If I knew then what I know now, I would have spit in his face.Continue reading
Tuskegee Experiments: What Happened and What We Can Learn
Disclaimer: I need to start this off by saying that this isn’t some kind of anti-vax rant, nor does this mean that attempts at curing diseases are automatically attempts to experiment on, or harm civilians. The government isn’t ever there for you in the truest sense. However, knowing this doesn’t mean that everything they do is evil by default.
What the US government did in Tuskegee exemplifies how vile people with power can be; especially in the name of their supposed greater good. Starting in 1932, the United States Public Health Service (PHS) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) wanted to study the long-term impacts of syphilis and its natural progression when left untreated. Rather than, say, ethically observing volunteers, the government of the day thought it was a great idea to simply lie to the African-American population of Tuskegee, Alabama. I’m getting ahead of myself though. Let’s start with the history of the study.
A previous study from 1928 titled the “Oslo Study of Untreated Syphilis” attempted to trace the evolution of symptoms and effects of the disease in untreated males. That study was conducted after the fact, and built on the medical histories of the (it needs to be noted here) entirely white study group.
The Tuskegee study, in turn, came from the desire to study the evolution of the disease and its pathological impact in real time. This meant they would need to study people that already had latent syphilis and leave them without real treatment for the duration of the study.
Now, I totally understand where they were coming from. Physicians wanted the in-depth study of a disease that is known for deafness, mental illness, blindness, collapse of the central nervous system, heart disease, bone deterioration, and death by leaving it untreated in those suffering from it. It would clearly be hard to get willing participants to sign up for guaranteed incapacitating suffering. Obviously, the ‘solution’ at the time was to use black people, and lie to them.
The PHS and CDC of the day collaborated with the Tuskegee Institute, a historically African-American college, under the guise of offering free health care. What was actually given was placebos, purposely ineffective treatments, and diagnostic methods dressed up as treatments in-and-of themselves. Of the 600 people that initially signed up, 399 had previously undiagnosed syphilis and 201 were kept separate to act as a control group.
This 1932 study was meant to be a 6-month study. While the deception and racial targeting alone would be enough for us today to call the study a terrible violation of rights, it gets worse, and truly jumps into the grounds of evil.
This 6-month study ran until 1972. For those slower at math, this means they ran the deception (I’m not going to give it the respect of calling it a study any further) 100 times longer than initially promised and planned. For 50 years, the unwitting participants that had syphilis suffered without access to even the ineffective and dangerous treatments of the day.
Penicillin, the common and most effective treatment for the disease today, didn’t come about until 1947. Prior to that, people would have been treated with bismuth, compound 606 (an arsenic-based treatment which was about as good as it sounds), and mercury ointments. The participants were given some of the treatments initially. This alone undid the ‘purpose’ of the deception by giving treatment while claiming this was about researching untreated cases.
Surely, I hear you say, these people would have noticed they were suffering from the disease and sought out help and treatment elsewhere. You would be right. When World War II kicked off, 256 of the infected subjects registered for the draft and, during the routine medical examinations, were found to have syphilis. The military of the time ordered them to get the proper treatment for the disease before they were allowed to join the armed forces. The PHS stepped in and prevented them from potentially being cured before it was too late. When penicillin became popular and rapid treatment centers popped up across the country, the researchers again stepped in to prevent the participants from getting their much-needed treatment.
This would be a good time to include the fact that this deception wasn’t hidden or buried under conspiracy. They openly published their clinical data in 1934 and its first report was published in 1936. The medical community and government were fully aware this was going on, which methods were being used, and that the ultimate end goal was to track the disease all the way until death. No one did a thing.
No one, that is, until the whistleblower Peter Buxtun who had worked at the PHS came forward in 1972. It should also be included that the CDC and PHS had re-evaluated whether or not to continue the deception several times over its 50 years, as recently as 1969. The reason it’s important to note has to do with the implications of the Nuremberg Trials and the codes of medical conduct it created. The World Health Organization in 1964 declared that any forms of human experiments required the full informed consent of the participants, after seeing the medical horrors committed in the name of progress by Nazi Germany. Despite this, the PHS never looked at ending or changing their study on those grounds until the whistleblower brought it all to an end.
Of the original 600 participants, only 74 were alive by the end of the experiment. Twenty-eight died of syphilis, and 100 from related complications out of the original 399 infected. They also passed the damage on as 40 of their wives ended up also infected, and 19 children were born with congenital syphilis as a result of their unethical mistreatment.
