31 March 2015

The future of cyber disobedience

The Blog


Beyond "left vs right" politics, the new political battle sets individuals against institutions. The very nature of modern technology has decided this, with the awesome new power it has granted to individual and institution alike making new grave injustices and single-handed acts of heroic liberation equally possible.


That was the prediction made at the Center for a Stateless Society by blogger Jason Farrell, author of The Radical Relay blog. Of particular interest to him was the claim that transparency activists such as Edward Snowden, Julian Assange and Glen Greenwald came from seemingly diverse ideologies and backgrounds but all had the same anti-establishment agenda.

Although charting each of their relationships with libertarianism, Farrell argues that ideological labels are of less importance in the current context of "individual versus institution", than they were in the past:
Ideologies exist to explain and map out solutions to complex social and economic problems that arise from time to time. This is of little concern to the civil disobedient, whose high-stakes action is laser focused on the remediation of a singular grave injustice.
The prediction that acts aimed at remedying grave injustices will shape the politics of the future is shared by many, ranging from the "cypherpunk" culture from which Julian Assange emerged to more marginal communities of futurists. One of our books, Catalyst: A Techno-Liberation Thesis (Harry J. Bentham, 2013), lays out the radical thesis that the act of leaking information is revolutionary in a sense that goes far beyond the purpose of any single party or movement.

Further, Catalyst makes the prediction that future individuals will find ever more advanced technologies in their lone hands, making them able to do something no activist could ever do before: make entire nationally-liberating and institution-destroying technologies available to disenfranchised and oppressed sectors of the world population. This phenomenon is termed "hard leaks" in the book, referencing the fact that previously heavily guarded sensitive technologies will be released indiscriminately into the hands of the world's abused and vulnerable, just as sensitive information has been.

Such "leaked" technologies, escaping the clutches of corporations and states in the future, could open a new resistance front to challenge global wealth disparities. It would be especially easy for determined individuals to accomplish this act, especially if their targets encompassed vaccines, self-replicating nano-robots, or synthetic organisms generating the gifts of unlimited fuel, environmental cleanup agents or other unlimited resources. Hence, according to the thesis, the challenge of "democratization" posed by technology against corporate and state power will gradually evolve beyond simply an information battle to a physical battle for the future of the world's resources and intellect.

Reinforcing Jason Farrell's own theses, the Catalyst thesis predicts that the modern liberal state is already disrupted and destined to be overthrown by the socioeconomic liberation heralded by the accumulation and adoption of new personal technologies.

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Is science on Monsanto's side?

The Blog


Monsanto's defenders compare their critics with global warming deniers, alleging they are enemies of science. Critics of the corporation, however, are more interested in how it is actually adding to the problem of global warming.


Writing at Counterpunch on 27 March, Katherine Paul, associate director of the Organic Consumers Association, noted the negative impact of industrial agriculture on the environment and accused biotech industry lobbyists of hypocrisy:
How ironic that Enright and the biotech industry would pretend to side with the scientists sounding the alarm on global warming—when the largest contributor to global warming is industrial agriculture, with its GMO monoculture crops. Anyone serious about global warming knows that our best hope is to ditch our chemical-intensive, soil-destroying industrial agriculture and replace it with organic, regenerative farming practices that restore the soil’s ability to capture carbon.
Referencing an array of new scientific literature on the dangers presented by certain chemical products - namely Monsanto's Roundup (glyphosate) utilized by agricultural giants, Paul made the incisive point that we can't rely on generalizations about food safety made by proponents of genetically modified food. It is worth noting that under most circumstances, generalizations about any food's safety are recognized to be unreasonable if there is even the smallest doubt raised by members of the public about that safety.

Paul's argument helps to illustrate how, while all other suspicions regarding food safety are taken seriously by the US government, no matter how unreasonable they may seem, GM foods have gained a strange blanket recognition as "safe" and are hurried away from their due scrutiny. Also of concern is the amount of confidentiality surrounding GM foods and the tendency of GM food companies to censor and fiercely campaign against information that they feel might harm their profits.

Despite the impressive arguments made against GM foods, The clubof.info Blog maintains that GM foods have significant potential to alleviate global hunger. As argued by Ramez Naam in his book The Infinite Resource, it is likely that human life cannot be sustained in its present numbers or greater without tolerating GM foods. In addition to this fact, many of the suspicions against GM foods are actually grounded in discredited anti-science beliefs, as argued wisely by Neil deGrasse Tyson.



There are also conspiracy theories surrounding Monsanto and other agri-giants that confuse the issue of pure "food safety versus corporate profits" that is actually at stake.



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27 March 2015

Tolerant Christians vis-à-vis Evil Islam?

Harry J. Bentham


For many professed critics of Islam, the so-called Islamic State's atrocities stand as an example of the exceptional evil said to be evident in Islam and absent in other religions. And throughout the traditionally Christian sector of the world, in both the West and Russia, we have bore witness to the increasing fantasy that latter-day Christian crusaders are our deliverance from the apparent evil of Islam.


The shocking credo of the latter-day crusaders in our midst became most apparent when Anders Behring Breivik committed his terrorist attack in Norway in 2011. We can add this to the mountain of evidence that "crusader" terror is as much alive as jihadist terror, but there are still abundant conservatives in both Britain (see UKIP) and the US who see a need to politicize Christianity as part of a cultural battle with political Islam.

Christian detractors of Islam are eager to point out violence in the Qur'an. There is indeed violence in that text, but they should take a closer look at their own Holy Book. Better yet, take a look at the modern-day Christian terrorist organizations and their atrocities. The most prominent examples lie in Africa, where Joseph Kony's evangelical terrorist group, The Lord's Resistance Army, perpetrated unspeakable horrors in the name of Christianity in Uganda before moving to South Sudan.

Most Christians know about and denounce the Crusades, but the atrocities I am talking about are realities from the 1990s or newer, and they are continuing to this day. Most of the violence in the Central African Republic has been perpetrated by Christian mobs against Muslims, but that inconvenient fact never made its way past the Islamophobic line of much of the media we hear.

We have to learn that reporting on so-called "Islamic terrorism", when Christians are almost as prone to terrorism of their own and equally ignorant of their religion's pacifist teachings, is a disgrace. Take the reporting on Nigeria, for example. Nigeria has been victim to two violent insurgencies, one "Muslim" (Boko Haram) and the other "Christian" (the Movement for the Emancipation of the Nile Delta or MEND). In this case, reporters seem alarmingly eager to highlight the Islamic elements of ideology behind any terrorist attack, but constantly reluctant to mention the equal role of Christianity in the ideology of other terrorists in the very same country.

We can also examine Sri Lanka as an example of the same kind of omission, although the Buddhist faith of extremists was being omitted. In the Sri Lankan Civil War (1983-2009), much of the ethnic violence was pressured by Sinhalese Buddhist so-called "monks", who urged the ethnic cleansing of Tamils from Sri Lanka. Only a small number of Westerners, who have studied the Sri Lankan Civil War, had much awareness of that particular detail. The Western public was never alerted to the atrocities of Buddhist extremists, much less told by pundits that Buddhism is a violent and evil religion in the way Islam is often maligned now.

