Monday, October 27, 2014

Sunday, October 12, 2014



Joke #1: So, these three moon-landing deniers walk into a bar. But it could have been a secret studio in Texas fitted out to look like it's a bar.

Joke #2: And the bartender says, "So, why are you all dressed this way?"
So, these three time-travelers walk into a bar.

Joke #3: So, these three postmodernists walk into a bar. There are several competing punchlines that problematize a neat and tidy resolution of this joke.

Joke #4: So, these three conspiracy-theorists walk into a bar. Do you honestly believe that was nothing but a coincidence??!!

Joke #5: So, Gaddafi and Mubarek walk into a bar. After they left, the Muslim Brotherhood won the elections, banned alcohol, and closed the bar.

Joke #6: Three Arab post-colonialists walk into a bar. But then they refuse to continue the joke because it's based on White Man stereotypes.

Joke #7: So a Muslim, a Christian & a Jew walk into a bar. According to new guidelines on religious tolerance, they enjoy a mutually respectful time.

Joke #8: So three post-structuralists walk into a bar. It's impossible to articulate what happened to them individually in one coherent punchline.

Joke #9: So three Jordanians walk into a bar. The king removes the Prime Minister & dissolves the parliament. That's how all stories finish in Jordan.

Joke #10: So a minimalist walks into a bar.

Joke #11: So three poets walked into a bar. But they drove away in an automobile. Because modern poetry doesn't have to rhyme.

Joke #12: The Pope, the Ayatollah and the Grand Sheikh walk into a bar, but they can't agree on how best to oppress the lady bartender.

Joke #13: So three Iranian presidential candidates walk into a bar. We're waiting for the Supreme Leader to issue the punchline.

Joke #14: So Žižek and Chomsky walk into a bar. Chomsky said the punchline is empirically wrong. Žižek used a Lacanian metaphor about Chomsky's mother.

Joke #15: So three EU commissioners walk into a bar. The punchline is utterly incomprehensible but available in 24 languages.

Joke #16: So three French thinkers walk into a bar. But they refuse to continue the joke because the format represents Anglo-Saxon cultural hegemony.

Joke #17: So a Maronite, a Sunni, a Shiite, a Druze, a Greek Orthodox, a Greek Catholic, an Armen... Oh never mind; there's not enough space for a Lebanese bar joke.

Friday, September 26, 2014

song "Roosevelt Room," Conor Oberst and The Mystic Valley Band (with lyrics)

Hey there, Son of Adam
Hey there, Daughter of Eve
Help me sing this tear gas riot song
To some fresh faced police
They won't even know what hit them
When they lift their Roman shades
And the people's song comes pouring in
On a brand new day

You who damn the river
You who changed our mountain's name
First we want denali back
Then we're taking on Washington's states
You give death as a consolation
You know only hate and rage
You paid a dowry for your child's rights
Now she's living like a slave

A prayer came down the wire
It was all in the enemy's code
You couldn't figure out what mercy meant
So you did like you were told
When they finally sent the doctors
Once the fireball went out
There was nothing left but the cockroaches
In a movie with no sound

What good, what good are you?
With your cynical flag and your Roosevelt room
What good, what good are you?
With your Cherokee trail and your unattended tomb

Go ask Hunter Thompson
Go ask Hemingway's ghost
It all catches up with you
Once you get just a little too old
Take a hard look in the mirror
It's a thing that you cannot see
Your shadows alone but the day is young
It just wasn't meant to be

There's no blankets for the winter
There's no oil in the lamp
And I'd like to write my congressman
But I can't afford the stamp
You want me to pay my taxes
So you can propagate your lie
While there's barefoot dudes down in New Orleans
Looking like they're gonna die

Yeah, you who quote the legends
You who poisoned all of my dreams
You pinned all of the medals on
All the boys from Omaha Beach
Hope you haven't got too lazy
I know you like your apple pie
Cause the working poor you've been pissing on
Are doing double shifts tonight

What good, what good are you?
With your cynical flag and your Roosevelt room
What good, what good are you?
With your Cherokee trail and your unattended tomb