When all was said and done, the US Government lost a $10 million (nearly $50 million today) lawsuit to the victims. The government rapidly put together commissions to more thoroughly review any human experiments to prevent a similar abuse of ethics from happening again; whether this was done out of respect for the citizens, or just to avoid repetitive and costly lawsuits is another story.
People like to reference this atrocity as an argument against publicly provided health since that was the lie that brought in the participants. Regardless of where you stand on that particular issue, this is a poor argument for it. This is also a terrible argument against vaccination, as the lack of such treatment was exactly what made this so terrible.
This horrific piece of American history best serves as a cautionary tale. The people running the experiment let their prejudice and racist views of African-Americans mingle with their desire to further our knowledge, and help prevent disease. All people are subject to bias and will act on it when given a reason they deem acceptable. Even good intentions can turn into horrific evils against our fellow humans if we allow those intentions to become clouded with negative views of people or the world. Intent and action do not always align with each other. When people start acting purely from the greater good and offering to help everyone from that top-down perch, watch out for the well being of the individual. They’re the one that will need the help the most.
How Planned Obsolescence Ruins Your Life (And Your Stuff)
Have you ever wondered why your smartphone, laptop or tablet breaks so easily? Or why its battery is so inefficient that you are practically forced to buy new ones as you’ve just finished paying for your old ones (or perhaps even before)? Have you ever thought about how risky it is buying light bulbs because you never know just how long they will last, no matter how long it says on the box?
There’s a reason why many products are little more than glorified pieces of garbage: an intentional practice by companies known as planned obsolescence. According to the Oxford Dictionary, planned obsolescence is defined as “a policy of producing consumer goods that rapidly become obsolete and so require replacing, achieved by frequent changes in design, termination of the supply of spare parts, and the use of nondurable materials.” In plain English, a company eventually won’t be able to make a profit if its products last too long. So companies deliberately sabotage the quality of their own goods in order to leave their customers no choice but to buy more of said goods. This is an incredibly authoritarian practice in a system that supposedly relies on a “free market.” Effectively coercing customers into buying the newest versions of your products just so you can turn more of a profit each business quarter is nowhere near freedom; it is outright commercial tyranny.
One of the most famous examples of planned obsolescence, as mentioned above, is light bulbs. After Edison invented the light bulb in 1879, various companies jumped at the chance to cash in on the new product. These companies’ light bulbs were of the highest quality, and were very well-made. In fact, they were too well-made. People had no reason to buy more because they were so well-made. As a result, these companies were soon losing money on these new-fangled inventions.
So, as The New Yorker points out, in 1924, representatives from several electric companies, including General Electric, Philips, and Shelby Electric, held a meeting in Switzerland where they put their heads together to solve their mutual problem. Eventually, they agreed to manufacture their light bulbs so cheaply and so badly that it would limit a light bulb’s lifespan to only one thousand hours. Instead of making light bulbs that could last indefinitely, companies now choose to produce ones that lasted little more than a month; simply so they could make more money.
If you are curious as to whether or not a high-quality light bulb is still possible to see, you’re in luck! One notable relic in particular resides at Fire Station #6 in Livermore, California, where it has illuminated the way for the station’s firefighters for 120 years! First installed in 1901, the bulb has never been changed and is still going strong. If you are unable to make the journey to California, you can easily monitor the light bulb live from a camera on the fire station’s website.
Unfortunately, the light bulb is just one example of how planned obsolescence detracts from the financial health of consumers. According to the site Durability Matters, some replacement printer ink cartridges can cost more than the printer itself. The site also says that many cartridges use chips that intentionally disable a cartridge’s usage when its ink levels are low (instead of completely empty), forcing the consumer to replace the cartridge prematurely. The site also lists college textbooks, cars and clothing as further examples of planned obsolescence. Practices such as these are unacceptable. People have bills to worry about. They shouldn’t be forced to buy an endless string of poorly made consumables just so companies can make a quick buck. If you are in a fortunate position of being wealthy enough to afford to pay for myriad goods, that is fine, but that is simply not the reality for the vast majority of people around the world. They can’t afford to constantly replace old products with new ones in an endless and financially harmful rinse-and-repeat cycle.
