Sunday, October 29, 2023

The Social Engineering of the Circular Firing Squad

I'll soon be singing at antiwar rallies in various European countries, but it's unlikely you'll see me on stage singing at any of the upcoming protests in Portland, Oregon.  It's not because I don't want to, and the reasons why are worth a mention.

The American left is at a very low point -- and for those of you who may now be chiming in with a comment like "you mean liberals, not the left" -- I mean the left, or at least a certain large chunk of it, particularly in Portland, Oregon.  

We can argue about where that very blurry line is that may be drawn to distinguish the liberals from the leftists.  Mainstream liberalism has never been a threat to capitalism or imperialism, whereas when what we might call the left has been well-organized, it has indeed been a threat to the status quo -- which is why the powers-that-be have been so focused on dividing and conquering it for so long.  And what a good job they have done!

There is an ongoing genocide being perpetrated by a fascist state called Israel, which is committing this genocide with US arms, funding, military and political cover, and even US military participation.  It desperately needs to be stopped, which obviously requires that it be massively opposed by people around the world, especially in the western countries that are facilitating the genocide, most especially in the USA, which is facilitating it the most, by far.  We desperately need to do everything possible to stop this genocide, very much including regular and large protests outside of the offices of every member of the US Congress that supports this war.  (I've written a lot about this, and my writings, songs, podcasts, and interviews on this subject are collected together at davidrovics.com/palestine.)

I desperately -- to use that word again -- hope these protests will spread, and grow, become more militant, and shut down business as usual across the USA, which is what needs to happen.  

The movement also needs to capture the hearts and minds of as much of the population as possible with effective and moving rhetoric, and much more.  In order for a movement to grow, it needs more than just horrendous injustice to oppose, such as Israeli genocide of Palestinians, about as unjust as anything can get.  In order to grow and sustain themselves -- as I've often said, and as many other people have said before me -- a movement needs hope.  In order for a movement to have hope, especially in the face of a massive war machine with political and military support that seems to make it unstoppable, a movement needs to foster a sense of community.  Fostering a sense of community involves, among other things, a powerful sense of solidarity and unity of purpose, plus friendship, food, and music.

This is not to say as the people of Gaza are literally starving, it's time to have a dinner party.  I am merely pointing out what most of the people already know and take for granted as obvious, but which significant elements of the western world have been made to forget.  Anger and guilt alone do not build lasting or effective social movements.  They create good spasms of activity, a whole lot of in-fighting, widespread feelings of disempowerment, and that's about it.

This is the main reason I have spent most of my life playing the role of one of the people who sings for social movements.  Being raised by musicians and having had the opportunity to befriend Pete Seeger and other musical voices of social movements at an early age, it became viscerally clear to me how powerful music could be in bringing people together and keeping them together for the purpose of making a better world.  

This understanding was confirmed to me when I began to discover early on that it's like this everywhere else on planet Earth, too, but usually much more so.  I discovered that all the big social movements have music at their cores, that everybody involved knows and love.  The Palestinians all know and love Feyrouz, Marcel Khalife, Sheik Imam, Mahmud Darwish, and so many other Arabic culture figures.  In Latin America everybody on the left loves Silvio Rodriguez, Victor Jara, Merecedes Sosa, Manu Chou.  Every part of the world has this kind of music, and these beloved artists singing about what everyone else is thinking about and feeling.

I have been honored to be able to play this role, as a movement musician performing around the world for Palestine, against the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, for labor unions and against neoliberal free trade bills, against expanding coal mines and oil drilling, in favor of clean air, water, and forestland.  Etc.

In my capacity as a movement musician, last week I was going to sing at a protest against our local Congresspeople and their support for this genocidal war.  The little sound systems we had to use didn't work, so I couldn't play my instrument through them.  I made a speech instead.  As is often the case, most people couldn't hear the speeches because the sound system was too small.  As I was speaking, and then much more after the rally was over, I was being yelled at by a trans woman who introduced herself to me, very loudly, as Phoenix Singer.

She was shouting at me because she was engaging in the tactic of cancellation campaigning.  Like a caricature of a character from a rightwing cartoon about Portland, Phoenix was yelling at me at the top of her lungs as a performative exercise, not for my benefit, but for the benefit of everyone in earshot, in order to make sure they all know that any time I show up at a rally in Portland, this is the scene that may unfold.  My crime is having interviewed the wrong person on my YouTube channel, for which I should be forever canceled.  (Ironically, one of the things Phoenix was shouting about was how cancel culture doesn't exist.)

Phoenix Singer, though young, is not a new phenomenon on the landscape of the profoundly dysfunctional Portland left.  If you mention her name, or show her picture, to any number of the folks who have been involved with organizing for workers or tenants or against US wars of empire or just about anything else, they will recognize her, because they have all been shouted at by her, and/or attacked by her online.  Using the Twitter handle @marxandmagneto she has for years been throwing virtual bombs in online spaces, making any kind of serious discourse impossible for many people to engage in, raising suspicions about many different people for some perceived transgression or another, and presumably feeling very powerful in the process. 

For anyone interested, I have hundreds and hundreds of collected screen shots, organized by troll, documenting the cancellation campaigning activities, the harassment of other activists, and the efforts to organize more harassment against them, that have been carried out systematically for years by Phoenix Singer and her many anonymous fellow trolls.  Phoenix obviously decided to be a troll in the real world, too, making it much harder for her to maintain anonymity, which she clearly has no interest in maintaining, otherwise she wouldn't draw attention to herself in a public setting by screaming at one of the people who just got done speaking at a public rally.

Phoenix Singer is one of a group of not more than two dozen Twitter trolls who seem to be located in the Portland area who have been actively trying to destroy my life and career, along with that of many other wonderful people, who are attempting to do important and needed work.  Online she is closely associated with Rose City Antifa, which is basically at this point a cultish hate group with no discernible vestige of any serious politics that don't relate to burning books or attacking leftists who fail to agree with their sectarian politics, most of which seem to revolve around cancellation campaigning in one form or another.

The damage that people like her have done to the left in this city, and in other parts of the US, Germany, and other countries where people with this extremely sectarian version of identity politics are particularly active, is impossible to measure.  Her activities have been massively amplified by the algorithmic infrastructure of social media that controls so much of our collective conversation today, and amplified tremendously by the identity-obsessed, cult-like politics that have become normative in parts of the American left today.

I introduce her by name, with photo, because no one on the Portland left deserves to be taken by surprise by this extremely aggressive, shouting person getting right up in their face after the next rally that they may speak at.  I describe her as a trans woman because that's how she describes herself, and I use the female pronoun because it's not up to me to decide what pronoun she wants to use, it's up to her, and I'm happy to respect that, just as I do with my many trans friends, acquaintances, fellow activists and fellow performers.

In the article I wrote about the rally at which she spent so much time screaming at me, titled Portland Jews Say No To Genocide, I also described her as an "alpha male trans woman."  I'm very hesitant about using any such descriptors, because the last thing I would want to do is hurt the feelings of my trans friends and colleagues.  Or the trans folks who are fans of my music, and tell me so regularly, of which there are many, particularly since I recorded the song, "Is That A Girl Or A Boy?", along with other songs about wonderful trans folks like CeCe McDonald and Chelsea Manning.

But when someone is shouting at you at the top of their lungs, acting very aggressively, carrying a bag that looked like it might have a gun in it, acting more like a stereotypical alpha male than anyone I've ever had the displeasure of encountering, and I'm in fear for my life and safety, then the term "alpha male trans woman" seems perfectly descriptive.  I'm sure most trans women in the world would cringe at seeing that their gender orientation is being so represented, just as I cringe when I see a CIS man behaving badly, or an American, or someone else I identify with as part of their tribe, like it or not.

After the rally I was included in a message thread by some of the organizers of the previous rally, announcing the next one they were planning, which happened Saturday.  I tried to get the word out about the rally and planned to attend it, after spending much of the day attending other rallies, such as for the Portland teachers who are about to go on strike.  I offered to perform and to provide a better sound system, which I just bought for just such occasions, but never heard back from anyone on the thread.  Then a couple hours before the rally was to take place, I received an email that at least claimed to be from the committee that had organized the shindig on the 19th.

For the record, I'm sure this email had nothing to do with any of the folks who were speaking at either of the events.  At that last one, almost everyone who spoke is an old friend of mine at this point, who I've known from similar rallies, since I first moved to Portland 16 years ago, or folks I met before then.  But the anonymous "emergency organizers," whoever they may be (they don't say), had the following to say in their email, sent from the email account of someone I don't know.  I quote the email in full because it's brief and is such a brilliant example of why the contemporary identitarian cult that passes for leftwing discourse is such a massive problem for any kind of forward movement to happen -- unless the circular firing squad is your preferred method of organization, because your goal is failure.

