Notes on David Graeber and Conspiracism

Someone saw a flaw in David Graeber’s reasoning, and rather than argue the point, he weirdly attempted to smear me.

I have never once said Graeber belongs to the CIA. However, in this post here, I invited readers to discuss what might have provoked him to join with Sarah Kendzior and career militarist Joshua Foust in their extraordinary smear campaign against radicals. Graeber’s role in this campaign consisted of lending it legitimacy by way of his status as an anarchist intellectual, while robotically smearing Kenzior’s detractors as rape enablers and apologists. A number of people found Graeber’s conduct extremely odd, including myself, and among the disquieted were a few who suggested, though they did not state outright, that Graeber might be a state-sponsored fake.  I was not among them, and surely Graeber knows this. I say this for no reason but to show his bad faith. I respect these commenters a great deal.

I place myself somewhere between conspiracists and knee-jerk anti-conspiracists. While conspiracies and Psy Ops are matters of record, I consider the propaganda system largely self-regulating. People rise to places of influence because of their service to power, which they largely provide without much thought. So, for instance, when an opportunity arises to smear radicals, they will do so without even being asked, both because they think it’s the right thing to do and in pavlovian expectation of reward.

Others will aid and abet this, variously motivated by similar values and allegiances, an expectation of increased social capital, or their own personal scores to settle. In my view, Graeber’s vigorous commitment to Kendzior’s campaign is most easily explained by a long-standing grudge against Jacobin, status-seeking, and a taste for bullying, as the menacing robo-tweeting of Katha Pollitt and others suggests.

This isn’t to say there are not operatives in our midst giving the system a nudge here and there and, in times of crisis, considerably more. It’s a testimony to the extent of our indoctrination that despite this country’s history and a year of revelations about mass surveillance, people still roll their eyes at any suggestion of organized state deception, manipulation and malfeasance. Certainly Graeber is well aware of the extensive state interference with Occupy, as well as COINTELPRO and the like. So presumably he is intimating only the looniness of implicating such a perfect specimen of radicalism as himself in efforts to infiltrate and shape things. A radical scholar can’t possibly think the idea of planted journalists and intellectuals is ridiculous on its face.

For self-preservation alone, it is sensible to be open to any possibilities where power is concerned. However, in public dialogue, there is rarely profit in focusing on conspiracism, if one wants to accomplish something other than furnish Graeber and his ilk with opportunities to discredit critics. The more I examine and write about iconic lefts, the more toxic I think they are as a thing, regardless of what their intentions are or where they originate. As with everyone else in public life, their status and credibility are conferred by people above them and is commensurate with their service to power.

By way of their celebrity, iconic lefts invite people to suspend critical thought in much the way religious figures do. Consistently I find they wield this power to counsel conformity, and to enforce discipline against people who won’t toe the line. Considering that this is their social function, do we need to know how direct their ties are to power before we reject them? Isn’t everything wrong with them right on the surface? Surely in this case, it doesn’t matter why Graeber assisted a defamation campaign that disgustingly ran under cover of women’s safety concerns, and ended with radicals sneering at a maliciously defamed rape survivor. What matters is that he did it.


“But man”, with radicals like this…


(h/t @YouSeemFine, who capped it before the asshole deleted it.)


David Graeber’s favorite “radical” yesterday, June 16:

Some background on Kenzior’s recommendations:

1. @azelin is Aaron Zelin, a fellow at The Washington Institute, a think tank founded by an AIPAC researcher. Columbia Professor Rashid Khalidi called The Washington Institute “the fiercest of the enemies of the Arabs and the Muslims.”

2. @Intelwire is J. M. Berger, a self-styled terrorism expert. Recently mined and analyzed data from anarchist Twitter accounts for his recent study on “Violent Extremism in Online Social Networks” and looked for intersections between anarchists and white nationalists. Money quote:

It is relatively easy to identify tens of thousands of social media users who have an interest in violent ideologies, but very difficult to figure out which users are worth watching.”

3. @DaveedGR is Daveed Gartenstein-Ross, a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a neocon foreign policy think tank.


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

Useful Discussion of Thought-Stopping Dogmas


Walter Glass Posits Permissible Conspiracism

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68 Responses to Notes on David Graeber and Conspiracism

  1. Frank C. says:

    His “Debt” book is very good. His Twitter account? Completely self-promoting.

    • babaganusz says:

      indeed, i was surprised that he seemed to utterly ignore inquiries when i was trying to find one of his keynote speeches which was only deadlinked online (and which would have been timed opportunely for ‘Debt…’ publicity)

      …though it’s possible my settings make it impossible for others to see what i tweet to them, or something. i’m not exactly a twittervet.

  2. Ned Ludd says:

    “I have never once said Graeber belongs to the CIA.”

    Celebrity lefts remind me of sales people. They are fixated on a goal (selling a product, accumulating social capital). They say what they need to in order to advance their goal.

