Sunday, March 26, 2023

Notes on The Persuaders

 _The Persuaders:  at the Front Lines of the Fight for Heartsm Minds, and Democracy_ by Anand Giridharadas

NY:  Alfred A Knopf, 2022
ISBN 9780593318997

Dividing to Conquer
(7)  “The IRA [Internet Research Agency] knows that in political warfare disgust is a much more powerful tool than anger,” [Darren] Linvill and [Patrick] Warren have written.  “Anger drives people to the polls, disgust drives countries apart.”

(33-34)  “The thing about our movement is that we’re too woke,” [Linda] Sarsour told me, “which is why we don’t have mass mobilization in the way that we should,”  In choosing the word “woke,” she was using a term that once had real meaning in a Black radical tradition - “Today our very survival depends on oiur ability to stay awake, to adjust to new ideas, to remain vigilant and to face the challenge of change,” Dr King once said - and had since been co-opted by the political right as a catchall label for the more pluralist, egalitarian future than many white people feared.

(48)  The problem she [Loretta Ross] observed with one’s 90-percenters is that instead of focusing on the vast overlap, they fixated on the 10 percent divergence.

(49)  For an activist who works in coalition, 75-percenters require a further skill beyond what 90-percenters do.  You don’t merely have to tolerate others focising on different things, attacking a broadly similar vision of the prolbem in their own, distinct way.  You have to accept large islands of disagreement in a sea of assent.  With your 75-percenters, there is still so much you can get done together.  But [Loretta] Ross obsreved an excessive interest in that nonoverlapping 25 percent.  It was a scab people wanted to keep picking instead of doing the things they could do.

…You approach those people [50-percenters] by first accepting they don't want the world you want.  Their vision is different.  But if you can understand their values and needs and look for openings, as when Ross’s father fell into dread about his health care, you can, in addition to helping them, pry open a closed mind.

(50)  You have to spend a lot of time on the concept of fear, because a lot of people, particularly in that 25-percenter category, operate from platforms of fear,” she [Loretta Ross] told me.  “Fear of immigrants, fear of queers, fear of this, fear of that.  And so you can have really productive conversations talking about their fears, but you  have to take their fears seriously for them to even be able to listen to you.  If you dismiss their fears, they don’t listen.  They don’t think you’re taking the fact that they’re afraid seriously enough."

(51)  Loretta Ross:  “I think as part of the movement to end violence against women, we made some overpromises.  We told people, particularly rape survivors, that we could create safe spaces, when in fact all we can do is create spaces to be brave together."

(55)  She told them before they worry about those they were trying to win over, they should look at themselves. "You have to be in a loving, healing space to call anybody in,” [Loretta] Ross told me.  “You can’t do it from anger, because it's just going to end up badly.  So you have to asess why you’re doing it.  What’s your motivation?  Are you trying help this person learn, or are you actually trying to change them?”

Movement Building
(70)  Alicia Garza:  … the longer I’m in the practice of building a movement, the more I realize that movement building isn’t about finding your tribe - it’s about growing your tribe across difference to focus on a common set of goals.

(71)  Progressives, Garza said, too often seek out united fronts when, in fact, they should be forging popular fronts.  Drawing on Marx, she defines popular fronts as “alliances that come together across a range of political beliefs, for the purpose of achieving a short- to intermediate-term goal, while united fronts are long-term alliances based on the highest level of political alignment."

(74)  Alicia Garza:  So the moral of this story is how you make people feel matters.  And sometimes part of our purist cultre can be not having room for the waking among the work.  And because of that, we just kind of keep circulating among the woke.  Forgeting that the whole point is not to be cliques.

(102)  Kurt [white father of an adopted Afro-American child]:  “I think the Black community will go, ‘Great, big deal.  We've been grieving for hundreds of years.  So yay!  Congratulations.  Nice work,  Suck it up,  Change.  Let’s go.’”
NB:  But where do we go, what do we do, what is our defined task and common vision?

(119)  Personal narrative and emotional appeals were how a politics that presented like change but avoided real change were sold to people, so they wouldn’t notice how little they were getting.

(148)  Ben McDonald:  “Whenever you confront somebody and you win, don’t walk away from the table.  Always give them the golden gate of retreat.”

The point was not that you let the other side advance.  The word “retreat” was key.  That was the intransigent part.  You needed your vision of progress to prevail over theirs.  What was up for grabs was how it would go down.  Retreat itself was not negotiable, but there could always be ways of their retreating that bred resentment and made the conflict live on forever and other ways of retreating that made those who had lost or had changed their mind feel considered and seen, feel that they still had their dignity intact, which allowed them to let go of having to be right and having to win.

(192)  AOC:  “Some people are of the belief that electoralism is broken beyond repair and it is a dead end when you look at the profound influence of dark money and X, Y, Z ways that American democracy is fragile, imperiled, or broken.  The thing I keep coming back to is that it really isn’t one or the other.  It’s that we need each other.

“Ther are certain things that can be accomplished electorally that simply cannot be done with grassroots organizing,” she continued.  “There are some things that can be done with collective mass movement that will never be accomplished through electoral means.  And, in fact, going beyond that binary, both of these types of work and organizing are necessary for the success of the other.  Yet you will have hard-liners in both categories.”
NB:  “Use EVERYTHING!” as my old martial arts teacher would exhort us.  And there are more than just electoral politics and mass movements.

(202)  AOC:  I don’t value the things you think I value.  That precisely is the source of power.  The thing they fear the most is what they don’t control.

Anat Shenker-Osorio
(220)  The ranks of the persuadable change from issue to issue, year to year.  But [Anat] Shenker-Osorio thinks about it as a rule of 20-60-20.  When you ask people to rate their support for various issues (as opposed to parties, about which people are far more partisan and tribal), a fifth of people are committed to your side, a fifth of people are reliably for the opposition;  most people are “moderate,” which is to say their minds are in play.

(226)  Something struck her.  On Luntz’s tests, which tracked the attitude of base, opposition, and moderates listening to a message, the winning one was defined as that which raised base approval, raised moderate approval, and _reduced_ opposition approval.  Not the message that raised all three.

