Populist Rage and the Specter of Neo-Nazism in Greece, oder Mein Kampf mit der Politik

It is doubtful that anyone in America has heard about this, or frankly could give two shits if they had, but the European community has reacted with disgust at the recent results of the Greek parliamentary elections held on May 6, 2012 in which the Golden Dawn (a party advocating Neo-Nazism) received a startlingly high 7% of the vote.  Of course, the European community has reacted with disgust at these relatively high electoral numbers, with bloggers heaping shame on the Greek electorate for its perceived proto-fascist bent.  (Neni Panourgiapenned an article for Al Jazeera critical of the party’s frequent vigilante and racist ideology in which she identifies such a proto-fascist movement as a more general ‘European Problem’).

Ms. Panourgia’s article nicely documents the terrorist tactics employed by the Golden Dawn since the 1970’s, and identifies their racism and bigotry.  However, the article leaves unanswered its author’s most potent question, posed in the last third of her piece:

“Why would Greeks, who fought against totalitarianism in massive numbers and paid one of the heaviest tolls in Europe for their participation in the resistance against Nazi Germany, vote for this despicable, emetic, and deeply anti-political formation, even as a protest?”

This is a question that is not on its surface an easy one to answer, yet with some careful consideration, one can pose a partially satisfactory answer.  Being an amateur student of Western history, I for one am not surprised that the populist Golden Dawn party should see a surge in public support at a time when Greece and the rest of Europe are being driven ever closer to the brink of economic disaster.  The austerity programs which left millions of people unemployed and begging in the streets have been perceived as a massive failure by all but the financiers of the European monetary system (not to mention Germany and France, who were forced to shoulder heavy burdens in order to inject capital into the Greek economy and who saw their continued entanglement as an undesirable alternative to restrictive austerity whose principle effects would be felt only in Greece), and given the rise of serious talks of kicking Greece out of the Euro, one must expect a steep incline in populist anger to manifest itself in the polls.

A rise in public outrage is to be expected in times of economic decline—we’ve witnessed it in America in recent years with the Tea Party movement, and before that with the much more subdued xenophobia of Pat Buchanan’s failed presidential campaign.  Both of these domestic movements contained more than a hint of racial or other types of bias and short-sighted reactions, but even by the worst accounts they are not seriously comparable to Nazism.  However, given that it seems to be only natural for people to lash out at something—anything—in difficult times, one can’t help but wonder whether criticizing these movements on their face, as many in America have done with the Tea Party and Mr. Buchanan, and as Ms. Panourgia has more recently done with the Golden Dawn, is a constructive project.  Not surprisingly, such tongue-in-cheek criticisms—almost always made with a condescending tone from a privileged universalist position of multiculturalism, which always risks nothing but words—will be well received by the indoctrinated left, and conversely easily dismissed by those on the right who are consumed by populist rage.

Slajov Zizek, an intellectual hero of mine for some time, has written extensively on the subject of populist anger, dedicating an entire chapter to it in his 2008 book, In Defense of Lost Causes (IDLC).  Though he himself ultimately disagrees with the theoretical implications of populism for reasons too complicated to get into here, he nicely elucidates some of its more desirable practical qualities.  From a starting point, he describes populism as occupying a position that is:

“ultimately always sustained by ordinary people’s frustrated exasperation, by a cry of ‘I don’t know what’s going on, I just know I’ve had enough of it!  It can’t go on!  It must stop!’—an impatient outburst, a conviction that there must be somebody responsible for all the mess which is why an agent who is behind the scenes and explains it all is required.”  (IDLC, 282).

Zizek’s initial observation seems similar to the much rehashed critiques of populist movements levied by liberal-multiculturalists who esteem tolerance of otherness as the highest virtue; namely that such movements are the product of an infantile lashing out at the world, or an oversimplified view of a complex situation.  Anyone who has had any experience with the Tea Party or has studied the rise of Nazism after World War I can attest to the fact that these criticisms are undoubtedly well founded.  However, they fail to recognize the aborted revolutionary potential that is present within all populist movements from the rise of fascism in post-war Europe to the modern day reprisal of Nazism in Greece and elsewhere in the Eurozone.  The problem with populism, is that it correctly identifies an injustice (almost always capitalist excesses that have led to difficult economic times for the “average” citizen), but fails to recognize that the source of that injustice is systemic.  Rather than direct criticism at the system directly, populists movements almost always take for granted the fact that the system is inherently sound, moral, and good, preferring to single out a behind-the-scenes actor whose excessive qualities have poisoned the erstwhile harmonious structure.  Or, from Zizek:

“For a populist, the cause of the trouble is ultimately never the system as such, but the intruder who corrupted it (financial manipulators, not capitalists as such, etc.); not a fatal flaw inscribed into the structure as such, but an element that does not play its part within the structure properly.  For a Marxist, on the contrary (as for a Freudian), the pathological (the deviant misbehavior of some elements) is the symptom of the normal, an indicator of what is wrong in the very structure that is threatened with the ‘pathological’ outbursts…. This is why fascism definitely is a populism; its figure of the Jew is the equivalential point of the series of (heterogeneous, inconsistent even) threats experienced by individuals: the Jew is simultaneously too intellectual, dirty, sexually voracious, hard-working, financially exploitative  . . .” (IDLC, P 279).

The problem with populism is not that it is inherently “proto-fascist,”—far from it.  In many ways, the populist rage that is so easily condemned by self-described rational thinkers as childish outbursts of temperamental dilettante political actors is in actuality only slightly misguided.  If we are to single out one problem with populist rage, it is not, as its critics would allege, that it is too radical in its ideology and openness to brash or even violent political action.  On the contrary, the problem with populism is that it is not radical enough in its thinking and execution—it does not pursue the logic of its own presuppositions to their rational end.

 For example, in post WWI Germany, instead of directing anger toward central bankers and speculators, the National Socialists fixated on the figure of the Jew, upon whom all of the properties of the evil capitalists were transposed.  This was rather convenient for those who were in power at the time, as they ultimately had used all of the dirty capitalist tricks to consolidate wealth for themselves.  It would have been patently against their own interests to direct populist anger against the very system that ensured their survival, and so the Jew—a figure that had historically been mistrusted in European history—made a convenient scapegoat.  Modern populism is strikingly similar, except that the specter of illegal immigration has been transplanted in the place of the figure of the Jew.

