Monday, November 20, 2017

Home-from-War War Stories: Myth, Media & the Ken Burns Vietnam Series

From Common Dreams:  https://www.commondreams.org/views/2017/07/26/home-war-war-stories-myth-media-ken-burns-vietnam-series

Jerry Lembcke Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Stories of Vietnam veterans treated badly by war protesters proliferated in the years surrounding the Persian Gulf War of 1991. They were the inspiration for the "yellow ribbon campaign" intended to signal that Gulf War veterans would be treated differently. My book inquiring into the origins and veracity of the stories about disparaged Vietnam veterans came out in 1998. Little did I imagine at the time that, 20 years later, versions of the same stories would be figuring in remembrances appearing upon the 50th anniversaries of some important dates of the war in Vietnam.

The stories have reappeared, prominently, in the June 20 New York Times and the July 16 Washington Post.  The Times piece was written by veteran Bill Reynolds who recounted his experience as an infantryman in a bloody Mekong Delta battle in 1967. Reynolds ended the account with the claim that he, "came home through San Francisco's airport to throngs of hippies harassing me." The Post story reported on a preview screening Ken Burns' forthcoming documentary on the war in Vietnam. Following the screening, veteran David Hagerman told Associated Press reporter Holly Ramer that his reception at the Seattle airport was so negative that he "walked into the nearest men's room, took off my uniform, and threw it in the trash." 

Reynolds’s story strains belief. Civilian airlines brought troops back from Vietnam but they landed at military airbases like Travis. And there are no news reports or photographs from the war years that document his memory that "throngs of hippies" greeted veterans. Hagerman's memory also raises eyebrows: the abandonment of military property—his uniform—was a serious offense. And despite the numerous versions of this story that circulate, there is no evidence such as photographs of bathroom trash cans draped with uniforms to support the claims. Military personnel had to be in uniform to fly home free making it additionally unlikely that uniforms were shed in the manner described.

Major news organizations have been taken to task before for giving voice to stories of denigrated veterans without tangible evidence. When the 25th anniversary of the war's end was marked in 2000, a spate of them garnered similar press attention. News critic Jack Shafer then editor of "The Fray" at Slate criticized the Times and U.S. News and World Report for their reports, respectively that Vietnam veterans had been spat on by protesters and had had to abandon their military clothing to avoid harassment.

When President Barak Obama spoke on Memorial Day, 2012 he recalled that Vietnam veterans had been "denigrated" upon their return home. "It was a national shame," he said, "that should have never happened." The President went on to pledge that the current generation of veterans would be treated better. The next day, Los Angeles Times editor Michael McGough criticized the president for having "ratified the meme of spat-upon veterans"—an edifying myth, McGough said, but still a myth.

The questionable accuracy of the hostile-homecoming stories is suggested by data from those times. A 1971 survey by Harris Associates conducted for the U.S. Senate reported 94% of the veterans polled saying their reception from their age-group peers was friendly.

The problem with repeating these stories of doubtful truth goes beyond the credibility of the journalism itself. It is rather, the power of the stories to displace the public memory of the war itself and the nature of the opposition to it. The response to Reynolds' article in the Times is a case in point: of the 159 online comments, 48 or 30% focused on just 13 of the 1,500 words that he had written: "I came home through San Francisco's airport to throngs of hippies harassing me." Many more of the comments were of the "thank you for your service" variety that are meaningful only with the backstory of supposedly hostile homecomings as context.

Most importantly, the war that Reynolds had written about, and we need to think about, was occluded by his veteran-as-victim anecdote, a storyline that readers could not resist.

The stories of Vietnam veterans defiled by activists has worked over the years to vilify the anti-war movement and even discredit the many veterans who joined the cause to end the war.  The stories fed a belief that the war had been lost on the home front; from the 1980s through the 2016 election, conservative politicians ran for office on a conviction that radicals on campuses and liberals in Congress had sapped American will to win in Vietnam; it is the wellspring of the resentfulness that Donald Trump tapped for his run to the White House.

President Obama's 2012 Memorial Day speech announcing Pentagon funding for a twelve-year series of Vietnam War anniversary commemorations renewed interest in the war and made the treatment of veterans the focus of that interest. Ken Burns' film due out in September will keep the war in our conversations.

News coverage of the commemorations and the film will magnify those interests. Let's hope that news coverage of the remembrances and reception to the film will temper the alluring but dubious reports of unfriendly veteran homecomings with references to more historically grounded research.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Why I’ve Started to Fear My Fellow Social Justice Activists

From Yes Magazine:  http://www.yesmagazine.org/people-power/why-ive-started-to-fear-my-fellow-social-justice-activists-20171013

We are alienating each other with unrestrained callouts and unchecked self-righteousness. Here’s how that can stop.

Oct 13, 2017

Callout culture. The quest for purity. Privilege theory taken to extremes. I’ve observed some of these questionable patterns in my activist communities over the past several years.

As an activist, I stand with others against white supremacy, anti-blackness, cisheteropatriarchy, capitalism, and imperialism. I am queer, trans, Chinese American, middle class, and able-bodied.
Holding these identities scattered across the spectrum of privilege, I have done my best to find my place in the movement, while educating myself on social justice issues to the best of my ability. But after witnessing countless people be ruthlessly torn apart in community for their mistakes and missteps, I started to fear my own comrades.

As a cultural studies scholar, I am interested in how that culture—as expressed through discourse and popular narratives—does the work of power. Many disciplinary practices of the activist culture succeed in curbing oppressive behaviors. Callouts, for example, are necessary for identifying and addressing problematic behavior. But have they become the default response to fending off harm? Shutting down racist, sexist, and similar conversations protects vulnerable participants. But has it devolved into simply shutting down all dissenting ideas? When these tactics are liberally applied, without limit, inside marginalized groups, I believe they hold back movements by alienating both potential allies and their own members.

In response to the unrestrained use of callouts and unchecked self-righteousness by leftist activists, I spend enormous amounts of energy protecting my activist identity from attack. I self-police what I say when among other activists. If I’m not 100 percent sold on the reasons for a political protest, I keep those opinions to myself—though I might show up anyway.

On social media, I’ve stopped commenting with thoughtful push back on popular social justice positions for fear of being called out. For example, even though some women at the 2017 women’s march reproduced the false and transmisogynistic idea that all women have vaginas, I still believe that the event was a critical win for the left and should not be written off so easily as it has been by some in my community.