    (It is also a bit like high school debate, where you are commended for being able to spin evidence to prove what you think is false, in order to win the round.)

    Ambitious, shrewd sales people tend to succeed in our capitalist society, and the celebrity left is lousy with them. The celebrity left achieved their status because they are not concerned about what is true and false; the veracity of a piece of evidence is immaterial to them.

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

  4. Nell says:

    Your fundamental point, that the problem in this case is right out in the open, is sound.
    But so is this :: in light of this country’s history and a year of revelations about mass surveillance, people still roll their eyes at any suggestion of organized state deception, manipulation and malfeasance. ::
    Just this morning read that during Operation Mockingbird, propaganda accounted for a third of the CIA’s budget. ( ! Haven’t searched for source, will link if I find it.) Doubt it’s anywhere close to that now, given the expense of operating a drone war and today’s lower costs of media production relative to the OpMock era. But it’s almost certainly non-negligible

    • Tarzie says:

      Wow. That’s quite the factoid, if true.

      • Nell says:

        Source seems pretty sound: Bill Schaap (of Covert Action Quarterly) testimony in 1999, citing Church committee testimony & report. Even if not a third of budget, still serious amounts of money in absolute terms: outright and partial ownership of hundreds of media outlets, plus direct employment of reporters & writers.

      • thedoctorisinthehouse says:

        It would be nice if this transcript were on a site that didn’t also have anti-vaxxer section.

    • Lorenzo says:

      A couple years ago it was reported that the CIA had played a huge role in funding and promoting modern art in the 50s. The idea had long been rumored, but was dismissed because it seemed so improbable to most people. After all, so many modern artists seemed so opposed to the CIA’s ostensible goals, why would The Agency waste their money?

      Looking at just this case, it’s clear that 1) the government’s spies see the cultural sphere as an indispensable arena for manipulation and 2) seemingly transgressive ideas can be used as propaganda to reinforce and re-entrench power.

      • Stephen says:

        Actually I heard a much more convincing explanation of why this happened from a talk by (comic book writer/artist) Bryan Talbot. He pointed to the incident when Nelson Rockefeller commissioned a piece by Diego Rivera, and then panicked when he saw it, with images including Lenin holding hands with a group of multi-racial workers. The work was destroyed and from that point on Rockefeller poured all his money into abstract art, which rejected the notion of meaning or representation altogether, and therefore could never have ‘the wrong message’ The Guardian argument that this was purely a cultural war predicated on offering what was banned in the communist world is too simplistic and unconvincing. Look at people like Saatchi, who connects all the dots:advertising, Thatcher, ‘concept art’. Despite his Maoist orientation, I think Cornelius Cardew also makes a very good argument in his book ‘Stockhausen Serves Imperialism’ about the reactionary nature of abstract art (despite the title he’s not that harsh on Stockhausen, just his opera work, but his diatribe against Cage is spot on I think) Available here

  5. Peter says:

    “I consider the propaganda system largely self-regulating.”

    A simple, profound and true statement.

    People are pretty keen on where danger lies, whether career danger or something more nefarious.

    One of the great “tricks” of the modern propaganda system in our culture is that people are sucked into forming early, strong opinions about things they know little or nearly nothing about. Conversely, drill down into any major event of political import and one will be astounded at the amount of evidence that supports an alternative hypothesis. Meanwhile, being “opinionated” — and even outright lying in service of an agenda — are known to be successful mating strategies.

    Graeber’s book on debt was a contribution to the origin and history of money, but I see no reason in this case to award his opinion any carryover credit.

    • Pttp says:

      “people are sucked into forming early, strong opinions about things they know little or nearly nothing about”

      Exactly. Unfortunately, a good part of the radical left is complicit in this. As soon as they convinced themselves to be the vanguard, they feel compelled to explain the whole world to the masses. Nothing kills curiosity like the belief to know (aka early, strong opinions).

      Marx asked: Who teaches the teachers?

  6. thedoctorisinthehouse says:

    A truly bizarre level of shameless self dealing by Graeber. On the one hand, playing victim, not just any victim but rape victim by association. The association based on someone who has not been a victim of rape but of email written rape threats (by her account) and who is in the process of smearing a Actual Rape Victim. While punching against anyone who lands on the side of the rape victim. While tag teaming for a corporate stooge.
    Now he’s a victim of COINTELPRO (more specifically a cell run by you).

    Why would anyone need an origin story unless their admiration of Graeber was so tremendous it caused cogdis?
    I suppose at some point people will start speculating whether Graeber was a getting a divorce or discovered he had cancer this week or lost his grandfather’s watch.

  7. Pingback: A Further Word On Conspiracy, and A Personal Favorite Theory | No Direction

  8. Doug Henwood says:

    Ok, we’ve fought on Twitter, but I have to say, your writing on this insane controversy has been splendid. Thank you.

