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The Weekly Abolitionist: Gun Control, Structural Racism, and the Prison State

An excellent article published last week by Radley Balko in The Washington Post explores the racially discriminatory consequences of gun control laws in the United States, as illustrated through the lens of several recent news stories.

Balko begins by discussing the arrest of Shaneen Allen:

Last October, Shaneen Allen, 27, was pulled over in Atlantic County, N.J. The officer who pulled her over says she made an unsafe lane change. During the stop, Allen informed the officer that she was a resident of Pennsylvania and had a conceal carry permit in her home state. She also had a handgun in her car. Had she been in Pennsylvania, having the gun in the car would have been perfectly legal. But Allen was pulled over in New Jersey, home to some of the strictest gun control laws in the United States.

Allen is a black single mother. She has two kids. She has no prior criminal record. Before her arrest, she worked as a phlebobotomist. After she was robbed two times in the span of about a year, she purchased the gun to protect herself and her family. There is zero evidence that Allen intended to use the gun for any other purpose. Yet Allen was arrested. She spent 40 days in jail before she was released on bail. She’s now facing a felony charge that, if convicted, would bring a three-year mandatory minimum prison term.

In other words, a woman of color was arrested for a completely victimless crime and now faces a clearly disproportionate mandatory minimum sentence. This incident challenges the way most Americans think about gun control, which is often framed in terms of a conflict between pro-gun reactionary conservatives and anti-gun anti-racist liberals. Yet here a woman of color is facing outrageously disproportionate punishment for a victimless crime precisely because of the gun control laws that are typically associated with progressive liberalism.

This is not an isolated incident. Racially disparate impacts have been a disturbing reality of gun control for years now. Balko explains the disparity as follows:

Last year, 47.3 percent of those convicted for federal gun crimes were black — a racial disparity larger than any other class of federal crimes, including drug crimes. In a 2011 report on mandatory minimum sentencing for gun crimes, the U.S. Sentencing Commission found that blacks were far more likely to be charged and convicted of federal gun crimes that carry mandatory minimum sentences. They were also more likely to be hit with “enhancement” penalties that added to their sentences. In fact, the racial discrepancy for mandatory minimums was even higher than the aforementioned disparity for federal gun crimes in general.

Many liberals and progressives are aware of the racial disparities that plague our criminal justice system and are exacerbated by mandatory minimum sentences. But it’s important for them to recognize that these same dynamics are at play in gun control laws. As Anthony Gregory explains,

When it comes to restricting firearms, liberals have an amazing ability to ignore the hard truth of what they are advocating—putting more people in cages. That is what gun control is.

Why are those incarcerated for gun crimes so disproportionately people of color? Largely because gun control laws, like all victimless crime laws, give police enormous discretion. As Balko explains:

When someone robs a bank with a gun or kills someone with a gun, there’s no debate about who needs to be investigated and prosecuted. When a police agency is charged to seek out and prosecute people who are illegally possessing or transferring guns, they’re required to use their own discretion when it comes to what communities to target and what methods they’ll use to target them.

Inevitably, this will manifest as sting operations against communities with little political clout. (Or, just as troubling, deliberately targeting people for political reasons.)

Expanding the scope of criminal law beyond crimes with clear victims towards victimless crimes that police need to seek out expands the role of discretion in a manner that makes the already marginalized even more vulnerable. This is evident when trans women of color are profiled as sex workers. It’s evident when police searching for drugs stop pull over people for “driving while black.”  And it’s evident in how gun control laws are enforced in practice.

Balko quotes a particularly appalling recent example of racially biased sting operations by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF). According to an investigative report by Brad Heath in USA Today:

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives has more than quadrupled its use of those stings during the past decade, quietly making them a central part of its attempts to combat gun crime. The operations are designed to produce long prison sentences for suspects enticed by the promise of pocketing as much as $100,000 for robbing a drug stash house that does not actually exist.

At least 91% of the people agents have locked up using those stings were racial or ethnic minorities, USA TODAY found after reviewing court files and prison records from across the United States. Nearly all were either black or Hispanic. That rate is far higher than among people arrested for big-city violent crimes, or for other federal robbery, drug and gun offenses.

The ATF operations raise particular concerns because they seek to enlist suspected criminals in new crimes rather than merely solving old ones, giving agents and their underworld informants unusually wide latitude to select who will be targeted. In some cases, informants said they identified targets for the stings after simply meeting them on the street.

The ATF had very wide discretion in these sting operations, and that discretion resulted in large numbers of people being enticed into committing crimes and then locked up. Upwards of 91% of those caged are minorities. This is outrageous. And it should cause liberals who support the ATF as an essential part of gun control enforcement to seriously reconsider their views. Rachel Maddow has condemned the NRA for calling the ATF “jack booted thugs” and blocking the appointment of ATF leadership officials. Given the ATF’s role in actively perpetuating systemic racism, I think liberals like Maddow should strongly reconsider their support for the ATF.

Prison abolitionists should lead the charge against gun control laws, and prevent the prison state from growing as part of a knee jerk response to tragedies like mass shootings. Dean Spade of the Sylvia Rivera Law Project provided a good example of what a leftist resistance to gun control laws might look like after the Newtown shooting, writing:

In the wake of the Newtown shooting, the issue of gun control is being framed in very selective ways that ignore the realities of violence in our communities. The truth is that the most deadly, in terms of numbers, gun owners are police forces and the US military. When we have a conversation about gun violence that ignores the realities of state violence, it often produces proposals that further marginalize and criminalize people of color, poor people, people with disabilities, immigrants and youth. In Washington State, we’re fighting against a new bill that would create mandatory jail time for youth caught possessing a gun. We know that mandatory jail and prison sentences are part of what has created the massive boom in US imprisonment in recent decades that have devastated communities of color. We know that jailing youth does not make our communities safer, it just damages the lives, health outcomes, and educational opportunities of young people.

Any discussion of violence in society needs to recognize that the state and its criminal law enforcement apparatus are violent. Anyone who cares about equality or social justice should recognize when laws, even those supported by people they like, have grossly unequal consequences. Understanding these points should help us recognize gun control laws as part of a grotesque prison state that exacerbates inequality and injustice.

The Weekly Libertarian Leftist and Chess Review 40

Musa al-Gharbi discusses Obama’s foreign policy.

Alice Slater discusses how drone assassinations violate the rule of law.

Bert Sacks discusses sectarian violence in Iraq.

Patrick Cockburn discusses the appeal of ISIS.

Shamus Cooke discusses regional war in the Middle East.

Kevin Carson reviews a new book by Rich Lowry.

William Rivers Pitt discusses the long arc of history.

Noam Chomsky discusses America’s real foreign policy.

Patrick Cockburn discusses government paralysis in Iraq.

Justin Raimondo discusses Japan’s constitutional revisionism.

Mahmoud Abu Rahma discusses the Israeli treatment of people in Palestine.

Pepe Escobar discusses ISIS.

Grant Mincy discusses American anarchism.

Uri Avnery discusses the watch on the Jordan.

Serge Halimi discusses when Obama got it right.

Richard Gamble reviews The Great and Holy War: How World War 1 Became a Religious Crusade

Karen Kwiatkowski discusses Lew Rockwell’s new book. I am not an ancap, but it has some good stuff relevant to libertarian leftists.

Thomas Dilorenzo discusses the American religion of violence. I am not in full agreement with it.

Binoy Kampmark discusses writing the imperial script.

Noam Chomsky discusses the sledgehammer worldview.

Lawrence B. Wilkerson discusses Dick Cheney.

Bill Quigley discusses the short shafting of veterans by the government.

Joe Boehem discusses the source and nature of rights.

Ivan Eland discusses World War 1 as key for today’s foreign policy.

Bonnie Kristian discusses how war is just one more big government program.

Sheldon Richman says let the immigrants stay.

Xavier Best discusses the U.S. role in child migration to the country.

Nozomi Hayase discusses Wikileaks and free speech.

Ludek Pachman loses to David Bronstein.

Alexander Petrov defeats F. Alexander Hoffmann.

Radical Libertarianism as a Form of Fiscal Liberalism and Mutual Aid Resulting Therefrom

American libertaranism has a reputation for being another species of that genus known as American conservatism. This is influenced by the American Libertarian’s penchant for lower taxation and less government spending. A position often described as fiscal conservatism. Fiscal conservatism must be understood contextually like any other term or issue. To what extent does the American Libertarian’s affinity for the notion of fiscal conservatism reflect a government centric view of politics? To a great extent.

The term can indeed be narrowly viewed within the context of statecraft. In that specific context, the idea of fiscal conservatism denotes a government’s tendency to make intensive and not extensive use of resources garnered from the general populace through the practice of taxation. In a personalized anarchistic context, it would refer to the practice of an individual choosing to conserve rather than expend their wealth. In a systemic context, radical libertarianism is actually a form of fiscal liberalism. The key to understanding this lies in the radical libertarian view of class analysis and class structure dating back to early 18th-19th century level liberals.