Understand, even though I am using callouts as a prime example, I am not against them. Several times, I have been called out for ways I have carelessly exhibited ableism, transmisogyny, fatphobia, and xenophobia. I am able to rebound quickly when responding with openness to those situations. I am against a culture that encourages callouts conducted irresponsibly, ones that abandon the person being called out and ones done out of a desire to experience power by humiliating another community member.

I am also concerned about who controls the language of social justice, as I see it wielded as a weapon against community members who don’t have access to this rapidly evolving lexicon. Terms like “oppression,” “tone policing,” “emotional labor,” “diversity,” and “allyship” are all used in specific ways to draw attention to the plight of minoritized people. Yet their meanings can also be manipulated to attack and exclude.

Furthermore, most social justice 101 articles I see online are prescriptive checklists. Although these can be useful resources for someone who has little familiarity with these issues, I worry that this model of education contributes to the false idea that we have only one way to think about, talk about, and ultimately, do activism. I think that movements are able to fully breathe only when there is a plurality of tactics, and to some extent, of ideologies.

I am not the first nor the last to point out that these movements for liberation and justice are exhibiting the same oppressive patterns that we are fighting against in larger society. Rather than wallowing in critique or walking away from this work, I choose a third option—that we as a community slow down, acknowledge this pattern and develop an ethics of activism as a response.

Continue reading at:  http://www.yesmagazine.org/people-power/why-ive-started-to-fear-my-fellow-social-justice-activists-20171013

A Muslim American’s Homecoming: Cowboys, Country Music, Chapatis

From The New York Times:  https://www.nytimes.com/2017/09/26/travel/muslim-road-trip-america.html

By

The conversion took place on Honky-Tonk Row, my baptism a glaze of midsummer Tennessee sweat anointing my forehead. Nashville’s Wildhorse Saloon is a tabernacle for line-dancing disciples, and I was in communion with the gyrating congregation.

“Shuffle, shuffle, turn to your left.”
“Right, left, right — there ya go!”

I have a strong respect for choreographed mass dancing; I grew up with the understanding that seminal moments in Bollywood films must be commemorated with synchronized hip shaking. The Wildhorse was a divine revelation — white people, they’re just like us!

There I was, a Yankee of Indian extraction who had always dismissed country music without a second listen, tearing through Nashville’s Lower Broadway — swaying along to cover bands at Tootsie’s and Robert’s Western World and perusing star-spangled cowboy gear at Boot Country.
My visit to the South was long overdue. I’ve lived in five countries on three continents, but the United States has always been the unifying thread; my America is diverse and dynamic and molded by immigrants. But how well did I really know it? Last fall, when I returned from a four-year stint as an expat in South Africa, I deplaned into unfamiliar territory. There was an acrid, unseen fog looming: two weeks later came Election Day.

President Trump began his term with a travel ban on certain Muslim-majority countries; this week he’s expanding that diktat, and in what’s become the hallmark of a turbulent presidency, no one has any clue what’s next. As a Muslim American immigrant, am I just a few 140-character proclamations away from having my citizenship revoked? But fear also sparked curiosity. To me, “Wyoming” sounds foreign and peculiar, spilling lazily off the tongue like a yawn and evoking in my mind the wild terrain someone else might associate with a Zimbabwe or Mozambique. What’s exotic to me isn’t food gilded with turmeric and six-day weddings — it’s grits and rodeos. How much time did I have left to experience them?

I wondered if, given Mr. Trump’s rhetoric, I would feel like a foreigner in my own home. So I hit the road over the Fourth of July to see how much of an outsider I really was.

The Not-So-Deep South

“The songs really don’t help the stereotypes,” Sobia remarked.

Every explorer needs a sidekick, so I’d drafted a friend whose curiosity rivaled my own. Sobia was the Clark to my Lewis, the Finn to my Sawyer, the Buzz Lightyear to my Woody; we were two Muslim-American women trying to demystify guns, cowboys, and church, and hopefully evading lard in the process. At that moment, however, our ambitions were limited to making sense of the song on the radio: “I was sittin’ there sellin’ turnips on my flatbed truck…”

You have to hand it to country music. You want to mock its clichés? It’ll cram each verse with so many mommas and daddies and shotguns and Chevys that it insulates itself from satire. It’s self-aware and sassy, somewhere between caricature and cultural anthropology — just look up the lyrics to Hank Williams Jr.’s “A Country Boy Can Survive.” Recurring themes of booze, small-town boys chasing blonde-haired girls, guns, and pickup trucks are not my domain. The heartbreak, however, is breathtakingly relatable.

Sobia and I began our trip to Nashville by educating ourselves, first at the Country Music Hall of Fame and later at the iconic Grand Ole Opry. But it’s in the kitschy, bachelorette-party ridden dives of Lower Broadway, dappled in neon and scorned by locals, where we truly embraced the music. We enjoyed our barhopping expeditions far more than anyone sober reasonably should, given the unseemly behavior and crimes against dancing that prevailed. We took a break to fuel up at Hattie B’s, where we waited in line for an hour to sample Nashville’s famed hot chicken, a fiery, delectable treat that singed even my normally spice-immune Indian taste buds.

The voices of Weinstein’s accusers have torn the fabric of patriarchy

From The Guardian UK:  https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/oct/14/sexual-assault-report-women-culture-of-silence

This outpouring could be a turning point. It’s time to name those who have abused us, and treat sexual crimes with the seriousness they deserve

Saturday 14 October 2017

There are many shocks following on from this week’s reports of the sexual violations and rapes allegedly committed by film producer Harvey Weinstein. One shock for me is about the language used by the media to describe them. Almost all early reports referred to victimisation as “sexual harassment”.

Weinstein’s alleged acts involved quid pro quo offers, requests to be watched in the shower and for massages, naked pursuits of targets around couches. Such actions are sexual harassment.
But they are not just harassment. These are criminal acts that, if proved, would lead to jail time — not just fines and wrist-slapping. Language out of a Henry James novel made it sound as if rape was like using the wrong fork: “Mistreatment of women”, “misbehaviour”, “indiscretions”. Or “misconduct”, like a bad orchestra. Reporters used “episode” or the 70s-ish, hot tub-ish, “encounter”.

