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Complete Anarchy January 23, 2017

Posted by Summerspeaker in Anarchism.
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“They’re smashing the Starbucks windows! They are smashing the Starbucks windows right now! This is complete anarchy.”

Does Truth Matter When Fighting Evil? January 22, 2017

Posted by Summerspeaker in Anarchism, Transhumanism.
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spencer-liddell-confusion

So this image has been making the rounds on social media. It attributes a Colin Liddell quotation apparently advocating black genocide to Richard Spencer. That’s sloppy but arguably fair enough because Spencer was editing the site where Liddell’s piece appeared. However, Colin Liddell claims eir critics are misreading the piece, that ey used the figure of black genocide to highlight genocidal language supposedly used against white South Africans. I’m certainly not suggesting any of this is remotely acceptable or that it negates the case for punching Spencer, but accuracy still matters in times of war. Justifying physical violence against the outgroup via misattribution of a quotation taken out of context isn’t okay.

Antifascists: Be Careful Not to Slip January 22, 2017

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with-us-or

In case there’s any question: I’m not a good soldier in the anarchist, antifascist, antiracist, or any other cause. If that’s what you’re looking for, bookmark me as inevitable traitor. I know I expect personal, political, and intellectual betrayal from other humans as a matter of course.

As you’ve probably seen, the anarchist and broader antiracist scene has exploded with glee about Richard Spencer getting punched. There are strong arguments for the merits of this action. Assuming that the U.S. and world system of white supremacy constitutes structural violence, physically attacking a white nationalist functions as justified counterviolence, as self-defense. Assuming punching Spencer emboldens antiracists and/or suppresses white nationalists via terror, it potentially does far more good than harm and thus meets with utilitarian approval. Etc. While I doubt attacking Spencer was the absolutely optimal play, I can’t much complain about the punch itself.

Here I just encourage the antifascists who believe in beating, torturing, and killing fascists to recognize the marvelously slippery slope they’re standing on. You’re not the same as the fascists; you fight, I hope, for lofty ideals. Their dreams are nightmares. However, that difference doesn’t protect you from falling into similar traps of self-righteousness and insularity. If you make anyone who disagrees or who questions you into your enemy, you’ll descend into authoritarianism.

Keep your focus on those you can identify as fascists with high confidence.

blackblocg20_black_bloc_by_emerica84

On the Utility of Shooting Informants (Rogue One Spoilers) January 22, 2017

Posted by Summerspeaker in Anarchism, Epistemology, Science Fiction, Technology, Transhumanism.
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Che was a devout Marxist-Leninist who believed that capitalism was doomed and that inevitably socialism, then communism, would take its place. He also possessed an unshakable faith that the entire process could be hurried along at the point of a gun. According to Alberto Granado, who as a young medical student had accompanied Che on his motorcycle journey through South America, when Che looked through a sniper scope at a soldier and pulled the trigger, he fully believed that he was helping reduce repression by ‘saving 30,000 future children from lives of hunger.’ When Granado looked through a sniper scope, by contrast, he saw only a man with a wife and children. The difference between them, Granado said, was that Che felt certain he was ushering in a new world order.

In Rogue One, rebel stalwart Cassian shoots a disabled informant in eir first appearance on screen. Cassian does this presumably to facilitate eir own escape and to prevent the informant from talking under interrogation. The film presents this action as unpleasant but morally justified as long as the fight against the Empire succeeds. A prominent anarchist has present Cassian’s act as obviously correct because utilitarianism.

I’m skeptical.

Guerrilla warfare historically involves lots of shooting and/or torturing a variety of types of informants. Guevara, for example, shot supposed enemy informants, most or all of whom were in the class position Guevara nominally fought for. While Cassian shot a friendly informant, the logic of elimination to deny the enemy information is similar. This sordid record ain’t anything to celebrate.

While there may conceivably be situations in which murder to control knowledge flows constitutes the optimal option, I doubt this happens often in our world. (It may not happen at all.) I suspect the trope/model of inflicting physical damage to feeling beings for the greater good causes more harm than it prevents.

Based on my experience and understanding of the world, humans don’t need any prodding from utilitarians to commit horrors in the name of God/nation/liberation/revolution/etc. I want to challenge this pattern of thought, not encourage it.