Dear David,

In your 10/20/23 post regarding the Ceasefire Rally, you repeatedly made transphobic and inflammatory statements about a person you were in conflict with there. We will not engage in debate about whether she should have behaved differently, nor about your perspective on the situation. Your descriptions of her, and your posting of her photo, is intimidation, harassment, and amounts to a form of doxxing. This puts her and others at increased risk, especially of transphobic violence. Your actions are in complete conflict with the values underlying the Ceasefire Rally, an event meant to promote peace, collective action, and justice.

Please remove the post (or at least any and all sections of the post and the comments that refer to her in any way, whether by name or not). For example, please immediately remove the photo of her; your descriptions of your desire to do violence against her; and your descriptions of her, including your references to a "tall, trans woman;" an "alpha male trans woman", and "an uber alpha male trans woman." Please remove your references to her name and Twitter handle in the comments section.

- The October 19th Ceasefire Rally Committee

Let's examine this one piece at a time.  And I should mention at this point that for those who are wondering why I don't just respond to their email with all of this background information and such, in case it's not abundantly obvious, they're not interested, they've already made up their minds, which were already frozen by identitarian thinking in the first place.

"In your 10/20/23 post regarding the Ceasefire Rally, you repeatedly made transphobic and inflammatory statements about a person you were in conflict with there."

Wording is important.  I described Phoenix's behavior perhaps a bit colorfully, but accurately.  Much more importantly here, though, is the setup they are giving us -- "a person you were in conflict with there."  If a person who, not incidentally happens to be a tall, muscular person with male body features and a male-sounding voice is shouting at you loudly from the back of a rally, and then comes right up to your face and starts shouting at you even louder, for the benefit of everyone around them, creating a very obvious disruption, how is this someone I'm in conflict with?  How am I playing a role here in creating a conflict?  Quite simply, I'm not.  I'm the victim of an aggressive, potentially violent person who is shouting at me.  If I had had my little children with me, they would have been traumatized by the event, but luckily they weren't with me that afternoon.

Next sentence.  "We will not engage in debate about whether she should have behaved differently, nor about your perspective on the situation."

Now, I never asked anyone to engage in debate with me about whether she should have behaved differently.  It's very obvious to any decent person that this kind of behavior is very problematic, and not conducive to movement-building or community-building.  I can understand why no one really tried to seriously intervene, because when a crazy person is screaming at someone, intervening often doesn't help, it can just escalate things.  But it was obviously terrible behavior on her part, nothing that should even require discussion to understand that.

The point about not being interested in my perspective on the situation is very telling.  It speaks to the fact that for the contemporary identitarian cultist, all background and context is irrelevant.  Let's repeat that because it's important:  all background and context is irrelevant.  That's what these folks will tell you, point blank, and that's what is being communicated in this sentence.  The background to this concept is that I have transgressed by saying transphobic things that may endanger a trans woman, and therefore the context that I've been a victim of her and her friends campaigning against me on and off line for years, doxxing me, spreading lies and throwing virtual bombs everywhere, doesn't matter, it's just beside the point, because trans women are automatically victims, and CIS men are automatically aggressors.

The assumption of victimhood for trans women, and for other marginalized groups, in the course of "conflicts" with CIS men, white people, or others considered to be the privileged actor in the drama, has been a gigantic ideological gift to those doing the work of keeping our country in such a divided and conquered state.  Any time someone wants to get someone banned or canceled, or to raise suspicions about their character, just find a marginalized person to make an accusation.  

Since it's very hard to find many people who actually want to do that, there has been a disproportionate reliance on trans women in many different scenes, including here in Portland, to play that role.  This is an observation that many other people have made, and it by no means is a reflection on the broader trans community, the vast majority of whom do not act anything like Phoenix Singer.  But it's worthwhile to explore the question:  does this phenomenon of very aggressive trans women disrupting events from Portland to London have anything to do with the background of the trans activists in question, such as the fact that they're all trans women who grew up as boys, rather than trans men who grew up as girls?  

The fact that is impossible to ignore for anyone involved with the left in Portland or London or many other cities that those in the trans community engaging in these kinds of tactics all grew up as boys.  I've never seen a single trans man (FTM) behave this way, anywhere.  I've also never seen a person of color disrupt a rally this way.  The disruptors I've seen doing this sort of thing are always white, and always grew up as boys, whether they still consider themselves to be boys or not.  It's not a coincidence, but rather is a consequence of how white boys are raised in this society, as opposed to other groups.  And I insist that it is not transphobic to make a basic sociological observation like this, unless all sociologists are automatically transphobes.

Next sentence:  "Your descriptions of her, and your posting of her photo, is intimidation, harassment, and amounts to a form of doxxing."

My descriptions of her were descriptive.  She was aggressive and scary and shouting.  She was harassing me and being very intimidating.  I posted her photo to warn others about her, because everyone should know about the obvious provocateurs in our midst.  To dox someone is to expose someone's home address or workplace.  I didn't do that.  Phoenix Singer is a very public person who goes to rallies and shouts at people publicly.  She's not hiding or trying to lead a quiet life.

Oddly enough, however, Phoenix and her tiny band of cult associates on Twitter are on record, publicly celebrating the fact that I was doxxed, whether it was by her or a beloved associate of hers, I don't know -- certainly by someone she knows and loves, if it wasn't her specifically.  Flyers denouncing me as an antisemite and containing many other completely untrue allegations were put on car windshields all over my neighborhood in 2021, which contained my address, a photo of me and my car, etc.

Next sentence.  "This puts her and others at increased risk, especially of transphobic violence."  The fact that an angry, shouting, possibly deranged person was behaving as she did could potentially put a lot of people at risk.  I felt very at risk.  I feel at risk every time I go to a rally, because of Phoenix Singer and people in her little anarcho-puritan identitarian cultish RCA circles.  I used to feel safe bringing my kids to rallies, but no longer.  Transphobic violence?  The only actual threats of violence here have been directed at me.  That doesn't matter?  

One of Phoenix Singer's tweets soon after the rally, in no uncertain terms, explained that I was a fascist and should be beaten by a gang of people with baseball bats.  She did this in meme form, in order not to get kicked off the platform.

Next sentence:  "Your actions are in complete conflict with the values underlying the Ceasefire Rally, an event meant to promote peace, collective action, and justice."

"My actions" being a blog post that was entirely accurate and described being verbally assaulted by Phoenix Singer at a rally called to oppose a genocidal bombing campaign.  Not my actions of the past several decades of singing at rallies like this one all over the world.  Peace, collective action, and justice is what we so desperately need!  And achieving any of these things while spending any time attacking me because I wrote a blog post about being verbally assaulted by a screaming person after a rally is not the way we'll achieve any of those things.

As to removing my blog post or my descriptions of my aggressor, or her Twitter handle, or my desire to punch her as she was shouting at me, etc.:  I only wish that instead of only taking a picture of her, I had taken a video.  If I had had my head together better, I would have done exactly that.  Then the idea of anyone defending her or her behavior would be that much more comedic.  

As it is, it's absolutely pathetic.  The people defending her are doing so on principle, as defenders of the rights of trans people, in a principled opposition to making trans women unsafe by publishing their photos.  In the minds of these people, the trans woman is always the victim and the CIS man is always the aggressor.  There is no other sensible explanation for why they take Phoenix's side in this "conflict."

Thinking in terms of such rigid, black-and-white "values" -- that the trans woman shouting at the CIS guy who just spoke must somehow be the victim in a "conflict," and that the CIS man must now be ostracized from the left because of a blog post about the experience, with no regard to the past activities of the deranged aggressor (Phoenix) or the past activities of the movement musician (me).  These "values" aren't values at all, they're just a social engineering scheme designed to paralyze the left, that were first introduced by self-styled postmodernists in colleges across this country, and very successfully implanted in the brains of unsuspecting leftists through circular arguments and social media algorithms.  (For some values that could potentially help us overcome this form of rigid, identity-obsessed, black-and-white thinking, I have recently written a Statement of Principles that many people around the world have found of great interest.)

Phoenix Singer was and is a cancellation campaigner with a long record of this kind of disruptive, destructive, and abusive behavior.  The public record is available.  If she hides her past on Twitter, I have the screen shots.  I've posted many of them publicly in the past.  I did not do this research, by the way -- Phoenix Singer and the Rose City Antifa cult have many other enemies, and those that despise their destructive, idiotic antics have many friends.  I've already written about her behavior and those of her puritanical identitarian cult colleagues ad nauseum.  I'm not going to repeat the whole story of their campaigning against me -- an anti-Zionist of Jewish lineage -- for my supposed antisemitism.  If you want to dive down that rabbit hole of false accusations, I've collected a lot of them at davidrovics.com/trolls.  

Bottom line is Phoenix Singer is one of them.  One of the few that is so fanatical about her cancellation campaigning that she does it in public, in person, inviting the press and whoever else to document her very public, very aggressive, very disturbing antics.  This kind of behavior is so toxic and so counter-productive and needs to end right now.  

