‘Kill All Citations?’ Many More Examples of Angela Nagle Lifting From Others

Angela Nagle has written a very short book, Kill All Normies, that as I reported for The Daily Beast — and others noticed at Libcom — is heavily dependent on research and phrasing of uncredited others. I didn’t get to include each and every example, editors and attention spans being what they are, but there sure are a lot.

Here, on this blog, I will continue noting examples of Nagle, billed as an expert on “internet-culture,” SJWs and the alt-right, borrowing others’ writing on these topics without attribution.

But first, a reminder of how blatant Nagle’s plagiarism was already shown to be. As I noted in the piece, she rips off this graf nearly word for word.

 

RationalWiki:

In 2011, Elam established the site Register-Her.com, which publishes the personal information of women the site claims “have caused significant harm to innocent individuals either by the direct action of crimes like rape, assault, child molestation and murder, or by the false accusation of crimes against others.” While the list includes women who have been sent to prison for various crimes, it also includes others who were acquitted, and…. lists any rape victim whose court case results in anything but a full conviction and sentencing as a “false accuser”.

Kill All Normies:

In 2011, Elam established the vigilante doxxing site Register-Her.com, which publishes the personal information of women the site claims ‘have caused significant harm to innocent individuals either by the direct action of crimes like rape, assault, child molestation and murder, or by the false accusation of crimes against others.’… While the list included women who have been sent to prison for various crimes, it also included others who were acquitted and lists female rape victims whose court cases didn’t result in a full conviction as a ‘false accuser’.

If that’s not enough to raise an eyebrow, consider these other examples of copying, pasting, and lightly tweaking others’ work. Wikipedia remains a popular source, with Nagle extensively copying an entry on Northwestern University Professor Laura Kipnis.

(Several examples were also identified by plagiarism software, which one can use to verify my work; I will list the number on the report in brackets before the examples it also found.)

[Turnitin #78]

Wikipedia:

In March 2015 Kipnis wrote an essay in the Chronicle of Higher Education in which she decried a prevailing “sexual paranoia” on campuses and discussed professor-student sexual relationships and trigger warnings.

Kill All Normies, p. 79:

In March 2015, Laura Kipnis wrote an essay in The Chronicle of Higher Education, in which she criticized the atmosphere of ‘sexual paranoia’ on campuses, defended professor-student sexual relationships and criticized trigger warnings.

Wikipedia:

A group of students at Northwestern protested, demanding that the administration reaffirm its commitment to the policies that Kipnis criticized.

Kill All Normies, p. 79:

A group of students protested in response, demanding that the administration reaffirm its commitment to the policies that Kipnis criticized.

Wikipedia:

Protesters carried a mattress in reference to Emma Sulkowicz’s earlier protest at Columbia University.

Kill All Normies, p. 79:

They carried a mattress — a reference to Emma Sulkowicz’s earlier protest at Columbia University against rape on campus.

Wikipedia:

Invoking Title IX, two graduate students filed complaints with Northwestern’s Title IX office against Kipnis, arguing that her essay had had a “chilling effect” on students’ ability to report sexual misconduct.

Kill All Normies, p. 79:

Invoking university legislation, two grad students filed complaints against Kipnis, arguing that her article, which she has since expanded into a book, would deter students from reporting sexual misconduct.

Nagle also borrows phrasing, structure and some history from “neoreactionary” writer Ash Milton, who is uncredited.

[Turnitin #77]

An Introduction To The European New Right,” by Ash Milton:

[T]he ENR [European New Right] aimed to promote a “Gramscianism of the Right,” adapting the theories of Antonio Gramsci that political change… follows – cultural and social change.

Kill All Normies (Chapter Three, ‘Gramscians of the alt-light’), p. 42:

The French New Right or Nouvelle Droite adapted the theories of Antonio Gramsci that political change follows cultural and social change.

An Introduction To The European New Right,” by Ash Milton:

In the words of Het Vlaams Blok leader Filip Dewinter, “the ideological majority is more important than the parliamentary majority.”

Prior to 1968, reactionaries had taken the line that… the common people were still inherently conservative…. We can see this echoed today in the “silent majority” and “Main Street” rhetoric of modern conservatives. The ENR’s [European New Right’s] aim was to break with… [the] view: that defeat of revolutionary elites would enable to restoration of a traditional order.

Kill All Normies, p. 42-43:

Belgian far-right anti-immigration party Vlaams Blok leader Filip Dewinter put it like this: ‘the ideological majority is more important than the parliamentary majority.’

Prior to 1968, the right had taken the view that ‘ordinary people’ were still inherently conservative, which you can see echoed today in the ‘silent majority’ rhetoric of modern establishment conservatives. The French New Right’s Gramscian aim… was to break with the view that defeat of radical elites or vanguards would enable the restoration of a popular traditional order….

An Introduction To The European New Right,” by Ash Milton:

1968 and its era were a proof to the ENR that the culture itself would have to be retaken before change could come at the political level. This led it to pursue a project of “metapolitics”; its thinkers scorned party and even “radical” activism, preferring to rethink philosophical foundations and create cultural memes to counter the ’68er ideology of Social Progress.

Kill All Normies, p. 43:

1968 and the rise of the New Left was proof to the demoralized right that the whole culture would now have to be retaken before formal political change could come. This led to the pursuit of a ‘metapolitics’, and a rejection of the political party and traditional activism within a section of the right. Instead, they set about rethinking their philosophical foundations and creating new ways to counter the ‘68 ideology of Social Progress.

Nagle also takes another definition from Wikipedia without identifying the source, which the online encyclopedia insists is a violation of its license.