In adopting a dialectical methodology described by Chris Sciabarra, we will discover that a shifting of vantage points allows us to understand that the notion of fiscal conservatism usually adopted by less radical libertarians reflects what organizations, considered parasitical, should do with funds. The libertarian radical wishes to return monies to autonomous individuals and has a theory of class structure that can identify double standards in statist fiscally conservative or austere proposals. An exploitative entity or individual tends to propose conservation, self-discipline, and fiscal sacrifice for others, but not for itself. A testimony to this is the existing state of multi-billion dollar bailouts for major financial entities like Goldman Sachs and cutbacks on welfare programs that the less politically connected are more likely to rely on. What we’re ultimately proposing is that the exploited people in the existing social order retain the product of their labor. In that sense, it’s a form of fiscal liberalism in which people are liberally gaining wealth from the end of an exploitative system.

A genuinely liberal institution of mutual aid makes no collective distinctions, but a conservative program of welfare must reflect an attempt to preserve the structural status quo. As such, it must be congruent with the existing class or social structure. This means it must exclude individuals on an aristocratic basis of not conforming to existing social standards. A radical Promethean break from such structures would signify the end of the status quo. The radical Libertarian proposes a new order in which an aggregate of people achieve a higher standard of living. It inspires rebellion and acquisition rather than conservative self-discipline. This said rebellion and acquisition culminating in the return of monies from corporate or state power structures to free individuals and cooperative organizations.

 

Director’s Report: July 2014

July has been a busy month for a lot of our writers: there was the World Cup coverage, AltExpo, Freedom Fest and the Students for Liberty Campus Coordinator’s Retreat all vying for their attention. Yet, even with all that, we were still able to publish twenty-four commentaries and ten original features.

C4SS pays the writers that work with us, we pay our interns and we pay our bloggers. From what I hear, around the blogoshpere, this is on the unique side. But we wouldn’t have it any other way. Our site, also, only features one relevant advertisement, Markets Not Capitalism, which supports the site and our message. In other words we are funded by supporters. Our supporters donate small amounts, the average being $5 to $10 a month, and this is perfect. C4SS wants small donations from lots of people; we want the swarm and all the information is contains. If C4SS, as an organization and an idea, is something you like having around or you would like to see it do more things (like funding more studies, publishing more books, helping with travel expenses for writers to speak at events, updating the youtube graphics, etc), then please donate $5 today.

What will $5 a month get you from C4SS? Well let’s see,

For the month of July, C4SS published:

24 Commentaries,
10 original Features,
Weekly Abolitionists,
Life, Love and Liberty,
Weekly Libertarian Leftist Reviews,
Missing Commas (2 more than June),
Entrepreneurial Anti-Capitalism,
1 original Review, and
12 C4SS Media uploads to the C4SS youtube channel.

Thanks to the dedication of our Media Coordinators, C4SS translated and published:

Italian translations,
2 Spanish translations,
11 Portuguese translations.

Tor Success

For over three years, C4SS has maintained a dedicated Tor relay node. This node operates 24 hours a day. This node is one of the ways that we contribute to the various technologies devoted to identifying the damage of state and routing around it. The state will never relent or be sated with anything less then total awareness for total control. Maintaining your own Tor node is encouraged, but for whatever reason this is not possible for you, you can help us maintain ours.

On that note, we are happy to declare another successful fundraiser for another four months of continuous operation. Thank you to everyone that donated through the site and bitcoin. We haven’t started next quarter’s fundraiser, but, if you would like to start early, feel free to donate today (just leave the note: For Tor), bitcoin is, as always, welcome too: 1N1pF6fLKAGg4nH7XuqYQbKYXNxCnHBWLB

 

c4ssbiggerTor

Entrepreneurial Anti-capitalism

Entrepreneurial Anti-capitalism has been a C4SS project since November 2013. Its primary goal, to seek out and support the those anarchist projects that desperately need or can make full immediate use of a $200 to $400 donation. One of these projects that we have recently donated to is the Anarchist Black Cross. The prison state and its prison economy are two interlocking threats that Nathan Goodman’s The Weekly Abolitionist is devoted to abolishingNathan Goodman summarizes the situation and our enemy,

Prisons are the antithesis of all we stand for as anarchists. While we seek a society built around peace and bodily autonomy, prisons are violent institutions that trap inmates at gunpoint and make them vulnerable to rape and murder. Where we seek justice through restitution, reconciliation, and self-defense, prisons are based on punitive vengeance. While we seek a society free from oppression based on race, gender, class, national origin, disability, or sexual orientation, prisons systematically brutalize the most marginalized among us.

As anarchists, we admire those who resist oppression.

One of the crucial parts of a prison abolitionist strategy is supporting those that have been captured in its black iron jaws. The Anarchist Black Cross has been doing this for over a hundred years. We implore everyone to find (or start) a local chapter of the Anarchist Black Cross and help out however you can.

The New Leveller Volume 1, Issue 3 online now!

The New Leveller is the publishing side of the Students for a Stateless Society (S4SS). If you are a student and desire a stateless society, S4SS just might be a perfect fit for you.

newnewnewleveller
“Are you interested in individualist anarchism, or at least so frightened by it that you want to keep an eye on its progress? Are you frustrated by capitalism’s love for central planning and communism’s conservative view of human potential? Do you suspect that abolishing the institution responsible for war, police brutality, and mass incarceration might not be so dangerous after all?

Then The New Leveller is for you!”

The third issue of the Students for a Stateless Society‘s newsletter, The New Leveller is now online.

For a link to a PDF of the entire issue (recommended!), click here.
For links to an HTML version of each individual article, click here.

New Book(s)

C4SS’s first book, a collection of articles discussing the notion, possibility and necessity of common pool resources and “public” property spaces for a flourishing stateless society, The Anatomy of Escape: A Defense of the Commons, is near completion. We have finished the cover, beautifully designed by Benjamin Godwin, for both English and Portuguese. Work on the next book in our collection series, The Iron Fist: Capitalism, the Economy of the State, has already begun. We hope to complete three more books covering the topics: the psychopathology of hierarchy, ecology and environment, and strategy and tactics. After that we will begin the massive task of creating full author collections – Kevin Carson’s will, most likely, need multiple volumes.

New Book Review

Missing Comma‘s Juliana Perciavalle has agreed to review Matt Hern’s Watch Yourself: Why Safer Isn’t Always Better for C4SS.

Karl Hess

Of all the individuals that have contributed to the development and presence of Left Libertarian thought, Karl Hess is easily one of the most important. All are essential, but Karl Hess set the temperament and tone – radical, active, experimental and kind. Hess gave us our conception of the left/right spectrum, helped solidify our appreciation for the weird, gave us an example of heartfelt patience for old friends (that will probably never get us), and reaffirmed our commitment that concentrated economic and cultural power is just as dangerous and worthy of open vigilant opposition as concentrated political power.

Kevin Carson currently holds our first academic position, The Karl Hess Scholar in Social Theory and Markets Not Capitalism is dedicated to the memory of Karl Hess. Gary Chartier and Charles Johnson wrote, in Markets Not Capitalism, about Karl Hess,

We’ve dedicated Markets Not Capitalism to Karl Hess – a gentle, insightful, graceful, articulate, and passionate believer in freedom, decentralization, and peaceful, voluntary cooperation. Karl bridged the gap between the Old Right and the New Left, powerfully indicted the political status quo, and provided a compelling and unsettling model of life outside the state’s clutches. Flawed like everyone else, he was nonetheless good and decent, embodying the commitment to human liberation we seek to foster with this book.

In March, 1969, Karl Hess had an article published with Playboy magazine; that article would be called The Death of Politics. Joel Schlosberg has published a wonderful and detailed review of Hess’ other appearance in Playboy an interview of his life and politics for C4SS. Schlosberg opens with,

At first glance, a no-holds-barred conversation with an anarchist might seem the most inappropriate centerpiece imaginable for a magazine issue marking the bicentennial of the United States of America. But then again, Karl Hess was no ordinary “anarchist.”

Hobby Lobby

The ability or power to opt-out is one of the Thoreauvian aspects crucial to any meaningful theory of liberty. And many commentators lauded just this spirit in the Hobby Lobby ruling. But this power to opt-out, we must never forget, has been granted to billionaires and corporations, it was never considered or expected to trickle down to us –  the individuals. They will not cite it or stand by it when you decide to opt-out. They will zealously stand against opting-out when it comes to the intellectual property provisions of the DMCA or the provisions against secondary solidarity strikes and boycotts in the Wagner Act. The primary interventions are kept firmly and lovingly in place while the rest of us fight each other for corporate and political scraps. As Brain Nicholson summarizes, “with thought, the ‘culture war’ reveals itself as a prison fight — forced by the guards.” And Kevin Carson concludes,

But we’re never going to get Hobby Lobby, and big corporations and wage employers in general, out of control of our lives by using the state as a weapon. They usually work together, and always will. Ultimately, the only way out is what Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri call “exodus” — building our own horizontal institutions outside of both corporation and state, and abandoning the corporate-state nexus to rot.