Clearly, all kinds of products are made intentionally obsolete without the consent of consumers, which is deeply authoritarian under any circumstance. Planned obsolescence itself should become an obsolete idea in the very near future. It’s natural for certain things to become obsolete eventually, but making things obsolete intentionally and making a profit as a result should not be tolerated by consumers anymore. Everyone deserves high-quality products at reasonable prices, and many shoppers simply don’t have that option.
If light bulbs can really last over 100 years, who knows how long smartphones, laptops, or TVs could really last, if they were made at the highest quality possible for each product. Diving further into this hypothetical, we see that smartphones are notorious for being shoddily made. In fact, according to the technology news site Computerworld, both Apple and Samsung were fined in Italy in 2018 for allowing software updates that deliberately decreased the performance of many Italians’ smartphones without their knowledge or consent. As a result, Samsung was fined the equivalent of $5.7 million by the Italian government and Apple faced a steeper penalty of $10 million.
As you can see, this is not just an American problem. This is a worldwide problem. We have to come together with love and compassion, using actual freedom to solve this global conundrum. Practices like planned obsolescence don’t promote freedom. People aren’t free if they have to buy a new phone before paying off their current one. That is not freedom! Freedom will always be immune from obsolescence, and you can plan on that!
Today, May 1st, is Labor Day
Today, May 1st, is Labor Day.
“Now wait,” I hear you say. “Labor Day is in September!”
Some of you may be aware of where I’m going with this, but shush! No spoilers!
For the rest of you, a question: What is the purpose of Labor Day? What significance does it hold for you? Is it just a long weekend? A brief but welcome respite dispersed somewhat randomly in September? Or do you work in an industry where you do not even get Labor Day off? Why was it established, anyway?
Labor Day got its roots in 1886, when the Federation of Organized Trade and Labor set May 1st as their “line in the sand.” It was a pretty simple demand. There Are 24 hours in a day; you get eight for labor, eight for sleep, and eight for leisure. Thanos later gave his opinion on the matter, stating “Perfectly balanced, as all things should be.”
Unfortunately, it didn’t happen. May 1st, 1886 came and went, and the U.S. blew off the demands of the worker’s unions. The labor unions responded by organizing a labor strike. Now these weren’t the sad remnants of organized labor we have today. This was *half a MILLION* workers just putting down their equipment and saying ‘Fuck You’ to the owning class.
Chicago was the biggest flashpoint of these nationwide marches. On May 3rd, there was a demonstration by the Lumbershover’s Union. Six thousand of them were in attendance, along with about five hundred members of the McCormick Harvesting Corporation. After being violently harassed by both police and strikebreakers (a term for thugs hired by companies to attack union organizers and pressure workers to return to the job), August Spies gave a speech rallying the crowd. Cops showed up and fired into the crowd. They wound up killing two of the strikers.
As you might have imagined, having a pair of murders in their midst did little to ease tension. A rally was organized at Haymarket Square in Chicago to mourn the dead, give speeches, and announce their next actions.
If you’re an avid Vermin Supreme Institute reader, you’ll know that several of the writers for the Institute, myself included, have written historical fiction about Haymarket. It begins here and I’d love for you to check it out!
The next day came, and in the evening, the event commenced. Anarchists and labor organizers gave speeches without incident. The mayor attended the event, having given it his blessing and declaring it peaceful. He encouraged the policemen standing by to go home. Instead, after the mayor departed and the crowd began to disperse, with a scant 200 left in the crowd, and worsening weather bringing in a light rain, the cops, led by Inspector John Bonfield, superfluously ordered the crowd to disperse.
Suddenly, as angry protestors confronted the police, a bomb was thrown. The plaza then erupted into chaos. The police, stunned by the blast, opened fire seemingly at random. An anonymous officer later told the Chicago Tribune: “‘A very large number of the police were wounded by each other’s revolvers. … It was every man for himself, and while some got two or three squares away, the rest emptied their revolvers, mainly into each other.’ In the aftermath, seven officers and four workers were killed, and many, many more were wounded.”
No one ever determined the identity of the person who threw the bomb. The cops were quick to blame anarchists, as by then the stereotype of the “bomb throwing anarchist” was cemented in the mind of those who covet power. The protestors themselves were split. Some believed it could have been a radical faction, while others say it was likely a Pinkerton saboteur, or perhaps even an officer. History was at the time, and still is, littered with similar examples.