It is for these reasons that the holier-than-though, let’s-all-just-talk-about-this, criticisms of the multiculturalist left are ultimately misguided.  Leaving behind the obvious fact that it is impossible to use reason to diffuse rage (be it justifiable or otherwise), the liberal multiculturalists completely overlook the positive aspects of populist political movements—namely, that they are essentially 85% correct in that they identify a serious problem, only they fail to look for solutions in the proper way.  One can’t help but wonder whether there is not some kernel of truth within modern populism that can be harnessed and put toward some more positive revolutionary purpose.  These movements at their most profound can be used as engines to affect positive change, or they can devolve into self-destructive forces of horrific proportions–begetting childish violence for its own sake. 

At a time when popular anger is on the rise, it would behoove those on the left to take notice of the revolutionary potential at its center, especially at such a key time in history.  Perhaps the biggest difference between our current situation and that which gave birth to National Socialism in the 1930′s is one of scale: in post WWI Germany, the state of economic inflation and the general destitution of the populace had gotten so bad that people had taken to burning their paper money for heat rather than spending it.  The situation in Greece has not yet become so dire, though it is fast approaching a tipping point.

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Dear Mr. President: An Open Letter to President Obama ~ Dave Imbriaco

Dear President Obama,

…….I am writing to you (and to any other American who wishes to share in this) because I, like many Americans, want to help our country get back on track.  Call it a cry for help or a public plea of a distressed citizen, but I digress.

…….My personal situation is hardly the worst it could be: I’m a graduate student living with my parents and partially self-funding my education with my own personal savings (I’m taking out loans for the rest).  On the other hand, I graduated in May of 2010 and have worked a total of only five months since then at a variety of jobs, always for $12 an hour or less.  Compared to other people my age, I consider myself to be incredibly lucky.  Think about that – lucky to have a supportive, loving family that has the means to keep me afloat while I struggle to get out on my own, barely holding down a poverty-wage job.  It’s heartbreaking and discouraging to know that so many others my age aren’t so fortunate, and I wonder how their futures will unfold.

…….Mr. President, I donated to your campaign, voted for you, and have defended your actions to the people that I encounter who disagree with or disapprove of them.  I, and many others like me, were swept up by your lofty rhetoric and cool demeanor.  I genuinely believed that your election would spell slow but steady improvement in our lives.  You campaigned on hope, but since your election Americans have only grown more hopeless.  Our situations are worse off now than when you took office, and as of now, I will be neither voting for you nor donating to your campaign in the next election because honestly, I and many others in my position – the very same people who put you in the oval office – feel betrayed by you.

…….I am very much aware that you did not create the enormous problems that our country currently faces.  You didn’t enact the policies over the past 30 years that triggered an economic collapse that some Cassandras knew was coming.  You aren’t responsible for the way wages have stagnated for 30 years while corporate profits have skyrocketed.  And of course I cannot blame you for the disgusting gridlock in Congress.  But your failure to make any credible attempt to rectify any of our problems has now made you complicit in them.

…….You are now two and a half years into your term and have been nothing but a disappointment.  The way you refused to fight for a public option in the health care debate.  The way you refused to expend any political capital to punish the people whose recklessness and greed caused the collapse (and how your administration, bafflingly so, is resistant to any attempt at holding those people accountable)! The way you cave to John Boehner and the Tea Party every single time a confrontation arises, be it the debt ceiling or the date of your supposed major address on jobs.  The way you allow blatant falsehoods about the economy and policy to circulate like the bubonic plague while refusing to provide your own narrative of what has happened in America.  The way you try to negotiate with those who have made clear their only goal is to bring you down.

…….You do not lead, you preside.  By the same token, you do not compromise, you capitulate.

…….In fact, your governing style (or lack thereof) is mind-boggling.  Mr. President, you refuse to stand up for your supporters while you try to reason with the unreasonable.  The opposition party has made it clear that they have absolutely no interest in working with you.  Don’t you remember when Mitch McConnell said on the Senate floor that his primary political objective was to deny you a second term and to not solve our country’s problems?  I understand that good politics is about compromise, but when have any of your priorities not been sacrificed on the altar of bi-partisianship with nothing in return?  You just recently gave away the ability to regulate smog and got what in return?  That’s not a negotiated compromise, that is a giveaway – a sign not of strength, but of spinelessness.  You are actively abdicating your responsibility as President to be a leader.

…….Maybe I should have paid attention to the fact that you voted “present” more times than not in the Illinois legislature – a sign that you were afraid to do anything that might present an ounce of risk.  Maybe I should have thought twice when you tossed to the curb the man who married you and your wife, who was your “spiritual mentor” after a smear campaign comparable to John Kerry’s swift-boating.

…….Now, I have noticed how you stubbornly refuse to take positions beyond vague ovations of improving health care and appeals to a supposed American Exceptionalism.  At a time when the American people needed someone who would stand up for them, who would lead them and be unafraid to take a controversial position that he truly believes in, they mistakenly voted for someone who flees at the first sign of confrontation.  Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the man who said of the Wall Street banks (your campaign contributors) “I welcome their hatred” is rolling over in his grave.  Not only have you been an ineffective President, but also a failed Democrat – a party I was forced to abandon after years of active support when I felt that they turned on me.

…….I say with complete, unshakable honestly that I take absolutely no pleasure in doing this.  But with my firsthand experience and things I know about the current state of our economy, the trend is dismal, and reasons to be optimistic are harder and harder to find.  Your inability to successfully govern the country coupled with the undeclared war against the average American people by her own elites are causing America to crumble right beneath your feet.  I don’t even know for sure who’s side you’re really on anymore, the side of the people or the enemies of the people? Please be the president that I voted for in 2008. Otherwise, get out of the way.

………………………………………………………Sincerely in Frustration,

………………………………………………………Dave Imbriaco

______________________________

Photo courtesy of projectcensored.org

(http://www.projectcensored.org/top-stories/articles/22-obamas-trilateral-commission-team/)

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Save the Post Office: Write to Your Friends ~ Matia Guardabascio

I have over four hundred friends on Facebook. Sometimes I wonder how many of them I actually talk to, how many I actually hang out with, or whether or not it matters if I do either of those things. Virtual communication and social media undoubtedly have many advantages, the most important of which being the immediacy of getting in touch with someone, like with text messaging. Social media, e-mail, text messaging, these are all synonymous with instant communication, or better yet, the instant gratification of immediately establishing contact with someone. But I wonder, how much of the human experience gets lost in virtual communication?

I cannot say that social media is destroying the bonds of friendship and really mean it. People are more connected than ever—finding long lost family, or friends from elementary school you thought you would never see again. But there is a difference between a Facebook friend and an actual friend. You know, a friend—someone you trust. Someone you actually talk to and know.