C4SS has written a lot on this subject for July,

Eric Garner

For those of us that follow and worry about the growing militarization and militancy of the police in the Untied States and around the world, the tragic, needless and unwarranted murder of Eric Garner – live on camera – was not unexpected yet still shocking. There is something strange and terrifying, besides summary executions for loose cigarette entrepreneurship, about the default use of violent arrest when one could just as easily, and with discretion, issue a citation. The question to be asked, “Is this motivated by the desire to set an example for an occupied population or simple bloodlust?” I fear a case can be made for both. Ryan Calhoun‘s “Where’s Eric Garner’s Amargosa?” compares the popular reaction to Garner’s murder with the small Brazilian town of Amargosa,

His crime? Garner was a known holder of contraband, which you might know as loose cigarettes. Despite no evidence that he was selling or even had said contraband on his person, after a brief verbal quarrel between Garner and the police, he was put into a chokehold, held on the ground and pounced on by several more NYPD gang members. His last words, the words of an innocent family man to these “peace officers?” “I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe.” …

In the city of Amargosa in Brazil, citizens took to the streets after a stray bullet fire by a local police officer struck and killed a one-year-old girl. But they didn’t stay in the streets. They quickly took the police station, freeing prisoners, jacking state-owned weaponry and burning the station and police vehicles to the ground.

Millennials

As twilight sets on the Boomers and GenXers begin to find themselves in positions of civic responsibility (whatever that means), all number-crunching and trend-analysis eyes have turned to the Millennials. What makes them tick? What do they want? What will they do to the status quo? Kevin Carson has penned two pieces on the Millennial question: one suggestive of reforms Millennials should be pushing for and a trend-analysis of the Millennial based upon the historical and cultural novelties that have converged during their development. Carson writes,

So based on all this, it stands to reason this generation would be heavily involved in building all the major components of the successor society that’s emerging from the decaying ruins of the corporate-state nexus. There are 20-somethings in the hackerspace, open hardware and micromanufacturing movements, in Permaculture and community gardens, organizing squats into coherent, cooperative communities, developing encrypted counter-currencies and mutual credit systems, creating scholarly communities around open courseware and academic journals liberated from behind paywalls, and developing open meshworks the state can’t shut down and anonymizing darknets the state can’t penetrate.

I have gathered together the all the articles published with C4SS discussing the Millennial question,

We Haven’t Forgotten

We still have our David Graeber Symposium on the horizon, along with our Carson-Ward-Bookchin edition of Kropotkin’s “Fields, Factories and Workshops Tomorrow”.

Please Support Today!

Needless to say, all of this work is only sustainable through your support. If you think the various political and economic debates around the world are enhanced by the addition of left libertarian market anarchist, freed market anti-capitalist or laissez faire socialist solutions, challenges, provocations or participation, please donate $5, today. Keep C4SS going and growing.

ALL the best!

Missing Comma: A Question For The Audience

Hi, everyone! I’m back from vacation about two weeks later than I expected, but I’m ready to start writing again. Juliana’s at a FEE seminar this week, but she’s still going to be writing regularly here at Missing Comma.

This week, we’re taking a break from our 24/7 coverage of Anthony Cumia (kidding) to ask a short question: Should C4SS adopt a “safe spaces” comment policy?

For the past several months, we here at the Center have debated the addition of some kind of a “safe spaces” comment policy, but recently, we’ve entered into a deadlock. Some of us are absolutely for such a comment policy, and some of us are for a comment policy that promotes complete freedom of speech, even at the risk of constantly having to fend off hordes of Nazis. We have not decided anything on a concrete level yet; this is all still in the discussion phase.

It’s worth pointing out, of course, that the C4SS comment section has, at least in the two years I’ve written here, been relatively tame in the inflammatory, racist or bigoted comment department, and that’s part of the reason for our deadlock: would the addition of a safe spaces policy be addressing an existing problem, or is it tilting at windmills, so to speak?

It occurred to me recently, during one of the internal discussions regarding this topic, that while we’ve spent months and months debating among ourselves, we’ve never asked what the group of people this is going to effect the most – you – thought about it. Missing Comma is the unofficial-official “ombudsman” blog of C4SS, and as its co-writer, I saw this lack of contact with you, the reader, as a potentially disastrous oversight that needs to be corrected immediately.

So, what do you think? Should the Center for a Stateless Society adopt some form of a “Safe Spaces” policy? If yes, why? If no, why not? What would such a thing look like? What would be the best way to implement it? Leave a comment with your answers below. Alternately, you can tweet your responses to @c4ssdotorg or the Missing Comma Twitter account, @missingcomma; you can also post to the hashtag, #c4sscomments. We’ll talk about some of your best answers next week!

Public vs Private Dualities and Contextual Analysis

Among the most enduring and pressing of questions for social scientists has been the nature of the public and private spheres. A great many political battles have been fought over control or delineation of these respective spaces. Some of these battles have been fought by the Civil Rights Movement and labor movement. Both of which sought to make claims of control or access to contested public/private spaces. These conflicts cannot be resolved without a nuanced contextual understanding of the issue. This requires dialectically transcending a strict public-private dualism.

This dualism shows up linguistically when discussing government vs non-government ownership/control. The common usage of the terms private ownership and public ownership are to identify government and non-government ownership. In this parlance, public refers to government ownership while private refers to non-government ownership.

The underlying assumption here is that the government and the public sphere are the same. Dictionary.com defines public as follows:

  1. of, pertaining to, or affecting a population or a community as a whole: public funds; a public nuisance.
  2. done, made, acting, etc., for the community as a whole: public prosecution.
  3. open to all persons: a public meeting.
  4. of, pertaining to, or being in the service of a community or nation, especially as a government officer: a public official.
  5. maintained at the public expense and under public control: a public library; a public road.

It’s certainly possible for a non-government controlled space or institution to meet the criteria above. An example is a privately owned local library called Linda Hall Library that is nonetheless open to the public. This example also shows the problematic nature of the dualism between private and public. You have an entity that is privately owned in the sense of non-government owned and yet accessible to the general public. This shows the importance of contextual analysis in deciphering what is private and public under what definitions. It depends on the context. In one context, public may be a reference to government ownership, but that’s not what it means in the context of anarchy.

Anarchistic public space is an important part of a free society. It would involve a public right of way and accessibility through some kind of cooperative control. A sense of solidarity could ensure access to people not living in the local community or cooperatively controlled area. One way to go about creating anarchistic public space is to homestead government controlled areas and engage in management of the newly created anarchistic commons. I look forward to seeing people try this out!

Volume 1, Issue 3 of THE NEW LEVELLER now online!
newnewnewleveller

“Are you interested in individualist anarchism, or at least so frightened by it that you want to keep an eye on its progress? Are you frustrated by capitalism’s love for central planning and communism’s conservative view of human potential? Do you suspect that abolishing the institution responsible for war, police brutality, and mass incarceration might not be so dangerous after all?

Then The New Leveller is for you!”

The third issue of the Students for a Stateless Society‘s newsletter, The New Leveller is now online.

For a link to a PDF of the entire issue (recommended!), click here.
For links to an HTML version of each individual article, click here.

In this issue:
“A Matter of Life & Death” by Jason Lee Byas frames the vision of individualist anarchism as a battle of life against death. This is not only because governments murder, but also because both aggression and domination are at odds with the principle behind life itself.
“Anarchists United” by Uriel Alexis explores ways in which anarchists with divergent views about how a stateless society would (and should) look can still cooperate toward those goals that they share.
“Identity & Individuals” by Elizabeth Tate explains that libertarians and anarchists should embrace, not shun, identity politics.
“Prisons: The Case for Abolition” by Nathan Goodman details reasons that prisons are both an unnecessary and unjust institution, and also shows how attempts at piecemeal reform can actually make things worse. The solution, then, is abolition.
“All Wars Are Unjust” by Jason Lee Byas argues for the conclusion in its title. To support any war is to support murder, dehumanization, regimentation, and theft, all on a massive scale. Because of this, we must reject all war.