…It was that you should seek out ways to please your base, get it chanting in ways that encircled and wooed the persuadables, and, at the same time, alienate and marginalize the opposition.  The left needed, if you’ll pardon the expression, to dial for blue meat.

(228)  To sum up the [Anat] Shenker-Osorio method thus far:  Don’t dilute the vision to reach out to a middle that isn’t in the middle but is confused.  Thrill your base;  alienate the people who aren’t going to vote for you anyway but will do you the favor, if you’re setting the rhetorical agenda, of yelling your ideas all over town.  Don’t be afraid to call out, to woo the right people and drive away the right people.  And there was more.  These callouts, she argued, needed to be nested within a positive galvanizing mission that her allies on the left too often forget to include while deploring problems.

(231)  Voters aren’t stirred to reduce harm, Shenker-Osorio said.  They’re motivated to create good.  

...“Paint the beautiful tomorrow”

…”The entire premise of my work is, ’Say what you’re for.’  The rest is commentary.”

(231-232)  “I genuinely believe,” she continued, “it is a Republican wet dream that they have us talking constantly about everything that we oppose because (a) it gives them more airtime, (b) it scares the shit out of people, and when people are afraid, what they seek is a more authoritarian, more restrictive, more conservative kind of leadership and structure, (c) it has us not speak about what we’re for.”  She joked with colleagues that despite all her research into the nuances of different messages, there was really just one winning message for her side.  “That message is, ‘We can have nice things.’"

(235)  “What you fight,” [Anat] Shenker-Osorio likes to say, “you feed.”
NB:  Taoism, aikido

(238)  … the fight (for voting rights) should be characterized as seeking the freedom to vote.

… “We should care for our land, we should care for our earth, because it’s the American way.  It’s what we’ve always done.”  To her ear, this sounded off, because tradition, doing something because it’s what we’ve always done, is a frame that will never benefit the progressive left.

(240) The message ordering [Anat] Shenker-Osorio suggests instead goes like this:  shared value, problem, solution.

… A fundamental thing many people who disagree with you share with you is the desire to feel like good people.  If the message is venturing into challenging territory, it helps to ground it first in a shared belief.

(249)  What the recent surveys showed was that when you asked Americans of all persuasions what values they most cared about, freedom consistently topped the list… “This really, truly is, over and again, the core value Americans associate with this country,” Shenker-Osorio told the the group…
NB:  Freedom from or freedom for?

(253)  Shenker-Osorio:  “We don’t have time to be genuflecting at the altar of bipartisanship, and pretending that Republicans are a party, that they are anything other than an authoritarian faction.  We do not have time.”

(256)  An astonishing 17 percent of Americans were said to be QAnon believers now [as of 2021]
NB:  17 percent supported Dick Cheney after he shot someone in the face 

Deprogramming Cultification
(259)  Once again, they [deprogrammers after Diane Benscoter was with the Moonies] weren’t trying to make her believe anything particular in that moment.  They were illustrating the anatomy of brainwashing in general.  It was helpful that the manipulation in question had nothing to do with the Moonies, belonging to a completely alien situation.  People have less elaborate fencing systems to protect them from ideas on subjects they have little investment in.  So she could see the art of manipulation more clearly and objectively.  And then, having seen it, she could begin to make connections herself.

…Attempting to persuade her [Diane Benscoter] of new beliefs - of better biblical interpretations - hadn’t worked.  But making space for new beliefs to enter by deflating the old ones was more effective.

(262) Where cults thrived, something in the society wasn’t working right.

(266)  [Diane] Benscoter set up a nonprofit called Antidote, and these days it is in the early phase of a potentially vast project on how societies can vaccinate citizens against the virus of cults, disinformation, and manipulation.

… She wants to develop educational videos that might wake cult victims up, by playing on the only desire she has found can compete with the desire to have the world explained simply and totally - the desire not to be conned.  She imagines video listicles like “Ten ways to tell if you;re being psychologically manipulated."

(268)  John Cook, Monash University “a systematic, step-by-step process for identifying fallacies”:

(271)  Cook’s website Skeptical Science:

(273)  Why couldn’t the opponents of misinformaiton do the same?  Instead of answering disinformation with better information, try to discredit the misinformers!  It was in keeping with what [Diane] Benscoter had experienced when the efforts to replace her beliefs with truer belifes had failed, but then the warning that she had been deceived by unscrupulous people using unscrupulous methods had worked.

(285) He [Cesar Torres] was the guy who tried to tell himself what John Cook had argued:  that the crazies weren’t perpetrators so much as victims of a society awash in mis- and disinformation.

Deep Canvassing
(299)  “Over time,” [Steve] Deline continued, “it became cleat that, ‘Oh, all of these answers we’re trying to give aren’t helping.’  We can try to answer people’s concerns with facts and information.  And their fears about gay people, and about their church being forced to do something, and their righteous indignation about lefties pushing things on them - there’s no answer we can give that dispels these fears.  They’re actually in a place where they're wrestling with some deeply seated emotions.  The thing that actually made a different was inviting them to talk about their lives, and then things they've experienced and their stories, and sharing our stories.

(300)  [Steve] Deline and his fellow canvassers didn’t think of themselves as being divided against their targets on the other side of the doors so much as they thought of their targets as being divided against themselves.  They saw tham as being lost, grasping.  It was another way of saying that Shenker-Osorio had described about the swing voter being confused, not centrist.  (She would eventually advise deep canvassing effforts around the 2020 elections.)  The canvasser’s opportunity wasn't to implant something of their own, something foreign to the target, into them.  Rather, it was to pit some things going on inside them against other things going on inside them, to get them to re-rank these things.
NB:  Another possibility is to approach people as if we are all confused and trying to figure it out so let’s do it together.  As if we had a common positive vision.

(301)  First, the canvasser was to make contact

Second, the canvasser was to create a “nonjudgmental context.”