The interpersonal touch is obviously missing. You can’t shake hands with someone online. While social media offers many means of communicating, the intimacy of talking to a single person at one time is lost.  Facebook pages and Twitter accounts share information with everyone all at once. It’s all public. Even posts on friends’ pages are visible to anyone with access. People may be connected in a more vast and efficient way, but the intimacy, by which I mean the attentiveness, focus and honesty that goes hand in hand with one on one conversation, is all but lost in such a fast and efficient method of communication.

The epistolary form—letter writing—is a far more personal way of communicating with a good friend. People express themselves differently in written form than they do verbally or in a brief post on Facebook. Writing letters to friends opens up a whole world of expression that is otherwise buried by the concise methods of expression in virtual communication.

I write letters to some of my friends, mostly to those who live in other countries or on the Pacific side of the United States. These are friends I no longer get to see or talk to on any kind of regular basis. Writing letters to them enables me to tell them everything I want them to know—the kind of things one confides in good friends—in a space I choose to dedicate to them. And only them.

Sitting down to write a letter can be an arduous task sometimes. One of the reasons I use letter writing to communicate with my far away friends is because I can’t tell them directly what’s going on in my life on Facebook without telling everyone, or sending a long winded email. A letter carries with it the connotation of being long correspondence and of being personal. Still, the actual act of writing a letter requires a similar effort to writing a paper in that it requires a particular kind of uninterrupted focus, not to mention time. When I write to a good friend I have to focus only on that friend and what I would say if we were alone on a porch or by a fire drinking a bottle of wine. Letter writing requires honesty, focus and time, three things that are hard to come by in a world that insists on instant communication. But once the habit is established, writing letters to friends becomes a consistent way to speak truth to those who are too far away for a few beers and an afternoon chat on the porch or the stoop.

When you put your words on paper, you are creating a record. A record of a thought process, of an idea, or of a moment. And when you take the time to attach your words to a page and send them to the intended audience, you will have said everything you wanted to say, but couldn’t because other people were around. That friend now has a record of a moment in time in your life that he or she can read over and over again, if only to hear your voice.

Whenever I know I am to receive a letter, I wait anxiously for the mailman to come. I rush to the mailbox after he leaves and sift though it as if I’m searching for something of more value than a hidden treasure. For that reason, the mailman has always been one of my favorite people. I love expecting something other than bills to come for me. And the mailman is always the guy who gives me the good news.

There is something to be said for the anticipation of receiving snail-mail correspondence. The world of social media has undoubtedly spoiled us. Now, instant gratification is an every day thing when it comes to communicating. Waiting for a letter takes too much time in a world obsessed with efficiency and speed. But with efficiency and speed running the world of communication, how much substantial conversation can really be had? Already the deterioration of the English language is underway. Text messaging alone has been the biggest culprit… cuz like i luv like talking to u w/o actually speaking, u kno? Because of our abbreviated methods of communication, no one really seems to be talking or writing at length anymore. No one has the time because we’re all too busy trying to keep up with the pace of this virtual world.

But, how great a feeling is it to get a birthday card in the mail—the thought that someone actually took two seconds out of their day to think of you (and maybe help you out with a check or some cash)! They actually bought a stamp for you! How awesome is that? I mean—who buys stamps anymore?

But what would happen if we couldn’t buy stamps anymore? Or get birthday cards in the mail? What would happen if the Post Office died? Well, the answer is the same as it always is when a government service is diminished or disappears: the private sector takes over that entire market. UPS, Fedex, and DHL would be in charge of making sure your correspondence or package would be taken care of logistically! But at what cost? Soon you would be spending dollars instead of cents to RSVP to a wedding or mail a college application or send a ‘thank you’ note.

The Post Office is our last hope for paying a reasonable price for anything! While we’re paying four dollars per gallon for gas, you’re still paying less than fifty cents to mail a letter, less than a dollar to mail a letter anywhere else in the world. It’s easy to take advantage of a service like the Post Office because it has been around for as long as the United States has been a country.

The Post Office has this illusory aura about it, that it will always be around because it’s an American institution. But like most illusory things, this is untrue. Because communication has now exceeded speeds that the Post Office can maintain, its potential disappearance is now a real threat, as evidenced by the hundreds of Post Offices that have recently closed, and the thousands of postal workers who were consequently laid off.

We will lose more than jobs if the Post Office goes out of business. Listen to me… If you don’t write to your friends, then the most inexpensive service known to American society will die. And with it will die your last chance to really correspond with someone in the last intimate form of quality non-verbal communication.

__________________________

Photo courtesy of vocabulary.wordpress.com

(http://vocabulry.wordpress.com/2010/07/31/epistolary/)

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Occupying the Brooklyn Bridge and the Power of Protest ~ Matthew D’Elia

Part I

I did not know what to expect when I decided to go to New York on Saturday to check out Occupy Wall Street. In fact, I had only opted to go after seeing the now famous footage of police brutality, courtesy of inspector Anthony Bologna aka “Tony Baloney”(video). I had originally planned to go with a couple of friends, but that did not pan out. For a moment I was hesitant to go by myself because I rarely travel to New York City, let alone get involved in a protest in which people have been beaten, pepper sprayed, and arrested. But I decided to go anyway. After walking out of the PATH Station at the World Trade Center I was immediately taken aback by the number of police officers stationed in the area. Apparently the police have occupied their own portions of Lower Manhattan where they are keeping vans, buses, equipment and personnel at the ready just in case the word comes in to start making mass arrests.

I wandered a bit until finally making it to Liberty Plaza Park (formerly known as Zucotti Park), where I continued to wander aimlessly, snapping a few pictures until I happened upon fellow Rutgers University students, Kristin Clark, Matt Cordeiro, and Joel Salvino, who were looking for a bathroom. Joel pointed out a ninety-five year old Marxist-Leninist who had been yelling at a few Ron Paul supporters. I wanted to know why this man was so insistent on being a Leninist as well as a Marxist, so I decided to have a chat with him while I waited for them to come back. Here I learned a valuable lesson: ninety-five year old men do not take shit from anyone. He formed his political beliefs in the 1930s and they seem to have not changed since.What made him a Marxist-Leninist was the idea that radical social change was only possible through a tightly structured organization with ideological cohesion,  a specific set of goals, a powerful leadership and the willingness to achieve their ends by any means necessary. Occupy Wall Street does not follow this model at all.

It is usually difficult to categorize or try to make sense of mass movements and protests that emerge seemingly out of nowhere. Occupy Wall Street is marked partially by a strange alliance of both Ron Paul supporters on the far right (Anarcho-Capitalists) and socialists, Marxists, and Anarcho-Syndicalists on the far left. Barring their consensus on the full expansion of civil liberties, the only agreement among the two sides is that greed and, to borrow a quip from the historian Thomas Bailey, the “international gangsterism” of the global finance industry and powerful states has crippled the global economy and propped up the power of a handful of elites at the expense of the majority.

