Category Archives: Intolerance

On the mad utopian dreams of neoliberals

A recent episode of Christ Hedges’s news series for Telesur English features an interview with Canadian intellectual provocateur John Ralston Saul on the twisted origins and pernicious intellectual distortions of neoliberal ideology.

An erudite scholar and ferocious analyst, Saul has relentlessly pilloried the intellectual perversions underlying much of modern economic thought in a series of books [most famously Voltaire’s Bastards: The Dictatorship of Reason in the West] and essays, with his most recent targets being the twisted rationales employed by apologists for an economic order that has given rise to modern plutocracy.

In conversation with Hedges, Saul worries that modern neoliberalism has proven to resemble Beniuto Mussolini’s fascism.

From The Real News Network:

Days of Revolt: Neoliberalism as Utopianism

From the transcript:

SAUL: Right? And what they did, most universities, was they did an intellectual cleansing of the economic historians to remove the possibility of doubt, the possibility of speculation on ideas, leaving these sort of hapless — mainly hapless macroeconomists, who fell quite easily into the hands, frankly, of the ideologues, the neoliberals, neoconservatives, who were — you know, let’s face it. What is this ideology? It’s an ideology of inevitability, an ideology based on self-interest, an ideology in which there is no real memory. And at the end of the day, it really is — it’s about power and money.

HEDGES: It’s about, you write, making every aspect of society conform to the dictates of the marketplace, which, as you point out, there’s nothing — and I think you say something like 2,000 or 5,000 years of human history to justify the absurdity that you should run a society based on —

SAUL: On the marketplace.

HEDGES: — the marketplace.

SAUL: Let me just take a tiny step back as a historical marker, which is the day that I realized that the neos were claiming that Edmund Burke was their godfather or whatever, I realized that we were into both lunacy and the denial of history, ‘cause, of course, in spite of his rather crazy things about Mary Antoinette and the French Revolution, most of his career was about inclusion, standing against slavery, standing for the American Revolution, and of course leading a fight for anti-racism and anti-imperialism in India — amazing democratic [incompr.] a liberal in the terms of the early 19th century. So when you see that these guys were trying to claim him, it’s like lunatics today claiming Christ or Muhammad to do absolutely unacceptable things.

And I think that the fascinating thing is once you get rid of history, once you get rid of memory, which they’ve done with economics, you suddenly start presenting economics as something that it isn’t, and you start saying, well, the market will lead. And these entirely theoretically sophisticated experts are quoting the invisible hand, which is, of course, an entirely low-level religious image–it’s the invisible hand of God, right, running the universe. As soon as you hear that term and they say, oh, that’s what Adam Smith said — but when you talk to them, they haven’t read Adam Smith. Adam Smith isn’t taught in the departments of economics. You get quotes from Adam Smith even when you’re doing an MA or whatever. They don’t know Adam Smith. They don’t know that he actually was a great voice for fairness, incredibly distrustful of businessmen and powerful businessmen, and said never allow them to be alone in a room together or they’ll combine and falsify the market and so on, so that what we’ve seen in the last half-century is this remarkable thing of big sophisticated societies allowing the marketplace to be pushed from, say, third or fourth spot of importance to number one and saying that the whole of society must be in a sense structured and judged and put together through the eyes of the marketplace and the rules of the marketplace. Nobody’s ever done this before.

HEDGES: How did it happen?

SAUL: Well, I mean, I think it happened gradually, partly by this emptying out of the public space, by this gradual —

HEDGES: What do you mean by that?

SAUL: Well, by the advancing of the idea of the technocracy and the gradual reduction of the space of serious political debate and ideas, and with that the rise of kinds of politicians who would be reliant on the technocracy and really were not themselves voices of ideas that would lead somewhere, you know, the humanist tradition, democratic tradition, egalitarian tradition. And we can see this all sort of petering out. And you can like them or dislike them, but you can see when the real idea of debate of ideas and risk on policy starts to peter out with Johnson and suddenly you’re into either populists or technocrats.

Headline of the day: Sharia law, Israeli style

More idiocy from The Only Democracy In The Middle East™, via the Guardian:

Jennifer Lawrence removed from Israeli Hunger Games posters

The star of Mockingjay – Part 2 has been deleted from marketing materials in Jerusalem and some other cities to avoid offending religious audiences

Posters for the final part of the dystopian action franchise in some parts of Israel have been redesigned so as to remove the Oscar-winning actor. Instead, Katniss Everdeen and her bow and arrow have been replaced with a mockingjay in a handful of cities across the country, including Bnei Brak and Jerusalem. “We discovered that public posters with the image of a female are often torn down in Jerusalem, while Bnei Brak does not allow posters with female images,” a representative of the film’s Israeli PR firm said to Ynet.

