On the Cards: antistatism as a sound political life, not another ideological house of cards

posted by Harry J. Bentham

Toutes les fois que je donne une place vacante, je fais cent mècontents et un ingrat.

Every time that I fill a high office, I make one hundred men discontented and one ungrateful.

Louis XIV

Anarchism is many things, and it is faulted in many ways by its challengers. Opponents see it as insufficient, incapable of constructing alternative institutions to those institutions of authority it seeks to erode and destroy. Such opponents are correct.

Mont Order association seal

The Mont Order: antistatists? Iconoclasts?

The thing anarchism’s opponents don’t realize seems to be that anarchists don’t actually care that they have no alternative institutions to the state. They are quite willing to insult, injure and eliminate the state and its institutions because they find these unjust, and creating alternatives is not the concern of them or any other iconoclasts.

In truth, creating alternatives has never been the concern of any iconoclasts or revolutionaries, from Oliver Cromwell’s club to George Washington’s club to the Jacobin club and the Bolshevik club. And, actually, no-one needs to have an alternative to justify their desire to eliminate what they see as unjust and illegitimate figures and institutions. We need not replace the leviathan with another, at all. It simply isn’t the concern of someone who attacks injustice.

The question, “what’s your solution?” or that favorite slogan of all reactionaries, “there is no alternative” (TINA), is invalid. It is a fallacy to say someone else lacks a comprehensive enough program of change, simply because their program isn’t as complex or multifaceted as the status quo. This reactionary tactic of quoting facts on the ground has been used to attack all progress before it occurs. This thinking would say “you’re in jail, therefore you’re a criminal”, or “we can’t free the slaves, because they’ll get angry and want revenge” (an argument Thomas Jefferson actually used even though he accepted black people as his equals). Appealing to consequences and appealing to the status quo doesn’t do anything to vindicate or justify what is unjust, in any way.

The fallacy of simply appealing to the status quo is even used to refute the two-state solution in Palestine as well: you can’t just create a Palestinian state, because Palestine doesn’t have the necessary institutions and control of territory to be a state. In truth, the reason Palestine lacks these state features is that it isn’t permitted them by the occupying power, Israel, and the reason the occupier doesn’t allow them is because occupier doesn’t want to recognize Palestinian statehood. In reality, as soon as the occupier ends the occupation, recognizes Palestinian statehood, and quits using the fallacy of appealing to the facts it created on the ground via military occupation, the sooner Palestinian statehood will be a viable resolution to the conflict.

We shouldn’t be led around like mules by the people who have a stick, into thinking “there is no alternative”. This is the case in any debate. Instead, we should take that stick and start beating our would-be masters with it until they start considering the alternatives, for their own sake.

However, even though one doesn’t need to be armed with any alternatives to actually justify criticizing the behavior and actions of states and superpowers, there are in fact abundant alternatives. People have put a lot of time into thinking of them. Consider, for example, Jacque Fresco’s famous Venus Project. That is actually a comprehensive political plan for overcoming scarcity, poverty and war on a planetary scale, and many commentators see it as viable. Sure, Jacque Fresco’s futurist models and plans aren’t as complex or multifaceted as the status quo, and they don’t have a solution to every problem you can think of, but his work opens a significant credible avenue for change and a methodology for confronting global problems that would entail many solutions in the long term. Ultimately, the Venus Project is a sound global political campaign and actually entails an alternative to the modern state. It predicts a future with no need for borders, national armies, security forces, et cetera: in many ways an anarchist utopia.

I, and Jacque Fresco, depart from the anarchist way of thinking in that neither of us sees it possible or desirable to really banish authority or to govern an authority-free society. We can certainly banish authoritarianism, but authoritativeness will always exist. For an example, look at anarchism itself. Anarchism itself professes to have authority, and it is influenced more heavily by some rather than others. Those people are, by definition, intellectual authorities. If anarchism as a movement can’t do away with its own authoritativeness without losing relevance, how can it really create a society where authority doesn’t exist?