(302)  Vox:  “The new research shows that if you want to change someone’s mind, you need to have patience with them, ask them to reflect on their life, and listen.  It’s not about calling people out or labeling them fill-in-the-bland-phobic.  Which makes it feel like a big departure from a lot of the current political dialogue.”

… Third, the canvasser was to exchange personal narratives…

…  Fourth, the canvasser was to invite the analogic perspective taking.  Was there a time _you_ needed support.  Was there a time _you_ needed health care but struggled to access it?

…  Fifth, the canvasser was to make an explicit case.  Here, after doing much listening and eliciting, the canvasser spoke more openly of their own feeloings about the subject at hand.

…  Sixth, the canvasser, having sown some cognitive dissonance, was to seek to help the subject wrestle with it out loud.

(303)  Seventh, and only seventh, the canvasser was to respond to the subject’s concerns with talking points and facts.  As Deline had observed, this seventh step was step one for many amateurs.

…  “Only after rapport had been established and stories shared would canvassers address concerns.”  To be fact-checked, in other words, had prerequisites.  It helped first to feel heard, cared for, respected, seen in the fullness of one’s complexity and even, yes, confusion.

Eighth, and finally, the canvasser was to ask the subject to rate their support for the policy question again.  Has our conversation changed your opinion? the canvasser asks. The scholars who helped build up the method call this the “rehearsal of opinion change,” with the subject often lured into “active processing” of their own ideas and stories and background and the cognitive dissonance that might have surfaced.  The theory is that political opinions are often hastily formed from scanty information.  Following a substantive chat at the door, the subject is encouraged to think more slowly about whether their view comports with their deepest values, with what they know to be true, with their sense of themselves, with their experiences.

(308)  For every hundred voters the campaign spoke to about establishing universal health care, including for undocumented immigrants, it moved around eight of them, according to the resulting research published by the scholars Joshua Kallla of Yale and David Broockman of Berkeley.
NB: 8-10% moivement

(311)  He [Matthew, a person Cesar the deep canvasser is talking to] was a fount less of political opinnions than of political emotions.  He felt betrayed, lied to, ignored, condescended to.  Many of those feelings were grounded in the realities of American life.  But he then felt a need to assign ideas to these emotions.

Wednesday, January 11, 2023

Friendly Fascism

 Bertram Gross worked on employment and economic issues for the Senate and the President during the FDR and Truman years and went on to a career as a professor of political science and public affairs.  In 1980, before Reagan was elected, he wrote Friendly Fascism (ISBN 0871313170) to warn the USAmerican public about the dangers to democracy he saw developing, a more “friendly” Fascism which was as violent and authoritarian as the original.

He thought some of the characteristics of Friendly Fascism would include

Drive to maintain unity of “Free World” empire, contain or absorb communist or socialist regimes, and perhaps retreat to “Fortress America”

A more integrated Big-Business-Government power structure, backed up by remolded militarism, new technocratic ideologies, and more advanced arts of ruling and fooling the public

A more unbalanced economy, rooted in extended stagflation, manipulated shortages, more junk, and environmental degradation

Subtle subversion, through manipulative use and control of democratic machinery, parties, and human rights

Informationial offensives, backed up by high-technology monitoring, to manage minds of elites and immobilize masses 

Rationed rewards of power and money for elites, extended professionalism, accelerated consumerism for some, and social services conditional on recipients' good behavior

Direct terror applied through low-level violence and professionalized, low-cost escalation, with indirect terror through ethnic conflicts, multiple scapegoats, and organized disorder

More varied and extensive anxiety relief through not only traditional escape mechanisms but also through sex, drugs, madness, and cults

Internal viabiity grounded on system-strengthening reforms, multilevel co-optation, creative counterresistance and innovative apathetics

Thursday, November 17, 2022

The Sheep Look Up

 The Sheep Look Up by John Brunner

NY:   Ballantine Books, 1972
ISBN 0-345-24948-8-195

(frontispiece) Please help
Keep pier clean
Throw refuse overside
sign pictured in God's Own Junkyard edited by Peter Blake

(page 14-15)  Sharp on nine the Trainites had scattered caltraps in the roadway and created a monumental snarl-up twelve blocks by seven.  The fuzz, as usual, was elsewhere - there were always plenty of sympathizers willing to cause a diversion.  It was impossible to guess how many allies the movement had;  at a rough guess, though, one could say that in New York City, Chicago, Detroit, LA or San Francisco people were apt to cheer, while in the surrounding suburbs or the Midwest people were apt to go fetch guns.  In other words, they had least support in the areas which had voted for Prexy.

"Next, the stalled cars had their windows opaqued with a cheap commercial compound used for etching glass, and slogans were painted on their doors.  Some were long:  THIS VEHICLE IS A DANGER TO LIFE AND LIMB.  Many were short:  IT STINKS!  But the commonest of all was the universally known catchphrase:  STOP, YOU’RE KILLING ME!

"And in every case the inscription was concluded with a rough egg-shape above a saltire - the simplified ideogrammatic version of the invariable Trainite symbol, a skull and crossbones reduced to

(291)  At the big Georgia paper mill the saboteur was obviously a chemist. Some kind of catalyst was substituted for a drum of regular sizing solution and vast billowing waves of corrosive fumes ruined the plant.  Anonymous calls to a local TV station claimed it had been done to preserve trees.

The same day, in Northern California, signs were posted on a stand of redwoods that the governor had authorized for lumbering: about 200 of the last 600 in the state. The sign said: FOR EVERY TREE YOU KILL ONE OF YOU WILL DIE TOO.

The promise was carried out with Schmeiser machine-pistols. The actual score was 18 people for 17 trees.

Close enough.

(291-292)  But the most ingenious single coup was later laid at the door of a Chicano working for the California State Board of Education. (Prudently he wasn't behind the door at the time; he'd emigrated via Mexico to Uruguay.)  He'd used the computerized student records to organize a free mailing of literally thousands of identical envelopes, every one addressed to somebody receiving public education in the state. They never did find out exactly how many there had been, because although they were all postmarked July 1st the mails were so lousy nowadays they arrived over a period of a week, and by the end of that time parents alert to protect their kids from commie propaganda had been warned to destroy the envelopes before the intended recipients could open them. But they guessed that 50,000 did get through.