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Eve of Destruction, Barry McGuire (original version, with lyrics)

The eastern world it is exploding
Violence flarin’, bullets loadin’
You're old enough to kill but not for votin’
You don’t believe in war but what’s that gun you're totin’?
And even the Jordan River has bodies floatin’

But you tell me
Over and over and over again my friend
Ah, you don’t believe
We're on the eve of destruction

Don’t you understand what I'm tryin’ to say
Can’t you feel the fears I'm feelin’ today?
If the button is pushed, there's no runnin’ away
There’ll be no one to save with the world in a grave
Take a look around you boy, it's bound to scare you boy

And you tell me
Over and over and over again my friend
Ah, you don't believe
We’re on the eve of destruction

Yeah my blood’s so mad feels like coagulating
I'm sitting here just contemplatin’
I can’t twist the truth; it knows no regulation
Handful of senators don't pass legislation
And marches alone can't bring integration
When human respect is disintegratin’
This whole crazy world is just too frustratin’

And you tell me
Over and over and over again my friend
Ah, you don’t believe
We're on the eve of destruction

Think of all the hate there is in Red China
Then take a look around to Selma, Alabama
You may leave here for four days in space
But when you return it's the same old place
The pounding of the drums, the pride and disgrace
You can bury your dead but don't leave a trace
Hate your next door neighbor, but don’t forget to say grace

And tell me
Over and over and over and over again my friend
You don’t believe
We're on the eve of destruction
No, no, you don’t believe
We’re on the eve of destruction

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Green Day - Wake Me Up When September Ends (with lyrics on screen)

green day - holiday - lyrics

Green Day - Know Your Enemy (With Lyrics)

green day - american idiot - lyrics

Rage Against The Machine - Sleep Now In The Fire

Manu Chao - Clandestino (Official Video)

F*ck tha police nwa lyrics

Zombie Fela kuti with lyrics

The Drones - Jezebel

Tom Waits - Day After Tomorrow

Bruce Springsteen - How Can a Poor Man Stand Such Times...

Radiohead - Idioteque (Lyrics On Screen)

MIA- Born Free (lyrics On Screen)

Bright Eyes, Lifted (playlist)

Desaparecidos - MariKKKopa

Desaparecidos - "Anonymous"

Bright Eyes - When The President Talks To God (Lyrics)

Against All Authority - Ugly Desires

Ramones - This Business Is Killing Me

Suicide Machines, Steal this Record

Jello Biafra And The Guantanamo School Of Medicine - Strength Thru Shopping

Jarvis Cocker, Running the World

Conor Oberst and The Mystic Valley Band, Roosevelt Room

Woody Guthrie, This Land is Your Land

Rage Against the Machine, No Shelter

Dead Kennedys, Stars and Stripes of Corruption

The Clash, Lost in the Supermarket

System of a Down, Boom!

Dixie Chicks, Not Ready to Make Nice

Sierra Leone's All Stars, Living Like a Refugee

Hip Hop for Respect, A Tree Never Grown

Super Furry Animals, The Man Don't Give a Fuck

Tupac, Keep Ya Head Up

Sonic Youth, Swimsuit Issue

Bob Dylan, Only a Pawn in their Game

Tupac, Changes

DAM, Meen Erhebi

Ani Difranco, Self-Evident

Bruce Springsteen, 41 Shots (with lyrics)

Playlist, more protest songs

Carl Read, If I had a Rocket Launcher

Paul Robeson, Joe Hill

Killer Mike, Reagan (with lyrics)

Public Enemy, Fight the Power (with lyrics)

Bruce Springsteen, Born in the USA

Bob Dylan, The Times, They Are A-Changin'

Rodriguez, This Is Not a song, It's an Outburst, or the Establishment Blues

John Lennon, Power to the People

Creedence Clearwater Revival, Fortunate Son (with lyrics)

Gil Scot-Heron, The Revolution Will Not Be Televised

Crass, Where Next Columbus?

