#23 A Brief Note on Politics; Free Speech Pt. V

What’s Next?

This has been an exciting week, with Democratic Establishment insiders Donna Brazile and Elizabeth Warren admitting that the 2016 Democratic primary was rigged in Clinton’s favor.  Well, I suppose Brazile is now saying that she did not explicitly say the primary was “rigged,” but her semantic quibbling doesn’t change anything (more on that below).  Meanwhile, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia has arrested a billionaire member of the Saudi royal family (billionaires don’t get arrested every day, do they?), along with dozens of other princes and ministers– on corruption and money laundering charges.  People are now  speculating about the connections the arrested Saudi individuals have to stateside politicians, and whether we will see some long-overdue justice related to the 2008 crony-capitalist bank bailouts as a result.  [EDIT 11/6/2017:  No one really knows what is actually going on in Saudi Arabia right now except for the people who are there, and meanwhile, the situation in Lebanon and Yemen is grave.]okay flamesI think everyone already knew the DNC was shady in how it handled Bernie Sanders’ campaign, but it is nice to see the evidence pile up.  As for the complex web of dealings between Saudis and Clintonists, the picture is not so clear.  But as the world burns, we can at least take a modicum of solace in the fact that locally, the truth is slowly being exposed about Clintonist corruption in general.

By its textbook definition, counter-propaganda is based in fact.  If it weren’t factual, it would not be effective against propaganda.  The following short video, by Latin American counter-propaganda news outfit TeleSUR, is factual.  But the Military-Industrial-Complex also serves as a perfectly good metaphor for the imploding Democratic party in America.  Winning or losing is irrelevant; just keep the cash flowing in, and destabilize everyone else while you are at it!  Yup, sounds like the Dems.

In my last few posts, I have been discussing how the new Red Scare has been used to justify censorship and warmongering.  Just when it seems like it can’t get any more Orwellian and Matrix-y, the Establishment doubles down on the doublespeak.  The Russian hacking narrative has been debunked, and the Facebook “influence on election” narrative is thinner than a monofilament fishing line, so what’s next?  How about:  let’s just make vague assertions that the Russians are “infecting” our minds with their ideas.  A great example of this is The New York Times article published on Sept. 13, 2017 which weaves a ridiculously attenuated story about a girl who either was or wasn’t assaulted by Middle Eastern migrants.  The NYT concludes that the Russian Federation was using the story to manipulate public opinion in Europe against Middle Eastern migrants.

Now really, let’s think about this.  It would kind of make sense for Russia to point out to Europe the disadvantage of taking in millions of refugees from North Africa and Middle Eastern countries.  When America and its allies unite to destroy the government in places like Iraq, Libya, Syria, or Yemen, it causes refugee problems.  That is a plain fact.  In Syria, a very strong case can be made that since it’s the rebels who started the civil war and who are culpable for wrecking the country– and since America has been arming those rebels, many of whom work hand in hand with known terrorists like al-Nusra (a re-branding of al-Qaeda)– America should bear some of the blame for the refugee problem.

Some people do not believe that the U.S. government literally built al-Qaeda (“the Database”) to counter Soviet efforts to prop up Afghanistan’s communist government in the 80s.  (My metalhead readers may think of the Lamb of God song “Contractor” and its reference to our old buddies the mujahideen.)  No matter.  If you are not aware of the level of effort various non-governmental organizations are making to white-wash al-Qaeda in order to justify sending more American weapons to them, look no further than this October 24, 2017 statement by RAND Corporation, the “global policy think tank” that is funded by the Office of the U.S. Secretary of State, U.S. armed forces, and scores of corporations and foreign governments.  While many think tanks are designed to influence U.S. foreign policy, RAND is more like the spokesperson for actual U.S. foreign policy:

“The moderate face of al-Qaeda… paves the way for its erstwhile allies to gain eligibility for military aid from a collection of external nations.”

Translation:  it is okay to keep arming, supplying, and training terrorists.

If you are not completely positive that RAND is endorsing al-Qaeda in the above quote, bear in mind that the entire discussion is framed by how RAND views the allegedly “brutal” President Assad of Syria, as discussed in the third paragraph of the article.

