nothing here but systems that can’t reform themselves

issue 051 - 31st May, 2020

CJW: It seems like looting mostly occurs as a side effect of civil unrest – when protests get big enough, and people are angry enough, looting is possible. But I’m slowly starting to think that looting should actually be embraced as a part of the protests.

Capitalism is king. Money is the only thing these people understand (“these people” being governments, authorities, and corporations). They care far more about money than they do about the lives and needs of their citizens. They currently have no incentive to deal with systemic racism within the police because the police are an important part of the system of white supremacy that helps to prop up America’s economy. But what if every time the police murdered another person of colour, the local community went out in force, committing mass acts of destruction against police and corporate property, including looting? I’m talking millions of dollars of damage every single time it happens. They won’t be swayed by ethics, morals, or community outrage - only once they see an economic impact to their racist murder force will they begin the process of addressing the deep, systemic issues of racism and white supremacy in policing.

As I write this I realise that with a nation and police force as heavily militarised as America, this would lead to state violence on a scale that it might as well be called a pogrom. Because they won’t take the boot off your neck. This entire system of oligarchic capitalism relies on you being downtrodden by the police, by your boss, by your landlord. They would rather kill you than change.

I still think looting is a valid strategy - but when they value corporate product more than the lives of BIPOC, expect them to respond with lethal violence.

(Shared by Ospare down in the comments. Please watch it.)

All of this to say that if you’re in any way concerned about property damage while police are regularly killing POC and facing zero consequences, you need to take a long hard look at your racist self. (And I don’t claim to be not-racist - it’s the system/society we were raised under - but I am trying to do better and be better.)

Remember a few weeks ago when it seemed like the pandemic might have been a big enough system shock to actually lead to broad, positive change? Well, this week, with the violent response to peaceful protests about another murdered black man in America, and the contempt for the rest of society shown by the corrupt UK elite, (not to mention the Australian government already planning on coming down hard on people who dared to… receive the welfare payments they offered) we see what is really coming: yet more inequality in terms of both wealth and justice. There won’t be any sort of “new normal” just the same old shit reinforced with more violence and more surveillance, with more wealth going to the top 1% while the rest of us struggle just to live. This is their world, and they think you should thank them for letting you live in it.

Also, I missed this in March, but I kept waiting for a news article that would summarise what I’d seen on twitter so I could share it here: Six men tied to Ferguson protests have died, and activists think it might not be a coincidence. Just keep that in mind before filming, or sharing images of, protestors who could be identified by their faces or tattoos. Because there are literal lynch mobs out there, likely made up (at least partially) of police, being protected by the police - and they’re getting away with it. Otherwise you would have heard about it before now.

Of course, the above is in response to the situation in Minneapolis, with locals protesting the murder of George Floyd (GoFundMe link). I assume you’re already familiar, but perhaps you manage to stay off social media entirely. Here’s a link to the Minnesota Freedom Fund which will help arrested protesters make bail.

DCH: The Boogaloo Movement Is Not What You Think

In a United States made even more unstable by a contentious presidential election season, and the social and epidemiological effects of COVID-19, every protest or street battle and its aftermath will carry the potential for serious acts of violence. As protests over the death of George Floyd heated up in Minneapolis on May 26th, members of Boogaloo groups across Facebook considered it a call to arms. Memes were churned up that day, adding George to the movement’s list of martyrs.

Robert Evans and Jason Wilson continue to do amazing work investigating the bastards in the far-right. If you’re familiar with the Boogaloo Bois then it’s likely because they were prominently on display during the “re-open protests.” This week? They’ve been trying to co-opt the George Floyd protests. So much so that there’s already an investigation underway.  


DCH: Customs and Border Protection flew a Predator B drone over Minneapolis as protests rocked the city

Jason Paladino, an investigative reporter at The Project on Government Oversight, tweeted Friday that CBP unmanned aerial vehicle CBP-104 out of Grand Forks Air Force Base is "circling over Minneapolis" at 20,000 feet.

They’re launching drones now. They’re arresting and shooting journalists now. All of this in full-view of the public. All of this is the inevitable outcome of Trump’s racism and his bullshit war on the media.


MJW: Amy Cooper Knew Exactly What She Was Doing

The clip of Cooper sneering “I’m going to tell them there’s an African American man threatening my life” highlights this truth about race in America: White people are far more aware of the structure of the thing than they care to admit.

CJW: This was attempted murder. Homicide by cop. She says in her shitty apology “I’ve come to realize especially today that I think of [the police] as a protection agency,” but she fails to mention the other side - that the police are also a weapon to be used against POC. The numerous recent examples of police murdering African Americans and facing zero consequences has proved this, and white America is quickly internalising this fact.