It’s likely that media lawyers advised reporters to use softer terms. But if you are reporting on a hate crime assault, you don’t inform readers accurately by calling it a “racial encounter”.

Shocking too is how district attorneys have failed to react. The New York Times and New Yorker exposés include reports of many alleged crimes in two jurisdictions: California and New York. I believe that basic information about the laws regarding sex crime and abuse are rarely explained to women, and this perpetuates a situation in which sexual assault is treated as a cultural event — “blurred lines” — when in fact criminal law is clear.

In New York state, any unwanted sexual contact is “sexual abuse”. In California, any unwanted sexual touching is “sexual assault” or “sexual battery” punishable by prison terms of six to 12 months. In both states, coercing someone into sex is sexual assault. Forcing someone to submit to oral sex, as actor and director Asia Argento alleged of Weinstein, is a felony. When someone chases a target around furniture, while he is naked, with exits from the room locked, this is arguably stalking and kidnapping.

When someone exposes himself in a public place such as a restaurant, and masturbates, as Fox reporter Lauren Sivan recounted, it is “public lewdness”, a class B misdemeanour. If “he or she intentionally exposes the private or intimate parts of his or her body in a lewd manner for the purpose of alarming or seriously annoying such person” it is a class A misdemeanour; six months, and usually placement on the registered sex offenders’ list.

Also, these events have widely been discussed as if they are history. But the statute of limitations is still open. In New York, the statute for sexual assault is five years, but there is no statute for rape. You can bring charges until you or your rapist dies. In California, a 2017 law, passed after the Bill Cosby allegations, extended the statute of limitations to — for ever. And to six years for assaults that took place prior to 2017. In the UK, there is no statute of limitations for serious sexual crimes. UK victims can bring charges forever.

Most of these women, in other words, could press charges today, even if their assaults happened years ago.

Ambra Gutierrez, an Italian model, wore a hidden recording device in 2015 to document the fact that an assault had occurred in her previous meeting with Weinstein. In an act of courage, this woman went back into danger. But DA Cyrus Vance’s office did not then pursue the case because, a statement said, it “couldn’t establish intent”. This week, it was reported that, months later, Vance was gifted $10,000 for his reelection campaign — by one of Harvey Weinstein’s lawyers.

Had Weinstein boarded a plane to Switzerland this week, as he was reportedly planning to do, that too might have constituted a crime: obstruction of justice. Resisting arrest. Flight. These are felonies or common law crimes.

But because our power brokers want to keep sexual assault in the realm of the “uncomfortable” or the “disgusting”, rather than the criminal, Weinstein was not told not to leave town. Only on Thursday was it announced that police in New York and London are taking action following the reports. Meanwhile, Weinstein headed to Arizona, to sex rehab, with yoga and equine therapy. But “rehab” is a choice, not a confrontation with the criminal justice system.

Continue reading at:  https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/oct/14/sexual-assault-report-women-culture-of-silence

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Liberal Redneck - And Justice for Paul


Celebrating Global Feminism With Gloria Steinem and Robin Morgan

From The New York Times:  https://www.nytimes.com/2017/10/05/arts/gloria-steinem-robin-morgan-festival-albertine.html?_r=1

By Melena Ryzik Oct. 5, 2017

Gloria Steinem first visited Paris in college — her first trip to Europe. “Everything was magic,” she said. She and her classmates quickly “acquired boyfriends,” as she put it, so they could hitch rides on scooters. They visited every cathedral and discovered that, if they arrived early at clubs, they’d be treated to a free glass of Champagne. She went to the markets at Les Halles and tasted escargot and climbed to the top of the Arc de Triomphe.


Robin Morgan also first went to Paris as a teenager, hired as an au pair for an American family. Once her charge went to sleep, “I would go out and frequent the places the poets had been, and just think, ‘my God, here was their land,’ ” she recalled.


Now Ms. Steinem and Ms. Morgan, pioneering activists, are thinking about France in another light, as the curators of Festival Albertine, the French-American cultural gathering in Manhattan. In its fourth installment, Nov. 1-5, it is examining feminism across the world, with “Feminism Has No Boundaries” (“Feminisme Sans Frontières”).

Ms. Morgan, an author and radio host, founded the Sisterhood Is Global Institute, a think tank, with the writer Simone de Beauvoir in 1984. Though de Beauvoir’s seminal 1949 book “The Second Sex” was a hit in the United States, the push for equality differs in France and America.

In France, feminism tends “to be more theoretical and academic,” Ms. Morgan said. Though there are more French national programs supporting working mothers, said Bénédicte de Montlaur, the French Embassy’s cultural counselor in New York, who came up with the festival theme, “we face the same issues, of underrepresentation, of lower salaries.”

Solutions will be debated on panels of writers and activists, including Roxane Gay, Cecile Richards, and the artist collective Guerrilla Girls, alongside prominent French thinkers like Camille Morineau, a museum director and curator.

France, Ms. Mornieau said, “is a country where people love to think and debate and criticize — to bitch, it’s the core of French culture.”

Explaining why she wanted to take part, Ms. Steinem said: “I’m always in favor of people sitting in a circle and sharing ideas. Something unexpected always comes out of it.” (The event, held at the Albertine bookshop inside the French Embassy in Manhattan, is free and first-come, first-serve.)
Ms. Steinem and Ms. Morgan, longtime friends and colleagues, met at the French Embassy to discuss their collaboration. These are edited excerpts from the conversation.

Politics was going to come up no matter what, but what else did you want to include in this program?

STEINEM We wanted to talk about organizing, because the truism that movements grow from the bottom up, like a tree, and not from the top down, is still neglected. The politics of language is something as simple as always saying “mankind,” which people actually do see as men, instead of “humankind.” Mary Kathryn Nagle [a panelist] is a Cherokee lawyer and playwright, and I thought she would be a revelation. Because we don’t learn from languages that were here before Europeans showed up, and the fact that they didn’t have “he” and “she” — they weren’t gendered, they didn’t have a word for race.

And the body, for sex and race, is the source of our problem. If we didn’t have wombs, we’d be fine. It’s about reproduction.

You are still protesting some of the same things you talked about when you first started as activists. How do you manage the frustration of that?

STEINEM The best thing to do with frustration is to turn it into action, and anger. That’s the only way to relieve the pressure.

