Category Archives: Humanity

In Major Church-State Decision, U.S. Supreme Court Sides with Religious Institution

Amy Goodman speaks with Dahlia Lithwick, senior editor at Slate.com and the author of the recent piece: ‘Did the court just seriously wound the separation of church and state?(Democracy Now!)

No Is Not Enough: Naomi Klein on Her New Book

Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez speak with journalist and author Naomi Klein about her book, No Is Not Enough: Resisting Trump’s Shock Politics and Winning the World We Need. (Democracy Now!)

 

Did Trump Campaign Rhetoric Empower the White Extremist Who Killed Two Bystanders on Portland Train?

Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez speak with Heidi Beirich, Intelligence Project director of the Southern Poverty Law Center, about how for the second time in a week, a military man was killed by a white extremist. (Democracy Now!)

Noam Chomsky: I Would Vote For Jeremy Corbyn

Evan Davis speaks with American intellectual Noam Chomsky about Donald Trump, Jeremy Corbyn, populism in Europe and Julian Assange. (BBC Newsnight)

The Stephen Colbert Gay Joke Row is a Repulsively Cynical Ploy by Far-Right Homophobes

Lindy West writes for The Guardian:

Image result for Stephen Colbert gay joke[…] It’s important for progressives to have in-group conversations about how we talk about our political enemies and the people who hurt us. It matters (and it’s telling) when men jump straight to misogynist tropes when criticising rightwing commentator Ann Coulter, or when thin people use fatphobic slurs to decry New Jersey governor Chris Christie. It’s also important to keep a grip on nuance in those conversations, taking into account a person’s track record (Colbert was a staunch advocate of marriage equality) and intent and willingness to listen and change. And criticism within the arts is a living dialogue, not a hard-and-fast binary.

But as the Colbert situation mushroomed over the next few days, I realised that there was another potential reading of the man’s question. The far right, smelling an opportunity to manipulate the left into eating their own powerful and popular satirist, had pounced on Colbert. Oh, the homophobia, they wailed! Wasn’t it terrible? #FireColbert took hold on Twitter – strangely, not on the feeds of those oppressed by homophobia, but on the feeds of homophobes. That same week, Trump signed his executive order on religious liberty, which turned out to be a toothless dud, but was a symbolic nod to religious homophobes all the same. Colbert is now being investigated by the Federal Communications Commission, a relatively routine procedure, but alarming in the context of Trump’s obsession with punishing unfriendly media outlets and flirtation with amending the first amendment.

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The War Between Globalism and Nationalism Is Just Getting Started

Ian Bremmer writes for Time Magazine:

When the storm turns out to be less severe than the warnings, there’s always a sigh of relief–and maybe a bit of over-confidence after the fact. If fans of the European Union felt better after populist Geert Wilders came up short in the Dutch elections in March, they also took heart from the absence of anti-E.U. firebrands among the leading contenders for this fall’s German elections. Then came May 7. The victory of Emmanuel Macron over Marine Le Pen in France’s presidential elections signaled that “the season of growth of populism has ended,” Antonio Tajani, president of the European Parliament, said on May 8.

Not so fast. Europeans will soon remember that elections are never the end of anything–they’re a beginning. And whether the issue is unelected Eurocrats’ forcing voters to abide by rules they don’t like or fears that borders are insecure, there are good reasons to doubt that the anti-E.U. fever has broken. France’s Macron now faces powerful opposition on both the far right and the far left. Hungary and Poland are becoming increasingly illiberal. Brexit negotiations are getting ugly. And resentment toward the E.U. is still rising throughout Europe.

In the U.S., President Donald Trump may be pushing what increasingly resembles a traditional Republican agenda, but polls show that his supporters are still eager for deeper disruption. Trump’s embrace of Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Egypt’s Abdul Fattah al-Sisi and the Philippines’ Rodrigo Duterte suggests a lasting affinity with aggressive strongmen. His chief adviser and nationalist muse, Stephen Bannon, may be under fire, but he’s still there. The Trump presidency has only just begun.

