nothing here but a smokescreen

issue 041 - 12th January, 2020

CJW: Welcome to another issue of nothing here. I had plans for this issue that I didn't quite get to because I got struck down by some sort of illness. So, for instance, there's nothing here about Iran, though that entire situation is fucked up, watching the American warhawks try to fabricate a war for the sake of political capital/profits/military-industrial hegemony/apocalyptic evangelical beliefs, all with complete disregard for the innocent Iranians that will die needlessly just so the US can wave it's big imperialist dick around. Hopefully next issue we'll have some more to share with you on Iran, but for now you could listen to these two recent Chapo Episodes, or friend of the newsletter Brendan recommends the recent episode of Radio War Nerd (patreon pay wall link).

But in case you hadn't noticed, us Aussies have been a little distracted/overwhelmed/heartbroken/depressed/angered by the recent bushfires and our useless government's inept reaction to them. The only possible upside I can see to the situation is that it is so egregious people might actually be starting to realise how awful Murdoch's stranglehold is on our national media. It's kind of hard to believe whatever climate change denying, pro-coal bullshit they're trying to sell you when you can see and smell the smoke from fires burning hundreds (or even thousands) of kilometres away.

So that's where we're at. Welcome to 2020? But we are very glad that you've chosen to join us, and hope that you get something out of it, and know that you can always hit Reply if you've got something to share.

If you like what we do and would like to support us, you can become a paid subscriber, and also get access to bonus issues. The latest one was a podcast experiment from Austin and I. Hit the button below for more info.

CJW: A national disaster: On the PM’s catastrophically inept response to Australia’s unprecedented bushfires

[O]nly after the damage to his personal brand became too great did he finally come to the understanding that it was his responsibility to lead. It all spoke of an underlying view that volunteer firefighters and state government agencies and private donations should carry the load. Morrison seemed to treat his role as merely ceremonial, like a national counsellor or cheerleader. The important thing was to preserve the impression that it was all under control.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again - we have to look out for each other because we can no longer trust our governments to do that. Australia has been burning for months now, and our inept and corrupt Prime Minister (I use “corrupt” precisely - one doesn’t need to dig into his work history too deeply to find dismissals likely caused by, umm, financial impropriety) was on holiday in Hawaii. Not only that, but when he did finally return he said “I am comforted by the fact that Australians would like me to be here simply so I can be here alongside them as they go through this terrible time.” Fuck the fuck off. We don’t want your smug shit-eating self standing alongside us, we just want someone to show some fucking leadership in this country, and that’s supposed to be your fucking job. I could go on - it’s all Australian twitter has been talking about after all - but if you want a good summary of recent events through a strictly political lens, the above is a great place to start.

Also, in an age of increasing natural disaster, this is honestly the best we can expect from right-wing governments because they are ideologically opposed to helping their constituents:

In moments of national disaster the flaws of modern right-wing governments become stark: try telling bushfire victims that you believe in lower government spending, fewer services and individual responsibility. But Morrison does believe in these. He remained mute for so long so that responsibility (and financial burden) would be taken up by others. Which it was.

AA: Private donations to charities dealing with bushfire fallout was at over $140 million 4 or so days ago, and I'm sure the total is much, much higher now. My inner cynic tells me this is another obvious sign of the disintegration of the institutions we once trusted to support and protect us - who needs a comprehensive social safety net and reliable, well-funded infrastructure when you've got corporate generosity (and its attendant PR benefits), influencer-led crowdfunding campaigns and benevolent mega-celebs? The compassionate generosity of individuals all over the world is nothing to be scoffed at, but this soothing balm should not distract us from the fact that our elected leaders are cutting public services to the bone while propping up corporate interests. As Boonta Vista put it after raising 20k, “remember that if we all advocate as hard as possible for a fairer socialist democracy, we might have a government that is willing to pay firefighters for risking their lives for us!” 


CJW: Australia took a match to UN climate talks while back home the country burned

[T]he Australian government acted like business as usual in Madrid. Focused on watering down Australia’s ambition. Pushing for dodgy accounting tricks that would halve Australia’s (already completely inadequate) climate effort, with flow-on effects to weaken ambition of other countries. Analysis released during the summit showed that if Australia, China and Brazil used their hollow Kyoto units to meet Paris agreement targets, global ambition would decrease by 25%, delaying the transition to new energy systems and resulting in more global heating. Despite a coalition of countries coming out to oppose this weakening, the issue remains unresolved, with talks being carried into next year.


Mandatory AHS: Apoc reaction image.

Desperately hoping (against hope?) that we get some serious political change in this country, stat. And more than just motherfucking neoliberal market-based solutions [WHO KILLED THE WORLD?]. Something that takes the idea of the Green New Deal and turns Australia from the worst place on Earth rn, to the place where the rising tides began to turn. At the very least, we’re gonna make some great art.

Credit: Scottie Marsh. Context: Australia’s PM went on holiday to Hawaii during an unprecedented bushfire disaster.

MJW: ‘Desperately hoping (against hope?) that we get some serious political change in this country, stat.’ - I wish I could even HOPE any more that this will happen, but I can’t. The Australian government is so far up the ass of fossil fuels that it’s unlikely anything is going to change any time soon. I feel like the powers that be would prefer to $$$ until they die and fuck the rest of us. 

(Pictured: Scott Morrison with an inanimate lump of coal in Parliament like a perfectly normal human being person.)