MORGAN And they’re not the same. It’s like mistaking a spiral for a circle: you come back at the same thing but at a different level; you see the change from before. The young women waking up to feminism now already wake up to more consciousness than my generation had. Even just simple things like equal pay — before you went, in my generation, and asked for a raise, you went through nausea and your palms sweating. Or before you said, ‘Henry, pick up your own socks.’ Any of those things. And younger women now just come in at a level that is wonderful to see.

It doesn’t help with the socks, though.

STEINEM Here’s the best answer I ever heard about the socks. Actually it was underwear: “When he leaves his underwear on the floor, I find it quite useful to nail it to the floor.” I never forgot that.

Continue reading at:  https://www.nytimes.com/2017/10/05/arts/gloria-steinem-robin-morgan-festival-albertine.html?_r=1

The March on the Pentagon: An Oral History

I was there on October 21, 1967.  I was arrested in a non-violent act of protest against the war in Vietnam.
From The New York Times:  https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2017/10/20/opinion/sunday/march-on-the-pentagon-oral-history.html

We Have Indictments. What Can We Expect Next? | The Resistance with Keith Olbermann


Tesla workers claim anti-LGBT threats, taunts, and racial abuse in lawsuits

From The Guardian UK:  https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2017/oct/19/tesla-factory-workers-discrimination-claim-race-lgbt-elon-musk

Exclusive: A factory worker says he was harassed for being gay. A father and son say they faced daily racial epithets. Each claims that Tesla failed to stop it

in San Francisco Thursday 19 October 2017

Soon after he started working on the assembly line at Tesla, Jorge Ferro said he was taunted for being gay and threatened with violence. “Watch your back,” a supervisor warned after mocking his clothes for being “gay tight”, Ferro said.

The harassment didn’t stop after he reported it to a manager, and days after he made a second complaint, Ferro was punished, according to his account. An HR representative took away Ferro’s badge, claiming that he had an “injury” that prevented him from working and saying there’s “no place for handicapped people at Tesla”, he alleged.

Tesla repeatedly failed to stop the anti-gay harassment and fired Ferro in retaliation for seeking protection, according to a wrongful termination lawsuit, the latest discrimination scandal to roil Elon Musk’s electric car company.

“It’s revolting to me,” said Chris Dolan, Ferro’s attorney. “This is classic ‘blame the victim’.”
Tesla has defended itself against charges of discrimination:There is no company on earth with a better track record than Tesla,” it said in a statement to the Guardian.

Ferro has come forward at a time when Tesla and companies across Silicon Valley are facing widespread scrutiny over harassment, discrimination and sexual misconduct. A sexual harassment scandal at Uber launched an avalanche of complaints from women in the male-dominated industry about abuse, unwanted advances, assault and pay disparities.

Tesla – world-famous for its battery-powered vehicles and Musk’s vision of self-driving technology – has also faced accusations of sexual harassment and underpaying women. A female engineer who filed a lawsuit and spoke to the Guardian about her experiences was soon after fired, drawing allegations of “clear retaliation”. Tesla has denied the claims.

In addition to Ferro’s complaint, first reported by the Guardian, three black men who worked at Tesla have also filed a recent lawsuit alleging racist abuse and harassment, including attacks using the N-word and statements like “Go back to Africa”.

Tesla did not address specific allegations, but in a series of statements called the claims “unmeritorious” and argued that it was was not responsible since the employees are contractors.

Continue reading at:  https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2017/oct/19/tesla-factory-workers-discrimination-claim-race-lgbt-elon-musk

Thom Hartmann: The America I Knew Has Almost Disappeared

From Alternet:  https://www.alternet.org/human-rights/america-no-longer-america

What’s left of our democratic institutions are under siege.

By Thom Hartmann
October 15, 2017


Like an alcoholic family that won’t discuss alcoholism (proving Don Quixote’s warning never to mention rope in the home of a man who’s been hanged), far too many Americans are unwilling to acknowledge or even discuss the ongoing collapse of democracy in the United States.
President Jimmy Carter took it head on when he told me on my radio program that the Citizen’s United decision:
“[V]iolates the essence of what made America a great country in its political system. Now it’s just an oligarchy, with unlimited political bribery being the essence of getting the nominations for president or to elect the president. And the same thing applies to governors and U.S. senators and congress members. So now we’ve just seen a complete subversion of our political system as a payoff to major contributors, who want and expect and sometimes get favors for themselves after the election’s over.”
This “complete subversion of our political system” grew, in large part, out of Richard Nixon’s 1972 appointment of Lewis Powell to the Supreme Court.  Powell, in 1971, had authored the infamous Powell Memo to the US Chamber of Commerce, strongly suggesting that corporate leaders needed to get politically involved and, essentially, take over everything from academia to our court system to our political system.  

In 1976, in the Buckley case, Powell began the final destruction of American democracy by declaring that when rich people or corporations own politicians, all that money that got transferred to the politicians wasn’t bribery but, instead, was Constitutionally-protected First Amendment-defined “Free Speech.”  The Court radically expanded that in 2010 with Citizens United.

As a result, there’s really very little democracy left in our democracy.  Our votes are handled in secret by private, unaccountable for-profit corporations.  Our laws are written, more often than not, by corporate lawyers/lobbyists or representatives of billionaire-level wealth.  And our media is owned by the same class of investors/stockholders, so it’s a stretch to expect them to do much critical reporting on the situation.

In his book The Decline of the West, first published in German in 1918 and then in English in 1926, Oswald Spengler suggested that what we call Western civilization was then beginning to enter a “hardening” or “classical” phase in which all the nurturing and supportive structures of culture would become, instead, instruments of the exploitation of a growing peasant class to feed the wealth of a new and strengthening aristocracy.

Culture would become a parody of itself, average people’s expectations would decline while their wants would grow, and a new peasantry would emerge, which would cause the culture to stabilize in a “classic form” that, while Spengler doesn’t use the term, seems very much like feudalism—the medieval system in which the lord owned the land and everyone else was a vassal (a tenant who owed loyalty to the landlord).  