Sure, social regeneration though violence makes sense within its own terms. If defeating the allegedly evil enemy via pain and terror is the sole path to freedom and prosperity, it’s hard to argue against the approach. The trick is predicting the effect of hurting people with any confidence and of ruling out alternative options.

Humans in the cultures I’m familiar with default to violence as means for making the world a better place. We’re programmed by World War II, the atomic bombings of Japan, popular media, the police, the military, and so on to accept that narrative. Anarchist utilitarians who feed this discourse cheerlead for the status quo.

When you contemplate the revolutionary utility of murdering folks, I recommend reviewing the messy real-world history of insurgency rather than simplified fictional stories. Perhaps this will be your best option at some point in the coming years or decades. If so, weigh the odds and uncertainties carefully beforehand. Afterward, file a mental note to improve yourself and the resistance as a whole so you can do better in the future.

As transhumanists, we have to hold fast to the goal of engineering our way out of these ethical dilemmas. There’s always or almost always a superior course of action. What we can imagine, we’ll make. As Salvor Hardin said, “Violence is the last refuge of the incompetent.”

Thinking about Inauguration Protests as a Historian January 20, 2017

Posted by Summerspeaker in Anarchism, Transhumanism.
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While I’m not your stereotypical bash-the-fash anarchist, here on Inauguration Day I want to call attention to the stakes involved. Unless the fascists or similar (maybe liberals?) write the history books, I doubt the authors will chide us for excess in resisting a Donald Trump presidency. They won’t spill much ink mourning broken windows or bruised fascist faces. Instead, they’ll wonder why we didn’t go harder. They’ll wonder how we could tolerate the fact that people across the world lack access to basic comforts despite the technical means to provide them. They’ll marvel over our indifference to borders, deportations, and torture chambers (detention centers, jails, prisons). They’ll express outrage at our acceptance of militarism and drone assassinations. They’ll be puzzled that we didn’t recognize heteropatriarchy as a constant crisis. Etc.

The historians of the future will wish we’d taken more risks to overturn our intolerable and now worsening status quo.

Chelsea Manning’s Sentence Commuted January 17, 2017

Posted by Summerspeaker in Anarchism, Queer politics, Technology.
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This is a victory for freedom, justice, political prisoners queer/trans revolution, etc. The credit goes to all the folks who’ve support Chelsea Manning, not to Barack Obama. Let’s hope Obama does the same for countless other political prisoners in the next couple of days. Let’s hope to soon become so crafty that they can’t catch us and imprison us at all.

Anarchist Remix of “First They Came …” December 7, 2016

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blackblocg20_black_bloc_by_emerica84

This seems to be how most anarchists assume it’ll go down.

thinkofthenazis

Necessary Sacrifices: Saving the White Working Class from Neoliberalism? November 11, 2016

Posted by Summerspeaker in Anarchism, Anti-imperialism, Decolonization, Transhumanism.
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In the aftermath of Donald Trump’s election, various class-struggle leftists have been emphasizing neoliberalism as the culprit and highlighting the plight of the white working class. Proponents of these analyses exhort us to organize with the white working class for economic justice as a key component of antiracism.

This approach has much to recommend it. I’m not writing about that part. Here I probe the tensions and contradictions in this narrative. I advance the thesis that pursuing the broader cause of freedom may well entail reduction of status and (temporarily) purchasing power for sections of the U.S. white working class. (Advancing technology continues to improve everyone’s standard of living in this scenario.)

According to available sources, on average, the folks who voted for Trump had higher incomes than those who voted for Clinton. Yes, Trump’s election demonstrates the failure of neoliberalism, but it’s not simply about economic exploitation. The most exploited and oppressed workers in the United States were more likely to vote for Clinton or not vote at all than to vote for Trump. Certainly some folks in desperate economic circumstances voted for Trump, but so did lots of higher-income workers, members of the petty bourgeoisie, and members of the bourgeoisie.

People with incomes in the $50,000-100,000 range appear to be one of Trump’s key demographics. Many of these people are presumably working-class in at least the structural sense that they sell the labor to survive rather than living off the capital they own. At the time, anyone in that income bracket has awfully disproportionate portion of the global economic product. They’re in the global 1%. Advocating for their interests may constitute class struggle yet simultaneous fail to advance freedom and justice overall.