Israel’s War on Gaza: The Context

Any discussion of Israel’s war on Gaza that does not focus on 1) the Zionist military’s and Israel’s systematic ethnic cleansing of Palestinians through roughly 1948 (that’s how Palestinian refugees ended up in the Gaza Strip); 2) the military conquest of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip in 1967; 3) the Israeli/Egyptian blockade of the Gaza Strip since 2007, following the Israeli withdrawal in 2005 (yes, the occupation ended, but Gaza remains a prison camp — as though guards left a prison but maintained strict control over who and what — food, medicine, infrastructure supplies, etc. — could enter and leave); and 4) the exploitation of the kidnapping and murders of three young Israeli residents of an illegal West Bank settlement (one a 19-year-old soldier) to rout Hamas (which denied responsibility; it normally claims credit for his acts) in the West Bank (Israeli forces rearrested several hundred West Bank Palestinians, including some who had been released in an earlier prisoner exchange; political leaders stirred up revenge fever and one Palestinian youth was burned to death, while another was severely beaten by police) – any discussion that fails to take all these things into account is worse than worthless. It is crudely dishonest. (Compare the reaction to the murder of the three Israelis with the murder by Israeli soldiers of two Palestinian youth on May 15 while peacefully commemorating the 1948 destruction of Palestine, known as the Nakba.)

Hamas is wrong to fire rockets at civilians (though few hit their targets), even considering that the villages those civilians live in were once Palestinian villages that Zionist/Israeli forces seized during the 1947-48 ethnic cleansing. The rocketing, however, is a sign of weakness versus Israel, not strength, and must not permit us to overlook this background of brutality against Palestinians. This year Hamas agreed to join the Palestinian Authority’s coalition government (after the Israeli government, again, made a mockery of “peace talks”) signaling an endorsement of the PA’s agenda — including recognition of Israel. Was this a welcome step for the Israeli government? No. It immediately set out to punish the Palestinians for this new unity — it prefers a divided Palestinian community and a Hamas it can demonize. (Years ago, the Israeli government nurtured the emergence of Hamas precisely because it could serve as a religious rival to the popular secular Fatah.)

Hamas, it is true, maintains a charter that calls for the destruction of Israel, but that has not kept it from issuing statements over the years — joining the coalition is only the most recent — indicating a willingness to accept Israel as part of a two-state solution. It is Israel that has broken truces with Hamas. Its soldiers have often killed and injured Gazans minding their own business on their own side of the fence between the Gaza Strip and Israel, while Hamas leaders have been assassinated by the Israeli government following offers of a truce. It is clear that Israeli leaders do not want a Hamas they can make peace with, just as they don’t want an Iran with which they can have normal relations. They need the specter of an “existential threat” to maintain their iron rule. In particular, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu must push this intransigent line especially hard to keep the members of his coalition government who are further to the right than he is (yes, further) on the reservation.

Israeli leaders and spokesmen continually say that their only goal in this war is “peace and quiet” for the people if Israel. Maybe a decent goal would include justice for the long-suffering Palestinians. This is not about Hamas, an organization that endangers the innocent people it claims to champion with futile yet criminal activities like the rocket fire. This does not let the Israelis and their brutal response — underwritten by American taxpayers and supporter by their rulers — off the hook, however. Ont the contrary, since Israel created and maintains the open-air prison, it is responsible for all the evils that go on inside. Its hard-line policies embolden the most extreme elements and undercut the moderate voices. Has the “peace process” even slowed the building of illegal settlements on Palestinian land in the West Bank?

No, it’s not about Hamas; it’s about the Palestinians, who do not deserve this punishment at the hands of the Israelis.

For further discussion of the larger context, see Ramzy Baroud’s “Ravaging Gaza: The War Netanyahu Cannot Possibly Win.” Also worthwhile are Nathan Thrall’s “How the West Chose War in Gaza” and Neve Gordon’s “On ‘Human Shielding’ in Gaza.”

Entrepreneurial Anti-Capitalism: The Anarchist Black Cross

Prisons are the antithesis of all we stand for as anarchists. While we seek a society built around peace and bodily autonomy, prisons are violent institutions that trap inmates at gunpoint and make them vulnerable to rape and murder. Where we seek justice through restitution, reconciliation, and self-defense, prisons are based on punitive vengeance. While we seek a society free from oppression based on race, gender, class, national origin, disability, or sexual orientation, prisons systematically brutalize the most marginalized among us.

As anarchists, we admire those who resist oppression. The state, on the other hand, uses prisons to confine and brutalize those who resist. Heroic whistleblowers like Chelsea Manning and John Kiriakou are locked up, while the war criminals and corrupt rulers they exposed keep their positions of power and privilege. The state locked up CeCe McDonald, the New Jersey 4, and other queer and trans people in a notoriously transphobic and homophobic prison system, simply as punishment for defending themselves from aggressors. Black liberation revolutionaries are confined in cages and often tortured in solitary confinement, while cops who murder people of color keep their jobs and their power.

One way to mitigate the violence and harm inflicted by the prison state is to support its most immediate victims: prisoners themselves. Since the early 20th century, the Anarchist Black Cross has been doing just that. Their members write letters to political prisoners and prisoners of war. This builds social relationships and community across the divides the state seeks to maintain, it lets prisoners know they’re not alone, and it helps undermine the dehumanization that is core to imprisonment. Anarchist Black Cross groups also raise money for political prisoners and their legal defense funds.

Rather than requesting reforms from the state, Anarchist Black Cross members directly make the world a better place for those the state has brutalized. Their approach is fundamentally entrepreneurial, as it involves using the resources at one’s disposal to directly serve people’s needs. Yet it is fundamentally revolutionary, using this entrepreneurship to support those who have lost their liberty in the struggle against capitalist domination. It’s thus quite fitting that the Center for a Stateless Society’s Entrepreneurial Anti-Capitalism Project has sent funds to two active chapters of the Anarchist Black Cross: the Denver Anarchist Black Cross and the Mexico City Anarchist Black Cross.

We urge you to support their work too. You can donate to the Denver ABC here and you can contact the Mexico City ABC here to find out how to help. You can also help support prisoners by writing to some of the various prisoners these organizations support. Around the world, the Anarchist Black Cross is engaging in vital work to support prisoners, resist violent repression of social movements, and build up mutual aid. Until all are free from the state’s brutal prison system, the work of these Anarchist Black Cross groups and others like them will remain a vital part of the anarchist movement.

The Weekly Libertarian Leftist and Chess Review 39

“Joseph Miller” discusses the drone memos.

James Bovard discusses Custer’s massacre.

Ramzy Baroud discusses the Muslim Ummah.

Lucy Steigerwald discusses the ACLU report on police militarization.

Kelly Vlahos discusses how the Iraq crisis is bringing a swift rebuke to Iraq war architects.

Laurence M. Vance discusses how Republicans don’t really support limited government.

Patrick Cockburn discusses the Iraqi prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki.

David S. D’Amato discusses how the regulatory state or government helps corporate power.

Daniel J. Bier discusses the use of curious logic to argue in favor of the drug war.

Andrew Levine discusses how Israel thrives on existential threat.

The Mises institute interviews Walter Block.

Alexandra Early discusses the desperation of choices behind child migration.

David McDonald discusses the anti-war movement.

Sheldon Richman discusses the view that war is a racket.

Steve Chapman discusses ‘the parallels between Vietnam and Iraq.

Renee Parsons discusses the quagmire of U.S. foreign policy.

Cesar Chelala discusses the force feeding of Palestinian prisoners.

Joe Scarry discusses the recently released memo on targeted killing.

Robert Parry discusses Obama’s true weakness.

Robert Parry discusses the blaming of Obama for Iraq’s current chaos.

David Stockman discusses the newly proposed aid to the Syrian opposition to Assad.

Joshua Holland discusses the lies that sold the first Gulf War.

Benjmain H. Friedman discusses how drones will put the U.S. on a perpetual war footing.

Jonathan Blank discusses liberty, black people, and the state.

Joseph Grosso discusses the drug war in Honduras.

Eric Margolis discusses the Russo-Japanese war of 1904-1905.

William Norman Grigg discusses the plunder of the War on Drugs.

Robert Parry discusses the changing of the New York Time’s tune on the Ukraine.

Joel Benjamin beats H. Carter.

Joel Benjamin beats Nelson Gamboa.

Thomas Rick Wants to Draft You

A past New York Times editorial by Thomas Ricks shamelessly advocates involuntary servitude. In the article he states:

A revived draft, including both males and females, should include three options for new conscripts coming out of high school. Some could choose 18 months of military service with low pay but excellent post-service benefits, including free college tuition. These conscripts would not be deployed but could perform tasks currently outsourced at great cost to the Pentagon: paperwork, painting barracks, mowing lawns, driving generals around, and generally doing lower-skills tasks so professional soldiers don’t have to. If they want to stay, they could move into the professional force and receive weapons training, higher pay and better benefits.

