‘Scorching irony’, The Trump Inauguration

For some time I’ve been thinking that the time, i.e. the last ten years or so, has been a good time for the return of Spitting Image. For those of you who don’t know, Spitting Image was a sociopolitical satirical comedy that ran on British TV from 1984-1992 in which foam latex puppets created by Peter Luck and Roger Flaw caricaturised notable figures in politics, entertainment and sport.

The 1980s saw Thatcher as the longest reigning British prime minister, Reagan as US president, and Gorbachev as Russian president. It also saw the start of the First Persian Gulf War and The Falklands War. The Olympic Games in Russia was boycotted by 60 countries, and hostages taken captive from the US embassy in Tehran were finally released after 444 days. There was an attempted shooting of Reagan, the Pope was shot, but survived, and Indira Gandhi and John Lennon were shot dead. Apartheid in South Africa had reached a peak and finally come under international criticism and BDS (boycott, divestment and sanctions) responses, after decades of stonewalling by the US administrations. Israeli apartheid under Begin was still being developed with the support of Britain and the US,  resisted by the PLO which was headed by Arafat. During this time, Spitting Image presented a much-needed satirical perspective focused on these and other easily caricatured personalities.

African-American social reformer and abolitionist Frederick Douglass is quoted as saying, ‘At a time like this, scorching irony, not convincing argument, is needed’, and Spitting Image provided just that.

In the absence of Spitting Image, the following video by Bad Lip Reading is offered in that spirit.

As far as a comeback goes, when interviewed late last year, Roger Law said that he did not want to reboot the series in the UK but was tempted “because of Trump” by a recent approach from NBC who are interested in a remake. The Trump puppet, which doesn’t look as much like a caricature as a fairly realistic foam model, was on show with a retrospective of Law’s other works earlier this year.




The Weaponization of Social Media

Transcript of a Corbett Report.

It didn’t take long from the birth of the world wide web for the public to start using this new medium to transmit, collect and analyze information in ways never before imagined. The first message boards and clunky “Web 1.0” websites soon gave way to “the blogosphere.” The arrival of social media was the next step in this evolution, allowing for the formation of communities of interest to share information in real time about events happening anywhere on the globe.

But as quickly as communities began to form around these new platforms, governments and militaries were even quicker in recognizing the potential to use this new medium to more effectively spread their own propaganda.

Their goal? To shape public discourse around global events in a way favourable to their standing military and geopolitical objectives.

Their method? The Weaponization of Social Media.

This is The Corbett Report.

Facebook. Twitter. YouTube. Snapchat. Instagram. Reddit. “Social media” as we know it today barely existed fifteen years ago. Although it provides new ways to interact with people and information from all across the planet virtually instantaneously and virtually for free, we are only now beginning to understand the depths of the problems associated with these new platforms. More and more of the original developers of social media sites like Facebook and Twitter admit they no longer use social media themselves and actively keep it away from their children, and now they are finally admitting the reason why: social media was designed specifically to take advantage of your psychological weaknesses and keep you addicted to your screen.

SEAN PARKER: If the thought process that went into building these applications—Facebook being the first of them to really understand it—that thought process was all about “How do we consume as much of your time and conscious attention as possible?” And that means that we need to sort of give you a little dopamine hit every once in a while because someone liked or commented on a photo or a post or whatever, and that’s gonna get you to contribute more content and that’s gonna get you more likes and comments. So it’s a social validation feedback loop. I mean it’s exactly the kind of thing that a hacker like myself would come up with, because you’re exploiting a vulnerability in human psychology. And I think that we—the inventors/creators, you know, it’s me, it’s Mark, it’s Kevin Systrom at Instagram, it’s all of these people—understood this consciously and we did it anyway.

SOURCE: Sean Parker – Facebook Exploits Human Vulnerability

It should be no surprise, then, that in this world of social media addicts and smartphone zombies, the 24/7 newsfeed is taking up a greater and greater share of people’s lives. Our thoughts, our opinions, our knowledge of the world, even our mood are increasingly being influenced or even determined by what we see being posted, tweeted or vlogged. And the process by which these media shape our opinions is being carefully monitored and analyzed, not by the social media companies themselves, but by the US military.

MARINA PORTNAYA: When the world’s largest social media platform betrays its users, there’s going to be outrage.

ABC HOST: The study to see whether Facebook could influence the emotional state of its users on that news feed.

CNN ANCHOR: It allowed researchers to manipulate almost 700,000 users’ news feeds. Some saw more positive news about their friends, others saw more negative.