What we do know is what happened next. A harsh anti-union clampdown followed the Haymarket incident. There was a massive outpouring of community and business support for the police and many thousands of dollars were donated to funds for their medical care and to assist their efforts. The entire labor and immigrant community, particularly Germans and Bohemians, came under suspicion. Police raids were carried out on homes and offices of suspected anarchists. Dozens of suspects, many only remotely related to the Haymarket Affair, were arrested. Casting legal requirements such as search warrants aside, Chicago police squads subjected the labor activists of Chicago to an eight-week shakedown, ransacking their meeting halls and places of business. The emphasis was on the speakers at the Haymarket rally and the newspaper Arbeiter-Zeitung. A small group of anarchists were discovered to have been engaged in making bombs on the same day as the incident, including round ones like the one used in Haymarket Square.
Newspaper reports declared that anarchist agitators were to blame for the “riot,” a view adopted by an alarmed public. As time passed, press reports and illustrations of the incident became more elaborate. Coverage was national, then international. Among property owners, the press, and other elements of society, a consensus developed that suppression of anarchist agitation was necessary. While for their part, union organizations such as The Knights of Labor and craft unions were quick to disassociate themselves from the anarchist movement and to repudiate violent tactics as self-defeating. Employers regained control of their workers and traditional workdays were restored to ten or more hours a day. Organized labor was dealt a crippling blow.
While many people suffered under the crackdowns and arrests, eight men in particular were targeted. Their names were August Spies, Albert Parsons, George Engell, Adolph Fischer, Louis Lingg, Michael Schwabb, Oscar Neebe, and Samuel Fielden. You know how in America, you expect to receive an individual trial by an impartial jury of your peers? Well, in every aspect, this trial was anything but impartial. It is difficult to understate how wildly biased the proceedings were. In addition to being ushered into a group trial, the judge, prosecutor, bailiff, and nearly all of the jury that were selected were *openly* contemptuous of the men on trial. The bailiff in question, who was appointed by the prosecution, was the one who handpicked the jurors. He was quoted as saying “I’m in charge of this trial, and I know what I’m about. These men are to be hanged, as sure as death.” This quote was, of course, not allowed to be admitted into evidence.
In his closing statements, the prosecutor said, “Law is on trial. Anarchy is on trial. These men have been selected, picked out by the Grand Jury, and indicted, because they were leaders. They were no more guilty than the thousands who follow them. Gentlemen of the jury, convict these men. Make examples of them, hang them, and you save our institutions, our society.”
At no point in the trial, was any evidence presented that any of the men had taken part in the bombing, planning or organizing of the bombing, approving of the bombing, and only three of them were even there on the day of the bombing. One of the men, Albert Parsons, had even brought his two kids, which kinda implies he wasn’t aware that there’d be any sort of attack. Eyewitness testimony confirmed that none of the men were the ones who threw the bomb. Their crime was basically “being famous anarchists.”
Shocking literally no one, all eight men were convicted. Oscar Neebe was sentenced to 15 years in prison, and the other seven men were sentenced to death, although Schwabb and Fielden later had their sentences commuted to life in prison. Louis Lingg, in a final act of defiance, smuggled a bomb into his cell, setting it off in his own mouth. August Spies, Albert Parsons, George Engell, and Adolph Fischer were hung.
Six years later, due to mounting pressure, Illinois governor John Altgeld issued a pardon, stating that the men were innocent of the crimes they were accused of, and “victims of hysteria, packed juries, and a biased judge.” This was of little solace to the deceased.
By 1891, the Second International, a socialist labor organization had declared May 1st “Labor Day” in honor of the massacre and subsequent kangaroo trial.
So…how come the U.S. celebrates Labor Day on the first Monday of September?
Enter Grover Cleveland. He didn’t particularly like the fact that a May 1st commemoration might give Americans some “Pinko ideas”, reflecting on the deaths of anarchists at the hands of state violence. Everyone that heard that story tends to go “Hey Anarchists! Thanks for looking out for us! Shame what happened to you, though, getting railroaded by the state into government sanctioned murder. I wonder if I can learn anything from that.” This was a big issue for Cleveland.
Fortunately for him, this is where the Knights of Labor came in. Stepping in as a “state-approved” toned down and neutered labor movement, they offered up to Cleveland the idea of calling Labor Day the first Monday of September. Cleveland immediately latched onto the idea, and ordered its dissemination, drowning out the proper date in a flood of propaganda spearheaded by the lapdog Knights of Labor.