In short, nationalism is alive and well, partly because the problems that provoked it are still with us. Growing numbers of people in the world’s wealthiest countries still fear that globalization serves only elites who care nothing about nations and borders. Moderate politicians still offer few effective solutions.

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The Robot Economy: Ready or Not, Here It Comes

JP Sottile writes for Truthout:

Duc Tran, an automation engineer, observes the fully autonomous robotic truck loader during a test at the Wynright Robotics facility in Arlington, Texas, July 18, 2012. (Photo: Brandon Thibodeaux / The New York Times) September 17th changed everything.

On that day in 2013, Oxford University published an innocuously titled academic paper by two mostly unknown economists. But “The Future of Employment” wasn’t just another number-crunching exercise in opacity by a couple of dreary scientists. No, their bombshell report portended a coming robot apocalypse that could change the nature of human civilization, and perhaps even human beings themselves.

Thankfully, the forthcoming carnage described by Carl Benedikt Frey and Michael A. Osborne isn’t a doomsday scenario where Skynet systematically wipes out humankind, or a darkly lit near-future where attractive Replicants violently struggle to make sense of their emerging emotions in a perpetually damp Los Angeles.

Instead, the economists previewed an all-too-real world where the second-richest man on the planet — Amazon’s Jeff Bezos — gleefully parades around like Sigourney Weaver in a massive robotic exoskeleton built by Hankook Mirae Technology.

They presaged the impending doom from robots like Handle, the Michael Jordan-esque robot built by Boston Dynamics. Handle can leap like a superhero, can run a marathon in under three hours and, if Softbank CEO Masayoshi Son is right, will probably be smarter than you in just a few decades.

They foresaw a future with the likes of Gordon, the “first robotic barista in the U.S.” Gordon can serve “about 120 coffees in an hour.” They also predicted the likes of Otto, the self-driving big-rig designated by Uber to deliver truckloads of beer to thirsty consumers. And then there’s Pepper, the empathic, “day-to-day” companion that is not just working in airports and banks, but being “adopted” into Japanese homes … and even “enrolling” in school.

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Bullshit Jobs with David Graeber

David Graeber talks about bullshit jobs and the concept of work under capitalism. (The Real News/RSA)

Austrian Court Rules Facebook Must Delete ‘Hate Postings’

The Associated Press reports:

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg delivers the keynote address at Facebook's F8 Developer Conference on April 18, 2017 at McEnery Convention Center in San Jose, California. The conference will explore Facebook's new technology initiatives and products.Facebook must remove postings deemed as hate speech, an Austrian court has ruled, in a legal victory for campaigners who want to force social media companies to combat online “trolling”.

The case — brought by Austria’s Green party over insults to its leader — has international ramifications as the court ruled the postings must be deleted across the platform and not just in Austria, a point that had been left open in an initial ruling.

The case comes as legislators around Europe are considering ways of forcing Facebook, Google, Twitter and others to rapidly remove hate speech or incitement to violence.

Germany’s cabinet approved a plan last month to fine social networks up to 50 million euros ($55 million) if they fail to remove such postings quickly and the European Union is considering new EU-wide rules.

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UK Parliament Takes First Step Towards Making Google and Facebook Censor Everything

Mike Masnick writes for Techdirt:

Image result for UK Parliament Takes First Step Towards Making Google and Facebook Censor EverythingLook, let’s just start with the basics: there are some bad people out there. Even if the majority of people are nice and well-meaning, there are always going to be some people who are not. And sometimes, those people are going to use the internet. Given that as a starting point, at the very least, you’d think we could deal with that calmly and rationally, and recognize that maybe we shouldn’t blame the tools for the fact that some not very nice people happen to use them. Unfortunately, it appears to be asking a lot these days to expect our politicians to do this. Instead, they (and many others) rush out immediately to point the fingers of blame for the fact that these “not nice” people exist, and rather than point the finger of blame at the not nice people, they point at… the internet services they use.