Liberty Park is not only Occupy Wall Street’s staging ground, but has also become a temporary, indefinite home for the movement’s core group of organizers, including Zu, a former Rutgers student and resident of New Brunswick, who after getting laid off decided to sublet her apartment and move into the park. Most of the youth living in the park seem to be in a similar situation.  In order to accommodate themselves they have set up sleeping spaces, a kitchen of sorts, a medical station, and even a library.

As we began preparing for the 3:00pm march, there were whispers that we would be marching over the Brooklyn Bridge. At the time—and even now—I did not know whether this meant that we would be marching over the walkway or one of the traffic lanes. In any case, the march got underway without incident. We were positioned in the back because Zu had taken up the task of setting the pace from the back of the march. The senior citizens were to take up the vanguard. Ironically enough, there is a much higher chance of getting arrested in the rear of any given protest march, because from there it is much easier for the police to use the “kettling technique” to trap demonstrators. However, being positioned there actually prevented us from joining those on the traffic lanes and subsequent arrest.

The group of marchers was increasing in size as we moved north along Broadway towards the Brooklyn Bridge. This was easy to notice because in order to continue setting the pace from the back we had to keep moving behind all of the new people joining the march. People were getting really excited. There was a very energetic young woman (one of the organizers), who was running around starting up chants and trying to get everyone to close off the gaps between marchers. She accidentally stepped on the back of my shoe, causing my foot to fall out. She quickly said “Sorry, baby!” with real sincerity, and ran ahead to energize the rest of the group.

As we were approaching the bridge, I was still not sure if we were going to cross into the traffic lanes. The police had blocked traffic from travelling eastbound into Brooklyn, but had also formed a line to prevent protesters from entering. We were still at the very back of the march. The police were patrolling up and down the lane parallel to the walkway. It was not until we had travelled a few hundred yards up the bridge that we realized protesters had somehow made it down into the street. I had assumed that the police formed that line blocking protesters from entering the entire time; apparently that was not the case. A large number of protesters had stopped on the walkway to look, take pictures, and express solidarity with those who were fenced in on the street below. The police had already started making arrests, singling out specific individuals and grabbing them as the opportunity presented itself. After making our way a bit further up the bridge, past the penned in group, I heard a familiar shout. I squeezed over to the side to get a look and saw that energetic young woman, struggling and yelling as two police officers were dragging her away.

Those who were not trapped on the street or standing on the walkway to provide moral support made their way across the bridge into Brooklyn, where we rallied at Cadman Plaza Park, surrounding the William Jay Gaynor monument. Here the organizers passed along information regarding our fellow protesters on the bridge as well as advice on what to do next: who to call if a friend has been arrested, etc. Because Occupy Wall Street demonstrators are not permitted to use loudspeakers or megaphones, communication is done through a massive game of telephone. One person shouts the original message, and the surrounding crowd shouts it along to those standing out of earshot of the speaker.  I noticed that the same person never spoke twice. A different person conveyed each message.

While all this was happening, the police were slowly surrounding the park and making their way inside. According to them, we would not be arrested so long as we “did not break park regulations.” They conveniently failed to enumerate these regulations.

I would have loved to stay at Cadman Park, but I had a few obligations that night in New Brunswick. Joel and I decided to walk back across the bridge to get to the PATH station. As we started up the walkway, two police officers warned us that “protesters were blocking the path up ahead and not letting people through.” We snickered to ourselves, musing at how we could assume different identities by not walking with a large group of people.

The police were stationed throughout walkway, telling people that they had to keep moving to the other side of the bridge. Now there were buses (some of which were from MTA) lined up in the street below, outside of which arrested protesters were waiting to be loaded up and taken down to the station. Joel and I shouted down to one of the protesters asking, “how did you get down there!?” The response was “I don’t know, I was just following the group!” We then came upon the group of alledgedly obstructive protesters who, roughly twenty strong, were standing on one side of walkway in solidarity with those below. A few police officers were standing around them, telling them that they had to get off of the bridge. One man questioned the legality of forcing people off of a public walkway, to which an officer in a white shirt responded by grabbing the protester and threatening arrest. They said that we were allowed to be on the bridge, but that we “had to keep moving.” One of the officers began approaching me as I was trying to take a picture, so I quickly put down my camera and walked away.

As Joel and I walked to the train station, I could not help but mull over the greater significance of what happened and what my role was within these events. It was a shared role, of course. I am grateful to have had support from Matt, Kristen, Zu, and Joel. I feel like we are a part of what could become the largest social movement of our generation, but I do not yet know how to classify it.

Part II

History certainly verifies the power of protest, but despite this common technique, Occupy Wall Street is decidedly different from its predecessors in its organization and goals.

Solidarity, which with roughly ten million members would become the largest trade union in history, emerged  from a strike at the Lenin Shipyards in Gdansk, Poland, in 1980.  Solidarity used civil disobedience and nationwide strikes to demand workers’ rights and social change from a government whose legitimacy was founded upon notions of workers’ rights and social change. Though this movement was violently suppressed by the Communist government in 1981, they would remain underground throughout 1980s until finally reemerging in 1988-89 to successfully negotiate for democratic elections. This set into motion a chain of events leading to the Revolutions of 1989 in the Eastern Bloc and arguably the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.

Similarly, the Civil Rights movement demonstrates the efficacy of non-violent protest and civil disobedience in an American context. This movement exposed the inherent contradictions in a supposedly liberal, democratic state, which emphasized human equality in theory while in practice systematically marginalized the political power of a select group. In this case, the legal basis of the state itself had provided the means for its own criticism. The Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution could be used as effective tools to compel the U.S. government to concretely meet its theoretical obligation to guarantee political freedom for all citizens of the United States.

When compared to Solidarity and the Civil Rights movement, Occupy Wall Street lacks the means to make very specific demands because the enemy is not so clearly defined. For those living in the Eastern Bloc, information came from the Politburo and one could either accept it as fact or, as most did, reject it entirely. The goals of the Civil Rights movement were legitimized by the state itself.

Today’s issue is far more nuanced: the enemy is amorphous, and mainstream sources of information provide no basis from which this systematic oppression can be criticized.

Wall Street has become an institution fundamentally embedded within the political and economic structure in not only the US, but the entire world. So much so that its sudden failure carries with it the threat of global collapse through a process that practically nobody–let alone Wall Street bankers– truly understands. By creating specific demands that fit into the typical logic of American politics, the Occupy Wall Street movement would compromise its essence and surrender its claim to representing “the 99%.”

