Wedging Trump

wedge

Anthony Scaramucci — his friends call him “the Mooch” — is a blow-dried, gold ringed hedge fund trader straight out of Central Casting. Last summer, when Donald Trump dismissed finance people like him as parasitic swindlers who “move around papers,” Scaramucci snarled that Trump was “another hack politician” who would “probably make Elizabeth Warren his vice-presidential nominee,” considering his “anti-American” insults to the finance industry. “You’re an inherited money dude from Queens County,” the Mooch taunted Trump on the Fox Business Channel, doing his best impression of a guy asking another guy if he’d like to step outside for a minute.

Today, Scaramucci is a member of Trump’s presidential transition team.

Scaramucci’s journey from trash talker of presidential nominee Trump to economic advisor to President-elect Trump tracks Trump’s own abrupt transformation from firebrand populist outsider to Wall Street-friendly insider — an about-face that wasn’t just predictable but repeatedly predicted. As a man without an ideology, Trump is not a change agent but an opportunistic pragmatist. His goal is not to reshape the American economy or even the Republican Party, but to use the presidency to build his global brand and enrich himself and his family in the process. People like Scaramucci and Steven Mnuchin, Trump’s choice for Treasury Secretary, a former Goldman Sachs mortgage banker who made his fortune and his legend exploiting the pain of the foreclosure crisis, may have been odd choices for the grenade-lobbing, drain-the-swamp-and-burn-the-whole-system-down presidential candidate version of Donald Trump. But they’re just the right kind of advisors for the self-dealing, oligarchical, President-elect version of Trump: the real Trump, the one who will be crowned Leader of the Free World next month.

Trump is doing so little to conceal his betrayal of the populist message that got him elected that some of his most hardcore fans — Breitbart readers — are already showing, in the words of one, “buyer’s remorse.” Here are a few comments from a recent Breitbart write-up about Mnuchin:

Donald Trump is a bankster puppet. Anyone who believes a Goldman Sachs, George Soros, and Bernie Madoff crony will do anything to help the middle class is a fool.

Remember back in the day when Trump held Goldman Sachs up as representative of the corrupt, manipulative, greedy Establishment?

Good times.

There’s this thing called “Buyer’s Remorse” that a lot of Breitbart readers are about to become increasingly familiar with…

It’s too early to be optimistic, but the cleave that Trump’s recent appointments have opened up in the conservative-populist coalition he built over the course of the campaign may be good news for those who have been fearing an enduring hard right realignment in American politics of the sort that has been seen in countries all across Europe.

As Sasha Polakow-Suransky reports in his indispensable and unsettling account of the rise of the European far right, parties like the Front National in France and the Danish People’s Party in Denmark have spent years, even decades, slogging their way out of the political wilderness by making themselves more palatable to former Social Democrats, the kinds of people who regard themselves as compassionate, tolerant, and committed to social justice, but who have grown disenchanted with the established, bureaucratic parties that were once the radical vanguard of those inclusive values. The FN and the DPP, Polakow-Suransky shows, have labored to jettison the baggage of anti-semitism, homophobia, and fascism and have re-positioned themselves, remarkably, as the guardians of progressive politics — by casting Muslims and immigrants as the true enemies, the barbarians at the gates of secular, humanist Western civilization. Like Trump’s analogue in the U.S., this disturbing configuration may be philosophically contradictory, but it wins elections.

The United States is not Europe, and there are many important reasons why the politics of reaction will take a different shape here than there. But if Trump were to follow the lead of his European counterparts, we could expect to see the emergence of a lasting electoral bloc of disillusioned Democrats that is economically left-wing but culturally chauvinistic and politically anti-pluralist and authoritarian. By now, that should be a familiar combination to American voters: a variation of it was mobilized by Reagan, and it was arguably a key part of the electoral coalition that won Trump his presidency. But unlike in Europe, it has never really outlived the fleeting mobilization of an election cycle and cohered into a stable, enduring political movement. Trump, with his orthodoxy-eschewing, cross-party appeal, could be the catalyst for that transformation, which could change American politics forever.

His cabinet appointments, however, suggest that he is choosing a narrower, easier, less transformative path, the kind of path that guys like Anthony Scaramucci and Steven Mnuchin and firms like Goldman Sachs can happily join him on, with none of the showy displays of contempt that the Mooch performed for the Fox Business Channel’s cameras last summer.