CNN GUEST: Well I’m not surprised. I mean we’re all kind of lab rat than the big Facebook experiment.

PORTNAYA: But it wasn’t only Facebook’s experiment. It turns out the psychological study was connected to the US government’s research on social unrest.

MORNING JOE GUEST: This is really kind of creepy.

PORTNAYA: And it gets worse. What you may not know is that the US Department of Defense has reportedly spent roughly $20 million conducting studies aimed at learning how to manipulate online behavior in order to influence opinion. The initiative was launched in 2011 by the Pentagon’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, otherwise known as DARPA. The program is best described as the US media’s effort to become better at detecting and conducting propaganda campaigns via social media. Translation: When anti-government messages gain ground virally, Washington wants to find a way to spread counter opinion.

SOURCE: US military harnesses social media to manipulate online behaviour

The DARPA document that details the Pentagon’s plans for influencing opinions in the social media space is called “Social Media in Strategic Communication.” DARPA’s goal, according to their own website, is “to develop tools to help identify misinformation or deception campaigns and counter them with truthful information.”

Exactly what tools were developed for this purpose and how they are currently being deployed is unclear. But Rand Walzman, the program’s creator, admitted last year that the project lasted four years, cost $50 million and led to the publication of over 200 papers. The papers, including “Incorporating Human Cognitive Biases in a Probabilistic Model of Retweeting,” “Structural Properties of Ego Networks,” and “Sentiment Prediction using Collaborative Filtering,” make the thrust of the program perfectly clear. Social media users are lab rats being carefully scrutinized by government-supported researchers, their tweets and Facebook posts and Instagram pictures being analyzed to determine how information spreads online, and, by implication, how the government and the military can use these social media networks to make their own propaganda “go viral.”

As worrying as this research is, it pales in comparison to the knowledge that governments, militaries and political lobby groups are already employing squadrons of foot soldiers to wage information warfare in the social media battlespace.

AL-JAZEERA ANCHOR: The Pentagon’s got a new plan to counter anti-American messages in cyberspace. It involves buying software that will enable the American military to create and control fake online personas—fake people, essentially—who will appear to have originated from all over the world. The plan is being undertaken by CENTCOM (US Central Command), and the objective of the online persona management service is to combat enemy propaganda by influencing foreign social media websites. CENTCOM has hired a software development company called “Ntrepid,” and, according to the contract, the California-based company will initially provide 50 user licenses, each of which would be capable of controlling up to 10 fake personas. US law forbids the use of this type of technology, called “sockpuppets,” against Americans, so all the personas will reportedly be communicating in languages like Arabic, Persian and Urdu.

SOURCE: Persona Online Management, Fake Online Personas, Sock Puppets, Astroturfing Bots, Shills

CTV ANCHOR: So is it okay to have the government monitor social media conversations and then to wade in and correct some of those conversations? With more on this, let’s go to technology expert Carmi Levy. He’s on the line from Montreal. Carmi, do you think the government’s monitoring what you and I are saying right now? Is this whole thing getting out of line, or what?

[…]

CARMI LEVY: It opens up a bit of a question. I’d like to call it a Pandora’s box about, you know, what exactly is the government’s aim here, and what do they hope to accomplish with what they find out? And as they accumulate this information online—this data on us—where does that data go? And so I think as much as we should applaud the government for getting into this area, the optics of it are potentially very Big Brother-ish. And the government really does need to be a little bit more concrete on what its intentions are and how it intends to achieve them.

SOURCE: CTV Confirms Government(s) employing Internet Trolls, Shills & PR Agents to ‘correct misinformation’ 

4WWL REPORTER: New evidence that government-owned computers at the Army Corps of Engineers office here in New Orleans are being used to verbally attack critics of the Corps comes in an affidavit from the former editor-in-chief of nola.com. Jon Donley, who was laid off this past February, tells us via satellite from Texas, in late 2006 he started noticing people presenting themselves as ordinary citizens defending the Corps very energetically.

JON DONLEY: What stuck out, though, was the wording of the comments was in many ways mirroring news releases from the Corps of Engineers.

[…]

SANDY ROSENTHAL: These commenters tried to discredit these people . . .

4WWL REPORTER: And when Rosenthal investigated, she discovered the comments were coming from users at the internet provider address of the Army Corps of Engineers offices here in New Orleans. She blamed the Corps for a strategy of going after critics.

 ROSENTHAL: In the process of trying to obscure the facts of the New Orleans floodings, one of their tactics was just verbal abuse.