Wikipedia:

The cultural turn is a movement beginning in the early 1970s among scholars in the humanities and social sciences to make culture the focus of contemporary debates; it also describes a shift in emphasis toward meaning and away from a positivist epistemology.

Kill All Normies, p. 62:

In academia, the ‘cultural turn’ saw a radical shift in scholarship whereby universities made culture the focus of contemporary debates. It also meant a shift in emphasis toward meaning and away from a positivist epistemology….

Her biography of far-right radio host Alex Jones also comes from the site.

[Turnitin #135]

Wikipedia:

He has accused the US government of being involved in the Oklahoma City bombing, the September 11 attacks, and the filming of fake Moon landings to hide NASA’s secret technology.

Kill All Normies, p. 51:

He has accused the US government of orchestrating the Oklahoma City bombing, the September 11th attacks and a fake moon landing.

Finally, her descriptions of various popular memes are derived from another, niche online encyclopedia.

[Turnitin #76]

KnowYourMeme.com

Idiot Nerd Girl is an advice animal image macro series featuring a photo of a teenage girl wearing thick rimmed glasses with the word “NERD” written on the palm of her left hand. The upper caption often contains references to “geek culture” while the bottom caption demonstrates a lack of knowledge or expertise in the subject.

Kill All Normies, p. 107:

[T]he ‘Idiot Nerd Girl’ meme, which appeared around May 2010, featured a photo of a teenage girl wearing thick-rimmed glasses with the word ‘nerd’ written on the palm of her hand. The upper caption contained references to ‘geek culture’, while the bottom caption demonstrates a lack of subcultural knowledge.

[Turnitin #201]

KnowYourMeme.com:

On May 29th, a post about the incident reached the front page of /r/news, where it garnered more than 7,100 votes (87% upvoted) and 6,200 comments in the next two days. The same day, a petition titled “Justice for Harambe” was created on Change.org which called for authorities to hold the child’s parents responsible for Harambe’s death. Within 48 hours, the petition gained over 338,000 signatures. Meanwhile, the hashtags #JusticeForHarambe and #RIPHarambe began circulating on both Facebook and Twitter.

Kill All Normies, p. 11:

On the same day that a post about the incident reached the front page of Reddit news, a petition titled ‘Justice for Harambe’ was created on Change.org, which called for authorities to hold the child’s parents responsible for Harambe’s death, gaining hundreds of thousands of signatures. Soon, the mostly ironically used hashtags #JusticeForHarambe and #RIPHarambe began circulating.

Altering a few choice words copied from others is known as “patch writing,” for which CNN suspended host Fareed Zakaria in 2014.

UPDATE:

Nagle also rewrites Wikipedia’s entry on the 2014 Isla Vista killings.

[Turnitin #177 identifies the source as Murderpedia, which appears to take the text from Wikipedia].

Wikipedia:

The rampage ended when….. Police found him dead in the car with a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head. Before driving to the sorority house, Rodger uploaded to YouTube a video titled “Elliot Rodger’s Retribution”…. He explained that he wanted to punish women for rejecting him.

Kill All Normies, p. 95:

The rampage ended when police found him dead in his car with a gunshot wound to the head. Rodger had uploaded a final video to YouTube, titled ‘Elliot Rodger’s Retribution’. In it, he described his desire to punish women for rejecting him.

Wikipedia:

Rodger e-mailed a lengthy autobiographical manuscript… titled “My Twisted World”….. In it, he described his… frustration over not being able to find a girlfriend, his hatred of women, his contempt for racial minorities and interracial couples.

Kill All Normies, p. 95:

Rodger also left behind a lengthy autobiographical manuscript, titled My Twisted World. He described his sexual frustration, his hatred of women who kept thwarting his desire to have sexual relationships with them… and his contempt for interracial couples.

Wikipedia:

The manifesto specifically mentions a “War on Women”….:

The Second Phase will take place on the Day of Retribution itself, just before the climactic massacre. … My War on Women. … I will attack the very girls who represent everything I hate in the female gender: The hottest sorority of UCSB.

Kill All Normies, p. 96:

He mentions a ‘War on Women’:

The Second Phase will take place on the Day of Retribution itself, just before the climactic massacre… My War on Women… I will attack the very girls who represent everything I hate in the female gender: The hottest sorority of UCSB.

UPDATE II:

Angela Nagle does not just copy others’ work, without attribution, in her book. Here she does the same thing in a piece for The Baffler.

Wikipedia:

The rampage ended when his car crashed into a parked vehicle and came to a stop. Police found him dead in the car with a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head.

The New Man of 4chan,” by Angela Nagle:

The rampage ended when he crashed into a parked vehicle; police found him dead in his car with a self-inflicted gunshot wound in his head.

Wikipedia:

Rodger uploaded to YouTube a video titled “Elliot Rodger’s Retribution”, in which he outlined details of his upcoming attack and his motives. He explained that he wanted to punish women for rejecting him.

The New Man of 4chan,” by Angela Nagle:

Rodger uploaded a final video to YouTube, titled “Elliot Rodger’s Retribution,” outlining his purpose. He announced his desire to punish women for rejecting him.

Wikipedia:

Rodger e-mailed a lengthy autobiographical manuscript… titled “My Twisted World”…. In it, he described his… frustration over not being able to find a girlfriend, his hatred of women, his contempt for racial minorities and interracial couples.

The New Man of 4chan,” by Angela Nagle:

Rodger also left behind a lengthy autobiographical manuscript, titled My Twisted World. In it, he describes his frustration at not being able to find a girlfriend, his hatred of women, and his contempt for ethnic minorities and interracial couples.

