If you really want to bring down Trump, snap at his Achilles heel

The science-fiction author Philip K. Dick once wrote that “sometimes the only rational response to reality is to go insane”. Some experiences and threats are just too traumatic to deal with. Hence we use a range of psychological mechanisms to protect our sense of who we are and what we are doing from breaking down. One of the main ones is denial: we simply pretend that that which troubles us doesn’t exist. However, denying what we are scared to face has consequences which may be worse than the thing itself. Repressed fears can return as outbursts of rage against undeserving targets, fetishised stand-ins for whatever it is that we are avoiding.

I believe that the core appeal of the new far-right of Trump, Le Pen, Farage and so on is that it denies on our behalf things that we can’t face, and identifies simple targets against whom our repressed fears can be expressed in the form of rage. The list of things that supporters of such individuals systematically deny includes racism, rape, historical events, news sources, slavery, the holocaust, science,  and accepted facts in relation to all of the above.

How can I state the above with such certainty? In the spirit of honesty and not denying one’s own past, I confess that for several years I was in the very bad habit of arguing with supporters of Ukip on Twitter. In a bid to use the medium as something other than an echo chamber, I sought out people with opinions different from mine and tried to engage them in debate. One thing I learned is that such a  platform is not designed for and can’t really be adapted to support meaningful political discussion. The other conclusion I was forced to accept is that denial is the central platform of parties like Ukip. It was like doing a Master’s degree in Puerility and Obtuseness Studies. Not only did I see their supporters regularly deny all the things I listed above: I was also regularly part of interactions in which the other party would deny what they had just said, refuse to acknowledge a logical fallacy in their argument, ask for evidence of my points and then refuse to engage with the evidence I provided, and turn to personal abuse when all else had failed. Part of the problem with discussing politics on the Internet in general and Twitter in particular is that the other party can just disappear: they’re not responsible for defending the statements they’ve made or the claims of the organisation they’re supporting. This exacerbated the problems I experienced in trying to reason with people whose worldview denies reason itself.

All that I’ve described is united in one specific issue, one that I think enables and then excuses all types of denial. That, of course, is the climate. If you can deny Climate Change, you can deny anything. It helps enormously (and is absolutely no coincidence) that the leaders of new far-right parties are funded directly by the Climate Denial Industry. But the ideology of denial runs deeper than mere economic self-interest. We are all to some extent if not climate deniers at least climate ignorers. As I’ve argued before, we are all complicit in the conspiracy to cover up the facts about the climate. However, as abstract facts become manifest in our daily lives, as changes to our habitat become more apparent and less deniable, the pathology of the serious climate trolls is deepening and spreading to infect all other areas of human knowledge and seriously threatening everything that we take for granted, all the rights and forms of social progress that underpin our freedom and stable way of life.

The links between, on the one hand, those in the political realm who ridicule and censor our attempts to protect our living systems and, on the other, the economic interests that jeopardise our species’ survival are also becoming more explicit and less deniable. Anyone curious about Trump’s connections to Russia and what interests lie behind them does not need to go trawling through Wikileaks documents or hope that some hitherto unseen videotape comes to light. The fact that Putin has regularly been seen in the company of the man who Trump appointed his Secretary of State is troubling in itself. That his company (ExxonMobbil) has rightly been called the greatest criminal corporation in history tells us most of what we need to know about what is going on in international politics right now. Trump’s direct financial involvement in the pipelines he himself has authorised fills in the rest of the dots.

The reason that climate change is the Achilles heel of the new far-right is that it is only possible to go on denying these things if you are part of a psychotic cult, one which is led by a psychopath and whose principle purpose, whose golden edict, is denial. If you are not part of such a cult, the available facts speak for themselves, or at least they would if they were more widely acknowledged. The reason that the things I’ve described are not more widely discussed is because they have revolutionary implications for how we live. That’s why companies like ExxonMobbil, Volkswagen, Koch Industries etc have devoted so much money and energy to making sure that ordinary people are confused by basic facts about the climate, believing that there is doubt and ambiguity where there is none. But our own experience of the world has now reached a point where it is only by direct censorship and repression that the truth and its implications can be contained.