Many have claimed that the so-called Islamic State, or Daesh, in Iraq, has discredited Islam, and they point to its atrocities as an example of Islam in practice. But how, then, do they explain away the fact that all the forces fighting against IS and risking life and limb on the ground are themselves Muslim?

It seems strange for Islamophobes to protest the actions of IS at all, given that IS's military opponents are all Muslims and very nearly a hundred percent of IS's victims are Muslims. One could reason that there is a sectarian civil war on within Islam, but Christianity and every other religion has been plagued by the same sectarian problems in the past. So, to repeat Sam Harris' canard that Islam is inherently extreme or opposed to modernity maligns everyone involved in the campaign against IS and all the victims of IS.

No matter the arguments made against their proneness to create militants, the world's largest religions are not going to go away. We have to live with the inevitable, so we won't make ourselves more secure by painting terrorism as a religion, or a religion as terrorism. Instead, accepting diversity and reconciliation between these traditions is essential to peaceful or tolerant association.

By pairing the name of a religion with terrorism, as is all too common in reporting, Western secular states and media not only violate the parts of their constitutions requiring religion to be kept out of politics, but involve themselves in incitement to religious terrorism of their own. Anti-Islamic terrorism is equally religious as so-called Islamic terrorism, and this equally true whether it takes the form of a state-sanctioned attack on a country such as Iran or a lone-wolf attack such as Breivik's.

And what of the wars that state-approved Islamophobia already helped to create? Irrational fears have transformed Muslim civilians into military targets, and helped to motivate the doctrine that pre-emptive war is justified long before an apparent threat of terrorism can even be proven to exist. The reasoning that mosques or religious preachers therein should be targets of military action, detention or torture would be denounced, if practiced against other religious group, but Muslims are routinely accosted by states in this way.

It is also worth realizing that Islamophobes often show the same contempt for their compatriots as is demonstrated by the terrorists they claim to oppose. Their vision of the West as a pure and righteous civilization leads them to see most of their own society as treasonous and impure, as Breivik did when he chose to target not Muslims but regular citizens he believed were appeasing Islam. Such behavior has stark parallels to the way in which Islamist militants target not the West but their own communities, which they see as corrupt and impure.

Islamophobia kills, and is injurious not just to Islam but to the West. Having played a part in the warmongering that led to the Iraq War and the so-called war on terror, which was once described once by George W. Bush himself as a crusade, state-sanctioned Islamophobia is a severe extremist threat in itself. If we consider the wars and repression it has helped to incite around the globe, Islamophobia has a greater sum of blood on its own hands than it may attribute to Islam.

Harry J. Bentham


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Mont Order dissidents

The #MontOrder club


The Mont Order may only be a small informal association that acts sparingly, but it has its corner on the Internet and witnesses increasing core membership. The following are some key recent developments from within the club.


L'Ordre, a pseudonymous listed participant of the Mont Order, now disseminates spiritual blog posts through a new website called The Mont Order Digital Blessings Front. These have no connection with the actual dissident club's activities, but may help to raise publicity for the Mont Order's name as requests are posted for worshipers to pray for the Order's plans.

Thomas L. Knapp, an influential antistatist commentator most notably for the Center for a Stateless Society, is now an associate of the Mont Order and added to the Mont society's lists.

The Mont Order lists its involvement with the Transhumanist Party (Global), where it is considered as one of many available informal organs that are part of its broader network to raise awareness of transhumanist ideology. It has defined itself as vaguely as possible, even calling itself a "metaphor" that has been passed down through history by successive philosophers who described political and spiritual growth as a form of ascension to a higher truth, as epitomized by the name "Mont".

Little information has been posted to the Internet about the Mont Order's exact purpose or long term goals, if it has any, but online interest in the mysterious group has proliferated in recent years and the pluralist Beliefnet website has sustained a list of its honored participants.

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24 March 2015

Britain vs Russia: "By Jingo if we do"

The #LOrdre Blog


British press and government are using archaic nationalism to promote hostility against Russia, the L'Ordre blog at the Fox-owned Beliefnet website asserts.


In a post titled "Russian aggression, or a war no-one cares about?", the blog notes how the origin of the word "jingoism" came to refer to a British press filled with passion over distant and irrelevant conflicts, appealing to British national pride and honor to promote involvement in such wars. It also carries suggestions of failure with it. Britain's support for the Ottoman Empire against Russia in the previous major Black Sea dispute with Russia in history was unavailing, when the Ottomans were eventually defeated by Russia and had to give up their dominance in the Black Sea.

The war in question, which occurred in 1877-78, reversed the losses sustained by Russia at the hands of a British-Ottoman alliance in the famed Crimean War only decades earlier. Describing the climate of anti-Russian sentiment in Britain as jingoism, and comparing the current crisis in Ukraine with past crises in the Black Sea when Britain sought to contain Russian expansion, the forecast at the L'Ordre blog for British involvement in Ukraine was gloomy:
Eventually, the British public will come to realize that we just aren’t as interested in Ukraine’s future as Russia and some of the other regional players in the conflict are. In the end, the people who actually have a stake in the events in Ukraine are the ones who are going to fight it out tenaciously. This judgment stands even though Britain can proudly boast of having superior soldiers to Russia. No argument about patriotism, national honor, or the balance of power can convince the public that it is worth getting British soldiers killed on a distant and irrelevant battlefield on Russia’s doorstep, in the name of forces that have nothing to do with us and not the slightest understanding of who or what we are about.
The blog post also slammed The Guardian for its impassioned pro-Ukrainian coverage of Crimea and the pro-Russia insurgency in Ukraine. The publication has made no secret of cheerleading the British state and even pro-fascist militants in Ukraine, depicting Russia as a savage aggressor in desperate need of containment by British and American forces and Ukrainian nationalists.

Increasing criticism of The Guardian, once everyone's favorite liberal publication, and its policy of censoring comments questioning its reporting has led to a growing community at the website Offguardian, dedicated to continuing the conversations that The Guardian was afraid of.

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Google disables Antiwar.com's Adsense

The @ClubOfInfo Blog


The US giant digital corporation Google disabled Antiwar.com's Adsense account, for displaying images of torture perpetrated by the American state.


The move was quickly spotted by dissidents, who shamed the corporation as cowardly and subservient to the US government for its decision to side with torture and repression.

Related: Google's Treason Against the Internet

Writing at the Center for a Stateless Society, Kevin Carson said that the move towards sabotaging dissidents was unsurprising, considering "Google’s history of compliance with censorship demands by repressive regimes around the world, and the craven way that online payment and crowdfunding services colluded with the U.S. government in suppressing Wikileaks".

The antistatist activist also mocked the Obama administration's bizarre reasoning that photographs of torture somehow threatened US security:
"President Obama argued against release, saying the photos would “further inflame anti-American sentiment” and thereby endanger U.S. “national security.”"
Carson dissected this reasoning, stating that it amounts to saying "it would be bad for “national security” for the people of the world to find out just how evil [the American government] really is, because they might get mad." The arrogant regime will not survive exposure to the truth and retribution for its crimes against humanity, so it labels the truth a threat to "national security".