What can be created is an anti-authoritarian future, a step above the kind of flawed and limited liberal democracies we presently have in Europe. Such a society wouldn’t be authoritarian, but it would be very authoritative, more so in fact that any political system before it. In any community that values merit, there is de facto authority. People naturally look to people, intellectual contributions and groups with more merit or more experience than themselves in search of leadership, and there is nothing authoritarian or politically harmful in doing so. In fact, it is the people’s will that the people should have authority over their own future, and they best do so by investing in specific figures whom they believe will represent their interests. These figures may be public intellectuals, like Jacque Fresco himself, or an elected representative. Either way, they are organic authorities. By not allowing the public to invest their own inherent public authority in a figure, it would be the people that are disempowered and made unable to express their will; not the leader figure. The moment any tongue wags, there is de facto authority. Even in online gaming clans, where everyone is actually equal, there is authority in the people who perform best and rank higher. Therefore, the only way we could really banish authority from life is by removing all tongues. Such an atrocity would not just be authoritarian, but tyranny.

No one can deny the authority of the people, and the people will always invest that authority in a public figure, who will be as a legitimate voice for their interests. Such will be the case for as long as humans retain their human forms, for it is a constant observation that people are inherently of varying statures, eloquence, popularity and influence.

I explain the extent of my antistatism, which is not quite anarchism or any ideology in particular, in a new article exclusive to ClubOfINFO. I wrote the article as a starting point for a discussion or exchange of ideas between me and J. M. Porup, who mentioned the matter of him not being an antistatist when I added him to the Mont Order.

By Harry J. Bentham HJB Signature and stamp

A teleportation story: reaching pad 2, and what happens if you fail

posted by Harry J. Bentham

Je n’ai rien vaillant; je dois beaucoup; je donne le reste aux pauvres.

I have nothing, owe a great deal, and the rest I leave to the poor.

François Rabelais

Once again, I’m writing a teleportation story. I’ve written at least one before, and I’m returning to explore this science fiction theme a little bit more.

In many ways, HG Wells’ The Time Machine could be credited as the first teleportation story, and the most excellent classic place to start when looking for ideas. Of course, The Time Machine didn’t really involve the machine changing space by exploiting the fabric of the universe, but transporting to another time is a very similar feature and often goes hand in hand with teleporting to another place in most sci-fi stories.

I’m sure Wells’ account included the description “like a suicide holding a revolver to his head”, or words to that effect. To cut a long story short, the Victorian inventor has created a machine capable of travelling through time, but he has no idea what will happen to him when he attempts to use it. Ever dedicated to science, the traveller embraces the unknown and goes ahead anyway, thus being propelled into the familiar adventure populated by the villainous Morlocks and innocent Eloi featured in that epic story. I used a very similar premise, with an explorer who cares less for his life than his curiosity about the universe, for “Journey into the Machine” and other stories.

Inspired by Wells, I wrote my first teleportation story under the title “End of Places”, published at Science Fiction Review and also in my story collection End of Places, available through Amazon. That story depicted the use of “folder gates”, a technology through which commuters are capable of travelling without moving (something Frank Herbert called the Holtzmann Effect in the sublime Dune novels). An unexplained surge of power makes the main character’s gate send him to the wrong coordinates in another Galaxy, rather than to his work station on the Moon. In the other Galaxy, he encounters elf-like creatures who periodically transform into deadly monsters as part of their lifecycle, and these intermittent rages are tied to the appearance of gravitational anomalies on their planet. Eventually, the character takes his chances using one of the anomalies to get back to Earth, and appears back through one of the decommissioned folder-gates in a warehouse on Earth. He surmises that the devices were abandoned, due to the accident and the cosmic turbulence that can offset their coordinates so catastrophically.