James McMurtry, We Can't Make it Here Anymore

Bob Marley, War

Jimmy Cliff, Vietnam

Frank Zappa, Trouble Every Day

Rodriguez, playlist of songs

Minutemen, This Ain't No Picnic

Mischief Brew, Thanks Bastards!

Nina Simone, Strange Fruit

Barry McGuire, Eve of Destruction

P.F. Sloan, Sins of a Family

Indigo Girls, Shame on You

Dennis Brown, Revolution

Bob Marley, Redemption Song

Ohio, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young

Billy Bragg, My Youngest Son Came Home Today

Nina Simone, Mississippi Goddam!

Phil Ochs, The Marines Have Landed on the Shores of Santo Domingo

Funkadelic, March to the Witch's Castle

Bob Dylan, The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll

Dead Kennedys, Kill the Poor

Marvin Gaye, Inner City Blues

Bob Marley, Get Up, Stand Up

Sam Cooke, A Change is Gonna Come

Tony Babino, The Internationale

Mavis Staples, Keep Your Eyes on the Prize

Bruce Springsteen, The Seeger Sessions

Bruce Springsteen, Youngstown

Bruce Springsteen, The Ghost of Tom Joad

Fugazi, Margin Walker

Fugazi, Great Cop

One Last Wish, Break to Broken

Fugazi, Five Corporations

Fugazi, Shut the Door

Sleater-Kinney, Youth Decay

Velvet Revolver, Slither

Tool, Aenema

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Leaving Democracy to the Experts

TISA’s secret trade negotiations quietly restructure our global economy.

On June 19, the second anniversary of Julian Assange’s confinement to the Ecuadorian embassy in London, WikiLeaks rendered public the secret draft text for the Trade in Services Agreement (TISA) Financial Services Annex. The document was classified not only during TISA negotiations, but for five years after it enters into force. 

While the TISA negotiations have not been censored outright, they have been barely mentioned in the media— a marginalization and secrecy that are in stark contrast with the world-historical importance of the TISA agreement. TISA would effectively serve as a kind of legal backbone for the restructuring of the world market, binding future governments regardless of who wins elections and what the courts say. It would impose a restrictive framework on public services, making it more difficult both to develop new ones and protect existing ones.

Is this discrepancy between politico-economic importance and secrecy really surprising? Is it not rather a sad but precise indication of where we in Western liberal-democratic countries stand with regard to democracy? A century and half ago, in Das Kapital, Karl Marx characterized the market exchange between worker and capitalist as “a very Eden of the innate rights of man. There alone rule Freedom, Equality, Property and Bentham.”

For Marx, the ironic addition of Jeremy Bentham, the philosopher of egotist utilitarianism, provides the key to what freedom and equality effectively mean in capitalist society. To quote The Communist Manifesto: “By freedom is meant, under the present bourgeois conditions of production, free trade, free selling and buying.” And by equality is meant the legal formal equality of buyer and seller, even if one of them is forced to sell his labor under any conditions, like today’s precarious workers. Today, freedom means the free flow of capital, as well as of the financial and personal data (both flows guaranteed by TISA). But what about democracy?

The main culprits of the 2008 financial meltdown now impose themselves as experts who can lead us on the painful path of financial recovery, and whose advice should therefore overcome parliamentary politics. Or, as former Italian prime minister and EU technocrat Mario Monti put it: “If governments let themselves be fully bound by the decisions of their parliaments without protecting their own freedom to act, a breakup of Europe would be a more probable outcome than deeper integration.”

Which, then, is the higher force whose authority can suspend the decisions of the democratically elected representatives of the people? As early as 1998, the answer was provided by Hans Tietmeyer, then the governor of the Deutsches Bundesbank, who held up “the permanent plebiscite of global markets” as superior to the “plebiscite of the ballot box.” Note the democratic rhetoric of this obscene statement: Global markets are more democratic than parliamentary elections, since the process of voting goes on in them permanently, rather than every four years, and globally, rather than within the limits of a nation-state. The underlying idea: When separated from this higher control of markets (and experts), parliamentary-democratic decisions are “irresponsible.”