  9. Plussed says:

    First, Tarzie, never meant to cause all of the problems that seemingly followed my post back a few threads which you had to delete. I’d be the first to mention – and I think in my response I did state that somewhat – that I was 1) stating a bunch of stuff based on what I had read elsewhere 2) stating stuff that was just my conjecture or 3) stating stuff that was just my opinion. I did this so as to not derail that thread but rather just wanted to throw some thoughts – however, conjectural – I had about events that others of your readers might appreciate even if they disagreed with them. I didn’t think that when posting a response on someone’s blog that it was incumbent upon me to source every single thought I had especially as I was writing fairly generally. I won’t respond to any of the people who responded to me looking to derail your thread, etc. This post will just be a one-off because 1) it’s not my blog and 2) I don’t have the time that others seem to.

    Secondly, the denial of conspiracism by the left – but especially the iconic left – as you state is not only frighteningly shocking – i.e., we just love Edward Snowden but don’t REALLY take his revelations to heart!! – but the underlying thought and implications by those on the left who promulgate such denial is even more shocking and/or insulting: don’t you dare f*cking accuse ME of being an unwitting dupe or a witting participant in a COINTEL-type program etc. I AM GOOD. You MUST TRUST ME. Haven’t you read all of my published and celebrated work about how I am helping the poor/exploited/minorities, etc? What more do you fucking need, conspiracy nut? The parallels with this and Greenwald’s demands – because that is what they are – as to his “integrity” and “honesty” I hope are not lost on anyone.

    Living in this day and age of worldwide American criminality largely brought about by a state that has preyed upon and masterfully manipulated the naive trust and belief systems of the general population at large, those on the iconic left think they are going to be successful addressing their doubters and skeptics with the EXACT SAME authoritarian reasoning of the people that they are so valiantly opposing? Nice. And to think I wondered how the “Stalinist” slur still was thrown around today.

    Lastly, and similarly, it is quite shocking that these people don’t have the self-awareness to see that if I had instead gone onto DailyKos – for a cheap example – and started posting about how Obamacare was really a complete and utter premeditated gift by Obama to the insurance companies he took millions from during his campaigns, how similar many of their reactions to my original RH post would appear. I can only imagine the scores of responses I would have gotten from others at DK – probably many of them congressional staffers or professional politicos etc, – telling me that I don’t understand a fucking thing about how it works, that I’m totally wrong, totally conspiratorial and that if I really wanted to change something then I should visit and get in the game!

    To the DKers, pointing out the following for example: Obama = Romney = No Difference = Pointless Theatre is heretical nonsense as outsiders just can’t see the intricate filigrees that contribute to the chasm that separates the two men and their different political visions.

    Do I need to spell out what my opinion is of the “leftish” icons and all of their efforts including Occupy?

    Here’s a link to Graeber telling BusinessWeek last year that if IT hadn’t been for Occupy we might have had President Romney. The horror. Oh well.

    So the lesson is that if people are not directly involved with a group – membership implying the mindless trusting and admiration of the necessary icons and leaders of said group – then, well, one just has to STFU and pound sand because they are obviously conspiracy mongers who need to spend more of their time on the hamster wheel and less getting nauseated observing the hamsters endlessly go round and round.

    Again, sorry for the length. I won’t reply to any of the responses as I felt that your points were well made and I don’t want to hijack. I just wanted to put in my two cents.

    • Tarzie says:

      I hear ya on all points. I was not even aware of what was going on on Dipshit Island in regard to Graeber and this blog until another poster requested his own comments be pulled. There was no point in pulling his if I did not also pull yours.

      Really sick of this environment where people are afraid to speak bluntly because of an ostracizing herd of know-nothing creeps and social climbers. I block these assholes and mostly ignore them in between dipshit eruptions. I wish everyone else would too.

      That the unalloyed odiousness of Graeber and Kendzior is still subject to debate tells you all you need to know about the current environment. These fucking morons and their pretended principles. I honestly can’t imagine how they think.

      Gonna skip all this Graeber reading I’ve been meaning to get to. He’s toxic goods, no matter who’s driving and I would believe anything about him at this point. From the looks of things, I’d say what he, Kendzior and Foust have in common is sociopathy. Which is clearly fine with most people.

      Sick of all of it.

      • babaganusz says:

        the two books and two articles i’ve read of his are primarily valuable for those who lack perspective (a deficiency that would be extraordinarily difficult, if at all possible, to pin on you). not mind-blowing; ‘Debt’ seems like good history and even good semantics, but not especially inspiring. before this muckfest i’d seen nothing to his detriment as a writer/thinker – just partisan chaff – not that i’d been digging, particularly.

  10. JR says:

    I totally agree that the origin story isn’t that significant in the case of Graeber, as there is no evidence – for the time being, at least – that he is anything more than the usual, narcissistic, social-climbing left celeb. I do, however, think it is very much worth combatting the constant and insidious use of the “conspiracy theorist” meme by these people to score cheap points and shut down debate. I mean, it’s not like there aren’t volumes and volumes of well-researched books and papers (and disclosed documents) attesting to the fact that “conspiracy” is simply business-as-usual for the ruling class…

    [this post had a long list of links to books about conspiracies. Links were embedding Amazon shopping code, so removed]

    • Tarzie says:

      Yeah, I completely agree, and I suggested as much. This post is not a repudiation of conspiracy theories. I suppose I could have made the point a bit stronger though.