Yesterday, Scaramucci gave The New York Times his decidedly amiable take on the President-elect’s new, Wall Street-stacked economic cabinet:

The working-class people of the United States, they need a break. And we need to switch them from going from the working class into the working poor into what I call the aspirational working class, which my dad was a member of.

Scaramucci’s dad was a Long Island construction worker and a union member. His union wages paid for his son’s Tufts University education. Unions, now a sapped and withered version of what they were during Scaramucci’s childhood, will almost undoubtedly come out of Trump’s first term even weaker than they went into it (radically weaker, if a federal Right-to-Work law is passed). So will the economic power of the workers they represent, however “aspirational” they might be. The idea of a construction worker’s wages sustaining a middle class family and paying the private college tuition of a son who will go on to become a millionaire is already a distant and nostalgic memory. The redistributive postwar welfare state that made it possible was dismantled long ago; the economic team the Mooch is helping to put into place, along with Paul Ryan’s fiscal austerity measures, which Trump will undoubtedly sign into law, will ensure it is never rebuilt. Scaramucci’s rhetoric hits some vaguely populist-sounding notes, but they’re as empty as Trump’s.

For an angry electorate clamoring for change, Trump will have more of the same Wall Street poison that has kept wages stagnant or falling for four decades, under both Democratic and Republican administrations. Immigrant scapegoating and stimulative deficit spending might keep his administration’s popularity afloat for the short term, but if he really goes down this road, eventually there will have to be a reckoning with his abandoned base. Those voters already feel betrayed by both the Democratic and the Republican establishments. When they find themselves jilted by Trump, too, they’ll have few places to turn.

That moment will be an opening for the left, if the left is prepared to take it.

The Gamble: The Left’s Bet on a Trump Loss

How leftists were blinded to Trump’s winning prospects

The gamble was this, and many on the left were sure the odds were stacked: Hillary Clinton would overcome the sweeping forces of global reaction and be the next president of the United States, liberating the politically savvy to focus on her–the locus of real power, the fascist, but with a smile and a pantsuit–and come out looking prescient as all hell for having never bought into liberal hysteria over Donald J. Trump. Say what you will about Trump, this woke-as-fuck cadre claimed, at least he wouldn’t nuke Moscow over the proxy war in Syria.

Gambling that Clinton was the one and Trump just a boogeyman distraction did, at some point, seem reasonably safe, and so we were confidently assured. “It’s obvious she’ll win,” Salon’s Benjamin Norton observed in a late June microblog. “Wall Street, most media, State Dept., foreign policy elites, neocons, etc. all back Clinton.” Striking a similar tone, Zaid Jilani of the Intercept dismissed the possibility of a proto-fascist billionaire’s ascendance to the White House as “theatrics.”

“Trump has no policies, no real team, no real campaign,” Jilani argued. “He’s about as dangerous as a fruit fly.”

The ballots having been cast, we can confidently state: Shit.

The left isn’t alone in having gotten this wrong, but what might be cause for introspection is why the political subculture that prides itself on its superior analysis of reality didn’t grasp what was happening. It’s not that criticizing the neoliberal hawk in the race was not the right thing to do, but that the dogma that she was a shoo-in led some to lay off the man who was to become president.

Glenn Greenwald spent the weeks leading up to the election portraying the far-right demagogue who was set to become the world’s most powerful man as a victim of mainstream media bias and center-left anti-communism. At the same time, he compared the media’s inquiries into Trump’s Russian oligarch ties to Senator Joseph McCarthy’s House Un-American Activities Committee (which Trump surrogate Newt Gingrich actually wishes to revive).

Trump, Greenwald told Slate, adheres to a “coherent philosophy that is non-interventionist.” This, at the time, was offered as part of the explanation for why the liberal establishment was going so hard on Trump over his alleged ties to Russia. Greenwald stuck to this line even after Trump called for many more airstrikes around the globe and “bombing the hell out of” Libya, Iraq and Syria in particular. As with other contemporary leftist apologism for a fascist, this one began with a liberal. (“Donald the Dove, Hillary the Hawk,” was the title of Maureen Dowd’s column in the New York Times.)