As explained in Carson's post, US "national security" deserves to be undermined, because this phony concept constantly endangers the American public in order to protect cowering rulers who deserve to be subverted:
"If U.S. “national security” means its ability to engage in wars of aggression and supervise the corporate looting of defeated countries around the world, "that “national security” needs to be undermined."
As Carson describes it, the US regime seems to use the unwitting American public as hostages and human shields to take all the punishment for its witless foreign policy, jeopardizing everyone's lives except its own with its terrorism. Speaking of the best solution, the antistatist suggested a two-front war to crush the US regime's censorship and terrorism, waged by resolute dissidents within the US and foreign governments and actors outside the US:
So that leaves it to a hostile American public to rein in an out of control state. And failing that, we need to fan the flames of outrage until every country in the world with a U.S. military or naval base shuts it down, along with the CIA stations in every U.S. embassy in the world.
As for how to fight Google and other US technology giants that seem to hold disproportionate influence over the Internet, Carson's analysis welcomed the idea of dividing the Internet to enable other poles of power to dominate their own portions of the Internet, to prevent the US serving as an authoritarian hub for the Internet. Google has, in the past, slammed this idea, labeling it as the "balkanization" of the Internet in its fear the US regime's influence would decline as a result. However, in the wake of the Snowden revelations of US mass surveillance via the Internet, increasing numbers of countries including Germany and Brazil have welcomed the possibility.

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20 March 2015

Islamophobia versus criticism of Islam

Harry J. Bentham


It is easy to conflate Islamophobia and legitimate criticism of Islam. But there's a big difference.


This post is motivated by my awareness that perhaps many people are critical of Islam itself, but that they see the term Islamophobia as an insult being hurled against them unfairly when they only meant to criticize a religious doctrine. If it is true, then the anatomy of Islamophobia itself deserves more attention before the word is used again.

It is not a secret that I am, in fact, an atheist. That fact has usually been of no importance, and didn't need to be stated. It's not a big part of what I am. I just don't practice a religion, as I never have. Religion is curious to me, as it was when I studied it at degree level in university, but my interest doesn't go beyond that particular neutral and scholarly fascination with it. I also wrote my dissertation on jihadist terrorism, and received a first class grade for it.

Since I studied terrorism, I have increasingly come to the realization that the real existential threat doesn't come from it at all, but from our own reactions to it, in particular in the domains of culture and religion. And that may be the very intention of those who practice terrorism. They desperately want the state to target the wrong people when it reacts to their violence - for that will cripple the state's legitimacy and recruit more people to the violent cause to dismantle the state itself.

Islamophobia and criticism of Islam: the difference


Here's the difference between Islamophobia and legitimate criticism of Islam. Criticism of Islam is expressed in stating that Islam is wrong. Islamophobia is the statement that Muslims are wrong. Further, that they should be systematically persecuted and murdered. One is intellectual, the other is hateful. One is open to criticizing everything - Islam included - while the other is obsessed with targeting a specific social group.

It is a factual observation that Islamophobia is a murderous idea, that it has killed people, and that every Islamophobe is a murderer. They are not murderers because they have killed anyone with their own hands, as terrorists have done, but because their agenda of hate has helped to manufacture excuses for states to wage war and assassination against a people. That hate has led to the deaths of countless children, in the so-called war on terror. He who passes over the corpses of children to achieve a political aim is worse than any of the people he is going after, even to "keep us safe".

The war on terror was never motivated by a factual analysis of a flaw in Islamic teaching, or because governments were of the view that Muslims are mistaken on some theological point, but because someone wanted to kill people. People. This, we must not forget. The fact they were Muslim makes their deaths no less tragic than if they were of any other faith.

And if Islamophobia sought to criticize Islam, whence cometh their theses against Islam? Where are the intellectual battles being fought by Islamophobia against the errors of Islam? In what lecture theaters are academics explaining where Islam is wrong, and how to non-violently correct its errors in the mind before one goes out to shoot these people or make drone strikes against them? Instead, all that we find are lobbyists, who know very little about Islam but a lot about making war against Islam.

Islamophobia isn't just a threat to Muslims. It is a threat to your very life.


It seeks to set us all at each other's throats. It not only preaches that followers of Islam should be killed, but that innocent bystanders who defend them or consort with them should be killed. It appeals to a fantasy, a fairy-tale about the so-called west as a righteous and pure civilization, in order to scorn another culture and portray it as subhuman.

As an intellectual I don't accept the supernatural claims of Islam, even if I admire its ability to make peace and enrich a community. But Islam is not, as Sam Harris once claimed, "the motherlode of bad ideas".

The motherlode of bad ideas is Islamophobia, and with it the war on terror. These are the Hitlerite impulses that we must kill people because of their community background, that we must treat them all as suspects and accuse them of sheltering extremists simply because of their faith. Such persecution goes against everything history has proven to be correct and enduring, and represents a graver threat to civilized life than the extremism of the violent self-declared Islamic groups that include most notably the so-called Islamic State (Daesh).

Hate has no place anywhere, under any pretext. When we reflect on the industrial-scale killings of the Holocaust and pronounce, never again, we say thus not for our own safety but for the good. We will never again allow ourselves to become monsters, to threaten the lives of infants because of claims about so-called national security. If they command us to do such evil, then we must prefer instead to seek out our own fascists and attack them instead.

Never again was an absolute, and cannot be dismissed simply because it is convenient to hate again. If evil prevails when good men do nothing, national security is worthless and people should stay true only to their own conscience.


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The clubof.info Blog gets its own app

The clubof.info Blog


Development of the new clubof.info app has been completed, making the blog even more accessible and easy to follow.


The new app is usable on both the Apple and Android phone operating systems, with a second version in development for use on Windows phones that has yet to hit the store once it passes certification. This app brings the clubof.info brand to life in a new way, and is a recommended download for all our readers. You can download the app at the store below, or from the right rail of the website.

The clubof.info Blog - Android Apps on Google Play

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17 March 2015

Crazy journalist's rant against a blogger

The clubof.info Blog


Anti-Russian polemicist Edward Lucas, whose paranoid ramblings were relics of the previous cold war until he latched himself onto the new one as an apparent expert, seems to be upset about the ability of bloggers to be quoted in the foreign press.


In a Twitter tirade, the established British Economist journalist expressed astonishment at the idea of the foreign media agency Sputnik quoting a marginal blogger from the United Kingdom when reporting on the state of the media in the west.

The great Edward Lucas has never heard of a blogger, so who could that blogger be? Note the guy's bluster about his own importance, and why we should all give him a pat on the back as a hero and veteran keeping our world safe from the sinister Russians and their spies. James Bond has spoken.

Perhaps the great master of espionage and subversion, Edward Lucas, is going to save us all from the evil super-villain Vladimir Putin and his sneaky undercover agents on Twitter.