As if we couldn’t get any more dystopian, in 1955, Dwight D. Eisenhower declared May 1st…wait for it…Loyalty Day. The day where Americans redeclare their loyalty to the United States. This was a nice counter to the day that commemorated the day where citizens had been murdered by the state for their beliefs. Do you catch the implication? “Don’t step out of line and acknowledge those murdered by state violence! Instead, pledge your undying loyalty to the government that killed them!” And lest you brush it off as some antiquated Cold War Red Scare bullshit, know that every sitting president since then has made an official Loyalty Day proclamation ever since.
That is the true history of Labor Day.
That’s pretty dreary, huh? Not a fun story. But it’s all ancient history, right? It happened over a hundred years ago, so there’s no way it relates to modern life, right?
Indeed, modern workers jobs are vastly different, but in many ways, labor is on the decline from the gains paid for in blood, sweat, and tears by our forebears. The eight hour workday and forty hour workweek are hardly a given anymore, retirement is increasingly a pipedream for most, and labor and productivity have completely separated as wages have stagnated as the cost of living rises. Just last month, Amazon pumped out so much propaganda, they were able to crush an attempt to unionize in Alabama.
Organized labor was crushed in the Haymarket Massacre. It was crushed in the Battle of Blair Mountain. It was crushed by the Red Scare. Today, organized labor is a pitiful remnant of its former strength, and we pay for that loss in power in reduced wages and quality of life.
If I can make any sort of call to action with this piece, it would be this: Join a labor movement. I am a dues paying member of the IWW: The International Workers of the World. I support them, but if the Wobblies don’t do it for you, join some other labor movement!
When August Spies was sentenced to death, he gave this as his statement:
“If you think that by hanging us, you can stamp out the labor movement, the movement from which the downtrodden millions, the millions who toil in misery and want, expect salvation…if this is your opinion, then hang us! Here, you will tread on a spark! But there and there, behind you, and in front of you, and all around, flames blaze up.
It is a subterranean fire. You can not put it out.”
Editors Note: A substantial portion of this essay was crafted with help from the groundwork Thought Slime laid down in his video essay “Today is Labor Day.” Please take a moment to watch it here.
Chapter 10: Aftermath
May 5, 1886. The next morning, word of the prior evening’s events were relayed, lip to ear, so that by noon the whole town was buzzing about the Haymarket. A massacre they called it. The papers ate it up, decrying the anarchist agitators as the cause of the “riot” and demanding justice be served. Martial law was soon declared and the full force and fury of the government was to be brought down hard and swift upon the governed.
The police station was near empty with every available boot on the ground working their way up and down the bustling city streets. Our orders were to locate and arrest anyone suspected of being involved with the labor movement. We were told to focus on the Germans and Eastern Europeans, busting into their homes without warrant and rifling through their belongings, which generally were few, for anything incriminating that might place them at the scene.
I fear several of our boys were enjoying themselves a little too much. You often find their kind in this line of work. Some people just love the job for all the wrong reasons. I can usually spot the ones that are gonna be trouble because they get this look in their eyes, like a fire of sorts, and they always seem to have just the slightest grin when they get an opportunity to bring the club down. On May 5th, and the days that followed, they would find many an opportunity to do just that.
The labor offices were next. Doors kicked in, tables overturned and thrown across the room. Anyone unlucky enough to be in the area when we came through would soon learn to regret it. Men were dragged by their collars out into the streets to be greeted by the business end of a baton. They were then hauled away to be questioned for hours on end with pressure being applied to identify other suspected conspirators and “make things easier on themselves.”
Labor newspapers, like the Arbeiter-Zeitung, soon found themselves in our path of destruction. Doors were torn from their hinges, machinery damaged beyond repair, and all printed materials on site were taken into the dusty streets and burned. A man who dared to remark on this “miscarriage of justice” and the alleged “sanctity of the press” was thrown to the ground and doused in printer’s ink from head to toe as onlookers watched helplessly then dispersed to avoid being the next target.
This would continue for the next eight weeks, with many of the venues ransacked multiple times, falling victim to the collective wrath of the Chicago police department. Donations to the department and the medical treatment of the officers wounded during the haymarket “massacre” came flooding in from businesses across the city. Local capitalists were anxious to show their support for law and order, all the while continuing to subject their workers to 10-12 hour work days. The momentum of the workers rights movement had been thoroughly depleted.
