144 characters obviously cuts out any nuance. Its just the latest model in the evolution of sloganeering. If we start using some form of instant electronic polling with truly universal participation and education (obviously a high bar, but at current tech ability just a tablet in every hand with access to the web) and the results are still coming in for selfishness, then ill own up to my misanthropy. But I can’t see twitter as hammering any more nails in the coffin. Its just derivative.

      • haptic says:

        That’s a fair caveat, I think.

        I agree, Twitter’s enforced brevity probably creates its own structural limits. Lessons on the hard limits of human facilities for drawn from Twitter are most likely inconclusive.

        I still do wonder, though, generally. I am not sure it should change anything.

  18. Look, would it be too terribly bourgeois “view-from-nowhere” imperialist lapdog presstitute of me to ask why we can’t learn who the brocialist is who sent those rape threats to Sarah Kendzior? Shouldn’t that be reported? Shouldn’t there be a Human Rights Watch style naming and shaming? Shouldn’t the police be called? Couldn’t we get not only the name, but the content, so we can determine what the context is? That doesn’t diminish the problem of rape threats on line, or doubt a woman’s word, or diminish the problem (as some seem to imply) but only bolsters the factual approach needed to combat it. By implying we can’t ask this without being part of “rape culture,” we’re enabling future rape threat emails to be sent with impunity. There’s a curious authoritarian feminism convention at play here that says we have to keep an omerta on rape threats or acts, real or online, because otherwise we are re-traumatizing the victim or taking the oppressor’s side. Huh? Can’t we just have due diligence on the facts and due process and journalism here?

    It’s important to see this latest provocation of Kendzior’s within a context of a long string of political provocations on the themes of authoritarianism and rights that mainly seem to be about either disrupting politics for the sake of disruption, or establishing a sectarian cadre network’s take on politics. I’ve summarized them here:


    I’ve followed the Registanis for years. Yes, Hamm and Foust were DoD contractors, but Foust’s job before the current one at Eurasia Foundation was at the American Security Project, which is a liberal hawk think tank with John Kerry and others. He was let go when Kerry was made Secretary of State and Central Asian funds began to be wound down as the war in Afghanistan was announced to be “ending”. Casey Michel was in the Peace Corps and seems to be one of those Peace Corps volunteers who comes back with clientitis, in this case for the Nazarbayev regime.

    As a supporter of the military but a critic merely of how they did this or that, Foust has a long controversial record as a gadfly, serial harasser of various human rights leaders like the regional directors of ICG, HRW, CPJ, etc. and regional activists against drones, etc. When he took his current job, he evidently was told to cool it with the endless Twitter wars he got into with all these people on a routine basis. Few people consistently stand up to him because he is so vicious (I have) — for their troubles they will find themselves endlessly libeled in the way he slams these Jacobin editors not just due to a misunderstanding, but to enabling of the highly sectarian and selective reading Kendzior has put on this.

    The Registanis are not neo-cons. They’re too young to be true neo-cons and didn’t live through the Cold War. They themselves loathe neo-cons and constantly seek to disassociate themselves from them. Rather, they are a kind of establishment liberal hawk clique that promotes drones, but condemns the war in Iraq; intellectually facilitates the war in Afghanistan but is averse to strikes on Syria, and so on. They also flip-flop, particularly Foust.

    Kendzior’s politics in fact have little in common with Freedom House, but she likely saw an opportunity to infiltrate this centrist organization with her own brand of sectarianism on both Internet and Central Asian issues. Whatever you think of them, FH is now a standard for annual surveys on the levels of freedom and democracy in countries, and she wrote the Uzbekistan chapter. BTW, it is a freelance job not a full-time job, and Kramer would not be her immediate supervisor on this consulting position.

    The field of Eurasian studies is small and opportunities for work and publication are limited. Just about everyone in this field, regardless of their politics, publishes on RFE/RL, because they used to pay fees (now generally they don’t). There is nothing sinister about RFE/RL as it has not been a CIA program since the 1970s and long ago was put under the direction of a separate Board of International Broadcasting and funded by Congress, which gives it oversight and scrutiny. In the academic and regional fields, RFE/RL reporting is accepted as fairly free of bias. It is not seen as conspiratorial and is not propagandistic in the matter of the Kremlin’s RT.com.