      I don’t know if it was your intention, but those Amazon links were embedding huge graphics and Amazon shopping buttons, so I yanked them.

  11. roasty says:

    I can’t help but feel like some of this dismissal of things we know have happened before comes down to an american cultural peculiarity as well. I said this on twitter a while back, but what fascinates me most about american propa is how it is completely insular in nature. So much of the propaganda is easily verifiably false, yet it’s eaten up by a majority of people – so media feeds a story down that says “look at these people doing X, how horrible!” when X is something that the empire itself does *all the damned time*, and the outrage grows (mostly) unchecked. Only in a culture as insular and inward facing as american culture can this really work well, with very little effort often expended to even cover up the contradictory evidence.

    I think that when we see people who on the one hand accept COINTELPRO and other programs as matter of historical record, but on the other dismiss any NEW revelations/theories along those lines, we are seeing an extension of american cultural arrogance (putting aside deliberate bad faith).

    In other words, americans (even those that call themselves radicals) truly do believe their own mythology – and part of that is the pervasive mythology that we as a country have “progressed” past such tactics. Sure sure the FBI had a program called COINTELPRO, but that’s a relic of the past. Sure sure the Chicago PD murdered Fred Hampton, but that’s a relic of the past. On and on it goes.

    The other part of this is the sheer sensationalism of how the Snowden leaks have been presented. You’ve hit on this before, but it’s ENTIRELY deliberate. The spectacle of it encourages you to sit slack-jawed in disbelief at the things the government is capable of doing – but at the same time the spectacle is shaped in such a way that you’re encouraged to think that this is ALL they are doing. So the NSA is listening to everyone, the CIA is using drones, the FBI is framing people for terrorist acts – but that’s it. Each intel agency sits in it’s little silo, radicals have them figured out, ho-hum let’s go about our business.

    Anyway, not to get to self-promotey, but I’ll put this here as it addresses a similar vein:


    • After deploring those “who on the one hand accept COINTELPRO and other programs as matter of historical record, but on the other dismiss any NEW revelations/theories along those lines,” roasty links to his blog, where he alleges that among “things the government HAS done [is] discussed assassinating Occupy members.” Roasty links this sensationalistic charge to, which informs us that FBI agents reported in 2011 on planned “sniper attacks against protesters in Houston, Texas, if deemed necessary … to kill the leadership via suppressed sniper rifles.”

      But who exactly planned to assassinate Occupy leaders? Sorry, huddled paranoids yearning to breathe free, it was not the FBI. It was a group or person whose names were whited out from fragmentary FBI documents obtained by the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund. That didn’t stop Techdirt’s Timothy Geigner from hysterically claiming, “It’s also clear that the FBI never bothered to inform the targets of the threats against their lives.” However, neither he nor our trusty roasty deign to tell us why this is “clear” from the heavily redacted FBI files.

      In any case, how this represents a “new” COINTELPRO-style revelation is beyond me. It’s just the usual grasping at straws by those who would measure their own worth by the nefariousness of their foes.

      • Tarzie says:

        Not sure I see the gaping chasm between the FBI plotting to assassinate Occupy leaders and the FBI being aware of a plot and doing nothing about it. I certainly see nothing that warrants your know-it-all contempt, especially since this is but one incident that Roasty documents on his blog. What is your point, exactly? That the government doesn’t crush dissidence by any means necessary? Or do you think this case is too trivial to warrant inclusion in the history of repression? Wanna scoff at COINTELPRO also?

        Make yourself less of a troll by presenting evidence that the FBI warned the intended targets or otherwise demonstrate that this particular plot is not germane to the point Roasty has attempted to make.

      • Jeffrey Light is a Washington, DC-based attorney representing Ryan Noah Shapiro, an MIT graduate student who filed repeated Freedom of Information Act requests concerning the alleged 2011 sniper plot to assassinate members of Occupy Houston. Earlier this month, Light told Justin Karter of Occupy Pittsburgh News, “Based on the limited information we have to date, the most likely scenario is that the FBI learned about the sniper plot during the course of their investigation into the Occupy movement. … It’s not clear what, if anything, the FBI did about the assassination plot.” Here is URL–>

        This stands in sharp contrast to the unsupported January 2013 allegation by Techdirt’s Timothy Geigner, “It’s clear that the FBI never bothered to inform the targets of the threats against their lives.”

        Tarzie, you are imposing a double standard here. Roasty can use your platform to vaguely cite “NEW revelations/theories” to support his fantasy that COINTELPRO is ongoing and that Occupy Houston’s leaders narrowly escaped the fate of Fred Hampton. Yet when I challenge roasty’s paranoia, you demand that I present “evidence that the FBI warned the intended targets.”