Sadly, it won't, and in all likelihood the next time there's a rally against the genocide in Gaza, most of the people speaking will once again be old friends of mine, but my music will not be a feature of the rally's program, because I'm an antisemite, or maybe now a transphobe, too.  Welcome to Portlandia, in all it's reality and surreality.

Friday, October 27, 2023

The Geopolitics of Genocide and the Social Engineering of Complicity

For genocide to be committed, the perpetrators need political cover along with lots of weapons and money, and the rhetorical groundwork needs to be laid.

As a long-time participant-observer of life on Earth with a healthy and deep distrust of governments and large institutions of any kind, such as state or corporate press outlets, I have long sought to understand what's going on in the world around me by actively pursuing many different sources of information about current events as well as the relevant historical background involved with them.  Also by physically traveling to the places I'm reading about, whenever possible, and spending time there. 

It's simply not possible to understand the present in depth without knowing about a lot of relevant historical context, nor is it possible to get any kind of realistic sense of what's happening on this planet by scanning headlines or even by regularly consuming, say, news produced from the vantage point of a certain part of the world, and generally by reporters working for editors and publishers and owners who are absolutely having massive influence over content produced, and are often coming from a very specific economic and political class -- rich, and powerful.

If your main sources of information are western media and westerners posting opinions on social media that are largely derived from western media coverage, then you might or might not realize that the country that has long been the US's biggest recipient of military aid and political cover, Israel, is currently engaged in a genocidal war against millions of Palestinian civilians who have been living under total Israeli control for as long as much of the population has been alive.  

You also might not realize that this reality is more or less what is being depicted in most of the world's media, with the exception of the media of the west, or what western pundits sometimes refer to as "the international community" -- which is a euphemism for all the countries in the world that are sufficiently indebted to IMF loan programs that they vote along with the US in the General Assembly, unlike most of the countries in the world, which represent both the majority of nations as well as the vast majority of the world's population.

How is it that most of the world's leaders, most of the world's press, and most of the world's people can be looking at and condemning a genocide being carried out of Palestinians by Israel, while the leaders of the world's supposedly great democracies in Europe and North America, along with most of the leaders of the main opposition parties in most of these countries, along with most of the big media outlets in most of these countries, can present to us a reality that seems to be so different from the stark one that the rest of the world is currently observing with horror?  

How is it that instead they can see fit to light up buildings in blue and white, pledge their loyalty to an ethnonationalist settler-colonial state despised by the broader population of the region in which it exists, and send billions of dollars in US taxpayer money to the regime committing the genocide, in order to further facilitate their capability to do so, with more bunker-busting bombs and high-tech killing machines of every variety?  And how is it that despite so many strong words from so many leaders and regular people from around the world, despite millions pouring into the streets globally in protest, no one seems to be able or willing to intervene somehow and stop this genocide?

I'll mainly focus on the social engineering of western sponsorship of and complicity with this genocide, because the question of the geopolitics is, at its core, too easy to explain.

Given the support Israel has, no country wants to go to war with Israel because of the old doctrine of Mutually Assured Destruction.  Even if the leadership in Iran or another country wanted to intervene on behalf of the Palestinians, and even if they commanded a military capable of laying waste to the nation of Israel, Israel definitely has a military capable of laying waste to many countries.  Israel not only has one of the world's biggest air forces, but more importantly, it's a nuclear power, and its leaders regularly make very thinly-veiled threats to use their nuclear weapons.

The continuity of US military and economic sponsorship of Israel insulates the small country from a lot of the nonmilitary efforts at sanctioning Israel that nonwestern countries may try to engage in.  OPEC policies in the 1970's and 1980's were able to have limited impacts on Israel and the US.  Given the relationship between Saudi Arabia and the US, and recent Saudi policies of extermination-level, indiscriminate bombing campaigns on other Arab countries, any serious Saudi intervention here seems unlikely.

The UN General Assembly can pass wonderful resolutions, and often does.  But with the US veto in the Security Council, the UN is essentially powerless to do anything more than tell the world that a genocide is underway.  With its veto, the US has been the sole country standing in the way of at least calling for a ceasefire.  Even that is too much for the bipartisan leadership of the US that is sponsoring and facilitating this genocide.

In order for a nominally democratic country such as the US to be so deeply involved with carrying out a genocidal war against a civilian population, some degree of consent by the governed is required.  This is not the first genocidal war against a civilian population to be carried out by a US client state or by the US military itself, it is one of many.  Some have been carried out with hardly anyone in the general public in the western world hearing much about it.  With others, such as this one, that's more difficult, despite Israel's every effort to prevent the reality on the ground in Gaza from being seen by the outside world.

As I have been spending most of my waking hours (and many of my sleeping hours as well) listening to news reports from a wide variety of sources, trying to follow as closely as possible both what is actually going on in the Middle East and how most of the western media is continually spinning this reality on the ground for their propaganda purposes, the basic tenets involved with these extremely intense efforts at social engineering are becoming very clear.

Social engineering -- the shaping of the narrative and the process of manufacturing consent -- can be very successful, despite the easy availability of things like reality-based journalism, if you know where to look for it.  Successful social engineering requires that the forces working on manufacturing the consent be the dominant ones, not the only ones.  I'll run through a list of some of the consent-manufacturing social engineering techniques I've been hearing constantly from western leaders, across the western media, and from those arguing these lines in one form or another on social media.