MJW: Smokescreen

What most anti-smoking and anti-drug rhetoric fails to acknowledge is that the threat of illness isn’t compelling to those of us who are already ill. We are triaging our pain, staunching the most urgent wound.

This personal essay stabbed me in the belly with just how perfectly it sums up my relationship with smoking, and indeed all the addictive and non-addictive substances I’ve struggled to let go of in my lifetime. Regardless of your belief in an ‘addictive personality’ (I’m not sure such a thing exists, I say, in the same breath that I tell you that if it does then I definitely have one) if you’ve ever struggled with an addiction, you’ll likely find something relatable in this essay from Caroline Angell.


CJW: Dear Designer: The Road Back (via Ed [you know who you are...])

The first half of this piece has an interesting run-down on the shift in online culture between 2009 and 2019, and thoughts on climate change and all the rest. The second half is very much focused on the tech industry, with thoughts that could be useful for people in it. So if that’s you, definitely check this out.


MJW: Writing With My Keys Between My Fingers

These are not things that we can ignore. We grow accustomed to this level of vitriol and vulnerability. We laugh about it in private (“Add it to the rape threat pile! Dick pics are in the lead today! Get it together, Team Death!”) but most of us don’t air it in public because we’d like people to focus on our work, not our weariness. We can’t simply dump our emails and ignore our inboxes; this is where we get work.

CJW: This is something I need to try and internalise:

There is a conversation I wish men had among themselves about how they respond to women who write online. They could share their strategies to avoid sending cruel and hateful messages:

  1. Hey, bro! Instead of harassing that woman, did you try counting to ten?

  2. How about distracting yourself with another activity, such as knitting?

  3. I know you’re mad that she expressed an opinion you disagree with! But pretend that byline said Ned Nobody instead of Sarah Somebody. Now you don’t want to threaten to rape him at all, do you?

As a general rule I’d rather just avoid interacting with shitty men online (and I’d also hate to be seen as white-knighting), but sadly some of these men will only listen to other men, so maybe I need to step up more.


AA: Oslo saw zero pedestrian and cyclist deaths in 2019. Here’s how the city did it.

Ok, this is probably going to blow your mind, but the solution to fewer pedestrian and cyclist deaths is… fewer cars driving around! 

Over the last five years, the city has taken dramatic steps to reduce vehicular traffic in its downtown, including replacing nearly all on-street parking with bike lanes and sidewalks. Major streets have been closed to cars, and congestion pricing raised the fee to drive into the city center, with the goal of making most of downtown car-free by 2019.

This sort of thing will never happen in Australia for a number of reasons, but you can imagine the typical conservative response to any measure that does not prioritise individuality as a guiding principle? 

CJW: There are some parallels to this piece too: How will we ever get people out of cars?


Cutting Room Floor:

CJW: Scattered Signal

Eagle-eyed readers will have noticed “via Ospare” appear in most of our issues. Well now Ospare has their own newsletter, Scattered Signal. It’s in the format of essays/rants, with additional links, quotes, and other miscellanea. The first is largely on writing and necessity, and also superheroics as a cultural ouroboros, and the second is on war, activism, ecological catastrophe, and related topics. Ospare is young, radical, and sharp as a tack. I’ll be reading each of these dispatches carefully, and you should too.


CJW: I’ve recommended Andrew Macrae’s fantastic, irregular newsletter, slow worries, before, but the latest issue on climate grief is a phenomenal read. If Medium is your delivery mechanism of choice, you can read it here.

MKY: Jojo Rabbit

Ngl, when I heard about the premise of this film I was like… um, k? Then I watched it, and holy shit do not doubt our brother from across the sea, Taika Waititi. This is a necessary piece of culture for our times, that basically amounts to ‘how the fuck do you deprogram a Nazi kid?’ and makes the key point that a country is not its leadership, which is a lil bit resonant rn too.


MKY: We Are The Wave (Wir sind die Welle) [Netflix]

As one review pointed out, you need to go about five wikipedia articles deep on this one. This is the latest iteration of The Wave, and the only version I’ve seen (or read). That said, this pairs incredibly well with Jojo Rabbit, is set in a high school named after members of the German Resistance to Nazi regime, and is a solid and nuanced exploration of how to start your own resistance cell, and the issues you might face along the way. Def. a solid way to start the new year / decade / end of times.

AA: Justin Murphy recently wrote a blog about how he thinks online magazines are a waste of time and that “small, in-house production teams” are more able to service the niche interests that dedicated fan bases connect with. His arguments make sense, and this bit reminded me in many ways of trying to track down people to write non-fiction for Creeper: 

You'll find that trying to get people to write for you is like herding cats, you know, because most... er... a lot of people just aren't that productive. They're just not that focused. Even smart people, even people who are capable. It's just very hard for people.

This has very much been my experience with Creeper 002 but, like, I get it. We're not established (so there's little reputational benefit), we don't pay much (so the material benefit isn't there) and of course people have plenty of distractions and responsibilities… it sometimes makes me wonder if I should be doing less curating and more creating. Just musing in public here, but I have also had plenty of interactions with very diligent and prompt writers willing to tolerate endless editorial notes and discussions, so… *shrug emoji*

MKY: I unlocked one of my major writing pieces from last year, The Invasive Predators Took My Chickens Away, for all to read now.

As Phoebz is my witness (look upon her works), I’ll have a lot more to say along these lines this year… in both fiction and non-fiction form.


CJW: And that’s it for another issue. Thanks again.