SOURCE: Government Sock Puppets

NAFTALI BENNETT: Mo’etzet Yesha, in conjunction with My Israel, has arranged an instruction day for Wiki editors. The goal of the day is to teach people how to edit in Wikipedia, which is the number one source of information today in the world. As a way of example, if someone searches the Gaza flotilla, we want to be there. We want to be the guys who influence what is written there, how it’s written, and to ensure that it’s balanced and Zionist in the nature.

SOURCE: Course: Zionist Editing on Wikipedia

These operations are only the visible and publicly-admitted front of a vast array of military and intelligence programs that are attempting to influence online behaviour, spread government propaganda, and disrupt online communities that arise in opposition to their agenda.

That such programs exist is not a matter of conjecture; it is mundane, established, documented fact.

In 2014, an internal document was leaked from GCHQ, the British equivalent of the NSA. The document, never intended for public release, was entitled “The Art of Deception: Training for a New Generation of Online Covert Operations” and bluntly stated that “We want to build Cyber Magicians.” It then goes on to outline the “magic” techniques that must be employed in influence and information operations online, including deception and manipulation techniques like “anchoring,” “priming” and “branding” propaganda narratives. After presenting a map of social networking technologies that are targeted by these operations, the document then instructs the “magicians” how to deceive the public through “attention management” and behavioural manipulation.

That governments would turn to these strategies is hardly a shocking development. In fact, the use of government shills to propagate government talking points and disrupt online dissent has been openly advocated on the record by high-ranking government officials for the past decade.

In 2008, Cass Sunstein, a law professor who would go on to become Obama’s information “czar,” co-authored a paper entitled “Conspiracy Theories,” in which he wrote that the “best response” to online “conspiracy theories” is what he calls “cognitive infiltration” of groups spreading these ideas.

“Government agents (and their allies) might enter chat rooms, online social networks, or even real-space groups and attempt to undermine percolating conspiracy theories by raising doubts about their factual premises, causal logic or implications for political action. In one variant, government agents would openly proclaim, or at least make no effort to conceal, their institutional affiliations. […] In another variant, government officials would participate anonymously or even with false identities.”

It is perhaps particularly ironic that the idea that government agents are actually and admittedly spreading propaganda online under false identities is, to the less-informed members of the population, itself a “conspiracy theory” rather than an established conspiracy fact.

Unsurprisingly, when confronted about his proposal, Sunstein pretended to not remember having written it and then pointedly refused to answer any questions about it.

LUKE RUDKOWSKI: My name is Bill de Burgh from Brooklyn College, and I know you’ve written many articles. But I think the most telling one about you is the 2008 one called “Conspiracy Theories,” where you openly advocated government agents infiltrate activist groups of 9/11 Truth and also stifle dissent online. I was wondering why do you think it’s the government’s job, or why do you think the government should go after family members who have questions and 9/11 responders who are lied to about the air, survivors whose testimony conflicts, and also government whistleblowers that were gagged because they released information that contradicts the official story.

CASS SUNSTEIN: I think it was Ricky who said I’d written hundreds of articles and I remember some and not others. That one I don’t remember very well. I hope I didn’t say that. But whatever was said in that article, my role in government is to oversee federal rule-making in a way that is wholly disconnected from the vast majority of my academic writing, including that.

[…]

RUDKOWSKI: I just want to know is it safe to say that you retract saying that conspiracy theories should be banned or taxed for having an opinion online. Is it safe to say that?

SUNSTEIN: I don’t remember the article very well. So I hope I didn’t say either those things.

RUDKOWSKI: But you did and it’s written. Do you retract them?

SUNSTEIN: I’m focused on my job.

SOURCE: Obama Information Czar Cass Sunstein Confronted on Cognitive Infiltration of Conspiracy Groups

Now, a decade on from Sunstein’s proposal, we know that military psyops agents, political lobbyists, corporate shills and government propagandists are spending vast sums of money and employing entire armies of keyboard warriors, leaving comments and shaping conversations to change the public’s opinions, influence their behaviour, and even alter their mood. And they are helped along in this quest by the very same technology that allows the public to connect on a scale never before possible.

Technology is always a double-edged sword, and sometimes it can be dangerous to wield that sword at all. There are ways to identify and neutralize the threat of online trolls and shills, but the phenomenon is not likely to go away any time soon.

Each of us must find our own answer to the question of how best to incorporate these technologies into our life. But the next time you find yourself caught up in an argument with an online persona that may or may not be a genuine human being, it might be better to ask yourself if your efforts are better spent engaging in the argument or just turning off the computer.