  1. Always strive to start the narrative at the point where Israel can appear to be the victim.  Israel has been keeping their walled ghetto in a half-starved, regularly-bombed state for many years now through very intentional policies of collective punishment of the entire civilian population, which is made up largely of refugees driven out of other Palestinian lands.  But none of this history matters -- everything began on October 7th, 2023 is the direct or tacit message we get in most of the western press and from the vast majority of the elected officials, whether liberal, conservative, or "moderate."
  2. When giving background on the foundations of the self-proclaimed Jewish State, focus on the Nazi holocaust, as if the dispossession of Palestine by its indigenous inhabitants and the creation of a new Jewish state there was almost an inevitable consequence of fascism -- and therefore anyone opposing the new Jewish state is probably a fascist, too.  If you mention the US, British, or German immigration policies that facilitated the Jewish settlement of Palestine during the 1930's and 1940's, don't do this often.  Same with any other thorough exploration of the background of the Zionist movement, its colonial nature, or the many massacres of Palestinians and occupations of Palestinian towns that were foundational in the formation of the state of Israel.
  3. When discussing the history of Palestine/Israel post-1948, always emphasize Israeli victimhood, and how it's a small "western" country surrounded by hostile, undemocratic, Arab neighbors.  Frequently mention the existential crises of the 1967 and 1973 wars, and emphasize the small size of Israel relative to Egypt and Syria.  Never contextualize these conflicts as efforts by Arab governments and Arab armies to seek redress for the tremendous injustice of the displacement and permanent exile of over 700,000 Arabs from Arab lands.
  4. When covering the current conflict, no matter how asymmetrical it obviously is -- with one side controlling and regularly bombing any access points to the walled ghetto that is the Gaza Strip, with one side having destroyed half of the standing structures in Gaza, and preventing food, water, and fuel from entering the Strip, with the Palestinian population facing imminent starvation -- always remember to contextualize it by mentioning the Hamas attacks of October 7th, and how they killed 1,400 people.
  5. When it comes to atrocities like intentionally killing civilians, always trust the Israeli authorities' accounts of what happened in southern Israel on October 7th.  If the authorities say the killings of civilians were intentional, believe them and assume they wouldn't say this if they hadn't done some kind of thorough investigation and studied the trajectories of all the bullets and tank shells fired by all sides during the course of the fighting.  Downplay or disregard accounts from the survivors or anyone else that conflicts with the "human animal" narrative of "modern-day Nazis who want to kill all the Jews."
  6. When it comes to the most violent slaughter and starvation of all civilian life in Gaza and apparent intention to destroy every building standing in Gaza, always give emphasis to the Israeli position that these "air strikes" are "targeted" and are aimed at destroying "the Hamas infrastructure of terror" and the "Hamas war machine."  Even if you feel compelled to interview or mention the occasional doctor at one of fifteen hospitals that have been forced to close and leave the thousands of maimed to die horrible deaths or try to operate in a parking lot under fire with no anesthesia, clean water or electricity, make sure to contextualize this interview by spending at least twice as much time soon afterwards focusing on the very legitimate and tragic suffering of the families of those killed or taken hostage in southern Israel.
  7. As the genocide unfolds with dramatic new developments by the hour involving close to a thousand civilians dying beneath indiscriminate bombardment every 24 hours, Israel refusing visas to UN officials, most of the leaders of the western world showing their continued support for Israel even as it carries out genocide, world leaders holding emergency meetings constantly everywhere, make sure your press coverage does not reflect any of this.  Don't stop your usual programming in order to cover an emergency speech by the Secretary General or an emergency meeting of the General Assembly.  The UN is not important, and the fact that the US Secretary of State has basically been living in the Middle East for several weeks now is not an important story, in that it should not change the basic coverage format, which has now returned to normal, with the genocide being a footnote of no more importance than the new Taylor Swift movie or whether or not she's having a relationship with that football player.
  8. When talking about October 7th, don't speculate about how many civilians could have been killed by the overwhelming firepower the Israeli military employed to retake their lost territory.  Don't mention the large numbers of Israeli soldiers killed by Hamas forces, but focus on the civilians.  Always assume the worst regarding the civilian deaths, that they were all intentional.  Use every detail you can find about October 7th as a means to dehumanize Hamas.
  9. Never make comparisons between Israeli prisoners and Hamas's hostages.  The fact that Israel regularly arrests Palestinian children and adults and holds them in tortuous conditions, indefinitely, without trial, whenever they want to, is to be mentioned rarely if ever.  Emphasize instead that Israel is a democratic country, and therefore there must presumably be some kind of nice democratic process involved with who goes to prison.  Hamas, on the other hand, is a terrorist organization with civilian hostages, which is totally different, since it is not a state.
  10. On the other hand, when it comes to whether the children of Gaza are getting the mass slaughter the western leaders seem to think they deserve, emphasize that Hamas was at one point the party elected to power by Palestinian voters.  Support the position of the (far right and openly genocidal) Israeli government, that because they voted for Hamas, they are all Hamas, and are a threat that needs to be eliminated.
  11. Although Israelis voted in the politicians that have formed the most far right and openly genocidal coalition in the country's history, when Israeli civilians are killed, always emphasize the senseless tragedy of the deaths.  Their situation is apparently totally different from the civilians in Gaza, who are legitimate targets because they live in Gaza.
  12. When quoting Israeli officials, or western officials parroting them, talking about how sometimes you have to demolish hospitals, apartment blocks, mosques, and churches because Hamas is keeping supplies in tunnels located beneath them, never contextualize these claims by mentioning how so many of these bombings appear to have been totally against international law under any circumstances.  If an Israeli or western official says something, it doesn't need to be contextualized like that.
  13. Anytime Israeli or western officials talk about Hamas or Hezbollah or the Iranian leadership wanting to "kill all the Jews" or wanting to "wipe out the state of Israel," never contextualize these statements by explaining that Israel is an ethnonationalist apartheid state ruling largely over land that international law considers to be illegally occupied, where under international law resistance to occupation, including violent resistance, is justified.  Always tacitly support any connection between being anti-Israel and anti-Jewish by never contextualizing the basic nature of Israel as undemocratic country running an occupation of the majority of the population it controls, most of whom live under what has now become a truly genocidal military regime.
  14. Whenever talking about these events, use the right words -- the Israelis conduct air strikes, not bombings.  It's a war zone, not a besieged, walled ghetto.  Hamas and Israel are warring parties, not the leaders of a ghetto uprising on one side, fighting on the other an occupying power backed by all the money and might of the USA.  When Hamas kills civilians it's mindless, animalistic terrorism, when Israel does it -- from the sky, on an apocalyptically larger scale -- it's a principled western army making an honest mistake.
  15. No matter how horrible or flagrantly illegal or genocidal Israeli policies may be, always make sure to veer the conversation into an exploration of the importance and complexity of Israel "defending itself."  Make sure it's clear that everything Israel does is always ultimately in "self-defense."
  16. When it comes to any violent actions of Palestinians, regardless of the context, however, this is always to be discussed under the category of "terrorism" -- never "self-defense."  Palestinians are somehow always the aggressor, despite being the occupied, ghettoized, obviously oppressed party in this relationship, and are basically incapable of "self-defense."
  17. On the rare occasions when there are efforts by western leaders or western media to provide real context to the history of the Zionist project, the history of the occupation and ongoing annexation of the Palestinian lands by the state of Israel, make sure to explain it all as part of an "Arab-Israeli conflict" rather than an occupation of Arab land by a settler-colonial project.  Talking about the "Arab-Israeli conflict" helps Israel look small, rather than like the party with all the power in the current and historical relationship here.
  18. Whenever discussing the history of Israel and Palestine, always focus on the Nazi holocaust that caused so many Jews to want to leave Europe, and tie this in with the history of Jewish settlement of Palestine in such a way that suggests an inevitability about this whole process, and some kind of suggestion of a connection between Palestinians and Nazis, despite no historic connections really existing.

The point of spinning the coverage of what is an unfolding genocide like this is to minimize dissent and manufacture consent among those in the US and the rest of the western countries whose leaders are so emphatically supporting and enabling this genocidal campaign, while their populations are overall far less enthusiastic about this idea, and are pouring into the streets in large numbers, calling for an end to the bombing, calling for a ceasefire, and calling for a lot of other things.  

It's not that the truth is unavailable -- in the case of what's going on in Gaza as well as the West Bank right now, it's as easy as tuning in to Al-Jazeera, which you can do with any web browser.

As long as most people in the west aren't paying attention to such networks, or don't trust networks with Arab names, or don't trust Palestinian reporters reporting on the ground reporting about what's happening around them, and need to hear from western political leaders and western media that a genocidal war is being waged on a civilian population in order to believe that it's happening, then we will be witnessing one more genocide that no one will be able to stop.

Monday, October 23, 2023

How Do We Stop This Genocide?

I wish I knew.  But I have a few thoughts on the scope of the occasion we desperately need to rise to.

I'm often feeling a bit despondent about various things, like the weather.  But with hundreds of Palestinians dying every day beneath Israeli bombardment in Gaza and so many others in the West Bank including so many children being killed, arrested, and tortured, bones broken, held in stress position cages, the dark cloud is ever-present. 

It's a feeling I'm so familiar with, though, ever since I first started paying attention to world events.  Throughout the 1980's, in my teens, reading about the US-sponsored genocide being carried out by the military junta in Guatemala, reading about the CIA's war in Afghanistan, and about the terrible massacres of thousands of women and children in Sabra and Shatila, carried out by US-backed forces once again.  I didn't even need to read the alternative press to figure out that my government was involved with some terrible stuff, all over the world.

Oddly enough, it wasn't long after reading about these events that some of my good friends back then ended up being people from those very places, who came to the US to get away from all that.  The stories of these Afghans, Guatemalans, Lebanese and Palestinians and of the horrors they lived through brought a three-dimensionality to what I had been reading in the pages of the New York Times, and also confirmed all of my suspicions.

There was a movement against US backing of the military dictatorships and their genocidal policies in Central America back then.  I went to protests, from gatherings in the dozens to the hundreds to the thousands.  They all seemed pretty fruitless, and the energy around them felt very much like the small protests around Portland recently -- like the usual suspects turning out because someone has to do something.  Nothing like the kind of groundswell we'll need for anything to change, or that we would have needed back when the genocide in Guatemala was being prosecuted.

Then throughout the 1990's, participating in many small gatherings of people, often Catholic Workers or other folks from a religious background, like Kathy Kelly, folks who had to at least bear witness to the hundreds of thousands of people who were dying in Iraq under the horrifically broad and societally crippling sanctions in place throughout that decade.

Then the dread after 9/11, after the US's Frankenstein, Al-Qaeda, wrought revenge upon the country that had brought so much death and destruction to so much of the Muslim world for so long.  I knew the US military would now perpetuate this cycle of violence that US policy had long ago initiated -- a cycle of violence that has mostly taken the lives of Muslims in occupied countries, or those caught up in proxy wars with deep US involvement.

The antiwar movement that formed in the west in response to the "new" War on Terror in the wake of 9/11 was significant, far bigger than anything I had witnessed in the preceding two decades anyway, but it was never the kind of movement that had a real hope of shutting down the war machine, stopping business as usual, or having the kind of impact that would be impossible to ignore.  Meanwhile, the years of slaughter and occupation in Afghanistan and Iraq dragged on, with more and more death and destruction abroad, and more and more traumatized veterans returning home, as with every generation of Americans, and for some other hapless people somewhere in the world, for at least two centuries.

Here in 2023, as we watch what is increasingly and rightly being described as a campaign of genocide being carried out by US-funded and US-backed Israeli forces, I think of a protest I sang at in Berlin in the spring of 2002, half a year into that latest US war in Afghanistan, this time involving actual US troops.  I was mainly there at the protest to sing a few songs, but of course you have to introduce them, and I was thinking hard about what I wanted to say.

I had at that time spent a significant part of the previous couple years in Germany, and had become somewhat familiar with how a lot of Germans think about current events and some key historical ones as well.  I knew I was going to have a translator (my friend Kelly), and thus anything I said was going to take twice as long, so I wanted to be as brief as possible with my remarks.  Judging from the response of the crowd, I'm pretty sure I hit the nail on the head, at the time.

I remember my speech like it was yesterday, because for me it was a big moment that doesn't happen often, more or less representing the US peace movement at a rally in Berlin in front of 100,000 people gathered there in Alexanderplatz.  And my speech was very short, making it that much easier to remember.

"George Bush," I said, "is an international terrorist.  And it is absolutely essential that he and his war machine be opposed internationally."

