nothing here but excess salience

issue 071 - 7th March, 2021

CJW: Let’s get right to it, shall we?

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The Team


Articles

CJW: As Grace Tame speaks up, an expert explains trauma-informed care and says victim-blaming must stop - Linda Doherty and Neeraja Sanmuhanathan at Croakey

Content warning: sexual assault

The biggest story in Australian politics this week has been the rape allegations against our current Attorney General. He’s accused of raping a sixteen year old girl when he was seventeen - the woman in question has since committed suicide. He is refusing to stand down (“Won’t somebody think of my career?!”) and the Prime Minister has also refused to do anything - which is unsurprising as inaction and buck-passing have been the only mainstays of his “leadership”.

Many people have been outraged by this inaction - rightfully so, of course, especially as more evidence of rape culture in Australian society is being brought to light - but the government/people in question have behaved exactly as I would have expected. As ever, a white man’s job is more important than a woman’s life, than the lives and trauma of countless women who experience sexual abuse and either come forward just to be re-traumatised by this sort of response from the patriarchal hegemony, or who don’t come forward because they know that this is exactly what will happen. It’s completely fucked.

In this particular case (and related ones) the media is complicit because they care more about access to politicians than about speaking truth to power. The politicians won’t change while the media is so sympathetic and will let them get away with this sort of bullshit… but maybe the people can force the media to change? I can’t imagine how many deadshit journos and op-ed writers we’d have to drag kicking and screaming to a place where authority is something to be questioned and held to account, but it’s a worthy project.

So, Australian politics remains as regressive, corrupt, and depressing as ever, but there is hope in the voices that are speaking up, like Grace Tame above.

I also saw something on Instagram (via Sommer Tothill) that I think is worth sharing as knowing about the tactics these arseholes use makes it easier to see their manipulations... Christian Porter (and other men who find themselves in the same position as him) used DARVO in his press conference:

DARVO is an acronym for "deny, attack, and reverse victim and offender".

According to wikipedia it’s “a common manipulation strategy of psychological abusers,” which is why it’s unsurprising to see it also used as a media strategy by men trying to save their own necks and avoid any sort of accountability. The RVO part is probably the most insidious.

MKY:In this particular case (and related ones) the media is complicit because they care more about access to politicians than about speaking truth to power” 1000x this.

For some reason I can’t help thinking of a recent film I watched, Burn It All, in which a young one is about to nope outta existence, pulls herself back at the last moment, and then basically goes on a fully justified rampage that’s kicking dudes asses in between angry young feminist rants, that ought to be a cliche, except we haven’t had nearly enough of this. And haven’t women, and their allies, had enough of this shit yet? Why isn’t Parliament on fire? Why the fuck weren’t there burning catholic churches after that George Pell shit? Why?!

~cue the Adam Curtis monologue~

MJW: Motherfucking sigh. I mean, we knew the Liberal government (all government?) felt this way, and now we’ve had it 100% confirmed, just in case we’d forgotten. Just in case we thought that maybe, for fucking once, victims would be believed. Just in case we had the fucking GALL to think that maybe, just maybe, this time it would be different. 

Here’s an important infographic about false reporting of sexual assault also via Sommer Tothill:

And here’s some further reading from Anna Spargo-Ryanand David Milner.

Content warning again: personal details of sexual assault: I’ve always thought, ‘oh, I’ve never been sexually assaulted.’ This is despite being digitally penetrated while crowdsurfing when I was sixteen. Despite waking up to someone having sex with my sleeping body. Despite having sex with someone I didn’t want to because I suspected they would not let me out of the room we were in otherwise, and afterwards I chided myself for ‘putting myself in that situation.’ Despite having dominant AND submissive clients touch my breasts and genitals without consent, often specifically against the boundaries we’d agreed on and not even considering for a second that what they were doing was wrong because they’d paid me to be naked near them. 

I’ve never even counted these assaults as assaults, because almost every single woman and a large number of men I know have experienced SO MUCH WORSE. Sexual assault is so common, so ubiquitous, that because it wasn’t violent I didn’t even think that it counted. 

I am so fuckng sick of this shit. THE VAST VAST VAST MAJORITY OF SEXUAL ASSAULT CLAIMS ARE 100% LEGIT BECAUSE THERE IS ACTUALLY NOTHING TO GAIN FROM ACCUSING SOMEONE AND ACTUALLY EVERYTHING TO LOSE. 

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CJW: The Climate Crisis Is Worse Than You Can Imagine. Here’s What Happens If You Try. - Elizabeth Weil at Propublica (via Dan Hill)

How do you confront the truth of climate change when the very act of letting it in risked toppling your sanity? There is too much grief, too much suffering to bear. So we intellectualize. We rationalize. And too often, without even allowing ourselves to know we’re doing it, we turn away. At virtually every level — personal, political, policy, corporate — we repeat this pattern. We fail, or don’t even try, to rise to the challenge.