Women Shouldn't Have the Right to Vote, Says ‘Alt-Right’ Leader Richard Spencer

From Newsweek:  http://www.newsweek.com/alt-right-leader-richard-spencer-isnt-sure-if-women-should-be-allowed-vote-685048

By
10/14/17


White Nationalist Richard Spencer’s tiki torch rallies in Charlottesville, Virginia, and his distant dream of forming a white ethnostate steal headlines, but his views about women—that their role in politics be shrunk down to a barely visible place that would be unrecognizable to almost anyone in modern America—is seldom highlighted.

I spoke to Spencer this week, and in the context of a discussion about two documents that he admires, the American Naturalization Acts of 1790 and 1795, laws that once set out rules for the United States in limiting naturalization to only free white persons of good moral standing, I pointed out that the U.S. was a fundamentally different country at the turn of the 19th century. More specifically, I asked him if he wanted to return to a time in which women weren’t allowed to vote.

"I'm not terribly excited about voting in general," Spencer said. "I think that mass democracy is a bit of a joke to be honest."

I pressed him on the question again.

“I don’t necessarily think that that’s a great thing,” Spencer said of women voting in U.S. elections.
The subject of misogyny in alt-right circles has been well documented, not only in terms of its prevalence in the movement, but as being a fundamental part of why the movement exists in the first place. Angela Nagle, a leftist writer, for example, catalogued the movement’s journey from frequently apolitical, primarily misogynistic threads on the imageboard site 4chan into the kind of “blood and soil” racial nationalism embraced by men like Spencer in her book Kill All Normies: Online Culture Wars From 4Chan And Tumblr To Trump And The Alt-Right.  But Spencer’s comment perhaps hints at how he and other alt-right leader’s views about women might manifest in terms of actual policy, should they be able to gain direct access to the levers of power.

Spencer declined to explain to me how Americans would choose their leaders without the use of democracy. Nevertheless, his words are likely to draw raised eyebrows from his many critics, which currently span from the left to the center-right. The remark also falls in line with similar comments Spencer has made in the past about the opposite sex, suggesting that the U.S. should be protected from what he views to be the danger of having a female commander-in-chief.

Continue reading at:  http://www.newsweek.com/alt-right-leader-richard-spencer-isnt-sure-if-women-should-be-allowed-vote-685048

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Undercover With the Alt-Right

From The New York Times:  https://www.nytimes.com/2017/09/19/opinion/alt-right-white-supremacy-undercover.html

Last September, Patrik Hermansson, a 25-year-old graduate student from Sweden, went undercover in the world of the extreme right. Posing as a student writing a thesis about the suppression of right-wing speech, he traveled from London to New York to Charlottesville, Va. — and into the heart of a dangerous movement that is experiencing a profound rejuvenation.

Mr. Hermansson, who was sent undercover by the British anti-racist watchdog group Hope Not Hate, spent months insinuating himself into the alt-right, using his Swedish nationality (many neo-Nazis are obsessed with Sweden because of its “Nordic” heritage) as a way in. It wasn’t always easy. “You want to punch them in the face,” he told me of the people he met undercover. “You want to scream and do whatever — leave. But you can’t do any of those things. You have to sit and smile.”

What he learned while undercover is one part of a shocking, comprehensive new report from Hope Not Hate that sheds light on the strange landscape of the alt-right, the much discussed, little understood and largely anonymous far-right movement that exists mostly online and that has come to national attention in part because of its support for Donald Trump.

As a result of the growing influence of the far-right social-media ecosystem, once-moribund hate groups in both the United States and Europe — groups that mostly existed long before “alt-right” entered the vernacular — are enjoying a striking uptick in recruitment.

This latest wave of potential members is young — teenage and 20-something men (they’re mostly men) appear to be exhibiting interest in far-right ideas in numbers that would have been unthinkable just a few years ago. These young men are being radicalized largely through the work of a popular group of new far-right internet personalities whose videos, blog posts and tweets have been consistently nudging the boundaries of acceptable conversation to the right — one of the explicit goals of racist extremists everywhere.

And while “globalist” may be one of the alt-right’s favorite slurs, Hope Not Hate conclusively shows that the alt-right is itself now a global movement with regular interaction among far-right figures from Scotland to Sweden to Seattle.

Mr. Hermansson’s story offers vital insights into these groups’ tactics and their sometimes bizarre practices. During his time undercover, he hung out with heavily armed Holocaust deniers and attended gatherings where extremists drank mead from a traditional Viking horn and prayed to the Norse god Odin. In Charlottesville, he marched alongside hundreds of young neo-Nazis and white supremacists before he was sprayed with Mace by a counterprotester and witnessed the car attack that killed Heather Heyer.

In Britain, Mr. Hermansson attended a private dinner of extremists where Greg Johnson, a reclusive leading American far-right figure who is editor in chief of Counter-Currents Publishing, explained the need to “mainstream this stuff — or, more precisely, we need to bring the mainstream towards us.”

Intersectionality? Not while feminists participate in pile-ons

From The Guardian UK:  https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/oct/11/intersectionality-not-while-feminists-participate-in-pile-ons

Mainstream feminism cannot comprehend that racism and sexism are not experienced separately but simultaneously

and Wednesday 11 October 2017

Despite mainstream western feminism’s claims to embrace them, it is becoming apparent that the radical origins of terms like “identity politics”, “women of colour”, and, in particular, “intersectionality” – which were concerned not only with race but with overturning all forms of exploitation including class systems – are being betrayed and stripped of their interrogative nature.

As outlined by Kimberle Crenshaw, intersectionality is not so much something that someone “identifies” as, but a useful term that easily illustrates certain truths; namely that when multiple forms of oppressions meet, they create new, compound oppressions that are experienced acutely by those who belong to certain marginalised groups.

Unmoored from structural analysis, intersectional feminism is fast becoming a shallow buzzword that elevates the individual, stifles dissent, and, most worrying, is being weaponised to silence women of colour.

Representation and diversity, for instance, can be important indicators of social progress. In feminist discourse however, they are increasingly served as substitutes for such progress. The giddiness surrounding Hillary Clinton as almost First Female President™ and the silliness over Wonder Woman as First Female Superhero™ both fostered an atmosphere of hostility to any women who had the audacity not to feel “represented” by either.

You weren’t “With Her”? No, it’s not because you’re an Arab woman who balks at Clinton’s fondness for bombing the Middle East; you just have internalised misogyny. Think Wonder Woman was average and kinda sexist? Too bad; she empowers ALL women. And don’t even consider bringing up Gal Gadot’s pro-IDF sentiments, that makes you a “racist.”