This, then, is where we stand with regard to democracy. The TISA agreements are a perfect example. The key decisions concerning our economy are negotiated in secrecy, out of our sight, with no public debate. And such decisions set the coordinates for the unencumbered rule of capital. This severely limits the space for the decisions of democratically elected political representatives, leaving the political process to deal predominantly with issues toward which capital is indifferent, like the outcome of cultural wars.

Consequently, the release of the TISA draft marks a new stage in the WikiLeaks strategy. Until now, its activity has focused on making public how our lives are monitored and regulated by intelligence agencies of the state—the standard liberal concern of individuals threatened by oppressive state apparatuses. Now, another controlling force appears—capital—that threatens our freedom in a much more twisted way, perverting our very sense of freedom.

Since our society elevates free choice into a supreme value, social control and domination can no longer appear to be infringing on subject’s freedom. Un-freedom, then, is cloaked in the guise of its opposite: When we are deprived of universal healthcare, we are told that we are given a new freedom to choose our healthcare provider; when we no longer can rely on longterm employment and are compelled to search for a new precarious work every couple of years, we are told that we are given the opportunity to reinvent ourselves and discover new unexpected creative potentials that lurked in our personality; when we have to pay for the education of our children, we are told that we become “entrepreneurs of the self,” free to invest in our own—and our children’s—personal growth and fulfillment.

Constantly bombarded by these imposed “free choices,” forced to make decisions for which we are mostly not even properly qualified or informed, our “freedom of choice” increasingly becomes a burden that deprives us of true freedom of choice—the choice (or rather, decision) to move beyond market-freedom into the freedom of collectively organizing and regulating the process of production and exchange. It is more and more becoming clear that only in this way will humanity be able to cope with antagonisms that threaten its very survival (ecology, biogenetics, “intellectual property,” the rise of the new class of those excluded from public life).

Perhaps this paradox throws a new light on our obsession with the ongoing events in Ukraine—events extensively covered by the media, in clear contrast to the predominant silence on TISA. What fascinates us in the West is not the fact that people in Kiev stood up for the mirage of the European way of life, but that they—seemingly, at least—simply stood up and tried to take their fate into their own hands. They acted as a political agent enforcing a radical change—something that, as the TISA negotiations demonstrate, we in the West no longer have the choice to do

Slavoj Žižek, a Slovenian philosopher and psychoanalyst, is a senior researcher at the Institute for Advanced Study in the Humanities, in Essen, Germany. He has also been a visiting professor at more than 10 universities around the world. Žižek is the author of many other books, including Living in the End TimesFirst As Tragedy, Then As FarceThe Fragile Absolute, and Did Somebody Say Totalitarianism? He lives in London.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Slavoj Zizek and Julian Assange with Amy Goodman

Zizek! (documentary film) Subtítulos en Español

Portrait of a Philosopher

Marx Reloaded

Capitalism is Anti-Christian, Michael Moore

Tony Babino, The Internationale

Die Internationale

Lied der Partei

Brecht, Die Mutter

Maria Pharantoure, Los Libertadores (Canto General)

Canto General, Mikis Theodorakis and Pablo Neruda

For Whom the Bell Tolls audiobook

Ay Manuela

Viva la XV Brigada

Jarama Valley

The Last Lincoln Veteran

Stalin Declassified

Monday, July 14, 2014

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

"Reluctance," by Robert Frost


Out through the fields and the woods
   And over the walls I have wended;
I have climbed the hills of view
   And looked at the world, and descended;
I have come by the highway home,
   And lo, it is ended.

The leaves are all dead on the ground,
   Save those that the oak is keeping
To ravel them one by one
   And let them go scraping and creeping
Out over the crusted snow,
   When others are sleeping.

And the dead leaves lie huddled and still,
   No longer blown hither and thither;
The last lone aster is gone;
   The flowers of the witch hazel wither;
The heart is still aching to seek,
   But the feet question ‘Whither?’

