photo by nacrowe
in the proud tradition of THOMAS PAINE's influential late 18th-century think-piece "COMMON SENSE," TIMOTHY SNYDER, a HISTORY professor at YALE and member of the COUNCIL ON FOREIGN RELATIONS, offers offers twenty insights with historical context from last century into staying vigilant now in the age of TRUMP in his thoughtful call to action ON TYRANNY (TIM DUGGAN BOOKS, 2017).
now being a period where our political and civic guardrails are continually debased, diminished and dismissed by a homegrown FASCIST leader, these lessons provide hope and a game plan of sorts for how to go about as MARIO SAVIO once term it, "put[ting] your body upon the gears" of the machine.
these lessons include (from the book):
my sense of this publication is that yes, as individuals we can be manipulated. yes we can be gaslit and primed through language, symbols and other mass media techniques at the disposal of the state.
but what we can do as individuals is TAKE RESPONSIBILITY and EMPOWER OURSELVES AS INDIVIDUALS by not rely on others (talking heads on TV, far right-wing politicians) to determine what we feel and think when confronted with fascism.
make no mistake, that is what we are living through right now. as SNYDER put it "post-truth is proto-fascism." read books, inform yourself, be critical of your news diet and where it comes from, engage in your community, talk to people, make connections with your neighbors, support print journalism, learn new words and challenge yourself. TAKE RESPONSIBILITY. the time of disaffected hipsterism is dead or we all will bear its wrath when others step in and think and make decisions on your behalf.
and for fuck's sake, register to vote. if you don't know how click HERE to a website (vote.gov) that will guide your through the process in your state. let's vote this bastard out.
photo by nacrowe
no, this book has nothing to do with that criminal ALEX JONES and INFO WARS. sorry BILLY CORGAN.
INFORMATION WARS (ATLANTIC MONTHLY PRESS, 2019) is a recent offering by RICHARD STENGEL, former UNDER SECRETARY OF STATE FOR PUBLIC DIPLOMACY AND PUBLIC AFFAIRS under BARACK OBAMA from 2013-2016, that addresses the weaponized DISINFORMATION methods used by our adversaries in recent years. specifically the RUSSIAN FEDERATION and ISIS. STENGEL also outlines the US STATE DEPARTMENT's efforts to combat this new hybrid threat and how ultimately TRUMP and his allies mirrored these tactics to gain power.
you know, some light weekend reading.
i guess first it is useful to define what DISINFORMATION actually means, which is the deliberate use of false information in order to manipulate a subject. this is different then MISINFORMATION, which is wrong information provided by mistake with no ill will involved and PROPAGANDA, which is the use of information in general to manipulate a subject.
as you can see, DISINFORMATION is another thing entirely from PROPAGANDA, which STENGEL argues is a more neutral entity on par with RHETORIC that can be used for good or evil. DISINFORMATION is meant entirely to obfuscate objective truth and question the nature of information itself, leading someone ultimately to determine that everything is relative and not worth fighting for. essentially that is the end goal of a DISINFORMATION campaign. it is essentially an attack on INFORMATION.
and that is the world we live in currently, where REPUBLICANS mirror DISINFORMATION tactics to the point that most AMERICANS have shut out the pursuit of truth entirely.
when this book is at its strongest is when it illustrates succinctly why DISINFORMATION is so effective using numerous case studies. you really get the sense that AMERICA is just entering into a new reality that much of EUROPE has already dealt with through these RUSSIAN HYBRID ATTACKS in places like GERMANY, UKRAINE, UNITED KINGDOM and THE BALTICS.
how do we combat this threat? stay vigilant and question the veracity of your information diet. do some research. don't be a passive consumer and don't trust what you see on FACEBOOK.
it all seems hopeless. as a former ENGLISH teacher i feel hopeless given how bad our collective MEDIA LITERACY skills are given the state of public education today. who knows? maybe next generation.
great book. depressing as all hell, but eye-opening and impressive in its scope and focus. definitely worth reading if you get the opportunity.
photo manipulation by nacrowe
HAL ASHBY's adaptation of the JERZY KOSIŃSKI novel BEING THERE (UNITED ARTISTS, 1979) starring PETER SELLERS in arguably his greatest role in a career of stellar high points (DR. STRANGELOVE, LOLITA) is truly transcendent film. it follows the career trajectory of a lowly manor servant named CHAUNCEY GARDINER whose whole world literally is a garden he tends on premise to that of the american presidency.
the genius of the novel and the film adaptation is the delight to which it manipulates and delights in the inherent malleability of language to evoke separate meanings to different audiences. throughout the novel, GARDINER answers questions in relation to the one thing he knows about, his master's garden, yet everyone around him identifies in his words parables and coded sage wisdom about foreign policy and international monetary policy.
every time i watch a public event and then see how such gets filtered through our media landscape, whether such be sports, politics or film/tv, it only reinforces this view of mine that meaning is contextual to the audience receiving it.
i feel that KOSIŃSKI knew this loophole implicitly and created a scenario to play out this fantasy to great effect. its numbing that such actually came to pass with the TRUMP era. the idea that this clown can say literally anything and sycophantic echo chambers will deliberate a rationale post hoc is the great sociopolitical challenge of this anonymous, multi-interpretative, post-meaning internet age. to me this narrative gets to the heart of that dilemma and is always painful to watch.
BEING THERE is a great film that should be shown in schools everywhere. please seek it out.
photo manipulation by nacrowe
V FOR VENDETTA (WARNER BROS, 2005) is so prescient to RIGHT NOW it is scary.
originally conceived as graphic novel by ALAN MOORE and DAVID LLOYD during the height of THATCHERISM in early 80s britain, this narrative was meant as an extrapolation of how democracies are corrupted by right-wing governments who use fear over security and economic concerns to limit freedom and ultimately police and persecute their own citizens.