If we truly want to address the cause of the rise of monsters like Trump and Le Pen, we all have to become climate campaigners. They are strong because we are silent about what most scares us. If we, collectively, can break that silence then we can expose them at their weakest point. That means we need to learn and share as widely as possible the true story of the climate crisis, one which starts with very basic science and develops into the deadliest and most dastardly conspiracy in human history. It also means that we have to be open with each other about something that truly terrifies us. Although activism is in itself a form of therapy in that it transforms our perspective on our own situation from a passive to a dynamic one, it isn’t enough in relation to this issue. We also need climate therapy groups, in which people can be honest about their fears. To paraphrase Thomas Pynchon, we need to keep sane, but care. And we also need to make sure that whenever anyone is worrying or ranting about the dangers that Trump, Le Pen and their ilk represent, climate change is absolutely central to the concerns being expressed.

The ideology of the emerging Trump/Putin/etc cult is based on psychotic and puerile denial of the causes and consequences of changes in our climate. The most effective way to stem its rise is to break our silence about that terrifying subject and accept our adult responsibility not to let the most evil forces on the planet destroy the lives of all of our children – including, as of three days ago, my own.

The Amtrak Trilogy Part 1: Costa Rica to New York

timthumbI yawned deeply amidst the luxury bedding of the boutique hotel on the slopes of the volcano in Costa Rica, and prepared to go back to sleep. It was 5.45am, December 21, 2012. I know the date because I just (now, in 2017) double-checked the details of my flight from San José to JFK. This is something I’d been oddly reluctant to do for the previous ten days, which my then-girlfriend now-wife and I had spent enjoying the resplendent flora, abundant fauna and disappointing food of the ‘Switzerland of Central America’*. Occasionally Chiara had reminded me to look up the time of my return journey, which was different from hers because I’d bought my ticket as a special surprise present for her birthday (er…) and the flight I’d booked was half an hour later and (inevitably) on a different plane. I knew that my flight was in the evening, as was hers to Madrid, but whenever the subject came up I didn’t happen to have my phone to hand, or was too busy looking up names of birds, or just trying hard to ignore a muffled thought I’d locked in a cupboard in my head which was saying something that sounded a bit like, Richard, your flight isn’t in the evening, it’s actually first thing in the morning. So I didn’t get round to checking until once again prompted by her on the morning of the very last day, which we had planned to spend eating a big boutique breakfast followed by a stroll to look at the innards of the big farty mountain with the hard-to-pronounce name. When I looked at the details I “gave a start”. Although I’d never consciously reflected on what that phrase means, I now know it means “to run round the room of a boutique hotel shouting fuck! Fuck! FUCK! and trying to find one’s glasses while also having a shower and packing one’s bag. And apologising. A lot.”

The friendliness of the South African couple who ran the place turned out to be able to withstand having their bedroom door banged on loudly at 5.52am, especially when it became clear that the English guy from Room 4 was too lost in panic to understand the value of money. $100 and forty-five minutes later, I was at the airport.

On the plane I had something of a epistomological crisis. What did I really ‘know’? Could I trust my own ‘knowledge’ of the world? Is our perception of reality based purely on choosing to believe that which suits us and ignore everything else? What other blindspots were there in my worldview? What did this imply about our ‘awareness’ of Climate Change? Like, if I was really as worried about global warming as I told myself I was, what was I doing on yet another plane? And what would my girlfriend’s parents and friends say when they found out how stupid I was? Could I even trust the evidence of my own eyes? The ticket before me, for example, clearly indicated a four-hour gap between my arrival at and departure from JFK. That suggested I could go to the centre of New York and walk around for a bit, right? But who was I to judge such a thing? I would need to ask another human, anyone who wasn’t me, to make the decision for me.

Once deplaned at JFK that’s what I did. I asked a nearby baggage handler to confirm that I could safely set foot in Manhattan or The Bronx or wherever and be back in time for the connection to London. I’d never been to New York before, I explained. She peered at the ticket. No, she said.

Twenty minutes later I was walking down a street in Queens. In New York! It was just like in the films, although not so much ‘Mean Streets’ or ‘Annie: The Musical’, more like ‘Frozen’, ‘My Fingers Just Fucking Fell Off’ or ‘300 Degrees Below Zero’. I reckoned I had enough time to eat some pizza pie, grab a beer in some nondescript bar, shoot dead Donald Trump and maybe track down Thomas Pynchon before heading back to the warmth of the airport.