The history of so-called teleportation officially (according to Wikipedia, that is) started later than HG Wells’ book, when it apparently started out as a reported “Fortean” phenomenon: a bizarre occurrence explained via pseudoscience. It was believed by said pseudoscientists to be a natural phenomenon, which made objects disappear and reappear in different locations. A modern version of it could be the mini wormhole theory, which holds that strangely and inexplicably moved items (like your sock which went missing the other day) are explained by the appearance of tiny, random wormholes moving objects short distances in the space-time continuum. In weirder stories, it may involve a car being discovered up a tree, like in Jurassic Park, only without a Tyrannosaur involved.

Star Trek possibly debuted the first mechanical teleporters in the full science fiction sense that we all know and love, but the makers of Trek weren’t interested in whether it might be scientifically valid or not. The transporter mechanism reportedly breaks down matter into energy, “beams” it, and then reassembles it back into matter again. This idea seems to have been based loosely on discoveries in atomic physics reported in those days, but that wasn’t the reason Star Trek introduced the transporters. The real reason was far more prosaic: the makers of Star Trek lacked the funding and special effects to keep filming the landing and dust-off of the giant star-ship Enterprise. They had originally envisaged Enterprise’s adventures as a kind of continuation of what had started in the popular pre-Trek movie Forbidden Planet – which had a truly impressive (even by modern standards) landing sequence for the saucer featured in the film when it touches down on the titular planet Altair IV.

More recently, in quantum teleportation experiments, physicists have actually been able to teleport things at the quantum level. That is, they are able to teleport a subatomic particle or two. This is nowhere near, in fact it is billions of times technologically inferior to, the act of actually teleporting an object.

Will humanity eventually be able to teleport an object, for example an apple, or an inert piece of metal? Maybe, but to send their own bodies through such a device might be a bad idea even then. It would challenge almost everything humans believe about themselves and their existence. Such technology would change the very nature of our existence, and make almost anything possible. The Star Trek offshoot series Voyager came close to exploring this facet, when one character pursues a theory to “rematerialize” the disintegrated dead after a war using the transporter. The Next Generation also nearly touched on it in an episode where Captain Picard and others are reverted to their youth using the transporter, yet none of the characters considers deliberately recreating the malfunction as a way of reversing human ageing. These series also probe the idea of using teleportation for medical intervention such as pregnancy complications, but never consider using the same technology to heal mortal wounds by using the character’s healthy “molecular pattern” in the ship’s transporter logs to restore them to life.

Interestingly, it may be possible to achieve the same philosophical results as teleportation using something lower tech, for example APM (atomically precise manufacturing), which could in theory dismantle objects at the atomic level and then reassemble them elsewhere. If it can do something as difficult as that, it may also be able to bring people and things back from the dead, provided that an atomically precise record of the object’s previous form exists. However, by being able to do that, these machines would also be able to create identical copies of us, complete with all the same memories and totally convinced that they are us, and with an equally legitimate claim to our identities.

My new teleportation story will be part of my Search Beyond series of space adventures that you can already find listed at Amazon, and will introduce an interesting new idea to the teleportation concept:

Only two beings in the entire universe have ever been teleported, and they have made it their mission to police and control all further teleportation in the universe. All teleported objects must pass through their station, which is in a state of suspended or “phased” teleportation outside space-time, and they won’t allow anything to continue without first being judged by them. When the third being ever to teleport appears before them – a human – they are determined to recruit him into their collective.

You can catch this story by watching out for future releases in the Search Beyond series. Just type “Search Beyond series” and hit the search button at Amazon to find all the latest titles in the series.

By Harry J. Bentham HJB Signature and stamp

“The Interview” is a terrorist fantasy: might as well be about chopping Obama’s head off

posted by Harry J. Bentham

La beauté sera CONVULSIVE ou ne sera pas.

Beauty will be CONVULSIVE or not at all.

André Breton

Americans, the folks who scream and whine more about “terror” threats to their nation more than any other people in the world, are now slamming North Korea after the state took alleged cyber-protest actions to oppose a Hollywood movie blatantly calling for the assassination of the head of state of North Korea.