The contents of Lucas's Twitter rant embedded above contains no small amount of irony, considering British and American publications quote equally marginal bloggers and dissidents in countries like Russia and China - including figures so marginal that they continue to blog about these regimes while literally cowering behind the British or American state from imaginary assassins. Perhaps, in Lucas' narrow idea of journalism, Russian or Chinese bloggers can be experts on the countries they don't live in, but a western blogger living in the west can't be an expert on the west.

Rants like Lucas' may be part of a larger effort by to dramatize the propaganda employed by the Russian Federation against the west beyond its superlative reality, mistaking anyone who opposes warmongering or stampedes of lies from the British and US governments as a Russian saboteur sent by Putin. It has often been predicted that mainstream media commentators, unable to grasp how empty and discredited they are, would resort to paranoid claims and fantasies about mind-controlled trolls and spies sent to sabotage the Internet, just as they believe Putin's phantom armies are sabotaging Ukraine and making it murder its own people in front of European observers.

It should be noted that Edward Lucas' career is built upon the sand of fear-mongering and conspiracy theories against dissidents. Lucas believes Edward Snowden was an agent of Putin, and indulges in rampant paranoia against the whistleblower in his offensive book, The Snowden Operation (2014).

To redeem a career based on fear-mongering and McCarthyism, Britain's celebrated "James Bonds" like Lucas prance around accusing British and American dissidents of being no more than agents of Putin, while pretending oligarchs and criminals cowering in the UK or US are bona fide dissidents.

Lucas is the witch-finder general. He desperately wants to believe in a world filled with perfidy, espionage and conspiracy against the west, and will add anything he discovers on Twitter to boost his fantasy and his credibility as a sycophant of the British state.

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US public wants to pull Zionism's plug

The clubof.info Blog


The boy who cried wolf is no longer able to convince the American public. The case against Iran is exposed as a lie and those who repeat it, traitors.


This was the view of Chad Nelson writing at Counterpunch on 9 March, after the recent debacle of Benjamin Netanyahu's 3 March plea before the United States Congress to undermine the US negotiations with Iran and insist on maintaining threats of aggression against that country.

Increasingly, "most sane Americans" are aware of the fact that the case against Iran is a lie. Seeing that Netanyahu only wants to send the United States' powerful armies to wage a new war, Americans "largely opposed" his speech. Netanyahu had already been "trumpeting the same dire warnings for decades", repeatedly stating that Iran was three years away from a nuclear weapon - even twenty years ago.

By entertaining the lies of Netanyahu and taking the side of military aggression and prejudice against Iran, the US Congress is only proving itself to be not just unpopular but illegitimate and unaccountable. This is as Nelson argues:
The growing disconnect between the US government’s staunch support of Israel and the American public’s disagreement with that support is best explained by Lysander Spooner’s No Treason No. 6, in which Spooner says of Congress, “these pretended agents of the people are really the agents of nobody.” For if members of Congress were legitimately acting as our agents, we would be “responsible for all acts done within the limits of the power entrusted to [Congress].” That constituents are not held legally responsible for the actions of their Congressional “representatives” says much about the purported agency, or lack thereof.
The clubof.info Blog adds that the negotiations with Iran are only taking place because the technologically "gifted" Zionist state lobbied the United States to destroy any regional scientific or technological developments that might deter Zionist crimes.

According to United Nations resolutions and the opinions of international civil society, the Zionist regime's escalating crimes against humanity have already included annexation, aggression, genocide and infanticide. These crimes have always been met with the disgust, fear and mass walk-outs of the international community, who consider the Zionist regime rather than Iran as a grave threat to world peace.

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13 March 2015

Striving to be Snowdenlike

Harry J. Bentham


If Edward Snowden had not taken refuge in a non-Western country, he would be under torture or worse. Even though this martyrdom was prevented by his asylum, Snowden has already become a model of personal resistance and a one-man revolution against the world's most powerful government.


Above all, we must recognize that Snowden is victorious. His actions have put the state on the defensive, forcing it to reconsider the policies it arrogantly implemented without the consent of the public. Therein lies an example to us all.

Those of us who would criticize Snowden should examine themselves and their own deeds, and compare them with his. He is a titan. There is no chastising that the people who merely write or speak, such as I, can do to a man who accomplished such great deeds, but only praise. By contrast with him, the rest of us can only be called slacktivists: we have fought only for our freedom to do nothing.

Now that the state (not just the US but Britain et al) has become even more paranoid at the potential for one man's dissent to humiliate and disrupt its immoral and illegal actions, it seems unlikely that any leaker in the future will have anything like the triumph Snowden achieved over the security state. Or will they?

I write this question, because the theory of a technological emancipation, and of transhumanism in particular, has always made a prediction about politics. I would argue that prediction already became a reality in the person of Snowden. One day, governments, perhaps even whole armies, will be eradicated by solitary individuals in the right place, in the right time, and in the right information. Technology has always led to concentrating greater power in the hands of fewer people, but it is often indiscriminate and anarchic in doing so. The epitome of that technological perfection would be an individual capable of slaying whole armies and remaking the world according to the kind of justice and accountability that only a single, unburdened and unapologetic person can guarantee.

Sociologically speaking, the time of monolithic collectives and nation-states is coming to the end of its "sociocultural evolution", at least in what we have called the western world. We are, more and more, beginning to realize that individuals rather than institutions will eventually be able to accomplish anything they set their mind to. Individuals: the so-called "smart rats" or "high-tech rebel elite" promised by Julian Assange in his conversations in Cypherpunks. Men and women who will be able to outmaneuver, outrun, and outfox entire governments, including the world's most powerful government. In the face of these titans, governments will need to admit that they have lost their monopoly on controlling who is respected or listened to, or what information the public is exposed to. Further, it is only a matter of time before they altogether lose their monopoly on force and are rendered politically powerless, mere artifacts of a brutish and primitive past.

The ramifications of this spontaneous upgrade to our "societal operating system", positive and negative, have to be examined seriously by the upgrade's supporters and opponents alike. But the inevitability of this change of power-relations to adapt an increasingly horizontal form is hard to deny.

The Internet, like any revolution in media, has its detractors. Arguments against its effects on society say that it creates heightened confusion, immersing people in profuse conflicting information that debases us in comparison with the sense of "truth" ensured by loyalist propaganda (people in Britain once only listened to the BBC and rejected any other source as foreign). This is true enough, but we would be wrong to believe that the state is not now equally confused and diverted from any sense of purpose as its people, and therein lies its new vulnerability.

The Internet is annoying to everyone, whether for or against the government, or on either side of the political spectrum, precisely because it is impossible to control - for good or ill. Anarchy, which the Internet has been described as the "greatest experiment in", makes us more powerless than ever, but also more powerful than ever - if you know what to do.

The reality is that those who relied on a neo-feudal monopoly, some form of estate, or more traditional top-down mechanisms of control - like the state, mainstream press outlets and "reputable" journalists - are more powerless, ignored and confused than ever in their history. The rest of us merely "feel" more powerless and confused than ever, but this is only because we weren't as aware of how powerless and confused we actually were in the past. In other words, the equilibrium between people caused by the Internet has created a world with fewer conspiracies but more conspiracy theories.