    You tend to spin conspiracy theories based on what you see as bastions of some kind of neo-con movement, but in fact, the neo-cons are almost non-existent today — they are ridiculed and have had to rebrand or disappear all over the place. Think tanks today are filled with International Affairs Realist School devotees — that’s what all these people at Registan are about. That makes them tend to be uncritical of Putin (Foust wrote an awful essay knocking Pussy Riot); they tend to believe we have to pragmatically deal with the tyrants of Central Asia for the sake of the Northern Distribution Network required to get supplies to troops, and so on. If you look up Mark Ames on Foust, you will see the trigger for his serial rant on Foust’s “failing up” was Foust’s minimizing of a terrible massacre of workers in Zhanaozen, and his joining in, along with Kendzior, of a disparagement of a lesbian Russian writer who reported more victims of this massacre than the state media would admit. That was a typical story at Registan.

    Since leaving academia, Kendzior has worked for Al Jazeera and has swerved more to the left opportunistically but also because her own brand of liberal hawk politics in fact were decidedly old-school DSA although she is too young to have been trained in the DSA. But she shows the marks of training somewhere in some cadre organization as she is manipulative, uses classic psy-war techniques, and picks up popular SEIU-type socialist topics like internship pay and minimum wage.

    Sarah in fact has not written much on Ukraine because it doesn’t fit her politics; Foust has been more vocal and for the first time in years has even had critical tweets against Putin, which was not his pattern before when he was in the reset business with Obama. But what she has written is awful, implying that journalists who care about Ukraine are day-trippers and war porn gawkers. Disgraceful. But that’s typical of her method of indirectly defending the status quo of bureaucratic socialist-oligarchic regimes in this region by attacking their liberal or leftist oppositions and exaggering their rightist oppositions. Her main thesis in all her Internet articles — to summarize what is a convoluted and cunning set of arguments — is that radicals who write too much about human rights violations are making the Internet get shut down for everybody, and therefore precluding incremental reform.

    Kendzior and Foust are not part of the “kreakly” as the Russians call them (creative class) because they are pragmatic realists who defend the state here and abroad because that’s where their jobs are.

    In the old days, this entire saga would be easier to call — we would learn that Moscow Center had decreed that Jacobin, once a loyal front group, had to die because it was too bourgeois and error-prone, and then nudges through the networks would be made until the proper agents of influence would be deployed to unleash the usual active measures. Today, it is all far more complicated than that.

    Popovic is smeared in this account because Occupy was looking for scapegoats after its huge self-induced failures — taking USAID or NED or Freedom House grants doesn’t make you a tool of US intelligence, it just makes you good at grant-getting for your particular cause. Funny how you don’t slam Soros who put more into colour revolutions than the USG.

    There’s lots more that I could say about this but you’re in another universe on most of these issues which we won’t agree about. I can only repeat that you have to see Kendzior’s provocation here within the context of a whole series of provocations ranging from her promotion of the “suicide girl” hoax in Uzbekistan to the knock-down of the woman who wrote “I Am Adam Lanza’s Mother”.

    • Tarzie says:

      You tend to spin conspiracy theories based on what you see as bastions of some kind of neo-con movement,

      I do no such thing but, apart from this, thanks for taking the time to tell us what you know. Helpful.

      • Of course you do. You implied that her work at Freedom House was some sort of smoking con of neo-conism. every discussion you’ve had of Freedom House or USAID is always dripping with implications of a vast neo-con conspiracy.

      • Tarzie says:

        You implied that her work at Freedom House was some sort of smoking con of neo-conism.

        Catherine, I suppose we all look like the same person to you, but if you check out what opinions fly under what name, you’ll see that I haven’t said anything about Freedom House at all.

        I have, however, talked about USAID, but never in the context of neocon conspiracy. I don’t think I have ever mentioned neocons on this blog even once.

        I am concerned with imperialism, and it is in that context in which I discuss USAID, which is clearly one of its instruments.

      • But you *did* mention Freedom House, see above. And in a context where it implies it’s all suspect, related to neo-cons.

        I’m laughing out loud at what you *are* confessing to, however:
        “I am concerned with imperialism, and it is in that context in which I discuss USAID, which is clearly one of its instruments.”

        Say, do you ever get concerned about Soviet and then Russian imperialism? You know, like now, in Ukraine?

  19. Private says:

    For those interested in Registan: This information was good as of 2011/2012 but is considerably dated now and not reflective of the current activities of the individuals mentioned.