        Why is it incumbent on me, Tarzie, to present evidence that has not yet been adduced via FOIA or other sources, but perfectly OK for roasty to rely on the same absence of evidence to conclude that anyone who dismisses his “NEW revelations/theories” is guilty of American cultural arrogance?

      • Tarzie says:

        Y’know. You’re right, for all we know, the FBI warned those people and then threw them a big party to relieve their stress!!! Then they gave them each a big cash prize!!! That’s certainly what history suggests they’d do. Because if there is one thing the FBI wants to defend and encourage, it’s activists stirring up class conflict!

      • Ridicule is the last refuge of the factually challenged.

      • It is patently absurd to suggest that there is a secret COINTELPRO-like program to surveil and suppress elements attempting to radicalize the disenfranchised populations of the US, like poor and minority communities. I mean it’s not like these are FOIA documents from actual FBI surveillance of political protesters, to say nothing of anything so grand as evidence supporting outlandish claims that the crackdown on Occupy was coordinated by DHS/FBI?

        I mean I’m sure Federal law enforcement barely had any resources left over for that black bag crap after Nixon started the war on drugs with that speech like two months after the COINTELPRO files were publicized.

        Which is totally different from COINTELPRO because it’s super well known and public. Plus it’s a billion times more efficient because it targets those poor and minority communities directly. Fuck all that middleman shit.

        Besides, there’s no way the FBI would ever publicize the fact that they tried to stop the assassination of occupy leaders. Everyone knows they only send out press releases when they foil plots they themselves have initiated. It’s like bad form to brag about other people’s plots or something. FBI’s too classy for that.

      • As I point out in my book “Occupy Oakland: The Little Revolution That Couldn’t”, claims that the crackdown on Occupy was coordinated by DHS/FBI are indeed outlandish.

        In a 2011 article published by The Guardian, “The shocking truth about the crackdown on Occupy,” Naomi Wolf alleged that there was “coordination against OWS at the highest national levels.” In particular, she charged, “the Department of Homeland Security coordinated a violent crackdown.”

        I traced Wolf’s accusation to an article published 10 days earlier at, where Rick Ellis cited an unnamed official of the U.S. Dept. of Justice to the effect that recent evictions of Occupiers from public spaces in more than a dozen American cities were “coordinated with help from Homeland Security, the FBI and other federal police agencies.”

        There has never been a single document, not a shred of evidence or on-the-record testimony to substantiate that grandiose charge. Anyone who tells you otherwise is either misinformed or just plain lying.

      • Tarzie says:

        Once again, you are being deliberately disinformative.

        Your account misses one important detail, which is that coordination between Homeland Security and local law enforcement is a matter of record at least with respect to monitoring the Occupy encampments.

        The New York Times in conjunction with the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund say the DHS has provided them with 4,000 page of government documents pertaining to how the US agency relied on nationally dispersed “fusion centers” to share and disseminate intelligence about the Occupy movement in late 2011 after it launched in Lower Manhattan that November.

        The extent to which this constitutes coordination of the crackdowns is simply a matter of conjecture. You seem to think that unless Federal agencies take explicit responsibility for the repression of dissent, no conclusions can be drawn about the few facts we’re privy to. Fine, if giving the state an unwarranted benefit of the doubt is your thing. But stop distorting the facts. It is simply bullshit to say that suspicions about DHS and Occupy trace entirely to Naomi Wolf and that Examiner article.

        I do not wish to keep responding to your half-truths. If you say another misleading, half-true thing I will delete it. To press my point home, I will delete every other fucking thing you post here, and everything you have already posted. Creeps and hucksters are not welcome here. The mainstream media do a most excellent job of whitewashing state repression. They don’t need your help.

      • Wolf’s 2011 article was light on the support. Her December 2012 article ( however, drew upon the results of the FOIA requests of Partnership for Civil Justice Fund ( which was more substantial and documented significant amounts of interaction between the FBI, DHS and other federal agencies with local police departments across the country. In particular the DHS fusion centers seemed to functioning as a nexus for the coordination of various local police departments and the surveillance of Occupy (

      • Pwnership Society Treasurer, thanks for the links to what appear to be hundreds if not thousands of documents. Please, can you pinpoint one page—any page, anywhere—that supports Naomi Wolf’s charge that “the Department of Homeland Security coordinated a violent crackdown” against Occupy? I trust you agree that there’s a significant difference between coordinated surveillance and coordinated violence.

      • Tarzie says:

        You’re the one who introduced Wolf’s claim here for the purpose, apparently, of refuting it. If you have some point to prove other than what a wonderfully sensible person you are by taking an ahistoric, innocent-until-proven-beyond-all doubt view of state repression, you’re failing.