For the majority of people, whether they realize it or not yet, the Internet has produced a net increase in the ability to disseminate vital information and grievances to others, and increased the opportunity to protest. This isn't to say that the preponderance of people with wrong or crazy ideas, or too lazy to take action in the real world, has decreased because of the Internet. Rather, that number has increased. But it is true that the groups of people with right ideas are bigger now, because of the Internet - much bigger, and more refined and geographically distributed.

What has happened to the monopoly of information already will happen to the monopoly of everything else. It will crumble. The "leakers" of the future will not merely be leaking information, but entire proprietary technologies, even weapons that could drastically empower the self-defense of oppressed people and less fortunate nations on another hemisphere. Let me clarify by stating that if additive manufacturing or atomically-precise manufacturing allow vehicles and other personal technologies to be adapted and built on-site in impoverished regions with minimal resources, the world's biggest experiment in anarchy will no longer be just an experiment.

After personal computers, and the leakers who used them, there will be dozens of other personal technologies and enhancements that will be equally challenging to the power and authority of the state. It is not outrageous to theorize now that these technologies will have their own leakers and their own vanguards of "high-tech rebels", who will recognize the needs of the many as the only arbitrators of a model global society.

As many have predicted, future generations will admire Edward Snowden for the service he did for the public and, indeed, the whole world. His rebellion against the world's only superpower is unprecedented, in a way that compares only with messiahs spoken of in the past. Of all the individuals in the world to admire or strive to be like at this time, it can be argued that Snowden stands out as the greatest such authority. That is how he should be regarded by anyone who acknowledges the virtue of democratizing the utmost knowledge and power to each individual.

Snowden should have special resonance for people who see technology as having the potential to liberate humanity and transform human "nature", so his actions should have special resonance for transhumanists. It is my assessment that the great power of single individuals may mean that we need no transhumanist collective, movement, party, or state, although these things are good insofar as they raise awareness of transhumanism's promise of change and bring more candidates into the pool. What political transhumanism needs are titans. We need super-activists, equipped with so much skill, so much personal technology, and so much insider knowledge that they can bring unjust governments and hierarchies crashing down with their own hands.

These titans will know they have won, when they are recognized as world powers in their own right, and the futurists who foresaw their arrival will declare that we saw them coming and we can help adapt global society to the more horizontal form entailed by their arrival.


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American Patriots Exploited by the State

The clubof.info Blog


In a feature-length article at the website of Asian broadcaster Press TV, futurist author Harry J. Bentham questions the future of US military power.


From the article:
First, ask yourself this: what is this Empire, and who does it serve? It can be argued in good faith that the special interest groups, those gentlemen setting the objectives of American foreign policy, are the same ones who once played monopoly using the British Empire.
Much of the article appeals not to left-wing critics of US foreign policy, but to self-labelled American patriots. "If America’s many patriots can be reasoned with - if it is possible to reach their hearts, past the propaganda and money that glamorize the squander of American military power - let them know that they are being used" the op-ed argues.

Although stating that patriotism is a concept alien to the futurist political discourse, the op-ed makes the case that giving up lives and fortunes on foreign battlefields that don't help the nation does not fit with idea of patriotic virtue.

In what may not strike a chord with more conservative patriots, though, the long version of the article makes the case that the US should focus more on the social ills at home rather than remaking the world in America's image:
The growing social failures and the proliferation of misery in places like Chicago, where law enforcers indulge in torture and terrorism against people on account of the color of their skin, demand the full attention of all who profess to love America. It is a time like this, when messianic and utopian foreign policy aimed at reshaping other countries like Ukraine or Syria in America’s image belies the dystopic and doomed course that the US government has taken at home. 

The op-ed blames the decline of America's moral and political standing with other countries on "courtiers of international power", who ironically do not consider themselves as patriots.


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10 March 2015

The False Dyads Keeping Daesh Alive

The clubof.info Blog


Any hope of really combating the so-called Islamic State group, often widely referred to by its Arabic abbreviation Daesh, will require abandoning old priorities.


That is the plea from respected International Relations scholar Immanuel Wallerstein, writing at his widely syndicated column. In the short analysis, he makes mention of a number of dyads of conflict that he sees as counterproductive in fighting Daesh.

Most controversial is perhaps Wallerstein's assessment that seeking to overthrow Bashar al-Assad's government, which Turkey is especially fond of to the negation of all other priorities, is absolutely counterproductive and only plays into the hands of Daesh.

The following dyads between actors in the Middle East region are shown in Wallerstein's analysis as counterproductive and obstructing the potential for a multilateral campaign against Daesh. They show how each participant in the region is too distracted by other enemies to focus on combating Daesh:

  • Egypt >< Muslim Brotherhood
  • Saudi Arabia >< Iran
  • Qatar >< Saudi Arabia
  • Bahrain >< Shias
  • Iran >< Sunnis
  • Turkey >< Syria
  • Kurdish movements >< Each other
  • Russia >< U.S.
  • Israel >< Iran and the Palestinians

Beyond these dyads, which consume all the energy of these actors and tie them down so they cannot fight Daesh, Wallerstein demands, "Name one that puts fighting the IS at the top of its list."

The propaganda of making a revolution against Bashar al-Assad, while at the same time professing the utmost paranoia and repression to deter Daesh, has rendered Western governments as hypocritical dictatorships. They have no real interest in democracy and are only interested in supporting tyrants who will protect their wealth in the region. This is Wallerstein's conclusion based on the above analysis:
What, you may ask, about existing dictatorships? Should we not be struggling against them? The efforts to do so as the great priority has actually reinforced them. The fears created by the IS have actually reduced in major ways the civil rights of citizens and residents in the United States and western Europe. There is massive hypocrisy concerning which tyrants are being opposed. In effect, everyone protects the tyrants that are their geopolitical ally and denounces the tyrants that are not.
Based on these facts, increasing pressure seems to be forcing Western governments to listen to the experts pushing them to pull the plug on the the so-called "democratic" experiment in Syria, which achieved no democracy but allowed Daesh to emerge.

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Crossroads of Radicalism & Technology

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The clubof.info Blog has been revised to boost its appeal and ensure that it is a top-notch informative blog with a unique message. Our aim is to ensure that the people who come here are deliberate about it, and will bookmark our excellent site or subscribe to its biweekly newsletter.


Previous articles published at The clubof.info Blog were overwhelmingly reprints of other articles. In the minority of cases where they were not, they were sent to similar websites like ieet.org or lifeboat.com/blog. These websites will continue to get a share of the material at The clubof.info Blog in their own way, but you'll only be able to get all the information and analysis by visiting clubof.info itself.

All future articles posted to The clubof.info Blog will blog post-length "reports" like this one (with no credited author other than The Blog itself), or feature-length articles that only appear at clubof.info. You won't be able to find our feature-length articles anywhere else, so make sure to visit The Blog right here or follow our Twitter feed to ensure you find them.