For example, demanding a specific tax increase on large corporations or a clearly defined fiscal policy on Wall Street–within the framework of mainstream economics–would do little curb their power over society.Wall Street and other corporate interests have gained such influence over the political and economic sphere that any such maneuver would require the support of these institutions to succeed. Having the power to convert and move its capital anywhere in the world in an instant, Wall Street could easily adapt to new economic circumstances. Large corporations, using the money they have already accumulated, could likewise send their productive potential outside of the country. In short, operating within the mainstream political, economic, and social paradigm would be self-defeating.

The failure of this paradigm  is apparent in its inability to predict the economic crisis of 2008, while Libertarians like Ron Paul and Marxists such as David Harvey had a sense that the system was untenable.

More importantly, creating narrow demands would undoubtedly alienate individuals who, although they support the revolutionary spirit of Occupy Wall Street, may see certain demands as being counterproductive to the overall intent of this movement. If the group’s demands do not receive something like unanimous consent, leaders would have to take the charge and set the agenda. Such an organization has certainly worked for movements in the past, but conditions in the present seem to belie this kind of structure.

Solidarity was lead by the personality of Lech Walesa and individuals such as Martin Luther King and Rosa Parks were specific figures of inspiration within the Civil Rights Movement. These were all charismatic figures around whom personality cults formed and served as a source of inspiration and ideological cohesion.

Despite their effectiveness, Solidarity and the Civil Rights movement often did not represent “the 99%.” They represented certain classes of people who were clearly being oppressed within the legal framework of society. So they applied pragmatic political means, within the structure of their society, to achieve their ends. After taking power, Solidarity itself, as a political organization, succumbed to infighting among the leadership, causing its decline (Paradox of Change). Even Dr. King had to refrain from openly opposing the Vietnam War until after 1965, as doing so would have undermined support for the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts.

Occupy Wall Street has no definitive leaders, just familiar faces.

This movement is not about playing politics with actors in a broken system. It has emerged as a result of the inability of so-called “leaders” to deliver on their promises and fix these errors. The masses of unemployed, underpaid, or indebted are sick of these political games and are seeking to build a new system in which they are free to use their vast creative potential and are not subject to all of the crap being shoveled by our political institutions. The only option is to try to create a movement that stands outside of this paradigm.

Occupy Wall Street should be seen as continuation of the Arab Spring, like the protests in Wisconsin, the demonstrations against austerity measures in London, and the protests in Greece and Spain in May. This is a global protest against the current organization of power: one that is suppressing the power of most individuals through exceedingly complicated mechanisms which are run by only a few. But this movement may be even more than just a reaction to thirty years of lying by global elites that is to be considered only within the context of recent history. Perhaps it is the enduring idea that those in power, whether they are political, bureaucratic, financial, or industrial elites, must be held accountable for their actions. An expansion of democracy beyond polls and voting booths, following through with principles established during the Enlightenment. In this regard, it may be more appropriate to consider this movement as a part of a tradition that dates back to the revolutions of 1688, 1776 and 1789.

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Photos by Mr. Matthew D’Elia. All rights reserved by the artist.

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Occupy Wall Street (Day 13) Video and Photography ~ Dan Bracaglia

#Occupy Wall Street – Day 13

I avoided the enigma that is #OccupyWallStreet for nearly two weeks, despite it essentially taking place in my backyard. However, this past Friday I made my way down to Zuccotti Park around 2pm, to experience it for myself. Well, that is not completely true. I originally left work early on Friday, with a Canon 5D Mark II (with a 70-200mm 2.8 L lens) and Nikon D3s (with a 35mm f/1.4 lens) in hand (how’s that for democracy?!), at my boss’ suggestion, due to circulating  rumors that Radiohead would be performing in the park around 4pm. I was to shoot the show, if it happened, for Sound and Vision Magazine. Those rumors proved false—and that is probably for the best.

I ended up spending about 6 hours with “the movement,” on Friday, mingling about, talking to protesters, police officers, local shop owners, and bystanders alike. The day went a little something like this:

At 2pm I arrived in Zuccotti Park and found between 300-500 individuals present—most stood around one of two drum circles either dancing, playing instruments, or simply observing, while others were mulling around the makeshift sleeping areas, library, and media center.  Admittedly, the music coming from the circles was intoxicating.

By 4pm, the number of individuals in the park grew to somewhere around 3000, as a “General Assembly,” began to take place. The second and third image in this series are from that general assembly, which is a free-form open forum, in which anyone can address the crowd by shouting “Mic Check,” to which everyone in the park repeats back “Mic Check.” Messages are passed around the enormous crowd in a “telephone” like way—those standing nearest to you repeat the message back to you even louder, those who hear it then repeat it even louder to those even further away. It is by no means an ideal way to get information around, but worked surprisingly well.

By 5:00pm, the number of individuals in the park was probably somewhere between 4000 and 5000, excluding police officers. It was at this point I learned that the group was set to march down Broadway, 15 blocks, to One Police Plaza, in solidarity for those individuals who were allegedly beaten by police during a march the previous week.

By around 6pm, all 4000 to 5000 protestors had peacefully made it to One Police Plaza without any incident—their cheers upon entering the plaza were deafening. I stuck around there for another hour and a half before going back to my office.

You will notice several things in the images and audio slideshow that follow. First and foremost you will notice the immense diversity of those participating in this movement. That was by far what most impressed me. This is not a movement to support any cause in particular, in fact, I am not even sure you can call this a movement (however I will continue to as I don’t know any other name to call it).

The second thing you will notice is how dismayed, embarrassed and simply exhausted the NYPD looks in all of these images. All in all, I think the NYPD drew the short straw in all of this. Sure, a handful of police officers a week and a half ago may have abused their power and perhaps acted criminally, but in comparison to the number of times a day these protesters are marching, and the insane amount of man power it takes to keep everyone safe and traffic moving, the NYPD has beyond earned my respect. Every officer I encountered Friday was polite and courteous. In fact, I heard a protester use some pretty nasty language to a police officer who asked him to please stay off the street. The officer’s response? “Hey man, we are human too; we are just trying to keep you safe.”

I know 700 protestors were arrested Saturday for blocking traffic on the Brooklyn Bridge. There are conflicting reports from several individuals, that police tricked the protestors, saying at first it was OK for them to march on the bridge, and then arrested them all. I find this very hard to believe. Every officer I encountered Friday made it very, very clear that IF you were to block traffic in anyway, you WOULD be arrested, no questions asked. To those protestors who now have to deal with NYC municipal court, many of which I probably spoke with the day before, you have my condolences, however you have no one to blame but yourselves.