How does one order pizza in New York? By the slice? How big are the slices? These were the questions I didn’t want to ask as I stood in line. I wanted to feel like I belonged, like a Native New Yorker, but I didn’t, like the song says you should, ‘know the score’. The guys behind the counter seemed to be Middle-Eastern,  but I could hear some proper sweary Italo-American voices coming out of the kitchen. I confidently ordered enough food to feed the entire population of San José for two months and sat down unobtrusively in the corner to peruse some sports magazines which may as well have been written in Patagonian Welsh for all that I could understand of them.

It was technically my first visit to the US but in a sense I’d been there for the previous ten days. Costa Rica sometimes felt a bit like a Disneyland version of Latin America. We’d met so many North Americans even I’d started pronouncing it Coaster Rica. The first was Darylle, whose Airbnb place we stayed at in San José upon arriving. I hadn’t known much about the country we were visiting except that it once had a President who thought it was sometimes okay to spit on people and that it didn’t have an army. (I knew those things because I’d written about them here.) Having breakfast with Darryle was like doing a Master’s in Costa Rican history, society and politics. (It was also the best meal we would have in Costa Rica.) He was an expat lawyer who, after a spell in the Peace Corps in the ’60s, had moved to San José and was very much part of life there. He also sponsored a school in Nepal along with a bewildering list of other laudable activities.

In a blues bar in Quepos we talked to and danced with exiles from Reagan’s America who’d decided to stay for good; just up the road there was a reminder that Costa Rica had been friendly to the US in more disturbing ways, another remnant of the Reagan years in the form of a plane used to transport ‘aid’ to the Contra death squads in neighbouring Nicaragua. Also in Quepos we came across the remains of a banana processing factory – Costa Rica was for almost a hundred years used as a massive banana plantation by US corporations. On the last night, in that boutique guesthouse on the volcano, we had dinner with a New York couple who talked in quiet tones with immense sensitivity and intelligence about the suffering inflicted by Hurricane Sandy and what we as a species could do to prevent it happening elsewhere. In all the personal encounters I recognised and admired that particular openness and readiness for conversation, that effusive volubility that characterises pretty much all the US citizens I’ve ever met. As I munched on my mountain of pizza pie and worried about missing my plane I had the feeling that this was a country where anyone could start to feel like they belonged.

I’d be back.


* We spent the first couple of days in Cost Ric puzzling over why there were so many Argentinians employed in the tourist industry, but then we realised that Central Americans also go in for that whole voseo thing. Another surprise came at about 4am in a hammock, when I heard this sound from what seemed like less than a metre away. Our favourite animal of the holiday, though, was the local version of the sloth, which apparently only comes down from its tree once every two weeks to take a dump. Pura vida!

Self-delusion 101: Conversation with a climate denier


There are several Facebook groups dedicated to the topic of Climate Change/Global Warming. The ones called ‘discussion’ and ‘debate’ are crawling with trolls. Some are better: I thought the one called something like ‘Air, Water, Energy, Resources’ was more serious. This is (what I remember of) a ‘conversation’ (insofar as that venerable term can be applied to online interactions) with someone who turned out to be one of the administrators of said group, who had commented on this article which I had posted a link to. I’m posting it here not out of self-aggrandisement (I’m not exactly proud of spending time online arguing about politics with people who for all I know may be only 13 years old) but because my site (this one) has now become the object of attention from climate trolls and I want to demonstrate one central delusion of their mission to disrupt efforts to save humanity: that their opinions about climate science have any validity or meaning whatsoever. The conversation no longer ‘exists’ because I left the group immediately afterwards, but I’ve tried to be honest in recalling what was said.

Thanks for what you wrote, I think a lot of it is wrong but I respect your right to say it. You’re very sure about scientific things that haven’t been proven. Anyway, do people really deny the holocaust? I don’t think so.

They do, sadly, in fact dedicated climate trolls very often moonlight as holocaust ‘revisionists’. Have a look around. And the science was settled several decades ago, as you must be aware.

That’s not true, you can’t be sure about anything. There are many different opinions. Science is never settled.

Well, it’s not a matter of opinion. Scientists conduct and repeat experiments and the results of those experiments are published and then themselves tested. It’s not guesswork. Anyway its odd that you should have chosen this particular area of science to dispute, because as it happens there’s a massive industry based on denying it, funded by the fossil fuel industry. Is that a coincidence?

I don’t care about fossil fuel companies. I’m interested in the science.