As part of our neat new layout, we are also taking full ownership of the images used at The Blog. That means we're getting a bit stricter about ownership rights, even though this blog - as a political stance - supports an end to DRM and the battle against copyright. The only reason for these changes is that it is simply necessary in order to increase the traffic flowing to The clubof.info Blog because we're in competition with websites that have entirely unique content posted on them every week.

In short, The clubof.info Blog is shifting away from quantity and towards quality. The site is getting richer and more focused. Enjoy.


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6 March 2015

State disintegration inevitable: #LOrdre

@hjbentham.


Commenting on the US private intelligence firm Stratfor's comments about Russia's eventual disintegration as a country, the L'Ordre blog on the Fox-owned Beliefnet website argues that all countries will disintegrate.


Not only this, but embracing the future entails actively helping our countries to disintegrate as the end of their very evolution:

Let this stand as a comment from me that I’m not on any particular country’s side, especially not my own. I may criticize the US government more than the UK government, but only because it seems to be in charge of more foreign policy decisions concerning the UK than than the UK. 

No country should be exempt from our scorn, especially not the countries in which we ourselves reside. The future is the inevitable, but being part of the future means helping it happen. Your country needs you. Help it to be defeated.

Read more: http://www.beliefnet.com/columnists/lordre#ixzz3T9Q6JmaPRead more at http://www.beliefnet.com/columnists/lordre#J0wlM4oUE32qGv68.99


Based on Harry J. Bentham's extensive writing such as Catalyst: A Techno-Liberation Thesis, this is a prediction that should be greeted in the passionless spirit of inevitability. All governments are doomed and no-one should be loyal to them. They are as doomed as ancient forms of feudalism and aristocracy that came before them, and will eventually be ridiculed by the whole of humanity as primitive and obscene.

In recent years, the recognition that Nineteenth Century nation-states are obsolete has been growing, not just among academic circles and marginal futurists but among entire movements. The Venus Project, created by futurist Jacque Fresco, is an example of such a movement and its magazine has published articles acknowledging that old models of political legitimacy are dwindling and losing appeal in an increasingly borderless world.

Similar movements include the Zero State transnational autonomous community, and others involved in the gatherings of the Mont Order dissident club.

More: ClubOfINFO video calls for destroying the influence of mainstream media to empower people and spread free speech



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Against Celebritarianism

@thomasjwebb.


The week before last, at the International Students For Liberty Conference (ISFLC), Ron Paul once again misgendered and deadnamed whistleblower and hero, to libertarians everywhere, Chelsea Manning in a speech. Though his words otherwise sounded supportive, they indicate someone who at best hasn’t paid attention to any news pertaining to her. More likely, he and the people he surrounds himself with disrespect not only Manning, but trans identities everywhere. As soon as he said this, some people in the audience, including some people from the Center for a Stateless Society (C4SS) shouted back to correct him. In return, rabid Ron Paul supporters have responded with insults and threats. This needs to stop.

But this isn’t about Ron Paul or about any particular celebrity. It’s about our tendency as a movement to treat some people as irreplaceable because of what they have done at some point in the past. It’s about libertarian movement celebrity worship orcelebritarianism. It’s not only counter-productive, but goes against libertarian principles. Once you get over the intellectual-property based thinking our society adheres to where an idea belongs to someone, you can understand that continuing where someone left off isn’t that person’s prerogative.

Ron Paul got famous making tirades against endless wars and The Fed on widely televised Republican primary debates. Libertarianism, even if it was his odd brand thereof, made its way into our living rooms and his name to dinner table conversations. But other people hold similar views as him on these issues without his numerous problems, including the infamous racist newsletters which he won’t fully repudiate and his association with Gary North, a Christian reconstructionist who supports the stoning of adulterers.

A common retort to any criticisms of him is that he’s already famous among the general public and whoever you offer as an alternative isn’t. This may technically be true, but it’s also a self-fulfilling prophecy. We must forget the capitalist mythology of the superman who rises to great heights entirely on his own strength. He got where he is by the help of people around him. That includes many hard-core conservatives, which is why he finds himself unable to say things that would upset that camp. But he also got a lot of help from the liberty movement and continues to be given a platform. Again, this needs to stop.

Innocent Mistakes Aren’t


It’s important to remember that Ron Paul’s use of name and pronoun for Chelsea Manning didn’t appear in an off-the-cuff remark during a discussion or Q&A, which would make ignorance a little more plausible. It was in a speech, which no doubt has been gone over by himself and his aides. And it doesn’t matter what his intentions are, only their effects. This is a point that libertarians have no problem making when addressing the apparently well-meaning actions of state actors — a disconnect Bobby, an ISFLC attendee, has noted:
The defense of Ron Paul by appeal to lack of malicious intent — “he’s old and doesn’t know better” — is perhaps the most pathetic instance of special pleading I’ve ever come across. I’ve been hurt my entire life by people who apparently mean no harm. Libertarians of all people should immediately recognize how morally bankrupt this argument is, given their constant insistence that the good intentions of central planners do not mitigate the harm they cause, nor does it weaken our condemnation of their callous actions.
It is also implausible to suggest that it’s an accident. Ron Paul is unwilling to upset his hard-core supporters, which includes people with frighteningly backwards beliefs on various social issues. It speaks volumes about not only his priorities but that of any venue, any promoter and, dare I say, any movement that gives him a platform. Ron Paul can’t truly comment on the racist newsletters because the conditions that created them, the people he surrounds himself, remain largely unchanged. No wonder his speech writer saw it fit to write about Manning from the perspective of someone who’s been living in a cave for the past several years. Bobby then continues:
If he cannot gender Manning correctly — an admitted hero and public figure — how could we expect him to have good ideas for resolving the pandemic of violence facing trans women of color? His refusal to disavow the racist newsletters published in his name speaks volumes. Whether you agree with him on the Fed, war, borders, whatever — this man is an enemy of trans liberation and an enemy of black liberation and struggles for racial justice. He has no business in a movement for liberty, much less speaking as a figurehead. This is not extremism. This is a wake-up call.
If our movement can’t keep people with terrible views out of it, we have no business asking out loud why women, why gays, why trans people, why people of color, why genderqueer people don’t want to be a part of it. And if our movement manages to be successful anyway, then it will become every bit as evil as the status quo it seeks to change.

Dealing With True Monsters


Most of the people who have achieved fame in our movement aren’t terrible people, but it’s helpful to consider how we respond when they are a true monster. One of the co-founders of C4SS, Brad Spangler, has admitted to child rape. Some people responded disturbingly supportive of him. Most people did not, but that there were people who defended him speaks volumes of the power of celebrity. This incident brought with it some other questions — what to do with his works and what are we doing wrong as a movement to have let the monster who walked among us remain among us, despite some clear warning signs.

After internal wrestling on finer points, C4SS decided to archive his writings, keeping them available for public consumption but also dissociating them from the main website. This I think was the right call, and it illustrates that someone can, at least in extreme situations, be dissociated with even if they did valuable things in the past, like found the organization in question or write prolifically. It also shows that ideas have an integrity of their own and can survive and evolve even if they were worked on at one point by poisonous individuals.