This is the blatant promotion of mandatory, menial and poorly paid labor for youth. This is a fiscally conservative proposal to exploit cheap labor to save the government money. No well paid workers! Just cheap conscripts who have no exit and ergo no ability to contest crappy wages and tasks through voting with their feet – will Ricks allow conscripts to unionize? One has to wonder. Unionization would mean the effective ability to challenge exploitative wages.

He goes on to say:

And libertarians who object to a draft could opt out. Those who declined to help Uncle Sam would in return pledge to ask nothing from him — no Medicare, no subsidized college loans and no mortgage guarantees. Those who want minimal government can have it.

What about libertarians or people generally who can’t afford to lose government aid in our present corporatist system? No answer from Thomas Ricks. They would presumably still be compelled to serve the aims of government. A good example of how government aid can come with awful strings attached.

Aside from the above, there is an additional ethical issue with Rick’s proposal. The fact that it relies on the initiation of force to even attempt to enact it – it may not end up working even then. The use of aggressive force is a major evil. Thomas Ricks shows no sign of understanding nor even recognizing this truth.

This absence of a concern with the aggressive use of force required leads him to make another dubious argument. Near the end, he says:

But most of all, having a draft might, as General McChrystal said, make Americans think more carefully before going to war. Imagine the savings — in blood, tears and national treasure — if we had thought twice about whether we really wanted to invade Iraq.

Whether or not he is correct in his argument; he ignores some salient points. Conscription makes it difficult for people to vote against the war by declining to volunteer to for it. Anthony Gregory points out that a better solution to dealing with the problem of unjust wars is to allow soldiers to quit their jobs. The more moral choice is to work to make this a reality. One way to go about attempting to do that is by encouraging mass non-violent revolt within the military. One could also take a more legalistic route by bringing a lawsuit against the Defense Department. One could invoke the no involuntary servitude part of the Constitution. Both of these options deserve further consideration!

Missing Comma: Opie, Anthony and the Media

Last week, I talked about Sirius XM’s decision to fire shock jock Anthony Cumia.

Along with the other Sirius XM listeners who hadn’t cancelled their subscription over this, I anxiously waited for Monday’s O&A show, which featured a dejected-sounding Opie and Jim not only lamenting their co-host’s firing, but the predictable fan and media reaction.

According to Opie, the main issue with the tweets was timing; they came before a holiday weekend and an upcoming planned hiatus. “If we could’ve got back on the radio, me, Anthony and Jimmy, we would’ve figured our way out of this one. Easily. Because the jokes would’ve been there.”

They also criticized the Washington Post’s op-eds, along with other publications’ similar knee-jerk reactions.

Whenever a political correctness crisis like this happens, passages like this are standard:

“Some supporters cite First Amendment rights, as they always do in such cases, until someone helpfully points out that freedom of speech does not mean freedom of speech without consequences. You have the right to say or Tweet whatever you want and others have the right to object and be offended. Depending on what the contract says, your employer has the right to forgive or fire. I know few people who could insult colleagues or toss a string of vile invective at potential clients and come into work the next day as though nothing had happened.”

Embarrassing, isn’t it? Because judging by the way Opie, Anthony and Jim talk to their fans and people who call into the show, Sirius XM should have pulled the plug a long time ago if that’s how their contracts work; the same contracts that lock the remaining jocks into a show they barely want to be part of anymore. It’s astounding how so much of the media response reflects an outright misunderstanding of not only Anthony’s motives in the infamous tweets, but O&A’s entire brand.

Was the “black friend” tweet all part of Anthony’s “shock” routine? Probably. This writer’s reasoning is so skewed that the comments on the article make more sense.

Commenter Mcaff has a more articulate (read: less expletive-ridden; “debating” free speech often seems akin to banging your head against a wall) response than I would’ve come up with on the fly:

“I have listened to Opie and Anthony and I strongly disagree with almost everything Anthony Cumia says. He’s usually wrong on a range of topics from gun control to race relations. His co-hosts are a bit to the left on most issues and the debate makes for lively, entertaining radio. I strongly disagree with Cumia, but I WANT TO HEAR EVERY WORD OF IT. In my opinion, Reverend Al Sharpton has made far more inflammatory remarks on his television program but I WANT TO HEAR HIM TOO. They both have the right to voice their opinion and I have the right to hear them.”

This type of response also underscores the points that Jeremy Weiland makes in his essay that I linked to last week.

If PC shills at the Washington Post really wanted to end racism, they wouldn’t waste netspace on articles like this, and would talk incessantly about prison demographics, poverty statistics and the drug war instead.

Radical Leftism, Radicalism, Hierarchy, Capitalism, and Government

Leftist academic, Corey Robin, recently commented on what he sees as the radicalism of the young CIO (Congress of Industrial Organizations). He quotes David Montgomery to the effect that at its annual convention: the CIO called for:

continuation of government controls over prices and the allocation of production materials, “development of atomic energy for civilian purposes under United Nations auspices,” government sponsorship of housing to offset the failures of the market to provide for workers’ urgent needs, and expansion of social security to encompass all agricultural, domestic, and maritime workers and to include health protection.

There is nothing particularly radical about the above. Government is a very old institution and so is the hierarchy that is inherent to it. Its use of aggressive force, violence, coercion, and compulsion to gets its way is nothing new in human history either. The non-anarchist or non-libertarian left often seems to want to replace corporate capitalist hierarchy with government hierarchy. That is the meaning of central planning of prices and allocation of productive resources. A monopolistic government controlling the allocation of production or prices would certainly qualify as a violent hierarchical central planner.

In contrast, left-libertarian market anarchism seeks a world of horizontalism where hierarchies have been maximally flattened – if they exist at all. The kind of things mentioned above would require a high degree of hierarchy to effectuate through government. That ancient institution enmeshed in power and violence. One can only struggle to identify at least the radicalism of means in certain parts of the above and in toto on others.

Radical leftism is preferably about rejecting hierarchical aggressively coercive power structures wherever they are found. Not in merely lessening the aggressively coercive character of said institutions. Many non-anarchist or non-libertarian leftists have admirably contributed to restraining the aggressive power of government, but the radical solution is to abolish it. Its use of any and all aggressive coercion is one the major root problems with it.

It’s not surprising that another hierarchical aggressively coercive structure of power like capitalism is so tied up with government. The history of extensive corporate welfare is indicative of this, but the main point to be made here is that seeking the abolition of government doesn’t have to mean giving a free pass to capitalism. It can in fact be an integral part of doing away with both aggressively coercive oppressive structures of power. Let’s get started on it!

The Weekly Abolitionist: “Remember All Their Faces, Remember All Their Voices”

Since Nathan Goodman has asked me to fill in for him this week on The Weekly Abolitionist, I’d like to focus on something important to radical political struggles that isn’t talked about much: fiction.

As prison abolitionists, we can talk at length about the ways that prisons as such encourage abuse, add to recidivism, interlock with other oppressive systems like white supremacy, and are inherently unjust. Yet, for some people to really “get it,” something more is required.

At the time I’m writing this, I’ve finished about a season and a half of Netflix’s Orange Is the New Black, which is set in a women’s prison and loosely based around the real-life Piper Kerman’s prison memoir of the same title. Though it does not take an abolitionist outlook toward the prison system, it is a perfect example of the kinds of stories that need to be told. (It’s not for nothing that the show has even received praise from Angela Davis.)

Most significantly, Orange Is the New Black humanizes prisoners. Rich character development is one of the show’s strong-suits, and that helps to remind viewers that those suffering behind bars are real, flesh and blood people.

By showing flashbacks to their lives on the outside, we see that prison inmates are usually nothing like the caged monsters that are typically imagined in popular discourse surrounding them. They are often much like us, and it becomes difficult to sanction their sentences in good conscience.

Both on the outside and in prison, we seem them capable of compassion, meaningful human bonds, and all sorts of impressive achievements. For most of them, we see otherwise normal women who made one big mistake, not ongoing threats who need to be physically removed from the outside society.

Furthermore, we see that the condition of prison does not rehabilitate these women, but instead hardens them. Women who would normally never even think of hitting another person come close to murder, because of the situation created for them by the prison.

The show’s strong character development is present not only in the inmates, but also the staff, which further helps the show’s utility for abolitionists. This is because when we look at the staff of the show’s prison, we (mostly) don’t see sociopaths. We see ordinary people whose positions of power either require them or bring them to do extraordinarily awful things.

It’s not enough to just change out the people running the prison, because it would still end up looking roughly the same. The problems are structural, not personal.

It is difficult to imagine any situation (at least in the contemporary United States) where one person has as much near total control over another person and their life as a prison guard has over a prisoner. As we should expect, this brings out the worst in those given free rein to do whatever they want with or to others.

For example, in everyday life, one man’s homophobia may be unlikely to ever actually materialize as actual violence. But that same man, when given the power to do so, thinks nothing of sending a prisoner to solitary as part of his temper tantrum against her attraction to women. He feels entitled to do so precisely because of how sharply subordinate prisoners are to the staff.