The latest example of this is the UK Parliament that has released a report on “hate crime” that effectively blames internet companies and suggests they should be fined because not nice people use them.

[…] This is the kind of thing that sounds good to people who (a) don’t understand how these things actually work and (b) don’t spend any time thinking through the consequences of such actions.

First off, it’s easy for politicians and others to sit there and assume that “bad” content is obviously bad. The problem here is twofold: first, there is so much content showing up that spotting the “bad” stuff is not nearly as easy as people assume, and second, because there’s so much content, it’s often difficult to understand the context enough to recognize if something is truly “bad.” People who think this stuff is obvious or easy are ignorant. They may be well-meaning, but they’re ignorant.

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Venezuela in Crisis: The Catastrophe the World Has Been Ignoring

E.A. Crunden writes for Think Progress:

[…] Venezuela’s descent into chaos has been ongoing for several years. Once an oil-rich nation with considerable sway in the region, Venezuela is now struggling under the weight of a crumbling economy and devastating food shortages. In February Venezuela was suspended from voting in the U.N. General Assembly over millions of dollars of unpaid debt — the second time in two years.

The country’s current crisis can arguably be traced back to price controls instituted by the government of former President Hugo Chavez. But the problem escalated in 2014, after oil prices plummeted and food shortages became an issue. As food became scarce, rising prices and increasing problems with smuggling caused the situation to spiral. Venezuela now has the world’s fastest-contracting economy and an inflation rate of almost 1,000 percent.

Venezuelans have been fleeing to Colombia and Brazil in an effort to find food and an escape from the country’s escalating crisis. Blackouts caused by electricity shortages are also a fact of life these days. Surveys indicate that 80 percent of medicines are scarce (if available at all), while 50 to 80 percent of food supplies are scarce. Contraceptives, water, toiletries, and paper have also been impacted.

Making the situation far worse is its leadership. Venezuela’s government is not doing much to fix the country’s staggering problems. President Nicolás Maduro claims that efforts to unseat him are a bourgeois plot, one that he has often linked to the United States. And while the United States has historically played a role in destabilizing governments in Latin America, Venezuela’s leader has been a deeply unpopular president.

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Blaming Islam: Religion Isn’t a Crucial Factor In Terror Attacks

Mehdi Hasan reported for The Intercept in March:

What do you think of when you hear the word “terrorist”? Big beards and brown skins? Turban-wearing Muslim migrants from the Middle East? Refugees maybe?

Yet according to a report from the New America Foundation, “every jihadist who conducted a lethal attack inside the United States since 9/11 was a citizen or legal resident.” A recent study in Britain, which last week endured its worst terrorist atrocity since 2005, revealed that more than two out of three “Islamism-inspired” terrorist offenses were carried out by individuals “who were either born or raised in the UK.”

The common stereotype of the Middle Eastern, Muslim-born terrorist is not just lazy and inaccurate, but easy fodder for the anti-immigrant, anti-Islam far right. Consider the swift reaction of White House official Sebastian Gorka to the horrific terror attack in London last week. “The war is real,” he told Fox News while the bodies of the victims were still warm, “and that’s why executive orders like President Trump’s travel moratorium are so important.”

Sorry, what? The 52-year-old perpetrator of the London attack, Khalid Masood, was born and brought up in the UK and would not have been affected in the slightest by a travel ban on Muslims from the Middle East. He was neither a refugee nor an immigrant. He was not of Middle Eastern origin either, and he was not even a Muslim for the vast majority of his life. Born to a white mother and black father as Adrian Elms, and raised as Adrian Ajao, he is believed to have converted to Islam in prison in 2003 and had a well-documented history of criminality prior to mowing down innocent pedestrians on Westminster Bridge, and stabbing a police officer outside the Houses of Parliament.

