by Anthony Robinson Jr.
“You assist an evil system most effectively by obeying its orders and decrees. An evil system never deserves such allegiance. Allegiance to it means partaking of the evil. A good person will resist an evil system with his or her whole soul.” – Gandhi
CCA (Corrections Corporation of America) and CDCR (California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation) is the epitome of the above quote, and it is not enough for those reading this to agree with the truths delineated herein; we need a process that reorganizes the structure of our humanity, because as the above quote states, “Allegiance to it means partaking of the evil.”
“A criminal justice system is a mirror in which a whole society can see the darker outlines of its face.” – “The Rich Get Richer and the Poor Get Prison” by Jeffrey H. Reiman
I was transferred from TCCF in Mississippi to La Palma Correctional Center in Arizona due to a captain to captain realignment. I was not afforded a committee hearing nor told where I was going, which is in violation of California Code of Regulations.
I had to endure a three day bus ride shackled hand and foot to another inmate – having to use the restroom in a 3-foot hole with urine and feces piled up due to the inability to flush – even though the courts have already declared this to be unconstitutional, stating that it is illegal to bus inmates shackled hand and foot to another person for more than 18 hours with no layover. CCA and CDCR are still illegally busing hundreds of inmates in their shell game transfer scheme. With no due process, prisoners, where is thy victory?
Before I left TCCF in Mississippi, I was contacted by an inmate, Fredrick Lee, asking for my assistance in a matter wherein correctional officers (COs) illegally sent him to the hole (Ad-Seg, or administrative segregation) claiming to have found an inmate-manufactured weapon during a cell search. The problem is that upon finishing the cell search, COs gave inmate Lee a cell search receipt stating there was no contraband found.
When Lee went to his hearing, the senior hearing officer who found him guilty stated that it wasn’t until later, upon inventorying the property, that they discovered an inmate-manufactured weapon. The problem is there was no property taken during the initial cell search and the receipt was given to inmate Lee concluding the matter.
It was not until they came back hours later after moving inmate Lee to a different building that they decided to put him in Ad-Seg after hatching up a plot to hit him with the trumped charge – as a result, adding about 120 days to his sentence; he was due to go home in less than a year. So if a man can’t even do his time in peace without having to worry about being convicted by corrupt staff in one of CCA-CDCR’s many kangaroo processes, prisoners, where is thy victory?
Evan Scott, who came up here to La Palma with me on that long bus ride, was in Mississippi and given an illegal sentence after being found guilty of refusing to take a urinary analysis test. Although he had the original receipt showing that he took the test and a staff witness stated he took the test, not only did TCCF find him guilty, but on appeal the CDCR CBU (Contract Beds Unit that transfers prisoners to out-of-state prisons) grievance coordinators upheld the guilty finding stating that the preponderance of evidence supported it.
The specific act Mr. Scott was charged with was refusal of urinary analysis. Mr. Scott provided physical evidence that he did in fact take the urinary analysis test by providing a receipt of his test results, signed by them on the form dictated by their policy. When corrupt grievance coordinators like Flowers and Tabers are in charge of the process and it is in their interest to ignore evidence that will grant you relief, prisoners, where is thy victory?
In today’s experience of incarceration or being imprisoned, the prisoner finds himself in a mythical reality of oppression and exploitation wherein the systems are designed to portray the effect of rehabilitation but, on the contrary, result in an adverse effect upon the prisoner’s psyche, condition and wellbeing.
We must get back to being the custodians of our humanity. Every prisoner reading this knows too well that the institutions are not designed to rehabilitate. Why are we continuing to cooperate with a process that is designed to debilitate us?
As a prisoner class we must recognize the New Underground Railroad’s motto: “We are the ones we’ve been waiting for.” When officials of CDCR and CCA have proven time and time again they operate outside of the law and policy, then it would be against the law for us to abide by such “authority.”
The lawmaker comes to need the outlaw and, in needing him, he creates him.
The mass of prisoners confined in these prison industrial plantations are being further conditioned and made into outlaws as they continue to rely on examples of rule breaking and illegal conduct exercised by those agents – correctional officers, wardens, counselors, psychiatrists etc. – who have custodial authority over them. These individuals in their official capacity are the carpetbaggers of the prison industrial complex, and they are paid to ensure that the prison slave laborer is properly conditioned and attuned to allow CDCR to get the maximum amount of labor out of him without question or rebellion.
Mass incarceration is in essence an economic system – and if we are true and sincere about wanting to change this system, then we must change the economic scope of the system. In the words of the brothas and sistas from the Free Alabama Movement, “We must let the crops rot in the field if we aren’t receiving the benefit of the harvest.”
Filing grievances and appeals has proven no longer effective in regards to a system that conveniently shows no regard for its own rules and policies. We as a prisoner class have employed many strategies to organize a change of this system, and as our aggressive imaginations continue to work out tactics and solutions to carry out our vision of a more humane process of doing time, we cannot afford to leave any stone unturned.
A great call for a prisoner labor strike throughout the states where the prison industrial complex thrives in its exploitation of human beings as capital incentives has been made by the Free Alabama Movement and the New Underground Railroad Movement because we recognize that in the mass of prisoners enslaved by this system, the same hands that pray at night seeking to be set free of these chains are the same hands that get up in the morning and are set to work in the industries that allow the corporate carpetbaggers to profit off of your chains. What incentive do they have to set you free?
Prisoners, thy victory is in organizing a labor strike that forces them to look through the economic scope at the reverse end where they can see their profits dwindle until they come to the table in an open and humane way, where we reorganize the parameters of this system – its laws, policies, operations manuals etc.