    Summary: Nathan Hamm, the founder of Registan.net, is the principal analyst for a company holding intelligence contracts US Special Forces and the US Navy.
    Hamm’s profile on Registan.net –
    “Nathan has worked professionally on Central Asian issues since 2003, and since 2007, has been been a full-time analyst, consulting with clients on Central Asian affairs. He assists organizations to incorporate socio-cultural knowledge into their decision-making processes and to visualize spatial and temporal relationships by mapping social, cultural, and political datasets.” – http://registan.net/index.php/about/about-nathan/
    The company Hamm works for, SCIA, is subcontracted to perform analysis for US Special Forces and the Naval Surface Warfare Center (NSWC) Crane Division. [http://www.fbodaily.com/archive/2011/10-October/08-Oct-2011/FBO-02604004.htm]. NSWC’s mandate includes: “Electronic Warfare/Information Operations.”
    Hamm’s Linkedin profile states he lives in the Portland area, Oregon. However domain name registration and telephone records indicate that Hamm currently lives at [deleted] Tampa, Florida. Telephone records indicate that he lives at this address with [deleted] .
    He has worked for SCIA (Socio-Cultural Intelligence Analysis) since October 2009. Prior to that: TSI Executive Consulting from July 2007 – October 2009.
    Previous domain name registration records list two Kansas City addresses. During this time it is likely that he worked at Fort Levenworth’s Human Terrain Systems Reachback Research Center run by the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC).
    The 2010 US Army Posture statement explains, “Reachback Research Center (RRC). The RRC provides direct support (tactical overwatch) research and analysis capabilities to the deployed teams. The RRC consists of social scientists, as well as uniformed and civilian analysts, organized in regionally-focused cells. The Afghanistan cell is at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.” [https://secureweb2.hqda.pentagon.mil/vdas_armyposturestatement/2010/information_papers/Human_Terrain_Systems_(HTS).asp]
    Hamm’s earlier employer in Kansas, TSI-X, reportedly “[administered] and staffs the HTS Reachback Research Center.” TSI-X is listed as an engineering company (on the CCR and FPDS) who also perform other admin services. The company’s website focuses “innovative methodologies with multidisciplinary experts to provide analytical and operational support to government agencies, private companies, and academic institutions. TSI utilizes leading edge and pioneering approaches to analytical problems in the conduct and direct support of international operations.”
    TSI has one US government contract with the General Services Administration (GS10F0137W) signed in March 2010. According to the FPDS it is a “Federal Supply Schedule Contract.” For “Engineering and Technical Services” TSI appears to have no prior contracting history. But a general supply contract means that TSI is a pre-approved vendor and as such may be hired by government entities on a case-by-case basis without a formal tendering process.
    TSI was founded by Tracy Smith. Smith served as a CIA agent during as US forces entered Baghdad. His college alumni page states: “After his time with the CIA, Smith decided to start his own business. TSI Executive Consulting works with the Department of Defense and other government agencies with contracts related to analytical analyses on counterterrorism and counter-proliferation. The organization is also conducting research on human terrain, which compiles political geography in different areas of the world.”
    Smith founded TSI in 2004. According to his Linkedin profile he was simultaneously working on the military’s SKOPE project. He was Deputy Chief, Analysis Cell, between 2004 – 2006, and Chief, Analytic Team and Senior Intelligence Consultant, October 2004 – November 2006.
    The Naval Studies Board describe SKOPE as an “Intelligence Cell.”
    “The SKOPE is a joint intelligence analytic cell with the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA), SOCOM, and STRATCOM. It began with a specific request from military commanders for sensors to help narrow the search space for terrorists and terror groups. The RRTO recommended the development of SKOPE and was the sole funding source for the initial operating capability of the analytic cell. In response to further requests, the RRTO is developing new tools based on experience with the operational capability. The SKOPE cell applies all-source, multi-input intelligence analysis linked to a spot on Earth. Through its application of human terrain analysis, SKOPE incorporates aspects of the U.S. Army’s Human Terrain System, a proof-of-concept program to improve the military’s ability to understand the highly complex local sociocultural environment in areas of deployment.” [http://www.nap.edu/openbook.php?record_id=12612&page=9]
    Joshua Foust also employed by TSI Executive January 2008 to May 2009. Whilst working in Afghanistan, Hamm peer reviewed research papers written by Foust. [http://info.publicintelligence.net/USArmy-AfghanTribalStructure.pdf] Foust left TSI-X to work for Northrop Grumman May 2009 to January 2011. Foust’s bio at the American Security Projects claims he worked for the National Ground Intelligence Center, and later on political violence in Yemen for the Defense Intelligence Agency. Foust became a fellow at the ASP the same month he left Northrop Grumman, according to his linked in page. Hamm also gives Foust a recommendation on Linkedin indicating that he managed Foust. [http://www.linkedin.com/in/joshuafoust] Foust started writing for Registan.net in 2006 and is now listed as an editor of the website. Prior to TSI-X, both Hamm and Foust edited and blogged at Global Voices respectively.