Ah, when to the heart of man
   Was it ever less than a treason
To go with the drift of things,
   To yield with a grace to reason,
And bow and accept the end
   Of a love or a season?

— Robert Frost

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Slavoj Žižek: Only a radicalised left can save Europe

Austerity is not “too radical”, as some leftist critics claim, but, on the contrary, too superficial, an act of avoiding the true roots of the crisis, says Slavoj Žižek.

After the electoral triumph of the anti-immigrant eurosceptic parties in countries like France and UK, many liberals expressed their shock and worry. However, there was something of a feigned naivety in their surprise and indignation, in their wonder at how the victory of the populist right was possible. What one should wonder about is why it took the anti-immigrant right so long to make a decisive breakthrough.

When Jean-Marie Le Pen made a tasteless gas-chamber joke about a French Jewish pop singer – “we’ll do an oven load next time” (Le Pen denies this was intended to be anti-Semitic) – his daughter Marine Le Pen publicly criticised him, thereby promoting her image as her father’s human face. It is irrelevant if this family conflict is staged or real – the oscillation between the two faces, the brutal one and the civilised one, is what defines today’s populist right. Beneath the civilised public face, there lurks its obscene, brutal underside, and the difference concerns only the degree to which this underside is openly admitted. Even if this obscene underside remains totally out of sight, even if it there are no slips in which it breaks through, it is there as a silent presupposition, as an invisible point of reference. Without her father’s spectre, Marine Le Pen doesn’t exist.

There is no surprise in Le Pen’s message: the usual anti-elitist working class patriotism which targets trans-national financial powers and the alienated Bruxelles bureaucracy. And, effectively, Le Pen forms a clear contrast to the sterile European technocrats: addressing the worries of ordinary people, she brings passion back to politics. Even some disoriented leftists succumbed to the temptation to defend her: she rejects the non-elected Bruxelles financial technocrats who brutally enforce the interest of the international financial capital, prohibiting individual states prioritising the welfare of their own population; she thus advocates a politics that would be in contact with worries and cares of the ordinary working people – her party’s fascist outbursts are a thing of the past. . . What unites Le Pen and the European leftists who sympathise with her is their shared rejection of a strong Europe, and the return to the full sovereignty of nation states.

The problem with this shared rejection is that, as they say in a joke, Le Pen is not looking for the causes of the distresses in the dark corner where they really are, but under the light, because one sees better there. It begins with the right premise: the failure of the austerity politics practised by the Bruxelles experts. When the Romanian leftist writer Panait Istrati visited Soviet Union in the 1930s, the time of the big purges and show trials, a Soviet apologist tried to convince him of the need for violence against enemies, evoking the proverb “You can’t make an omelette without breaking eggs”, to which Istrati tersely replied: “All right. I can see the broken eggs. Where’s this omelette of yours?” We should say the same about the austerity measures imposed by the Bruxelles technocrats: “OK, you are breaking our eggs all around Europe, but where’s the omelette you are promising us?”

The least one can say is that the economic crisis of 2008 offers large proofs of how is it not the people but these experts themselves who, in their large majority, don’t know what they are doing. In western Europe, we are effectively witnessing a growing inability of the ruling elite – they know less and less how to rule. Look at how Europe is dealing with the Greek crisis: putting pressure on Greece to repay debts, but at the same time ruining its economy through imposed austerity measures and thereby making it sure the Greek debt will never be repaid. At the end of December 2012, the IMF itself released research showing that the economic damage from aggressive austerity measures may be as much as three times larger than previously assumed, thereby cancelling its own advice on austerity in the eurozone crisis. Now, the IMF admits that forcing Greece and other debt-burdened countries to reduce their deficits too quickly would be counterproductive… now, after hundreds of thousands of job have been lost because of such “miscalculations”.