        I suppose we can agree there’s a significant difference between coordinated surveillance and coordinated violence, if we agree that there is a difference between a drone strike and the signals intelligence that makes it possible. I am not inclined to split hairs over such things. But your stupid insistence on smoking guns is a distraction, anyway, the flip side of Wolf’s needless hyperbole. Had the Democratic Party felt it could leverage the Occupy movement to its own dismal ends, the Occupy movement would have enjoyed support that would have made the crackdowns difficult, if not impossible. But clearly the violent crackdowns had at least the tacit support of local, state and federal officials, all of whom stood down while rampaging police committed multiple civil liberties violations. It truly doesn’t matter who coordinated it.

        Now go away asshole. I said before that I would delete one more attempt at spreading disinformation, but now I’m going to delete you if you simply continue to bore me. I really think you should fuck off.

    • nimbus says:

      This will be terribly anticlimactic, after the above lively exchange between Tarzie, Pwnership, and someone’s most hellish hemorrhoid… Just wanted to comment that, having lived outside the US for a while now, I am coming to believe that Americans are unexceptional even in their fallibility. Xenophobia, insularity, distortion of history and facts – those things are everywhere that humans are to be found. Americans have their own peculiar brand of them, but I suspect that ours only appear to be the Biggest and Baddest because of the US’s hyperdominance in world affairs. Any country that got to our level of power would look just as bad (to those really looking).

      This is absolutely not meant to be a defense of Americans’ dipshittedness! There is no excuse for believing the propaganda that gets spewed out (or for perpetuating it, be you hemorrhoid or no). But it seems to me that our collective belief that “Born in the USA” is a stamp of shame, is part of what keeps us down. Using the pronoun “us” somewhat cavalierly, no doubt.

    • nimbus says:

      Here is one example of the universality of benightedness: the Rødt (Red) party in Norway – by far the party of greatest leftiness – allows its members to pay their annual fee online using (drum roll) PayPal.

  12. rabidrot says:

    Berger’s name rang a bell. I remember reading an odd piece of his — in Foreign Policy, embarrassingly enough — from a couple years back. It’s about the supposed rise of extremism and conspiracy theory amid the increasingly dark (and illusory) landscape of global finance. He’s all over the place in the piece – is it legitimate to worry about/harangue/oppose global corporate capitalism’s naked depredations or not?

    I got the impression that his ‘self-styled’ expertise on extremism, as you said, is borne of a belief in elite thought as a guiding light, a disdain for dissent, and a view of internet-era communication as much too fraught with “reality-based conspiracy theories.” Or, if the Council on Foreign Relations wouldn’t agree, it’s laughable bullshit.

    I guess he’s basically what you get if someone on the Washington Post editorial board or the like enjoyed snarling at the rabble so much that they began combing over infowars and David Duke essays to justify tarring as wide of a spectrum of dissent and opposition to neoliberal imperialism as possible.

    • Tarzie says:

      I think there’s a little more to him than that, not least that he’s someone who combs through Twitter feeds and provides his findings to anyone that wants to buy them.

      There’s also all the work he does around Islamists and the like.

  13. KR says:

    Graeber & Sarah Kendzior are both anthropologists, they have a way of seeing people & they don’t like it when people they study dare to challenge their expertise on us. They probably think they’re doing field work on twitter observing you so they can write their reports, even if they’re not employed by imperialists their discipline was created to serve imperialism. Same with journalists I guess.

  14. The more I examine and write about iconic lefts, the more toxic I think they are as a thing, regardless of what their intentions are or where they originate. [my emphasis]
    I agree with you here. The toxicity is in the behavior and effects, and the immediate challenge is to identify it and try to counter it. I do think there needs to be room for genealogies — for where these ties originate — if only to learn more for the future. (It is vital to know about COINTELPRO and CIA financing of both the Iowa Writers Workshop and The Paris Review and Judith Miller’s Chelabi ties and so on.)

    But allowing the origins to predominate over study/identification/discussion of the effects is a mistake, not just because it invites dismissal and smears, but because genealogy is subordinate to, for lack of a better word, critical ecology.

    By way of their celebrity, iconic lefts invite people to suspend critical thought in much the way religious figures do. Consistently I find they wield this power to counsel conformity, and to enforce discipline against people who won’t toe the line.
    These are the phenomena that are so *obvious*, thrown into such great relief, on Twitter – both the celebrity’s wielding of power and the fan’s eager following. The way SK regularly retweeted those she wanted to attack so as to share and broaden the smear is a good example.

    So is this one, where Crabapple helpfully, derisively summarizes criticism in order to, first, seem to dismiss it and, second, get her troll followers worked up. It isn’t as *direct* an attack as Kendzior’s; I think it works on a longer timeline, a more generalized one that looks to name what’s considered outré and consolidate loyalty.