UPDATE III:

This was noted in my piece for The Daily Beast, but I’ll highlight it here, too: Nagle lifting from the paper of record, once again without attribution.

The New York Times:

Someone hacked Henderson’s MySpace page…. Someone placed an iPod on Henderson’s grave, took a picture and posted it to /b/. Henderson’s face was appended to dancing iPods, spinning iPods, hardcore porn scenes. A dramatic re-enactment of Henderson’s demise appeared on YouTube, complete with shattered iPod. The phone began ringing at Mitchell’s parents’ home. “It sounded like kids,” remembers Mitchell’s father, Mark Henderson, a 44-year-old I.T. executive. “They’d say, ‘Hi, this is Mitchell, I’m at the cemetery.’ ‘Hi, I’ve got Mitchell’s iPod.’ ‘Hi, I’m Mitchell’s ghost, the front door is locked. Can you come down and let me in?’

Kill All Normies, p. 35:

… Henderson’s MySpace page was hacked, while another placed an iPod on Mitchell’s grave, took a picture, and posted it to 4chan. His face was pasted into spinning iPods and hard-core porn scenes, and a re-enactment of Henderson’s death soon appeared on YouTube. Mitchell’s father received prank calls to his house, in which callers said things like: ‘Hi, I’ve got Mitchell’s iPod’ and, ‘Hi, I’m Mitchell’s ghost, the front door is locked. Can you come down and let me in?’

UPDATE IV:

Several examples of patch writing I identified in my Daily Beast report were also identified by Turnitin.

Turnitin #85: RationalWiki’s entry for “Manosphere,” which includes the text Nagle lifted regarding “Heartiste” in Kill All Normies. It also links to the entry, first on this list, for Paul Elam, which was copied with only minor edits.

Turnitin #23: Wikipedia’s entry for “Roosh V.

Turnitin #25: Claire Lehmann’s column, “Germaine Greer and the scourge of ‘no-platforming.‘”

UPDATE V:

via Joseph Kay

Wikipedia:

The crux of Butler’s argument in Gender Trouble is that the coherence of the categories of sex, gender, and sexuality… is culturally constructed through the repetition of stylized acts in time. These stylized bodily acts, in their repetition, establish the appearance of an essential, ontological “core” gender.

Kill All Normies, p. 70:

By 1990, Judith Butler had taken this several steps further, or perhaps more literally, in Gender Trouble: Feminism and the subversion of identity, in which she argued that the coherence of the categories of sex, gender and sexuality were entirely culturally constructed through the repetition of styled and cultivated bodily acts, which created the appearance of an essential ontological ‘core’ gender.

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Disagreeing on the Internet: The New McCarthyism?

Senator_Joseph_McCarthy_at_National_Portrait_Gallery_IMG_4556
Originally published at Muftah on December 19, 2016.
What if the United States carried out daily bombing raids in a foreign country for over two years, killing hundreds of innocent men, women, and children as part of its ever expanding, never ending War on Terror? And what if those most performatively opposed to U.S. intervention had little or nothing to say about it?

These questions, alas, are not hypothetical: they accurately describe the position of much of the ostensibly anti-imperialist left on Syria today. These leftists present themselves as the most righteously anti-war—their critics are all described as warmongers—while they foolishly run cover for actual imperialism, as typified by writer Fredrik deBoer in his November 2016 piece for Current Affairs.

DeBoer’s article, entitled “1953—2002—2016: Syria and the Reemergence of McCarthyism,” would have us believe that the new new McCarthyism is defined by social media attacks from an irrationally interventionist left (“do they not remember Iraq?”) on dissident journalists like AlterNet’s Max Blumenthal and Twitter’s Rania Khalek. Their sin, according to deBoer, is not apologism for President Bashar Al-Assad’s regime, which has killed hundreds of thousands of people and displaced millions of others, but simply opposing “a coming conflict in Syria.”

“I believe,” deBoer writes, “that some sort of American military intervention in Syria is likely coming.” In his view, the “interventionist left” is shaming opponents of a coming invasion so that the “the political battle over this war will not involve conservatives and some liberals fighting against a more-or-less unified radical left,” but a few lone steely leftist radicals against a united front of conservatives, liberals and an emergent “pro-war left.”

DeBoer defines this iteration of McCarthyism as a “set of practices consisting of slandering opponents without fair process and based on thin evidence, ascribing dark motives to others to delegitimize their position, suggesting that those you argue with work under the influence of some shadowy entity, and insisting that your targets are not just wrong, but actively malign.”

What DeBoer misses, however, is that, when it comes to Syria, this critique is precisely what he and those he defends are guilty of. Indeed, they casually slander Syrians who oppose Assad as “terrorists” (treating the opposition as a monolith of “Islamic extremists”) and ascribe sinister motives to their defenders (often calling them war mongering “imperialists”). Worse yet, figures like DeBoer do this all in the name of anti-war subversion. In practice, however, theirs is the act of siding with the likes of President-elect Donald J. Trump, who prefers partnering “with every nation that is willing to join us” in the War on Terror.

Protesting the War That Didn’t Come

In terms of U.S. military intervention in Syria, the “future” deBoer ominously warns of happened over two years ago. Since September 2014, a U.S.-led coalition has carried out more than 5,647 airstrikes, approximately seven a day on average, against the so-called Islamic State (ISIS) and other extremists in Syria, killing hundreds of innocent men, women, and children in the process, according to the monitoring group Airwars.

In the wake of these realities, an objectively pro-war left has emerged. In the 800 or so days since U.S. airstrikes began, these leftists have largely been silent on those attacks. Still, according to calcified leftist thinking, the war we should really be protesting and getting mad about is not the current U.S. intervention underway in Syria, but the “other one” apparently coming around the bend that will bring “regime change.” Better a War on Terror, one must conclude, than a no-fly zone.