It is as if the providers and caretakers of debt accuse the indebted countries of not feeling enough guilt – they are accused of feeling innocent. Recall the ongoing EU pressure on Greece to implement austerity measures – this pressure fits perfectly what psychoanalysis calls superego. Superego is not an ethical agency proper, but a sadistic agent which bombards the subject with impossible demands, obscenely enjoying the subject’s failure to comply with them; the paradox of the superego is that, as Freud saw it clearly, the more we obey its demands, the more we feel guilty. Imagine a vicious teacher who gives his pupils impossible tasks, and then sadistically jeers when he sees their anxiety and panic. This is what is so terribly wrong with the EU’s demands and commands: they don’t even give a chance to Greece, because Greek failure is part of the game.

Therein resides the true message of the “irrational” popular protests all around Europe: the protesters know very well what they don’t know, they don’t pretend to have fast and easy answers, but what their instinct is telling them is nonetheless true – that those in power also don’t know it. In Europe today, the blind are leading the blind. Austerity politics is not really science, not even in a minimal sense; it is much closer to a contemporary form of superstition – a kind of gut reaction to an impenetrable complex situation, a blind common sense reaction of “things went wrong, we are somehow guilty, we have to pay the price and suffers, so let’s do something that hurts and spend less…”. Austerity is not “too radical”, as some leftist critics claim, but, on the contrary, too superficial, an act of avoiding the true roots of the crisis.

However, can the idea of a united Europe be reduced to the reign of the Bruxelles technocrats? The proof that this is not the case is that the US and Israel, two exemplary nation states obsessed with their sovereignty, at some deep and often obfuscated level perceive European Union as the enemy. This perception, kept under control in the public political discourse, explodes in its underground obscene double, the extreme right Christian fundamentalist political vision with its obsessive fear of the New World Order (Obama is in secret collusion with the United Nations, international forces will intervene in the US and put in concentration camps all true American patriots – a couple of years ago, there were already rumors that Latino American troupes are already in the Midwest planes, building concentration camps. . .). This vision is deployed in hard-line Christian fundamentalism, exemplarily in the works of Tim LaHaye et consortes – the title of one of LaHaye’s novels points in this direction: The Europa Conspiracy. The true enemy of the US are not Muslim terrorists, they are merely puppets secretly manipulated by the European secularists, the true forces of the anti-Christ who want to weaken the US and establish the New World Order under the domination of the United Nations… In a way, they are right in this perception: Europe is not just another geopolitical power block, but a global vision which is ultimately incompatible with nation-states, a vision of a transnational order that guarantees certain rights (welfare, freedom, etc). This dimension of the EU provides the key to the so-called European “weakness”: there is a surprising correlation between European unification and its loss of global military-political power.

So what is wrong with the Bruxelles technocrats? Not only their measures, their false expertise, but even more their modus operandi. The basic mode of politics today is a depoliticised expert administration and coordination of interests. The only way to introduce passion into this field, to actively mobilise people, is through fear: fear of immigrants, fear of crime, fear of godless sexual depravity, fear of the excessive state itself, with its burden of high taxation, fear of ecological catastrophe, fear of harassment (Political Correctness is the exemplary liberal form of the politics of fear). Progressive liberals are, of course, horrified by populist racism; however, a closer look soon reveals how their multicultural tolerance and respect for (ethnic, religious, sexual) others shares a basic premise with anti-immigrants: the fear of others clearly discernible in the liberals’ obsession with harassment. The other is fine, but only insofar as his presence is not intrusive, insofar as this other is not really other. . .

No wonder the topic of “toxic subjects” is gaining ground recently. While this notion originates from popular psychology that warns us against the emotional vampires who prey on us out there, this topic is expanding much further than immediate interpersonal relations: the predicate “toxic” covers a series properties which belong to totally different levels (natural, cultural, psychological, political). A “toxic subject” can be an immigrant with a deadly disease who should be quarantined; a terrorist whose deadly plans should be prevented and who belongs to Guantanamo, the empty zone exempted from the rule of law; a fundamentalist ideologue who should be silenced because he is spreading hatred; a parent, teacher or priest who abuses and corrupts children. What is toxic is ultimately the foreign neighbour as such, so that the ultimate aim of all rules governing interpersonal relations is to quarantine or at least neutralise and contain this toxic dimension.