The Knights of Labor, and various craft unions across the city and later the country, immediately began distancing themselves from the anarchists and condemning their tactics as counter productive and having dealt a “fatal blow” to the overall movement. Meanwhile, rumors of provocateurs from the Pinkerton agency being mixed in with the crowd on Haymarket square were making rounds through the worker rumor mills, though none of these claims were ever verified due to a complete lack of motivation. By that time, eight people of the dozens arrested had been selected to stand trial. The city had its culprits, the labor movement its sacrificial lambs.
The Aftermath of Justice
“It’s another day in the office” one man said, “now we can stop and smell the roses until the next mission, but we have more work to do.”Continue reading
Flavors of Evil: What is Anarchism?
The term “anarchy” deserves a lot more hate than the hacks in mainstream media have been giving them. As all the evidence has shown, people should be equating anarchy with chaos, destruction, and other ills that undermine civilized society. These monsters do horrific things like supporting mutual aid and voluntary support networks! These idiots think they can organize and offer their brand of “helping” people without getting it approved by Congress first, and not a single regulator or oversight committee involved. They are even naïve enough to think that people still read; sneaking little pamphlets like “The Conquest of Bread” and “Anatomy of the State” into our public libraries!
Not only are they fools, but they’re also evil. They devilishly suggest our fine police forces should use less force with citizens (citizens, mind you, that were clearly up to no good if the police stopped them). They even go as far as saying we should play nice with non-citizens as well, and treat them like real people. The audacity of these demons. Anarchists are nothing more than chaos-loving degenerates that openly and actively become involved in anti-war messaging, volunteering, public education, and fighting against the beloved Law and Order that sustains us all.
The first step in stopping these reprobates is to understand them. Unlike our traditional enemies (the poor, foreigners, etc) they aren’t just one nameless mass. There are more subsets of anarchism than there are delegations in respectable organizations like the Democrats or Republicans. They’ve found a way to use both collectivism AND divide and conquer tactics against us. The anarchists somehow bring both diversity of thought and approach to the imagined problems of society, like homelessness or the war on drugs (which we’re clearly already winning). It’s an insidious tactic that lets their movement examine and utilize a wide variety of ideas, without following the necessary traditions of conformity and ideological homogeneity. Make no mistake, we are definitely at war with these haters of our beloved state. We must know our enemy, so let’s discuss a few of the different “philosophies” that create anarchy:
Anarcho-communism: This is everything you hated about the USSR, Cuba, and China made toothless. They believe in standard communist ideas such as the abolishment of private property, capitalist norms, wage labor, social hierarchies, and forcibly taking businesses from their rightful owners. However, they take it a step farther believing that their governing body can be organized horizontally rather than top-down. Direct democracy replaces elected or chosen representatives. They want to turn vulnerable megacorporations into “commonly owned means of production.” Luckily, people like buying stuff and want mansions. So we don’t need to worry about these people too much.
Anarcho-capitalism: Imagine America, but all of our cops had slogans on them like NASCAR drivers. That’s what this brand of anarchism wants. They think the market would work better in serving us if the expertly selected restrictions that lobbyists paid congressmen to enact were removed. They want social aid, emergency services, and every other modern amenity made possible by our benevolent government; but claim the government is the worst vehicle for managing these services. They have the audacity to suggest that taxation is theft or extortion. Obviously, we wouldn’t have roads if it weren’t for the government so these clueless wannabe pirates can also be ignored.
Mutualism: Now imagine the two above decided to have a deformed baby. Not that the baby came out deformed, but it was deformed by design. Welcome to mutualism. Mutualism advocates socialist ideas like occupancy and use norms for property ownership, free association, and the labor theory of value, while also advocating things like free markets and central bank lending (called a “mutual bank” but why split hairs?). You can’t have your cake and eat it too. Next.
Anarcho-Syndicalism: This is really just unions that decided to take PCP. The Syndicalists believe that they can practice a form of counter-economics through the use of direct action and cooperative takeovers of the means of production. They think that by banding together through revolutionary unionization and empowering workers to self-manage they can control the economy, ending the wage system. Have you ever met a union steward? Putting those guys in charge would be hilarious.
Anarcha-Feminism: This exotic brand of anarchist isn’t often seen in the wild, but beware of close encounters. Often volatile and unyielding, they fight for imaginary concepts like human rights and creating an ‘equal ground’ between the genders with the blind dedication of dragons guarding their horde of gold.The daughters of the bra-burners decided to show up at an Antifa event. Expectations vary, depending on time of the month.