I wasn't surprised that this line got such a positive reaction, because I knew that so many Germans were as horrified by war as they were petrified of being considered anti-American.  So I thought if I'm going to say one thing, as an American speaking at this rally in Berlin, it should be this, that we need everyone together here to oppose this invasion, and if you might benefit from getting "permission" from an American to oppose an American war, I'm happy to help.

Now, after failing to stop those wars or to stop the devastation wrought upon so many countries since 9/11 by the US war machine, sometimes with UK or broader NATO involvement, here is another campaign of aerial terror reminiscent of the US campaigns in Fallujah or Hanoi in its utter indiscriminateness in Gaza, combined with a campaign of ethnic cleansing and state terror reminiscent of Yugoslavia in the West Bank.

There was a time, before 9/11, where I regularly felt glimmers of optimism about the possibilities for some of the social movements happening in the world then.  I've written about that before and I won't give a big lecture on that theme now.  But since 9/11 and the endless War on Terror, we've all been so thoroughly flooded with propaganda that has been pumped out for all of the western world to consume, all the terribly misleading narratives that intentionally begin in the place that is most convenient for painting the west as the innocent victims of rabid Muslim terrorists, repeated ad nauseum.

Before 9/11, aside from the global justice movement that I've often written about, another movement that was happening that was really very widespread, like globally, was the movement in solidarity with the Palestinians who had risen up in response to Sharon's massacre at the Al-Aqsa Mosque in September, 2000.  It was being called the Second Intifada.  That year was quite a year for widespread popular education and widespread protest against Israeli occupation policies against the Palestinians.  For the first time in my lifetime, a broadly, unquestioningly pro-Israel orientation was becoming less commonplace among all kinds of people in the US.  For the first time in my lifetime, you could talk about Palestinians without whoever you're talking to immediately thinking "terrorists" in response.  They were becoming humanized in the popular imagination in the US, by my own observation, anyway.

This all changed after 9/11.  It's very easy to understand why people both in Israel/Palestine regarding 10/7 and here in the US regarding 9/11 wonder about the timing of these terrible events.  For those of us who were deeply involved with the Palestine solidarity movement of pre-9/11 days, or for those involved with the massive protests that had taken over daily life in Israel for months this year, the timing of these events seems too convenient, from the vantage point of the forces of militarism and the war machines that have so benefitted from both of them.

Given US policies towards so much of the Muslim world for so long, given the ruins, death and collective trauma left in the wake of so many US or US-sponsored wars, 9/11 was virtually inevitable.  Attack people enough and they will inevitably eventually at least attempt to respond in kind.  But after 9/11, humanizing Muslims in the US and increasingly in Europe as well became a much bigger challenge.  The antiwar movement was significant for some years but by the fall of 2005 it was largely history, back to the little suggestion of a movement that it was like in the 1990's, as the wars continued.

To add to a previously unimaginable degree to the difficulty with trying to frame the narrative here around the role of the US and Israel in the current, tragic realities in places like occupied Palestine, Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere, now, coincidentally or not since around the time of the collapse of the last antiwar movement in 2005, we have the reality of corporate social media platforms having taken over our means of communication -- along with the identity politics and cancellation campaigning that have come to characterize contemporary political discourse, partially as a direct result.

I hope I'm wrong, but it feels to me like this society is as far from being able to rise to this most terrible occasion that lays before us as we've ever been.

If there is any prospect for this to change, the kind of unity of purpose and widespread solidarity that will be necessary can't possibly be overstated.  What I said to that crowd in Berlin is just as true now about the Israeli bombing of Gaza as it has been true of the indiscriminate bombing campaigns that have been carried out in so many parts of the world by the US Air Force as well.  We who hope to possibly participate in a movement to stop this genocide can't allow ourselves to be hampered by fear of being labeled anti-Jewish any more than we could have had any hope of defeating US imperialism if we were too worried about coming off as anti-American, or being considered unpatriotic, for opposing American militarism.

Ever since I can remember, every time the self-proclaimed Jewish State commits a war crime or engages in a bombing campaign against Gaza or Lebanon or Syria or Iran or wherever they're bombing, we hear in the western media about a rise in antisemitism and antisemitic attacks.  I think I've heard about at least two rabbis killed in the past few days, between the US and France.  Even if my great great grandfather had not been a rabbi, I would be opposed to killing rabbis.  

But the idea that anyone can be surprised that a country which constantly reminds the world that it is the Jewish state is considered by some occasional unhinged people to actually represent all the Jews seems disingenuous, or at best very naive.  And then what we are inevitably treated to next is yet more news coverage about the rise in antisemitism.  On many networks it will take up at least as much time as any sanitized coverage of the bombardment of Gaza.

And then we can watch as those social media influencers who are the new, algorithm-appointed gatekeepers of who may or may not be considered to have crossed an invisible line and found themselves on the dark side, accused of antisemitism one way or another, will make sure their targets find themselves too busy fending off false accusations and efforts at character assassination to be able to do anything useful in organizing against the genocide of Palestinians.

I wish I had a real answer to my question.  All that seems apparent is we won't stop this genocide if we're worried about being called antisemites for our opposition to it, and we won't stop this genocide by trying to organize or win arguments on corporate social media platforms that are designed to make such efforts impossible.  We have to think, and act, outside of those boxes, and on a bigger scale than ever, and we need to shut down the war machine while there's still time for those of us who are still here.

Sunday, October 22, 2023

Being Goldstein

How did so much of what we once thought of as the left become an anti-intellectual, identity-obsessed cult, and how did I become Emmanuel Goldstein?

Ever wake up one morning and realize that you are Emmanuel Goldstein, and there are lots of people out there in the world looking at your picture and having their daily Two Minutes of Hate in order to maintain their correct worldview and affirm your complete opposition to it?

Well, good morning to you, too, then.  As I was watching the veins bulge in the neck of the tall, masked trans woman who was shouting at me at the top of her lungs, I wondered about the overstuffed bag she had hanging around her neck, and whether that very heavy bulge in it was a handgun, or something else.  This is America, you never know who's carrying a gun, and it's best to assume the person shouting at you is.

As she was shouting at me -- "I DON'T WANT TO TALK TO YOU!  I WANT YOU TO LEAVE!  I WANT YOU OUT OF LEFT SPACES!  YOU INTERVIEWED A NAZI ON YOUR PODCAST!  YOU'RE A NAZI CONSORTIONIST!" -- I was reminded of little kids I've known, who had parents with an authoritarian orientation, and I was also reminded more than a little of other people I've known.

I have three wonderful children, the youngest of whom is now no longer a toddler.  Between my teenager and my two younger kids, none of them have ever shouted at me, or at anyone else, like that, or like the toddler equivalent.  You know how some kids throw tantrums and say outrageous things to their parents like "I hate you"?  I've never had that experience as a parent.

I don't want to suggest that my kids are all perfect because of my perfect parenting.  Even if my wife and I were perfect parents, there are so many other things that can deeply impact a child's reality, obviously.  We've been very lucky.  But loving, respectful, thoughtful, engaged parenting does have something to do with it.  (If you want to know more about this kind of parenting, I can recommend some books.)

I spent much of the night after the rally with the shouting, alpha-male trans woman lying awake in bed beside my sleeping family members, thinking about this person shouting at me -- and thinking of all the people who think just like her, who shout at me and so many others regularly in exactly the same way, but on Reddit, Twitter, Facebook, and now on Blue Sky and Substack as well (they get accounts on all the platforms, some work better for their virtual bomb-throwing than others).

It's recently been sinking in just how profound the impact on society has been -- not just of the terribly divisive political orientations available for us to internalize via those "influencers" presenting their perspective, plus the magic sauce of the algorithms that consistently drive the most divisive material to the top.  That has clearly been a great formula for fostering a society full of atomized social groups and multi-polarized politics.  But what else does it foster?

What does this intellectual environment, or really this extremely and unforgivingly anti-intellectual environment characterized by black-and-white thinking, where someone's perception of you having made a wrong step can get you permanently vilified, ostracized, and hounded by online mobs forever, what does this do to our minds, our emotional reality, and our ability to think clearly over time?

With social media corporations having successfully hijacked and taken over our communications now for almost two decades, among certain elements of society the damage seems to be getting pretty clear.  It is by no means a phenomenon limited to the youth, but for various reasons related to being young, it might be more visible with that generation.

One of the most difficult as well as one of the most fascinating periods of my life were the years during which I was lovers with a woman who had Borderline Personality Disorder.  I wouldn't wish this mental illness on anyone.  During the years we were together I did a lot of reading about BPD, hoping to figure out how to relate to her better, how not to trigger her as much and that sort of thing.  After all the reading and all my efforts, the chaos never subsided, and although there were so many wonderful moments and she and our relationship had so many really good things going on along with the rest, it didn't last in the end because I just couldn't handle the emotional rollercoaster involved.