On each envelope was printed: "A FREE GIFT FOR YOU ON INDEPENDENCE DAY, COURTESY OF THE "BE A BETTER AMERICAN LEAGUE." Inside there was a handsome print, in copperplate engraving style, showing a tall man at a table with several companions handing pieces of cloth to a group is nearly naked Indians of both sexes.

Underneath it was the caption: First in a Series Commemorating Traditional American Values. The Governor of Massachusetts Distributes Smallpox-infected Blankets to the Indians.

(320)  … Prexy said quote, Well, you don’t have to go abroad to know our way of life is the best in the world.  End quote.

(351-352)  … unanimously ascribed to fear of Trainite atrocities by traffic experts across the nation.  In many places the car per hour count was the lowest for 30 years. Those who did venture out this Labor Day often did not meet with the welcome they expected. In Bar Harbor, Maine, townsfolk formed vigilante patrols to turn away drivers of steam and electric cars, persons carrying health foods, and other suspected Trainites.  Two fatalities are reported following clashes between tourists and residents. Two more occurred at Milford, Pennsylvania, when clients at a restaurant, angered at not obtaining items listed on the menu, fired it with gasoline bombs. The owner later claimed that supplies had been interrupted by food-truck hijackers. Commenting on the event by the shore of his private lake in Minnesota, Prexy said, quote, Any man has a right to his steak and potatoes, unquote. California: experts at assessing mortar damage to the bay bridge…

(369-370)  reading, as you might say, from the top down:

Dead satellites.
Discarded first and second stages of rockets, mainly second.
Fragments of vehicles which exploded in orbit.
Experimental material, E. G. reflective copper needles.

Combustion compounds from rocket exhausts.
Experimental substances intended to react with the stratospheric ozone, EE., sodium.
Very light radioactive fallout.


Aircraft exhaust.
Medium fallout.
Rainmaking compounds.

Sulfur dioxide.
Lead alkyls.
Mercaptans and other bad smells.

Car exhausts.
Locomotive exhausts.
More smoke.
Local fallout.
Products accidentally ventilated from the underground nuclear tests.

Oceanic fluorine.
Nitric acid.
Sulfuric acid.

Industrial effluents.

Selenium and cadmium from mine tailings.
Fumes from garbage incinerators burning plastic.
Nitrates, phosphates, fungicidal mercuric compounds from "compacted soils.”

Oil derived insecticides.
Defoliants and herbicides.
Radio active this from aquifers contaminated by underground explosions, chiefly tritium.

Lead, arsenic, Oilwell sludge, fly ash, asbestos.
Polyethylene, polystyrene, polyurethane, glass, cans.
Nylon, dacron, rayon, teryline, stylene, orlon, other artificial fibers.

Concrete and cement.
A great deal of short-wave radiation.
Carcinogens, teratogens and mutagens.
Synergistic poisons.
Hormones, antibiotics, additives, medicaments.
Solanine, oxalic acid, caffeine, cyanide, myristicin, pressor amines, copper sulfate, dihydrochalcones, naringin, ergot.

Mustard gas, chlorine, Lewisite, phosgene, prussic acid. 
T, Q, GA, GB, GD, GE, GF, VE, VX, CAA, CN, CS, DM, PL, BW, BZ.

- to name but a few.

(409-411)  Thank you. Friends and fellow Americans, no president of the United States has ever had a more melancholy task than I have at this moment.  It is my sad duty to inform you that our country isn't a state of war. A war that is not of our choosing. And, moreover, not a war with bombs and tanks and missiles, not a war that is fought by soldiers gallant on the field of battle, sailors daring the hostile sea, airmen streaking valiant through the skies – but a war that must be fought by you, the people of the United States.

We have been attacked with the most cowardly, most monstrous, the most evil weapons ever devised by wicked men. We are the victims of a combined chemical and biological attack. You are all aware that our crops have failed disastrously last summer. We, the members of my cabinet and I, delayed announcing the truth behind that story in the van I hope that we might contain the threat of the jigras. We can no longer do so. It is known that they were deliberately introduced into this country. They are the same pest which ruined the entire agriculture of Central America and led to the sad and unwished-for conflict in Honduras.

That by itself we could endure. We are resilient, brave, long-suffering people, we Americans. What is necessary, we will do. But alas there are some among us who bear the name ”American" and are traitors, determined to overthrow the legitimate government, freely elected, to make the work of the police impossible, to denigrate and decry the country we love. Some of them adhere to alien creeds, the communism of Marx and Mao; some, detestably, adhere to a creed equally alien yet spawned within our own borders - that of the Trainites, whose leader, thank God, is safely in jail awaiting his just punishment for kidnapping an innocent boy and imprisoning him and infecting him with foul diseases that endangered his life.

We are fighting and enemy already in our midst. He must be recognized by his words as well as his deeds. One of the great cities of our nation today writhes in agony because the water supply, the precious diamond stream that nourishes our lives, has been poisoned. You may say: how can we resist an enemy whose weapon is the very faucet at the sink, the very water-cooler we go to for relief in the factory or the office? And I will say this! It is you, the people of our great land, who must provide the answer!

It is not going to be easy. It is going to be very hard. Our enemies have succeeded in reducing our stocks of food to the point where we must share and share alike. Following my speech, you will be informed of the emergency arrangements we are putting in a hand for equal and fair distribution of the food we have. You will be informed, too, of the plans we have for silencing known traitors and subversives. But the remainder is up to you. You know who the enemy is – you met him at work, you heard him talking treason at a party, you heard about his attendance at a commie-front meeting, you saw the anti-American books in his library, you refused to laugh at his so-called jokes that dragged the name of the United States in the mud, you shut your ears to his anti-American propaganda, you told your kids to keep away from his kids who are being taught to follow in his traitor's footsteps, you saw him at a Trainite demonstration, you know how he lied and slandered the loyal Americans who have built our country up until it is the richest and most powerful nation in history.