The Green Party’s Jill Stein took it further, saying America’s Berlusconi would keep us out of World War III. “Hillary Clinton’s foreign policy is much scarier than Donald Trump’s,” she tweeted alongside the hashtag #PeaceOffensive, contrasting the fascist with the neoliberal by saying that at least the former “does not want to go to war with Russia.” By the end of the campaign, it was commonplace to see Trump–say what you will–referred to as a practitioner of “know-nothing isolationism,” as journalist Rania Khalek did, contrasting that ideology with his opponent’s bombs-away neo-conservatism.

We have a few weeks to go before Trump gains the power to drone strike weddings abroad, a modern presidential rite of passage that, judging by the rise in global defense stocks since his election, investors are convinced he will continue as the next Commander-in-Chief. His desire for peace with Russia, the smart money says, won’t mean peace elsewhere, like Syria, where he has proposed an escalated bombing campaign in alliance with Vladimir Putin and Bashar al-Assad.

Without any Trump-embossed missiles having yet been fired, it already seems like a singularly dumb, quaint, and naive idea that he would drop less of them than Hillary. Why, then, did some on the left suggest the guy on the right would be a man of relative peace?

Because it wasn’t about him, and he wasn’t supposed to win.

“I’d assumed that the danger of Trump and the danger of Clinton were of two different orders,” explained British leftist Sam Kriss in a post-mortem. Trump was a danger because of what he said, but “Clinton was dangerous because of what she would actually do, because Clinton was going to win the election. I was a sucker, the kind who gets duped precisely by believing himself to be too smart for any kind of con.”

The problem wasn’t that it was wrong to believe Clinton a danger, but that dwelling on the evils of the horrible, neoliberal status quo she represented blinded some to the fact that things could get worse. In some cases, this led to a failure to effectively critique and prepare for the next President, from the left.

Trump won, Kriss argues, “because the standard formula of American liberalism–eternal war abroad coupled with rationally administered dispossession at home and an ethics centered on where people should be allowed to piss and shit–is a toxic and unlovable ideology.” As rhetoric, it pleases those who adhere to the leftist consensus: Yes, racism is a real problem and social justice matters, but neither is as important as the class war. Scratching away the smarm, though, yields no better understanding of U.S. politics.

No candidate was running on a platform of peace: Clinton had a record of supporting war while Trump was running on the promise of doing war more brutally and efficiently, stripped of limp-wristed anchors like democracy promotion and nation-building. People who voted on either the Republican or Democratic ticket were not casting their ballots against empire. Nor were they voting against an ethics “centered” on where people relieve themselves, by which Kriss means the revanchist crackdown over transgender Americans using bathrooms that match their gender identity.

Not only is the implication that Trump votes were a response to “politically correct” defenses of basic human rights morally wrong, but it’s also at odds with the complementary claim that they voted for jobs. Neither claim is backed by what happened on Election Day. In North Carolina, both the Republican governor and Republican lawmaker who prided themselves on a law banning transgender people from using public bathrooms lost to Democrats whose opposition to the transphobic law was a centerpiece of their campaigns.

Kriss and others nodding at the “piss and shit” shorthand for “identity politics” do not, presumably, oppose people using bathrooms that match their gender, much less believe a group of oppressed people, nearly half of whom have attempted suicide, deserve to be discriminated against and assaulted for that choice.

But what this leftist cadre dismissive of Trump’s prospects represents, above all, is an antiquated ethics that centers and romanticizes a proletariat class that doesn’t really exist in the U.S. In this ethics, issues pertaining specifically to the rights of racial minorities or the LGBT community are seen as neoliberal deflections from what really matters. As Jacobin editor Connor Kilpatrick argues, claims of prejudice among the white rural electorate are an elite tactic to deflect from elite failures. “Diversity rhetoric,” he maintains, “has obscured that 63 percent of [the] USA is white,” while “only 3.8 percent LGBT.” By this math, it’s just political correctness that has been alienating all those budding socialists who wear t-shirts emblazoned with the Confederate flag.