On today’s market, we find a whole series of products deprived of their malignant property: coffee without caffeine, cream without fat, beer without alcohol. . . And the list goes on: what about virtual sex as sex without sex, the Colin Powell doctrine of warfare with no casualties (on our side, of course) as warfare without warfare, the contemporary redefinition of politics as the art of expert administration as politics without politics, up to today’s tolerant liberal multiculturalism as an experience of the other deprived of its otherness – the decaffeinated other who dances fascinating dances and has an ecologically sound holistic approach to reality, while features like wife beating remain out of sight. . .

Is this detoxification of the immigrant Other not the main point of Nigel Farage’s Ukip programme? Farage repeatedly emphasises that he is not against the presence of foreign workers in the UK, that he highly appreciates the hard-working Poles and their contribution to the British economy. When he was asked on LBC about why he said that people wouldn't like to have Romanians living in the appartment next to their own, the contrast was immediately drawn with German neighbours – what worried him, he said, were people with criminal records being allowed to enter the UK. This is the stance of the “civilised” anti-immigrant right: the politics of the detoxified neighbour – good Germans versus bad Romanians or Roma. This vision of the detoxification of the Neighbour presents a clear passage from direct barbarism to barbarism with a human face. In what conditions does it arise?

Walter Benjamin’s old thesis that behind every rise of fascism there is a failed revolution not only still holds today, but is perhaps more pertinent than ever. Rightist liberals like to point out similarities between left and right “extremisms”: Hitler’s terror and camps imitated Bolshevik terror, the Leninist party is today alive in al-Qaeda – does this not rather indicate how fascism replaces (takes the place of) a failed leftist revolution? Its rise is the left’s failure, but simultaneously a proof that there was a revolutionary potential, a dissatisfaction which the left was not able to mobilise. And does the same not hold for today’s so-called “islamo-fascism”? Is the rise of radical Islamism not correlative to the disappearance of the secular left in Muslim countries? Today, when Afghanistan is portrayed as the utmost Islamic fundamentalist country, who still remembers that, 30 years ago, it was a country with strong secular tradition, up to a powerful Communist party which took power there independently of the Soviet Union? As Thomas Frank has shown, the same goes for Kansas, the homegrown US version of Afghanistan: the very state which was till the 1970s the bedrock of radical leftist populism, is today the bedrock of Christian fundamentalism. And the same goes for Europe: the failure of the leftist alternative to global capitalism gives birth to anti-immigrant populism.

Even in the case of clearly fundamentalist movements, one should be careful not to miss the social component. The Taliban are regularly presented as a fundamentalist Islamist group enforcing its rule with terror – however, when, in the spring of 2009, they took over the Swat Valley in Pakistan, New York Times reported that they engineered “a class revolt that exploits profound fissures between a small group of wealthy landlords and their landless tenants”. If, by taking advantage of the farmers’ plight, the Taliban are “raising alarm about the risks to Pakistan, which remains largely feudal”, what stops liberal democrats in Pakistan as well as the US similarly “taking advantage” of this plight and trying to help the landless farmers? The sad implication of this fact is that the feudal forces in Pakistan are the “natural ally” of the liberal democracy. . . And, mutatis mutandis, the same goes for Farage and Le Pen: their rise is the obverse of the demise of the radical left.

The lesson that the frightened liberals should learn is thus: only a radicalised left can save what is worth saving from the liberal legacy. The sad prospect that lurks if this doesn’t happen is the unity of the two poles: the rule of nameless financial technocrats wearing a mask of populist pseudo-passions.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

How WikiLeaks opened our eyes to the illusion of freedom

by Slavoj Žižek
Julian Assange, who went into exile in the Ecuadorean embassy two years ago, has blown apart the myth of western liberty

We remember anniversaries that mark the important events of our era: September 11 (not only the 2001 Twin Towers attack, but also the 1973 military coup against Allende in Chile), D-day, etc. Maybe another date should be added to this list: 19 June.