My friends, you elected me to lead you into the third century of our country's existence. I know you can be trusted to do what is right. You know who the enemy is. Go get him before he gets you!

(427)  Commenting on the speed of this return to more-or-less normal circumstances in Denver, the President said, quote, It will be a source of dismay to our enemies to see how rapidly we can get the ship upstate back on an even keel. End quote.  Pockets of Trainite and black militant resistance in city centers up and down the nation are collapsing as hunger and cold take their toll, and the illnesses which are everywhere rife. New smallpox warnings have been issued in Little Rock and Charleston, Virginia. Pressure to put Austin Train on trial continues to grow, as the long delay has encouraged his supporters who eluded the mass roundup of subversives to resume their sabotage attacks and propaganda. Jigra [an invasive worm devastating crops] infestation has been reported in Canada and Mexico today. Now the weather. Over much of the West and Midwest acid rain has been falling, the result of atmospheric action on smoke containing sulfur, and…

(442-443)  “Thank you, my sick friends," Austin said as the cameras closed on him.  “Poisoned, diseased, and now about to be starved as well…  No, I'm not joking; I wish I were. And above all, I wasn't joking when I spoke of the people who have put me on trial as being stupid.

"That is the worst thing they have done to you:  damaged your intelligence. And it's small consolation that now they are doing it to themselves.

“Those charges that the intelligence of people in this country is being undermined by pollution are all true – if they weren't, do you think I'd be here, the wrong man, the man who didn't kidnap Hector Bamberley? Who could have been so silly?”

There was laughter. Nervous, drive-away-the-ghosts laughter.

“And because of that"– he drew himself up straight –"At all costs, to me, to anyone, at all costs if the human race is to survive, the forcible exportation of the way of life invented by these stupid men must… be... stopped.”

His voice suddenly rose to a roar.

"The planet Earth can't afford it!”

He's got them, Peg thought. I never believed he'd do it. But he's got them. Christ, that cameraman: he shaking, shaking from head to foot!  In a moment he's going to weep like Petronella did!

“Our way of life," Austin said, resuming a conversational tone.  ”Yes…  You're aware that we're under martial law? It's been claimed that we're at war, and that at Denver we suffered a sneak chemical attack. As a matter of fact, the stuff that caused the Denver Madness is a military psychotomimetic based on the ergot that infects rye, known by the US Army code ‘BW,’ manufactured on an experimental basis at Fort Detrick, Maryland, from 1959 to 1963, stored at the Rocky Mountain Arsenal until the latter year,and then disposed of in steel drums in an abandoned silver mine. Are you interested in hearing what happened to it?"

(445)  “When did you last bask in the sun, friends? When did you last dare to drink from a creek? When did you last risk picking fruit and eating it straight from the tree? What were your doctor's bills last year? Which of you live in cities where you don't wear a filtermask? Which of you spent this year's vacation in the mountains because the sea is fringed with the garbage? Which of you right now is not suffering from a nagging minor complaint - bowel upset, headache, catarrh, or like Mr. Bamberley there” - he pointed - "acute claudication of a major artery? Someone should attend to him please he needs an immediate dose of a good vasodilator.”

(445-446)  "In Europe, as you know, they've killed the Mediterranean, just as we killed the Great Lakes. They're in a fair way to killing the Baltic, with help from the Russians who've already killed the Caspian. Well, this is living organism we call Mother Earth can't stand that treatment for long – her bowels tormented, her arteries clogged, her lungs choked… but what happened inevitably as a result? Such as social upheaval that all thoughts of spreading this – this cancer of ours have had to be forgotten! Yes], there's hope! When starving refugees are besieging frontiers, armies can't be spared to propagate the cancer any further. They have to be called home – like ours!”

Again his voice rose to that pitch that commanded total attention.

"Keep it here! For God's sake if you believe in Him, but in any case for Man’s sake, keep it here! Although it's already too late for us, it may not be too late for the rest of the planet! We owe it to those who come after that there never be another Mekong Desert! There must never be another Oklahoma dustbowl! There must never be another dead sea! I beg you, I plead with you to take a solemn oath: though your children will be twisted, and don't waited, and slow of speech, there will remain somewhere, for long enough, a place where children grow up healthy, bright and sane! Vow it! Swear it! Pledge it for this species we have so nearly – Yes?”

Blinking at the cameraman with tear-wet cheeks, now sniveled, " I'm sorry, Mr. Train, but it's no good!" He tapped the earphones he was wearing. "The president has ordered you to be cut off!”

There was total silence. It was as though Austin were an inflated dummy and someone had just located the valve to let the gas out. He seemed inches shorter as he turned aside, and scarcely anyone heard him a mutter,”Well, I didn try.”

“But you mustn't stop!" Peg heard herself scream, leaping to her feet. "You –“

The wall behind him buckled and the ceiling leaned on his head with the full weight of a concrete beam. Then the roof began to cascade down on everybody in a stream of rubble.

(456)  We can just about restore the balance of the ecology, the biosphere, and so on  - in other words we can live within our means instead of on an unrepayable overdraft, as we’ve been doing for the past half century - if we exterminate the two hundred million most extravagant and wasteful of our species. [The approximate population of USAmerica at the time the book was written was 200,000,000.]

(456-457)  Opening the door to the visiting doctor, also to apologize for the flour on her hands – she had been baking – Mrs. Byrne sniffed.  Smoke! And if she could smell it with her heavy head cold, it must be a tremendous fire!  

"We ought to call the brigade!" She exclaimed. “Is it a hayrick?”

"The brigade would have a long way to go," the doctor told her curtly."It's from America. The wind's blowing that way."

Thursday, October 13, 2022

Reinventing Collapse

Reinventing Collapse:  The Soviet Example and American Prospects by Dmitry Orlov

Gabriola Island, BC, Canada:  New Society Publishers, 2008
ISBN:  978-0-86571-606-3

(page 5)  Wars take resources;  when resources are already scarce, fighting wars over resources becomes a lethal exercise in futility.  Those with more resources would be expected to win.  I am not arguing that wars over resources will not occur.  I am suggesting that they will be futile, and that victory in these conflicts will be barely distinguishable from defeat.