For all its talk of intersectionality, mainstream feminism still cannot comprehend that racism and sexism are not experienced separately but simultaneously.

As such, for those of us negotiating these two particular intersections, enjoyment of, say, The Handmaid’s Tale was tempered by the gushing feminist accolades hailing it a terrifying glimpse into a future that might happen. Never mind that Aboriginal women continue to have their children taken from them by the state, or the hundreds of years that black women’s bodies were mined to perpetuate slavery and colonialism.

Meanwhile, the First Female Doctor Who™ was greeted so rapturously, you’d think she’d won the US election. It also completely overshadowed the casting of Arab-Canadian actor Mena Moussad in the upcoming live action Aladdin. Yes, Moussad is a man. But after decades of depictions as terrorists, religious fanatics, and barbaric illiterate extras in their own lands, an Arab is again a leading man.

This significant event for many Arab women living in the west, who also suffer as a result of these stereotypes, was deftly swept aside as feminism celebrated the apparently unusual practice of granting a starring role to a white actress.

This is how whiteness reasserts itself, by sweeping the concerns of non-white women aside on the mistaken assumption that we too can separate our gender from our race.

Nowhere is it more apparent than in internet call-out culture. As we’ve written before, feminism cannot be involved in collective, meaningful change that benefits us all as long as it considers the internet pile-on bonafide political activism. Piling on individuals until they submit, may be the easiest way to express solidarity, but, in the long-term, it is actually one of the least effective.

Continue reading at:  https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/oct/11/intersectionality-not-while-feminists-participate-in-pile-ons

Thursday, October 19, 2017

George W. Bush Speech on Freedom and U.S. Leadership.

I wasn't very impressed with George W. Bush as President.  I was more impressed with his father.  I'm a life long Democrat and old enough to remember when members of both parties could put aside differences and come up with compromises that worked.  Now the Tea Party Republicans and Trump Holes seem bent on destroying America and handing it over to either Putin or the Nazis.

I never though I would say this but Thank you President Bush, someone from your Party and of your stature had to say this.


Vietnam War Protesters have NOTHING to Apologize For

From Common Dreams:  https://www.commondreams.org/views/2017/09/27/vietnam-war-protesters-have-nothing-apologize

When patriotism and pro-war become synonymous.


By David Zeiger
Wednesday, September 27, 2017 by Common Dreams


How many times have you heard, or even said yourself, something like this:
It was beyond cruel what was done to Viet Nam vets. I protested the war but not the soldiers who'd been thru hell.

That’s a comment made on my Facebook page when I posted Jerry Lembcke’s very insightful review of Ken Burns and Lynn Novick’s series, The Vietnam War. Lembcke points out that the series promotes the established narrative that for Vietnam vets, the experience of coming home to a “hostile” public was “more traumatic than the war itself.” As I will discuss here, Lembcke, a Vietnam veteran and Associate Professor Emeritus at Holy Cross College, has dedicated much of his life to countering and disproving that narrative.

Now take a close look at the above statement. I protested the war but not the soldiers who’d been thru hell. The implication is, of course, that while this person didn’t do it, others must have “protested the soldiers,” referring to the ubiquitous stories of soldiers and veterans being harassed, hounded, called baby killers and spat on by a variety of protesters and, as the stories usually go, “long haired hippies.” Actually, this particular comment was part of a string of responses to someone who claimed he was “urinated on while in uniform.”

That the returning Vietnam veterans were “spat on and called baby killers” has now reached the level of gospel truth, most distressingly among those who were themselves part of the very movement being vilified by those claims. No one saw or was a party to such attacks, yet everyone “knows” it happened. Someone must have done it, or why would so many people claim it was done to them?
Why indeed. Answering that one question sheds a lot of light on how and why the relationship between the antiwar movement and the veterans of that war has been widely, and very effectively, rewritten–a rewrite that has gone virtually unchallenged by those who were there and who, frankly, know better. Today, four generations after the Vietnam War, the mythology of mistreated veterans continues to play a profoundly powerful role in stifling protest against America’s wars in the name of “supporting the troops.” And with Donald Trump threatening to “Completely destroy North Korea” while unleashing the military in the Middle East, nothing could be more urgent than confronting that myth.

First, some personal background. From 1970 to 1972 I was on the staff of the Oleo Strut, a GI Coffeehouse in Killeen, Texas, just outside of Ft. Hood, home to tens of thousands of Vietnam returnees who still had six months or more left to serve. The Oleo Strut, like dozens of GI Coffeehouses near bases around the country, was a place where soldiers could find literature about the antiwar and Third World liberation movements, discuss and debate the war with both civilians and fellow GIs, and, most significantly, build their own movement against the war and the military. 

For two years I helped them distribute their underground paper, The Fatigue Press, with a monthly press run of 5,000. In 1971, I helped plan and organize an “Armed Farces Day” demonstration against the war right outside the gates of Ft. Hood that over two thousand GIs participated in.
Statistics and a wealth of documentary evidence from that time show that my experience at Ft. Hood was the norm, not the exception. The GI Movement of 1968-1973 was so all-pervasive that Col. Robert Heinl famously wrote that it had “infected the entire armed services.” Historian James Lewes has documented over 500 different GI underground newspapers (available online at the Wisconsin Historical Society), along with dozens of organizations from GIs United Against the War to clandestine Black Panther chapters in the military. A 1972 study commissioned by the Department of Defense found that 51% of all troops in Vietnam had engaged in “some form of protest,” from wearing a peace sign on uniforms, to desertion (over 500,000 “Incidents of desertion” in the course of the war), demonstrations, and outright mutiny (including the widespread practice of “fragging”–troops killing their own officers). And by 1972 Vietnam Veterans Against the War was a highly visible, major force across the country. The widespread picture of a military full of soldiers “doing their duty” while privileged civilians protested and hurled insults at them is, to put it bluntly, a lie.

In 2005, at the height of Iraq war, I made the film Sir! No Sir! That film, broadcast in over 200 countries around the world, told the story of the GI Movement, a story that had been erased from just about every history of the Vietnam war. In Sir! No Sir!, Jerry Lembcke makes the point that the reality of thousands of GIs and veterans opposing the war had been replaced by the myth of hippies spitting on them, and it was that contention that drew the ire and attacks from pro war veterans who hounded several critics who had praised the film.