A counterpoint to the recent links we shared that offered some hope for the future RE: climate change. A scientist losing his shit and feeling like a modern Cassandra. I feel like my doom-spouting is a fraction of Peter's and still I know people don't want to hear it (and sometimes even I need a break from it/myself).

This also struck me - emphasis mine:

But Peter’s kids were pissed and his wife was pissed and the salience that he’d so desperately wanted others to feel — “salience” being the term of choice in the climate community for the gut-level understanding that climate change isn’t going to be a problem in the future, it is a crisis now — that salience was here.

I think a lot of us hoped COVID would bring about widespread salience about economic injustice and the ravages of capitalism, but it's easy to underestimate the inertia of hegemony.

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CJW: A Syrian Asylum-Seeker’s Case Reframes Migrant Abuses as Enforced Disappearances - John Washington at The Intercept

The years-long havoc his life was thrown into — illegal deportation, confiscation of his documents, and lack of protection or even recognition under the law — amounts to what Fady’s lawyers claim is an enforced disappearance. It is a novel legal argument that his attorneys are currently presenting before the United Nations Human Rights Committee, an effort to bring attention to the series of abuses he and other asylum-seekers suffer. “Framing migrant detention in unknown places as enforced disappearance is important because it highlights the egregiousness of these crimes,” said Itamar Mann, an associate professor of law at the University of Haifa and legal adviser at Global Legal Action Network [...]

[...]

I asked Fady if he felt like he had been disappeared during those three years. “That was exactly what it felt like,” he told me. “I felt like I didn’t exist, that I was nothing.”

Emphasis mine.

Fady’s case is especially disgusting because he already had protection as an asylee, but that doesn’t mean anything in the face of this sort of border-security nationalism (I’m not sure nationalism is the right word, but it’s certainly nationalistic rhetoric that is employed to defend the human rights abuses committed at and in the name of national borders). That said, no refugee should be treated like this, or detained in barbaric conditions. The costs alone should be enough to change the minds of conservative politicians, but when have they ever let economic reality get in the way of ideology?

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CJW: QAnon has merged with white Christian evangelicals, experts say — and the results could be lethal - Andrew Feinberg at Independent (via Damien Williams)

[Summary from Twitter:] Extremism experts and ex-GOP officials are warning that QAnon-type conspiracy theories are becoming more intertwined with White evangelical Christianity in a way that echoes the Islamic fundamentalist movement that gave rise to al-Qaeda & Isis

Was y’all-Qaeda ever actually a joke, or was it always a prediction?

DCH: It was an observation. Evangelicals have long been prey for the purveyors of this lethal magical thinking. In fact, as we see in the next article the strange alliance of evangelicals and psyops goes back to at least the mid-90s…

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DCH: THE NETWORK: The American & Russian Moralists Behind the January Insurrection - Heidi Siegmund Cuda at The Byline Times

“A lot of the people involved with CNP got involved with a group called the World Congress of Families that was put together in the mid-‘90s by an American visiting Russia, who realised that traditional values and family values were something that would unite the East and the West, Russia and the United States.” By 2011, the World Congress of Families started scheduling their meetings in Russia.

“You ended up with all these traditional family organisations traveling to Russia on a repeated basis, and connecting with people like Aleksandr Dugin, a mystic philosopher who has been an advisor to Putin who has developed this Eurasianist global framework,” Troy explained.

Cuda interviews network disinfo specialist Dave Troy on the ties between Evangelicals, conspiracists, oligarchs, and more. Proper Axis of Evil shit here. Worth a read.  

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MKY: Mars Is a Hellhole

The influence Musk is having on a generation of people could not be more different. Musk has used the medium of dreaming and exploration to wrap up a package of entitlement, greed, and ego. He has no longing for scientific discovery, no desire to understand what makes Earth so different from Mars, how we all fit together and relate. Musk is no explorer; he is a flag planter. He seems to have missed one of the other lines from Pale Blue Dot: “There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world.”

Sagan did believe in sending humans to Mars to first explore and eventually live there, to ensure humanity’s very long-term survival, but he also said this: “What shall we do with Mars? There are so many examples of human misuse of the Earth that even phrasing the question chills me. If there is life on Mars, I believe we should do nothing with Mars. Mars then belongs to the Martians, even if [they] are only microbes.”

A-freaking-men. This piece touched such a nerve that the more militant Musk stans sent death threats to the author, so you know it’s def worth reading. 