Al Qaeda in Syria’s shift was not lost on Syrian Sunnis desperate to topple the brutal dictator Bashar al-Assad. Now that ISIS has lost its capital in Raqqa, al Qaeda may be the only group viewed as militarily capable of challenging the Assad regime’s grip on power.

(emphasis added)

mod face of al qaeda.jpg

In the above article, RAND goes on to fawn over al-Qaeda like it’s their hot daughter’s 30th birthday:

The group has made course corrections based on trial and error and actively sought to amend previous errors in doctrine and strategy.

Next year, 2018, will mark the 30-year anniversary of al Qaeda’s founding. Its ability to establish widespread political legitimacy through a refurbished image could very well propel the group through its third decade and beyond.

Source:  RAND

In a different essay from Nov. 3, 2017, RAND propagandists openly argue that we can still do damage to Syria by using our control over the global financial order:

More than six years of efforts to overthrow Syrian President Bashar al-Assad have failed. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s comment last week that “the reign of the Assad family is coming to an end” was divorced not only from reality but from U.S. policy, which is focused on fighting the Islamic State rather than the Damascus regime.

The effective abandonment of U.S. and allied efforts to change the Syrian regime militarily, however, does not mean they no longer have any possible influence in Syria or that the only option now is walking away. They do still have leverage, but it derives primarily from their ability to offer — or withhold — reconstruction assistance.

Don’t be shocked if I interpret the following paragraph (from the same article) as another way of pouring cash into terrorist coffers:

Our proposal does not depend on the United States providing aid to or through the Syrian government. It does depend on the United States employing its influence with the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, the United Nations, the European Union and other bilateral donors to allow reconstruction assistance to flow to both regime- and non-regime-held areas where the existence of representative local partners can be identified.

Source:  RAND (emphasis added)

We already discussed who those local partners are.

Al-Qaeda_90990

Meanwhile, as we were busy sending weapons to terrorists and dropping bombs on Syria, Russia took Assad’s side and helped quell the terrorist rebellion.  Let’s call it what it is– that’s being a good neighbor.  Putin knows that the U.S. has had its eyes on a pipeline through Syria for a long time, not to mention the U.S.’s general objective of having footholds in the Middle East and in promoting Israeli interests.  This classic interview clip featuring General Wesley Clark only takes two minutes of your time (though it is a dated with respect to Africa):

General Wesley Clark 

Short update on Africa:

If Europe doesn’t want more refugees, perhaps it makes sense that it should push against America and N.A.T.O.’s involvement in deposing Assad– and whoever is next in Yemen or Lebanon or Iran (or Donbass for that matter).  I don’t need Russia to tell me that.  Nonetheless, according to the NYT article cited above, I hold this belief because “Russia has built the most effective propaganda operation of the 21st century so far.”

That NYT statement could be the most transparently stupid claim of the 21st century so far (no offense to Russia).  But to be technical, the NYT claim is also an embarrassing and condescending form of doublespeak (and don’t forget projection!).  Russiagate is the most effective propaganda operation of the 21st century so far.  If anything, RT & co. are counter-propaganda detergent (somewhat to its credit, the NYT did publish an alternative take that suggests that maybe people can think for themselves).

The fact of the matter is that the U.S. government and its shadowy puppeteers (e.g. billionaire plutocrats, megacorporations, war-gaming generals, and that “special country”) don’t want you to know the truth about what they are doing in the Middle East.  They already control the mainstream media in America (try to find anti-war articles in the WaPo or NYT), so their new strategy is to silence outside voices that tell the facts.  The NYT article cited above, about Russians allegedly stoking anti-migrant sentiment in Europe, is classic neoliberal doublespeak.  Mass migrations are (at least partially) a symptom of an underlying cause–  Imperialist exploitation.  It’s the NYT, not RT, that’s deflecting attention from the real issue.