The Anniversary of the Siege of Wanstonia M11 Link Road

first posted on Indymedia by kriptick

Today marks the anniversary of the day hundreds of anti-road protesters were evicted from a row of houses in Wanstead by an army of 600 police, security guards and bailiffs. The houses were flattened to make way for the infamous M11 link road through East London. This and many of the following protests were to define the way for increasingly diverse direct action for years to come.

For me and many others involved in the campaign against the M11 link road this was the most intense period of my life. The protests were always incredibly full on, we gained enormous respect for each other and lifelong friendships were forged as a result of being engaged in – as it seemed to us then – such an epic and sometimes dangerous struggle against injustice.

‘Progress’

I feel that it was such an important episode in the social history of London that it’d be good to use the anniversary to share some of my photos and experiences which will hopefully be of interest to those who were too young to have been around and will also be a good nostalgia trip for those who were as similarly involved as me.

Some background history:

The M11 link road had to be one of the most unjustified road schemes bulldozed through during the Thatcher government’s insane “greatest road building program since the Romans”. 1000 people were to be evicted by the demolition of 300+ houses in a swathe of destruction through Wanstead, Leyton and Leytonstone. It went against all the planning guidelines because it was not an orbital road but a radial one, funnelling yet more traffic towards the centre of London. It had been planned decades ago in a time when few people predicted that you cannot indefinitely build your way out of traffic congestion because traffic invariably grows to fill any newly built road to it’s maximum capacity.

Map of the first areas of destruction here: http://tinyurl.com/27dsq

There had been several public enquiries as hopelessly biased as all road enquiries are/were. The simple statistics were that about 95% of proposed road “improvement” schemes sent to public enquiry were given the green light. This was hardly surprising because:

    • No one was allowed to question the terms of reference of any enquiry. Decisions were taken almost entirely by cost benefit analysis. This meant that motorists’ time wasted by sitting in self inflicted traffic jams was deemed to be worth 8 pence/minute. If the product of all those motorists’ time was more than the cost of road construction then the scheme could go ahead.
    • No financial cost was ever placed on communities being ripped apart, the effects of climate change, pollution, priceless landscapes destroyed etc.
    • The decision was never made by a judge and independent jury but instead would always be made by just one establishment figure appointed by the government itself. In the case of the M11 link road enquiry, a retired army colonel who would have spent his working life being chauffeur driven from one traffic jam to the next authorised the destruction of entire communities that he had absolutely no connection with.
    • In the very rare instances when planning was refused by an inquiry the transport minister would often overrule the decision – and we’re told we live in a democracy.

It was because of this apalling bias in favour of reckless road building that the direct action campaign against all the senseless destruction sprang up in the early 90’s starting at Twyford Down – a famous beauty spot near Winchester. Once protests at Twyford Down had subsided, the focus moved to the distinctly urban M11 link road campaign and to many other sites around the country. After every legal challenge was lost in the high court, we used any means that our active imaginations could come up with to obstruct the destruction at every step by squatting condemned buildings, living in trees and invading the work sites and stopping everything by placing our bodies in the way of the machinery.

Interest in the M11 campaign started slowly when destruction commenced in September 1993. In the early days while we were defending small trees by perching up them on scrubland that was being trashed by bulldozers it was difficult for us to even get coverage by local newspapers. Local support was sparse but this dramatically changed when 8 foot high fences were erected around a 250 year old sweet chestnut tree on George Green in Wanstead prior to its felling. Wanstonians were furious at this as they had always been led to believe that their village green would be untouched because the road would pass under it in a tunnel. So one Saturday an inadequate number of security guards and cops could only watch in amazement when an extraordinary display of spontaneous revolt took place as local school kids and adults and seasoned activists flattened every square metre of the fences, burned the posts and used some of the panels to build a tree house in the reclaimed tree.

The camp fire around the tree became a regular gathering point not just for protestors but all kinds and classes of local people from 8 to 80 year olds who would never normally have spoken to each other let alone to all the Earth First crustys. As one local social activist commented: “I’ve been trying to get the local people to meet together like this for years but these people have succeeded overnight”.

A piece in the Guardian resulted in one reader spontaneously sending a letter of support addr essed to the tree house and this was followed by about 400 others later to be collected into a book entitled “Dear tree”. This letter  actually delivered by the postman was used in the high court to establish the tree house as a lawful dwelling thought to be a legal precedent at the time. The department of transport were then further delayed by having to go through the lengthy process of a court order in order to evict the tree house occupants before they could fell the tree. Finally in the very early morning of December 7’th 1993, 400 cops swarmed into Wanstead to enforce the felling of the tree. Despite entirely passive resistance by 250 protesters surrounding the tree, the cops resorted to apalling violence, punching kids and pensioners in the face and breaking my ankle by deliberately stamping on it under cover of darkness. This was the day that the campaign made it big on the mainstream media as the national TV news that evening showed crowds of Wanstead women and children in floods of tears as a digger callously tore the tree from its roots in the name of progress. The policing costs for the day were £100,000 and this was to be one of many increasingly costly and high profile operations during the life of the campaign.