That incident brings us to another important feature of the show. While its portrayal of prison in general is clearly not pleasant, it reveals solitary confinement for what it is: Hell. Solitary confinement is nothing short of torture, and it is difficult to say otherwise when watching the scenes that take place there.

A character cries out to herself in pain, and a soft voice answers back on the other side of the wall. Even this small amount of human interaction is a godsend, and she nervously asks “are you real?” The reply is chilling: “I don’t know.”

That is where the cramped isolation and dehumanization of solitary confinement leads, and the viewer can see it more clearly than they’d ever want to.

Viewers often assume that the show’s introduction – a sequence of eyes and mouths set to Regina Spektor’s “You’ve Got Time” – is made up of extreme close-ups of the show’s cast. The reality is that all of those faces are the faces of actual formerly incarcerated women.

This serves as a reminder that even for those events in the show that are entirely fictional, something like that has happened to someone, and something like that will happen to someone in the future (at least as long as we have prisons). It is just that sort of reminder that reveals the show’s real value.

By capturing our empathy, Orange Is the New Black forces us to acknowledge that when we accept the prison system, these are the women we are condemning to that life. It refuses to let us lazily fall back into the impersonal justifications we’ve rehearsed for as long as we’ve known about prisons.

We cannot just look away from the people we cage as we talk about why we cage them. We must look them in the eyes as we say it.

Art stirs people’s basic human sympathies toward action, and action is desperately needed to rid ourselves of the prison state. It is for this reason that we need more shows like Orange Is the New Black.

Open the Borders Now and Forever

Market anarchism is grounded in the sovereignty of each individual and the simple idea that all relationships between adults ought to be voluntary and consensual, permitting everyone the freedom to do anything she wishes, as long as she respects the identical right of all others. The “market” in market anarchism refers to the fact that under such a system of equal freedom, individuals could cooperate and exchange in any and all ways nonviolent and non-fraudulent.

The “anarchism” comes from the insight that a society of strict nonaggression is ipso facto incompatible with the existence of the state. Since the state, both in theory and practice, is defined in terms of aggression against innocents, a truly free society cannot endure such an institution. Where, though, does immigration fit into all this theoretical ideation?

Free and open movement is the natural, unconditional right of every single individual, a prerogative that precedes governments and their arbitrary borders and policies. Confronted with this fact, even some self-styled libertarians will cavil and complain, puling that open borders actually amount to “forced integration,” that a free society is in fact one of exclusion and static populations disallowed from free movement simply by facts of “private property.”

And of course these facts and the relationships they implicate are never to be called into question. Never are we to ask what kinds of results and patterns legitimate property rights, properly based on some notion of homesteading, would create if actually developed and held to. Given the limits on the circumstances under which such forms of private property would be regarded as legitimate in a hypothetical freed market, it strains credulity to think that the fear-mongering of anti-immigration “libertarians” is well-founded.

Furthermore, arguments that see open borders as “forced integration” are especially spurious and unconvincing within the context we’re presented today, where governments themselves own and administer most of the land and the rest has been doled out to political favorites under a process in which proper homesteading has never been a real or important consideration. In their essence, anti-immigration arguments come to the laughable contention that merely due to accidents of birth which place some lucky group in one favored locale and others somewhere else, the fortunate group ought to be able to control and impede the movement of others.

We must therefore ask how and on what basis? Stripped of intricate apologies for the status quo, the answers presented are simply, “using force, deadly if necessary” and “because sovereign states have the right to protect their borders.” But even if we grant the premise that the United States ought to be able to protect its borders — itself an enormously controversial one which, as anarchist, I challenge — we must then wonder: Protect them from what? As economist Bryan Caplan observes, leaving out the moral questions implicated by the immigration debate, “even a random illiterate peasant” represents an economic benefit to his new country.

“Immigration laws,” Caplan shows, “trap people in countries where workers produce far below their potential.” When allowed the opportunity to work and produce to their potential, immigrants fill important economic needs and increase the overall wealth in society.

In terms of both basic economic and humanitarian considerations, completely free immigration and open borders are the soundest way forward for the United States and the whole world. Arbitrary, aggressive restrictions on people’s movement trample individual rights, divide families, and hurt the economy. It’s time to end the global apartheid of invented national boundaries and embrace the market anarchist solution of free movement, free exchange and free people.

The Weekly Libertarian Leftist And Chess Review 38

Patrick Cockburn discusses the growing lack of support for the Iraqi prime minister, Maliki.

Kevin Carson discusses whether government is just things we do together.

Lawrence Wright discusses the savage strategy of ISIS in Iraq.

Jacob G. Hornberger discusses why we need an enlightened citizenry invested in liberty.

Ajamu Baraka discusses Western policy on Iraq.

Rannie Amiri discusses ISIS and the Gulf Cooperation Council.

Patrick Cockburn discusses the great unraveling of Iraq.

Chris Hedges discusses Iraq.

Michael Schwartz discusses the new oil wars in Iraq.

Ed Krayewski discusses why interventionism is a bigger threat than the Iraqi civil war.

Patrick Cockburn discusses the cracking of Iraq.

Gilbert Mercier discusses ISIS.

Jonathan Cook discusses the occupation.

Doug Bandow discusses why the U.S. should stay out of Iraq.

James Bovard discusses freedom vs medals of freedom.

Conor Friedersdorf discusses the recent release of a memo on extrajudicial killings.

Jameel Jaffer discusses the newly released drone memo.

Gene Healy discusses how both Democrats and Republicans are to blame for Iraq.

Stephen Kinzer discusses blowback in Iraq.

David Swanson discusses the drone memo.

Clancy Sigal discusses the role of armed resistance in the Civil Rights Movement.

Peter Van Buren discusses 10 reasons not to launch airstrikes in Iraq.

Steve Clemons discusses Saudi Arabia’s policy in Syria.

Dan Sanchez discusses the total state.

Shamus Cooke discusses Iraq.

Robert Fantina discusses how racism is alive and well in Israel.

Laurence M. Vance discusses why libertarians are right about drugs.

Sheldon Richman discusses U.S. aid to the Egyptian government.

Pal Benko plays a fantastic game against Israel Albert Horowitz.

Pal Benko defeats Duncan Suttles.

Fernando Tesón’s “Hang Tough, Israel”: A Response

Guest Blog by Irfan Khawaja

In a recent post at Bleeding Heart Libertarians, “Hang Tough, Israel,” Fernando Tesón takes issue with those of his “libertarian friends” who are “relentless” in their criticisms of Israel, and responds to them by translating a longish passage from Spanish by the Argentinian writer Marcos Aguinis. What follows are four remarkably ignorant and offensive paragraphs on the Israel/Palestine dispute which I’m assuming that Tesón endorses. The post is too short to deserve a very long response, but I think it deserves more criticism than (with some notable exceptions) it’s so far gotten. Since I assume that Tesón endorses Aguinis’s claims, I’ll refer mostly to “Tesón” rather than “Aguinis”; if Tesón doesn’t endorse Aguinis’s claims, I have no objection to his publicly disowning as many of them as he now decides to reject.

Much of Tesón’s post involves generalizations about the moral character of Palestinians, and Palestinian youth in particular. Here’s a particularly offensive one:

In our postmodern times it is increasingly irrelevant where the good and the bad reside. Does it matter that the Israeli youth dream with being inventors and scientists, while the youth of Hezbollah and Hamas dream with being martytrs? Apparently not. Does it matter that in Israel children are not taught to hate the Arabs, while among the Arabs, the Protocols of Zion and Mein Kampf are best sellers, and that the Egyptian TV broadcast a repulsive series where the Jews would extract children’s blood for their rituals? Apparently this doesn’t matter either.

It doesn’t seem to have occurred to Tesón that if you’re going to describe “Israeli youth” in one clause of a sentence, the contrasting clause should make reference to “Palestinian youth,” not “the youth of Hamas or Hezbollah,” as though Palestinian youth were, as a whole, reducible to a faceless mass of terrorist fanatics, among whom the very essence of “badness” resides.

More fundamentally, I’d ask Tesón pointblank how much face time he’s ever had with Palestinian youth (or Palestinians generally), and if he hasn’t had very much (as I’d surmise), what conceivable basis he could have for a generalization of the sort he endorses in that post. How fluent, for example, is his Arabic? Evidently not fluent enough to list on his CV. But then, how can a person who speaks no Arabic know what Palestinian youth are like? Imagine generalizing about American youth but being unable to string together a sentence in English. That’s the caliber of the discussion he’s initiated, and which he regards as a serious contribution to the debate. (For the record: my Arabic is very rudimentary, and I have no facility at all with Hebrew, but then, I’m not inclined to make wild generalizations about either Palestinians or Israelis, as Tesón is.)