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Woman Who Laughed at Jeff Sessions Hearing Convicted for Being ‘Disorderly’

Jamiles Lartey reports for The Guardian:

Image result for Desiree FairoozA jury in Washington has convicted a woman who was arrested after laughing during a confirmation hearing for the attorney general, Jeff Sessions.

Desiree Fairooz, an activist with the leftwing NGO Code Pink, was found guilty of engaging in “disorderly or disruptive conduct” with the intent to disrupt congressional proceedings, as well as “parading, demonstrating or picketing”.

The charges stem from the hearing on 10 January, when Sessions’ then colleague, fellow Alabama Republicansenator Richard Shelby, said Sessions’ record of “treating all Americans equally under the law is clear and well-documented”.

Fairooz laughed out loud twice at this claim, and according to the charges filed by the prosecutor, “grew loud and more disruptive” as an officer attempted to remove her from the room.

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The Women Behind the Disquietingly Vital ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’

Stephanie Eckardt writes for W Magazine:

Image result for The Women Behind the Disquietingly Vital The Handmaid's TaleIn February of this year, a novel from 1985, by a Canadian author now 77, shot right to the top of the bestsellers lists. Though popular for decades, The Handmaid’s Tale, Margaret Atwood’s chilling vision of a near-future dystopia in what was once New England—where a toxic environment, a cruel theocracy, and a plague of infertility have turned a sector of women into enslaved concubines—suddenly seemed all too timely. It was then that a trailer for the book’s upcoming TV adaptation aired during the Super Bowl, just a couple of weeks after Donald Trump was inaugurated and a nationwide spread of marches for women’s rights turned into the largest protest in American history.

Atwood did not seem upset by the sudden renewal of interest in the single most enduring work of her back catalogue, despite the fact that she’s still churning out book after book today. “How could I be?” she said on a recent morning in Washington, D.C., in the historic Hay-Adams hotel not even a block away from the White House. “But on the other hand, the circumstances that have given rise to it having this sudden uptick are quite frightening. If I had a choice of two things—book not popular, circumstances not arise, or book popular, due to certain circumstances—I would of course pick the first one. But those were not my choices.”

Right alongside her book on the current bestseller lists is another prescient dystopian vision, George Orwell’s 1984—which happened to be the year that Atwood started writing The Handmaid’s Tale on legal pads and a beat-up typewriter in West Berlin, punctuated by echoing reminders of the East German Air Force. It was not her first experience with political unrest. Born in 1939, which, as Atwood is wont to remind, “takes me all the way through World War II,” she seems to consider her “deep background in dystopias,” accumulated both in history books at Harvard and on the ground in places like Afghanistan, tantamount to her destiny.

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The Handmaid’s Tale Is Just Like Trump’s America? Not So Fast

Jessa Crispin writes for The Guardian:

Image result for The Handmaid's Tale[…] If the television show based on the Margaret Atwood dystopia feels like propaganda, with its depiction of women raped, mutilated, and forced into shapeless cloaks and bonnets in the new American theocracy named Gilead, then it shouldn’t be a surprise viewers are responding to it as such.

There are dozens of thinkpieces claiming this show is all too real and relevant; Atwood herself called it “a documentary” of Trump’s America. Sarah Jones at The New Republic went so far as to compare Gilead to contemporary Texas and Indiana. Women are in peril. We must do something.

If this propaganda is not being used to sell us a war, we should be interested in what it is selling us instead. That so many women are willing to compare their own political situation living under a democratically elected president with no overwhelming religious ideology (or any other kind, for that matter, except for maybe the ideology of greed and chaos), with the characters’ position as sexual slaves and baby incubators for the ruling class, shows that it is always satisfying to position yourself as the oppressed bravely struggling against oppression.

The text and the thinkpieces make it clear who our enemies are: conservatives and Christians. (It shouldn’t be a surprise The New Republic piece was headlined “The Handmaid’s Tale is a Warning to Conservative Women.”)