Celebrating the creation of our new republic. 2 Cambridge Park

The people of Wanstead and fellow protesters were so sickened by the government’s brutal determination to push this road scheme through that they created the independent free area of Wanstonia by declaring unilateral independence from the British state for nos. 2 – 12 Cambridge Park. This was the next group of elegant but decaying Edwardian houses due to be demolished – right next to the green where the sweet chestnut tree had recently been fought over. Wanstonia passports were printed and distributed to friendlies, official looking letters were duly sent off to the foreign office and the UN and a massive barricading operation began to prepare for the next onslaught by the hated DoT.

Lock-on arm tubes were built into chimneys on the roofs and concrete filled oildrum lock-ons perched precariously on balconies. The large conker tree in the front garden of number 2 had a spacious platform built which was connected by a high level walkway to the house. A network of ladderboards was laid over the steep tiled roofs. One room in no. 2 had all it’s windows blocked, it’s walls reinforced with concrete and an ingenious sliding access trap door installed. Two women, one of them the house’s former occupant were locked onto a concrete filled washing machine in this inner citadel along with a video activist to record any evidence of torture by the bailiffs. We had thought of hiring our own digger to excavate a moat around the entire perimeter of Wanstonia but decided we couldn’t afford it. The campaign had so few funds then that we couldn’t even afford to buy proper carabiners for attaching wrists inside the lockons and we had to use bent nails instead. The bailiffs were to quickly discover that by pulling sufficiently brutally on the arms of people locked on like this they could unbend the hooked nails – saving themselves hours of hard work with Kango hammers.

Nothing like Indymedia existed then of course as the internet had not yet properly opened up to the masses but a phone tree was quickly established ready for activating once we received the tip off that eviction was to be on Ash Wednesday. In those early days these tip offs were usually very reliable as there were many sympathisers working amongst the forces of darkness.

There was a full on party atmosphere in the doomed houses the evening before the eviction as we had networked massively with Earth First groups all around the country and succeeded in filling all the houses and roofs to bursting/sliding off point with hundreds of people. These direct action protests were considered fairly novel then as well as being highly photogenic and it was becoming easy for us to attract coverage by the mainstream media. This was helped further by us having some very talented and imaginative press release writers and a fax machine. Because of all this interest, there were plenty of mainstream journos who had made it into the houses with us. It was comical watching them make their reports for the late evening news wearing immaculate suits and then having to doss down on the grubby floor with everyone else ready for eviction the next morning.

Just after dawn police Operation Barnard kicked off right on cue as 37 riot cop vans and several coaches glided into Cambridge Park road like one long express train. About 600 cops and security guards surrounded our nascent republic to prevent anyone else being able to enter and join us. The high sheriff used a megaphone to warn us all that we were required to leave the premises immediately in case any of us didn’t realise we weren’t actually supposed to be there. This was met with a deafening roar and a surge of adrenalin from everyone in & on the houses. Bailiffs then set about smashing every window and door of the barricaded houses using sledge hammers and crow bars and dragging protesters one by one from inside.

Approaching destruction. Chestnut tree formerly stood in this compound

The largest hydraulic platforms (cherry pickers) in the country were driven to the road just outside the houses to pluck us one by one from the roofs. These cherry pickers were like massive siege engines – no part of the roofs were inaccessible to them as they could extend up to 200 feet vertically, almost the same horizontally and they came equipped with two bailiffs in each basket. One of them was a complete bloody psycho who had a smirk on his face all day and delighted in swinging his pet sledge hammer at the brittle tiles as close as he could to where we were clinging on.

We tried to keep the whole thing good natured for like nearly all evictions, it could only end as a glorious defeat for us. Our intention as always was simply to spin out the process for as long as possible so as to cause maximum cost and embarrassment to the DoT. We had an absolute ethic of non-violence then and not a single tile or brick was thrown from the roofs by us and yet the bailiffs took terrible risks with our lives as they performed vicious tug-of-war with our limbs and bodies suspended way above the ground. One of the digger drivers demolished an end wall holding up the roof that I was sitting on. Of course every single one of the police on the ground turned a blind eye to all these life threatening actions.