Are you yourself a climate scientist?

I have enough expertise to be a climate scientist.

I have enough expertise to fly a mission to Mars. I’m still waiting for them to call me back. Have you passed a series of exams which test your knowledge of the climate? Have you been rigorously trained in conducting experiments and interpreting their results? Has your expertise been recognised? Do you work in the field of climate science? Where can I find your work so I can see for myself?

I know a lot more than people who do.

But you’re not one. On the scale of climate scientist to internet troll, you’re way on the opposite side from climate scientist. Are you even an adult? Because it seems to me that your understanding of science is puerile.

Please be civil.

Civil? Scientists are essential to civilisation. Pretending to be one undermines the credibility of real scientists and thereby undermines civilisation. Do you pretend to be anyone else? When they say “is there a doctor on the plane?” Has anyone died as a result?

I’ve never pretended to be a doctor.

Well done. That’s really commendable. Look, I’ve just googled your name. This is what came up. You’re not a climate scientist. You may be just a schoolchild. I don’t want to be too hard on you, but get yourself another hobby. This issue is far, far too important to play these kinds of games. And I’ve got a word for you to learn: agnotology. I’ve googled it for you. It means the deliberate spreading of misinformation and uncertainty. That’s what you’re doing. Please, please stop.

This is a Climate Denial coup and we’re all part of it


By the time Trump had finished burbling his way through the oaf of office, all references to Climate Change had been erased from the White House website.

As I have been saying all along to anyone who would listen, this is what Trumpism is ultimately all about.

It is a coup by the corporate climate denial movement.

I predicted that this would happen:

It now looks highly probable that within our own lifetimes the problem of ‘climate change’ or ‘global warming’ will, in one limited sense, disappear. It seems likely to me that the Trump administration will follow the lead of Florida Governor Rick Scott, who forbade government agencies from mentioning it, and former UK Environment Minister Owen Paterson, who refused to read any document containing either phrase.

If they hadn’t gained power this way, they would have done it by means of violence.

Trump’s supporters among ordinary working and not-working people know the facts at some level – only a true psychotic could sincerely ignore the spate of floods, droughts, hurricanes, etc — but they are prevented from articulating their fears by the cover-up campaign and by the social taboo it has generated. Their repressed fears express themselves as furious denial and hatred against any easily identifiable target they are presented with.

And then there’s the rest of us. You, for example. When was the last time you had a serious conversation about the changing climate?

If we continue to avoid discussing the causes and the consequences of the changing climate with our friends, families and colleagues, we are part of the “Trump Revolution”.

In the meantime, I want to say once again to anyone who is listening: Climate Denial and Holocaust Denial are, on a moral plane, identical. Dedicated climate liars should be treated with absolute contempt. Climate denial involves dismissing – indeed facilitating – the suffering unto death of billions of human beings, principally those who are considered to be far away and different. Those who perpetuate it, whether out of personal interest or misanthropy, are involved in the planning and execution of the corporate genocide of the entire human species. And what is taking place inside the White House is the “alt-right” equivalent of the Wannsea Conference. This is the Endlösung for the climate.

It is no accident, therefore, that very many of the same individuals who insist on disrupting all and any discussion of global warming also deny the massacre of millions of people by Hitler. The 2016 film about the Nazi activist David Irving, ‘Denial’, was also, implicitly, a film about climate denial.

Hence there is no need to check on what the stances of Marine Le Pen or Frauke Petry are on environmental questions. We know. They are serving the interests of the most evil forces to have ever held sway over the future of our species.

The most painful aspect is that we are all to some extent climate deniers. We have to be, or life would be impossible.

To explain this I want to post something I wrote on the subject in August 2010. I should have found some way to shout it louder at the time, or worked harder on working harder with people who felt the same way:

Why are so many otherwise entirely rational and intelligent people so prepared to give credence to the denialists? Of course it is partly to do with the media hegemony of corporate power, but not entirely. Personally I comfort myself in the secure knowledge that I myself am prepared to ‘believe’ in the reality of what is happening and what we face, that I ‘know’ that it is happening and will continue to happen; but I’ve come to think that I may be mistaken about my own belief.