(8-9)  But I am suggesting that where Russia bounced back because it was not fully spent, the United States will be more fully spent and less capable of bouncing back.

(11)  There is a lesson to be learned here:  when faced with a collapsing economy, one should stop thinking of wealth in terms of money.  Access to actual physical resources and assets, as well as intangibles such as connections and relationships, quickly becomes much more valuable than mere cash.

Editorial Comment:  Mutual aid, the way people pulled together in the first few months of the COVID pandemic.  That was a platform which could have been built upon much more solidly than it has, if it has.

(31)  It is in the nature of all information to want to spread freely, and networked computers make it ridiculously easy for it to do so.

(37)  There is a little secret that everyone knows:  the United States military does not know how to win.  It just knows how to blow things up.  Blowing things up may be fun, but it cannot be the only element in a winning strategy.  The other key element is winning the peace once major combat operations are over, and here the mighty US military tends to fall  squarely on its face and lay prone until political support for the war is withdrawn and the troops are brought back home.

Editorial Comment:  “We don’t do nation-building.” 

(53)  Camus also indicated a specific failure of both systems [Communism and Capitalism]:  their inability to provide creative, meaningful work.  We see this failure in the very high rates of depression.  We attempt to define depression as a psychological ailment, but it is a symptom of a cultural failure:  the inability to make life meaningful or enjoyable.

Editorial Comment:  All my notes on Gandhian or nonviolent economics are available through  
The concept of swadeshi, local production, a daily practice of producing something, Gandhi also called the soul of satyagraha, truth force, political and social nonviolence.

(58)  ... the US desperately needs an enemy to justify having a military that cannot win.  This enemy must be safe to rail against, but obviously too powerful to attack directly, leaving a proud and purposeful paralysis as the only possible choice of action.

(82)  The last act in the American consumerist tragedy will end with the now naked consumer standing on top of a giant mound of plastic trash.  At the end of an economy where everything is disposable stands the disposable consumer.  But once the consumer is disposed of, who will be left to take him out with the trash....

Speaking of agricultural disasters as a class, it is worth noting at the outset that agriculture is seriously dull work, best done by decidedly simple people who do not mind bending down to touch the ground all day until they look like hunchbacks.

Editorial Comment:  This is ridiculous and offensively stupid on a variety of levels unless, of course, it's joke.

(85)  Shortly before the Soviet Union's collapse, it became known informally that the ten percent of farmland allocated to kitchen gardens (in meager tenth of a hectare plots) accounted for some 90 percent of domestic food production.

Editorial Comment:  He means fruits and vegetables not meats and grains.  USAmerican Victory Gardens of  WWII harvested an estimated 9,000,000–10,000,000 short tons (8,200,000–9,100,000 t) of fruits and vegetables in 1944, an amount equal to all commercial production of fresh vegetables or 50% of all the produce consumed that year (  1944 was only the second growing season of the program.  Imagine what we might have now if we'd continued with a Victory Garden and local agriculture program since then.  Imagine what we could do if we started now, and did it consistently, year after year.  See City Agriculture at for years of links to urban and advanced agriculture.

(91)  In the United States, medicine is for profit.  People seem to think nothing of this fact.  There are really very few fields of endeavor to which Americans would deny the profit motive.  It could be said that making a profit off the suffering of sick people is simply unethical:  it comes down to exploiting the helpless - a predatory practice that a civilized society cannot tolerate.

(114)  Although people often bemoan political apathy as if it were a grave social ill, it seems to me that this is just as it should be.  Why should essentially powerless people want to engage in a humiliating farce designed to demonstrate the legitimacy of those who wield the power?  In Soviet-era Russia, intelligent people did their best to ignore the Communists:  paying attention to them, whether through criticism or praise, would only serve to give them comfort and encouragement, making them feel as if they mattered.  Why should Americans want to act any differently with regard to the Republicans and the Democrats?  For love of donkeys and elephants?

Editorial Comment:  Voting is the least of democracy, which is do it yourself anyway, but in the present circumstances (today and the foreseeable future) a necessary and sometimes useful tool.

(133)  This, then, is the correct stance vis a vis the money economy:  you should appear to have no money or significant possessions.  But you should have access to resources, such as food, clothing, medicine, places to stay and work and even money.  What you do with your money is up to you.  For example, you can simply misplace it, the way squirrels do with nuts and acorns.  Or you can convert it into communal property of one sort or another. You should avoid getting paid, but you should accept gifts and, of course, give gifts in return.  You should never work for money, but always donate your time and effort charitably.  You should have a minimum of personal possessions, but plenty to share with others.  Developing such a stance is hard, but, once you do, life actually gets better.  Moreover, by adopting such a stance, you become collapse-proof.

Wednesday, September 28, 2022

The Devil's Horsemen: The Mongol Invasion of Europe

 In memory of Curtis Jones, student of strategy and history

The Devil's Horsemen:  The Mongol Invasion of Europe by James Chambers

NY:  Atheneum, 1985
ISBN 0-689-70693-6

(page 6)  “The greatest pleasure,” he [Chingis Khan] had said, “is to vanquish your enemies and chase them before you, to rob them of their wealth and see those dear to them bathed in tears, to ride their horses and clasp to your bosom their wives and daughters.”

(24-25)  And by the time the feasting and the entertainments had ended a secret treaty had been signed between Venice and the Mongol Empire.  The traveling Venetian merchants would make detailed reports of the economic and military movements in the countries that they visited and spread such propaganda as the Mongols required, and in return wherever the Mongols rode all the other trading stations would be destroyed and Venice would be left with a monopoly.

(34)  There were many Christians in the east who followed the teachings of Nestorius, a former patriarch of Constantinople who had set out for the east in the fifth century, after being deposed by the Council of Ephesus for refusing to recognize the Virgin Mary as the “Mother of God” and preaching that Christ was merely a man who had been endued with the Holy Spirit.