After this eviction we regrouped further on down the route of the planned destruction and prepared for Operation Roadblock.

 




Dear Revolutionaries…

[Written from a US perspective, but applicable anywhere]

by Futureofminds for the Conscious Resistance Network

Dear Revolutionaries,

Stop going to meetings, it’s not working.

Stop marching, put the signs down.

Go home and begin investing in your families, your circles, your networks.

Dear activists, stop killing yourselves for the revolution.

If you haven’t slept in three days because of all the latest news, policies, and meeting and your beginning to see grey hairs sprout faster than the weeds in your backyard, stop.

Also, stop with the pessimism and the doom.

If activists and revolutionaries spent half the time building and creating what they wished to see, rather than reacting to the corruption of a broken system, our problems would slowly but surely dwindle away.

Activists, more building less demanding. Break old habits.

City halls are broken, state capitals are broken, America is broken. Get over it, and start creating.

Let our radical collective actions set the example of what is expected from a government, a community and a nation.

Stop begging for change on a street corner with cardboard signs and hip photos to post after the event on instagram.

When you resist the system, the energy spent on opposing corruption takes away from building new systems of living. 

Think about it like an abusive relationship, if you keep begging your partner to change but stay in the toxic environment of the relationship.. you will continue to be abused.

Stop allowing yourselves to be abused.

Start investing in local social support and resources.

Find organizations that actively build on the foundations of productivity and functionality.

Revolutionaries truly need to ask themselves what does the revolution look like?

Do you see it vividly, does it include violence?

Or does it include the beauty of grassroots systematic social and local change.

And within the revolution that you envision… how are people treated?

With kindness in language and actions?

Do you practice these modes of social relations in your day to day life?

Do you encourage the good and discourage the bad?

When you envision systematic revolution, what are the moral structures that allow harmony to exist.

More importantly, do you practice these methods with your spouse, your partner, your children, your family, your friends.

When you envision the future, does it involve healing?

If so, are you actively healing yourself?

Or do you want change so bad that you neglect your obligations.

Does change drive you to the corruption you fight against, or the addictions you are trying to solve within the other.

This article was written with the intention of telling revolutionary activists to slow down, take a deep breath, self inventory and as Luisah Teish would say “you gotta be willing to LIVE for the revolution, not die for it, honey”. https://youtu.be/fRNnolpEBYs

Check in, ask yourself why it is we cannot manifest the change we wish to see.

Could it be the time, energy, and finances are being invested in all the wrong places?

Heres a few examples locally and throughout the US of people who are creatively manifesting change in the narratives of revolution.

Luke Rudowski – Multi Media Journalist and founder of We Are Change https://youtu.be/2lZ5R8Ohn-s 

Micha White – Activist, Co-founder of Occupy Wall Street and author of The End of Protest https://youtu.be/nE0FJrJJvoE

Floyd Harris Jr- Founder of The Freedom School  https://xyfloyd.wixsite.com/freedomschool

and

Desiree Marando Martinez- Founder of Homeless in Fresno and the We Are Not Invisible foundation.

There are thousands of others, many may be in your community and you just don’t know it yet.

These are just four people in my own journey who have been an inspiration to myself and communities looking for fundamental change world wide.  

Those listed above have dedicated their lives to create revolutionary change as a daily practice.

No longer can we continue to hold rallies for and with people who already agree with our message.

No longer can we hold monthly meetings that go no where.

Please leave the street corners alone and stop yelling at people who already agree with you that the system is broken.

…..So where do we go from here?

I encourage every reader to take in consideration no matter who you are: a janitor, doctor, teacher, line clerk, social worker, psychologist, chef, etc. to critically analyze what it looks like to be a revolutionary in your field.

Does it look like setting your phone down and having a conversation with the person in front of you.

Does it look like a weekly meet-up group in your backyard.

Does it look like building an after school program, or writing new curriculum in your place of work.

Does it look like community fundraisers, or creating new bus routes and if the city doesn’t comply setting up a volunteer system to get people to where they need to be.

Does it look like a theater group, a band, a artist residency.

Only YOU know what YOU do best, so go out there and build some shit, our future depends on it.

*Authors note: Every role is vital, from the front line activists to the revolutionary teachers to the politicians who fight against corruption. Every role is necessary, yet in our current political state we deeply and radically need to reassess whats working and whats broken, what can be built and what must be left in the past, what is genuine change and what is resistance, the future of our humanity depends on it.