There are after all very many things we think we believe, but actually we don’t, and to ‘know’ something is not the same as, in the words of Sven Lvindquist, to understand what we know and to draw conclusions. Despite my firmly held and rationally based opinions, my own actions suggest that I am not a strong believer in the reality of climate change. I do not place much importance in recycling, for example, choosing to regard it as something of a superstitious action akin to shouting at the TV to influence the result of a football match (nobody of course would ‘believe’ for a second that doing so would have any impact, but their ‘irrational’ behaviour might make one think otherwise). My position on recycling could probably be characterised as something of a ‘beautiful soul‘ one: given that other people refuse to change, and given the immense complexities involved, I refuse to act, regarding it (entirely logically, if not rationally) as both utterly ineffective and beneath me. Nevertheless it’s one that I have until now felt entirely comfortable with.

It’s very difficult, impossible perhaps, to take a realistic and rational view of climate change. There is no level of fear or anger that is proportionate, and none of our individual actions are remotely sufficient. I have come to realise, however, that gestures are important, contrary to what I’ve always thought and contrary to what Slavoj Zizek so entertainingly argues. My actions suggest that subconsciously, like anyone else, I refuse to accept the reality of climate change. The trauma is too great to integrate into my notion of the world, the future of the world and my place in it, and so I act as if I will never be affected. But changing my habits can force me into believing at a deeper level. In Alcoholic’s Anonymous they apparently call this ‘acting as if’: first you change your behaviour, and then hopefully, gradually, your beliefs, both conscious and unconscious, about your ability to manage your life without a drink in your hand begin to change.

To slip briefly into amateur Lacanese: because the Real of climate change is impossible to apprehend, we have to act within the realm of the symbolic. Symbolic tokens in the form of gestures do have a value; they can be exchanged for genuine belief. Not just recycling but skills shares and community gardens are important, as are all other forms of exchange not based purely on exploitation. Staying out of supermarkets is a good move for all sorts of reasons.

Nowadays, again like anyone else, we consume constantly, indiscriminately, or ironically, consuming our own gestures of consumption. This is the age of McDonalds happy meals consumed in a constant low-level muzak hum of cynicism, apathy and despair, flat screen Tvs gorged down in the midst of a recession. We consume because we are: what else are we, what else are we to do?

There is of course no substitute for collective political action, for maximum anger gathered and launched at those in power who notice our failure to genuinely believe and so pretend to act, understanding that for us, for now, pretending to act is enough. But it can serve to help us accept the anger and fear that climate change generates, to live with it and try to live differently.

I think I believe in the reality of climate change. But the fact that I fail for the moment to begin to live differently shows that I do not, yet. I first have to change the way I live my life.

Welcome back to 2016. We are now governed by a regime of climate trolls. Such creatures are, whether they like it or no, mouthpieces for the fossil fuel industry. In ‘Gravity’s Rainbow’ Pynchon writes:

Death converted into more death. Perfecting its reign, just as the buried coal grows denser, and overlaid with more strata – epoch on top of epoch, city on top of ruined city.

I don’t know what will now happen to the squads of trolls that have been mobilised. They can no longer pretend to themselves that there’s anything other than doglike obedience to corporate power motivating their actions. Some will continue to fight online battles, too stupid and/or rabid to realise that they’ve won. Their owners will probably give them another scented rag to chase down. Vigilante gangs may be formed offline in addition to online in order to help police dissent. In the meantime this blog will soon go much quieter, as I will have a bigger priority: our first child (thankfully a daughter). We have to protect and sustain life in the face of forces which represent nothing but death.

18 questions for climate deniers

  1. Do you accept the science of how babies are created?

  2. Do you accept the science of how ice is formed?

  3. Do you accept the science of how the earth goes in circles?

  4. Do you accept the science of where eggs come from?

  5. Do you accept the science of how water is heated?

  6. Do you accept the science of how light bulbs work?

  7. Do you accept the science of how planes stay airborne?

  8. Do you accept the science of how rainclouds form?

  9. Do you accept the science of how rubber ducks float?

  10. Do you accept the science of how sand becomes glass?

  11. Do you accept the science of night and day?

  12. Do you accept the science of the warming planet?

  13. Do you accept the science of how we evolved?

  14. Do you accept the science of how vaccines function?

  15. Do you accept the science of how greenhouses work?

  16. Do you accept the science of how flowers can grow?

  17. Do you accept the science of how birds and bees combine?

  18. Do you accept the science of how your car starts to move?

If your answer to any of those questions is ‘no’, get educated. You might find this site helpful.