Anarcho-Primitivism: Have you ever been camping? These guys want this to be our everyday lives. Anarcho-primitivists believe that the industrial revolution and general advancement of civilized society resulted in widespread coercion, social alienation, and damage to us as free creatures. To learn about this, I had to use my smartphone to find websites that support these ideas.
Black-Flag Anarchy: These are the original villains. They don’t subscribe to any particular philosophy of anarchy so long as it’s anarchy and fights against hierarchies and the existence of a state. They don’t get bogged down with the specifics of different economic systems. They care more about the immediate abolishment of the state, the self-management of the people, and equality of all people. Black-flag anarchists are so anarchist that even their ideological stances are ruled by chaos. Truly an evil to be feared.
Egoists: A type of individualist anarchist created by Max Stirner, they think things like morals, justice, and our values are all “spooks of the mind” and can be ignored. They believe social constructs aren’t real and that we need to move from basing our actions and societies on these constructs. According to these narcissists, moral people ought to act in their own self-interest. At some point, Max must have heard a kid scream “I don’t wanna, you can’t make me!” And thought he could make a book out of it.
Anarcho-transhumanism: If these guys win, cyberpunk dystopias will become a reality. They want to move away from our current social and governance systems and believe we will naturally move away from these things as technology advances. Those dedicated to this fever dream think we can create global prosperity by giving each other mutually beneficial technologies. That by sharing, this hippy mumbo-jumbo will expand each person’s ability to experience the world around them. It’s like they watched Star Trek and didn’t realize the borg were the bad guys. Yikes.
Unfortunately, these are just a few of the “philosophies” these agents of discord use to paint themselves with a veneer of authenticity. Anarchists’ grip seems to be ever widening, and diversifying. With their protests, propaganda, and continuous “fight” against the status quo; they are clearly our most dangerous enemy. How can we compel others to live and think as we do without the government? How can we support people who cry about racism and resist the police, some of which aren’t even white! Sure, sometimes the state does something bad like putting rights into bills, or the equal pay act. But overall, we need the government to keep things exactly as they are right now. You don’t fix what isn’t broken, and our government surely isn’t broken. They told me so.
Chapter 9: Incendiary Agent
Suddenly, the Haymarket filled with a flash of white light. Then silence.Continue reading
Seen and Visible
“It is revolutionary for any trans person to choose to be seen and visible in a world that tells us we should not exist.” -Laverne CoxContinue reading
The Rise and Fall of Occupy Wall Street
In our lifetimes, we have seen plenty of different movements and mass protests come and go. Some ended up just being momentary causes of the week, like the protests against Chick-fil-a. Others have been much more enduring as we have seen with the resurgence of Antifa, and Black Lives Matter. Then we have the awkward middle child of a movement: Occupy Wall Street.
The Occupy Wall Street movement was like my friend’s bachelor party a number of years ago. Great idea on paper, tons of people interested, absolute disaster in delivery. Like that grand ol’ night, it also left a legacy that’s mostly (intentionally) forgotten by those that were involved. But it wasn’t all bad, and there are some lasting effects still impacting us today. We can see those effects in life today too: where the organizers have gone since, methods being replicated over the years (for better or worse effect), the lessons learned, the mistakes avoided, and the slow recovery from liver damage. And Occupy left its mark too.
For those out of the know, let’s kick this off with the history of the Occupy movement from its oddly Canadian beginnings to its end.
History Of Occupy Wall Street
Everyone who was alive for it, or has had the chance to hear anyone older than 25 bemoan it, will remember the Great Recession that hit most of the Western world and developed nations between 2007 and 2009. It was the greatest financial upheaval and reset in the U.S. since the Great Depression of the 1930s. It was caused by a larger combination of reasons than you might think. TIME Magazine listed 25 different people that contributed to the crash in different ways: through policy changes, setting banking precedents, and just plain greed. That was one of the shorter lists you can find.
Not the sole, but definitely one of the biggest contributions came from Bill Clinton. During his tenure, he brought out two key pieces of legislation that helped set the stage for the economic quagmire to follow. The first was the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act which repealed the 1933 Glass-Steagall Act. There were a lot of effects from that Act, but the most significant is that it allowed banks to use their client’s deposits to invest in derivatives (investments in things like futures, stock options, or credit default swaps). The second was the well-intentioned rewrites to the Community Reinvestment Act. This change was designed to put pressure on big banks to lend in low-income neighborhoods.