Related: The Bird Watcher, That Incident and His Conflicted Feelings on Her Fate

And he is aware that the image he cuts — as a man often shuffling the undergrowth after a rare bird, with a metal object, the binoculars, in his hand — can read differently for a black person than for a white person.

It doesn’t stop him.

“We should be out here. The birds belong to all of us,” he said. “The birds don’t care what color you are.” 


CJW: 'This is the end of Hong Kong': China pushes controversial security laws

First the pandemic killed the protests, now China is going to use it to kill the idea of an independent Hong Kong. Not surprising in the slightest.



The neoliberal era is ending. What comes next?

That’s not how change works. All of these people have roles to play. Both the professor and the anarchist. The networker and the agitator. The provocateur and the peacemaker. The people who write in academic jargon and those who translate it for a wider audience. The people who lobby behind the scenes and those who are dragged away by the riot police.

One thing is certain. There comes a point when pushing on the edges of the Overton Window is no longer enough. There comes a point when it’s time to march through the institutions and bring the ideas that were once so radical to the centres of power.

I think that time is now.

A High-Tech Coronavirus Dystopia (via Sentiers)

It’s a future in which our homes are never again exclusively personal spaces but are also, via high-speed digital connectivity, our schools, our doctor’s offices, our gyms, and, if determined by the state, our jails. Of course, for many of us, those same homes were already turning into our never-off workplaces and our primary entertainment venues before the pandemic, and surveillance incarceration “in the community” was already booming. But in the future under hasty construction, all of these trends are poised for a warp-speed acceleration.

If you want to get angry, be sure to read this piece by Naomi Klein on the technocratic for a post-COVID America. While progressive economists (like those in the above piece) are offering more balanced solutions to a post-neoliberal world, the elite will be pushing for a tech-powered neofeudalism. And our governments (traitors and collaborators) will let them do it unless we push back.

MKY: srsly. What we might as well call the COVID-19 era now has made clear as fuck is that what Klein has previously termed the Climate Barbarians are quite happy to rule over a dead Earth. So long as they rule. Like, 100K dead humans in the US, 37K in the UK etc etc etc… if they’re happy to take that hit - die! die for Darkseid and the ECONOMY - we don’t have a hope in Hell of changing the course of Earth System, charging towards runaway climate change, UNLESS :clap: WE :clap: FIGHT :clap: BACK.

CJW:Neofeudalism: The End of Capitalism? (via Max Anton Brewer)

[...] the conservative geographer Joel Kotkin envisions the US future as mass serfdom. A property-less underclass will survive by servicing the needs of high earners as personal assistants, trainers, child-minders, cooks, cleaners, et cetera. [...] Unlike the specter of serfdom haunting Friedrich Hayek’s attack on socialism, Kotkin locates the adversary within capitalism. High tech, finance, and globalization are creating “a new social order that in some ways more closely resembles feudal structure — with its often unassailable barriers to mobility — than the chaotic emergence of industrial capitalism.”

And here is a very detailed and somewhat dense look at neofeudalism and our current condition by Jodi Dean. I could have grabbed a dozen pull-quotes easily - definitely read this one when you’ve got the time to really soak it all in.

Competitiveness has replaced competition and growth as a state goal, leading states to prioritize not a level playing field and the dismantling of monopolies but “to aid specific economic actors — those who are best positioned to perform well in the global competition for profit.” [...] States don’t intervene to break up monopolies. They engender and award them.


DCH: With Storage Space Evaporating, the Oil and Gas Industry Will Get to Put Its Products Back Underground

Remember how we were talking about oil prices going negative recently? Yeah. Well, that’s led to a storage problem. So big oil is pumping it BACK underground. Regulators in Texas even voted unanimously to rollback protections that were in place to prevent groundwater contamination in the process. This was all done behind closed doors with no public hearing or discussion with environmental groups. 

CJW: It's worth noting that they haven't stopped extracting oil, nor have they even put a cap on oil production to try and mitigate the oil storage situation. We're going to make this planet uninhabitable for ourselves and many other animals and plants just because it's easier and cheaper to keep doing what we're doing.

MKY: these motherfuckers…


DCH: What a Week’s Disasters Tell Us About Climate and the Pandemic

Oh, I’m sorry. Did you think the climate catastrophe was going to go on holiday just because of the pandemic?

The hits came this week in rapid succession: A cyclone slammed into the Indian megacity of Kolkata, pounding rains breached two dams in the Midwestern United States, and on Thursday came warning that the Atlantic hurricane season could be severe.

It all served as a reminder that the coronavirus pandemic, which has killed 325,000 people so far, is colliding with another global menace: a fast-heating planet that acutely threatens millions of people, especially the world’s poor.

CJW: Quite a sobering note this piece ends on, but one which echoes what we've been saying recently about all the talk of "returning to normal."