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CJW: India Targets Climate Activists With the Help of Big Tech- Naomi Klein at The Intercept

Instead, the cameras were waiting for Disha Ravi, a nature-loving 22-year-old vegan climate activist who against all odds has found herself ensnared in an Orwellian legal saga that includes accusations of sedition, incitement, and involvement in an international conspiracy whose elements include (but are not limited to): Indian farmers in revolt, the global pop star Rihanna, supposed plots against yoga and chai, Sikh separatism, and Greta Thunberg.

[...]

Through it all, the giants of Silicon Valley have stayed conspicuously silent, their famed devotion to free expression, as well as their newfound commitment to battling hate speech and conspiracy theories, is, in India, nowhere to be found. In its place is a growing and chilling complicity with Modi’s information war [...]

Great piece from Naomi Klein looking at activism and free speech in India (and the apparent attempt to criminalise both), and the complicity of the tech giants who want to keep Modi’s government happy so they can continue doing business in India. This is of course also related to the recent Farmer’s Movement and Modi’s authoritarian bent more generally, and provides a lot of relevant context.

And there are some great quotes from the judge overseeing Ravi’s case who doesn’t have time for this sort of governmental bullshit.

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DCH: China’s ‘Sharp Eyes’ Program Aims to Surveil 100% of Public Space- Dave Gershgorn at OneZero

Sharp Eyes is one of a number of overlapping and intersecting technological surveillance projects built by the Chinese government over the last two decades. Projects like the Golden Shield Project, Safe Cities, SkyNet, Smart Cities, and now Sharp Eyes mean that there are more than 200 million public and private security cameras installed across China.

Sharp Eyes is the current salvo in China’s surveillance war against its own populace. Special TVs installed in homes allow people to narc on their neighbors. Peachy.

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DCH: NHS facing legal challenge over data deal with controversial Silicon Valley firm Palantir - Roland Manthorpe at Sky News

It comes as a batch of internal government emails uncovered by The Bureau of Investigative Journalism and seen by Sky News reveal that high-level meetings took place between Palantir and the most senior officials in government and the NHS before the pandemic, raising questions about the role of personal relationships in the award of the contract.

I personally know for a fact that these conversations were happening pre-pandemic. Broken and opaque procurement processes is the primary tool enabling the blatant Cronyism on display here in the UK. The work that Cori Crider, FoxGlove and OpenDemocracy are doing here to drag it kicking and screaming into the light is important. 

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DCH: Erik Prince and the Failed Plot to Arm a CIA Asset-Turned-Warlord in Libya - Matthew Cole at The Intercept

In 2019, Erik Prince, the founder of the notorious mercenary firm Blackwater and a prominent Donald Trump supporter, aided a plot to move U.S.-made attack helicopters, weapons, and other military equipment from Jordan to a renegade commander fighting for control of war-torn Libya. A team of mercenaries planned to use the aircraft to help the commander, Khalifa Hifter, a U.S. citizen and former CIA asset, defeat Libya’s U.N.-recognized and U.S.-backed government. While the U.N. has alleged that Prince helped facilitate the mercenary effort, sources with knowledge of the chain of events, as well as documents obtained by The Intercept, reveal new details about the scheme as well as Prince’s yearslong campaign to support Hifter in his bid to take power in Libya.

A dizzying story about how Warlord-for-hire Erik Prince violated UN sanctions in an effort to overthrow the government of Libya.


Books

CJW: Blindsight by Peter Watts

Blindsight is a transhuman first-contact novel unlike anything you’ve ever read, following a crew of cybernetically-neurodivergent specialists (in the scientific not military sense) as they attempt to understand a recently-discovered alien vessel. I won’t go into it much further than that - not because it has twists that I could spoil, but because you’ll be better off reading the book than my take on it.

What really struck me with the book is how Watts was able to clearly convey the one thing that was sorely missing from Cixin Liu's (otherwise brilliant) Remembrance of Earth’s Past trilogy - an utterly alien alien. Here his experience as a marine biologist obviously helped because it makes perfect evolutionary sense when the cards are all laid out on the table, but it's still so alien and kind of shocking. And I don’t just mean in terms of physiology, but also its reasoning and motives (if those are even the right words - you’ll know what I mean when you read it). 

I'm still holding off on writing a book with aliens in it until I can make them truly alien, and Blindsight has given me a high water mark to aim for…

The ebook is available to read here for free, courtesy of the author.

MKY: longtime Peter Watts stan here. The sequel (sidequel?), Echopraxia, is even weirder. And yeah, alien contact starts at home, as he’s well aware.

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MJW: I got a chance to read an advance review copy of Ella Baxter’s New Animal. This book is a delight, with a main character that I read as totally neurodivergent, a rich and vibrant setting, and some of the most lovely prose I’ve read in a long while. It crams so much into few words (fuck I love a shortish novel), weaving threads between sex and death and BDSM and care and family to make a darkly funny book.


