Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Behold the Pirates



The rise of the Pirate party in recent Czech elections shows that the left may in fact be invigorated enough to go beyond the Occupy movement and its ultimate failure. Gaining 22 seats in the Czech parliament, the Pirates are now the third largest party in Czech Republic. The only irony here is that the Pirates consider themselves a center party.  This digital ‘left’ acts as a counter point to the alt-right described by Angela Nagle in her book on the subject called ‘Kill All Normies.’  As if there is no end to all the irony in the world, in today’s upside-down world, it is the ‘right’ that is most plugged into the digital world and the internet, somehow able to coopt every tactic that the old ‘new left’ used in its political stance on very diverse issues, from feminism and gay rights, to environmentalism and animal rights, and literally turning them inside-out, into stances like men’s rights, which were initially tongue-in-cheek, but developed into a strangely potent political positions.  The Pirates, precisely because of their unflinching determination to keep the party transparent and to the center, are probably the new ‘new left’s’ only hope for the future.  And let’s not forget, for as long as the right has existed, it was never able to muster the wherewithal to come up with anything new or forward looking, because as conservative politics go, they are in fact ‘conservative,’ meaning the idea of keeping the status quo is inherent in its ontology.  The reactionary right can only coopt and use what others created. This is the right’s natural state

In the recent Czech parliamentary elections, the political party ANO (YES), consistently calls itself a ‘movement’ with an anti-political stance, despite the fact that it is a fully functioning party. This is a charade that numerous other parties in Czech Republic began to copy this election cycle, most notably the anti-Islamist anti-immigrant ultra-right wing party SPD.  Right wing populism, exemplified by the election of Donald Trump, found a copy-cat in Andrej Babis, a Czech billionaire with interests in agro-business and the media. ANO is Babis’ populist unholy brainchild, paying off hundreds of politicians to jump ship from other parties with similar ideologies and make them his rank and file.  In numerous books and interviews Slavoj Zizek’s correct prognosis of the nature of politics in the 21st century, saw the rise of populist politicians based on the Italian model of Silvio Berlusconi, a corrupt and sleazy media mogul who was nonetheless entertaining and dominated the Italian political scene for many years due to his ties to and the ownership of the majority of Italian media.  Berlusconi, Trump and now Babis seem to exist despite their many offences, whether legal, personal or otherwise because of their overwhelming media presence and a kind of bafoonish ‘authenticity.’   During 2016 Donald Trump got more than 15 times the media coverage than Bernie Sanders, most of it negative, almost all of it free, basically advertising for his brand for which he did not have to pay a dime. 

As a counter point to the ridiculous spectacle that is Donald Trump or Andrej Babis and one that was Berlusconi, the Pirate party, made up mostly of the younger generation of 30 an under, is acting in-sync with the Zizekian call for decency in modern politics.  Not only does the head of the Pirates in Czech Republic openly discuss his marijuana use, with the intent of complete legalization during his term as the opposition party in parliament, rarely or almost never does he stoop to ad hominem attacks upon the opposition.  It is clear that he is aware that as a relative newcomer, even though the PP was established in Czech Republic more than 8 years ago, earlier than ANO, any mud-slinging on their part would probably render their party and its efforts in parliament dead-on-arrival.  What is absolutely apparent is that the left now has a chance to finally stand as an alternative to the ever shifting coordinates of the political spectrum across Europe and the West in a rightward direction.  No longer is the left relegated to the singing and chanting in the streets during protests that go largely unnoticed, and let’s face it, these ‘protests’ have never worked, not even at the height of the Vietnam war.  The failure of the Occupy movement seems to have finally invigorated some to action, perhaps it was inevitable that the Millenial generation which was largely written off by the older generations, is growing up, getting its ‘shit’ together and beginning to act as adults should.  The Pirate Party’s chairman Ivan Bartos pointed this out when he said that most of the PP members are now married and having kids. The left’s future lies in the dramatic rethinking of personal and social responsibility. Pragmatic thinking and action must go hand in hand even on the backs of a purely political, ideological thinking.  The older generation that squandered most of the wealth and comfort built up by the previous generations that kept the millennials largely out of sight and out of mind is finally seeing what may in fact be armies on the horizon. Let’s not squander this opportunity.