    In July 2008, Foust asked for public donations to fund a trip to Afghanistan. [http://registan.net/index.php/2008/07/12/a-challenge-grant/], however according Linkedin, he was working for TSI-X at this time. Foust wrote that he was given permission for unpaid leave after just six months after the start of his employment. “Because of a book I reviewed in this space, this past week I received a very generous invitation to spend two weeks touring northern Afghanistan at the end of August. More importantly, my employer even more generously gave me permission to take the time to do this.” [http://registan.net/index.php/2008/07/06/putting-my-money-where-my-mouth-is/]
    In October 2009 Hamm joined SCIA as “Chief for Human Terrain Analysis section responsible for Central Asia” and “[Served] as Program Manager for SCIA, LLC operations at client site, attending to client, head office, and employee needs.” In January 2012 he was promoted to “Principal Analyst.” This professional move coincides with the domain name registration addresses in Kansas.
    SCIA was founded in 2005 by Swen Johnson, a former Army counterintelligence special agent with a doctorate in sociology.
    In a 2008 defense industry magazine article SCIA’s work was described as “SCIA’s mission is to help DoD and the IC understand the geospatial patterns of human groups and significant individuals, and how social structure and culture create the human terrain […] Johnson developed a method that was heavily sociological in its focus on groups and heavily empirical and quantitative. The result was a blend of all-source analysis that combined cutting edge techniques in social network analysis, a heavy dose of social-scientific theory, geospatial technology and a focus on culture.” http://www.kmimediagroup.com/mgt-archives/7-mgt-2008-volume-6-issue-5/28-geospatial-crystal-ball.html
    The article adds: “SCIA now serves several different defense agencies and combatant commands. It is currently a subsidiary of Earl Industries, a ship-repair company that has formed a Technology Group featuring several defense and intelligence technology companies.”
    SCIA is not listed in either the FPDS or USAspending.gov as having contracts. However, Jacobs – Unified and Special Operations Group (USOG) (a division of the Jacobs Group, including Jacobs Engineering), holders of the ALMBOS (Acquisition, Logistics, Management and Business Operations Support) with SOCOM identify SCIA as a partner.
    Jacobs USOG describe their work under the ALMOBS contract as: “[…] utilizing a broad range of capabilities to serve all elements of Special Operations, Joint Staff, Unified Commands, and other Defense Agencies […]to provide a diverse range of systems engineering and technical assistance to the USSOCOM headquarters staff, its components, and the theater SOCs as part of the Acquisition, Logistics, Management and Business Operations Support (ALMBOS) contract […] Our teammates and specialty contractors include: Lockheed Martin; […] Northrop Grumman […] SCIA; L3 Communications; SPADAC; RDR.” [https://www.usog.jacobs.com/default.aspx]
    The Jacob’s ALMBOS contract was in 2010 worth $510 million and awarded without full and open competition, the FAR clause cited was “only one responsible source.” [https://www.fbo.gov/download/7c7/7c7c4074f4654fc3c6ee97b7cd933b59/JNA_08-006_Amend_02_Final_100219.pdf] – [http://www.defenseindustrydaily.com/US-SOCOM-Raises-Ceiling-on-GBPS-Contract-As-RFP-Award-Awaits-GAO-Review-06328/]
    In December 2010, SCIA was sold to Centra Technologies. In May 2010, Courage Services was also sold to Centra Tecnologies. SCIA’s website is now redirected to Courage Service’s website.
    Centra was founded in 1985 by Dr Harold Rosenbaum , the former chairman of the Defense Science Board. The company’s Chief Knowledge Officer, Eliot A. Jardines, was the first Assistant Deputy Director of National Intelligence for Open Source 2005-2008. Open Source Information specializes in analyzing publicly available information on the internet for intelligence purposes.
    Julia Bowers is currently the General Manager of SCIA and Director of Defense Programs for Courage Services. She also worked on the SKOPE project took part in interrogations in Afghanistan as part of an “experimental program.” [http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:fYmBt91mpnQJ:www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm%3Fid%3Dpentagon-cultural-analyst-helped-interrogate-detainees-afghanistan&hl=en&strip=1]
    Bower’s bio for a defense conference held in the UK in January 2012 says: “SCIA, LLC specializes in the operational application of Socio-Cultural analysis and Human Terrain tradecraft training while Courage Services, Inc is a Human Geography data and research company specializing in the development of situational awareness platforms.
    “Ms. Bowers has most recently served as the Chief of Human Terrain for USSOCOM’s Skope Cell working towards building the foundation of US DoD Human Terrain methodologies and tradecraft. In addition, Ms. Bowers served as a principal analyst at USCENTCOM’s Human Terrain Analysis Branch, and as an instructor at George Mason University for the GIS certificate program, Human Terrain Analysis course. Ms. Bowers has also served two tours in the US Navy, and a tour with USSOCOM in Afghanistan.”
    The GIS certificate program was initiated by SCIA founder, Swen Johnson.