(36)  The Nestorian Christians who rode with Chingis Khan were Kerait Mongols.

(45)  His was the first great empire to know religious freedom and when the first western visitors reached Karakorum they were amused to find a city where churches, mosques, and temples stood side by side.

… and as a gesture to “consumer protection,” the death penalty was prescribed for merchants who allowed themselves to go bankrupt for the third time.

(60)  Apart from achieving its obvious purpose, the great hunt, which was controlled throughout by messengers and signals, must also have given the Mongol soldiers practical experience of the strategic principle that was to be such an essential basis of their supremacy, and which Napoleon later described as the first necessity of war, “unity of command.”

(65-66)  Napoleon said that the strength of an army, like the quantity of motion in mechanics, is estimated by the mass multiplied by the velocity, and on the basis of this formula alone the Mongol army that set out to conquer Europe, moving at more than twice the speed of its enemies, was the match for an army at least twice its size.  Yet the numerical odds against which the Mongols had been victorious were very often more than two to one and many of the principles developed and affirmed by theorists and strategists of later ages were already known to the Mongol “nation in arms” simply as military common sense.  At the end of the eighteenth century Clausewitz argued that the key to victory in all but a limited war was the destruction of an enemy’s army on the battlefield, while his most distinguished opponent, Jomini, a general on Napoleon’s staff, maintained that the key to victory was the progressive domination of the enemy’s territory;  with their usual thoroughness the Mongols believed and put into practice both theories.

(85)   The first western country to be affected by the Russian campaign was England.  Every year ships from the countries around the Baltic used to sail to Yarmouth to buy the rich herring catch, but in 1238 the people of Novgorod and its dependencies, who were preparing for the return of the Mongols and repelling the lesser incursions by opportunists in the west, kept their ships at home, while the ships from Sweden, Gotland and the Livonian coast were being used to transport the invading armies of Earl Birger and the Livonian Knights.  Consequently no ships came to England that year.  There was a glut on the herring market, merchants went bankrupt and even deep inland fdifty pickled herrings could be bought for a shilling.

…  Not only Frederick, but also King Louis IX of France and King Henry III of England received Moslem ambassadors, of whom the most notorious were the representatives of the sinister “Old Man of the Mountains” who commanded the Ismaili “Order of the Assassins."

(86-87)  In a conservative, reactionary and superstitious age, Frederick II stood out as a progressive and enlightened despot.  The grandson of Frederick Barbarossa and King Roger II of Sicily, he had been brought up in Palermo as a proud Sicilian.  He spoke Latin, Greek, Italian, French, and Arabic;  he had a passion for scientific experiment;  he had studied astronomy;  and he was also an accomplished falconer and an erudite ornithologist.  Since his scholarship had led him to look upon his European contemporaries with arrogant contempt and reject their backward traditions, his reason and his curiosity had led him to reach out towards the superior world of Islam and regard its princes as his only cultural and intellectual equals.  His Moslem mercenaries and his harem so scandalized the prudish and newly ascetic Christian clergy, against whose attempts to extend their temporal power he was an implacable enemy, that they gave him the nickname “Stupor Mundi."

(96)  … in the last resort Mongols could always retreat faster than any European army could advance.

(105)  In Germany it was said that the Tartars were the lost tribes of Israel and that Jews were smuggling arms to them, using barrels which they pretended were filled with poisoned wine, with the result that at several border posts Jewish merchants were indiscriminately slaughtered.

(110)  Among eight Mongol prisoners captured in Austria durring this reconaissance there was an Englishman.  He had once been a Templar, but after being banished from England for an unknown crime, he had travelled through the Middle East and entered the Mongol service as an interpreter.  It was said that he spoke seven languages.

(111)  Venetian merchants had provided the Mongols’ intelligence service with most of its information about the distribution of the European armies and the political allegiances of their princes, and Subedei would have been unlikely to allow an army to threaten so valuable an ally.

(116)  John of Plano Carpini was to travel through Russia and deliver his letter [from the Pope] in person to the “King of the Tartars.”

Friar John was the most experienced and distinguished of the ambassadors.  Aged about sixty, he had been born in Plano Carpini, a town near Perugia now known as Magione, and had been one of Saint Francis’s first disciples.  He was a jovial monk whose loyalty and solicitude for his brethren had earned him their love and respect and whose charm and judgement had won him the friendship of the Bohemian and Silesian royal families.  He was so heavily built and overweight that while he had been provincial vicar of Saxony he had found it easier to forsake the dignity of a horse to travel through the countryside on the back of a donkey.

(139)  Sergius maintained that the khan favoured the Christians and was contemplating baptism, but the friars could see for themselves that the worthy successor to Chingis Khan was careful to appear impartial, sharing his patronage equally among the religions of his subjects and diplomatically attending all their important ceremonies.  His mother Sorkaktani, who had died soon after his election, had been a Christian all her life, but she had set him a judicious example by founding a richly endowed Moslem college in Bukhara.

…  Archaeological research has revealed that it [Karakorum] covered an area of about one and a half square miles with suburbs beyond its four gates and Friar William [of Rubruck] was probably underestimating its size.  It contained twelve Buddhist, Taoist and Shamanist temples, two Moslem mosques, one Nestorian Christian church and palaces for members of the imperial family and court officials.
NB:  William of Rubruck wrote an account of his visit to the Khan

(149)  Just as the death of Ogedei had saved Christendom, the death of Mangku saved Islam.

(155)  The battle of Ain Jalut has been recorded as one of the most decisive and significant battles in the history of the world.  It was not a conclusive victory in itself and it was no dishonor to Georgian, Armenian and Mongol arms that the soldiers fought so well against such odds, but it destroyed the myth of the Mongols’ invincibility, it broke the momentum of their conquests and it marked the day when Islam was returned towards triumph from the brink of oblivion.  From that time onwards, while confusion and discord divided their enemies, the Mamluks flourished, the final methodical expulsion of the crusaders from Palestine began and Christian influence in Asia was eclipsed.