According to my deep dive into BPD during those years, it is thought that the people who are prone to developing this mental state have often been raised in an environment that was characterized by unpredictability, like if your parents split up early on and one or both of them is really unpredictable in terms of how they relate to you, sometimes being very loving and engaged, and other times being very distant or hostile, where you never know if they're going to praise you or insult you or something else.

Of course, lots of people grow up with parents like that and don't develop BPD.  But from what I've read, it is thought to affect 1 in 100 people, which seems like an awful lot of people to me.

One of the main ways that people trying to explain BPD simply tend to do it is to say that adults with the condition have the emotional maturity of a toddler.  Those with BPD who manage to more or less pass as relatively normal adults often live very strictly according to an ethical code which they have intellectually concluded is the correct way to behave, even though if they were to behave according to their emotional impulses, their behavior would not remotely resemble what they think of as the right way to act.  Without explaining this reality any further, I hope it's pretty obvious what an incredibly debilitating thing BPD is to live with, for people who have it, whether they try to manage it by constructing an ethical framework for going through life with, or if they just give in to their emotional impulses, or some combination thereof.  Depending on which study you believe, 10-15% of people with BPD will die by suicide.

As I was being shouted at the other day, as with other times I've been similarly shouted at by this woman via her Twitter account and those of her handful of friends, I remembered my lover with BPD, and how she would shout at me for things like asking whether she had eaten breakfast yet.  Whatever would set her off, once she started yelling at me about whatever it was, there was no possibility for any kind of discussion, naturally, just as the idea of trying to "reason" with an enraged, crying toddler is a pointless notion.  

With my background as an accidental armchair expert in BPD, perhaps it was the slightly dissociated state I was in as I was being screamed at that made me draw this connection at first, but then thinking about it, it makes more and more sense.  Which is to say, what would you be like if you were raised by a Subreddit characterized by black-and-white thinkers engaging in character assassinations and coming up with condescending memes about anyone over the age of 25?  What if your parents sucked, or maybe even didn't suck, and for whatever reason you went and started spending most of your waking hours in a toxic environment like that?

My theory, whether this has been studied by psychologists yet or not (I haven't looked), is that we are probably now experiencing a rise in Borderline Personality Disorder in this society.  We are certainly experiencing a rise in suicide.  I don't see how this wouldn't be the case, given the extremely toxic environment provided for us to exist in online for the past twenty years or so -- and online is where so many of us mostly live, especially the younger set.

Once you have in place the meta environment of Meta and the other dominant social media platforms doing their algorithmic thing, once you have an environment that systematically highlights and thus encourages black-and-white thinking, social atomization, and conflict of all kinds, it doesn't matter what the discourse is about, it's going to become both toxic and polarized.

Add to that pre-toxified, pre-polarized environment actual content related to, say, how we understand and relate to political trends or perspectives on them, and you can start to understand how we eventually have managed to arrive at this point, with the kinds of apparently nonsensical and even farcically extreme accusations that are made about people on the most tenuous of grounds.

The accusations themselves wouldn't merit response except that they are so widespread.  It is accepted on the face of it as truth these days in many circles when people say, for example, that Glenn Greenwald or, for that matter, David Rovics, have somehow become rightwingers.  For anyone who listens to either of our podcasts or reads anything either of us write who has the slightest idea about what it means historically to be politically on the right or the left, the idea is completely, obviously ridiculous.  Yet it is very persistent, and seems to be spreading.  

And why wouldn't it?  A culture of believing what someone says about someone else without investigation beyond a few out-of-context misquotes has been firmly established, it's widespread, and it has been facilitated, if not entirely created out of whole cloth, by social media and its algorithms, along with the other factors that predate social media, of course, such as the brainwashing we all grow up with from corporate media, school textbooks, etc.  

Once this culture has been established, and people are just going to believe what someone says about someone else without really looking into it -- which is, again, now the norm that has been firmly established in broad circles -- then it becomes possible for black to become white and white to become black, or for Glenn Greenwald or Medea Benjamin or Freddie DeBoer or David Rovics (to take a few not-quite-random examples) to have joined the ranks of the right.

Once it's been established that someone has joined the right and is therefore a villain, the kind of behavior deeply familiar to anyone who has become intimate with Borderline Personality Disorder will be exhibited on a widespread basis, with people posting the kinds of things -- or shouting the kinds of things in person in the center of town -- which will be the sorts of things we've heard before in a different, less political or less public setting.

What most fundamentally characterizes the emotional reality of a toddler in tantrum mode, or someone afflicted with BPD who is having an episode, is what they call splitting, or black-and-white, all-or-nothing kind of thinking.  Thus, the parent once cherished is now hated, or the intellectual or artist once considered a hero is now a villain.

Add to the mix manipulative characters who are working to turn these algorithmic and other tendencies to their advantage in order to form a sort of cult mindset among their followers, and it all gets especially disturbing.  When it comes to these characters (who I won't bother naming because it doesn't matter who they are and they don't need me to give them any more oxygen), they can create a twisted sort of narrative that can pass as analysis if you don't read it too carefully, that serves to give some kind of serious intellectual justification to the crazy talk about me or Medea becoming rightwingers.

I only wish I had filmed this masked person with a huge, garish, angular, militaristic-looking "never again" tattoo screaming at me, because she seemed to embody the very essence of the Two Minutes of Hate sessions that all of the loyal followers of Big Brother are expected to engage in every day, as they think about Emmanuel Goldstein, the reviled leader of the Brotherhood, and his very dangerous book, which is so dangerous that none of his critics have ever read it.

What also made me want to write more about what seems to be a rapidly developing social phenomenon is that because of the success the platforms have had in atomizing society (rather than bringing us together, as was once speculated they would do), many of the other longstanding activists in this city are having exactly the same experiences, with exactly the same people, but we tend not to know this about each other.  

To all my comrades who haven't joined this all-or-nothing Nexus, who still believe in giving people the benefit of the doubt, who believe in kindness, solidarity, and real discourse:  you're not alone, even though I'm sure you often feel that way.

Saturday, October 21, 2023

CEASEFIRE TOUR in Scandinavia

 PRESS RELEASE

From November 2-16 David Rovics will be visiting from Portland, Oregon (US) to do concerts in various parts of Denmark, Sweden, and Norway.  Kamala Emanuel, from Brisbane, Australia, will be singing with him.

In these terrible times, the emphasis on this tour, as on many past tours, will be war and peace.  Both Kamala and David have long histories as advocates for the cause of peace and justice for Palestinians, and everyone else.  As a medical doctor, Kamala is especially horrified by the Israeli military's rampant bombing of hospitals and ambulances.

Between September, 2000 and the present day, David has written dozens of songs related to the history of the Palestinian struggle, and in reaction to events such as Israel's current, genocidal bombing campaign, and prior events such as Israel's bombing of Gaza in 2021, the Great March of Return in 2018-19, conflicts in 2014, 2009, 2006, and events during the very tumultuous years of the Second Intifada that began in 2000.

Many of David's songs, essays on Counterpunch and Substack, podcasts, and interviews related to Palestine are collected at davidrovics.com/palestine.  Details about each of the stops on the Ceasefire Tour in Scandinavia can be found at davidrovics.com/tour.

David and Kamala are available to sing at any protests happening that can fit into their tour schedule (for free), and they're happy to talk to journalists or anyone else about their views on recent/current events in the Middle East.  David has done concert tours of both Israel and the occupied West Bank, as well as Lebanon and Jordan.  His song, "Jenin" used to be in regular rotation on BBC (until Andy Kershaw lost his job there).  He's been invited to talk about the Palestinian struggle, and his songs about it, on Al-Jazeera, Al-Mayadeen, RT, Press TV, and many other platforms.

Thursday, October 19, 2023

Portland Jews Say No To Genocide

 And then they start shouting at one another afterwards.

It's fair to say that me and the folks around the world who I think of as my friends and comrades have been more overwhelmed with grief and outrage than usual, over the past two weeks or so.  Those of us who are old enough to remember the years when the US occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq were regularly in the news, some two decades ago now, also might remember the frequent protests with hundreds of thousands of people at them in places like Washington, DC, New York City, and San Francisco.  And the protests in small towns that had never had a protest, but were now seeing three thousand people show up, seemingly out of nowhere.

Of course, with all those big and small protests, acts of civil disobedience, weekly vigils in the town squares, and the many efforts at popular education and counter-recruitment that went on, although all that was also happening in other countries participating in the so-called War on Terror like the UK, those in power weren't listening, and the bombings, drone strikes, and total corruption of any rebuilding efforts in the occupied countries ground on, as the prisoners in the Black sites continued to be tortured, and those in Guantanamo continued to be held there on no charges, with no trials.

Ineffective as we seem to have been, I think back on those years of the antiwar movement of that period very fondly.  As my unhinged critics would say, I'm a grifter -- opportunistically sponging off of social movements such as the antiwar movement by traveling around and singing at protests in order to avoid a day job or something.  But at the same time it was technically the case, as I darkly quipped on more than one occasion back then, "the more bombs they drop, the more CDs I sell."  (Now I'm getting nostalgic for the days when anyone bought CDs, too...)