“Let the crops rot in the field” is a proven strategy that was passed down to us from our ancestors from the slave plantations that was used to disrupt the economics of the field (i.e., the prison industrial complex). The profit was reaped when the crops were harvested from the field and sold. When the slave master had invested all that he owned into his next crop (of prison factories), the slaves would wait until just before the harvest and rebel against the slave system by “going on strike” and causing the crops to rot in the field.
When the laborers stop working, the free labor prison system collapses because there isn’t any revenue coming in to finance the system that keeps 30,000 people imprisoned in Alabama, 23,000 in Mississippi, 160,000 in California and 2.5 million nationwide, who still must be fed, still must be provided medical care, still must have lights, water and basic hygiene.
These obligations and costs don’t stop, but the means to pay for them – the revenue that is produced by our labor – stops when we stop.
Prisoners, here is thy victory: Stop allowing your hands to be used to reinforce your chains through your own labor and let the crops rot in the field. Contact FAM or the New Underground Railroad Movement to organize a labor strike at your facility and work to organize your family and friends as well to stop supporting the corporations that invest in prison slave labor.
“We are the ones we’ve been waiting for!”
Prisoners may contact me at: Mr. Anthony Robinson Jr., P.O. Box 55185, Stockton, CA 95205. Outside people and organizations may contact me at: Mr. Anthony Robinson Jr., P-67144, LPCC MB-119, 5501 N. La Palma Rd, Eloy, AZ 85131.
Power to the people who use power as a process!
Mission accomplished for Juventus. They not only defeated Manchester City, 1-0, but secured their advancement in the Champions League by demonstrating the will to suffer, and a certain level of fluency that will please the critics.
At home, in front of their own fans, many were not quite sure what to expect from this Bianconeri side. They may be collecting Serie A wins but their performances have been far from convincing. To make matters worse, when they are deemed favourites for the win, they have a tendency to underwhelm.
Deployed in a 3-5-2 formation, manager Massimiliano Allegri did well to choose a strategy that would effectively exploit Manchester City’s indiscipline in midfield and release his attack. Benefitting from the growing chemistry between his players, Juventus played as a unit and relied on their instincts with so many players finally demonstrating their value to the side.
It’s difficult to mention the world value and not immediately note or rather superfluously compliment Paul Pogba’s performance. While it must be said that Fernandinho and Yaya Toure’s desire to push forward and contribute to the offence allowed Pogba a direct and available channel to dribble his way through, the manner in which he charged forward, remained alert to the wise options and showed off his glorious technique was mesmeric to say the very least. Long limbs on display and simply bursting with confidence, perhaps the quality that impressed the most was that at long last, the Frenchman played like a true veteran, a man fully aware of his strengths.
He did not second-guess each movement, he didn’t slow down play to make sure he was making the right decision and he didn’t go backwards. He believed in everything he did and thus affected the game in a manner he simply couldn’t manage in the early part of the season.
It certainly helps that alongside him, he had Alex Sandro, a player who continues to impress the fans a little more each day. Not only is this a wing-back who can actually deliver accurate crosses (a rarity at Juve), but one who is also tactically adept. Aware of how to facilitate offensive movements by making the right runs and taking up the right positions, he enhanced Pogba’s play. A man who reacts quickly and instinctively, Sandro’s determination, hard work and ability to provide the assists are making all the difference, helping Mario Mandzukic to score the winner of the evening.
While the Croatian is the one who many will praise for his sacrifices on the pitch and fine goal that ensured all three points, it is difficult not to note the impressive work of Paulo Dybala alongside him. Italian newspapers have been quick to note how much muscle the Argentine has gained, how his physique is improving and how much ground he covers for Juve. But one quality that must be noted when describing the player’s development is how much more of a predator he has become.
Busying the centre-backs all night long, Dybala was consistently on hand to receive from Pogba, to position himself well and to diligently occupy the space between the lines, demonstrating his growing understanding of how to work with the midfield. Furthermore, like club legend Alessandro Del Piero, he’s also doing a fine job of drawing out fouls in dangerous areas; if only the team had another Andrea Pirlo who could score from all the set pieces.
While those three performances stood out, it must be said that each player worked incredibly hard to secure the result. From goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon’s decisive saves to Andrea Barzagli’s narrowing down of the angles to hinder City’s attackers, Juventus may not be where they were last season, but they are growing and producing rather good displays despite the fact both Juan Cuadrado, Alvaro Morata and Patrice Evra were on the bench, while Sami Khedira is out with injury.
Last year, it was the win against Olympiakos that kicked everything into gear for the Old Lady, starting with the change in formation, going from a 3-5-2 into a 4-2-3-1. With so much varied talent in this squad and so many new arrivals, it has taken time for Allegri to find the right balance. This season, there is not right formation, there is only tactical versatility and while the team is not quite there yet, attractive patterns of play are emerging to allow for optimism.
A hard-fought win means Juventus now top their Champions League group, needing only a draw against Sevilla to solidify their position and ensure they avoid a clash against the heavyweights in the next round.
Mina Rzouki appears on BBC 5live, BBC Sportsworld, BT Sports, CNN, ESPN and Football Espana. You can follow her on Twitter @Minarzouki.
LINDA WERTHEIMER, HOST:
Protests over racial discrimination on college campuses are leading to some swift responses and pledges of reform by college administrators. Even as the protests quiet down with the Thanksgiving holiday, NPR’s Kirk Siegler reports activists are pledging a prolonged fight.
KIRK SIEGLER, BYLINE: In Northeast Los Angeles, the small liberal arts Occidental College bills itself as one of the most diverse campuses in the U.S. Just over 40 percent of Oxy students are of color, yet it’s pretty easy to find people like Raihana Haynes-Venerable. She’s a junior from Chandler, Ariz., who says she faces subtle and sometimes overt racism on campus almost every day.