    Courage Services’ website states: “Courage Services, Inc. and SCIA, LLC are industry-leading providers of human geography data and analysis services. In 2012, we will merge under the name of Courage Services, and our combined experience and skills will further advance the offerings to our clientele.”
    Courage Services was founded in 2007 by William D. Pratt (Bill). Having sold Courage Services to Centra he later joined the board or ERG Partners, the merge and acquisitions specialists for intelligence companies that advised him on the sale.
    ERG state on their website: “Bill is the Founder and the Director of Research and Analysis of Courage Services, Inc., a provider of cultural and geographic research and analysis to the Intelligence Community and the Department of Defense […] Between 2002 and2005, he was the Chief methodologist and researcher for the Research Studies Team within the NGA Office of Counter-Terrorism as an independent contractor.”
    SCIA/Courage Services’ websites states that staff maintain strong links with the academic community. On its events page it lists an upcoming C. Asian conference at Indiana University; Many of the active contributors to Registan study or lecture at Indiana University.
    Courage Services has a number of US government contracts dating back to 2008. It is also listed FY2010 as holding a contract with the Australian Department of Defense. [http://www.defence.gov.au/dmo/id/cic_contracts/Defence_Contract_Listing_FY10.pdf]
    Since Courage and SCIA found themselves to be wholly owned subsidiaries of Centra Technology, Courage was given a sole source award on contract N0016411CJT25.
    A formal justification and approval has not yet been issued but the following notice was place don FBO.gov: “Naval Surface Warfare Center (NSWC) Crane Division plans to enter into a Cost Plus Fixed Fee (CPFF) Contract with Courage Services 6862 Elm St STE 340 Mc Lean, VA 22101-3897 for research and studies for human terrain/human geography analysis. The proposed contract will have a 12-month base period of performance with two one-year options. This requirement will be negotiated on a sole source basis in accordance with the statutory authority 10 U.S.C. 2304(c)(1) as implemented by FAR 6.302-1; Only one responsible source and no other supplies will satisfy agency requirements. The basis for restricting competition is Courage’s expertise in human terrain/human geography analysis, duplicative cost to the Government that it would not expect to recover through competition, and the unacceptable delays in fulfilling the agency’s requirement through any other source. No formal solicitation will be issued.”
    NSWC Crane division is tasked with, among other things, “electronic warfare/information operations systems.” NSWC website adds: “It specializes in total lifecycle support in three focus areas: Special Missions; Strategic Missions; Electronic Warfare/Information Operations.”
    On July 1, 2011, Courage Services was the sub-contractor to Jacobs Engineering Group on a SOCOM contract, “The purpose of this Task Order is to replicate the HQ USSOCOM PAS capability at each of the four TSOC locations listed and to establish a fifth team (Emerging Requirements PAS) at HQ USSOCOM. The overall objective is to provide support to SOF mission planning requirements with a robust capability to do geospatially-based predictive analysis.”
    The place of performance is Tampa. The contract was multiple award contract with Jacobs being one of four awardees.
    The scope of work includes “[…] intelligence operations; military planning; intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance program analysis; biometrics, socio-cultural analysis, geospatial analysis, signals intelligence, and human terrain initiatives with ISR support.”
    Noah Tucker, a former contributor to Registan, also works at SCIA/Courage Services. He started in October 2009 and describes his work as “Academic, open-source, and classified research and analysis on socio-cultural issues in Central Asia and Afghanistan as part of an effort to make US efforts “smarter” on broad cultural and religious issues intra-community conflict, regional priorities and domestic interests informing policy decisions of national leaders.” [http://www.linkedin.com/pub/noah-tucker/11/b3/b14 ]
    There is a two year gap 2007-2009 in Tuckers works history on Linkedin. However, research papers [https://ronna-afghan.harmonieweb.org/Lists/Featured%20Articles/Attachments/1/RRC-AF2-09-0004%20History%20of%20Islamist%20Extremism%20in%20Afghanistan.pdf] produced at the HTS Reachback Research Center suggest he was working at the facility in February 2009, possibly for TSI-X. The reviewers of the paper included Josh Zenger a senior research analyst for TS-X at Fort Leavenworth Feb 2008 to November 2011 and Chris Lunsford who also worked for TSI-X Jan 2008 to Jan 2010 with a three month overlap at SCIA where he’ has been working since October 2009.
    Tucker has written 27 articles for Registan.net starting in March 2009. The website states Tucker “currently works as a researcher and consultant on Central Asian issues for a variety of government, NGO, and academic organizations and projects. Most of his work has focuses on revivalist religious movements, state-society relations, the effects of U.S. policies and presence in the region, social and new media in Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan, and, ethnic conflict.”
    Courage Services is currently hiring a “Human Terrain Analyst” with place of work “
    Human Terrain Analyst, MacDill AFB, Tampa, FL.” [http://www.courageservices.com/assets/descriptions/CourageHumanTerrainAnalyst.pdf]
    Recommended reading: “Blogs and Military Information Strategy” by J. Kinniburgh and D. Denning, Joint Special Operations University Report, May 2006.