I was not, and am not, in this line of work, such as it is, touring and writing songs and essays about politics, history, and popular struggles, in order to live an easy life.  Like so many other artists and activists that I know, I do this because I have to, because I would lose my mind if I didn't.  Ineffective as it may be in stopping US wars of aggression or genocides committed by authoritarian US client states such as Indonesia, Guatemala, or Israel, there will be people like me, all around the world, in every language, who feel compelled to talk, write, and sing about these horrors, hoping to somehow make a little difference, at least in helping a few more people question the propaganda.

But while the reason why we were in the streets and having teach-ins and marches, etc., back then were about unspeakable horrors that the US military was being ordered to visit upon the populations of so many countries, the community that grew up around the antiwar movement in so many places was a beautiful thing.  So many of the people involved with the movement were regular folks, many of whom were attending a demonstration for the first time, even though many of the participants at that time were old enough to have had a chance to go to protests against the Vietnam War way back when.  

Regular folks tend to do things like make plans for important daily activities like eating and drinking when they get together.  This is true everywhere, but it's even more true for people from certain places, like Palestine, so the Palestine solidarity events that involved a diverse array of folks from across the Palestinian community always had the best food.  But along with them were the folks who, before 9/11, had been self-described tailgate moms, grilling burgers at the local high school football games.  Then when the War on Terror started they got political, and started grilling those burgers at antiwar events instead.

There were a lot of regular folks in that movement, and then there was the stalwart and very significant presence of the folks who, if you knew them, were coming out of a Communist Party background.  I say this was significant because, for better or for worse (I'd say a bit of both), the Communist Party, USA has long had an orientation around backing the Democratic Party when it comes to electoral politics, in the hope of dragging it to the left, and operating on the theory that it's not as horrible as the Republican Party alternative.

I think of the folks coming out of that kind of background when I think of the coalition, United for Peace and Justice, which organized the biggest events of the period, such as the rally on that extremely cold and windy day in February, 2003, when all the streets and highways coming into Manhattan were at a standstill, because although it was the weekend (no rush hour), the roads were all clogged with people trying to come to the rally.  Estimates of a half million seemed conservative, with all the people who didn't manage to even get close to the actual rally area.

It was one of many big rallies that I sang at during those years, in a number of different countries, but I think of UFPJ in particular at this particular juncture because of the wonderfully ecumenical attitude of the chief organizers that I worked with, such as Leslie Cagan in New York City.  It was clear that the reason I was invited to sing at so many antiwar rallies back then was because people had heard some of my songs who were involved with organizing an event -- and they were often folks I had known for years already from what had been a much smaller anti-imperialist left, in the decade prior to 9/11.

But it was also clear to leaders of the movement that I might not be a pacifist, and might probably have a lot of other philosophical differences with some of them.  So many of the folks involved with antiwar movements throughout history have been pacifists, while so many have not been.  But certainly pacifism is often a dominant orientation among antiwar movements.  So when I suggested to folks at UFPJ that maybe they would like to use my CDs as fundraising items for folks who donate, I don't know if they had to bring this up as an agenda item in a meeting or anything, but I don't recall there being any hesitation, despite the fact that the new album I was then promoting was called Halliburton Boardroom Massacre.  The title track is a fantasy about a disgruntled veteran who feels compelled, upon returning from Iraq, to kill everyone in the Halliburton boardroom in a suicidal act of vengeance, and UFPJ featured it on their website.

I remember Leslie telling me I was an artist employing artistic license, and we have free speech.  No one told me not to sing "Halliburton Boardroom Massacre" at the next antiwar rally, but I always preferred to sing songs that would be most likely to connect with audiences, so if I were singing for a big crowd at an antiwar rally, I'd tend to pick more straightforward antiwar songs, rather than antiwar-inspired fantasies about killing war profiteers.

Moving back to the present, I awoke yesterday morning before dawn as usual, with the usual feeling of despair for the people of Gaza, thinking of the people dying by the minute under constant bombardment, who now have almost completely run out of drinkable water.  Untold thousands are buried beneath rubble, which people are unable to move, and they're dying under there.  Almost half of those who have died have been children, and the bombing continues to be totally indiscriminate.  It's like some combination of the siege of Stalingrad and the Christmas bombing of Hanoi.  Totally genocidal slaughter.

In other words, they're in a situation in Gaza much like people under US bombs have been in in Yemen, Iraq, Afghanistan, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, and so many other countries.  I was just a small child when the Vietnam War was still going on, but millions of people were regularly in the streets back then.  There was an antiwar coffeehouse outside of every US military base.  People were organized.  But as with the movement of two decades ago, not enough.  The bombing continued, for years and years, and then came the next invasions.

Those of us who watch the news have heard about the demonstrations happening all over the world since this most genocidal round of Israeli bombardment of Gaza began.  They've been happening all over the US, too. 

It's not surprising that the segments of the population in the US and many other countries who are most engaged with organizing protests against the bombing are people with some kind of connection to Muslims or Jews.  It is here overwhelmingly a case of Jews bombing Muslims.  (Not like with the US in Iraq, where there were at least a handful of Muslims in the occupation army.)  Not surprising to see protests organized by people with different sets of connections, attracting different crowds.

Whether it might stop the carnage or not I don't know, but my hope would be for a mass movement to develop against Israeli genocide and US military aid to genocidal regimes, across this country.  It would seem abundantly obvious that if this is to happen, it is going to need to be, overwhelmingly, a movement of people with a Christian background.  Last I checked, the overwhelming majority of people in the US are neither Jewish nor Muslim.  So whether it's Jews or Muslims organizing protests, it would make sense, from a pragmatic, emergency, "let's grow this movement as fast as possible" orientation, to try to attract as diverse a crowd as possible, and unite as much of society as possible behind the common goal of stopping the bombing, and ending the siege that has been in place for decades, whether bombs are being dropped that day or not.

So, I don't say this to criticize any of the good people who organized protests in Portland, Oregon yesterday, to be clear.  We desperately need anyone willing to take such initiatives.  But it's indicative of the state of things these days in this country and particularly in this city, seems to me, that we had two protests in different parts of town at different times, one organized by a Jewish-identified group, the other organized by a group from the campus of Portland State University which has historically been mainly led by some wonderful Palestinian folks.  I don't know about the current makeup of the group, and only made it to the first of the two rallies.

A lot of the folks among the 200 or so in attendance yesterday outside of Congressional offices in northeast Portland were not Jewish (I'm a local and I knew a lot of them already, among the older set), so clearly folks didn't get the message from the publicity that only Jews were welcome, which is good, because the graphics being circulated were focused on the "Portland Jews say no to genocide" theme.

By some definition, I'm a Portland Jew, so it did at least seem perfectly appropriate to me when I got an email a couple days ago asking if I could sing at the rally, and if I had any sound gear for the occasion.

The sound gear debacle that followed was actually perfectly typical of at least half of the rallies I've ever been to in Portland, but unfortunately on this occasion I was part of the problem on that front, and I'll tell you about it in case it's at least mildly entertaining.

First of all, it had been such a long time since anyone had asked me to sing at a protest or bring sound gear to one here in my wildly dysfunctional home town that my poor neglected battery-powered sound system's battery had gone permanently dead, having been left uncharged at the home of the friend I had loaned it to.  My friend had a really dinky one with only one channel we could use instead, so I brought that one.  In the meantime another person from the group that was organizing the rally brought something somewhat better, so it looked like we'd be OK.

With this person's speaker combined with the mic I had brought plus my friend's mic cable, my sound check went fine -- both the voice and the mandola sounded fine, we were ready to go.

After a few minutes, when we were starting the rally, the MC went to the mic and no sound came out.  Somehow or other, the speaker that had been just fine was no longer working.  I ran to my car to grab the dinky one I had brought as backup.  It didn't work with the mic and cable I had brought, but it did work with the other one that we had put aside in favor of the better one I had brought.

With only one channel now, the option of performing and being heard playing a song for this crowd was not looking good, so I figured for my part, I'd say a few words.  There were seven speakers on the list.

They were all really good.  One was an older Jewish woman who had spent a lot of time as a solidarity activist in the occupied territories.  Another was my old friend Dan Shea, with Veterans for Peace.  Another was an Israeli woman.  Most of the speakers were older than me.  They all made very relevant points about US aid to Israel, Israeli apartheid practices, and the utter desperation of the current situation.

Some folks, particularly the younger ones, talked about how heartened they were to see so many people show up.  It was a bigger crowd than I had been expecting.  But I've learned to have very low expectations for the size of any protest in this town that wasn't mentioned in advance on NPR, in the atomized social media age that we're in.

When it was my turn to speak, someone in the back of the crowd started yelling.  I couldn't hear what they were saying aside from the word "podcast" but it was clear that their intent was hostile.  This created a scene, with lots of people looking around nervously, naturally enough.  I figured it was best for me to say something anyway, although I hadn't put together a very coherent presentation in the short time I'd had to think about giving a speech, when I had been planning on singing a song. 