Speaking of the NYPD, other things you will notice from the audio slideshow are that a large number of police officers were equipped with video cameras and documenting the protest. I can only assume that this is the NYPD’s response to backlash from the protestors’ and journalists’ videos showing uncalled-for and illegal brutality some day’s prior. Either way, it is very interesting.

All in all, a lot has been said about #OccupyWallStreet in the past two weeks, some of it true, some if it not. If you are curious what this movement is all about, I would highly recommend taking an afternoon and experiencing it for yourself. Overall, I must say, I am impressed with the courage and passion of those core individuals who are so dedicated to this. What they aim to change, when it will happen, how it will happen, they don’t even know. But they aren’t going away anytime soon, and I think that is a very good thing.

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The Popular Capitalist View, No. 16: Where Once Was Capitalism by Carl Peter Klapper

Time was when your family could make something or buy the somethings your neighbors made, hang a sign on the front of your house and enough neighbors and visitors would walk by and step into your mom-and-pop store that you could make a decent living being a “merchant”. You and the other merchants in your town and nearby towns, the ones you could walk to if you didn’t have a horse, would provide enough of a market for can openers or canned goods, that some folks in the area would see an opportunity for a new canned food or can opener. These folks and others could all pitch in their spare cash as a company to buy the metal presses and what not (capital) and pay to employ some of their number or others to use the machinery to make the product which the mom-and-pops would then buy and stock on their shelves. As the mom-and-pop stores sold their product, they would order more to re-stock their shelves and, once this process hit a groove, the company would be paying dividends to the people who pitched in money to buy the company stock. These stockholders would be happy to get a little extra money later which they might otherwise had wasted sooner and, more importantly, to have played a role in starting an enterprise which benefited their communities with productive employment, better products and not a little local pride. Years later, they would be electing the Localsville Canned Beans Queen and holding parades down Main Street celebrating the success story of their local genius.

Time was before planning for the automobile. With the automobile-based development, or sprawl, came the demise of the mom-and-pop stores upon which the entire structure of capitalism was based. Hardly anybody walks from their house to the store anymore and, if you tried to sell anything from your house today, you would be cited for a zoning violation. Your neighbors deserted the local stores when the national stores started opening up branches “convenient” to the highway. Some of the national chains moved into the vacated storefronts, got the town to knock down some other houses with storefronts, and to seize the backyards by eminent domain so they could put up a parking lot to “serve” Main Street. The local manufacturing companies got fewer orders, none from the national retail chains, of course. As those companies failed, the remaining local stores started stocking fewer local items, until you couldn’t tell the difference between the mom-and-pops and the chains. The only real difference was the mom-and-pops were less convenient to the automobile driver. The mom-and-pops become denigrated even as they try to conform to sprawl. People actually talk about a new chain store opening up as if that was something to be proud of. At that point, capitalism is dead in their town. To be certain, there are, here and there, some vestiges of capitalism left, though they may strike us as unremarkable. It was always misleading to characterize capitalism as a road to unfathomable riches. People confuse it with debt and global mercantilism, with the creditor sultans oppressing their people, which is very much in evidence.

The Localsville Canned Beans company was bought up by investors from out-of-town using borrowed money — it was purchased in a leveraged buyout by General Foods — and General Foods now grows and cans the Localsville Canned Beans in South America. The plant is closed and the people in Localsville, those who are left, now work and shop in the Walmart down Highway 666. They had to cancel the parade this year. They didn’t choose a Localsville Canned Beans Queen, either.

Copyright © 2011 by C. P. Klapper

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Alfa Art Gallery’s New Brunswick Salon ~ Call for Artists

New Brunswick Art Salon, Fall 2011 – Call for Artists

About the Exhibition

In the 18th and 19th century, Art Salons were the greatest annual or biannual art events in the Western world, celebrating the farthest advances in academia and the arts. The Alfa Art Gallery, in order to bridge talented and highly esteemed artists with the New Brunswick public, holds its own Art Salon exhibition biannually in the spring and fall.

Call for Entries

The Alfa Art Gallery would like to invite artists to submit work for the New Brunswick Art Salon, Fall ’11. There are two artist categories: newly emerging artists and professional artists. All submissions must be in by September 25. Artists will be notified if their work is accepted by September 30. The exhibition opening will be held on Friday, October 21.

Theme

For this exhibition, artists must submit works celebrating diversity or unity in a community.

Submission Requirements

All applicants must be associated with New Brunswick as a resident or as an artist who exhibits in New Jersey. Students and faculty members of Rutgers University and neighboring schools may enter. You must at least be pursuing an undergraduate career to participate. Degree does not need to be related to art.  There is no limit to the number of works entered.

To enter for consideration, please email the following to info@alfaart.org:

  • Images with title/dimensions
  • Resume/CV
  • Statement about your work
Or contact:
Jewel Lim, Event coordinator,

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Road Trip: To Sanity and Back ~ Matia Guardabascio

I have been struggling all week to write about the Rally to Restore Sanity, which Alex and I attended in Washington D.C. last Saturday. At first I thought I was just tired after having driven one thousand miles to D.C. from Boston and back. I had many conversations with people about the Rally, and was able to speak about it with ease. Why then could I not strap down my thoughts to some loose leaf? Why?

I spent the week pondering this simple question until finally, the answer dawned on me. Why can’t I think of one meaningful thing to say about the Rally? Because people don’t care about it. How can I write about something no one cares about? Or what’s more, why don’t people care? Could it be because the whole event was immediately buried by the media, practically the moment it was over? Could it be that the comparison to Woodstock, made by countless media outlets prior to the event, turned people off, or caused them to dismiss it as some crazy hippie gathering? Could it be that the event, which was also labeled as “entertainment” by those same countless media outlets, instead of as the political gathering that it was, caused people to dismiss it even further? Perhaps the answer is “all of the above”.

Let me be clear about one thing: I did not go to the Rally to be entertained; I went to be empowered. And I was.

But before I get ahead of myself, let me boogie on back to the beginning: Boston, the night of October 28th. I left work at my normal time and rode the train home as I usually do. When I got to the station in my town I ran over to my already packed car and drove directly to New Brunswick. Nothing like a four hour race to Jersey after a long day of work with Issac Brock, Jimi Hendrix, and the Eagles of Death Metal for company. I slept soundly that night after splitting a bottle of chianti with my hosts, who always put up with my silliness whenever I come to New Jersey.

The next day, a friend and former writer for the JVP met me at 8am. We visited the bank to exchange a bag of coins for cash, grabbed some pancakes at the Palace Diner, then hit the road by 9:30am. By the time we got to Baltimore, the party music was already bumping. We arrived at Alex G’s apartment around 1pm. The drive was shorter than I had anticipated. Somehow Alex managed to get us a serious hookup for parking. My little Masshole Jetta sat by itself in the half circle in front of his huge apartment building for the entire time we were in D.C. Thank you Alex.