Monday, February 20, 2017

The Problem of Fake News



For as long as I can remember, there has been fake news out there, from yellow journalism to paid advertising made to appear as news.  Advertising itself has in recent years gone to absolutely crazy levels of faking real life so as to make the two virtually indistinguishable.  There is a story by Jon Ronson of a group in England that faked a meteor impact in the country side, a crypto advertising campaign during a soccer match involved a Barcelona player and a spectator that threw a banana on the pitch, the player nonchalantly picked up the banana and ate it before serving up a corner kick, the whole event meant to advertise the campaign against racism in ‘football.’  There are countless of these stories.  In the 1930s yellow journalism spearheaded by the psychopath robber baron William R. Hearst, in a vast conspiracy with likeminded new-aristocrats like Dupont, made marijuana illegal for the next 80 years, only so they could have a monopoly in the paper and tree pulp market.  I could go on and on.  

The recent glut of fake news seems to me like nothing more than a diversion from the very real problems facing America and the world.  It is also a very clever tactic to silence the truly independent voices that do not work directly for the mainstream media or the government.  Nothing will work better to put a stop to the drivel than a carefully crafted campaign to ban and censor than blaming the other for attempting to do the same.  Let’s be totally clear on this.  Fake news has always been with us as long as mass media has been with us.  Certain people will go to extraordinary lengths to lie and cheat others out of whatever they have. The call to stop fake news in all its forms is really a cleaned up way of banning and censoring independent voices and critical discourse.  Fake news is not even fake news, it is ‘the’ news.  Who remembers the endless prattle of the NY Times in the lead-up to the second Iraq war that was not only supportive of the invasion but somehow always managed to get ‘sources’ that confirmed that WMDs actually existed in Iraq?  Just because it’s NY Times does not mean that the news coming out from them is the real news or even honest news.   How is the right-wing now the ‘party of peace’ when the neo-conservatives clearly designed the plan to invade, occupy and throw into chaos the entire Middle-East with the organization of the Project for the New American Century? 

I am highly suspicious of anything that gets everyone talking at the same time, the viral campaigns, the memes, the trends and fashions of the week or of the day.  These make me uneasy about the world we find ourselves in.  Nothing is more dangerous than mass media in the hands of the wrong people, ask the Germans, the Russians, heck ask the entire East European continent, ask Indonesia, the Chinese, or the people in Rwanda. But you know what, they may tell you ‘that was then, this is now, and things are different.’ Not so. There may have been a time when the internet was free from manipulation, at least until the corporate swine got their sticky fingers into it because they saw the potential dupes that got on day in day out. They made sure that the news and the stuff that you and I consume every day is ‘their’ stuff and not anyone else’s.  When you read articles about fake news you’re most certainly getting someone else’s version of it, the corporate version, even if, and perhaps especially if that source appears to be an independent source, like a blogger or YouTube celebrity. If a story spreads like wildfire, one can bet that there is but a single source of it all.  Right now, in the thick of it, we cannot tell what that source is, but I bet that the corporate leeches that are sucking this world dry are behind it all.  Don’t buy into the bullshit.  Fake news is ‘real’ news and ‘real’ news is what someone else says it is, basically making it fake news all along.  Unless it’s stuff happening in your backyard that you can go and see for yourself, take everything coming out at you from the screen with a big grain of salt.  The ironic self-awareness of corporations and the upper classes only masks the impotence of the individual in mass society and the corporate-run government wants it that way. And the fact that many of the billionaires now look like the kid-next-door, dressed in hoodies and white sneakers, does not subtract from the reality that some of these people are ruthless and calculating animals. If you think you are informed, know that being informed only means that you are towing the line for someone else.  A healthy ignorance of current events will give one a perspective on the past, present and future; neither is mutually exclusive. 