Tuesday, September 6, 2022

Dancing in the Streets: A History of Collective Joy

 Dancing in the Streets:  A History of Collective Joy by Barbara Ehrenreich

NY:  Henry Holt and Company, 2006
ISBN-13:  978-0-8050-5723-2

(page 2-3 )  Emile Durkheim's notion of _collective effervescence_:  the ritually induced passion or ecstasy that cements social bonds and, he proposed, forms the ultimate basis of religion.

(6)  But as the anthropologist Michael Taussig writes, "It's the ability to become _possessed_... that signifies to Europeans awesome Otherness if not downright savagery."  Trance was what many of those wild rituals seemed to lead up to. and for Eyuropeans, it represented the very heart of darkness - a place beyond the human self.

(10)  [Victor Turner] recognized collective ecstasy as a universal capacity and saw it as an expression of what he called _communitas_, meaning, roughly, the spontaneous love and solidarity that can that can arise within a community of equals.

(11)  The self-loss that participants sought in ecstatic ritual was not through physical merger with another person but through a kind of spiritual merger with the group.

(23)  In his justly popular book _Grooming, Gossip, and the Evolution of Language_, the British anthropologist Robin Dunbar argues for an optimal Paleolithic group size of about 150.

(24)  "Dance," as a neuroscientist put it, is "the biotechnology of group formation."

(33)  As Aldous Huxley once observed, "Ritual dances provide a religious experience that seems more satisfying and convincing than any other...  It is with their muscles that humans most easily obtain knowledge of the divine."

(44)  The rise of social hierarchy, anthropologists agree, goes hand in hand with the rise of militarism and war, which are in their own way also usually hostile ot the danced rituals of the archaic past.

(67)  E. R. Dodds, in his famous _The Greeks and the Irrational_, suggested that hair-tossing might be a universal hallmark of religious ecstasy.
NB:  head banging

(141)  The crushing weight of other people's judgments - imagined or real - would help explain the frequent onset of depression at the time of a perceived or anticipated failure...

(183)  Or, as some revisionist social psychologists put it very recently, the effect of fascism was to convince social scientists that "groups are inherently dangerous."

(186)  We begin with an important distinction:  The mass fascist rallies were not festivals or ecstatic rituals;  they were spectacles, designed by a small group of leaders for the edification of the many.
NB:  Society of the Spectacle - my notes are at

(186-187)  At Nuremberg, as at countless other rallies in Nazi Germany and fascist Italy, the only spectacle on display was the military, the only legitimate form of motion the march.
NB:  No dancing

(208)  "rioting" ...according to LInda Martin and Kerry Segrave in their book _Anti-Rock:  The Opposition to Rock 'n' Roll_, "just involved kids dancing in the aisles at theaters;  jiving in their seats;  and stomping, clapping, and yelling a lot - having a good time, in short.  The authorities thought an audience should sit quietly and sedately, perhaps clapping a little at the end of the performance."
NB:  Applause in time in Europe and Latin America, English versus American debate

(211)  The motionless perception required of an audience takes effort, especially when the performance involves the rhythmic motions of others.  As we saw in chapter 1, recent research in neuroscience suggests that thte neuronal mechanisms underlying the perception of motion by another person are closely linked to the _execution_ of that motion by the perceiver.  To see a man marching or dancing, swaying as he plays the saxophone, or simply waving his arms to draw melodies from an orchestra is to ready oneself internally to join in the marching, dancing, swaying, or arm waving.

(214)  NB:  Only one footnote mentions the jitterbugs, none about ragtime and jazz

(218)  Thomas A. Dorsey  "Black music calls for movement!"  Mahalia Jackson wrote, "I want my hands... my feet... my whole body to say all that is in me.  I say 'Don't let the devil steal the beat from the Lord!'  The Lord doesn't like us to act dead.  If you feel it, tap your feet a little = dance to the glory of the Lord!'"

(225)  For most people in the world today, the experience of collective ecstasy is likely to be found, if it is found at all, not in a church or at a concert or rally but at a sports event.  Football, baseball, basketball, and hockey in the United States;  soccer worldwide:  These games now provide what the sports sociologist Allen Guttmann calls "Saturanalia-like occasions for the uninhibited expression of emotion which are tightly controlled in our ordinary lives."

(226)  Sports stadiums, however are round, so "the spectator confronts the emotion apparent on the faces of other spectators."  People may say they are going to see the Browns or the A's or Manchester, but they are are also going to see one another, and to become part of a mass in which excitement builds by bouncing across the playing field, from one part of the stadium to the other.
NB:  No discussion of Roman and Byzantine sports as politics;  no soccer war

(248)  Not only has the possibility of collective joy been largely marginalized to the storefront churches of the poor and the darkened clubs frequented by the young, but the very source of this joy - other people, including strangers - no longer holds much appeal.  In today's world, other people have become an obstacle to our individual pursuits.

(251)  The aspect of "civilization" that is most hostile to festivity is not capitalism or industrialism - both of which are fairly recent innovations - but social hierarchy, which is far more ancient. When one class, or ethnic group or gender, rules over a population of subordinates, it comes to fear the empowering rituals of the subordinates as a threat to civil order.

(255)  It is a measure of our general deprivation that the most common referent for _ecstasy_ in usage today is not an experience but a drug, MDMA, that offers fleeting feelings of euphoria and connectedness.

(259)  People must find, in their movement, the immediate joy of solidarity, if only because, in the face of overwhelming state and corporate power, solidarity is their sole source of strength.

Penelope Reed Doob _The Idea of the Labyrinth:  From Classical Antiquity Through the Middle Ages_
Ithaca, NY:  Cornell University Press, 1990

Gustave Le Bon _The Crowd:  A Study of the Popular Mind_
NY:  Harper Torchbooks, 1971

William H. McNeill _Keeping Together in Time:  Dance and Drill in Human History-
Cambridge, MA:  Harvard University Press, 1995

No _Crowds and Power_ by Elias Canetti
No _Samba_ by Alma Guillermoprieta