Take British author Tariq Ali, who deBoer characterizes as “a far left voice who has consistently opposed Western intervention against Assad.” For deBoer to describe Ali as opposed to Western intervention “against Assad,” rather than “in Syria,” is quite telling. At a Stop the War rally in London last year, Ali addressed the British government on the eve of a vote about whether to bomb ISIS in Syria. “You should be fighting side by side with Assad and the Russians,” Ali declared.

Since then, Western governments have effectively pursued this path through backchannels and a formal joint U.S.-Russia bombing plan (which was only scuttled by a U.S. friendly fire incident and the bombing of a U.N. aid convoy by pro-government forces). It is an alliance we can expect to be resurrected by President-elect Donald J. Trump who only cares, like our far-left, red-baited dissidents in alternative media, that “Assad is killing ISIS [and] Russia is killing ISIS.”

This is how opposition to Western intervention against Assad works—by making overt calls to collaborate with Syria and remaining silent about U.S. plans to work with its Russian backers. This is the pro-war left that, like the U.S. bombing campaign in Syria, actually exists now.

This segment of the left is powerful. It controls the leading anti-war organizations, dozens of which backed a statement supporting “the right of the Syrian government to request and accept military assistance from other countries,” including the United States. It also dominates the media consumed by the far left, from Counterpunch to RT.

Inverting Reality

Still, there are those who insist it is the other way around: that it is the children of political royalty—those with every advantage—who are somehow the underprivileged truth-tellers. Their aggressive, unrelenting, and “Syria-obsessed” critics, we are told, are simply disingenuous and want more war. This not-so-merry band of fact checkers have even set up their own online version of Joseph McCarthy’s House Un-American Activities Committee, believing “there is no such thing as a principled opponent of the use of US force to save Syria,” as deBoer argues.

According to deBoer, this online mob “aggressively advocate[s] for more American arms in Syria,” if not an outright invasion. It also engages in “brutal smears” of principled opponents of U.S. aggression, who are digitally barrel bombed by daily, merciless Ahrar Al-Sham-bros. As deBoer sees it, their “chosen targets” (Blumenthal and Khalek) are particularly “vulnerable,” as they are “political orphans” who are “left-wing, disdainful of Democrats, not associated with deep-pocketed publications, and fiercely independent.”

If we take a step back into reality, we can understand why deBoer’s account is far from true, and glimpse the actual reason figures like Blumenthal and Khalek are criticized. As voiced by Khalek’s former Electronic Intifada colleague and Palestinian radical, Budour Hassan, the real problem is that Khalek is an apologist for fascism: “a whitewasher of Assad crimes.” Hassan argues that Khalek’s whitewashing is not simple, unequivocal support for the regime, but something more sophisticated. Khalek uses “every single freaking trick from the Zionist propaganda book,” from appealing to the virtues of cruise missile secularism in the face of practicing Muslims with guns to creating a false equivalence between states with fighter jets and militias with mortars.

Hassan is neither a liberal, an American, nor a supporter of U.S. intervention in Syria. In other words, she is not “polemically useful,” and so in the world deBoer has created, she simply does not exist. Those like Hassan, who do not love imperialism but do hate mass-murder apologism—and are horrified that those they once considered comrades are embracing it—are erased from the discourse.

Justifying the Unjustifiable

In September 2016, Khalek penned an article for The Intercept on the humanitarian crisis in Syria. The article focused exclusively on targeted sanctions against the regime, relying on a new, leaked “UN report” that was neither new, leaked, nor a UN report.

For this false report, Khalek was invited by the Syrian regime to attend a conference in Damascus, financed by Assad’s father-in-law. She was also invited to speak at the event—an invitation she turned down. Her explanation for refusing to speak, which she posted on Facebook, was confusing to say the least. It seems the primary reason for Khalek’s about face was that her speaking role had become public, when she had thought, per the “Chatham House rules” it would remain confidential.

While in Syria, Khalek conducted an interview with a man in Damascus who informed her that the besieged rebels of Eastern Aleppo had, curiously, besieged themselves. She did not disclose, as The New York Times did, that her interview in the capital of a totalitarian police state was conducted in the presence of a regime agent, since Damascus had “require[ed] journalists to travel with minders and to go through elaborate hoops to visit specific areas.” The Times reported that the junket in which Khalek took part was “even more tightly orchestrated than usual.

In a series of tweets, Khalek said she found the “regime narrative” on the war most compelling—at least among the Syrians she purportedly spoke with. The “West may hate Bashar,” she tweeted, “but Syrians aren’t Westerners.”

Charlotte Silver, an associate editor at the Electronic Intifada, took issue with Khalek’s words and actions vis-a-vis the Damascus conference. “As reporters our job is to expose institutions of power, not participate in efforts to whitewash or legitimize them,” Silver noted on Twitter. “If a journalist can’t figure out the nature of a conference she’s speaking at, she’s been discredited as a reliable judge of info + sources.”

If “apologist” is the wrong word for someone who agrees to speak at a public relations gala for a totalitarian state, and who reports only on the state’s official line of propaganda, then what would the appropriate word be?

Blumenthal and the White Helmets

As for Blumenthal, he himself is not an overt campaigner for Assad, but rather, like Frederik deBoer, is hyper-focused—even fixated—on a hypothetical U.S. intervention. He is so dedicated to this cause he often has very little to say about daily bombing raids, either by the United States, Russia, or the Assad regime.