Banks, being the scandalous vultures that they are, saw an opportunity ripe for the picking. By offering subprime mortgages across the U.S. at interest-only rates, it allowed them to engage in hedge fund trading of the derivatives. They needed the mortgage market to stay strong and continuous to fuel the trading. The issue, however, was the major decline in real estate purchasing that began to happen around 2007. People couldn’t afford their mortgage, nor could they afford to sell at a loss, the housing supply was far larger than the market’s needs.
Now, I know you’re asking “what the hell does all of this have to do with the Occupy Wall Street movement?”
Fast forward to 2011, the economy is just starting to piece itself back together; families are either finally righting the ship, or have already drowned. As the U.S. is inclined to do after facing a crisis, everything else went back to normal. And that left everything in the hands of the same government and corporate conglomerates that screwed them in the first place. This time, however, people were still bitter enough to want to lash out. Enter Kalle Lasn.
Kalle Lasn worked for the Canadian anti-consumerism publication Adbusters. It was in early 2011 when she came up with the idea of a protest on Wall Street to tackle issues like wealth disparity, lack of action against those responsible for the 2008 crash, lobbyist’s and corporate influence on the government and democracy itself, and other related issues. On February 2nd, Adbusters published a proposal asking for a “Million Man March on Wall Street” with Lasn registering the now-defunct occupywallstreet.org in June.
Adbusters weren’t the only people pushing for this kind of direct action either. The hacking group Anonymous released statements encouraging their members and followers to participate, as did the U.S. Day of Rage group. Finally, on September 17th, the initial day of the protests finally came.
There were three locations initially planned for their protests, however, police in the city blocked off two of those locations leading the group to set up camp in Zuccotti Park. The park is private property. This meant the police were powerless to remove the protesters unless and until the owners of the park, Brookfield Office Properties, made the call. The movement inspired similar protests in 28 different U.S. cities, and expanded internationally as well.
On October 13th, there was a decision to clear the park for cleaning, leaving the protesters forced to clear out. Yet Brookfield postponed the cleaning. Protesters were already poised to resist such efforts, and some clashed with police despite the attempt being canceled. On November 15th, notice was given to completely clear out. The protesters were told they could return after the cleaning effort, but only if they came without the tents, sleeping bags, or tarps they needed to actually camp. Nearly 200 people were arrested for resisting the notice, among other charges, during the clear-out.
Several attempts to restart the protests were shut down swiftly by police, and the public eye eventually shifted away from their efforts. Nearly every revival attempt over the years resulted in mass arrests, but by the third-anniversary crowds barely reached 50 people in sporadic gatherings throughout the city.
Why did the movement fall apart in such a short time? The concerted efforts by the state played a major role, as did the movement’s organization; or lack thereof. Contrived platitudes came from politicians that wanted little more than to offer lip service to a seemingly large voter base rather than make legislative changes. This was followed closely by the mass arrests, and media attention almost purposely shifting away from them.
They weren’t only bullied out of existence. The goals and demands of the movement over the roughly three months they were active in New York were ever-shifting, or lacking concrete requests. They wanted fixes to big business and government being bedfellows, financial market manipulation to be properly punished, and social and economic equality issues addressed. The “How?” never seemed to manifest leaving the demands vague and, frankly, unactionable.
They also, by design, lacked any form of official leadership. By using a stacking system for people to speak, the Occupy movement prioritized the voices of marginalized groups, and aimed to reach any and all decisions democratically. The lack of a centralizing voice to organize, make clear and concise demands, and calls for specific action,sadly damaged their ability to effect change.
Other movements have rallied behind similar causes of inequality and excessive corporate power. The Antifa and BLM movements have retained the decentralized ideas of the Occupy movement and their focus on egalitarianism and socioeconomic issues. Many of the talking points, strategies, and even key people that were involved in Occupy, either in New York or elsewhere, have remained active with recent protests.
While we could ultimately call it a flop, that would be as disingenuous as Ben Shapiro. The Occupy movement created the famous “We are the 99%” mentality, reinvigorated the discussion around class in the modern world, and set the tone for direct action movements for the decades to come. The issues haven’t changed, only the lenses through which we view them.