RAIHANA HAYNES-VENERABLE: For me, it’s been changing the culture of Occidental College.
SIEGLER: For her, that starts here, inside the offices of the school’s president and top administrators.
HAYNES-VENERABLE: She pulled the – my partner is a person of color.
SIEGLER: Inspired by the protests at the University of Missouri, Haynes-Venerable and a multiracial mix of fellow student took over this building for a week, camping out on air mattresses, holding workshops on diversity. Sympathetic professors have even held their classes here.
And where are all the administrators?
HAYNES-VENERABLE: They’re gone. They’ve completely gone.
SIEGLER: These students gave administrators a list of 14 demands to address what they say are systemic racial biases on campus. Student activists say their voices often aren’t heard in classes. They feel isolated on this campus and are routinely profiled by security at night. Among their list of demands is a fully-funded black studies program, an increase in tenured faculty of color and the creation of a vice president for diversity.
HAYNES-VENERABLE: I think through the teach-ins we’ve been hosting, the workshops and the personal dialogues we’ve been having with each other, we’ve really created the Occidental that we were promised and that we wanted.
SIEGLER: Now, what’s happening here at Oxy is not unique. At nearby Claremont McKenna College, student protests led to the resignation of a high-ranking administrator over comments that were seen as racially charged. At Princeton, students celebrated after school administrators promised to consider removing tributes to President Woodrow Wilson, a supporter of racial segregation.
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: This is a long-distance race. This is not a sprint. It is just beginning right here, right now.
SIEGLER: In all of these protests across the country, the students say they feel marginalized. Benjamin Reese, chief diversity officer for Duke University, says it’s a frustration that’s long been raised in the wider black community, especially now, with the recent outcry over police shootings against unarmed black men.
BENJAMIN REESE: I examine and see what’s happening on college campuses as happening in the context of the kind of struggle that’s going on nationally around race.
SIEGLER: Reese says it’s a movement to take seriously, but it’s far too early to compare it to the black student protests of the Civil Rights era, as some have, though he says of some of the early successes are remarkable. At Occidental, administrators have already outlined and, in some cases, are showing how they’ll comply with all but one of the students’ 14 demands – that of the resignation of the president. Marty Sharkey is the college spokesman.
MARTY SHARKEY: We want the students to know that we’re ready, and we know we must join them at the table.
SIEGLER: You know, if you could do these things so quickly, why didn’t – why didn’t you do them, you know, years ago or months ago?
SHARKEY: That’s a great question. I think there are some items on there that I think have been issues that have been out there for a while. Others are newer requests, so that’s why they haven’t been responded to. And everyone acknowledges that there’s more to be done.
SIEGLER: The student protesters say they plan to hold the administrators accountable to that in the weeks and months ahead, even though their occupation of Occidental’s admin building has ended. Kirk Siegler, NPR News, Los Angeles. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.
As a growing number of Walmart employees began demanding higher wages, with some also calling for workers to unionize, the nation’s largest retailer hired one of the world’s largest defense contractors to follow the online activities of critical employees.
A lengthy report from Bloomberg Businessweek details Walmart’s multi-pronged approach to keeping track of its employees in response to rising pro-union sentiment, like calling the FBI Joint Terrorism Task Forces when it learned that supporters of the Occupy movement might protest Walmart HQ.
The part that really caught our attention was Walmart’s use of Lockheed Martin, a company associated more with fighter jets than labor disputes.
But since 2011, the folks at Lockheed’s data analytics division have offered a product called LM Wisdom, which the company’s own brochure [PDF] markets as a tool for fighting things like drug/guns/human trafficking, organized crime, and gang violence, but which Walmart used in 2012 and 2013 to track Walmart staffers.
According to testimony in a recent National Labor Relations Board case involving Walmart’s alleged history of retaliating against employees who protest, the retailer’s global security division hired Lockheed leading up to Black Friday 2012 “to help source open social media sites.”
Lockheed analysts would follow the Twitter and Facebook feeds of employees and then report company-related activity back to Walmart HQ in Bentonville. The retailer was also kept up to date on the actions of non-employee organizers and activists who took part in protests. The defense contractor also helped prepare a map of likely routes for five “Ride for Respect” bus caravans destined for a protest at HQ.
While it may be creepy for Walmart to spend so much time and effort following the legally protected actions of its employees, there is nothing inherently illegal about tracking someone’s public social media feed. If you write something where anyone can read it, don’t expect your employer to turn a blind eye.
And some who were monitored tell Bloomberg they knew that Walmart was following their every public statement.
“I sent a couple of fake Tweets about where we would be or what we were doing. I don’t know if it worked,” says one employee who was fired in 2012 and is now working for OUR Walmart. “I wonder how people feel about Walmart wasting money by hiring Lockheed Martin to read my Tweets. I wouldn’t be happy about that if I was a shareholder.”
But if Walmart used this information for the purpose of punishing dissident employees, then it may have crossed the line. In 2014, the NLRB accused the retailer of retaliating against nearly 70 employees — 20 of whom were fired — who took part in the 2012 protests.
Walmart maintains these were not punitive measures against employees who exercised their right to protest, but were instead about enforcing the company’s attendance policies.
“We are firmly committed to the safety and security of our 2.2 million associates as well as the 260 million customers we serve each week,” Walmart said in a statement to Consumerist. “It’s important to remember that Walmart is the largest company in the world with 11,500 stores in 28 countries. Unfortunately, there are occasions when outside groups attempt to deliberately disrupt our business and on behalf of our customers and associates we take action accordingly.”