DCH: FEMA Tells States to Hand Public Health Data Over to Palantir

“If they’re accessing these rich data sets directly from our public health infrastructure, will they exploit that to add economic value to their core data sets? If their AI learns how to infer and predict the patterns of the disease from our public data, then that becomes a hugely lucrative advantage for a private company, especially now when everyone, in every business sector, wants to know where COVID is going and how hard it’s going to hit,” said Shoshana Zuboff, the author of The Age of Surveillance Capitalism and a professor emerita at Harvard Business School.

There’s no if there. Palantir is using their Gotham software package to run this project. That’s the same product they use for law enforcement clients. 

P.S. The Veteran’s Administration is being used as a guinea pig for all of this…


MJW: The Prophecies of Q
During my insomnia thrashing and writhing, I read this article and by the end of it I was confused, unsure what I was reading or if I was dreaming, and then quite scared.

You understand this sounds crazy, but you don’t care. You know that a small group of manipulators, operating in the shadows, pull the planet’s strings. You know that they are powerful enough to abuse children without fear of retribution. You know that the mainstream media are their handmaidens, in partnership with Hillary Clinton and the secretive denizens of the deep state. You know that only Donald Trump stands between you and a damned and ravaged world. You see plague and pestilence sweeping the planet, and understand that they are part of the plan. You know that a clash between good and evil cannot be avoided, and you yearn for the Great Awakening that is coming. And so you must be on guard at all times. You must shield your ears from the scorn of the ignorant. You must find those who are like you. And you must be prepared to fight.


CJW: The Umami Theory of Value (via Ospare)

The essential mechanics are simple: it’s stating there’s a there-there when there isn’t one. And directing attention to a new “there” before anyone notices they were staring at a void. It’s the logic of gentrification, not only of the city, but also the self, culture and civilization itself.

One for the zeitgeist scholars: On cultural umami and the rise (and now death) of the experience economy. Really fascinating stuff from Nemesis (Emily Segal & Martti Kalliala), an alternative consultancy firm.


MJW: Doordash and Pizza Arbitrage

For over a decade, he resisted adding delivery as an option for his restaurants. He felt it would detract from focusing on the dine-in experience and result in trying to compete with Domino's. But he had suddenly started getting customers calling in with complaints about their deliveries.

Customers called in saying their pizza was delivered cold. Or the wrong pizza was delivered and they wanted a new pizza. Again, none of his restaurants delivered.

CJW: This piece is great - a pizza restaurant owner who deliberately didn’t offer delivery finds DoorDash adding delivery options to his Google search results without any input or consultation from him. But... he and the author of this piece realise DoorDash scraped the wrong price off his website, and they can profit from DD’s VC money with some fake orders:

Was this a bit shady? Maybe, but fuck Doordash. Note: I did confirm with my friend [the restauranteur] that he was okay with me writing this, and we both agreed, fuck Doordash.

DCH: This is the root of the gig economy. Use VC cash to subsidize consumer purchase power to take over an entire industry and then once people are locked in, jack the prices up. I wrote about this in the context of Uber over at 20 Minutes into the Future awhile back. In the near-term it’s great. Fuck the man. In the long-term its the man fucking us all over. 


CJW: NYT Critique of Ronan Farrow Describes Pathology of “Resistance Journalism” (by Glenn Greenwald)

The English language is insufficient to convey the madness required to believe that the Kremlin wanted to kill Marcy Wheeler because her blogging was getting Too Close to The Truth, but in the fevered swamps of resistance journalism, literally no claim was too unhinged to be embraced provided that it fed the social media #Resistance masses.

It can be pretty hard to keep up with the many and varied right-wing grifts, but be sure that russiagate and the hashtag-resistance were little more than liberal grifts.


CJW: The Wife Glitch | Jennifer Schaffer

And through the Wages for Housework movement led by Silvia Federici, women even asked that that value of their work be recognized in capital’s primary currency: a wage. This demand was more radical provocation than concrete policy proposal, one which attempted to speak the language of capitalism in order to undermine it. To pay wages for housework would require a wholesale transformation of the economy, revealing at the core of capitalism a fundamental reliance on the unpaid labor of women.

Interesting read on sexism, misogyny, the value of labour (especially unpaid/women’s labour), and the way Silicon Valley automation is designed to collect the value from that work in order to make rich men even richer.

There is no room at the negotiation table; any unpaid work will remain unpaid until, in due course, we will pay to have that work done for us by automation. And like that, the mainstays of human life become premium services we pay for. Like that, the value only flows up.


CJW: Indycar's Virtual Race Crashes Sparked Real-World Controversy Among Drivers (via Dan Hill)

Ferrucci is a driver who infamously did hit a teammate he was angry at following a race. With all the disregard for the work of his team’s mechanics and equipment, and the safety of his fellow drivers that implies. That fact is that while Ferrucci’s behavior online doesn’t have any of the same risks and consequences, he’s also the driver from whom that behavior is most concerning. He is already a driver that the sport has tried mightily to rehabilitate; to see him demolish a rival at the [virtual] finish line for laughs raises old questions about his overall fitness to race with other drivers.