Whenever We Eat Animal Foods, We Are Being Exploited

The most obvious and non-controversial characteristic of animal agriculture is that it is a system in which humans exploit animals for food. The vast majority of us go along with the internalized cultural narratives that justify this exploitation. We don’t realize that we are also being abused and exploited by the same system that is exploiting the cows, chickens, fishes, and pigs.

There’s basically one primary reason any of us eats animal-sourced foods: we do this because we’re following orders that were injected into us from infancy by well-intentioned people we trusted completely. This indoctrination is literally eaten in the most potent and pervasive of all social rituals, our daily meals. It’s important to understand that when we go to shops and restaurants and purchase animal foods, we are not only sustaining a system of exploitation of animals, we are also unwittingly fueling our own exploitation on many levels, and in feeding these foods to our children, we’re fueling their exploitation as well.

Let’s take cows as a profoundly relevant example. Cows are clearly designed to thrive on grass, but they are fed richer and more complex grains such as soy, corn, oats, wheat, and alfalfa in order to boost milk production in dairies and increase weight gain in beef operations. This causes cows digestive distress and leads ironically to the proliferation of the E. coli bacterial strains that are deadly to human consumers of undercooked hamburgers. However cow exploiters don’t stop with grains. Agricultural scientists discovered long ago that if cow feed is “enriched” with fish meal as well as the rendered flesh and offal of chickens, pigs, cows, dogs, cats, and other animals, this is even better than grain at promoting milk production and weight gain, and thus increased profits for the industries involved.

In sum, cows are fed foods that are not in their interest, but that are to the advantage of their exploiters. With us, if we are eating animal foods, it is precisely the same situation. Like cows, we are created and have evolved to thrive on the food for which we are designed, which in our case is whole grains, fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, and seeds. Like cows, we can certainly eat other foods, such as animal flesh and mammary secretions designed for other species, and as in the case of cows, this harms our health on many levels, but the significant point is that it increases the profits of our exploiters, and so it continues. The animal exploiters have stolen the sovereignty of cows, and so the cows are powerless to eat anything but what the exploiters provide them. With both cows and humans it is remarkably similar. Exploiters provide the foods that they want the exploitees to consume to maximize their profits and power, and the exploitees dutifully comply. They encourage each other by their shared example, and additionally in our case, we ironically police each other to ensure compliance.

Farm Animals by artist Madeleine Tuttle The benefits to the exploiters in these situations are vast. The disempowerment and harm to the exploitees are equally vast. Let’s have a brief look at the consequences of this exploitation on five levels of our health.

First, our physical health. Being compelled from infancy to eat animal-based foods, we are more likely to develop cancer, heart disease, diabetes, obesity, auto-immune diseases, dementia, and the other chronic diseases which fuel hundreds of billions of dollars of profits annually for the pharmaceutical-medical complex, and the banks and financial institutions in the background. This system, and the governmental, academic, media, and corporate complex that is tied in with it, requires a steady flood of reliably sick people. Feeding the population a diet based on animal foods that concentrate toxins accomplishes this. Most of the wealth generated concentrates in the hands of a powerful elite, while most of us endure economic injustices such as exorbitant medical costs that ravage our economy and well-being. Eating animal foods, we become unwitting cash cows for an aggressive medical-pharmaceutical complex.

Second, our environmental health. Animal agriculture is well recognized to be the single most environmentally devastating human activity, destroying forests, oceans, aquifers, soil quality, climate stability, and propelling the mass extinction of species through rampant habitat destruction. Here again, we are being exploited when we purchase and eat animal-based foods. Because animal-based foods require much more petroleum, land, fertilizer, pesticides, and water, we are paying powerful and polluting petroleum, chemical, and agribusiness corporations and financial institutions to not only devastate the precious air, water, soil, and life quality for ourselves and our children, but we are also funding their legendary political power to infiltrate and dominate our governmental, educational, legal, and media institutions. As a result, these corporations are even subsidized with billions of our tax dollars annually to damage the health of our ecosystems, which further erodes our physical health, increasing our disease rates and the profits to the medical complex and the bankers lurking in the background.

Third, our cultural health. Because animal agriculture is profoundly wasteful of oil, water, land, and food, we have chronic food shortages in our world, even though we grow more than enough food to feed everyone, if we ate plant-based food directly rather than feeding it to livestock. Food shortages are well recognized to be the primary driving force behind much of the conflict in our world, and together with this inevitable conflict, is the direct cause of refugees, social breakdown, and many forms of human trafficking. The very first word for war going back ten thousand years is the ancient word “gavyaa” meaning literally “the desire for more cows.” Economic injustice, war, hunger, domination of women, and the arising of a privileged ruling elite are all linked to the ancient invention of animal herding around which we still organize our society. Thus, instead of using our economic surplus to revitalize our ecosystems, rebuild our infrastructure, and assure adequate housing, food, education, healthcare, and opportunity for all, we use it primarily for subsidizing the wealthy military and medical complexes. We sacrifice our children in wars that benefit a ruling class that uses the media and other institutions to propagate narratives that justify and promote an agenda of violence. Eating animal foods, we are fueling continued harm to our cultural health as well as the ongoing exploitation of our children and of ourselves.