It’s not that Trump voters lacked material concerns. The neoliberal consensus has failed, pushing millions of Americans into precarious lines of work. This is part of the reason why Trump did better with members of unions than Mitt Romney did in 2012. But their class politics shouldn’t be overstated either: Trump only did four percent better than the last Republican presidential nominee, losing union workers by 19 points to Clinton, according to the AFL-CIO. Likewise, Trump did better with those making under $50,000 by about 3 percent compared to Romney. Most working-class voters sided with Clinton over Trump, who won thanks to 290 electors, but which is expected to be 2 million votes less. Others looked at them both, felt nauseous, and decided to stay home.

U.S. liberalism is a toxic ideology, at home and abroad, but jettisoning “identity politics”–the defense of vulnerable people on issues that are matters of life and death–is the absolute wrong lesson to take from a four percent swing among registered voters who actually decided to vote. Trump’s campaign was itself based on identity: whiteness. The response is not abandoning identity in politics, but developing a more radical version of it that advocates equality within a socialist critique of an economic system designed by and for predominantly white men with capital.

What the left needs, is to be defined by more than just its necessary anti-liberalism, wherein explanations for right-wing revanchism that rely on racism are written off as neoliberal excuse-making. Sure, Trump’s voters may not be 60 million Klansmen, but we shouldn’t whitewash the fact that millions had no problem expressing their discontent with a vote for a racist misogynist whose campaign events looked like Klan rallies. The latter were okay with expressing whiteness–and the whiteness of the final vote tally was overwhelming–at the cost of everyone who didn’t look like them.

Clinton’s Death Star liberalism was the most progressive policy platform yet in a general election, thanks in no small part to the push from Sanders. But that’s not saying much, and ultimately, anything she promised was already tainted by her embodiment, to right and left voters, of everything that’s wrong with the status quo. But it would be a ghastly mistake to take from her loss the lesson that the left ought to ignore the human rights of the most vulnerable in order to make short-term gains with a racist white minority.

As leftists, our ethics must be centered not on the four percent, but on the growing, soon-to-be majority of people excluded from the Trump voter coalition–those who were under assault from white supremacy and “traditional” bigoted values long before November 8 and will only continue to be assaulted under his regime. A lot should be thrown out in the wake of Hillary Clinton’s loss, beginning with the candidate herself, but detoxing this country of liberalism should mean replacing her brand of center-left corporatism with an economic program of radical wealth redistribution based on anti-racist, anti-sexist, anti-homophobic, and anti-transphobic values. We don’t need to wait until after the class war to do things as basic as naming white supremacy or letting people use the bathroom that best corresponds to their gender identity.

Charles Davis is a journalist whose work has been published by outlets such as Al Jazeera, The Nation and The New Republic. Follow him on Twitter: @charliearchy

Civil Disobedience

Anyone near Exeter should make sure to visit Making Light’s exhibition Stories from Syria (and visit the website). I wrote three small texts to accompany some of the art work. Here’s the first:

no-justificationTwo posters made in early 2011.

One reads: “It’s civil disobedience. No excuse for silence after today.”

A figure grabs lines from a thumb print, and runs. The thumb print evokes ID cards and the whole machinery of state. The figure is fleeing surveillance, therefore, and defining his own identity as he does so. Have those lines transformed into sticks in his arms? Is he about to light a fire?

The figure in the second poster is trapped inside a ‘no entry’ road sign, either dismantling it, and by implication the political prohibitions in Syrian society, or saying ‘no’ himself, refusing orders.

The words in this one read: “Civil disobedience. I don’t obey the law of an illegitimate iwontobeyauthority.” The sentence is a response to a regime poster campaign of the period. One of those official slogans read: “I obey the law.”

The revolutionary poster aims to force a dialogue where before there was only monologue. It answers back.

Before 2011, nobody answered back, at least not in public. Back then, veteran dissident (and long-term political prisoner) Riad al-Turk was entirely just when he called Syria a “kingdom of silence”.

Syrians were terrified to speak openly and honestly about domestic politics. Those who did either had to leave the country or were imprisoned for decades in the most brutal conditions. The state had ears and eyes everywhere, spies in every workplace, school and café. It owned all the tongues in the country, every newspaper, every radio and TV station. It decided which books were published and which films were shot. It dominated trades unions and universities and every last inch of the public space, even the graffiti on the walls.

In 2000, Bashaar al-Assad inherited power from his father Hafez. The new president’s neo-liberal (and crony-capitalist) economic reforms impoverished the countryside and city suburbs while excessively enriching a tiny elite. Rami Makhlouf, for instance, the president’s tycoon cousin, was estimated to control 60% of the national economy by 2011.