How Walmart Keeps an Eye on Its Massive Workforce [Bloomberg Businessweek]
Protests over racial discrimination on college campuses are leading to some swift responses and pledges of reform by college administrators. Even as the protests themselves appear to be quieting down ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday, activists are pledging a prolonged fight.
In northeast Los Angeles, the small, liberal arts Occidental College bills itself as one of the most diverse campuses in the U.S. Just over 40 percent of “Oxy” students are of color, and President Obama himself attended Occidental for two years before transferring to Columbia University.
Yet it’s easy to find people like Raihana Haynes-Venerable.
She’s a junior from Chandler, Ariz. who says she faces subtle — and sometimes overt — racism on campus almost every day.
For her, changing the culture of Occidental College starts inside the offices of the school’s president and top administrators.
Inspired by the protests at University of Missouri, Haynes-Venerable and a multi-racial mix of fellow students took over an administrative building for a week — camping out on air mattresses, holding workshops on diversity.
Sympathetic professors have even held classes in the building.
Where are the administrators?
“They’re gone, they completely cleared out,” Haynes-Venerable says.
These students gave administrators a list of 14 demands to address what they say are systemic racial biases on campus.
The student activists say their voices often aren’t heard in classes, they feel isolated on campus and are routinely profiled by security at night.
Among their list of demands is a fully funded Black Studies program, an increase in tenured faculty of color and the creation of a vice president for diversity.
“I think through the teach-ins we’ve been hosting, the workshops and the personal dialogues we’ve been having with each other, we’ve really created the Occidental that we were promised and that we wanted,” Haynes-Venerable says.
What’s happening here at Oxy is not unique. At nearby Claremont McKenna College, students protests led to the resignation of a high-ranking administrator over comments that were seen as racially charged.
At Princeton, students celebrated after school administrators promised to consider removing tributes to President Woodrow Wilson, a supporter of racial segregation.
In all these protests across the country, students say they feel marginalized. Benjamin Reese, chief diversity officer for Duke University, says it’s a frustration that’s long been raised in the wider black community, especially now with the recent outcry over police shootings against unarmed black men.
“I examine and see what’s happening on college campuses as happening in the context of the kind of struggle that’s going on nationally around race,” he says.
Reese says it’s a movement to take seriously, but it’s far too early to compare it to the black student protests of the Civil Rights era, as some have — though he says some of the early successes are remarkable.
At Occidental, administrators have already outlined, and in some cases are showing, how they’ll comply with all but one of the students’ 14 demands — that of the resignation of the president.
“We want the students to know that we’re ready and we know we must join them at the table,” says Marty Sharkey, the college’s spokesman.
Why didn’t they act sooner?
“That’s a great question. I think there are some items on there that I think have been issues that have been out there for awhile, others are newer requests, so that’s why they haven’t been responded to,” Sharkey says.
The student protesters say they plan to hold the administrators accountable to that in the weeks and months ahead, even though their occupation of Occidental’s administrative building has ended.
Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.
With Europe enduring a major security alert after the Paris attacks, there is much discussion about what drives this current generation of radicals. The history of terrorism contains many lessons, writes Benedict Wilkinson.
At 5ft tall, with a jutting jaw, a misshapen face and a large ginger beard, Johann Most was not a particularly attractive man. Born in the mid-1840s, he contracted frostbite on his left cheek as a child. The wound became infected, suppurated, and when a surgeon eventually removed a portion of his jaw, it left a deformed face and an angry, short-tempered man.
The surgery made him something of an outcast throughout his youth, but Most eventually found work as a bookbinder, and travelled around Europe, spending his spare time writing prolifically on communism and on politics. By the early 1870s, he had made a name for himself in communist circles not least for his summary of Marx’s Das Kapital.
Over the next few years, however, Most’s radicalism exceeded even that of Marx. He moved away from communism and became an ardent, impassioned and fiery anarchist. He began to argue that words and speeches might have their role, but that the success of revolutionary socialism rested on the use of violence. For Most, what was needed was a revolution fuelled by dynamite and revolvers.
Throughout his writings, Most, like other anarchists in the late 19th Century, recognised and grappled with a fundamental problem faced by those who sought to use violence in pursuit of political change. And the basic problem, as Most saw it, was that the state was simply too strong – it was nearly always resilient enough to cope with acts of violence committed against it.
One of Most’s anarchist contemporaries, Peter Kropotkin, put the problem succinctly: “A political structure based on centuries of history cannot be destroyed with a few kilos of dynamite.”
Most’s key point was that because the state was so overwhelmingly strong, violence in and of itself could not bring about the kind of political change that the anarchists so desired. A few state officials murdered here, a few policemen there – this might irritate, anger, even upset the state, but it would not, could not, pull down the entire edifice.
So he argued that rather than using violence to overthrow the state directly, violence must be used to convey ideas about political change and, in so doing, to kindle, fan and fuel a popular revolution.
For Most, violence was a spectacle, a piece of theatre, a language for spreading ideas about political change to the masses. It was a kind of image – and just as a picture paints a thousand words, dynamite was more effective than a thousand anarchist speeches. Violence was pure propaganda.
Scroll forward 125 years or so to a very different world, a very different man, and a very different set of political ambitions. Abu Musab al-Suri was born in Aleppo in 1958 with striking blue eyes and ginger hair. Not a great deal is known about his youth with certainty, but it seems that he joined the armed wing of the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood in about 1980. At some point, he travelled to Afghanistan, that great melting pot of modern violent Islamism, where he hobnobbed with the likes of Ayman al-Zawahiri, now the leader of al-Qaeda, and Abdullah Azzam, one of its original architects.