Most of us like to take a stroll during the day to get a breath of fresh air. There must be a good reason for those who cannot do it – maybe they have a job that prevents it (miners, submariners), or a strange illness that makes exposure to sunlight a deadly danger. Even prisoners get their daily hour's walk in fresh air.

Today, 19 June, marks two years since Julian Assange was deprived of this right: he is permanently confined to the apartment that houses the Ecuadorian embassy in London. Were he to step out of the apartment, he would be arrested immediately. What did Assange do to deserve this? In a way, one can understand the authorities: Assange and his whistleblowing colleagues are often accused of being traitors, but they are something much worse (in the eyes of the authorities).

Assange designated himself a "spy for the people". "Spying for the people" is not a simple betrayal (which would instead mean acting as a double agent, selling our secrets to the enemy); it is something much more radical. It undermines the very principle of spying, the principle of secrecy, since its goal is to make secrets public. People who help WikiLeaks are no longer whistleblowers who denounce the illegal practices of private companies (banks, and tobacco and oil companies) to the public authorities; they denounce to the wider public these public authorities themselves.

We didn't really learn anything from WikiLeaks we didn't already presume to be true – but it is one thing to know it in general and another to get concrete data. It is a little bit like knowing that one's sexual partner is playing around. One can accept the abstract knowledge of it, but pain arises when one learns the steamy details, when one gets pictures of what they were doing.

When confronted with such facts, should every decent US citizen not feel deeply ashamed? Until now, the attitude of the average citizen was hypocritical disavowal: we preferred to ignore the dirty job done by secret agencies. From now on, we can't pretend we don't know.

It is not enough to see WikiLeaks as an anti-American phenomenon. States such as China and Russia are much more oppressive than the US. Just imagine what would have happened to someone like Chelsea Manning in a Chinese court. In all probability, there would be no public trial; she would just disappear.

The US doesn't treat prisoners as brutally – because of its technological priority, it simply does not need the openly brutal approach (which it is more than ready to apply when needed). But this is why the US is an even more dangerous threat to our freedom than China: its measures of control are not perceived as such, while Chinese brutality is openly displayed.

In a country such as China the limitations of freedom are clear to everyone, with no illusions about it. In the US, however, formal freedoms are guaranteed, so that most individuals experience their lives as free and are not even aware of the extent to which they are controlled by state mechanisms. Whistleblowers do something much more important than stating the obvious by way of denouncing the openly oppressive regimes: they render public the unfreedom that underlies the very situation in which we experience ourselves as free.

Back in May 2002, it was reported that scientists at New York University had attached a computer chip able to transmit elementary signals directly to a rat's brain – enabling scientists to control the rat's movements by means of a steering mechanism, as used in a remote-controlled toy car. For the first time, the free will of a living animal was taken over by an external machine.

How did the unfortunate rat experience its movements, which were effectively decided from outside? Was it totally unaware that its movements were being steered? Maybe therein lies the difference between Chinese citizens and us, free citizens of western, liberal countries: the Chinese human rats are at least aware they are controlled, while we are the stupid rats strolling around unaware of how our movements are monitored.

Is WikiLeaks pursuing an impossible dream? Definitely not, and the proof is that the world has already changed since its revelations.

Not only have we learned a lot about the illegal activities of the US and other great powers. Not only have the WikiLeaks revelations put secret services on the defensive and set in motion legislative acts to better control them. WikiLeaks has achieved much more: millions of ordinary people have become aware of the society in which they live. Something that until now we silently tolerated as unproblematic is rendered problematic.

This is why Assange has been accused of causing so much harm. Yet there is no violence in what WikiLeaks is doing. We all know the classic scene from cartoons: the character reaches a precipice but goes on running, ignoring the fact that there is no ground underfoot; they start to fall only when they look down and notice the abyss. What WikiLeaks is doing is just reminding those in power to look down.

The reaction of all too many people, brainwashed by the media, to WikiLeaks' revelations could best be summed up by the memorable lines of the final song from Altman's film Nashville: "You may say I ain't free but it don't worry me." WikiLeaks does make us worry. And, unfortunately, many people don't like that.