The ostensibly humanitarian intervention Blumenthal fears and fixates on is reflected in his only substantial written contribution on the debate over Syria, in the last three years: an attack in AlterNet on the Syrian Civil Defense, first-responders commonly known as the “White Helmets.” His article adds almost nothing new to what could already be found on openly pro-Assad media, with the author of one these pieces, Vanessa Beeley, even claiming to be Blumenthal’s indirect source for information on the White Helmets.

As Blumenthal notes in his article, the White Helmets, who are volunteers rescuing people trapped in buildings bombed by the governments of Syria and Russia, have received some funding from USAID. Attempting to suggest this funding has manipulated the group’s agenda, Blumenthal argues that the White Helmets’ motto—“[t]o save one life is to save all of humanity”—is “remarkably similar to that of Steven Spielberg’s Holocaust epic, Schindler’s List.” Unbeknownst to Blumenthal, the quote in question comes from the Quran, which researchers believe predates the 1993 Holocaust film.

The Real Critique

Though President Barack Obama famously pledged to intervene militarily if the Syrian government used chemical weapons, he reneged on this promise after the regime crossed this “red line” and launched a sarin attack on Ghouta in August 2013. Since then, Syrians have given up hope that the international community will do anything in Syria that doesn’t relate to counter-terrorism. The Western left, meanwhile, is still fighting against an intervention that has never come to pass.

The real problem, then, is that Blumenthal and Khalek are using bad journalism and bad arguments to stave off a war that has not come, to preserve a regime that is solidly in place. Ironically, on this latter point, they are in lockstep with the Washington foreign policy establishment. According to a RAND Institute survey (which includes conclusions from “experts from U.S. intelligence and policy communities” and “Washington think tanks”), by 2013, Washington insiders had reached a consensus around the notion that “regime collapse” in Syria represented “the worst possible outcome for U.S. strategic interests.”

What unites these alt-media stars, like the Western left writ large, is that they offer nothing to Syrians, but smug despair and desperate smears amid the worst war of the 21st century, self-righteously adopting the logic of the War on Terror in the name of ending an intervention that has not and likely will not happen. 

“Anyone who lived in the immediate post-9/11 world is familiar with this type of thing,” DeBoer writes. “That anyone who didn’t press for all-out war on terrorism—whatever that meant—was guilty of tacit support for al-Qaeda was a given.” Indeed, we see that exact thing now, but not from those waging what DeBoer sees as a crusade. Convicting people of siding with terror is a favored tactic of the ostensibly anti-war left, as Khalek demonstrated when she decided to accuse pro-revolution, anti-imperialists of “whitewashing al-Qaeda.”

More recently, in response to the opposition’s loss of large swathes of territory in Aleppo to the Syrian regime, Blumenthal claimed that the city is “being retaken from armed extremists”—rather than mentioning how it was being destroyed by the bombs of a murderous regime and its allies. In another case, former Salon journalist, Benjamin Norton, accused various anti-Assad analysts of supporting al-Qaeda and likened the U.S. war against the group to World War II. “Al-Qaeda is what the Italian Fascists look like, and ISIS is what the Nazis look like,” he wrote, channeling neoconservative pundit Daniel Pipes, who helped popularize the concept of “Islamo-fascism” after 9/11.

When the Assad regime cleansed the rebel-held town of Daraya of its residents, Norton rubbed sarin in the survivors’ wounds, slandering them as “radical Islamists” because some of their democratically controlled militias used the word “Islam” in their names. Indeed, Norton was one of hundreds of anti-imperialist hawks who signed a letter recognizing the Syrian dictator’s “sovereign” right to request a foreign bombing campaign on his country.

Conflating the word Islam with terror is presumably okay if the targets are Syrian. After all, they are the people we speak for, not to, unless we are in the presence of a government minder. Should they die as a result of an expanded air war, they can thank the “anti-war” left for selling it as a war on fascism.

An Absurd Left

Today, the ultimate absurdity of the “anti-war” left is that those who openly back foreign intervention in Syria (as long as it is the “right” kind), accuse their left-wing critics of silencing free speech, or being imperialists and terrorist sympathizers. But, it is neither 1952 nor 2002: it is the year that a fascist is headed to the White House calling not for humanitarian intervention in Syria, but echoing AlterNet, Salon, and the Tariq Alis of the world in proposing peace with Russia and a jointly fought war against Syrian rebels, activists, and first responders.

Those who banked on a humanitarian intervention under Hillary Clinton, one that would redeem their smears as prescience, should be forced to own the fact that all they have ever offered Syrians is opposition to a war that never was, coupled with silence on the wars that are killing them now.

In the face of the deadliest campaign of state terror the 21st century has seen, we should never forget the false prophecies of those who looked at Syria, and a half-million dead, and decided they were victims too—of a McCarthyism from the bottom up—because some people disagreed with their views.

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On Veterans Day, Remembering the War Profiteers of WWI

Reposted from teleSUR, a website I wrote this for in 2015.

World War I is one of those wars that even those who fought it had trouble explaining. The 4-year-long war left over 17 million people from at least 20 different countries dead. Was it fought for democracy and self-determination? That’s what U.S. President Woodrow Wilson claimed, but then he also invaded and occupied an independent Haiti, instituting forced labor in the only country borne out of a successful slave revolt.

In reality, the war that raged from July 28, 1914, to November 11, 1918, was fought largely because every major power in Europe (and a couple years in, North America) thought it could use the trigger of an archduke’s assassination to expand their power and influence. Most powers ended up weaker than before, while those that achieved gains — France occupied the Rhineland, Germany’s prime industrial area, for several years — found them costly and rather infamously short lived.