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How the Left Learned to Hate Like the Right

Michelle Goldberg writes for The New York Times:

Shortly before President Trump’s swearing-in, I spoke to Steve Cohen, a liberal congressman from Tennessee, about his decision to skip the ceremony. Mr. Cohen said his horror of Mr. Trump almost made him understand how Tea Partyers might have felt under President Barack Obama. “I want my country back!” he said, echoing the right’s rallying cry.

One hundred days into his administration, President Trump has few legislative achievements to his name. But he has forced liberals to experience the near-apocalyptic revulsion that conservatives have often felt toward Democratic presidents. In doing so, he has unwittingly created a new movement in American politics, as Democrats channel the sort of all-encompassing outrage that has long fueled grass-roots conservatism.

For decades, Democrats have envied the Republicans’ passionate, locally attuned base. It turns out that what Democrats were missing was a sense of existential emergency. Mr. Trump has provided it.

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New Laura Poitras Documentary Reveals WikiLeaks Founder Julian Assange’s Misogyny, Distaste for Clinton and Trump

Alex Thompson reports for VICE News:

Image result for New Laura Poitras Documentary Reveals WikiLeaks Founder Julian Assange’s Misogyny, Distaste for Clinton and TrumpJulian Assange had given filmmaker Laura Poitras unprecedented access for over five years, and she had hundreds of hours of footage in her possession. But last summer, the WikiLeaks co-founder started to have second thoughts. “Presently, the film is a severe threat to my freedom and I’m forced to treat it accordingly,” he texted her.

Now we know why.

Poitras’ new documentary, “Risk” — following up on her Oscar-winning “CitizenFour,” on Edward Snowden — provides perhaps the most unvarnished, intimate look into the persistence, smarts, self-righteousness, and misogyny of the man who, despite being holed up in the Ecuadorean Embassy in London for nearly five years, has earned the ire of the most powerful governments on Earth.

It’s actually the second version of the film, the first having screened at Cannes in May of 2016. Reviews of the original described it as a sympathetic portrayal of Assange and WikiLeaks work in general, but then came the reports of sexual misconduct by an Assange confidante and a rock star in the hacker space, Jacob Applebaum, whom Poitras had been romantically involved with after the shooting of the film. Poitras then felt obligated to further probe the culture of misogyny that’s infiltrated the hacker community and that Assange has perpetuated.

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Milo Yiannopoulos Is Starting a New, Ugly, For-Profit Troll

Tina Nguyen writes for Vanity Fair:

Related imageMilo Yiannopoulos, the former tech editor at Breitbart, has made political provocations, often deeply offensive ones, a business model. But his career seemed to come crashing down in recent months when one of his speaking appearances, at the University of California, Berkeley, led to riots. Weeks later, videos emerged of Yiannopoulos seeming to condone pedophilia. (“I do not support pedophilia. Period. It is a vile and disgusting crime, perhaps the very worst,” Yiannopoulos said in a statement on Facebook at the time.)

Yet his allies turned on him. Yiannopoulos was subsequently forced out of Breitbart in disgrace. The American Conservative Union disinvited him from CPAC, and Simon & Schuster canceled a six-figure book deal.

But as the free-speech conflagration he ignited at Berkeley continues to burn, Yiannopoulos is planning a way back in. Days after releasing a video touting his return to the campus, Yiannopoulos told the Hive that he would be launching a new media venture in the coming weeks with what he says is a $12 million investment from backers whose identities he is protecting. (Yiannopoulos showed me a page from the contract with the investors’ names blacked out.) Another person involved with the company, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, was similarly secretive: “Milo has the best instincts about these things,” he said.

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CPJ Warns of ‘Tremendous Gaps in Our Knowledge of the World’ Due to Growing Global Attacks on Journalists

Freddy Mayhew reports for Press Gazette:

Far from ending censorship, modern technology such as the web, social media and smartphone cameras have “just made it more complicated”, says the Committee to Protect Journalists’ (CPJ) executive director.