In the spring of 2011, Syrians refound their voices. Enmired in increasing poverty, rejecting the humiliations of unending dictatorship, lashing out against corruption, and encouraged by the Arab Spring uprisings nearby, they took to the streets.

Continue reading “Civil Disobedience”

What I Saw on Oprius 10 (You’re Being Lied To)

2179011124_531fbf74ba

I just got back from this “barbaric alien slave planet” and what I found was shocking: we’re not being told the truth.

Children as young as 14 hours are ripped from their mother’s tentacles and forced to work 37 cycles straight in underground Calbazarite mines until their tiny withered bodies, still bound together by Gregorothian emotion-stabilizing mobilityrays, are shoveled out by the kiloton and tossed in unmarked disposal modules that are fired into the suns. Meanwhile, we’re told, Leader Rahsab’s personal envoy dines at 7-star restaurants, his harem of Alphanian gendermorphs injecting him with the galaxy’s finest proteins while, beneath the soil, his army of Mechatrons blasts away so-called “moderate” resistance caves.

We’ve all heard these stories, just like we all heard the story about Itarkian security forces devouring humanoid offspring as they slept in their interdimensional space-time inhibitors. Only after the New Alliance of Coequal Aliens removed their Supreme Being did we learn that was a total lie, manufactured by a public relations planet enslaved the Kuwangians who — you probably didn’t hear — had been trying and failing to build a warp portal through Itarkian space.

First, let me be clear: I don’t believe Leader Rahsab is infallible. I, personally, believe this mild-mannered gaseous cloud has made mistakes. Destroying Oprius 7, the famed artist colony, was not ideal, in my opinion, only aiding the interplanetary campaign of defamation which, of course, never addressed what “peaceful” gammachord players were doing with Kuwangian shape-shifting technology. But I also understand why, amid a NACA-backed insurgency attracting mercenaries from around the cosmos, he felt the need to send a message. NACA would have done the same thing.

And what I really know for sure? That the last thing the Oreckians need is a change in Eternal Hierarchy imposed by a solar system 90 million light years away and sold on the basis of a corrupt, Earth-based opposition’s lies and the tales of Oprian “refugees” who claim they escaped the mineral deposits but, curiously, display none of the signs of Calbazarite Syndrome. That’s why I decided to accept Leader Rahsab’s invitation to spend five cycles touring Oprius 10. What I can say now You’re being lied to.

I expected the outrageous smears the moment I agreed to hear the perspective of a “brutal confederation,” but one doesn’t go into journalism expecting pleasantries and generous fiber rations. I wanted to hear their side; clearly, whether . Surely if dissatisfaction were as high as claimed by the mainstream news algorithms I would see it and those famed (but always conveniently “disappeared”) dissidents during my visit.

What I saw in the Historic Quadrant of Damackulous Y was instead, normal — disappointingly so for those believing NACA’s planted newsbytes about all that (manufactured) dissent. Intelligent lifeforms wore clothes that they bought on Amazon. Local injection labs had all the brands and flavors I knew from back home. Most of the people I saw were rather shy, seeking to shift the conversation away from politics and back to my drink order, but Oreckian system tribes are known for their wariness of strangers.

At an Irish pub, I heard from an Oprian female about how her husband had been tricked into fighting for confederation change, believing the same lies we Talangs have been told about the attractiveness of Northern sector-style “liberties” — to anti-socially fret over what to do with one’s consciousness, instead of having that rationally decided for you — and the unilateral consensus process laid out in the Leader’s Chartreuse Communication. Through a reconciliation deal offered by the confederation’s social justice minister, he agreed to be cremated in exchange for a small stipend off which she now lives. Yes, life can be hard, she confided, but — glancing nervously at my state-provided translator to make sure he was getting every word — life in the mines had given her and her children the structure they sorely lacked in “liberated” zones, where she wasn’t even allowed to work, much less required to.

While I would like to have seen more, after a drugged Orian male shrieked at me to take his identity chip without authorization — he was neutralized by security forces after a reading of his right — it was decided on my behalf that I should go. And that’s the Oreckian way: Capable superiors decide things like this for you, leaving more time for life. The Oreckians, like any other people, should be allowed to decide their system of governance, and Leader Rahasab has made that decision for them. We may not always understand their ways, but that doesn’t mean we should try to impose ours on them.