During the 1920s and even until the mid-1930s, the question “What was that all about?” continued to dominate discussions of war and peace. The failure to find a good answer contributed to the preference for isolationism in the United States and Western Europe that prevailed among the general public until Adolf Hitler showed that his idea of diplomacy was to encourage the rest of the world to rubber-stamp his aggression until it was their turn to be annexed.

Hitler’s rise may have been enabled by appeasement, but it’s not right to say it was the product of peace. In 1934, the U.S. magazine Fortune, a periodical whose name suggests its audience, published the sort of muckraking expose one would be hard-pressed to find in today’s business press. Naming names, it called out what would later be termed the “military-industrial complex” — a U.S. Senate committee at the time went with the more colorful “merchants of death” — for profiting off the misery of World War I and following up by arming all the sides that would go on to fight the sequel.

“According to the best accountancy figures, it cost about $25,000 to kill a soldier during the World War,” the article began. “There is one class of Big Business Men in Europe that never rose up to denounce the extravagance of its governments in this regard — to point out that when death is left unhampered as an enterprise for the individual initiative of gangsters the cost of a single killing seldom exceeds $100. The reason for the silence of these Big Business Men is quite simple: the killing is their business.”

And what a business it was. As the article noted, the U.S.-based Bethlehem Steel “not only makes armor-piercing’ projectiles, but ‘non-pierceable’ armor plate — which must sometimes cause slight confusion on the proving ground when anyone attempts to demonstrate the virtues of both at the same time.”

Companies also sold to both sides, before, during and after World War I. As The Washington Post reported, when U.S. soldiers “invaded Europe in June 1944, they did so in jeeps, trucks and tanks manufactured by the Big Three motor companies in one of the largest crash militarization programs ever undertaken. It came as an unpleasant surprise to discover that the enemy was also driving trucks manufactured by Ford and Opel — a 100 percent GM-owned subsidiary — and flying Opel-built warplanes.”

As Fortune noted in its 1934 expose, while political leaders may have expressed mutual fears and condemnations of each other, “the lion and the lamb never lie down together with more good fellowship than these French, German, Czech, and Polish gentleman when they come together to discuss, as fellow directors, the problems of increasing Europe’s consumption of armaments.” Indeed, “The armorers,” said Fortune, “are the true internationalists. Regardless of their nationalities, they work in concert at the two axioms of their grade — prolong wars, disturb peace.”

Indeed, capital may have no gods nor moral compass, but it does have respect for its larger clients, wherever they may be. Noted The Post:  “When the U.S. Army liberated the Ford plants in Cologne and Berlin, they found destitute foreign workers confined behind barbed wire and company documents extolling the ‘genius of the Fuehrer,’ according to reports filed by soldiers at the scene.”

Its safe to bet that Ford executives wished a GM plane had dropped bombs on those love letters.

Profit though they may have from armed conflict and the preparation for it, it’s not as if there is some small cabal of arms dealers that plans each war.

“There is no perfectly homologous group of single-purposed individuals that sits down before a polished table in a soundproof room and plots new holocausts in Europe,” wrote Fortune.

In fact, there’s plenty of money to be made by arming nations during times of peace — it’s that arms race, though, that enables and encourages arms manufacturers, making war all the more likely, be it in 1914, 1939, 2003 or today in 2015.

“What’s the point of having this superb military you’re always talking about if we can’t use it?” former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright once asked her future successor and accessory to the Iraq war, Colin Powell. Having the means to do something makes it awfully tempting to do it, as most critics of concentrating power in the hands of a few have argued for a millennia or more. And even if one would rather not start a war, having the means of mutually assured destruction at one’s hands makes a small quarrel all the more likely to set off a big mistake.

It’s certainly not the case that such concentrated power — including the power to effortlessly destroy millions of lives with a 200-word memo or, these days, the push of a button thousands of miles away from the point of an unmanned drone’s impact — makes anyone any safer in the long run.

As of 1934, France was seen as “the greatest military power of modern times,” noted Fortune, “with an army which all but equals in numbers and far surpasses in equipment Germany’s vast militaristic machine of 1914.”

A lot of good that did.

Fortune wasn’t the only unusual source of anti-imperialism after World War I. General Smedley Butler, the most decorated Marine in U.S. history at the time of his death, fought on behalf of U.S. imperialism from Honduras to Nicaragua and Haiti to France. In 1935, five years after he retired, he looked back on what he did with disgust.

“War is a racket. It always has been,” he wrote, looking back on his years of service. “It is possibly the oldest, easily the most profitable, surely the most vicious,” with profits “reckoned in dollars and the losses in lives.”

Butler was speaking of all the wars he had been asked to fight, but it was the global one that set him off.

“When our boys were sent off to war they were told it was a ‘war to make the world safe for democracy’ and a ‘war to end all wars,’ ” said Butler, referencing Woodrow Wilson’s grand justifications. “Well, eighteen years after, the world has less of democracy than it had then.”

Whether by accident or, as Butler suspected, intent, the war did make many a man richer.

“At least 21,000 new millionaires and billionaires were made in the United States during the World War.” he wrote. “That many admitted their huge blood gains in their income tax returns. How many other war millionaires falsified their tax returns no one knows.”

It’s these people, the general argued, that should be first in line at the next draft.

“Let the officers and the directors and the high-powered executives of our armament factories and our munitions makers and our shipbuilders and our airplane builders and the manufacturers of all the other things that provide profit in war time as well as the bankers and the speculators, be conscripted,” he said.