Fact of the day: Terrorism in the United States

From a report by Albert Samaha of BuzzFeed News on a 2011 lynching of an African American man in Mississippi:

In the United States, white supremacist terrorists have caused more deaths (31) than jihadis have since 9/11 (26), according to the nonpartisan New America Foundation.

Islamophobes play dangerous media game

Right wing propagandists eager to spread their loathing have taken up Photoshop and false branding in the wake of the attacks in Paris, throwing truth to the winds in their vicious smear campaigns.

What follows are two variations on a them.

First, the false branding, via The Independent:

A Facebook video being widely shared that supposedly shows Muslims in London celebrating in the aftermath of the Paris terror attacks is fake, it has been shown.

The video, entitled “Muslims Around The World Celebrate The Islamic Victory In Paris France”, claims to show a large group of Muslim men cheering and waving Pakistani flags outside Tooting Broadway station in south London, following Isis’ statement claiming responsibility for the attacks.

The voice of a newsreader can be heard over the cheering, describing scenes of Friday’s violence in which 129 people were killed in a wave of attacks.

It has since been revealed that the footage actually shows British Pakistanis celebrating a cricket victory during the 20/20 games in 2009.

And the Photoshop variant, via RT:

A Sikh man from Canada found himself at the center of unwanted attention after a bathroom selfie he took was doctored to make him look like one of the suicide bombers involved in the Paris attacks and then spread in the media.

The digitally altered image of Veerender Jubbal showed him wearing what looked like a suicide vest and holding a Quran. It appeared on the front-page of one of Spain’s largest newspapers, La Razon.

It was subsequently picked up by two Italian newspapers and an Italian TV channel with nearly 2 million followers. “One of the terrorists may have entered Greece along with Syrian refugees. The unidentified attackers were between 15 and 18 years and acted in three teams,” read the text by the image of Jubbal. La Razon apologized on Sunday afternoon.

On the left is the Photoshop version, with the original on the right:


Sikhs like Jubbal aren’t even Muslims, though they are all too often the targets of violence, including murder, by those out to injure followers of Islam.

Laura Flanders: Surveillance and community

Los Angeles has always been one of the bastions of the surveillance state, where all means, fair and foul, were used to investigate and discredit not only criminals but activists who were deemed a threat to the city’s powerful business interests.

Bombs, sex, blackmail, and — quite possibly — murder were tools in the hands of the city’s “Red Squad” and its successors, the Public Disorder Intelligence Division, the Organized Crime Intelligence Division, and the Anti-Terrorist Division.

We have written before about our own journalistic experience with these organizations, as have other journalists, and the record is indeed grim [see this timeline from the Anderson Valley Advertiser for more details].

While a series of lawsuits forced significant reforms in LAPD’s surveillance regime, they have been significantly undone thanks to the political expediency of the “War on Terror.”

From the Laura Flanders Show via Telesur English:

Hamid Khan: The Surveillance-Industrial Complex

Program notes:

Surveillance, spying, and infiltration has a long history in the United States — from the Police Red Squads in the 1880s to the FBI’s Counter-Intelligence Program (COINTELPRO) to today. This week’s guest says The “surveillance-industrial complex” has profound but poorly understood impacts on our political, structural, economic, and cultural lives. Hamid Kahn is the director of the Stop LAPD Spying Coalition, and serves on the boards of several organizations, including the National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, Political Research Associates, and Youth Justice Coalition. Also in this episode, we meet the students that forced Columbia University to divest from private prisons. All this, and Laura discusses US government spying on Black Lives Matter movement activists.

In October, 2011, Larry Aubry described one notorious Los Angeles Police surveillance program for readers of his column in the LA Sentinel, a publication serving that city’s African American community:

The Los Angeles Police Department’s Special Order 11 (SO 11) is the lead model of the National Suspicious Activity Reporting (SAR) initiative launched in 2008. SO 11 trains and authorizes LAPD officers to gather street level intelligence and information based entirely on “observed behavior.” Such purely, and/or largely subjective and arbitrary police action signals a “surveillance industrial/governmental complex” at the local level. Through SO 11, LAPD and the Department of Homeland Security have established a vague and ambiguous reporting system combined with vague and virtually unlimited authority. SO 11 solidifies a system that normalizes racial profiling and places the brunt of repressive policies on Blacks, other communities of color and immigrants.