Al-Suri eventually became one of al-Qaeda’s most influential strategic thinkers. And he has more in common with Johann Most than a ginger beard and a penchant for travel.
Like Most, al-Suri recognised a core problem with the use of terrorist violence as a strategy for achieving long-term major political objectives. Terrorism, he argued, might well irk nations and governments, but it was not enough to threaten them existentially. Governments are just too strong, political structures just too resilient. Terrorism might cause horrific destruction and terrible loss of life, but for al-Suri this was not enough to bring down a government or force it to change policies it held close to its heart.
Al-Suri therefore devised a different plan. He envisaged a global movement underpinned by an all-encompassing ideology, with violence at its very heart. Violence has two purposes. In the first instance, he argued, terrorism acts as a form of propaganda, drawing in supporters and advocates, just as Most had seen it.
This leads to stage two, when the movement, swollen with recruits, wannabes and supporters, can engage in repeated acts of violence. While these acts of violence might well be uncoordinated and small scale, in al-Suri’s vision this campaign of seemingly random violence would create mass panic and widespread popular fear. It would wear down a government until their resolve is eroded and they give in to the terrorists’ demands.
Both these stories illustrate the great problem at the heart of terrorism – what I call the Terrorists’ Dilemma. And the basic problem is that terrorists tend to desire major political change, but have very little in the way of resources to achieve that change. There is a yawning gap between what they have and what they want.
Over the history of terrorism, this core fundamental dilemma has generated numerous tactics. Groups in the Middle East and South America tried to assassinate leaders in the belief that the state would slide into disarray. Others attempted to provoke regimes to overreact, or ally themselves with organised criminals, while even less successful groups threw caution to the wind and went for massive showdowns with their regimes.
The self-styled Islamic State has tried with some – deeply troubling – success to take and occupy territory militarily. More recently, with the horrific attacks in Paris and the threats of violence in Europe, they have shown a new strategic vision that involves global ambitions. Al-Suri and Most, by contrast, tried to approach the terrorists’ dilemma in other ways – the former through an attritional war, the latter through mobilising the masses.
Underpinning all these variants of strategic terrorism is an attempt by terrorists to address a core fundamental problem – that terrorism is basically a strategy of the weak deployed against the strong. To put it another way, terrorists have very little in the way of resources, but they have massive, grandiose political objectives and desires. There is less a gap between what terrorists have and what they want, more a vast, yawning virtually unbridgeable crevasse. In trying to cross this, terrorists look not to the immediate effects of violence, but beyond to the second and third and fourth-order effects.
And this is precisely why terrorism rarely works. In a complex world, the knock-on effects of violence are not just harder to predict, but they are harder to generate and far harder to control. Terrorism is an improbable political strategy – it is not just that the odds are stacked against the terrorist, but they tower over them to the point of tumbling down.
A government attacked might overreact and legitimise the terrorist, but then again, they might not. A population witnessing violence might take up the political ideas that violence advertises and launch a full-blown popular revolution, but then again they might not. A social movement might coagulate around an ideology, and perpetrate acts of violence in its name, but then again they might not. And in truth they often don’t. When faced with the choice, a population that is not already radicalised tends to abhor terrorist violence and recoil from the terrorists.
If it is so rarely successful, why do terrorists perpetrate acts of terror? For this, we need to go back to our ginger-bearded terrorists.
One way to think about their strategic visions is as stories told about the future or as narratives predicting how events will unfold. Most tells a story in which violence sparks a revolution. Al-Suri, by contrast, describes how terrorist violence will create mass panic and erode an enemy’s resolve. At their simplest their stories say: “If we do X, then someone will do Y, and our political desires and dreams will come about.”
Both stories might sound ridiculous when distilled to their very bare bones, but the point is that both of these stories, ridiculous though they might sound, were also incredibly powerful. Both stories persuaded people to join their causes. They bound groups together, they spurred them into action. Both stories convinced and drove people to commit horrific acts. More recently, so-called Islamic State has convinced all too many to buy into its narrative, and travel to Syria and Iraq, or even to take up arms at home.
These then are powerful and, ultimately, terrifying stories that can compel people into terrible acts.
But by thinking about them as stories, we also get a glimpse into how we might go about stopping terrorists. Because there is absolutely no reason that we cannot create stories that are every bit as powerful and compelling – that convince would-be terrorists to seek other, less violent, political strategies, and persuade actual terrorists that they will not be successful.
If we look at countering terrorism in this way, the key battleground for the future is not the drone in the sky or fragile regions in the Middle East and beyond, but in the war of words, in the conflict of arguments, in the clash of stories.
And if we are to win this battleground, if we are to convince and persuade, we need credible stories. They need to fit with everyday experience, they need to be clear about the nature of violence and its effects. They need to articulate the benefits of our political system and costs of losing it. They must demonstrate and advocate the possibilities and power of peaceful choice without resort to dynamite and revolvers.
If our stories are to convince and persuade terrorists to find peaceful ways to pursue politics, then these stories must puncture the strategic logic of terrorism – but to do this, they must show that terrorism is bad strategy. They must show that violence is the worst form of propaganda.
The so-called Islamic State is known for its brutality. But it’s also hooking people in far subtler ways.
This is based on an edited transcript of Benedict Wilkinson’s Four Thought, Stories of Terrorism, which will be broadcast at 20:45 GMT, 25 November on BBC Radio 4 or listen on BBC iPlayer Radio
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As dawn broke over the Middle East on Tuesday morning, no one thought the day would end with NATO working to avert an escalation of armed conflict between Russia and one of the alliance’s members (Turkey). But that’s the unpredictable way that events sometimes unfold in international affairs, especially when several world and regional powers with divergent interests are involved in a multi-front war.