In his introduction to the CPJ’s Attacks on the Press 2017 report, published this week, Joel Simon said there are “tremendous gaps in our knowledge of the world”.

And he warned these were “growing as violent attacks against the media spike, as governments develop new systems of information control, and as the technology that allows information to circulate is co-opted and used to stifle free expression”.

He pointed to three “broad categories” of censorship tactics, which he called: “Repression 2.0, masked political control, and technology capture.”

Simon said these have “contributed to an upsurge in killings and imprisonment of journalists around the world”.

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Reporters Without Borders: Rise of the Political Strongmen Saw World Press Freedom Map Turn Darker in 2016

Dominic Ponsford reports for Press Gazette:

Image result for press freedom indexThe world is becoming a darker place, according to the director general of Reporters Without Borders (RSF).

Christophe Deloire spoke to Press Gazette as the freedom of speech group published its 15th World Press Freedom Index.

The project maps 180 countries around the world, colouring those with the best records on press freedom white and shading them progressively darker. Those at the bottom of the table, such as China and North Korea, are coloured black.

He told Press Gazette: “Unfortunately the World Press Freedom Map has been getting darker. A lot of countries that were yellow are now red, and a lot of former red countries are now black.

“In 60 per cent of countries press freedom is worse this year than the previous year.”

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Not the Onion: UN Vote Allows Saudi Arabia on Women’s Council

Alex Mihailovic speaks with Medea Benjamin, co-founder of CODEPINK and author of Kingdom of the Unjust, about the ultraconservative Kingdom of Saudi Arabia being elected to the UN Commission on the Status of Women. (RT America)

As U.S. Prepares Arrest Warrant for Julian Assange, Glenn Greenwald Says Prosecuting WikiLeaks Threatens Press Freedom

Amy Goodman speaks with Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Glenn Greenwald who responds to reports that the Trump administration has prepared an arrest warrant for WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. (Democracy Now!)

Jehovah’s Witnesses Had Foes Before Putin

Leonid Bershidsky writes for Bloomberg:

When the Russian Supreme Court banned Jehovah’s Witnesses and ordered the confiscation of the denomination’s property on Thursday, it wasn’t the first time. The faithful were outlaws in the Soviet Union, too, until that country’s final year. The stubborn group will fight on — but the court has delivered another chilling reminder that President Vladimir Putin’s Russia is even less free than the USSR was.

Jehovah’s Witnesses are a U.S.-based global religious organization, and they often are targeted by authoritarian and belligerent governments because members don’t believe in government authority. They don’t vote, serve in the military, salute flags or hail leaders. When the Nazis came to power in Germany, the Witnesses wouldn’t use the Nazi salute because, according to their beliefs, it amounted to idolatry. Hitler responded by sending more than 10,000 “Bible Students,” as they called themselves then, to prisons and concentration camps, where their pacifism particularly inspired torturers.

In the Soviet Union directly after World War II, Witnesses were mostly concentrated in western Ukraine and Transcarpathia, and they had the bad luck to trade Nazi persecution for the equally harsh Stalinist kind. In two secret operations in the late 1940s and early 1950s, the Witnesses were removed to Siberian labor camps. There were only about 10,000 of them then. But adherents of the denomination didn’t stop practicing and preaching in exile and in the camps, and when, after Stalin’s death, the state stopped systematically imprisoning them and switched to a harassment tactic, the flock started growing.

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The Unprecedented Danger of Prosecuting Julian Assange

Kate Knibbs writes for The Ringer:

[…] WikiLeaks has published documents without redacting personal information of ordinary people. As an organization, it has frequently behaved irresponsibly and, some have argued, despicably. It has also exposed corruption and criminality by state powers. The quality, morality, necessity, and overall prudence of its editorial choices are beside the point. What matters is that it appears that the Trump administration has decided that it is going to prosecute journalists for publishing classified information.