After catching our breathe, resting our feet, and snacking to the tune of Nas for two hours, we set off on what would become a twelve hour drinking marathon. The only word to describe the nature of our situation during that time other than belligerent is excessive. Perhaps youth is cruel after all, or is it whiskey?

Regardless, youth is what got us out of bed the next day, armed with breakfast sandwiches, coffees, waters, cameras, film, and, of course, my press pass. While my driving buddy survived the twelve hour marathon, he did not make it to the Rally in time to meet up with Alex and I, so the two of us embarked on our mission to find a good spot at the Rally.

This endeavor proved to be most difficult. There were, literally, hundreds of thousands of people descending upon the National Mall for this Rally. When we realized that planting ourselves with a good view among the enthusiastic crowd was not going to work, we made our way outside the designated areas for the public attendees, and up toward the stage (which was about 5 blocks away). We took turns leading the way through the swarms of excited people; there were tons of young people, many in costume or carrying signs. I could say that young people made up the majority of the crowd, but I’d be lying to you. So in the interest of truth, I’ll tell you what I really saw. I saw babies– yes, infants– and their parents, and their grandparents, and their aunts, uncles, neighbors, their teachers, their preachers, and their future college professors. Every kind of person these babies will meet in their lives was at the Rally– except for Glen Beck, of course. I didn’t see him there, except on the giant TV screens when Jon and Stephen showed us what the platform of fear in the media looks like.

After forty-five minutes of weaving through the largest and most diverse collection of people I have ever seen or been a part of, Alex and I finally made it to the Press entrance. A press pass goes a long way, let me tell you. The security official inspected my pass and waved me to enter. I told him that my camera man (pointing to Alex) was also with me. The guard let us both through to the spacious, guarded press section, which came equipped with its private selection of portable potties! We were not only in great audio range of the stage, but our view was direct and close to it as well. We could actually see Cat Stevens and Ozzy Osborne perform together. We could really see Kareem Abdul Jabar come on stage to prove a point to Colbert on behalf of Jon Stewart: that he cannot make generalized statements about all Muslims hating Americans because it is simply false. We actually got to see Tony Bennett sing “God Bless America”; and we, or at least I, sang along with him.

Alex and I were lucky. We did not have to climb a tree, or climb on top of portable potties (even collapsed ones), or sit on each other’s shoulders to get a good view. We were not those people who tried to jump a guarded fence to find a better place to stand.

When Jon Stewart came out to make his speech, he thanked us all for coming out, and appeared to be humbled by the size of the crowd that had responded to his call. If I had to wager a guess as to how large the crowd was, I’d say there were at least a few hundred thousand in attendance. Still, that feels like a modest guess. After having been in that crowd, and having had a good enough view to see the magnitude of it, I would even go so far as to say that half a million people were there. Look at this shot, which was taken after the Rally had ended and we had walked several blocks away from the National Mall:

Rally5-1

Consider this: the crowd you see in this photo is only a fraction of the people who attended. This is just one boulevard going off in one direction away from the Rally.

As soon as Stewart started talking, the crowd quieted down immediately and gave him their utmost attention. The level of respect for the man that I witnessed among the crowd was grand. More than anything, it was uplifting to see, to witness in real life how one person can reach across generations, ethnicities, religious backgrounds, and states, to peaceably unite an enormous group of people. There was an electricity in the air as he talked to us and grew more passionate. He talked about how every day in this country people find a way to take care of their responsibilities while working together; the only place this spirit of ‘working together’ does not occur is in government. He talked about how the outlet for people to express their grievances and their discontents with our government, the media, is the system that is broken. As Stewart talked to us, he moved around a lot on stage, gesturing with his hands as he grew more passionate. And while his passion was obvious, it was not overwhelming. It was just right, in fact. 

Not surprisingly, when I got back to Massachusetts, people had hardly heard anything about the Rally, only what they’d heard prior to the event taking place. The question about the Rally that I answered more than any other was some version of this: “Was it really like Woodstock where everyone was… you know… (puts pointer finger and thumb to mouth to mimic smoking a joint)?” My answer: “No. It wasn’t like that at all. Not even in the slightest. People were there for the cause, not for music or for drugs. The spirit and energy of the crowd alone made that obvious.” What can I say really? People were attentive, respectful, eager to listen, and generally speaking, in good spirits. They really were. And as a result I felt connected to the people around me, even though I quite obviously knew none of them (except for Alex of course). For the first time in my short life I experienced that feeling of connectedness on such a large scale. The feeling is non-replicable. 

But now reality settles in again. The media will (and did) treat the Rally as they see fit, not as it was. And while I felt inspired and empowered by Stewart and the atmosphere of the Rally, I find that at present, I have never felt more discouraged or powerless. Why the contradictory feelings, you might ask? Because here I am, sitting at my desk, writing this article, and I know that the connectedness is gone. Why is it gone? Because now, a week later, when the Rally has been successfully buried by the mass media, all I can feel is ignored. I feel belittled. And more so now than ever, I feel like change is neither imminent, nor possible.

Perhaps this is the great downfall of all political movements: what to do when the Rally is over. What do we do after we disperse and return home? How do we keep the spirit alive when our platform to do so, the media, refuses to acknowledge it, refuses to cover it, as if it never happened at all? A tree did fall in the forest. I was there to hear it. Hundreds of thousands of people were there to hear that tree fall. And yet, here we are, a week later, and no one knows that tree was there in the first place. It is a sad day for America when thousands of eager voices come together to be heard as one and someone turns the volume off.

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Original Publication Date: 11.08.2010

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Humorless Budget Report ~ Ben Kharakh

RUSA had a good grabber for their budget meeting: “Where does your money go?” I didn’t stick around long enough to find out the answer to that question. Instead, I left after becoming both overwhelmed and underwhelmed by the first hour of the event—overwhelmed by the amount of information thrown at me; and underwhelmed by the absence of tools to make sense of it all.

The meeting began with the presentation of a survey regarding what some number of students thought about the current fiscal situation. I say “some number” because the audience was never informed of how many people RUSA spoke to for its survey. I’m not interested, though, in what random students think about who’s responsible for the current state of affairs. I’d care if random students knew how to fix the problem, but then they wouldn’t even be random students; I’m pretty sure we’d all know the names of the people who figured out how to balance the budget and save us all money. But rather than get something resembling a way out, I was given what struck me as a deeply unsatisfying narrative.