No one took him up on the offer. Four years later, there would be a second World War. One that would make the first almost seem civilized. On November 11, “Remembrance Day” as it is known in the countries that fought the first war to end all wars, we would do well to remember that while race and religion have played a part in inflaming tensions, the cause of most wars can still be traced to dollars and cents — nations and their corporate offspring fighting for power and resources. Perhaps it’s time for a return to the draft, in the U.S. and elsewhere, but one limited to the 1 percent for whom war is an abstraction, not a cause of misery and death.

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The truth isn’t useful

The important thing about truth is the underlying sentiment, which is its only utility. If any given truth gets in the way of a grander one, it may, in keeping with best praxis, be overlooked, contested or outright denied.

Take the April 2017 chemical weapons attack in Khan Shaykhun, Syria. “I suppose the sarin attacks could be real,” wrote Paste Magazine’s Shane Ryan of the attacks, the guilt of the Syrian regime since confirmed by the United Nations, but it wouldn’t be useful, in terms of agitating against U.S. President Donald Trump’s airstrike on empty airbase that was launched in response.

So the article never delved into what we actually knew, based on eyewitness testimony and samples tested by chemical weapons experts, but rather speculated on what made “sense.” Testimony and expertise aside, what made sense, at that time, to that writer, was raising the prospect of a “false flag” by rebels hoping, after their 420th allegedly staged production, that “the U.S. would intervene on their behalf.”

When the UN debunked this narrative, squarely placing blame on the regime, the writer for Paste proclaimed innocence: they had, after all, been seeking to stop a drive to war, so even if they were wrong, empirically, one had to admire their motivation, which was superior (these answers were later deleted, because really who cares). Those who were right, by contrast those who believed the MSM accounts that set us on a path to regime change: isn’t that suspect?

One has to wonder why.

The author, accordingly, declined to alert their fans to the existence of the new information undermining what was and is the objectively more admirable posture: not believing the government or the mainstream media.

Similarly, the Democrats would agree to basically neuter their own opposition to Republicans’ health care in exchange for some more sanctions against big bad scary Russia; we know this because the bumbling Democrats lost 1,000 seats and always prefer foreign wars to fighting for the working class. Hillary Clinton would argue against breaking up the banks by saying it won’t end racism; we know this because neoliberals exploit identity for capitalism. And she’d regime-change Bashar al-Assad for Israel, because, let’s be real: wouldn’t she?

These are things we know to be true, in general, so again we must ask of the pedants who were right with respect to these specific claims, which were wrong: Do you want to be the kind of person who wouldn’t believe the bad thing?

One, again, has to wonder why.

But serial dishonesty (or chronic intellectual sloth) takes its toll. If yours is the political faction that claims to have the most right answers on all of the issues facing humanity in 2017, that claim will be challenged by those who observe a certain infidelity in the matter of facts. That case against war, which hinges on a dictator who’s killed tens of thousands not being as blithely ruthless as claimed by his victims, will be discarded by those one wishes to persuade is that what we’re doing?  when it’s shown to hinge on a fundamental error.

Little white lies don’t serve grand ends when the means are perceived as an expression of one’s true politics. When delivered with smug flare, they do keep those who aren’t alienated in high spirits, however, and the clicks on news that is fake, left media criticism teaches us, always exceed clicks on the (enemy) analysis that corrects. That ensures a steady stream of digital red meat, misleading content and algorithmic takes garnering more donations to the Patreon in the bio and so on and so forth until we all log off for the very last time.

Many will think these creators of content are sloppy or cynical, but the thing is: they won’t be subscribers. The future is socialism in one social media cluster, sending notifications to your cellphone  forever, bitch.

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Trump’s new war plan is an awful lot like the old one

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The Trump administration has a new plan for the war in Syria, Spencer Ackerman reports for The Daily Beast, and it’s the same as the old one: bomb the hell out of the Islamic State and other extremists while not just leaving the greatest purveyor of violence there alone, but treating it as a de facto partner.

This is, for those following along, broadly the same plan that the previous U.S. administration pursued. Despite the Assad regime crossing President Barack Obama’s self-imposed “red line” in 2013, it wasn’t until a year later that the U.S. bombs began falling on the Islamic State and other extremists. The hereditary dictator and his forces were spared, and not for a lack of humanitarian justification, but because U.S. foreign policy elites had long before decided that a change in regime posed the greatest threat to perceived U.S. interests.

Leftists who embraced realists’ perverted version of anti-imperialism — support for dictators in the name of stability, not just when threatened by Western invasions but in the face of popular uprisings overlooked this thematically inconvenient war on terror and the new president’s repeated desire to escalate it. As late as last fall left-liberal pundits were continuing to gravely warn of a coming war, portraying better informed critics of the regime-change storyline as the warmongers even as they ignored the thousands of U.S. airstrikes those purported warmongers decried. The latter’s crime was decrying Syrian and Russian airstrikes, too, which is well established as the road to World War III.

This was all very strange because, even before Trump, the Obama administration was desperately seeking an arrangement with Russia in Syria whereby both imperial powers would not just bomb the same country, but do it together, as allies, a plan welcomed by the Syrian regime. That put some in an awkward place for they had already agreed that Damascus had a right to accept such military assistance, the product not of principled anti-imperialist thinking, obviously, but of a degenerated segment of the left seeking to rationalize extensive Russian and Iranian intervention.

Trump and his new, old plan expose the pitfalls of left-wing rationalizations for imperialism that rely on a reactionary argument that a state, no matter how undemocratic, has the right to kill whom it chooses within its imperialist-drawn borders. The plan is: handing off never-ending peace talks to Russia while jointly administering “safe zones” in Syria that would be safe primarily, in theory, because both would agree not to bomb them. Though The Daily Beast implies this is new clarity in the wake of a confused Syria policy from the administration, it’s really not if one considers Trump’s airstrike on an empty airbase to have been the product of his lust for one-upping Obama; this far into the U.S. regime’s tenure, one can’t deny the power of ego, within the limits imposed by the generals to whom war-making power has largely been ceded.