Last summer, I spent some time in the West Bank, and in particular in the city of Hebron and the village of Beit Umar. One contrast that I observed between Israeli and Palestinian youth was instructive: In Beit Umar, I watched youthful Israeli soldiers (in their 20’s) taking physical control of the village by force of arms – machine guns, tear gas, armed vehicles – blocking its roads so that settlers could help themselves to its resources. Meanwhile, unarmed Palestinian youth confronted them and remonstrated with them by discourse.1 This is an everyday occurrence in Beit Umar and the West Bank generally, though not one typically reported in our media or current in our discourse. It doesn’t exactly square with Tesón’s picture of terroristic Palestinian youth.

Meanwhile, just a few miles away, in the town of Abu Dis, my friend Munir Nusseibeh runs the Human Rights Clinic at Al Quds University, specializing in property rights claims – a kind of Palestinian version of the Institute for Justice. Munir leads a group of non-violent activists in property rights litigation against a military occupation whose bureaucrats literally enforce their whims and those of the settlers they protect, at gunpoint. After a few intense hours of conversations with him, it occurred to me that he had a better grasp of the nature and value of property rights than most political philosophers I know – and certainly better than Tesón himself who, despite his official rejection of collectivist conceptions of property ownership has nothing to say about the explicitly collectivist and expropriative character of Israeli land use policy. (For more details on Israeli land use policy, see Oren Yiftachel’s excellent book, Ethnocracy.) None of this squares with Tesón’s picture, either.

And then there is Lucy Nusseibeh, a one-woman powerhouse who runs MEND, an institute for non-violent protest and democracy.2 Her message? She wants to “demilitarize our minds” – not exactly the stuff of Hamas or Hezbullah. The non-violent nature of her activities has not, of course, prevented her from being raided and shut down by the Israeli authorities – the same authorities whom Tesón advises to “hang tough” as they hunt down such threatening Islamist figures as Big Bird, Cookie Monster, Ernie, and Bert.

Excuse me, but who is operating by the pen here and who is operating by the sword? And my anecdotes merely scratch the surface of the work that Palestinians are doing to create the basis of a non-violent civil society in the West Bank. In mentioning these anecdotes, I don’t intend them as data for generalizations about the depravity of “Israeli youth” or the heroism of “Palestinian youth,” but as data against facile generalizations of the kind Tesón takes for granted.

There’s no doubt that Palestinian political culture has its deformities, some of them deeply grotesque, unjust, and irrational. I have no qualms about saying that to anyone anywhere, as I have for decades – whether in The New York Times in 1987, or in front of an irritable West Bank audience in 2013.3 (Feel free to do a search on “Irfan Khawaja” in this book for some more documentation.) But Tesón writes as though the cultural deformities were all or uniquely Palestinian. As it happens, the falsity of this claim is becoming increasingly obvious, and has been obvious for decades. This past Friday’s New York Times has a story that makes explicit what most informed Israelis probably take for granted:

Tamir Lion, an anthropologist who studies youth, said he was troubled by the changing attitudes among Israel’s young people. For many years, Mr. Lion interviewed soldiers about why they chose to enter combat units. “The answers,” he said on Israel Radio, “were always about the challenge, to show I could make it, the prestige involved.”

That began to change in 2000, he said. “I started to get answers – not a lot, but some – like: ‘To kill Arabs.’ The first time I heard it, it was at the time of the large terror attacks, and since then it has not stopped.”

A generation has grown up in a period of Israeli-Palestinian conflict, with suicide bombs and military incursions, rocket fire and airstrikes. Young people on both sides may think about the other more as an enemy than as a neighbor.

Mr. Lion, head of research at the Ethos Institute, said he was troubled. “Today I can say, and everyone who works with youth will say it, Jewish youth in Israel hate Arabs without connection to their parents or their own party affiliation and their own political opinions.” (“Killing of Palestinian Youth Puts an Israeli Focus on Extremism”).

Those tempted to excuse these attitudes as a justified or understandable response to Palestinian suicide bombings may want to remember that such inferences run both ways: if it’s understandable that terrorism-traumatized Israelis should want to kill Arabs, it ought to be equally understandable that occupation-traumatized Palestinians should want to kill Israelis. It also ought to be rather obvious that a forty-seven-year long military occupation offers more than its share of opportunities for Israeli depredations. The inferences can only run asymmetrically if we assume either that Israelis have intrinsically greater moral weight than Palestinians, or that Palestinians are always the aggressors and Israelis always the defenders against their aggression. Neither assumption is true, and neither issue is adequately addressed by Tesón’s post. (Israeli rights violations are systematically documented by such organizations as B’Tselem, Al Haq, and the Human Rights Clinic at Al Quds University. I don’t necessarily agree with everything that they say or do, but their work is generally admirable and indispensable for understanding the realities of life under Israeli rule.)

I can’t literally replicate the reality of Palestinian life under military occupation in a short essay like this one, but You Tube offers a useful supplement to the written word. In offering the videos in this essay as evidence for my claims, let me stress that I am not making global generalizations about Israelis or Jews as such, much less making claims about their heritable traits. I’m pointing to well-established socio-political trends within Israel, trends that are the predictable result of its occupation and settlement of the West Bank, and of Zionist ideological assumptions generally.

This seven minute video provides a disheartening account of Anti-Arab sentiment in Israel (though I think Uri Davis understates the degree of anti-Semitism on the Arab side). This ten minute video candidly discusses “Israel’s New Generation of Racists.” This eight minute video offers a rather unflattering picture of attitudes among Israeli youth and of specifically American complicity in those attitudes. While you watch it, imagine a comparable scene involving thousands of white American youth with anti-black attitudes marching triumphantly and gleefully through a historically black neighborhood (in drunken throngs, at 3 am) – be it Harlem, Watts, Newark, or Detroit – while expressing themselves as these Israelis do. For a glimpse at life in Beit Umar, watch this video. For an ordinary day in Hebron, try this one. While watching these videos – and you can find hundreds more like them online – you might ask yourself how long Palestinians are supposed to endure behavior of the kind depicted in them without taking it upon themselves to engage in retaliatory self-help. You might try to put yourself in the place of the Palestinian victims in these video, a heuristic familiar to most grade school children but notably absent from Tesón’s post.

I’ve saved the best and most topical video for last. It doesn’t need much in the way of comment, at least if you’ve been following recent events in Israel. As you watch the video, try repeating the following Tesónite mantras to yourself and observing how they affect your ability to process what you’re watching:

Does it matter that the Israeli youth dream with being inventors and scientists, while the youth of Hezbollah and Hamas dream with being martytrs?

Already several generations of stoic Israeli citizens have defended the country with one hand while working with the other.

Does it matter to Tesón that the Israeli youth depicted in this video are not dreaming of being inventors or scientists, but of revenge fantasies which they’re enacting in real life? Does it matter to him that what we see here are not “Stoic Israeli citizens” defending the country with one hand while working with the other, but overwrought Israeli soldiers beating a child with their hands and feet in broad daylight?

I said I would focus here on Tesón, but I should perhaps say a word about Marcos Aguinis. I don’t know a great deal about his work, but if what I’ve read is any indication of his knowledge of the region and its issues, he’s little more than a crude propagandist at the level of Joan Peters, from whom he seems to have gotten a good part of his rhetorical playbook. To quote from an article of Aguinis’s:

No me gusta ser apologista, pero hay hechos demasiado evidentes que se tratan de negar falazmente.
[Rough translation: I don’t like having to function as an apologist, but there are facts that are sufficiently evident yet are gratuitously denied [and require a response].]

Delete the “No” and the whole second clause of this sentence, and you have a good summary of the agenda involved here. Twenty-two years after Rodney King and the LA riots, American readers ought to know better than to accept rhetoric of this nature about a whole ethnicity – and frankly, deserve better in the way of reading material on Israel/Palestine from supposedly eminent experts on the ethics of international relations. That Tesón should offer this post in all seriousness to a supposedly serious audience suggests that as far as attitudes about Palestinians and Arabs are concerned, we have a long way to go before we achieve even minimal decency in discussing the subject.

The bottom line is that Israel is a country that has operated a nearly fifty-year long military occupation and militarized settlement campaign at the expense of the millions of Palestinians who live under its rule. It claims to fear Palestinian terrorists, and has built a “security wall” to keep them “out,” but then insists on placing its own population on both sides of the wall, nullifying the point of having a wall, and erasing the “inside/outside” distinction which gives the wall whatever point it was supposed to have. Unfortunately, this desire to have things all ways at once is the classic hallmark of pro-Israeli discourse today, especially in its militant right-wing variety, which, regardless of his intentions, is the variety that Tesón’s post exemplifies. Israel may in many respects be a liberal democracy as Tesón and Co. claim, but unfortunately, the occupation proves that you can’t have your liberalism and eat it, too. That, I’m afraid, is the unintended but actual message of Fernando Tesón’s post.