These dangerous tensions serve as a perfect backdrop for reading and pondering two important documents: a speech that Hillary Clinton delivered last week at the Council on Foreign Relations, and an essay by Robert Kagan, the smartest of the neocons (and sometime Clinton advisor), in Saturday’s Wall Street Journal.
Unlike so many of the blustering Know Nothings trying to become the Republican nominee for president, Clinton and Kagan know a tremendous amount about the world. Clinton, in particular, sounds comfortable talking in granular detail about the intricacies of international affairs, and her confident grasp of the complexities of the Greater Middle East far outstrips what any of the GOP candidates are capable of.
Yet Clinton’s speech and Kagan’s essay manage to inspire very little confidence. Both are deeply mired in a delusion that began to spread through the American foreign policy establishment at the end of the Cold War and has risen to complete dominance since 9/11. This is the delusion that the United States can and should act as the world’s “indispensable nation,” leading not just the “free world” but the entire world, using “smart power” to get numerous powerful, independent nations to do exactly what we think must be done to enforce global order as we conceive it.
The really astonishing thing about this delusion is its persistence — its capacity to withstand abundant evidence that it is wildly unrealistic. Even after the messy conclusion of the Gulf War. And the endlessly forestalled and ultimately indecisive outcome in Afghanistan. And the long, hard, bloody slog in Iraq. And the mess of the Arab Spring. And the anarchy in Libya. And the rise of ISIS from the chaos of the Syrian civil war.
Even after all of that, the most intelligent and accomplished candidate for president and the most thoughtful neoconservative analyst continue to believe it’s possible for the United States to treat the world as its personal plaything.
If this isn’t a God complex, then I don’t know what is.
Clinton’s speech is very clear about what the Democratic presidential frontrunner thinks needs to happen in the Middle East. She wants Assad removed from power in Syria; Russia no longer bombing Syrian rebels; Turkey no longer bombing the Kurds and instead helping us in the fight against ISIS; Iraq’s army capable of and willing to take the lead in retaking territory from ISIS; the region’s Sunnis undergoing a second “awakening” in which they persuade ISIS fighters to abandon the apocalyptic Islamist movement; Saudi Arabia cutting off its support to jihadists; and Iran no longer provoking Iraqi and Syrian Sunnis to withdraw from the political process in their countries.
It sounds great!
Except that there’s only a small chance of accomplishing one or two of these items, and zero chance of accomplishing them all.
How do we know this? Because there’s one crucially important piece missing from Clinton’s analysis: a discussion of the cacophony of clashing interests at play in the region. Clinton simply lists off the various state and sub-state actors involved, explains what we need them to be doing to advance our vision of order, and asserts that she will make that happen.
I’m sorry, but neither she nor the United States is nearly charming enough to pull that off.
To focus on just one of the players: Vladimir Putin wants to keep Syria’s Assad in power, in part to protect Russia’s naval and air bases in the region, and he’s backing it up with the Russian air force. The only way to persuade him to stand down from this position would be to offer him something in return — the lifting of sanctions tied to Russia’s annexation of the Crimea, for example. Is Clinton willing to make him an offer like that? I doubt it. But then what? She doesn’t say, and it’s hard to see what it might be.
And what about Syria itself? Let’s imagine that the Obama administration or a future Clinton administration manages to orchestrate Assad’s departure. What then? Do we have any reason to believe that the resulting power vacuum would be filled by factions both moderate enough to support the formation of a decent (let alone democratic) government and strong enough to prevail against others factions that would oppose it using violence?
The answer should be obvious.
And that’s just Russia and Syria. Once you begin to contemplate the competing interests of the Islamic State, the Turks, the Kurds, the Iraqi Sunnis, the Saudis, and the Iranians and their proxies in Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon, it becomes apparent that Clinton’s confident talk is really nothing more than that.
The same critique can be levied against Kagan, though with one important difference. Whereas Clinton is running for president and is thus terrified of endorsing what would be a very unpopular proposal to deploy American ground forces to fight ISIS, Kagan is quite comfortable suggesting that the U.S. will need 50,000 or so pairs of boots back on the ground in Mesopotamia.
That has the advantage of relieving the United States of the need to rely on the (most likely non-existent) goodwill of other actors in the region. (Who will fill the power vacuum in Syria? Why a few brigades of American soldiers, that’s who!) But that doesn’t mean it’s a good idea.
Once again, the incapacity to learn from experience boggles the mind. When the U.S. attempted to occupy Iraq with a “light footprint” from 2003 through 2006, the result was a bloody insurgency that empowered al Qaeda and gave birth to ISIS. Only after George W. Bush’s belated troop “surge,” and the mass bribery of Sunni tribal warlords that we like to call the “Anbar Awakening,” was some modicum of order (temporarily) restored.
Why should we assume that sending a modest number of American troops to occupy swaths of Syria and Iraq will work out so much better this time round? Kagan doesn’t say. He just has faith that this time it will go much more swimmingly.
Events in the Middle East over the past two-and-a-half decades have been driven by many things, but one of them is the fervent anti-Americanism that’s inflamed by our continual heavy-handed military meddling in the region. It was the presence of American troops in Saudi Arabia that inspired Osama bin Laden to found al Qaeda, just as it was our occupation of Iraq that catalyzed the insurgency that gave birth to ISIS. Sending tens of thousands of American troops back into the region is exceedingly unlikely to be better received this time around. We should instead expect it to inspire many thousands more to join the battle against the imperialist aggressor on ISIS’s side.