    • All true, except now he’s selling leather goods. His server was registered in Florida. He appears to be in Oregon.

      The question to ask is why Kendzior (to get back on topic) hooked up with these defense contractors when she herself does not appear to have ever worked for defense contractors. She now styles herself as a lefty, works for Al Jazeera, writes about minimum wages, and has fits about feminist issues as we’ve seen. This doesn’t track with the hawks. But maybe it does if you are an IR realist as she is.

  20. Karen MacRae says:

    And how sexist is the notion women are incapable of lying, as Graeber is explicitly saying?

  21. Mallam says:

    I’m going to have to read that imgur link to get a grasp of what in the fuck is going on here. I’ve seen bits and pieces here and there — I’m not on twitter but occassionally I read billmon1 and Max Blumenthal’s twitter feeds — but in general I’m totally lost.

    But before I do, is it really worth my time and investment to see what’s going on here? Or should I just ignore it until it goes away?

    • haptic says:

      The controversy itself doesn’t really warrant a lot of attention; it is interesting mostly in how it exemplifies certain pathological forms of behavior that afflict the left. I don’t think you’re missing out on that much if you don’t read up on it, except for the obligatory feelings of self-hating left-belonging that it triggers.

      Besides the imgur link, this one is also reasonably informative, although I feel it stands too much on ceremony.

  22. Bitman says:

    I thought this was an excellent synoptic piece covering some themes discussed here, including reference to the Kendzior/Jacobin affair.


    At this point I’d like to endorse the harshest criticisms being made of Kendzior’s claims, pretty much without qualification. I never thought much about her one way or the other before this beyond the articles I’d posted, but it’s clear she is a sophisticated actor linked to agendas I despise.

  23. Arch Stanton says:

    Zero reason to post this. Just wanted to thank you for this thread. The shit between you and haptic especially worked through what I’ve been wrestling with ever since this shit started, and did so exquisitely.

    • Tarzie says:

      Zero reason to post this.

      Oh pshaw! There is a special place in my heart for people who reach out to tell me they found something useful here, especially if they share this blog with others. (hint hint). A lot of people seem to be finding that thread useful. Here’s a link to it directly if you want to spread the news.

      I hope you’ll stick around, if you are not a regular reader already. This is one of the few blogs where the comment threads are frequently better than the posts.

      • haptic says:

        I think what I find most refreshing about this blog is the primacy of judgment here.

        I had the urge to abandon some strategies on the basis that they are abused. Tarzie, as usual, draws attention to the whole continuum of less harmful alternatives opened up by the introduction of judgment, discretion, and critique – those things which always go missing when you most need them. That was a welcome introduction of nuance where I could see only extremes.

        The moral of that discussion is that they can work, as long as they are applied by good faith actors using good judgment. You never arrive; you have to keep engaging and examining your reasoning. It’s the pursuit of the good life. But the censorious left’s main thrust in these fights is to eliminate judgment. Judgment falls to The Rule. There is only the rule, and you will follow it or you will fall victim to it.

        The rule makes things much simpler. It’s short and you can learn it, and then you just have to follow it in any given situation. Applying it may require some discretion, some independent judgment, but if you don’t recognize that it seems that all you have to do is look for cues in the way others are applying it, and then just copy them. The rule removes the duty on a conscientious left to do all that heavy lifting that is required to come to an informed judgment on a given issue: you don’t actually need to read the heretical words of your designated target, and make an honest judgment to yourself about whether the mandatory opprobrium is deserved; the rule’s simplicity licenses you to abandon yourself to the will of the mob, and to be swept along righteously to whatever moral certainty it settles on.