Having someone in the back yelling at me while I was trying to come up with some coherent things to say was disconcerting, and my speech definitely suffered as a result -- though if it had been the best speech I'd ever given, it would have been unlikely to have made any difference either way.

At one point one of the young folks who was introducing speakers commented about the importance of "centering Palestinian voices."  I wasn't sure if this comment was related to me, somehow, or to one of the other Jewish speakers at this Jews Say No To Genocide rally.  I had, intentionally, focused on the history in Germany and the US that had helped fuel the success of the Zionist movement and the ever-increasing militarization of the state of Israel.  Other people had already talked about how horrible things are on the ground in Gaza right now, which was obviously why we were all there.

I wonder, too, about this comment, in terms of where it's coming from.  The idea of centering Palestinian voices in a situation where a thousand Palestinian civilians are being indiscriminately massacred every day in an aerial slaughter seems like an obviously good idea on one level, but this was a rally emphasizing Jewish opposition to genocide specifically.

In a broader sense, in the course of the Palestinian struggle, lots of non-Palestinians and non-Muslims have played a vital role, international solidarity has been essential, if insufficient.  Just as with many other struggles for national liberation, from the fight against apartheid in South Africa to the amazing and successful struggle of the Vietnamese people against the world's biggest military power to the Spanish Civil War.  For purposes of popularizing a struggle as broadly as possible, and humanizing those from the struggle who are constantly being dehumanized by the western press, people from all over the world speaking every language, familiar with every culture, are of vital importance.

This is nothing new, of course, which is why I'm saying it so confidently.  It's not an idea I'm inventing, I'm just talking about reality as it has transpired.  International solidarity has played pivotal roles in all kinds of struggles globally, and this has involved people speaking the language, whether literally or musically or culturally or whatever else, of their people, in order to mobilize support for the cause.

My fear is that this kind of notion of centering Palestinian voices can be, or can become (and has in recent years in the context of what has been called the racial justice movement), a mantra that is repeated by folks who think that the idea of centering the voices of marginalized people is very important, as a matter of principle.  And I would just say that this can be true in principle at the same time as the idea of only using the voices of Palestinians to communicate to everyone in the world why Israeli apartheid and genocide is so terribly wrong and needs to end now would be a totally bonkers idea, if it were taken to that kind of extreme, but even in a more moderate form, it's very questionable, for reasons that should be obvious to anyone.  

It's a very big world with not all that many Palestinians in it.  We absolutely need to hear from Noam Chomsky, Desmond Tutu, Jimmy Carter, Phyllis Bennis and a hell of a lot of other people, in addition to Hanan Ashrawi, Mustafa Barghouti, and so many other brilliant people.

When Sharon's massacre at the Al-Aqsa Mosque on the anniversary of Sabra and Shatila took place in September, 2000, I wrote a song called "Children of Jerusalem," which got my next tour of Israel canceled, with my former friends there calling me a Nazi for writing a song sympathetic to Palestinians.  Then lots of other Israel supporters found out about the song and started calling me a Nazi, too.

Then the Palestinian diaspora started hearing about the song.  At that point I started getting flooded with love from Palestinians writing me from all over the global diaspora.  Two of them were TV producers in Manhattan, who asked me to come there so I could sing the song on a street corner with other people holding candles, a very well-staged event for TV.

Now, why did these folks like that song so much that they wanted to center it in their TV broadcast?  Why did it spread around in the Palestine solidarity community, as well as in Palestine itself?  Why did I hear stories of people getting a ride in a Palestinian taxi in the West Bank, and the taxi driver was playing my music, clearly for the educational benefit of their passengers?  Why didn't the TV producers and the taxi drivers play Feyrouz or Marcel Khalife instead?

The answer to this question was delivered to me with profound eloquence outside of the city of Jenin in 2005.  I had played my song, "They're Building A Wall" (which they were at the time), at an event at a place that was originally hoping to be a resort, but with no tourists allowed in and the Israelis cutting their electrical lines regularly, it never became much of one.  I was doing a tour of the West Bank organized by the nephew of the recently-assassinated head of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, my good friend Haithem El-Zabri.  Another man who had performed at the event along with me, a brilliant oud player, came to sit at our table, where several other Palestinian men were sitting, along with me and Haithem.

"I used to live in Europe," the oud player told me.  "But when I played my music there, it didn't affect people.  Here, I can just play a few notes, and people cry."

Incredibly, he then demonstrated this, even after telling us all what was about to happen in advance.  He played a few notes, and every Palestinian at the table had visibly watery eyes.

As a fellow musician, I actually knew exactly what he was talking about.  Most of the Palestinians I was playing for on that tour appreciated what I was doing on an abstract level.  They could read the lyrics and approve of them, but people who mainly listen to Arabic music are not likely to be emotionally affected by, say, Appalachian-sounding or Irish-sounding music.  It's too different, it doesn't play on the same heart strings, the heart strings are tuned differently in different cultures, they use different scales.  

Music is a universal language, but some music is more universal than others, depending on who's listening.  The point is to communicate effectively, however we possibly can, and stop a genocide, isn't it?  If there's any point at all to communication in the first place, then it needs to be effective, to convey messages that people want to act on, messages that change people's consciousness and inspire them to action.  This is why music has always been so central to social movements, and continues to be, across the Arab world, very much including among Palestinians, today.  It inspires and educates and builds community, and it does that best when it's in the language of the listeners, and in a musical style that they connect with.  The oud player and I both understood that viscerally, and obviously.

At the end of the Portland Jews Say No To Genocide rally I milled about a bit, talking with folks I hadn't seen in a long time.  A lot of folks were rushing to get off to the next rally at PSU, while others were taking it slower.  When maybe half the crowd was still around, a tall trans woman approached me, stood directly in front of me, and starting shouting loudly.

"YOU COMPLAIN ABOUT CANCEL CULTURE BUT THERE'S NO SUCH THING AS CANCEL CULTURE!  YOU INTERVIEWED A NAZI ON YOUR PODCAST!  YOU'RE A NAZI CONSORTIONIST!" 

"Do you want to talk about this?" I asked.  "Shall we go sit down and have a conversation?"

"I DON'T WANT TO TALK TO YOU!" she replied, still shouting at the top of her lungs, though slightly ineffectually, through an N95 mask.  "YOU INTERVIEWED A NAZI ON YOUR PODCAST!  I WANT YOU OUT!  GET OUT!  I WANT YOU OUT OF LEFT SPACES!  I'LL KEEP SHOUTING UNTIL YOU LEAVE!"

I took a picture of her, having reason to believe that she's the same person who has been working so hard for almost three years now to destroy my career, mainly by spending most of her waking hours on Twitter, contacting anyone associated with me to make sure they know I platform Nazis.

During the week of the siege of the Capitol I did interview a former white supremacist, who obviously this person thinks is still a white supremacist, despite what he says, and that's fine.  But apparently it's not fine, and me having interviewed the wrong person, despite how interesting and revealing the interview was, was a heretical sin and the only thing left to do is to shout at me wherever I appear in public, and try to get all my gigs canceled.

Thankfully, being shouted at like this by anyone was a fairly new experience for me.  I had no idea how to act, aside from not being the first one to throw a punch, for legal reasons.  Not that I'm an expert on this area of the law, but it seems better not to be the first one to get physical, though I naturally found myself meditating upon fantasies about breaking her nose, at least.

Eventually someone else intervened and spoke with her quietly.  Since he wasn't me, she spoke with him quietly, too.  Then she started shouting at me again when I approached to try to join the conversation, after a few seconds of speaking at a normal tone.

The man who intervened seemed to think the aggressive shouting woman had a legitimate grievance that I was dismissing.  When someone is shouting incoherently at you and doesn't want to actually communicate, the idea that this was supposed to be some kind of accountability process, or that one was needed, seems preposterous to me.  I believe his thinking is that this very loud, uber alpha male-acting trans person claims she's been hurt by me, therefore she has, therefore we're in need of some kind of accountability process here.  Not logic I agree with.

I hung around the area, not being one to be chased away by some dork who wants to shout at me.  I hung around long enough to see the tall, masked trans woman with no name walk away with a group of folks who looked like they might be college students.  They were apparently friends.  If they had seen their comrade shouting abuse at me a few minutes earlier, they didn't seem to be bothered by this behavior.

If Spotify didn't regularly inform me that a very large percentage of my fans are half my age, and live in the US, I might begin to despair about the state of this society, twenty years into most people's lives having been taken over by feeding the algorithms and selling advertisements on corporate social media platforms designed to foment conflict and polarization.  

If there are other things that warrant even more despair than what I strongly suspect will be this society's inability to overcome our atomized state and inability to stop this war, it is the children lying beneath the rubble, dying of thirst.

Linda Wiener's Echo

When people die, they leave behind many different kinds of echoes. There were a lot of people back in the 1960's like Ken Kesey who, for...