The Great “Earthquake” Swindle

If you believe this, you’ll believe anything! Notice btw that it comes from a *government* website.

It’s telling that the global warmist lobby, with their constant bombardment of fake news about floods in Thailand and drought in Africa (make your mind up, guys!) go out of their way to cover up the real stories. It turns out that those “doctors” would have you believe that “cells” within your “body” can go bad and ultimately “kill” you were lying. That’s right: “cancer” doesn’t exist. It’s a hoax that’s been played for decades, one perpetrated by the government and the mass media and believed by all those who don’t dare to question what they’re told. These are the same people who tell you that the President of the United States is married to an immigrant or that it’s (as one of these so-called “pediatricians” told me in person last week) “an act of grave irresponsibility” not to get your child vaccinated! Thank god (another fake news story that I bet you fell for!) that we have Facebook and Twitter so we don’t have to believe their bullshit any longer.

But even worse than so-called “climate” “scientists” and “cancer” “doctors” are this bunch of self-appointed experts who call themselves “seismologists”. This is a fancy name for people who want you to believe that the “earth” (which other “scientists” will tell you is as round as a baseball! – but that’s another story) can tremble and shake like a blancmange! The official story (and I can tell you, I’ve studied this in some detail) is that it’s caused by (try not to laugh) “sudden movements in the Earth’s crust”. Well I’m going to tell you a personal story, something that “happened” to “me” just this “morning”, which will show that this whole “earthquake” racket is no more than yet another official libtard hoax.

We went to our local “hospital” for a checkup with someone who calls himself a “gynecologist”. This shyster is paid thousands of euros of taxpayer’s money to tell us that as a result of a little cuddle time me and my “wife” enjoyed several months ago she is now “pregnant” and is going to have a “baby”. While we were “there” we visited another “couple” who apparently have just “given birth” (there was no actual evidence of this; there was a very small human being in the room and two beaming but exhausted new “parents” but there could be any number of explanations for that). After a few minutes of “conversation” (I noticed that the “baby” was pretending to be asleep the whole time) the “father” character drew our attention to the “fact” that the “water” in a bottle on the “bedside” was “shaking”. Sure enough, it “was”; I then “looked” at the “curtains” and they appeared to be moving – which obviously raised my suspicions! Then I “felt” with my “body” that the whole “building” (we were on the “eighth floor”, in the so-called “maternity department”) seemed (I’m being very careful with my language here!) to be “trembling”. I suddenly felt quite “scared”. Our “friend”, the new “mother”, checked on her “iphone” and said something about “the “epicentre””(it’s depressing to see how all this quakist jargon has wormed its way into the heads of ordinary sheeple) being near a place called “Rieti”, which I knew at once to be a lie, because although I’ve seen the name on a so-called map and noticed it on the front of “buses”, I’ve never actually been “there”.

We made our excuses, and “left”. I dread to think what fairy tales that baby will grow up hearing. They’ll probably tell it all the usual pseudo-scientific nonsense about “water” being “wet” and about how it gets “dark” at “night”. Personally I’m glad that I’ve seen through all that crap. As soon as “my” “child” is “born” I’m going to tell him the truth: that “hospitals” do more harm than good, that “teachers” do nothing but lie, and that so-called “parents” are the least trustworthy people he’ll ever meet. I’m also going to make sure he understands that whatever information he receives through his “eyes”, “ears”, “nose” and “fingers” is almost certainly bullshit, and that the last thing he should ever do in life – even worse than putting any faith in “experts” – is to use his “brain” to interpret the world. And you can stick your Dr Seuss, Alice in Wonderland and Roald Dahl books back where the sun don’t shine. I won’t be reading him any “bedtime stories” (in any case, if you believe that human beings “need” to “sleep”, quite frankly you’ll believe anything -and as for “breast” “milk”, don’t get me started on that junk!). Instead he’ll be staying up all night with me getting the real story from my good friends at Breitbart, Infowars and Wikileaks. I want my “child” to be brought up on a solid diet of the truth.

NB: This is a work of satire. In reality the only thing more dangerous than seismic activity is climate denial. They both serve to destroy the foundations of our existence.