A senior official speaking to The Daily Beast argued as much, saying the new-old plan reflected continuity and would simply build off existing U.S.-Russia cooperation, the logical progression of the war on terror that expanded to Syria under Obama, who himself ended his term in office seeking such an arrangement. The lethal potential of imperialist collusion, unleashed, is one thing critics of what’s come to be known as This Russia Stuff have missed: that Louise Mensch starting World War III between these two major powers has always been dramatically less likely than those two powers agreeing to collude, for the sake of peace, in a war on those who have neither nuclear weapons nor an air force.

As for the regime, as long as it’s willing to support the U.S.-Russia war on terror then the Trump administration echoing non-interventionists like Henry Kissinger — is willing to let past and sometimes present rhetoric remain just that. “Of course that’s our policy,” a White House official told The Daily Beast. “I don’t see how you could follow what we’ve done and not come away with [that] conclusion.”

Perhaps it’s time those who concluded otherwise to consider that they concluded wrong. Point-scoring and owns are all good and zesty fun yes, I told you so, but it’s no big deal the aim of intra-left criticism is achieving better left-wing politics. A dumb liberal may believe that Putin and Trump are lovers, but what ought matter to a leftist is that they are reactionaries working in concert to impose an imperialist peace through war on Syria. If we can agree that all right-wing authoritarians should keep their hands off the Middle East, there’s no reason leftists can’t join hand in hand at the antiwar march from the Russian embassy to the White House.

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Protesting Deportations and Trump and Downtown LA

The Sunday afternoon rally against Trump in downtown LA was a safe and orderly affair, well organized and maintained by groups broadly defined as the city’s center-left: the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles, various SEIU chapters, a UNITE HERE local, and the teachers’ union. There were speakers, who spoke of not letting the next president roll back the gains California’s millions of immigrants have made over the years, and there was a march.

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The angriest person the whole day was a man, the picture of bourgeois decadence, shouting at about two thousand people, their offense: blocking his exit from the parking garage, his wife watching from the front passenger seat as he explained this, mortified.

“No, no, no. Get the fuck back in the car,” this dweeb yelled at his teen, who’d gotten out of the backseat with a face full of mirth, gripping a cell phone in landscape, and possessing an admirably bold intention of filming his father’s this could go viral outburst.

The march itself was led by the usual libs banal if unobjectionable appeals to stopping the hate and standing together, mixed with the eye-rollingly problematic, like stating cops becoming arms of immigration enforcement would go against their benevolent nature but having been abroad the last year and change I appreciated it for what it was, which was ultimately a protest that could have been a multi-cultural street fair, which is cool, for now. There was even fresh-squeezed orange juice and bacon-wrapped hotdogs.

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The profound, world-in-a-county diversity that makes LA what it is (and it isn’t Hollywood) was on display and that was fun if not revolutionary: Filipino and Korean and Mexican immigrant groups marching with their banners, some with drums and others without drums. I stayed about an hour.

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It’s nice to be back in Los Angeles, and it was pleasant and nice watching the polite center-left do its permitted thing. There will be much more interesting resistance to Donald Trump’s administration when he takes power next year, and the radical end of the U.S. left’s diversity of tactics will be on full view in the country’s second largest city, where speaking Spanish at home is many times more common than having voted for the guy who promised to deport the city’s working class.

Flickr gallery of all my photos from yesterday’s march.

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Donald Trump’s Militarism in 400 Words

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President-elect Donald J. Trump was often vague on the campaign trail, but he was clear about this: as commander-in-chief he would get back to the basics of the War on Terror, foregoing liberal projects like “nation-building” in favor of just “bombing the hell out of” the Islamic State in Libya, Iraq, and Syria. And he suggested he would do this with the help of Vladimir Putin, a man some in his own party consider a threat. “Wouldn’t it be nice if we got together with Russia,” Trump said over the summer, “and knocked the hell out of ISIS?“

His supporters cheered while pundits scoffed at this budding friendship between right-wing nationalists. But despite the unusually public nature of the affair, the groundwork for such a US-Russia alliance against ISIS was already being laid by President Barack Obama. While Trump was campaigning, U.S. diplomats were meeting with their Russian counterparts to hammer out a deal to share intelligence and jointly conduct bombing raids against ISIS and other extremists in Syria. That deal was strongly by leading Republicans like Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham, falling apart not because of their opposition, though, but because Russian forces reportedly bombed an aid convoy on its way to Aleppo, making a partnership unseemly.

Trump is more likely to overlook humanitarian concerns, but he’ll face the same opposition Obama did if he tries to link up with Putin. General Michael Flynn, his top national security advisor, shares his outlook on Russia and terrorism, even being paid to speak at a party in Moscow hosted by RT, the Russian government’s propaganda arm. But Trump’s administration also includes the likes of Congressman Mike Pompeo, a hard-liner on Russia who will be leading the Central Intelligence Agency. There are no doves in his cabinet, but there will be disagreements on how far to take any alignment with Moscow, which will amplified by a Congress that can still play politics with the money Trump will need for any airstrikes.

Trump, however, inherits not just a proposed alliance with Russia, but the unilateral ability to deploy U.S. military power wherever he chooses. The upside is there’s no ambiguity: few expect him to earn a Nobel Peace Prize. And that’s an advantage for those who don’t think a war on terror can be won with more of the extreme violence that breeds terrorism: they can start organizing now against what they know is coming.

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