The other truly important question it raised was how to prevent giving cover to such individuals in the future. William Gillis explored this question in his article:
We’re always going on about how non-state approaches to fucked up dynamics can be so much more effective — and ultimately they can be — yet this is precisely the kind of situation where we should easily be able to demonstrate that, and instead we’ve come up empty.
This isn’t movement inside baseball. If our movement is successful, the shape post-state societies takes will be greatly influenced by it. If we can’t deal with poisonous individuals now, then we can’t truly assert that stateless societies will be able to do it. Restricting the flow of information by protecting beloved celebrities can distort the market much the same way bad legislation can, as Gillis continues:
Markets work through the brilliantly self-organizing decentralized conveyance and evaluation of information. Insofar as we suppress that among ourselves — insofar as we declare that we know better than our compatriots what information is pertinent to their decisions and what they can be trusted to evaluate rationally — we suppress signals and leech dynamism from the market. We in effect reproduce some of the irrationality of state capitalism.
How we respond to bad people in a movement tells much about our ability to build a better future. And it shouldn’t have to come to arguably the most heinous of crimes. Like Gillis stated, child rape is particularly evil, but part of “a spectrum of predatory and dehumanizing perspectives and behaviors deeply connected to misogyny” and thus must be struck at the root if it is to be dealt with. We should feel free to criticize early and criticize often. If we feel afraid to attack someone for less overtly violent awfulness, we need to loudly ask “why?”

Anarchism as Praxis


Central to celebritarianism is the idea that ideas are precious and that some people have really good ideas. But if you already understand how Microsoft’s profits, for example, are largely rents off of spurious intellectual property rights, then you should have a good nose for why celebritarians’ ideas are not precious or at least don’t belong to them. Each person who contributes to our political philosophy does so on the shoulders of giants — no! — on the shoulders of a mound of others of equal stature. Markets work this way, societies work this way. If I’m wrong on this, then we need to throw in the towel and accept technocratic welfare statism as the best society our species is capable of.

It doesn’t take deep understanding of economics, sociology or philosophy to understand the basics of how the state operates. It certainly helps, but the problem hasn’t been lack of knowledge all this time — it has been bias and ideology. Practicing anarchism must not be seen as a highly technical skill that only a smaller number of economists are qualified to do. For it to work, it must be something we can all practice to some degree. We do need experts to discover things and teach, but experts must not monopolize the podium and must not be worshiped. After all, any critic of power structures is familiar with how experts have their own biases as a class.

In a freed market, there would be space for specialization and, of course, some people will be more interested in social sciences than others. That is fine. But being an advocate for liberty shouldn’t be an elite club, a gentleman’s club (it’s no accident that celebritarians are disproportionately straight, white and male, maybe dropping one of those things from time to time). The resources to enter that field should be accessible and translated into multiple languages. We must shift from looking at ideas as the job of pampered heroes to seeing it as an endeavor too important not to crowdsource.

Russell Brand’s #Revolution

Robert Kirchner


Russell Brand's popular book, Revolution

We’ll get to the book in a bit, but first I have to say a few things about the phenomenon of Russell Brand himself. Frankly, I’m a bit worried for Russell Brand. He has shown tremendous personal courage in recent years, transforming himself from a bad-boy British comedian/celebrity, whose comedy revolved around his own dionysian excesses of sex, drugs and odd fashion sense, into a prominent voice for radical change, a razor-sharp critic of the media Spectacle [1] he is part of, and of the ruling class interests that this Spectacle serves. He is in recovery from his addictions, one day at a time, and he speaks with personal authority against the uselessly punitive War on Drugs in the UK and US. He has been able to use his celebrity status to penetrate territory where radicals have long been denied entry: popular TV talk shows in Britain and the US, not only putting forth radical leftist political perspectives, reaching millions of viewers, but also exposing the prevailing vapid discourse of these forums and of the other glitterati personalities who inhabit them.

In 2013, he was interviewed by Jeremy Paxman, an attack-dog pundit of the BBC: Brand not only called for massive redistribution of wealth, and cheerfully admitted that he doesn’t vote; he rebuked Paxman and the political class for pretending that voting makes a difference. The initially sneering Paxman was reduced to whimpering lame protestations. Brand went on to start “The Trews” (a portmanteau of “true news”), a regular on-going Youtube series in which he interviews radical thinkers on a range of current political and social issues. And now he has written a book, Revolution.[2]

Well, the Spectacle, and its ruling class owners, do not suffer such public challenges gladly. The Observer’s Nick Cohen, for example, dismissed Revolution as “atrocious: long-winded, confused and smug; filled with references to books Brand has half read and thinkers he has half understood.” Their knives are now out for Russell Brand, waiting for a misstep. Given Brand’s volatile personality (he has been diagnosed with attention deficit and bipolar disorders), it is a testimony to the strength of his addiction recovery work (or, as he would probably say, to the help of his Higher Power) that he hasn’t, under this kind of pressure, self-destructed already. Meanwhile, we anarchists find ourselves in a rather awkward position: we’ve been offering serious critiques of capitalism and state violence since forever, but the first person in decades to reach a mass audience with such critiques, including many young people, is this charismatic bad-boy celebrity, Russell Brand. We don’t do charisma.

Moreover, Brand is not a systematic ideologue. His political theory remains somewhat inchoate. There are clearly some things he is against (gross political and financial inequality, consumerism, immigrant-bashing), and some things he is for (real democracy, non-violence, sane environmental policy). But readers of Revolution expecting to find therein a comprehensive blueprint for a new society, with step-by-step instructions on how to get there, will, like Nick Cohen, be disappointed. (Though anarchists should not be ruffled by this: on the contrary, we have long eschewed top-down political programs in favour of bottom-up emergence of democratic solutions.) But what will Brand call for next, and will we be able to agree with him, on either substance or strategy? Many are urging him to stand for Parliament or Mayor of London, some out of sincere admiration, others in the hope that he’ll get buried in the quagmire of electoral politics, and that will put an end to his whinging about social problems. Given his (self-acknowledged) predilection for attention-getting behaviour, this may be a difficult temptation for Brand to resist.