Remember Itark?

Charles Davis is a reporterbot from the Talang system. Their work is presented in 400 billion minds.

Workings of the Myth

How stereotyping abets ISIS and the authoritarian state

headlineimage-adapt-1460-high-iraq_isil_uniform_061114-1402565677379
Aftermath of Iraqi Army’s battle with ISIS

by Bente Scheller

Brussels, Paris, Istanbul, Baghdad, Nice: The attacks in recent months have claimed the lives of hundreds of people. Whether the so-called “Islamic State” (Daesh/ISIS) admits to being responsible for the attacks or whether investigations reveal its delinquency is of secondary importance: in the words of Achim Rohde, ISIS has become the regularly reappearing “enemy of humanity” (Rohde, 2016).[1] Several levels come together in the assessment of the risk that this enemy—as its predecessor al-Qaida before it— poses to Western societies: a fundamental fear trickles into everyday life, a fear of a hardly calculable force that arbitrarily accepts civilian victims and explicitly targets them; and that fear melds with Islamophobia and racism. This amalgam ensures that the fight against terrorism is oftentimes defined by populist responses that detract from practical political decision, decisions that are not always easy to promulgate.

The lack of a widely accepted definition of terrorism leaves it open to subjective interpretation. Right-wing movements invariably mobilize against the unassimilable  “other”. The more alien and violent the depiction of the “other”, the easier it becomes to distance oneself and to construct one’s own moral superiority by demonising the “other”.

Continue reading “Workings of the Myth”

Anarchists in Agrabah

bakunin-syrian-anarchos
Syrian Anarchist banner: “I am truly free only when all human beings are equally free” – Bakunin, 1871.

On Saturday October 29th, 2016, Leila Al Shami and Robin Yassin Kassab, authors of the book ‘Burning Country: Syrians in Revolution and War’, were invited by the London Anarchist Book Fair to give a talk on Syria. As Leila wrote yesterday night, they “had in particular wanted to focus on anti-authoritarian struggles, self-organization as well as issues of militarism, sectarianism and the rise of Islamist extremist groups.” Shortly before speaking, Robin told me that some people were going around the book fair saying that ‘a pro-Jihadi Syrian nationalist fascist’ was going to give a talk and that he must be prevented from doing so. We laughed it off.

Robin and Leila sat down and, barely having had the time to introduce themselves, they were interrupted. One man, later identified as Amir Taaki, went on stage, followed by about seven friends, one of whom was in full military garb, and started ranting about Robin’s alleged love for Jihadis, Syrian nationalism, Ahrar Al Sham and other such inanities. Robin left and Leila, who had tried to stay and reason with them, ended up leaving too. 

As for Taaki, he is a British-Iranian who was involved in the creation of BitCoin and who never misses an opportunity to boast that according to Forbes he was ‘their top 30 under 30 list for 2014’. He claims he has just returned from Rojava, an achievement he thought was enough to qualify him to speak on Syria as a whole. That an actual Syrian Kurdish Anarchist from Rojava, Shiar Neyo, was already on the panel didn’t prevent him from trying to hijack it. The self-appointed representative of Kurdistan had sent several emails to Leila demanding a spot on their panel – demanding, not asking.

Those of us familiar with this neo-colonial and racist arrogance expressed by foreigners after visiting ‘the region’ for a few months can think of a few Taakis we’ve met over the years.

When all resistance proved to be futile, the organizers were forced to let Taaki speak for a few minutes. He then proceeded to speak for as long as he wanted (10-20 minutes before people in the audience started complaining again), and what a monologue it was! He rambled on about how Kurdish culture is inherently egalitarian and how it’s a light in a dark world. He spoke of ancient Mesopotamia, of some bloody pyramids and of how all of that linked to some mystical Kurdish Shangri-La that all Anarchists and revolutionaries must defend. His rambling reminded me of what a book on Orientalism for Children would look like. Taaki told us how he ‘went there thinking that he’ll teach them’ but instead ‘they taught me so much’; ‘these people’ who he described as heroic men and women engaging in guerilla warfare in the mountains while reading Bookchin and Nietzsche (I’m not joking). ‘Kurdistan’ is apparently replacing ‘the Orient’ given that the latter has failed to satisfy westerners who got bored of Aladdin.  