SO 11’s fundamental premise is that each and every person is a suspect, hence, a threat to national security. It codifies “suspicious activities” through a LAPD, Suspicious Activities Report (SAR) that documents “any reported or observed activity or criminal act, or attempted criminal act which an officer “believes may reveal a nexus to foreign or domestic terrorism,” which is downright scary.

Here are excerpts from LAPD Special Order on SAR, APPENDIX B: “Information reported in a SAR may be the result of observations or investigations by police officers, or may be reported to them by private parties. Incidents (over 40 listed) which shall be reported on a SAR include the following: “Engages in suspected pre-operational surveillance (used binoculars or cameras, takes measurements, draws diagrams, etc.); appears to engage in counter-surveillance efforts (doubles back, changes appearance, evasive driving, etc.); engages security personnel in questions focusing on sensitive subjects (security information, hours of operation, shift changes, what security cameras film, etc.);

“Takes measurements (counts footsteps, measures building entrances or perimeters, distances between security locations, distances between cameras, etc.; takes pictures of video footage (with no apparent aesthetic value, i.e., camera angles, security equipment, security personnel, traffic lights, building entrances, etc.); in possession of, or solicits, sensitive event schedules (i. e., Staples, Convention Center) ” , etc., etc…….” God forbid!

And Darwin Bond-Graham and Ali Winston wrote about the newest twists in LAPD’s panopticon ambitions for LA Weekly in February 2014:

Los Angeles and Southern California police. . .are expanding their use of surveillance technology such as intelligent video analytics, digital biometric identification and military-pedigree software for analyzing and predicting crime. Information on the identity and movements of millions of Southern California residents is being collected and tracked.

In fact, Los Angeles is emerging as a major laboratory for testing and scaling up new police surveillance technologies. The use of military-grade surveillance tools is migrating from places like Fallujah to neighborhoods including Watts and even low-crime areas of the San Fernando Valley, where surveillance cameras are proliferating like California poppies in spring.

The use of militarized surveillance technology appears to be spreading beyond its initial applications during the mid-2000s in high-crime areas to now target narrow, specific crimes such as auto theft. Now, LAPD and the Los Angeles County Sheriff are monitoring the whereabouts of residents whether they have committed a crime or not. The biggest surveillance net is license plate reading technology that records your car’s plate number as you pass police cruisers equipped with a rooftop camera, or as you drive past street locations where such cameras are mounted.

If history teaches anything, it’s that the forces of repression will exploit any tragedy to augment their own powers. The history of the LAPD offers ample proof.

Israel threatens Palestinians with death by gas

An armored sound truck moves slowly down a village street, it’s speakers blaring a message: Stop resisting or we will gas you all to death. “The children, the youth, the old people, we won’t leave any of you alive.”

So where did it happen? And who was broadcasting the lethal warning?

If you guess that, perhaps, the message came from SS troops in a Russian shtetl in the summer of 1942 you would be wrong .

The warning came from the Israeli army on 29 October 2015, and the targets of the message were Palestinians in the Aida Refugee Camp, where youths had been throwing rocks at Israeli troops.

The stunning images are featured in the final seconds of the latest edition of Empire Files, Abby Martin’s show for Telesur English, featuring an interview with Max Blumenthal on the reason for rising Palestinian resistance in Israel and the lands under its occupation.

What is most chilling are the members of the rising Israeli neofascist Right, including a Minister of Justice who has openly called for genocide of Palestinians.

From Empire Files:

Max Blumenthal: Palestine’s Rebellion, Israel’s Fascism

Program notes:

Abby Martin interviews journalist and author Max Blumenthal on the current situation in Palestine and the Israeli occupation. This episode covers what is behind today’s rebellion, the rising dominance of far-right, ultra-racist ideology in Israel, eye-witness accounts of the aftermath of the Gaza war, and the Israeli government’s fear of Palestinian resistance.

Max Blumenthal is an award-winning journalist and author of the New York Times Best Seller “Goliath: Life and Loathing in Greater Israel”, and the recently-published “The 51 Day War: Ruin and Resistance in Gaza.”

Tom Toles: Historical parallels are noted

From the editorial cartoonist of the Washington Post:

BLOG Toles

And historian Peter A. Shulman notes another historical parallel in a July 1938 poll taken by Fortune three months before Kristallnacht, the Nazis first nationwide anti-Jewish pogrom: