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A Salute to Korryn Gaines: Live Free, Die Young September 23, 2016

Posted by Summerspeaker in Anarchism, Uncategorized.
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Because I live under a rock and/or because the police kill so many people it’s hard to keep up, I just learned about Korryn Gaines today. After watching the video of the traffic stop that serves as backstory to Gaines’s fatal encounter with police on August 1, I’m struck by how Gaines behaved with the cops about as I’d like to. Eir analysis during the traffic stop was on point: “So who the fuck are y’all? A bunch of fucking gang members!” Bold as a lion, indeed.

A couple days ago, the authorities who killed Gaines decided they done no wrong. Shocking.

Maybe I’m missing it, but I ain’t finding any outpouring of support for Gaines from anarcho-capitalists, libertarians, anti-government militias, and so on. I see a positive piece or two (example) plus various ones (example) criticizing Gaines’s supposedly poor choices. This seems weird. It’s almost as if a bunch right libertarians consider Gaines part of the outgroup.

I don’t encourage hurting any feeling being, but mad love and respect to everybody who refuses to bow down to authority.

Gaines tried to live free and ended up dead. If enough people practice the same commitment to liberty, they won’t be able to kill us all.


Self-Determination in the Cyborg Economy: The Dakota Access Pipeline September 8, 2016

Posted by Summerspeaker in Anarchism, Decolonization, Technology, Uncategorized.
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I just got back from a local solidarity rally for the folks resisting the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL). The action itself was energetic and utterly familiar, with all the classic rally elements: signs, speeches, chants, intersection blocking, media presence, and so on. For Albuquerque, it was an impressive turnout. I didn’t think to put on sunscreen and ended up sunburned.

To the Red Nation revolutionaries who participated in the event as well as to many other observers, the mobilization against the pipeline stands out as a shining example of Native resistance to colonialism. The pipeline, in this analysis, comes in a long tradition of resource-extraction projects that harm Indigenous peoples for the benefit of corporate elites. Opposing the pipeline then amounts to a struggle for survival, a struggle against bodily and symbolic death.

The pipeline likewise conforms to the pattern of supposed development that contaminates the environment, inflicting health problems on populations located by the development site and to some degree on the public at large. This dynamic disproportionately affects Indigenous peoples but isn’t limited to colonial encounters. Industrialism to date has myriad victims. Technological mass society has produced wonders at great cost, and these costs haven’t been evenly distributed.

While the present economy indeed requires oil to function, as numerous environmentalists argue, focusing on alternatives makes more sense than expanding extraction of fossil fuels. Proponents of the pipeline unsurprisingly emphasize immediate monetary benefits and overall economic efficiency, invoking the free market. Sadly, as sketched above, the energy market has a set record of negative externalities. Business as usual ain’t working.

The DAPL controversy highlights the tensions and contradictions of the United States as a colonial entity and of the broader industrial economy. It raises questions about property and belonging that can’t be coherently addressed without attending to the country’s settler-colonial history and present.

The standard team-sports mentality of social struggle and the complexity of the issues may well give some of y’all pause. To what extent are the protests about the pipeline specifically? To what extent are they about the representational politics of standing against colonialism and capitalism? To what extent are they about global environmental issues such as climate change, and to what extent does this map to pipeline itself?

I don’t have definitive answers to these questions. I advocate support for the folks putting their bodies on the line and for the principle of self-determination as well as for sustained curiosity about the best course forward.

You can donate to the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe via their website.

Ancaps for Trump and the Hope Bloc: The Curious Appeal of Electoral Politics August 25, 2016

Posted by Summerspeaker in Anarchism, Uncategorized.
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At a protest against military and CIA recruitment the other day, I had the the fortune of running into a self-identified capitalist anarchist who eventually revealed that ey supports Donald Trump for president of the United States. I recounted this encounter on social media, including Reddit.

Many at r/Anarchism and r/Anarcho_Capitalist alike downvoted and raged. Those in the former subreddit disparaged my interest in potentially collaborating with an outgroup, ancaps and market anarchists. Those in the latter threatened to oven me and to throw me out of a helicopter for being part of an outgroup, anticapitalist anarchists.

Screenshot (104)As you might expect, this experience viscerally pushes me to recant and return to my people, to declare they’re right that ancaps are just a bunch fascists. Simultaneously I remember that community is an oppressive myth or at best a presently unfulfilled dream, that I don’t have and probably shouldn’t want a people. It’s too glib to dismiss everybody who identifies as ancap or thereabouts based on these examples.

I’m filled with righteous indignation that anybody who identifies as an anarchist could support Trump, but I wonder if this outrage is overblown and/or if I should react similarly to left anarchists who counsel voting for Hillary Clinton (and perhaps for Bernie Sanders or Jill Stein too).

The differences between these candidates and social meaning supporting them do matter. Left anarchists and anarchist sympathizers who argue for Clinton as the lesser evil typically do so at least in part from a place of good intentions, from a desire to strike a symbolic blow against white supremacy and to minimize the harm caused to oppressed groups. To me there’s no question that Clinton’s stated policies are less awful than Trump’s stated policies. On the other hand, there’s a lot of question about whether a Clinton presidency would cause less harm than a Trump presidency.

Do these supposed good intentions sufficiently explain why I’m less hostile toward Clinton supporters? I’m not sure. I suspect it’s got just as much to do with my cultural affinity for Clinton supporters as with any rational assessment of harm. I mean, Clinton supporters infuriate me, sure, but not to the degree Trump supporters do. I’m compelled by circumstances to interact with Clinton (and Sanders/Stein) supporters far more than with Trump supporters. (Unlike like William Gillis, I don’t live in an anarchist bubble.)

The Hope Bloc for  Barack Obama’s 2009 inauguration highlights how close left anarchists can get to the Democratic Party. Despite that laughable episode, which I didn’t support but sympathized with more at the time than I do now, rather few anticapitalist anarchists consider Noam Chomsky, Howard Zinn, Cindy Milstein, and company to be enemies of the revolution. Instead we blush, feel bad about ourselves, and say they were just confused, caught up in the moment.

I don’t dispute that pragmatically supporting Trump in 2016 is worse than pragmatically supporting Obama in 2008, but exactly how much worse is it?

Detained with Dignity: Reformism in a Nutshell June 8, 2016

Posted by Summerspeaker in Anarchism, Anti-imperialism, Feminism, Queer politics, Uncategorized.
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California is taking action to ensure that trans immigrants are treated with dignity at detention centers.

This quotation and the linked article highlight the absurdity of reformism. Sure, a modicum of respect is better than the alternative. But detention centers shouldn’t exist at all!

Even by liberal standards immigration law and detention centers are unmitigated bullshit. You can make a reasonable argument for prisons and cops within the liberal tradition, valuing both stability and freedom. You can’t do the same for an immigration policy any more elaborate than basic registration.

Immigrant detention and deportation are horrific practices akin to the now widely condemned WWII-era policy of interment camps. Kidnapping, caging, and forcibly relocating people based on where they happen to have been born? How can that be anything but nightmarishly illiberal?

This isn’t a difficult or complicated issue, yet representative democracy still can’t get it right.

Democracy never! How about liberation instead?


Once More against Pinker: Science and Colonialism August 29, 2014

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A Facebook argument with James Hughes has prompted me to return to the task of refuting Steven Pinker’s The Better Angels of Our Nature. If not for Pinker’s popularity – particularly among futurists – I wouldn’t bother, as the absurdity. self-indulgence, and sloppiness of Pinker’s arguments strike me as overwhelmingly obvious. As Louis Proyect writes, Pinker’s views amount to Thomas Hobbes plus Pangloss. But since the Hughes’s “Problems of Transhumanism” series remains one of my favorite things to come out of the whole scene,  I figure I might as well reflect on why such a seemingly clear thinker would positively cite Pinker. I suspect it’s based on either unfamiliarity or – more likely – the sheer appeal of statism sanctioned by scientific authority. The amount of support Pinker and eir ilk receive from futurist and rationalists indicates the potency of colonial discourse and its imbrication with scientific discourse.

As ably described by Stephen Corry, Pinker’s narrative of ever-declining violence retreads a old colonialist path and relies on dubious if not downright fallacious numbers. R. Brian Ferguson examines Pinker’s invocation of archaeology and finds it wildly inaccurate. The archaeological evidence in fact suggests no warfare and little interpersonal violence for thousands of years in some regions. Surveys of skeletons in certain regions and periods indicate a violent-death rate of 0-1%.  “When considered against the total record,” Ferguson writes, “the idea that 15 percent of prehistoric populations died in war is not just false, it is absurd.” I’m skeptical of any firm claims about prehistoric violence rates, but by my reading of the data Douglas Fry’s “n-shaped curve” constitutes the best generalization. I think it’s more useful to look at violence specifically and historically.

At best, prehistoric skeletons that show trauma only indicate a likelihood of death by interpersonal violence. Even an arrowhead in a spine doesn’t unambiguously demonstrate an intentional killing; the same might well have been a hunting accident. Conversely, some or many of those who left skeletons with no signs of trauma may have perished via human attacks that did not damage bone. The evidence doesn’t allow for much beyond thoughtful guesses; it certainly doesn’t provide the statistics Pinker asserts.

On the whole, Pinker spins a dreadfully familiar tale based on European colonial tropes of savagery and Western progress. Ey’s characterization of nonstate tribal peoples as dramatically more violent than European-based state societies that continue to practice settler colonialism and genocide actively enables the latter processes. The supposed violence of the colonized serves as an alibi for colonial horrors, the idea that colonialism was and is necessary to tame the fierce savage. Pinker likewise notably downplays recent violence from the United States military in Asia and the Middle East. It’s all for the greater good, of course! A war to end all wars and all that.

Pinker’s celebratory progress narrative has to date proved irresistible to multitudes in the futurist scene. We all like to imagine mighty force of science on our side. Various anarchists and communists have staked the same claim. It’s a valuable rhetorical bludgeon, but I’m dubious that science can ever offer solid answers to political questions. As we see with Pinker, those who trumpet science often fail to fulfill its ideals at even a basic level. Nor can science necessarily ever escape its association with European colonialism.

The notion of transhumanism guided by luminaries like Pinker and their civilizing mission makes my blood run cold.

Layla AbdelRahim’s New Piece on Education April 15, 2014

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[S]chools use grades and other psychological and physical punishment to coerce future resources (workers) to comply with the hierarchical order. Namely, good grades promise a higher place in the food chain; lower grades and bad reports threaten with hunger, homelessness, social isolation, and suffering either from unemployment or performing menial tasks in underpaid jobs in often horrendous conditions. School evaluations serve to justify the apathy on the part of those who exploit the suffering and labour of those whom this hierarchical socio-economic system forces to the bottom of the food-chain.

Transgender and Transhuman: Hank’s Piece on Val June 16, 2012

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Read it here. I find the biologist explanation of the transexual condition thoroughly problematic, but I’m pleased to see an article exploring these fascinating connections. Props to Val calling out transphobia within the transhumanist community.


Anissimov preaches authority to prevent authoritarianism April 30, 2011

Posted by Summerspeaker in Anarchism, Primitivism, Technology, Uncategorized.
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It’s a bit of a conceptual jumble. Ey jumps from the horrific state of nature to medieval feudalism to Stalin. While I share the concerns about technoscience-enabled tyranny, I consider the rhetoric of security central to the project of domination rather than a counter to it.

Anissimov errs in conflating the natural lack of rules with feudalism as well in challenging Hobbes. It’s critical to remember that the empirical evidence undermines those famous claims about the advantages of civilization versus the state of nature. To the contrary, research shows better or equivalent health outcomes among historical hunger-gatherers as compared with seventeenth-century European urban centers. At best, Hobbes wrote only for eir own social class. Until the last century or two, the much trumpeted civilization, order, and progress strictly benefited a tiny elite at the expense of everybody else. Check out Health and the Rise of Civilization by Mark Nathan Cohen for the details.

Even now, the record stands decidedly mixed. Do longer lives outweigh the psychological harm caused by social hierarchy and the constant self-vigilance (Foucault’s disciple) that Anissimov mentions? Pick your poison, as they say. Acknowledging the dangers posed by technological developments should not function as an excuse for ignoring the manifest suffering under the status quo. As one of the many living unhappily on the margins, conservatism of any kind has minimal appeal to me. What do I have to defend?

V.R. Manoj: Practical tech democracy over speculative fantasies March 31, 2011

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Read it here. While I like both, the near-term struggles for accessible education and against proprietary restrictions ey lists could hardly be more critical.

Intellectual property edifice begins to crack March 30, 2010

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A judge has recently invalidated a patent on human genes. That’s one small step in the right direction. Free information benefits everyone while restriction only helps a tiny minority. Few things rank as insane and irrational for the common good as the barriers we’ve thrown up against digital abundance.