Irfan Khawaja
Dept. of Philosophy
Felician College

 

 
Notes

[1] This is what force looks like when it confronts discourse, by the way. So where is the closed area, exactly? Is it just wherever the soldier’s tear gas happens to float? It turns out that one can’t ask IDF soldiers simple questions like this when they’re mad and on patrol – qualities that seem to go together a lot. Their rather non-responsive answers to simple questions often seem to take the form of dirty looks, lots of yelling in Hebrew, angry spitting on the ground, and the gratuitous firing of tear gas rounds. But I don’t regard any of that as an answer. Actually, I have a feeling they don’t, either.

[2] Lucy Nusseibeh and Munir Nusseibeh are not related, but Lucy Nusseibeh is married to Sari Nusseibeh, the well-known Palestinian intellectual. Coincidentally, she’s also the daughter of the philosopher J.L. Austin.

[3] I signed the 1987 letter with my middle name rather than my last name after my father took exception to it. I was a minor at the time, and living under his roof.

Missing Comma: Sirius XM drops the ball

Sirius XM celebrated Independence Day this year by giving Anthony Cumia, one half of shock jock team Opie and Anthony, the boot.

Anthony had tweeted one of his racist rants about a black woman who punched him in the face in Times Square when she thought he was taking a picture of her. Social media is pretty inextricably linked to public figures, especially radio personalities who promote their Twitter pages on the air, so the argument that it was his “personal” twitter doesn’t hold much water. Did Sirius XM have every right to fire him? Of course. But that doesn’t mean they didn’t make an awful move.

Now whether or not the woman was justified in assaulting Anthony, whether or not he was creeping on her, is irrelevant. Opie and Anthony have been on the air for twenty years, and before they were with SiriusXM, they raised hell on terrestrial airwaves with stunts like Whip ‘em Out Wednesdays, Homeless Charlie and several other deliberately crass radio bits with abject disregard for political correctness, especially on Cumia’s part.

Basically, I’m not sure what Sirius XM was expecting when they allowed O&A on their airwaves. Those two aren’t known to put their tails between their legs. The company’s official statement, as posted on Rolling Stone said:

“SiriusXM has terminated its relationship with Anthony Cumia of the Opie & Anthony channel. The decision was made, and Cumia informed, late Thursday, July 3 after careful consideration of his racially-charged and hate-filled remarks on social media,” Sirius XM said in a statement. “Those remarks and postings are abhorrent to SiriusXM, and his behavior is wholly inconsistent with what SiriusXM represents.”

It’s pretty easy to condemn defenders of Anthony as awful, insensitive racists, and granted some of them are. It’s not like he claims to be some great humanitarian, but you would think that Americans would understand the first amendment at this point. Anyone who would circlejerk about how offended they are would also probably change the station if they heard O&A.

Furthermore, Sirius XM’s decision comes down to an institutional interest in protecting political correctness. Cancelling Opie and Anthony may be bad for business in the short-term, especially since the program is available live only to customers who pay for extra channels, but as Jeremy Weiland’s 2012 essay critiquing political correctness says:

“Yes, saying racist shit sucks — it is hurtful to social conviviality as well as certain individuals, and it has the potential to perpetuate narratives and prejudices that hold us all back. But given that the channels of media are controlled by an elite few corporations, the piling on and blacklisting that follows such an utterance is out of proportion with what the organic social sanction would entail. While we may not care about the feelings of the bigot, we may not immediately see how the media’s use of these incidents serves their interests — programming, articles, interviews, and other opportunities for increased attention and advertising revenue — over our interests, which involve genuine healing, understanding, and contrition.”

There we go. One of the underlying tenets of Opie and Anthony’s messages to the public is that political correctness is a charade, and while it sucks that Anthony needed to be kicked off the air to prove that point, it’s still solidly proven.

Like I said a few weeks ago, radio is one of the best venues for unpopular opinions, but Sirius XM really dropped the ball with this one. They won’t end racism, but they will set a precedent that their company is an enemy of free speech.

This 2011 Live from the Compound bit, is an interesting twist of foreshadowing.

The Weekly Abolitionist: Jury Nullification in The Nation

On July 7th, Molly Knefel published a great piece on jury nullification in The Nation. Knefel opens by discussing the trial of Cecily McMillan, an Occupy Wall Street protester who was convicted of “assaulting” a police officer who had assaulted her, and sentenced to a prison term that most of the jurors who convicted her deemed disproportionate and unjust. The jurors had been instructed not to research the punishment McMillan would face.

Knefel discusses the various norms that bias jurors in favor of conviction, from legal norms that prohibit lawyers from mentioning jury nullification in court to an authoritarian bias that inclines jurors to defer to police and prosecutors. She then describes nullification’s history, from its origins in 1670 to its use in the trial of the Camden 28, a group of peace activists who broke into a draft board office in protest of the Vietnam War.

The article’s conclusion is excellent:

People must know their rights before they get called to jury duty. Telling a sitting juror about nullification can be considered illegal tampering. But ensuring that all potential jurors know about nullification is not only legal but critical to the administration of justice. “When people start to understand the power they can exercise as jurors, I think that makes them more enthusiastic about jury service,” Butler says. And in an era of mass incarceration, harsh sentencing, racial profiling and police repression, the jury box is arguably the most powerful spot in the courtroom.

Now this is what I’m talking about!

Late last month I presented alongside Kirsten Tynan of the Fully Informed Jury Association on how jury nullification can be used as a tactic against a growing and brutal prison state. Kirsten discussed much of the history that Knefel covers in her piece. I mostly focused on the abuse that occurs inside American prisons, and why jurors should be aware of this as they consider whether someone should be convicted of a crime.

I’ve considered jury nullification a key part of any prison abolitionist toolkit for a while. About a year ago, in my op-ed Prison Abolition Is Practical, I mentioned jury nullification as one tactic for restraining the prison state, writing:

Resist the prison growth industry. Organize against construction of any new prisons, jails, and detention centers. Divest from banks that profit off prisons, such as Wells Fargo, and urge others to do the same. Expose prison profiteers like Jane Marquardt and undermine their political influence. Film cops, finance legal defenses, and promote jury nullification, so fewer people are sent to prison.

But this perspective on jury nullification has in my experience been too often absent from leftist movements against mass incarceration. The Fully Informed Jury Association does amazing work for jury nullification, but has mostly been heard by the libertarian right. So when left-wing publications like The Nation bring up jury nullification explicitly as a tactic against mass incarceration, this gives me hope and suggests I’m not alone. Let’s fight against mass incarceration, disproportionate punishment, and abusive power on all fronts, with juror education and jury nullification as one key tactic.

The Weekly Libertarian Leftist and Chess Review 37

Andy Piascik discusses how war is everywhere.

Anthony Papa discusses the stories of drug war prisoners.

Timothy Karr discusses crony capitalists in Congress.

Kevin Carson discusses so called “free trade” agreements.

Jesse Walker discusses why the U.S. should stay out of Iraq.

Andrew Levine discusses imperial stupidity.

Sheldon Richman discusses the effects of imperialism in the Middle East.

Justin Raimondo discusses how the U.S. government is intervening again in Iraq.

Patrick Cockburn discusses how U.S. attacks will hurt but not defeat jihadists.

The ninth part of George H. Smith’s series on Edmund Burke and Thomas Paine.

Eric Alterman discusses the revisionism of neocons on Iraq.

Robert Parry discusses the surge in Iraq.

Seumas Milne discusses how more U.S. bombs and drones will only add to Iraq’s horror.

Shireen T. Hunter discusses the real culprits in Iraq.

Dahlia S. Wasfi discusses trusting Iraqis with Iraq.

Rob Urie discusses Iraq and the persistence of American hegemony.

Lawrence Davidson discusses the mess in Iraq.

David Swanson discusses the Democratic Party push to bomb Iraq again.

Pepe Escobar discusses the jihadists in Iraq.

Renee Parsons discusses the current situation in Iraq.

John Eskow discusses sending boots to Iraq.

Cory Massimino discusses why Hilary Clinton is a terrorist.

Ariel Dorfman discusses a tale of torture.

Missy Comley Beattie discusses Iraq.

David Gordon reviews Lew Rockwell’s new book on anarcho-capitalism. I am not an ancap, but I find the review interesting.

Eric Margolis discusses the coming American defeat in Iraq.

Ronald Bailey reviews Nicholas Wade’s, A Troublesome Inheritance: Genes, Race, and Human History.

Nebojsa Malic discusses a new forum designed to stop a new Cold War.

Alexander Alekhine defeats K. Iskaov.

Alexander Alekhine beats Fred Dewhirst Yates.