I was told that the cost of tuition was going up, that the amount of financial aid was going down, and that banks were profiting from it all. Meanwhile, the Obama administration had passed a bill barring private lending institutions from making a buck off the whole shebang, with the government handling the distribution of funds instead.  So: there was a massive problem and the closest thing to a solution came from the government. My gripe with all this is that there’s no room for me in the narrative besides as being the victim. The whole thing struck me as very disempowering.

Unfortunately, most of the information I get, whether it be print, online, on TV, etc.,  is oriented around problems rather than solutions thereto. I can see the appeal of framing particular parties as “bad guys,”; and it certainly seemed like the audience was none too pleased with banks or the government. But none of that tells me how the banking and lending system works in the first place or what I or anyone else can do about it.

I never found out where my money actually goes— unless RUSA meant the bank (ha ha joke’s on me!)— because I left the meeting early. I was simply too dissatisfied to stick around for the whole thing. So, I went to an open mic at the Red Lion Café instead. I watched the show rather than performed in it, but I felt very excited nonetheless. As a philosophy major, I like having things spelled out for me; as a comedy nerd, I like jokes; as someone that likes a challenge, I’d like to synthesize the two; and as someone who enjoys his sanity, I see no other option.

Philosopher of language Ludwig Wittgenstein is rumored to have said that, “A serious and good philosophical work could be written consisting entirely of jokes. ” I can see that for sure. Something makes you laugh, you explain what it was to someone else, and that explanation is the joke. If something strikes you as funny about something serious and you can explain what it was to someone else, then you’ve got some serious comedy on your hands— you’ve entered Bill Hicks/Maria Bamford/Louis CK territory.  And there’s more utility to that sort of comedy beyond the good PR it’ll bring.

The first hour of the RUSA meeting was full of charts and bad news. A few jokes would have made the whole thing not only more palatable but easier to cope with too.  The latter becomes even more apparent when the budget meeting is taken as only a part of all the problems facing America and the world today. If I read nothing but bad news on the web followed by hateful, angry comments and combine that with a sense of impending catastrophe, impotence, and general absurdity, I’d feel awful. But absurdity can be a source of laughter as much as it can be a source of despair. And I’d much rather be full of laughs than dread. Besides, people are a lot more eager to listen to you and share your message if it’s as funny as it is insightful.

I figure that if I’m going to carry the weight of the world on my shoulders, I’m going to need my sense of humor to lighten the load. But this sentiment, I would argue, is founded upon a misunderstanding of what it means to be a person. I alone don’t carry the weight of the world on my shoulders; all people carry that burden if a person is to carry it at all. And, by the looks of things, we could all use a few more laughs, which is good, because I got me a hankering to tell some jokes.

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JVP Speaks: Wikileaks & Transparency

In the wake of the latest Wikileaks disclosure, how much should we, as people, know? Is there such a thing as knowing too much? Or are some things best left unsaid?

Rebecca Zandstein: I cannot answer what we should “as people” know, but I strongly believe that as American citizens we should be extensively educated on matters that can allow us to become better political activists and voters. The government should not be hiding relevant information on wars, for example, since it relates to those that are representing us and whom we vote for. Information should be disclosed as long as it is not secret information relating to positions, strategies, and informants’ names. Otherwise, just like The Pentagon Papers allowed us to see the corruption within our government [officials]. WikiLeaks allows us to have more accurate body counts in Iraq and shows the public that Iraq is indeed a “bloodbath on every corner”.

Everyone chooses to live and see their own version of reality but in the end there is only one. The reality that the American government sets out for the public should not be masked in an attempt to make the public “safe” and “secure” in knowing untruths. As long as our national security is not at risk, there should not be such extreme restrictions on publications released for the public to become more educated.

Mike Stuzynsk: The problem with the stuff released by wikileaks is that it is shockingly bland.  Australia doesn’t think Iran is the devil–holy shit, no way!  It seems so me like these leaks are really a non-issue and the government is making a bigger deal about it than needs to be made.

Jhoany Benitez: There IS such a thing as knowing too much. Some things are irrelevant pieces of information. Curiosity is not always a good thing; it can lead to paranoia and losing trust. While it is good to know things, it is also a bad thing to know everything. Part of the beauty of life is its mystery.

Ben Kharakh: I endorse the idea of Wikileaks with the hope that the fact that we now know what’s going on will make people change for the better (as opposed to staying the same and just getting better at hiding information). Will this actually happen? On this issue I remain agnostic.

I also think, though, that power should not be focalized in such a manner that individuals are able to affect the lives of so many people so quickly. And in those instances when it’s unavoidable that people become this powerful, I’d prefer that their activity be as transparent as possible so that I know just exactly what’s going on with that power.

Some of the leaked info seemed private and some may argue that, as a result, the information is not inappropriate to know (and in this case I don’t mean people’s names, etc). I don’t buy the whole private/public dichotomy, nor the offline/online distinction. Private stuff is just public stuff we don’t want other people to know about (and I don’t mean your email passwords). And how one behaves in private, methinks, is indicative of how one behaves in public. Unfortunately, too often a lot of the behavior showcased in the cables is treated as gossip rather than a justification for improvement. Although, given that all the starlets the media harangues have yet to better themselves, maybe I’m naïve to expect the same of diplomats and leaders.

Lastly, I’m gonna paraphrase my friend Maximum Barkley (Barkley to the max!) and say that the success of Wikileaks is indicative of a failure on the part of contemporary journalism. The fourth estate, I would say, has dropped a ball in terms of being the party to get this sort of information. Sure, the press is writing article about this stuff, but it’s not the press that’s getting the stuff in the first place. They need to hit the pavement harder!

Brendan Kaplan: I think that as individuals that make up a larger body politic, complete with its own behavior, rationalization process, and mechanisms of action, it is important to understand what that body is doing.

In other words, we need to understand the processes being carried out by society through its aggregation and direction of our behavioral outputs. What is not necessary, however, is to release content beyond that which is not necessary to fully describe the process to which the content claims to be relevant.

In the case of the Wikileaks, it is important for the public to understand the types of practices that the United States carries out. If this could be done without releasing the names of specific dates, then it should be.

Additionally, Wikileaks would be able to take the moral high ground in any argument claiming, “We were vague… claiming that this foreign power is worried about that foreign power. Then the 1st power started arguing and claiming that we were only making it up. We were thus forced to release the details to back up what we are saying. If they had just accepted the truth in the first place instead of trying to lie about it, we would have spared that nasty details”

Basically, process is necessary to understand, and some content is required for individuals to understand process. If content is released that is not necessary to understand process, than that release is done so for publicity or political purposes.

Personally, I think Wikileaks walks a fine line between the two and has engaged in both. One thing is for certain right now though: Julian Assange is in way over his head and is part of something he can no longer control.

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