    @fucktardtrole @BigRedDreck slander!smear! Red-bait!Weaponized terms! Punching down!never so many euphimisms for hurt feelings from internet— Molly Crabapple (@mollycrabapple) June 14, 2014

    I don’t know if I’m going off-topic with this. I just think it’s vital to do close reading of how conformity is directed and enforced, as well as how the terms of debate get set. I don’t believe – though it would in a sense be a lot easier – that directions are being issued regularly from Langley to the staff at VICE and various other Twitter pseudo-radicals. I think it’s a much messier situation, where some people’s egotism and careerism latches profitably into larger systems of propaganda and power-serving, and then the success of those people, like Kendzior and Crabapple, in turn engages followings of their own. We’ve all, to a greater or lesser extent, internalized the spectacle; loyalist fans identify with their idols’ successes and not only aspire to share some of that success but to protect the idol from harm. Aka criticism, aka dissent.

    That the system of success and propaganda is messier than a simplistic model would suggest is, I’m trying to believe, a positive thing. There *is* room for intervention, for dismantling on various scales. I hope, anyway.

    • Tarzie says:

      I think it’s a much messier situation, where some people’s egotism and careerism latches profitably into larger systems of propaganda and power-serving, and then the success of those people…

      Yeah, I think that’s definitely true.

      There *is* room for intervention, for dismantling on various scales.

      I don’t think so. I become more and more convinced that argument doesn’t accomplish shit. People operating in bad faith just eat up time and morale. They will never operate in good faith and they will always be better at winning the allegiance of nitwits and conformists.

      I’m disappointed in myself for replying to that Crabapple tweet after you dragged it in here. The combo of smug and stupid is irresistible, but it should be resisted. The banality of that ass. As if the accusations of red-baiting were about hurt feelings. So hard to tell when these people are genuinely stupid and reactionary and when they’re just usefully faking it. Whatever the case, fuck them. Sick of this.

      I think radicals should just unplug, tbh.

      • Noted, and I apologize for dragging shit into your space, whatever my intentions were (good! but that’s irrelevant).

      • Tarzie says:

        Nah, don’t worry. You are such a nice person. I know you were just illustrating a point. Crabapple is very deft at incitement.

        I am pissed at myself for not just letting these assholes roll off my back.

        I need to just stop engaging. They are a waste of time.

      • I become more and more convinced that argument doesn’t accomplish shit.

        I don’t agree. What you are doing here is useful. I came to this blog via Twitter, and I suspect that is how a great many people found their way here. Following celebrities like Crabapple (or Graeber or whomever) is often where new, potentially radically minded people start their education. If bullshit like that tweet were to sit unchallenged, this might also be where their education ends, too, in a pseudo-radicalism that fails to question the convenient ineffectuality and divisiveness of its celebrity leaders (and celebrity politics in general).

        I suspect you already recognize that the people that matter in all this aren’t the celebrities themselves, so the fact that they will never be convinced by you arguments (whether out of exogenously selected stupidity or intentional dishonesty) isn’t a reason to give up. That said, long term exposure to this kind of bullshit can be bad for anyone’s mental health, so I understand your desire to disengage from it.

        There is some hopefulness and sanity to be found in looking at our activities as a mutual pedagogy between non-celebrities like us. I think its worth returning to this from time to time.

        p.s. Did you see my apology: ? I hit on some of the same points there.

      • babaganusz says:

        “I become more and more convinced that argument doesn’t accomplish shit.”

        difficult to parse when definitions of “accomplish” can be deeply personal. relatively off the cuff, being still relatively new to your neck of the woods (even given your heart-on-sleeve/tell-it-like-it-is factors, i am typically cautious about implying familiarity/comprehension), i’m guessing you meant something along the lines of “carrying forth a valuable exchange of ideas and/or getting people to achieve worthwhile progress in their thinking[-therefore-hopefully-acting]” – in which case i agree that the way most ‘argument’ resolves (to use ‘resolve’ loosely…) is devoid of such merit.

  15. wendyedavis says:

    I don’t know any of the history of Graeber, Foust, and Kenzidor, don’t care, really. (I’d have to find out what a ‘brocialist’ is, for one thing (smile). But I will say that I was quite discouraged to see him giving high praise to ‘O rancid sector of the far left, please stop your grousing!’ Rebecca Solnit, although I’ve forgotten who’d directed me to his Tweet. She’s an example of good prose (according to many) hiding a creepy agenda, including gate-keeping Dems and Big Greens, like Bah.

  16. “Conspiracy” as in breathing together, is an awful (imperialist) metaphor. Better to think of Celebrity enzymes and reactionary proteins.

  17. srogouski says:

    Tbogg is still around? I remember him from the Bush years. Seems like an out of the closet DNC hack to me. Occasionally funny when he’s attacking the right.

  18. Pingback: Uh… | The Rancid Honeytrap

  19. Goldfish Training Institute says:

    Grifter cries wolf, forgets to put gunpowder in fireworks.

    Somebody run Greenwald out of town on a rail already. At this point he’s just an embarrassing caricature of himself.