Fourth, our psychological health. When, as children, we are compelled to sit at the table and eat animal foods that are harmful to our physical health, we are also being compelled to eat attitudes and beliefs that injure our psychological health. With every meal, we are being colonized psychologically in order to be malleable to the military-industrial-meat-medical-media complex. There are many dimensions to this, but to keep it brief, we’ll just look at a few, for example, the attitude of disconnectedness and desensitization that is imposed on us by being required as children to relentlessly eat animal foods. It’s well understood in systems theory that intelligence is the capacity for any system to make relevant connections and respond to feedback. Eating animal foods reduces this capacity and numbs our feelings both individually and collectively. We learn to stay shallow and avoid looking, listening, and feeling deeply. We avoid making the dreaded connection between what we are eating and what it took to get it on our plate. We are indoctrinated in daily meal rituals to repress our natural empathy and caring for others and this reduction of our cognitive and affective intelligence makes it comparatively easy for us to become gullible and uncritical consumers of narratives and products that reduce, harm, and enslave others and us. Our minds and bodies are also colonized by the poisonous attitude that beings are not beings but are rather mere commodities: material objects that we buy and sell by the pound. Upon reflection, this is shockingly debasing to others and to ourselves, but we both propel and consume this highly exploitive attitude with every meal, sowing seeds of our own exploitation. Finally, we are compelled to eat dairy, eggs, and meat products that require rampant abuse of animal mothers, their forced insemination and stealing of their babies and the destruction of their sacred mother-child bonds. We become easily exploited psychologically by causing and eating this trauma, repressing our feminine capacity, and feeding this to our trusting children. We eat products that are the embodiment of misery, fear, despair, insomnia, frustration, and chronic pain. The pharmaceutical industry’s most immense profits come from people buying drugs for precisely these conditions: despair, trauma, insomnia, depression, and chronic pain.

Fifth, and finally, our spiritual health. This may be the most severe exploitation of all. Every meal corrodes our basic connection with our true nature as eternal expressions of consciousness. By being required to repeatedly and ritually reduce other magnificent expressions of life to mere physical matter devoid of subjectivity and purpose, we sever our connection with the beauty, abundance, and enchantment of the living, interconnected web of life that is celebrating on this Earth. We have unwittingly become, in significant ways, an abusive scourge on this Earth that destroys and consumes as our life-purpose, both individually and collectively.

6a00d83451ccd169e201676357f90e970b-320wiOur innate spiritual wisdom and our purpose have been paved over and repressed, and as we become sick and addicted, our exploitation increases dramatically. A false purpose and set of narratives has been forced on us by the herding culture into which we are born: that we are here to exploit the garden and consume it. Other animals and ecosystems pay a steep price for our inability to free ourselves from being exploited, as do our children and we ourselves, ultimately.

The animal agriculture roots of our multi-dimensional exploitation have been invisible and unrecognized for too long. Now we can finally see and fully understand the dynamics involved. Being compelled from infancy to eat animal foods has created us to be a severely wounded population with drastically reduced capacities intellectually, emotionally, morally, and spiritually to fulfill our potential and create contexts that nurture justice, cooperation, creativity, freedom, joy, radiant health, and sustainability. Fortunately, this is beginning to change, and the momentum of our healing and awakening is increasing.

We can see two raging infernos on this planet. One is burning and destroying ecosystems, animals, societies, sanity, health, and our children’s future. The other is benevolent and is illuminating and incinerating the obsolete delusions perpetuated by our unquestioned exploitation of animals, and is revealing a new path to a doorway that leads to a positive future.

We will be free when we free others, and there is nothing physically holding us back from the evolution of respect, freedom, and harmony that is beckoning us. Whenever we eat animals foods of any kind—free-range, grass-fed, wild-caught, factory-farmed—it is all the same and cut from the same cloth: exploitation. Our exploitation ends when we awaken from the cultural program of exploiting other living beings and co-create a more aware plant-based way of eating and living, and understand the reasons behind this. Exploiting animals, we exploit and delude ourselves; freeing animals, we free ourselves.