Only someone incapable of learning from recent history and unwaveringly convinced of the omnipotence, omnicompetence, and omnibenevolence of the United States could believe otherwise. (For an even more cartoonish version of Kagan’s metaphysical optimism, see John Bolton’s suggestion that American troops help to birth a brand new nation — Sunni-stan — in western Iraq and northeastern Syria. Because, I guess, our great success at nation-building in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya shows that we’re now up to the task of nation-creating.)
During the decades of America’s bilateral conflict with the Soviet Union, the world might have resembled a chess board with the two superpowers squared off against each other and using the other nations as game pieces. But the absence of our one-time rival doesn’t mean we now control every move on all sides of the board. It means the metaphor no longer holds.
The United States is more powerful than any other single nation on the planet, but it is not unlimited in what it can accomplish or control. Not even close.
The sooner our presidential candidates and their advisors learn to absorb this sobering fact and begin formulating policy on its basis, the better.
One year after the NYPD’s senseless murder of Akai Gurley – an unarmed 28-year-old Black man in East New York, Brooklyn – his family joined together with neighbors from the community and activists from around New York City to march against racist police violence and to demand justice for Akai.
Despite the cold weather, over 200 people gathered in front of the Pink Houses, the public housing development where Akai Gurley lived. Kerbie Joseph, an activist with the ANSWER Coalition, emceed as family members of Akai Gurley and others took turns to speak about the need to end police violence and to get justice for Akai Gurley. Kerbie addressed the crowd of protesters, saying,
“Police brutality is an epidemic that occurs every 28 hours in this country, and this system protects the police that continue to murder people in the most oppressed communities. We will continue to fight and put pressure on the police department, on the politicians, and justice system, but only a new system will end police brutality completely. Malcolm X said it best: ‘You can’t have capitalism without racism.’”
Among the family members present at the demonstration – some traveled all the way from Florida to attend – Akai Gurley’s aunt, Hertencia Petersen, spoke with Liberation News.
“I’m overwhelmed by the turn out tonight. I see that there is a lot of people that care for my nephew and didn’t even know him – because of the situation, because of the case, and because people are just tired of the injustice that’s been happening.”
Using the “mic check” style of call-and-response popularized during the Occupy movement, people shouted out the brutal facts of yet another NYPD murder. Due to a broken elevator in the building, Akai and his girlfriend decided to walk down the stairs from the seventh floor. The lights in the stairwell were also broken. Two police officers, Shaun Landau and Peter Liang, were conducting a vertical patrol in the building. Officer Liang had his gun cocked and loaded with his finger on the trigger. Startled by a noise, he fired into the stairwell, striking Akai Gurley in the chest.
Instead of calling emergency services, Officer Liang called his police union representative, remaining on the phone for six and a half minutes, while Akai Gurley lay gravely injured. Then, rather than attend to him, Officers Landau and Liang debated reporting the incident to their superiors. At no time did they attempt to administer first aid to Akai Gurley or to resuscitate him or even call for an ambulance. Officer Landau is avoiding charges in exchange for his testimony against Officer Liang. As a result, Officer Landau can never be charged in relation to Akai Gurley’s death, and he remains employed as an officer of the NYPD.
“You said it’s an accident, so why did you not stop to administer CPR or apply pressure to the wound?” Ms. Petersen asked. “You took an innocent life, and now you just don’t want to be held accountable. What if it was one of your nephews, one of your brothers, one of your cousins? Or even your mother? What would you do?”
The NYPD is trying to call Akai Gurley’s death an accident, but Officer Liang’s training, that taught him to be trigger-ready, was no accident. Moreover, a number of systematic factors contribute to the impossibility of calling Akai Gurley’s death an accident. For example, until last year, more than $75 million a year came out of the already-stripped public housing budget to pay the NYPD, basically taxing public housing residents twice for the police to conduct the kind of vertical patrol they were doing when they killed they young father. For twenty years, millions of dollars came out of the public housing budget in order to pay the police – money that should’ve gone to repairs and maintenance. These funds could have fixed the broken elevator that caused Akai Gurley and his girlfriend to decide to walk down from the seventh floor or might have fixed the broken lighting in the stairwell.
Marquis Jenkins of Cop Watch has been actively involved with Akai Gurley’s case since he learned about this case of police terror. He told Liberation News:
“I grew up in public housing, so I know what it’s like to be in your home and be harassed by police officers. Akai Gurley was more than harassed. He was killed in his own home for doing nothing more than deciding to take the staircase as opposed to taking the elevator. So now it’s a hazard to live in public housing. It’s a hazard, and we’re targeted simply because we’re poor. So I’m tired of losing our family members, our loved ones, our friends and our neighbors to the reckless actions of police officers, who come into our home and violate our rights and our culture and our freedom to live.”
Demonstrators marched around the Brooklyn blocks surrounding Pink Houses, leaving the sidewalk in order to take the streets, chanting: “Hands up in the sky, we’re doing this for Akai” and “How do you spell racist? NYPD!” Scaffolding surrounding the buildings showed evidence of further unfinished construction at the public housing development.
Akai Gurley’s death came at a time when the Black Lives Matter movement and uprisings like those in Ferguson for Mike Brown and in Baltimore for Freddie Gray have brought renewed attention to the rampant issues of police violence against Black men and women. In the United States, the police have already killed over 1,000 people in 2015. Victims of police murders are disproportionately Black, and the Black people killed by police are twice as likely to be unarmed – as Akai Gurley was.
“Peter Liang’s mother is worried because he can’t pay his school loans,” Ms. Petersen told Liberation News. “Akai Gurley will never be able to do anything that her son can do.”