Not only that, but they were profoundly racist. Taaki, in his Aladdin monologue, listed Turkey and Saudi Arabia as the two most racist countries on the planet, an odd statement given the existence of a settler colonial state, Israel, on one of Syria’s borders or, for that matter, the existence of instutitionalized racism in many countries of the region, including my own, Lebanon, and beyond. One of them even told me ‘you people’. When I asked him what people he was talking about given the fact that I was raised in a Lebanese Arab Catholic family, he went silent. When I lost my patience and yelled ‘f-ing white people’, two of them accused me of being racist against white people. They started yelling about how it’s unfair to paint all of them with the same brush. All Lives Matter, folks.

Kurdish friends who later heard about what happened were horrified at how a group of mostly white people used Kurdistan, the Kurdish struggle for autonomy and social justice and pretty much all struggles in and around Kurdistan to fit their orientalist fantasy. Kurds didn’t really exist in Taaki’s monologue. It was a bizarre manifestation of racism mixed with Islamophobia and Kurdish diaspora ultra-nationalism. In fact, when we went back in with Shiar Neyo in an attempt to confront Taaki and his cult followers, who by then had emptied the whole room of its original audience and replaced it with a dozen ‘anarchists’ who all knew one another, his cult followers shut Neyo down and called him disgusting.

Neyo soon understood that this was not a crowd that cared much about Rojava, Syria as a whole or anything for that matter. The people of Syria, Arabs or Kurds, were irrelevant to them. Neyo told them that this is not what solidarity looked like and we left. Leila and Robin’s talk was canceled. Neyo’s talk was canceled. Syrian Arabs and Syrian Kurds were not allowed to talk on Syria. Instead, some British guy who hasn’t written a single article on Syria was allowed to control the narrative because he’s been to Rojava, learned Kurdish and ‘about Kurdish culture’. By those standards, I should be Queen of England by now. Never has Said’s ‘permission to narrate’ sounded so relevant to my ears.

This was a strange event, one which Leila told me she had never witnessed despite giving countless talks with Robin on Syria. And this included talks with actual Shabbiha in the room. Taaki’s cult followers didn’t seem to have any ‘ideology’ other than engaging in orientalist fantasies. There wasn’t anything ‘anarchist’ about them given that they shut down a panel featuring a Syrian Arab anarchist, Leila, and insulted a Syrian Kurdish anarchist, Shiar. They also repeatedly harassed people, yelled at them and called them Jihadi sympathizers. They refused to stop filming people’s faces despite being repeatedly asked by the organizers and members of the audience to stop filming as this violated the very basic definition of a safe space – especially one on Syria with so many still having family in regime or ISIS-controlled areas. What a funny version of Anarchism it is in which the basic notion of solidarity is rejected.

Glenn Greenwald’s Sympathy for the Devil

Screen Shot 2016-10-28 at 01.30.15.png

After five years of equivocation on Syria, Glenn Greenwald has finally taken a stance. He is attacking Syria’s leading dissident who spent 16 years in Assad’s notorious prisons for his left-wing politics, whose two brothers were abducted by ISIS, and whose wife was disappeared three years ago.

Greenwald’s charge? That Yassin al Haj Saleh doesn’t mention Obama in his criticisms; and that in an interview with The Intercept Saleh accuses most leftists of being Assad sympathisers without naming them.

Does Yassin omit Obama in his criticisms?

“Nothing could diminish the despicable crime the Obama administration has committed against Syria and its population. And history will not forget this for a long time. ”

Yes, those are Yassin’s words. He has never been shy to indict the Obama or the rest of the world.

Does Yassin criticise leftists without naming them?

Yassin names and shames them where necessary. But when he is talking about general trends he has no obligation.

But let me oblige Greenwald and name one prominent leftist who is objectively pro-Assad: Glenn Greenwald.

Sorry Glenn, but that common throat clearing preamble—”Of course Assad is bad but…”—will give you only limited protection when you devote your entire time to maligning and attacking the regime’s opponents.

Continue reading “Glenn Greenwald’s Sympathy for the Devil”