There were warning signs that this was coming. CIA Director Mike Pompeo called WikiLeaks a “non-state hostile intelligence service often abetted by state actors like Russia,” during a speech last week, and bizarrely insisted that Assange does not have First Amendment protection as a non-U.S. citizen. (That is not how the First Amendment works; if Assange were to be prosecuted on U.S. soil, he would enjoy the same Constitutional protections as a citizen. To insist otherwise is a radical reinterpretation deeply at odds with how the Bill of Rights has been applied.) Attorney General Jeff Sessionscalled Assange’s arrest a “priority” at a press conference Thursday. However, seeking his arrest would demonstrate a remarkable about-face from President Trump, as he repeatedly and effusively praised WikiLeaks during his campaign. “WikiLeaks! I love WikiLeaks!” he told a crowd at an October rally.

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First Roger Ailes, Now Bill O’Reilly: Sexual Harassment Scandal Ousts Top Men at Fox News

Amy Goodman and Nermeen Sheikh speak with civil rights attorney Lisa Bloom who represents three women who have accused Bill O’Reilly of unwanted sexual advances. (Democracy Now!)

 

Why More Highly Educated People Are Less Into Conspiracy Theories

Christian Jarrett writes for The BPS Digest:

Moon Landing Conspiracy Concept[…] Van Prooijen said the results suggest that “the relationship between education and belief in conspiracy theories cannot be reduced to a single psychological mechanism but is the product of the complex interplay of multiple psychological processes.”

The nature of his study means we can’t infer that education or the related factors he measured actually cause less belief in conspiracies. But it makes theoretical sense that they might be involved: for example, more education usually increases people’s sense of control over their lives (though there are exceptions, for instance among people from marginalized groups), while it is feelings of powerlessness that is one of the things that often attracts people to conspiracy theories.

Importantly, Van Prooijen said his findings help make sense of why education can contribute to “a less paranoid society” even when conspiracy theories are not explicitly challenged. “By teaching children analytic thinking skills along with the insight that societal problems often have no simple solutions, by stimulating a sense of control, and by promoting a sense that one is a valued member of society, education is likely to install the mental tools that are needed to approach far-fetched conspiracy theories with a healthy dose of skepticism.”

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James Baldwin on Freedom and How We Imprison Ourselves

Maria Popova writes for Brain Pickings:

jamesbaldwin“Everything can be taken from a man,” Viktor Frankl wrote in his timeless treatise on the human search for meaning, “but one thing: the last of the human freedoms — to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.” And yet, as Adrienne Rich observed in her sublime meditation on writing, capitalism, and freedom, “in the vocabulary kidnapped from liberatory politics, no word has been so pimped as freedom.” How, then, are we to choose our own way amid a capitalist society that continually commodifies our liberty?

The peculiar manner in which personal and political freedom magnetize each other is what James Baldwin (August 2, 1924–December 1, 1987) explores in a piece titled “Notes for a Hypothetical Novel,” originally delivered as an address at the 1960 Esquire symposium on the writer’s role in society and later included in his altogether spectacular essay collection Nobody Knows My Name.

Baldwin writes:

Freedom is not something that anybody can be given; freedom is something people take and people are as free as they want to be. One hasn’t got to have an enormous military machine in order to be un-free when it’s simpler to be asleep, when it’s simpler to be apathetic, when it’s simpler, in fact, not to want to be free, to think that something else is more important.

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Rebecca Solnit on Breaking Silence as Our Mightiest Weapon Against Oppression

Maria Popova writes for Brain Pickings:

Rebecca Solnit (Photograph: Sallie Dean Shatz)“To sin by silence, when we should protest, makes cowards out of men,” the poet Ella Wheeler Wilcox wrote in her 1914 anthem against silence — an incantation which fomented biologist and writer Rachel Carson’s courage to speak inconvenient truth to power as she catalyzed the environmental movement. “My silences had not protected me. Your silence will not protect you,” Audre Lorde admonished on the cusp of another cultural revolution in her influential 1984 treatise on transforming silence into redemptive action. “Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented,” Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel wrote in his Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech shortly after Lorde’s landmark essay was published.