Do not mistake greatness with popularity, and don’t mistake popularity with authority! Everyone wants you to read their own fake news, they want you to like their Facebook posts, they want you to see their Instagram, they want to tell you what it’s like to be them, but who are you and what are you like? What do you think of what’s happening? The corporate scum continue to sell the ground right from underneath us, the Miami housing market is imploding again, student and credit card debt has crippled the economy and made the middle of America into a wasteland, all the money’s been siphoned upward to the uber-rich and nobody is talking about class? No, that would be too much like communism, and we can’t have that.  Let’s let more capitalism and corporate cronyism fix the problems of capitalism and corporate cronyism. ‘You are free to do as we tell you!’

Thanks for reading!  I also blog at tompazderka.blogspot.com, check it out!

Sunday, January 22, 2017

The Separation of Market and State


In light of the inauguration of Donald J Trump as president and the million people marches out there, I’d like to stay optimistic about developments around the globe, yet I find myself sinking back into a realization that we are not experiencing anything new.  The inauguration of both George W Bush and Barack Obama spawned protests and counter protests, all a bit wishy washy, with no clear goals or agendas, littered with celebrity speakers to make the crowds feel good about themselves.  I fear we have not learned much from the past.  I fear that the protests are a simple reaction, not a means to a sustained political and social change.   

If we look at Trump’s cabinet appointees, we see that he’s filled it with nothing but business types, some with no political experience, much like Trump himself.  But is this a revolutionary move on Trump’s part?  I would argue the opposite.  Trump is just doing what is considered hegemonic in the current globalist business ethos.  He is going to run the government like a corporation with himself the CEO in Chief.  This is not new. If one looks around America, bit by bit the trend emerges, from education to entertainment to government, schools are run by a bloated bureaucracy of middle management administrators, retail shops, call centers, Silicon Valley, all marching in unison to the white collar bureaucrat.  Even art museums found it necessary in the early 21st century to lock step with the top down winner-takes-all business model with a layer of curators and administrators serving as intermediaries between the public and the art(ists).  Trump is merely replacing one form of oppression with another and I fear that the protesters have no alternative answers to our predicament.  Their answer seems to be to funnel more of their own into political positions of power, supplementing rather than replacing the very system that oppresses them. 

What happened to the words of Rudy Dutschke when he implored the radical left to go on a “long march through the institutions?”  I also fear that the long march had turned the former radicals into mushy placeholders who managed to alter their ideology so as to remain gainfully employed in a precarious and volatile market.  The vision of somebody like Dutschke is long term, but also na├»ve in some respect.  How can one predict what will happen to those that enter the governmental business machinery with the intention to disrupt or change it, as the protests suggest? How is one going to prevent the cooptation of their faculties and subjectivity? How will these people remain committed and accountable? 

The world of business is riddled with inequality, vicious backstabbing and corruption precisely because these are entirely inscribed into the idea of business itself.  There must be some sort of proposition made that just as government should be separate from religion (which it is not by any stretch of the imagination) in the classic idea of separation of church and state, so the state must be separate from the market for it to function even on the most fundamental level.  What do we gain by a marriage between the state and the market besides the obvious, the relinquishing of power to the most powerful and the acquiescence by the public to political, cultural and social hegemony and finally become beholden to the fluctuations of the market itself?   

Especially fearsome is the herd mentality surrounding social media, partly because the internet, via its supposed anonymity and virtuality, impresses upon people the idea that actions have no consequences, the election of Donald Trump is a case in point.  If one wants to experience freedom, one cannot hand over their personal power, even to someone whose intentions are good and whose views on the world we share.  Trump is going to expand the power of government, not shrink it. He is not going to replace, merely supplement what already exists by handing over power to a like-minded elite.  It was no different under Obama or Bush or Clinton.  He will make deals, he will write contracts, he’ll shake his fists at other politicians, all the while firmly rooted in what he knows best, how to best profit himself.