It’s Not Just Me, Then: Fiction, Music, Comedy and the Cl*mate

sin-tituloWhat I’m trying to do on this site is make links between things I haven’t seen connected together elsewhere*. Hence the links themselves are usually more important than what I have to say about them. In the last couple of days I have come across three things which I think vindicate (albeit, inevitably, in an infinitely more coherent and detailed fashion, one based on research and careful thought rather than guesswork and ‘affect’) the thoughts I’ve been trying to articulate over the past few weeks. First there is this article by Carole Cadwalldr which details the ways in which right-wing trolls have been able to infiltrate the algorithms of Google and Facebook in order to create their own reality, one which is increasingly conditioning ours:

The technology that was supposed to set us free may well have helped Trump to power, or covertly helped swing votes for Brexit. It has created a vast network of propaganda that has encroached like a cancer across the entire internet. This is a technology that has enabled the likes of Cambridge Analytica to create political messages uniquely tailored to you. They understand your emotional responses and how to trigger them. They know your likes, dislikes, where you live, what you eat, what makes you laugh, what makes you cry.

Continue reading “It’s Not Just Me, Then: Fiction, Music, Comedy and the Cl*mate”

The Age of Agnotology: The Importance of Reading Newspapers in an Era of Fake News

Of all the possible places to try to sell a dogmatically Leninist newspaper in 2016, the gates of a small, private, right-wing Catholic university is probably not the best location. Leaving work earlier this week I was surprised to encounter an actual 21st Century Bolshevik selling Lotta Comunista (Communist Struggle). Che testardo! The front page featured an actual hammer and sickle and an exhortation to the workers of the world to put down their bloody phones for a minute and UNITE!. Inside there was a closely-written article on US energy policy that featured nary a mention of the changing climate, while page 6 featured a total of 448 individual statistics relating to socio-economic class and voting habits in the USA. At least its position on Sunday’s absurd and suicidal referendum was more sensible than that of the rest of the ‘left’: they recommend that their readers stay at home memorising ‘What is to be done’ rather than bothering to vote. If you’re so inclined you can read your way through the rest of it here.

A thought experiment: imagine a country in which such a publication was the only newspaper. Actually come to think of it I don’t have to try that hard because I’ve been there quite recently – in May, in Cuba, where the only two daily newspapers are the black-and-white 12-page Government propaganda sheet Granma (named after the tiny vessel that brought Fidel (RIP) and friends back to Cuba in 1956), and an 8-page supplement for03-cuba-fidel-granma young people called Juventude Rebelde (Rebel Youth), which is similar in look, style and content to the kind of publications the Worker’s Revolutionary Party used to try (and fail) to hand out for free. Both newspapers are hard to track down and (after a couple of days of cheap laughs, and once you’ve set aside a few copies as very cheap presents) genuinely not worth the effort. When in the 1990s the US not-an-embassy put up LED screens to broadcast subversive information to the city it must have had quite an impact. In Mozambique – also nominally a Communist country – the national newspapers are remarkably similar in style and content to the cheaper Portuguese tabloids. I once read a very depressing article (it wasn’t supposed to be depressing) about how popular A Bola (The Ball) is in Angola. In some countries, the main journals of record are ones which just report the achievements of government (rather like a lot of local newspapers nowadays in the UK in relation to local councils). In others, the only opposition newspapers are those owned by politically ambitious oligarchs . There are other channels of communication but the absence of a free press makes a country much culturally and socially poorer and less free.

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Don’t Mention the Climate

15-115I wanted to write about the new US President’s decision to stop NASA conducting research on the earth’s climate, but word fail me, or maybe I them. Where to begin? It’s too depressing to even link to. It would require a command over language which I don’t possess. Maybe poets and other artists are better placed to develop the new forms of expression which will be able to address this new reality. Or perhaps I should get round to watching ‘Hypernormalisation’. Here are three writers who have tried to think through the topic (more or less) head-on.

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“All I know is what’s on the Internet”: All heil President Troll

161202Rall.jpgIn China eleven years ago I noticed something surprising about democracy and something disturbing about the world economy. They both involved discrediting and devaluing. In the case of the world economy, what I noticed in China indicated to me that the chief function of neoliberal globalisation was to reduce western wages and conditions to a Chinese level. I also noticed that the notion of democracy had lost a lot of its value, especially in comparison with the student uprising of fifteen years earlier. Since that time global events have, to paraphrase Thomas Pynchon, been proceeding in accordance with an ominous logic. Continue reading ““All I know is what’s on the Internet”: All heil President Troll”