No silence is larger, both in age and in scope, nor more demanding of breaking, than the silencing of women’s voices — a millennia-old assault on the integrity of more than half of humankind.

Let me make one thing clear here: We — all of us, of any gender — may have different answers to the questions feminism raises. But if we refuse to engage with the questions themselves, we are culpable not only of cowardice but of complicity in humanity’s oldest cultural crime.

How to dismantle that complicity and transmute it into courage is what Rebecca Solnit explores in an extraordinary essay titled “Silence Is Broken,” found in The Mother of All Questions — a sweeping collection of essays Solnit describes as “a tour through carnage, a celebration of liberation and solidarity, insight and empathy, and an investigation of the terms and tools with which we might explore all these things.”

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Lipstick Fascism: Lana Lokteff and the Women of the Alt-Right

Samantha Miller writes for Jacobin:

When we imagine the alt-right insurgency, we likely envision an army of Richard Spencers: angry white men with fashy haircuts marching under the banner of Pepethe Frog. But this image leaves out a sizable and increasingly vocal segment of extremist right politics: women.

Like their male counterparts, these white-nationalist and neofascist women reject what they call the “domination of cultural Marxism,” portraying leftists as the children of Karl Marx and Lena Dunham, trying to turn the United States into an anti-white cesspool run by Jewish interests that promote race-mixing, feminism, and hedonism.

These alt-right women put a feminine spin on the movement’s patriarchal and xenophobic rhetoric by emphasizing traditional gender roles and old-fashioned ideals of beauty. They promote the mid-century nuclear family, dreaming of emulating Obergruppenführer John Smith’s all-white, American Nazi family on the science-fiction show The Man in the High Castle.

In this, the alt-right seeks to naturalize what is not only oppressive but also conventional, reminding us that, as shocking as its recent explosion onto the political landscape has been, their ideology is largely recycled.

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Inside the Dangerous Convergence of Men’s-Rights Activists and the Extreme Alt-Right

David Futrelle reports for New York Magazine:

ImageJames Jackson had a plan. Traveling by Bolt Bus from his home in Baltimore to New York City, the 28-year-old Jackson hoped to strike a blow for the beleaguered white race by carrying out a bloody massacre of black men in Times Square, using a two-foot sword he’d brought with him for the occasion.

He didn’t get that far, turning himself in to NYC police after stalking, stabbing, and killing 66-year-old can collector Timothy Caughman in midtown in a “trial run” for the planned massacre. In a jailhouse interview, he told the New York Daily News that the murder had been a mistake. He had intended to kill a “young thug” or “a successful older black man” out with a blonde, an act he somehow thought would scare “white girls” away from black men.

It’s not hard to see where Jackson picked up at least some of his noxious views. He was, he told the Daily News, a regular reader of the neo-Nazi website the Daily Stormer; on YouTube he subscribes to the channels of a vast assortment of alt-rightists and fellow travelers, from Hitler-worshiping revisionist “historians” who call themselves things like Esoteric Truth and the Impartial Truth to conspiracy-addled right-wingers like Alex Jones and the resolutely anti-feminist, anti-Muslim YouTube “philosopher” Stefan Molyneux.

But what is equally disturbing is that Jackson also subscribes to a vast collection of channels promoting the “Men Going Their Own Way” movement, a more radical and openly hateful version of men’s-rights activism, sans even the pretense of activism. MRAs may do precious little actual activism in the real world, but they do have a range of issues that they discuss on a regular basis, some of them legitimate issues they have seized upon largely for propaganda purposes (like male suicide and workplace safety), others generated from their own paranoid fantasies (the supposed epidemic of false rape accusations that leaves every man at risk of being jailed based on nothing more than a woman’s word).

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