For example, in an MTV article called “All The Moments From ‘The Interview’ That The Hackers Didn’t Want You To See”, entertainment blogger Shaunna Murphy ridicules North Korea’s prudish protectiveness of its leader’s image, attempting to shield him from the apparent humiliation (not to mention the movie’s slightly more troubling rabid encouragement for his assassination.)

Obviously, I’m not impressed by Shaunna’s reasoning, or the reasoning of anyone else defending The Interview as a legitimate artistic work faced with extrajudicial censorship. It strikes me as some truly bizarre and hypocritical commentary coming from the US, which is the most paranoid and heavily-policed regime in the world, which would detain and torture anyone who threatened the life or well-being of its own head of state. Note that America itself is quite harsh against what it deems to be “terrorist” literature, and that includes works of art, so the US is in no position to accuse any other society of being too protective of its leaders and national symbols. I think the world’s “greatest” country just needs to take a serious look in the mirror, before it begins to criticize anyone.

Sure, North Korea has reacted disproportionately paranoid and touchy about what could have just been a harmless piece of Hollywood entertainment. But this is a pretty unprecedented movie. No Hollywood movie has ever focused so heavily on encouraging and justifying the assassination of an incumbent head of state before (except maybe one or two featuring Saddam Hussein, but I’m not sure his assassination was actually depicted in or central to those movies.) But are Americans any better than North Koreans in this regard? If Americans believe the United States is some kind of open, liberal society where everything is permitted – including films encouraging the assassination of US presidents and living public figures and iconoclasm against America’s bizarrely sanctified flags and national symbols – they are living in a fantasy world.

It kind of reminds me of the conservatives who burn the Qur’an, as if the violent backlash somehow proves how intolerant the Muslims are, but they themselves incite violence against Muslims who set the star-spangled banner on fire. Tell me, why is your stripey, dirty little pajama trouser of a flag more precious than a holy book that has been praised and nurtured by billions of people who believe its words to be divinely inspired?

Realize that the US is just as paranoid and heavily secured against this kind of literature promoting assassination and treason as North Korea. If you were a radical subversive who made a movie encouraging Obama to be publicly humiliated and killed before the eyes of the American people as The Interview does for Kim Jong-Un, you could be tracked and shot dead by Navy SEALs, or taken away to Guantanamo Bay and tortured. Is this the behavior of a regime that can call North Korea closed and paranoid, or are American justifications for vigilance against “evil” more justified than North Korea’s justifications?

Would Shaunna Murphy, who wrote the MTV op-ed I linked here, be as enthusiastic in insisting that we all watch a terrorist Gif of Obama’s severed head rolling on the broken steps of the White House, or a movie celebrating the destruction of the World Trade Center in 2001, just to prove that we can beat state censorship? Of course she wouldn’t. Her fake, limited rejection of censorship is so narrow that it is prudishly restricted to criticizing specific countries such as North Korea, and never her home country. If faced with vitriolic anti-American cinema on par with The Interview, she’d be quick to disavow any violent themes in it and reject such literature as not screen-worthy. In fact, if the situation were thus reversed, she would probably be the one actively calling for state censorship and state paranoia to protect “society”, because she’d get all protective and patriotic for her own country, just like a good North Korean. In the minds of these patriots, the laws and sensibilities of other countries are always dismissed as irrational and paranoid, but these people still tell us that a bunch of equally irrational US laws and sensibilities are sacred and have to be upheld to protect us. For instance, respect for the person of the US President should be maintained to a certain extent in media coverage and he should not be subjected to assassination calls and death threats.

This new low in hypocrisy is even more evident in some of the reactions that followed alleged North Korean threats to America, in which the North Koreans are labelled “terrorists” in comment threads for their threatening words about war and retaliation, but a US movie encouraging the death of Kim Jong-Un is explained as a legitimate artistic venture. How so? Why should one side be accused of terrorism for non-lethal literature such as its threatening words or its cyber-attacks, but the other should be allowed to behave even more menacingly by producing an influential artistic work encouraging terrorism and packaged for circulation among millions of people?