This is a really interesting look at some of the drama coming out of a virtual lockdown Formula 1 series being raced by real, professional drivers.

I for one would be happy to see an end to car racing and all the petrol it needlessly burns, which makes the suggestion of linking virtual events to drivers' real careers rather interesting, mirrors REPO VIRTUAL in oblique ways, and could perhaps signal the approach of our increasingly online future.


DCH: First Things First 2020

We, the undersigned, are designers who have been raised in a world in which we put profit over people and the planet in an attempt to keep the gears of capitalism greased and well maintained. Our time and energy are increasingly used to manufacture demand, to exploit populations, to extract resources, to fill landfills, to pollute the air, to promote colonization, and to propel our planet’s sixth mass extinction. We have helped to create comfortable, happy lives for some of our species and allowed harm to others; our designs, at times, serve to exclude, eliminate, and discriminate.

Co-signed. Burn the whole fucking system down and start over. I love to read a good manifesto. And write them too. The more manifestos the merrier. 


Cutting Room Floor:

CJW: Free eBooks on Policing from Haymarket and Verso

Haymarket Books is giving away the Who Do You Serve, Who Do You Protect? eBook for free.

And Verso is giving away The End of Policing.

CJW: Memory I (via Ospare)

For centuries, many people of color and many at risk have been speaking against governments that are structurally disinterested in allowing parts of the population to live. Existing in denial of risk, it is the societal inability to hear, accept, and truly internalize this possibility that continues to make excuses, in the face of great grief, for the calculated incompetence of governments that are little more than violent, financialized bureaucracies of empire.

A lot of interesting thoughts in this essay, about memory, potential, myth, and more.


DCH: ESO Telescope Sees Signs of Planet Birth

The European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope has glimpsed what they believe is evidence of a planet forming:

The new images feature a stunning spiral of dust and gas around AB Aurigae, located 520 light-years away from Earth in the constellation of Auriga (The Charioteer). Spirals of this type signal the presence of baby planets, which ‘kick’ the gas, creating “disturbances in the disc in the form of a wave, somewhat like the wake of a boat on a lake,” explains Emmanuel Di Folco of the Astrophysics Laboratory of Bordeaux (LAB), France, who also participated in the study. As the planet rotates around the central star, this wave gets shaped into a spiral arm. The very bright yellow ‘twist’ region close to the centre of the new AB Aurigae image, which lies at about the same distance from the star as Neptune from the Sun, is one of these disturbance sites where the team believe a planet is being made.

MKY: mmmm…. Lying in the gutters of quar life, watching new planets form.

DCH: This Isn’t My Fantasy Apocalypse

Another great one by Nate Powell.

MJW: You’re Wrong About

Sarah Marshall and Michael Hobbes are the hosts of You’re Wrong About, and I swear I could listen to them do a deep dive into ANYTHING and be just completely riveted throughout. ‘But, Marlee,’ you might say. ‘I don’t think a two-part episode of a podcast about Kato Kaelin (a bit-part player in the OJ Simpson case) would be that interesting,’ but you’re wrong about that.

Marshall and Hobbes are sharp, insightful, and journalists of the highest order: complete research nerds. I found this podcast a couple of days before isolation began and have made my way through the entire back catalogue, soothed from my mania with stories of the shit I remember from the 80’s and 90’s that we were all just so wrong about. Highlight episodes include Tonya Harding, their 4-part DC Snipers ep, and one on the obesity epidemic that hit me hard in the feels.



This one could have gone under Self-Promotion, because Episode 2 features *this guy* but I share it here because Gareth has already posted interviews with some other great authors, Elizabeth Bear, and Rym Kechacha. Gareth actually told me about Kechacha’s book while we were doing my interview, and it sounded so good and relevant to my interests that I bought it right away. Expect me to drop a review in the newsletter when I’ve had a chance to read it.

DCH: Cornell West “The system cannot reform itself.”


DCH: Killer Mike “We don’t want to see Target’s burning. We want to see the system that sets up for systemic racism burnt to the ground.”

If those videos don’t make you cry and rage then you’re just fucking broken. End of.

CJW: Mrs Piss - Self-Surgery

As I was listening to the first track I thought “this sounds like Chelsea Wolfe mixed with…” and then I realised Mrs Piss was in fact a new project from Chelsea Wolfe and Jess Gowrie. It’s definitely more punk-leaning than Wolfe’s other work - short, fast-paced tracks, with a lot of energy and anger.

CJW: Some more press and such in relation to Repo Virtual


CJW: And that’s it for now. I could say more, but I won’t keep you any longer. Stay safe, and stay mad.