THE WATCHOWSKIS screenplay adaptation is stellar and the superb directing by JAMES MCTEIGUE is really an accomplishment given that main character is wearing a GUY FAWKES mask throughout the film.
whats interesting for me about this film is that it serves as a touchstone example for the motivation of why people give up their rights and how they sell each other out. i saw this time and time again abroad having lived under or visited various nations run by military dictatorships, communist totalitarian regimes or compromised struggling "democracies" in various continents. i've seen things. known people that were targeted by regimes as undesirables and others that disappeared after publishing unwanted social media posts. i've seen these tactics in person and felt that fear for my personal safety abroad, so at this point i feel like an expert at identifying the moves leaders in these situations make in order to divide and weaken the power of their own population.
it all boils down to two things in my mind: 1) create an "other" in your midst to blame for a domestic problem and 2) convince your followers that this "other" is to blame and needs to have their rights limited.
the fact that the UNITED STATES has had its political and social safeguards tested by a racist, fear-mongering bigot and sexual predator as its leader is beyond depressing, almost as depressing as the morons that continue to support him. having seen the long-term damage having such a despot inflicts on the psyche of a nation confirms my belief that my fellow americans have no idea what future suffering they have brought upon themselves.
children in cages. where is our moral center?
and for what did these supporters seek to gain, really? what were they trying to defend? racism? sexism? transphobia? just like in V FOR VENDETTA, our motivations for electing this clown were out of fear.
and fear is doing us in right now.
art by nacrwoe
a little less than two years ago LJ and I directed a green-screen video for our friends, the feminist acoustic duo DOLLTITS (THERINA BELLA & MAGIE SERPICA) for their stridently political song "Locker Room Talk." looking back on it now it is still one of my favorite videos that i edited, even though my skills have vastly improved since then. i say that disregarding the fact that it got a WRITE-UP in the NEW YORK TIMES by music critic JON CARAMANICA.
i'm proud that in this day and age where it is easy to feel not empowered and totally helpless to world events, that i was involved in a creative work that said FUCK YOU TO DONALD TRUMP. still makes me smile.
the lyrics for this song are ingenious, as songwriter BELLA used TRUMP's own words against him, cleverly re-framing his unaltered tweets and public statements. i have to say now that we are in the back-half of his (hopefully) first term that this song has aged just fine. his misogyny, racism and pigheadedness is just as prominent and corrosive to the fabric of american life as it was when he got elected, no doubt even more so in the wake of PUERTO RICO, CHARLOTTESVILLE, THE MUSLIM BAN, STACKING OF FEDERAL JUDGES, GUTTING OF THE US INTELLIGENCE APPARATUS, COZYING UP TO FOREIGN DICTATORS and countless other corrupt infractions that have permanently stained the reputation of our troubled nation.
so yeah, i'm still proud of this video. especially that toilet paper basketball shot sequence at the end. i came up with it, oh well, but i still think its brilliant.
art by nacrowe
man back in the day i worshiped this dude.
or at least i projected my insecurities as a young adult on him. as a lanky white dude of average appearance i loved the self-made gusto in which he created a whole interior world unto the lyrics and soundscapes of THE SMASHING PUMPKINS. his music was lush and inventive, often exploring textures and feels throughout his songs that almost served as little operatic suites. i can definitely see the SHOEGAZE, 70s PROG ROCK and METAL influences years later, but he definitely made them his own.
what i didn't foresee was how poorly the actual person dated past his prime. now i just see a sad old narcissist that's more of a cultural vampire than any breed of visionary as he once was back in the 90s. to tell you the truth, his support of DONALD TRUMP and conspiracy theories surrounding OBAMA has made me reevaluate everything about this dude.
in old interviews BILLY CORGAN would often opine about the then-current state of rock music and his place within it, often posturing his latest release as not being properly appreciated by an elite music press that didn't share his mid-western sensibilities. except this was all complete bullshit. CORGAN to this day positions himself as an outsider because it relieves him of taking responsibility for his actions, like bad career choices (cough, cough, ZWAN) and treating his fellow musicians horribly.
i love the fact that the fawning press that once celebrated his accomplishments (ROLLING STONE, SPIN, NME, etc.) are now all largely legacy publications or essentially rendered irrelevant in a new media environment ripe with blogs and websites (PITCHFORK, CONSEQUENCE OF SOUND, STEREOGUM, etc.) that question his place in the pantheon of 90s alt rock luminaries. these new gatekeepers are more in line aesthetically with bands like PAVEMENT than the THE SMASHING PUMPKINS. and CORGAN is pissed painting himself predictably as the victim.
its crazy because i still love listening to GISH and SIAMESE DREAM from time to time, but the dude is just such a disappointment. its a real bummer because he was one of the most gifted songwriters of his era, capable of creating lilting delicate ballads and blazing neo-SABBATH riffage on the same album side.
too bad he is a shitty, self-involved narcissistic bully that preys on his bandmates and paints himself a victim of circumstance, opportunity, geography, timing, waah waaah waaaaah waaaaaaaaaaah.
i think it just goes to show that you really have to separate the art from the artist at times and for me, CORGAN is the poster boy of that. i have accepted that the same person that wrote "1979", "Stand Inside Your Love", "By Starlight", "Mayonaise" "Perfect" and "Rhinoceros" is the same fellow that repeatedly goes on INFOWARS.