If we compare the two societies, I think the US in no position to even begin to call North Korea closed or paranoid, or overly protective of its head of state. At best, the United States is just as protective of its own president and his family as North Korea is of its dictatorial leader and his family. Don’t accuse others of terror while promoting terror, if you don’t want to be exposed as a hypocrite and a bigot.

US officials have been recently exposed torturing and molesting hundreds of suspects simply because they cooked up fantasies about murdering US leaders and attacking the US regime, but Hollywood producers are such buffoons and political illiterates that they think they have to travel all the way to North Korea to find the nearest paranoid and unstable regime. If they are so open to ridiculing the state and its censorship, why don’t they make a movie encouraging the US President to be beheaded by ISIS radicals in revenge for the events in Iraq, and his family taken hostage and killed? How about a movie about current Hollywood executives being publicly flogged and murdered in a violent revolution against their fat, flabby, overindulgent lifestyles in America? Because those guys wouldn’t get offended or start a lawsuit, would they? In sum, the hypocrisy of these cowards is unbearable, and there’s no kind way to discredit them.

If you found my arguments convoluted or you still don’t get it, here it is in short. The Interview is just equivalent to an ISIS movie about beheading Barack Obama. If you don’t understand the North Korean reaction, try to envisage that and imagine what kind of mind would find comedy in it. Such a production, were it vulnerable to cyber protests, would certainly be hacked, taken down and opposed by the hypersensitive American regime at all costs, but that fact won’t stop American pundits form accusing North Korea of being too touchy after it harshly objected to a movie about the murder of its own head of state.

For the record, I strongly oppose making a movie obsessed with the idea of any head of state being assassinated, whether that is real (as in Saddam Hussein or Qaddafi’s death) or in a fictional form such as this movie The Interview. It’s simply barbaric, and it invalidates whatever political statements people were trying to promote via such media. I criticize US policy, yet I never want to see Barack Obama be humiliated or have his head chopped off, real or fictional. However, I invite people who do find entertainment value in barbaric productions mocking the assassination of state figures to publish and circulate such a video clip to prove they are as unafraid of censorship as they claim to be.

By Harry J. Bentham HJB Signature and stamp

Obama’s plan for the sanctions on Russia to fail: America surrenders to Cuba, Iran

posted by Harry J. Bentham

Oui, c’est l’Europe, depuis l’Atlantique jusqu’à l’Oural, c’est toute l’Europe, qui décidera du destin du monde.

Yes, it is Europe, from the Atlantic to the Urals, it is Europe, it is the whole of Europe, that will decide the fate of the world.

Charles de Gaulle

Economic impacts such as the ruble’s slide in Russia have been heralded in some influential media outlets as a sign that economic sanctions led against Russia by the United States of America are achieving their aims. What aims are those, exactly?

Barack Obama: a skilled diplomat and balancing artist who (I would argue) manages to maintain both his progressive credentials and the satisfaction of hawkish foreign policy hardliners in Washington. Image via Wikimedia Commons.

None of the United States’ preferences for a “political” outcome in Ukraine are tenable, and the idea of eliminating Vladimir Putin – presented as an assumed conclusion in the Reuters article linked above – is even dumber. Who would take Putin’s place? Even the US private intelligence firm Stratfor tells us that Medvedev and Shoigu are his most likely successors – and both men favor even more aggressive Russian involvement in Ukraine. Read George Friedman’s analysis under the subheading “Imagining Russia After Putin” to get that perspective. The US will find no good alternatives to the pragmatic Putin, just as Russia will find no good alternatives to the pragmatic Obama. It is a great tragedy that both leaders are incapable of silencing the hardliners in their camps, but that is the nature of politics.