This brings us now to what may be the central question for followers of the C4SS website: is Brand, in fact, an anarchist? What he says is,
I don’t know much about anarchism, I only know about anarchy from graffiti, the Sex Pistols, and as a kind of slur or reprimand from my mum: “Is that what you want? It’d be anarchy!” (pp. 74-75)
But this occurs as the lead-in to an interview with the noted anarchist anthropologist David Graeber, whom Brand approvingly cites for his ideas on debt cancellation.
Well, according to David Graeber, there’s more to anarchy than not tidying your bedroom, spitting, and having a Mohican. In fact, it isn’t defiantly disorderly at all; it is society that has no centralized power…. David as an anarchist is opposed to centralized power in any form. He believes that people should be entrusted and empowered, that given the opportunity, released from the chains of authority and the spell of a corrupting media, we will form fair and functioning systems; they may not be perfect, but remember, we’re not competing with perfection, we’re competing with corruption, inequality, and destruction…. I asked him what he envisaged … “My dream [said Graeber] is to create a thousand autonomous institutions that can gradually take over the business of organizing everyday life, pretty much ignoring the authorities, until gradually the whole apparatus of state comes to seem silly, unnecessary, a bunch of buffoons useful for entertainment perhaps, but no one we have to take seriously.” I like the idea of creating autonomous organizations to perform necessary social functions that are not motivated by profit. This along with the principles of equality, nonviolence, and ecological responsibility are necessary pillars of Revolution. (pp. 75-81)
I think this passage, combined with his public anti-voting stance, is sufficient to identify Brand as, at the very least, anarchist-friendly. And he refers back to Graeber’s anarchism, repeatedly and with approbation, through the rest of the book. Moreover, later in the book (ch. 27, 30), he quotes Noam Chomsky at length, another anarchist public intellectual, regarding US foreign policy. He also seems to recognise that M.K. Gandhi was essentially anarchist, in his tactics if not his nationalist goals. But most tellingly, Brand is aware of the anarchist organizational principles [3] underlying Alcoholics Anonymous and its various 12-step fellowship offspring, to which he (presumably) owes his own recovery from addiction.[4] In ch. 32, he characterizes Alcoholics Anonymous as “a successful, worldwide, leaderless, anarchist collective with millions of members” (emphasis mine).

This does not keep Brand from calling, intermittently, for statist solutions to social problems. He’s in favour of tighter laws against greenhouse gas emissions and other forms of environmental degradation; a better financed National Health Service (NHS) and other health and welfare benefits for vulnerable members of society; getting corporate money out of politics; more rigorous tax enforcement against big corporations; and many other things that statist leftists typically call for. But so have many avowed anarchists, from Proudhon to Chomsky, as interim measures to deal with particularly egregious forms of suffering and injustice, without abandoning the ultimate goal of a stateless society. (Personally, I don’t believe that working for statist policy reform is a fruitful strategy, even in the interim, but other anarchists may disagree.) Even within C4SS.org, the point has repeatedly been made that, in the face of massive upwardredistributions of wealth through state-enforced monopolies and rents, anarchists should hardly be focussing their ire on NHS and the few remaining “welfare-state” institutions and policies which redistribute small amounts of wealth in the opposite direction.

In Brand’s case, though, I suspect that this mixture of anarchist and statist positions is merely due to a failure to think it through and recognise their incompatibility. Brand writes with passion, often based on personal experience, in a style that is sometimes funny (as one would expect from a professional comedian), and sometimes movingly poetic, particularly in his descriptions of the underclass society he grew up in. Which is to say that Brand is clearly more of a poet than a philosopher: to paraphrase Emerson, Brand’s mind is not hobgoblinned by ideological consistency, foolish or otherwise. But on the whole, the various solutions Brand proposes through the course of the book are overwhelmingly anarchist in spirit, including relocalization of the food system, abolition of personal titles (Dr., Lord, Mr. President, etc.), nonviolence (on this point he is consistent)[5], promotion of worker cooperative businesses, and a general disposition to engage with people in democratic discussion and see what emerges.

So, the book is called Revolution. What kind of revolution, then, does Brand have in mind? Robert Colville of The Daily Telegraph sneered that Brand “has not even the faintest fragment of an inkling of how his Revolution will come about” and “[a]s for how things would work afterwards, don’t ask.” I think though, that the mystification is Colville’s, not Brand’s; it stems from Colville’s obvious (professionally obligatory) ideological hostility to Brand, and, more interestingly, from his rather outdated (though still widely shared) conventional understanding of what a revolution is – i.e. simply a popularly supported coup d’état: the old regime falls (peacefully or violently) and a new regime assumes power, enacting some program of change. But this has never been the anarchist understanding of revolution, and it is not Brand’s either. For anarchists,revolution is not a single cataclysmic political event, but an ongoing social process of “building the new society in the shell of the old”, or as Gandhi put it more succinctly, “be[ing] the change you want to see in the world”.

Brand takes this a step farther — and here he may part company from some “ni-Dieu-ni-maîtres” anarchists, not to mention completely befuddling establishment critics like Colville. For Brand insists that we cannot “be the change” without undergoing a personal spiritual awakening that puts us in relationship with a loving Higher Power. As Brand says, “I know society can change, because look at how I’ve changed,” from fame-besotted heroin addict to activist. And that change, according to the 12-step program in all its incarnations, requires “a decision to turn one’s life and one’s will over to to the care of God as we understood God” (Step 3). What distinguishes this position from Evangelical Christianity (or various other forms of fundamentalist religion) is the eschewal of dogmatism: as millions of recovered alcoholics and other addicts have found, it is sufficient to trust in a “Power greater than oneself” — however that is conceived. That won’t win over militant atheists like Richard Dawkins, (whom Brand pokes fun at throughout Revolution), but it should reassure the rest of us that Brand does not aspire to become a new Jerry Falwell.

Indeed, Brand is nothing if not eclectic in his spirituality: he describes a number of religious experiences in Revolution, from Kundalini Yoga and Transcendental Meditation to an altar call in an Eritrean church. He shows an almost indiscriminate openness towards unconventional forms of spirituality, just as he sometimes seems to fall for any sort of anti-establishment political argument. But auto-didacts like Brand come by their intellectual quirkiness honestly; and “quirkiness” is, of course, a purely subjective judgement. So, the reader may be inspired or put off by Brand’s exploration of religion. But it should be understood that, for Brand, this spiritual openness to change is precisely how the Revolution starts.

Notes


[1] I’m using “Spectacle” in the sense of Guy Debord and the Situationists, i.e. capitalism’s tendency to replace authentic social relations with objects, such as consumer products and celebrities. Brand, by the way, devotes chapter 15 of Revolutionto Situationism, so he’s well aware of this phenomenon.

[2] This is not Brand’s first book. He has written two autobiographical books, called My Booky-Wook, and Booky-Wook 2.

[3] For discussion of the classic anarcho-communist Pyotr Alexeyevich Kropotkin’s influence on Bill W., the co-founder of AA, see http://www.scribd.com/doc/38398959/Benign-Anarchy-Voluntary-association-mutual-aid-and-Alcoholics-Anonymous.

[4] Brand has to be slightly cagey on this point, due to Tradition 11, which says, inter alia, “we need always maintain personal anonymity at the level of press, radio and films”. That is, one doesn’t “out” oneself or one another as members, not merely out of respect for confidentiality, but also so that the fellowship doesn’t come to be publically associated with particular high-profile personalities. Brand merely says that he’s part of an “abstinence-based recovery” program and fellowship; he doesn’t identify it as Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, or any 12-step group. I should add that my inference that it is a 12-step fellowship is merely an assumption on my part, based on no personal acquaintance with Brand.

[5] As I never tire of pointing out to my fellow Quakers, the logical conclusion of nonviolence is anarchism; one can’t have a state without violence.

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