  20. wendyedavis says:

    Ha, I just came by once I saw a ‘Caturday’ post at Myfdl, and remembered (hope I’m correct) that your site mascot was a turtle, given that cats were over-represented in the blogosphere. I don’t see it, so maybe I misremember, but I did howl with glee at the sentiment.

    But synchronicity and all that, I just saw a commenter at the Saker’s guess that this might be about Ukraine (can’t think it fits the bill in any fashion), but I laughed again. Dunno how the cryptome dump fits into the future equation, though. More readings might help my understanding, I reckon. I’d just been asking an e-friend if July 4 would signal the Big Bang, or was it perhaps a coming very kewl Celestial Event, like a summer meteor shower. Anyhoo:

  21. Pingback: Here’s @DavidGraeber politely entertaining idea that postmodernism was a CIA invention, Foucault a CIA recruit | The Rancid Honeytrap

  22. Pingback: The Celebrity Left Wars | The Rancid Honeytrap

  23. David J says:

    Thanks for this. Debt is crucial to working class life nowadays in capitalism. I could have told Graeber that. But if he understood Marx he’d know it’s stupid to follow debt through from thousands of years ago, as if that’s a way to express something fundamental about it. That may work well in the bourgeois discipline of “anthropology” (since when has it not essentially been imperialist, by the way), but it’s NOT how social relations and modes of production really work. Sorry, professor.

    I despise celebrities of all kinds, including those who get paid for gobbing off in the media (thereby encouraging passivity) while supposedly being “left wing” or in Graeber’s case “anarchist”. Things have been going downhill ever since the German social democratic party got itself an academic wing in the late 19th century. Revolutionary social criticism and being an academic don’t mix.

    If you want to be a revolutionary and an academic at the same time, keep those two parts of your life separate.

    But that’s not what Graeber is. Of course he’s CIA. C’mon, look at Kendzior’s tweet.

    • fjdh says:

      Seriously? Two posts in which you feel the need to start out with variations on “I could’ve told you that”?

      Thanks for this. Debt is crucial to working class life nowadays in capitalism. I could have told Graeber that. But if he understood Marx he’d know it’s stupid to follow debt through from thousands of years ago, as if that’s a way to express something fundamental about it. That may work well in the bourgeois discipline of “anthropology” (since when has it not essentially been imperialist, by the way), but it’s NOT how social relations and modes of production really work.

      Anyway, since it isn’t clear to me, let me ask: did you read the book?

      Because imo it does something quite important — humanizing money/debt, and thereby economics — by linking it to promise-making, and egalitarian/reactionary moral reasoning. Moreover, the book also encourages people to take debt (and vols 2+3 of Capital) much more seriously, and give it much more attention than before. Because it wasn’t until after Debt got published that David Harvey started talking about it, while its publication also introduced Michael Hudson’s work and MMT to a wider audience. All of these are very good things, if you care about getting away from the fiscal conservatism that is neutralizing all attempts at distributive justice (while incumbents get richer, and corporations continue to feed at the public trough), because nearly all of the educated public believes that “government is like a household” etc..

  24. David J says:

    Postmodernism was a CIA invention, but I don’t need Graeber to tell me. That’s pretty old hat for me now. It’s obvious. “Cultural Marxism” is cack too, and very probably also a product of a CIA effort. Raya Dunayevskaya made big concessions even in the 1950s: “Marxism and Freedom”. In many of its expressions, Cultural Marxism is utter gibberish. I thought it was terribly sad that when the Zionists committed one of their big bouts of slaughter in Gaza, the Hamas government wanted to find something to publish by a western-based supporter of the resistance to Zionist fascism and all they could find was a piece by a moronic American academic who took great offence at the reports that among the dead and wounded were large numbers of women and children. She thought it was “sexist” to say things like that. I mean seriously, what kind of idiot complains about that at a time like that?

    She devoted a lot of what was supposed to be an article in support of the people of Gaza (who at that very time were being slaughtered by a fascist army using aircraft and tanks, while they themselves had hardly any support abroad and hardly any weapons) to a person suffering from a transsexual genetic deformity who had been left to die on the street in New York because the ambulance people wouldn’t help her once they discovered her deformity. That is of course a very sad and disgraceful case but it has no more to do with Gaza than a thousand other things one can think of that are also sad and disgraceful. It’s not just that some cacky articles of this kind get published by cackheads who talk cack. It’s that that kind of cack, and promotions in the world of capitalist institutions such as universities of people whose first language is Cack, who’ve never spoken anything OTHER than cack about society since they were undergraduates, help TURN PEOPLE OFF of the very IDEA of “radical critique”.

  25. David J says:

    People who support the “war on terror” are just as big cunts as Daesh. Remember that. Don’t spend too much time proving the obvious in great detail.

  26. David J says:

    Also I should add this: Graeber is no fool, and when he tries to say that all who viscerally oppose Kendzior are doing it because she’s a woman, he knows he’s lying. You’re falling into his trap if you start arguing with him. That’s one way that trolling works.

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