But Lembcke is the only person I am aware of who has thoroughly researched the claims of veterans being spat on and the broader insistence that they were shunned and attacked by the antiwar movement. He wrote about his findings in his 1998 book, The Spitting Image: Myth, Memory, and the Legacy of Vietnam, a must-read for everyone who wants to know how veterans were actually treated by the antiwar movement. Here are just a few tidbits of what his research revealed.

To begin with, over the entire course of the war there is not a shred of documentary evidence that any spitting incidents occurred. No articles in newspapers or magazines, no letters to the editor, no television news stories, no FBI reports, no arrests or complaints filed with police. Nothing. Not even Stars and Stripes, voice of the military, reported on any spitting incidents. And in an era that was heavily documented with photographs, including by the GIs themselves (Lembcke points out that Pentax cameras were sold at PXs and were the camera of choice among the troops, not unlike cell phones today), not one photo of a veteran being spat on exists.

The stories that are told almost always happen in public, usually at airports and coming from crowds of demonstrators whose goal is to humiliate the returning troops. We are told that commanding officers warned GIs they’d be spat on when they returned home, that they should throw away their uniform to protect themselves. Yet no one alerted the cops, or military authorities, or the press? We’re talking about assault here. Wouldn’t the FBI, whose goal throughout the nineteen sixties was to thwart and undermine the antiwar movement, have arrested at least one spitter? There were, if the stories are to be believed, hundreds—even thousands—of them. And what about the press? Soldiers at airports being routinely abused and spat on would certainly have gotten to the media, who would, as Lembcke points out, “been camping in the lobby of the San Francisco airport, cameras in hand, just waiting for a chance to record the real thing–if, that is, they had any reason to believe that such incidents might occur.”

The simple fact is that between 1965 and 1975 no one was claiming to have been spat on. Okay, so maybe they were spat on metaphorically, as the increasingly popular expression goes. I have seen several people who initially claim they were spat on, when challenged, change the story to a version of “Well, I wasn’t literally spat on, but I may as well have been.” When the gentleman who claimed on my Facebook post to have been urinated on was challenged by several people, his story became “I ducked into a bar to get away from the jerks.” Who the “jerks” were was never explained.

Continue reading at:  https://www.commondreams.org/views/2017/09/27/vietnam-war-protesters-have-nothing-apologize

Working to Disarm Women’s Anti-Aging Demon

From The New York Times:  https://www.nytimes.com/2017/10/10/style/women-looks-ageism.html

By Ashton Applewhite Oct. 10, 2017

A couple of years ago I had a light bulb moment. So many women color their hair to cover the gray. Many resent the effort and expense, and it’s a major way in which we make ourselves invisible as older women. When a group is invisible, so are the issues that affect it. Suppose the world saw how many we are, and how beautiful, I mused. Suppose we morphed together, in solidarity: the Year of Letting Our Hair Go Gray! It would be transformative!

I posted the idea on my This Chair Rocks Facebook page. I got a ton of blowback. I deserved it. “You go first,” was one notable comment, so I did, bleaching my whole head. (I keep part of it white, partly as an age-solidarity dye job and partly because I figure no one believes the brown is real.) Mainly I learned an important lesson: Who was I to be telling women how they should look or what they should do? To each her own. We each have to age in our own way on whatever terms work for us.

One thing we can all agree on, though? Aging is harder for women. We bear the brunt of the equation of beauty with youth and youth with power — the double-whammy of ageism and sexism. How do we cope? We splurge on anti-aging products. We fudge or lie about our age. We diet, we exercise, we get plumped and lifted and tucked.

These can be very effective strategies, and I completely understand why so many of us engage in them. No judgment, I swear. But trying to pass for younger is like a gay person trying to pass for straight or a person of color for white. These behaviors are rooted in shame over something that shouldn’t be shameful. And they give a pass to the underlying discrimination that makes them necessary.

Appearance matters. Adornment pleases. But society’s obsession with the way women look is less about beauty than about obedience to a punishing external standard — and power. When women compete to “stay young,” we collude in our own disempowerment. When we rank other women by age, we reinforce ageism, sexism, lookism and patriarchy. What else we can we all agree on? This is one bad bargain. It sets us up to fail. It pits us against one another. It’s why the poorest of the poor, around the world, are old women of color.

What’s a girl to do? Join forces against ageism the way we mobilized against sexism in the 1960s and ‘70s. For movements to have power, their members have to embrace the thing that is stigmatized, whether it’s being black, loving someone of the same sex, or growing old. That means moving from denying aging to accepting it, and even to embracing it.

Continue reading at:  https://www.nytimes.com/2017/10/10/style/women-looks-ageism.html

Hairy legs in a fashion advert are good news for feminists … aren’t they?

To shave or not to shave?  I abandoned high heels, make up (most of the time) and shaving my pits and legs back in the 1970s.  Being relatively hairless the latter didn't require much effort as most never noticed.  Shaving pubes always seemed like it was for porn stars and other sex workers, besides it itches like crazy and if people freaked out about a few hairs escaping my bathing suit bottom it was their problem not mine.

Ahh but now we live in an age where everything including much which should be kept private is communicated to the world as a political statement.  Me?  I was a hippie dyke and skipping those commercial gender ideas just seemed like the thing to do, or not do might be a better way of putting it since doing them requires effort and spending money.

From The Guardian UK:  https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/oct/10/adidas-dove-hairy-legs-beauty-advertising-arvida-bystrom

It’s uncomfortable to see progressive ideas being co-opted to sell stuff. But at least it’s a challenge to misogynist ideas about women’s bodies

Tuesday 10 October 2017

In Arvida Byström’s shoot for Adidas, the model and artist wears pastel pinks and a lacy frock. She also power-poses, taking up space – evidently never having been informed that girls in pretty dresses should keep their knees together. She’s petite, blonde and feminine, but with a facial expression clearly communicating that you should not get all up in the business of this princess. On her feet, a pair of pristine sneakers announce themselves as the footwear of choice for fierce gals in skirts. And on her legs, the ultimate fashion accessory for this (and, in my opinion, every) winter: hair.