Movies + TV

MJW: White House Farm 

If you like your crime dramas bleak and British, then this may be for you! It’s based on the true crime story of family annihilator Jeremy Bamber, and how he let his sister Sheila, diagnosed with schizophrenia, initially take the fall for his crime. It’s a bit of an exploration of mental illness stigma and (of course) police incompetence and corruption.


URL

CJW: Thirteen to One - Marie Mutsuki Mockett at Emergence Magazine

So while I don’t actually know anyone in Japan who would believe in the great catfish, I do know many who might visit the shrine and pay their respects to Takemikazuchi, who pins the catfish to the earth’s core. They would do this, and they would also be grateful for the modern design of Tokyo skyscrapers that allows buildings to sway safely—“like a ship,” an attendant in a hotel once said to me cheerfully, as we looked out the window of my twenty-third-floor room in Tokyo. They would pray to the god Takemikazuchi not because they actually believe that he exists but because to do so puts them in the habit and the mindset of focusing on the earth and disaster, and on planning to keep each other safe.

[...]

Japan has never fully retreated from its relationship to Shintō, yet the ability to imagine a river as a god who can play a role in a hugely successful cultural export [(Spirited Away)] did not prevent Japan from dismantling almost all of its wilderness, or from guzzling carbon fuels on a path to modernity.

This is a fantastic personal essay on natural disaster (and thus climate change), comparing and contrasting Japanese language and storytelling to that of the West. 

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DCH: Industrialized Disinformation: 2020 Global Inventory of Organized Social Media Manipulation - Oxford Internet Institute

Private firms increasingly provide manipulation campaigns. Over the last year, we found forty- eight instances of private companies deploying computational propaganda on behalf of a political actor. Since 2018 there have been more than 65 firms offering computational propaganda as a service. In total, we have found almost US $60 million was spent on hiring these firms since 2009.

New research on digital propaganda. Lots of good highlights on shifting tactics and strategies the bad guys are using to fuck shit up. Worth a read if this is your jam.


Podcasts

MKY: 502 - Units of One feat. Adam Curtis (3/1/21) by Chapo Trap House

This was nowhere as a good as their interview with Curtis post-Hypernormalisation but, when he wasn’t being talked over or felt he had to give summaries of the films, Curtis still got a few great thoughts in about ‘radical culture’ and the likely cost of a revolution (and its personal stakes) that I feel makes this very much worth listening to.

CJW: I don’t know, I’d put this one on par with it - Curtis insistently asking “Do you really want change?” got to me, and there was a section near the end where he talks about the need for us to square the circle between individualism and a desire for collectivity to create a new vision of the future. I thought that was incredibly encouraging - we can’t put individualism back in the box, but maybe now we’re seeing its limits, and we might be able to forge a new sort of collectivism... He also mentions that if we can’t do that, then the old nationalisms of the past could make a resurgence - which is something I picked up on when we wrote our last bonus on Can’t Get You Out of My Head.

DCH: Speaking of which, here it is


Video

MKY: Preppers and Mutual Aid/ Death Stranding in the Covid Era [no spoilers]

I’ve read a bunch of reviews and thought pieces on Death Stranding, but this is the first ‘reading’ of it that makes me wanna shell out for a new console and sink 100s of hours into playing it (before we actually live it). Almost like everyone else missed the point Hideo was trying to make? IDK.

CJW: Obligatory link to my (unlocked) Death Stranding bonus.

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DCH: Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists - Pentagram

The Doomsday Clock is the graphic symbol of the world’s proximity to annihilation through dangerous technologies of our own making. Created in 1947 by the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, the advocacy group formed in 1945 by scientists from the Manhattan Project, the Clock is periodically updated, with its minute hand moved forward or backward from midnight, or metaphorical doomsday. In 2021, the Bulletin has decided to keep the Clock at its current setting of 100 seconds to midnight––where it was moved in 2018 and remains the closest it has been to midnight since 1953––in recognition of the continuing threat to humanity from nuclear war, climate change and disinformation.

Giorgia Lupi and her team at Pentagram have produced an impressive array of data visualizations detailing the rationale for our current precarious placement on the Doomsday Clock.


The Self-Promotion

MJW: I just released two Patreon things. As Me, Marlee - the third chapter of my serialised novellaThe Forgetting Navigations.

As Me, Mia - I’m working on a new memoir-y thing, Living like a raw nerve: a guide for tender bitches, and this is the first chapter, What the fuck is wrong with you? I’m currently at work on the next chapter, ‘You can’t spell memoir without me me me me.’


MJW: Sorry/not sorry for the heavy shit. This is a heavy world. I think that sharing our stuff helps folx to realise that they aren’t the only one with this junk inside them, how we let each other know that we aren’t alone. I am no fucking island, etc. As always thanks for reading, take care, and be well.


Cutting Room Floor