The trial to convict Officer Peter Liang and the NYPD will be held on January 7th, 2016. Now is the time to demand justice for Akai Gurley and for all the lives stolen by racist police violence. Contact the ANSWER Coalition to join the struggle against police terror 212-907-7118 http://www.answercoalition.org/.
The line snaked from Peachtree Street to West Peachtree Street and back around the block, thousands waiting to get into Atlanta’s landmark Fox Theatre for an unlikely double act—Bernie Sanders and Killer Mike, half of the hip-hop duo Run the Jewels.
If the thousands in line seemed particularly patient and orderly it’s because they were distracted staring at their screens or snapping #BernieinATL selfies. But the selfie game already had been won by Killer Mike himself, who posted a shot of him and Sanders sharing a booth at Atlanta’s Busy Bee Café, a westside restaurant known for its fried chicken, collard greens and popularity with musicians, politicians, cops and students from Atlanta University Center.
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At face value, the pairing might seem like nothing more than a stunt made for Instagram: the 74-year-old senator from Vermont sharing the stage with a charismatic local music impresario, evidenced by the “Straight Outta Sitcom” tag quickly slapped over the photo of the two at Busy Bee and widely tweeted. But their chemistry seemed genuine, along the lines of a cranky professor and his favorite, if sassy, student.
On the fanciful Moorish stage of the historic Fox Theatre, the bushy haired septuagenarian senator in a shapeless navy suit and 6-foot-3 beefy rapper in a Run the Jewels sweatshirt and wide-legged jeans exchanged a quick bro hug while a standing-room only crowd (official seating capacity: 4,678) cheered and fist-pumped.
In a campaign during which both Sanders and frontrunner Hillary Clinton have struggled to connect with potential voters in a burgeoning new grassroots civil-rights movement, the evening was a striking departure from typical Democratic campaign protocol—something Killer Mike was well aware of when he strode to the podium to introduce Sanders.
“This is the part where it’s usually a black minister in front of you,” Killer Mike called out to the cheering crowd. The audience at this rally looked like a political strategist’s stock-photo fantasy file: Gray-haired Baby Boomers in windbreakers and sensible walking shoes sat next to Afro-ed and blue-streaked students in sweatshirts—Emory, Georgia State, Agnes Scott, Morehouse—layered under denim jackets.
The rapper said unlike those preachers, he would not be giving them platitudes that “you get all warm and cozy inside” and that they would not “hear about ‘I have a dream,’ and holding hands and going for ice cream.” Sure, the rapper named-checked Martin Luther King Jr., but quickly clarified that he was talking about MLK “post the Washington march. Martin Luther King of the war on poverty. Martin King against the war machine.” His statements met with cheers from both of the main groups in the theater, the older, liberal, presumptive Sanders supporters who remembered that MLK, and the younger, politically elusive Millennials, more likely to know Run the Jewels’ “Lie, cheat, steal win” lyrics in which Killer Mike raps “And I love Dr. King but violence might be necessary. … We overworked, underpaid, and we underprivileged.”
It was impossible not to contrast the scene with a late October Atlanta campaign stop by Hillary Clinton. In an event at Clark Atlanta University, Clinton was flanked by civil rights luminaries like John Lewis, Andrew Young and Georgia Democratic Party stalwarts—including Reps. Hank Johnson and David Scott, Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, former Mayor Shirley Franklin, and Georgia House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams. At the same time, the rally was met with vocal #BlackLivesMatter protesters, whose chants drowned out part of Clinton’s speech, and less-than-enthusiastic students, who reportedly began to leave the venue before Clinton’s remarks were concluded.
Sanders, who himself faced early opposition from #BlackLivesMatter protesters (and who has received the cold shoulder from Georgia’s old guard Democrats and civil rights icons), seemed eager to prove himself to the new generation of Civil Rights activists—the kind who rail against Wall Street as much as they do against institutionalized racism. And for that, Killer Mike, who sings about the challenges of feeding a family and fear of police brutality and performed during the Occupy Atlanta movement, was the perfect choice: “He’s a huge success in Atlanta music and that speaks to the zeitgeist,” said George Chidi, a political commentator for Peach Pundit. “He’s also incredibly social media savvy and that’s important, particularly in Atlanta and particularly among black Atlantans.”
If the campaign had followed conventional protocols, the risers on the Fox Theatre stage would have been filled by “Killer Mike and all the local politicians who support Bernie Sanders,” said Chidi. But Georgia’s established Democrats seem to be firmly in the Clinton camp. “What was missing? The local politicians. But if there was only person who was on that stage, Killer Mike was the best possible person. He has a tremendous amount of credibility,” Chidi said. Killer Mike, whose discography includes I Pledge Allegiance to the Grind—volumes I and II, made a last-ditch run for the Georgia state house this summer and was named to a list of the city’s most powerful people by Atlanta magazine this month. Unlike Usher, who performed at the Clinton rally and who is known for a glamorous lifestyle, Killer Mike is known for running a barbershop with his wife and pushing a “ghetto gospel” of self reliance. (Yes, he took photos of Sanders at the barbershop, too.)
“I definitely think engaging non-traditional community leaders like Killer Mike is very important. It shows that Sen. Sanders wants to listen to the communities that he is visiting. I think this will also engage younger voters,” said Nowmee Shehab, an Emory University senior.
HONG KONG—Internet company Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. is in discussions to buy a controlling stake in publisher SCMP Group Ltd. of Hong Kong, according to a person familiar with the situation, in a deal that would put the largest local English-language newspaper in the hands of a mainland Chinese company.
The potential deal between Malaysian tycoon Robert Kuok and Alibaba would mark a push by the Internet company to deepen its reach into the media world beyond its current interest in film assets and domestic Chinese…