The hair, predictably, has offended those with delicate sensibilities. Byström has even reported rape threats. (Funny how folks with rigid ideas about how women should behave seem to set extremely low standards for their own public comportment, no?)

And so we’re back to the female body hair conversation, but with an interesting twist. Because body hair, it seems, is now mainstream enough to be marketed. Not body hair itself, of course. That’s free. Rather, the feminist aesthetic of body hair is on sale: the IDGAF badassery of it, the bravery (and it does take bravery) of being that woman on the tube with hairy legs.

Not long ago, I saw a hairy female armpit looming large on a screen in New York’s Times Square. The advert was for H&M. I was surprised that a presumably well market-researched campaign had concluded that hairy women would not hurt a major fashion brand. I felt good. Then bad. Then confused.
I experience cognitive dissonance when it comes to feminist branding. On the one hand, capitalist co-option of progressive symbols can weaken their force. Think Coca-Cola in the 1970s using the aesthetic of the hippy movement to convince consumers that radical love meant buying the world a Coke; think Che Guevara T-shirts in Primark; Kendall Jenner in that Pepsi ad; Theresa May sporting her Frida Kahlo bracelet (Theresa – do you actually know who that is? Hint: she used to go out with Trotsky!)

The brand gets an easy-wear, machine-washable liberal sheen for their labour practices and politics. Meanwhile radical ideology becomes just another product for sale, voided of its context, intent, and – eventually – power.

And yet, not every corporate uptake of progressive ideas is as empty as this. For example, Dove’s use of the feminist language of body positivity is intended to make us buy more shimmery lotions, of course, but it also pushes back against the toxic turn visual culture took in the 80s – all that starving and surgery disguised as step aerobics. It battles the beauty myth and does some feminist work.
Necessarily, advertising and marketing reflect the ideas that are likely to appeal to us. They also shape our desires and expectations. If they didn’t, then why would corporations spend millions on them?

Both Byström’s work for Adidas and Dove’s well established “real beauty” brand privilege limited categories of beauty. As Byström astutely points out in her reaction to the abuse she’s been getting, she’s white, slim, able-bodied and cis, and thus on the receiving end of a fraction of the flak that women from more marginalised demographics face. It’s way easier for skinny white girls – like her, like me – to get away with gender transgressions.

Continue reading at:  https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/oct/10/adidas-dove-hairy-legs-beauty-advertising-arvida-bystrom

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

We Legitimize the ‘So-Called’ Confederacy With Our Vocabulary, and That’s a Problem

From Smithsonian:  https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smithsonian-institution/we-legitimize-so-called-confederacy-vocabulary-thats-problem-180964830/

Tearing down monuments is only the beginning to understanding the false narrative of Jim Crow


By Christopher Wilson
Smithsonian.com
September 12, 2017

As the debate escalates over how we publicly remember the Civil War following the tragic events in Charlottesville, Virginia, the passionate and contentious disputes have centered on symbols like monuments, street names and flags. According to a study by the Southern Poverty Law Center, at least 1,503 symbols to the Confederacy are displayed in public spaces, mostly in the South and the Border States, but even in decidedly Yankee locales like Massachusetts. Most of these monuments sprang from the Lost Cause tradition that developed in the wake of the war, during the establishment of white supremacist Jim Crow laws around 1900, and as a response to the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s. Those artifacts are not the only way we legitimize and honor the deadly and racist 19th-century rebellion against the United States. Much of the language used in reference to the Civil War glorifies the rebel cause.

The language we turn to in describing the war, from speaking of compromise and plantations, to characterizing the struggle as the North versus the South, or referring to Robert E. Lee as a General, can lend legitimacy to the violent, hateful and treasonous southern rebellion that tore the nation apart from 1861 to 1865; and from which we still have not recovered. Why do we often describe the struggle as between two equal entities? Why have we shown acceptance of the military rank given by an illegitimate rebellion and unrecognized political entity? In recent years, historians in academia and in the public sphere have been considering these issues.

Historian Michael Landis suggests professional scholars should seek to change the language we use in interpreting and teaching history. He agrees with people like legal scholar Paul Finkelman and historian Edward Baptist when they suggest the Compromise of 1850 be more accurately referred to as an Appeasement. The latter word precisely reflects the sway that Southern slaveholders held in the bargain. Landis goes on to suggest that we call plantations what they really were—slave labor camps; and drop the use of the term, “the Union.” A common usage in the 19th century to be sure, but now we only use “the Union” in reference to the Civil War and on the day of the State of the Union address. A better way to speak of the nation during the war, he argues, is to use its name, the United States.
In the same way, we could change the way we refer to secessionist states. When we talk of the Union versus the Confederacy, or especially when we present the strife as the North versus the South, we set up a parallel dichotomy in which the United States is cast as equal to the Confederate States of America. But was the Confederacy really a nation and should we refer to it as such?

The language we turn to in describing the war, from speaking of compromise and plantations, to characterizing the struggle as the North versus the South, or referring to Robert E. Lee as a General, can lend legitimacy to the violent, hateful and treasonous southern rebellion that tore the nation apart from 1861 to 1865; and from which we still have not recovered. Why do we often describe the struggle as between two equal entities? Why have we shown acceptance of the military rank given by an illegitimate rebellion and unrecognized political entity? In recent years, historians in academia and in the public sphere have been considering these issues.

Historian Michael Landis suggests professional scholars should seek to change the language we use in interpreting and teaching history. He agrees with people like legal scholar Paul Finkelman and historian Edward Baptist when they suggest the Compromise of 1850 be more accurately referred to as an Appeasement. The latter word precisely reflects the sway that Southern slaveholders held in the bargain. Landis goes on to suggest that we call plantations what they really were—slave labor camps; and drop the use of the term, “the Union.” A common usage in the 19th century to be sure, but now we only use “the Union” in reference to the Civil War and on the day of the State of the Union address. A better way to speak of the nation during the war, he argues, is to use its name, the United States.

In the same way, we could change the way we refer to secessionist states. When we talk of the Union versus the Confederacy, or especially when we present the strife as the North versus the South, we set up a parallel dichotomy in which the United States is cast as equal to the Confederate States of America. But was the Confederacy really a nation and should we refer to it as such?

Continue reading at:  https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smithsonian-institution/we-legitimize-so-called-confederacy-vocabulary-thats-problem-180964830/