        For most of the bourgeois and bourgeoized liberal capitalists who have staked out and taken over left branding, staying in the left (useful for social and career advancement) is the simple matter of learning the rules and peforming formal obedience to them. It is a membership of the left that can be summarised in a Buzzfeed article: “These are the 25 Rules You ABSOLUTELY NEED TO KNOW to be a real leftist.” Take it for granted that these left bodysnatchers account for the majority of credentialed, prominent and influential lefts, even on a local scale. The project survives in disarray at the margins, where it can’t fuck up anything important. That is the consequence of the triumph of capital, historically. The left doesn’t disappear; it’s just replaced, brick by brick, with bourgeois, liberal, ego-tripping capitalists gripped by the identitarian fad of formalistic leftist play-acting. Who are you to say I am not a leftist? I am whatever I want to be. I am left through and through. How dare you?

        This is the left as a mere fraternity for influence accretion and social climbing. Left freemasonry. Its consuming obsession with rule and orthodoxy means that critical self-awareness and agency, which can raise all sorts of troubling contextual challenges to the crude application of the rule in a given circumstance, is discouraged, shunned. Left orthodoxy is entirely procedural, formal, and evacuated entirely of the positive morality that arises out of living subjects continually evaluating their stances and employing moral judgment to determine their actions.

        Rule-based automation of the left is in reality the liberal fantasy of the rule of law, and the idea that the dogged and uncritical application of “principles” is all that is needed to pursue the good life. The left heralded the replacement of that order with one founded on authentic, living morality.

        Witness the transformation of the notion of ‘privilege’: intended as a useful cognitive heuristic, a ritual of skepticism, for good faith actors to engage in honest, active self-criticism, it is now a discussion-terminating rhetorical weapon, a licensed super-adhominem for shutting down the communication of ideas that challenge the position of ensconced rhetorical power players.

        I think the real reason this blog has pariah status within the left is its insistence on retaining judgment and left agency against an onslaught of rule following dogmatists, identitarian colonists of left country. All debates must be theological trump card battles about the hierarchy of rules for pious believers. Is the Blessed Trinity a unity with triune aspect, or a trinity with unary aspect? Which legitimately oppressed minority group is objectively more privileged? Discussion that suggests a responsibility to actually invest those rules with contextual, active critical judgment is heretical. It is just religion and heresy. The uniformity and intensity of the marginalization of spaces of discussion like this by what calls itself the left should inform a forecast about the actual viability of saving the left as left, or abandoning this brand for something dedicated to the original ends of the left, but which isn’t weighed down with quite as many clingy parasites.

      • babaganusz says:

        @haptic (“That was a welcome introduction of nuance where I could see only extremes.”)

        agreed, and well put. it’s common enough to treat someone else’s straw-man as an egregiously deliberate mischaracterization or purely disingenuous analysis; but sometimes it’s just the unfortunate result of being overly accustomed to discourse that doesn’t take a proverbial breath. impatience is the mother of… okay, i got nothin’ today.

    • easytolo says:


  24. smiles says:

    That Charles Davis “fave” in the imgur is burning a hole in my skull. How fucking detestable.

    • Tarzie says:

      To me it is the essence of the misogynist feminist ally, ridiculing a family traumatized by smears against a woman and the unauthorized disclosure of her rape . Preening assholes like Davis are never happier than when they’ve gotten a feminist green light to trash and silence another woman. The whole Kendzior affair was an orgy of misogyny in the name of women’s safety.

      Amber Frost so had their number on ‘performative feminism’ in Bro Bash. That’s one of the reasons she was punished.

      In the interest of Equal Time, Charlie has an answer for his detractors.


      UPDATE: Looks like it’s been deleted but it said, ‘Know who else hates me? Fascists.’

      A barrel o’ laughs, that guy.

    • RevMossGatlin says:

      From what I’ve seen, though he may have finally wised up and un-faved, Charles Davis did that for every single one of the tweets mocking the husband’s grief at his wife’s ACTUAL RAPE being published by Newsweek then mocked. Why? Because he didn’t like something the husband wrote about anarchists and libertarians. He’s now still, today, mocking the husband today via subtweets as a “trust funder” based on what exactly? Nothing. Detestable. “Radical.”

    • smiles says:

      Sorry for any derail there Tarzie, just thought it was a great example of deBoer’s and your point that only some women deserve feminist protection, and that the second someone sees a score to settle, that protection is easily tossed aside. Shallow waters.

      I’m a lurker, but I want to say I admire your work here. Always honest, if not always agreeble.

      • Tarzie says:

        No prob. I have already disclosed that I have a double standard such that a little bashing of the Kendzior tribe is allowed, but only a little. My main interest is in the weird alliances these crusades make and the ‘thought-terminating dogmas’, to borrow Haptic’s phrase, that make them possible.