It is necessarily wrong for high-income workers to experience declining fortunes in the context of globalization? If we’re to become more equal as a global society, if we’re seek freedom for everyone, then shouldn’t the people closer to the top face some redistribution?

Given the prevalence of trade deficits and outsourcing in Trump rhetoric, this ain’t just a theoretical issue. U.S. citizens, including anticapitalists, express anger that countries like China, Mexico, and India are supposedly benefiting at their expense through trade. They it for granted that it’s undesirable for this to happen, despite the lower average incomes in these countries that are alleged fleecing the people of the United States.

Now, as I understand it, neoliberalism isn’t primarily redistributing from middle-income U.S. workers and to lower-income Chinese/Mexican/Indian/etc. workers. It’s primarily redistributing to the U.S. and global elites from everyone else. I certainly don’t advocate neoliberalism, but I’d take it over protectionist social democracy that benefits U.S. workers at the expense of their foreign counterparts. Defending the comfort and status for relatively privileged workers in the context of misery across the planet ain’t revolutionary: it’s reactionary.

So yes, I want to organize against capitalism with white working-class folks as way to counter the appeal of right populism and fascism. But I refuse to direct my sympathies and energies toward preserving anybody’s privileged economic position. Ideally we expropriate the rich and all experience exponentially increasing access to nice things, but in the short term I’m most concerned widening the availability of basic necessities/comforts and equalizing power.

Contrary to popular U.S. sentiment, a system that favors Chinese/Indian/Mexican/etc. workers over U.S. workers is a more ethical and more desirable system than one that doesn’t.

President Trump November 9, 2016

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Well, okay, the fascists and company have gotten their symbolic victory. Let’s make sure they don’t get any further.

Star Trek Support for Clinton Fittingly Reactionary October 7, 2016

Posted by Summerspeaker in Anarchism, Science Fiction, Technology, The Singularity, Transhumanism.
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About a week ago, numerous Star Trek notable released a statement opposing Donald Trump and encouraging Trekkers to vote for Hillary Clinton. The statement concludes with an appeal to “civil duty” and “our democracy.”

It’s utterly appropriate for Star Trek to take a stand for the neoliberal status quo. Despite the reputation, Star Trek falls far short as a utopian future vision for the following reason: formal hierarchy, bizarre preference for baseline biology, and Rule-of-Cool incoherence.

Hierarchy: Although they seem to have close to a post-scarcity economy, folks in the Federation make military-style hierarchy (Starfleet) their highest ideal. This entails all the bullshit you’d expect. Poor redshirts die in droves for the glory of Starfleet and their character-shielded superiors. Officers struggle for power and pursue romantic/sexual relationships along traditional heteronormative lines. Etc.

Baseline Preference: The Federation generally prohibits augmentation of biological beings and carefully controls the creation artificial intelligences. Star Trek presents the drive for genetic improvement as essentially fascist (Khan) and cyborg enhancement as essentially state communist (the Borg). Thus people still die of old age in the Federation. This all stands out as antithetical to liberty.

Incoherence: Like most fictional universes, Star Trek makes precious little sense when you take a moment to think about it. As perhaps the most glaring example, punches, kicks, and blades take a extensive screen time in setting that powerful energy weapons and guns that shoot through walls. There’s no plausible explanation for any of this. At least the Dune universe has contrived force fields to make knife fights sort of reasonable. At least in the Hyperion Cantos has an in-universe logic for plot armor and time-warping tech that facilitates the apparently obligatory hand-to-hand combat. In Trek, it just happens because it’s awesome. While the Trek Against Trump statement trumpets science, logic, and rationality, the classic technobabble solution employed across the franchise makes a mockery of these things. Genre conventions almost always trump coherence in Star Trek shows and movies. A Star Trek that seriously explored the implications of demonstrated technologies would diverge wildly from what we’ve got now.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I’d happily exchange my lot here on 21st-century Earth for a place in the Federation. (Please give me generous holodeck privileges!) But there too I’d rail against hierarchy and unfreedom. Given what Star Trek represents, it’s no surprise Star Trek wants you to vote for Clinton.

We can do much better, both in politics and in science fiction.