Despite the economic sanctions placed on it, Russia has not altered its policy in any way, and Ukraine’s own misery has only increased as a result of this hostile economic campaign initiated by the US. Exactly who is being saved from Vladimir Putin’s “aggression” by the sanctions?The United States’ Cold War-style anti-Russian propaganda has no answer to that question, just as it has no recommendations on a more pragmatic successor to Vladimir Putin. As Clausewitz consistently warned the students of war, if one has no realistic political outcome in mind, no display of strength – economic or military – can be of any help. You can have all the power in the world, but if you don’t know what you want, you’re going to fail. The US has no vision for a political settlement in Ukraine or a new regime in Russia, so its policies in both countries are doomed to failure. No one, Obama included, can see what the US is trying to accomplish in Ukraine, so the idea that any observer might actually agree with the US course in Ukraine is astonishing.

Sanctions always fail, and Obama knows the long and miserable history of failed US-led sanctions better than anyone else, as is demonstrated by his recent actions. While he was signing new sanctions into effect against Russia to satisfy the Republican war hawks who currently swarm both Congress and the Senate, he was busy pushing to remove the failed sanctions off Cuba and Iran – just as Nixon eventually gave in to the People’s Republic of China and accepted its legitimacy. Obama knew the United States’ sanctions against Cuba and Iran were doomed to failure, and had to be reversed before the United States got carried away on a slippery slope of sanctioning everyone it disagrees with. To effectively maintain sanctions on Russia without damaging its own economy, the United States had to unconditionally end its sanctions against at least two other countries – specifically Cuba (hence the restored diplomatic relations) and Iran (hence the strong commitment to resolving disputes with Iran via the nuclear talks).

The fact America can’t sanction Russia without taking the sanctions off Cuba and Iran with no preconditions proves how sanctions are hopeless and weak, and cannot achieve political aims. Further, Obama’s moves for abandoning sanctions against “rogue states” Cuba and Iran sends the cheeky message to US hardliners that Obama doesn’t believe in the effectiveness of economic sanctions at all. They are simply a way for the President to look tough at home for a short time, but since they are a multi-decade effort (much like the so-called anti-ISIS coalition in Iraq) Obama and his team will never have to shoulder the costs of their eventual failure. Like Bush, Obama will leave his wars to his successor. We’ll no doubt witness Mr Obama ridiculing his successor in future, and blaming his own “multi-year” quagmires on that sorry President-to-be. Eventually, two or three presidents down the road, the sanctions on Russia will be removed without achieving anything, but Obama will probably be reduced to such obscurity by then that no-one will blame him for his failed policy.

The US government’s fears over possible consequences of anti-Russian sanctions on its own economy are the reason Obama has essentially given up his sanctions against Cuba and Iran. Neither Cuba nor Iran had to do anything for the United States’ arrogant position to collapse. Based on this model, the best course of action for Russia to beat the United States’ sanctions is to continue its present policy until the United States backs down – which of course it will. Because the United States is weak, it has backed down on every major foreign policy it has ever pursued, and it will also be the first to back down from its present mistake that the people of Ukraine are paying for with their lives. If the United States could not crush the small, oil-dependent economies of Cuba or Iran with its so-called sanctions, how likely is the United States to succeed against a much larger economy like Russia?

Obama is an intelligent careerist in the midst of all this, who knows the sanctions on Russia will prove as weak and feeble as they were against Cuba and Iran, and the only future for these sanctions is that they will eventually be lifted without achieving any political results within Russia. Obama won’t witness the failure of his policies, so he gets to escape with a reasonably clean record as President.

No regime – not even Saddam Hussein’s Iraq – has ever been toppled via the use of sanctions, and sanctions have only further embittered relations between the United States and the rest of the world. They confirm the analysis that the United States still culturally has an arrogant, colonial mentality with regard to other powers, seeing them as rebellious and non-compliant residents of its own global police-murder state rather than independent powers.

Because it is obsessed with conquest and plunder, the United States will never recognize Russia, Iran or China as independent states, and will always speak arrogantly of those other powers like it is their master. Circling the carcasses of other states to nourish itself, America is just like the nasty, vulturous and shabby bird used on its Presidential Seal.

By Harry J. Bentham HJB Signature and stamp

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