      • smiles says:

        In that vein, I did notice that Max Blumenthal came out strongly in favor of the Jacobin staff, and Rania Khalek did so as well more subtly. Not too surprising with Max, but I thought that Khalek and Kendizor were somewhat chummy (maybe I’m remembering incorrectly). Interesting that Blumenthal and Khalek focus on imperialism in their work (perhaps imperialism isn’t that settled of a topic in the online Left? I had just assumed). And that the former neocon coffee-freshener turned anti-bro activist that defended Kendzior in a bravura performance of like fifty tweets, can’t remember his name (gladly), spewed a similar stream about Blumenthal not too long ago. This is nothing profound, but I found it interesting; I don’t really follow this closely enough until something big comes to the surface.

      • Tarzie says:

        I think people who are more serious about anti-imperialism will be commensurately less likely to sign on with a tribe that includes Josh Foust. This is an interesting rift.

  25. RevMossGatlin says:

    Charlie’s twitter feed is sick. Love the disgusting implication that the husband is only doing this for some kind of self-promoting purposes. Husband apparently hasn’t said a thing for days.

    But let’s all be happy for Charlie! He settled the score over some intra-anti-capitalist left ideological tweet from months (years?) back on someone whose wife is apparently a recent cancer survivor and rape survivor. And Charlie did it…as the husband’s wife’s rape is being mocked simultaneously by Newsweek and “progressive” “feminists”!

    • Tarzie says:

      These people are never more revealing than when they are smearing other people.

      But let’s not get too fixated on Charlie, a relatively minor shitstain, a gallon of gas in the shitshow car of beatdown politics.

  26. RevMossGatlin says:

    Apparently, every one has missed just why exactly the husband singled out Jeong, despite the husband having linked to the tweet right before his outburst even started. The husband’s brother confronted Jeong with what Newsweek had done. She basically said she didn’t give a fuck. And she actually tweeted this at the brother: “¯\_(ツ)_/¯”

    And now Jeong is saying she was singled out because the husband is white and she’s a woman of color? And people believe this? And Charlie agrees?

    There is no hope for humanity.

  27. TheKid says:


    What material taught you most about the way power works? Books? articles? I come here for my “fix” but I’d like to know where your ideas come from. Im relatively new to your way of thinking and would like to learn more about it. .

  28. Pingback: Katha Pollitt, David Graeber Fight, Make Up, Put Libeled Marxists Behind Them | The Rancid Honeytrap

  29. Yet another excellent discussion from you and many of the commentators here unlike any other I’ve seen of this topic, getting to the heart of things that others find hard to reach.

    I hate the psyop theme, but I have to say that ever since reading that piece, I’ve been compiling a little list of people including the ones mentioned there and another bunch I’ve noticed, and one thing that stands out is that they all use the same kind of narcissistic, quick-to-anger, rally-to-bulying, name-calling style of interaction, esp. but not only on Twitter, and that the effect of that is exactly the tactical diffusion of actual political direction we saw to some extent with Occupy.

    one thing i notice is that despite the heated and personalized rhetoric which all of us are tempted to use at time, even on Twitter, that those I didn’t put on “the list”–and “the list” was created based on political effects/announced goals, not style–tend not to use that same style as a default, and tend to demonstrate a much more pronounced commitment to actually interacting with people with whom they don’t always agree.

    I don’t think it’s right, but it’s fascinating to consider one of the remote possible versions of this line of thought, which is that Greenwald himself = JTRIG (or whatever version of JTRIG “really” exists). I don’t think it’s literally true, but it’s not a bad heuristic for speculating on the situation.

    at her blog, CatFitz describes one of those involved as existing “to disrupt social movements, to pick out sectarian topics that she can use to pit people against each other.” That’s something all of those on my list have in common, based on the actions I observe, and that most of the rest of us appear not to, and it’s extremely worrying, because there is lots of evidence that it’s quite effective.

    • Tarzie says:

      I don’t think it’s literally true, but it’s not a bad heuristic for speculating on the situation.

      That’s pretty much how I see these things. There could be various forces with the means to shape things such that that is effectively true, even with GG remaining convinced of his fearless adversarialness.

  30. Pingback: Notes on David Graeber and Conspiracism | The Rancid Honeytrap

  31. Re: “thought-terminating” — excellent term, and interesting post. But let me cut to the chase again: why can’t we just get a journalitsic-style report on the *name of the person or persons who originally sent these rape threats* and then, apparently, because of the Jacobin link *sent them again*. Sunlight is the best disinfectant. Why does no one except me demand this?

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