There is a tactic that is ubiquitous among mainstream “liberals” (ideologically these Clinton-type people are actually center-right) in the United States:  call your detractors racist and accuse them of being anti-Muslim.  Never mind that the very root of the problem is the extremely racist and genocidal neoliberal policy of exploiting and bombing the shit out of the Middle East (or, “kicking the proverbial hornet’s nest”).

The cartoon below simultaneously illustrates the difference between Democrats and Republicans as effectively as it illustrates the difference between ”moderate rebels” and terrorists:

Jihadi Colin two party

Credit:  Jihadi Colin

The neoliberal tactic to suppress dissent has multiple prongs.  On the one hand, if you express misgivings over Muslim migration to Europe, they brand you a racist.  On the other hand, if you decry Zionism, they brand you an anti-Semite.  Meanwhile, the neoliberal elites (and this includes large swathes of both political parties in the U.S.) use their control of the mass media to give favorable coverage of overseas conflicts involving the U.S. and its allies.

A more recent, and disturbing trend, is bipartisan support for censorship of dissenting views on social media and the internet.  Aware that people are gaining more and more information from these sources (including Facebook and Twitter, in addition to sites like Consortium News, Truthdig, Alternet, ZeroHedge, and Breitbart), Congress is conducting Inquisition-like hearings on the “dangers” posed by such alternatives to the mainstream press.  They also have their targets on what is essentially counter-propaganda from foreign outlets like RT (Russia).

An article at WSWS basically says it all.  Listen to this lunatic Clint Watts, former US Army officer and FBI agent, at the Senate Judiciary Hearings on October 31:

“Civil wars don’t start with gunshots, they start with words. America’s war with itself has already begun. We all must act now on the social media battlefield to quell information rebellions.”

Source:  WSWS

The following video gives an example of the McCarthyist hearings going on in Congress.  Senator Al Franken (D-MN) suggests on October 31 that any ad paid for in rubles must have been designed to subvert democracy.  I don’t see the relevance to anything real in our world.  Our country allows corporations to spend fortunes to influence our elections and to buy access to legislators via lobbyists.  A Princeton study from a few years ago says “business interests have substantial independent impacts on US government policy, while mass-based interest groups and average citizens have little or no independent influence.” The Red Scare is a red herring.

Our era’s Red Scare has mostly been promulgated by Establishment Democrats, but neocons like Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) were quick to jump on the censorship bandwagon and make violently overblown statements like “this is the national security challenge of the 21st century.” 

In the following clip from the October 31 congressional hearings, Facebook lawyer Colin Stretch makes the astonishing admission that Facebook’s censorship decisions are based on the source, not the content of a statement.  Commentators have argued that the line of inquiry by Representative Trey Gowdy (R-SC) was calculated to highlight the absurdity of Facebook focusing on who is writing, not what is written.  

Either way, censorship is not going to help us.  I’ve seen two twitter accounts suspended because they effectively critiqued the Establishment Left from the Progressive Left (@angryberner aka Peter Douche and @politicspeach aka Charlie Peach— not the fake @politicspeach_ with the underscore, mind you).

The truth will set us free.  But…

…Meanwhile, in the final days of the week, the Clinton camp used the potentially lightspeed transfer of information possible via viral tweets and fiber optics to sow a number of untruths about the beans spilled by Brazile.  No one says it better than Glenn Greenwald:

There is ample talk, particularly of late, about the threats posed by social media to democracy and political discourse. Yet one of the primary ways that democracy is degraded by platforms such as Facebook and Twitter is, for obvious reasons, typically ignored in such discussions: the way they are used by American journalists to endorse factually false claims that quickly spread and become viral, entrenched into narratives, and thus can never be adequately corrected.

On Wednesday, Politico published a blockbuster accusation from Donna Brazile’s new book: that the DNC had “rigged” the 2016 primary election for Hillary Clinton through an agreement that gave Clinton control over key aspects of the DNC, a claim that Elizabeth Warren endorsed on CNN. The Clinton camp refused to comment publicly, but instead contacted their favorite reporters to publish their response as news.

The following day, NBC published an article by Alex Seitz-Wald that recited and endorsed the Clinton camp’s primary defense: that Brazile was wrong because the agreement in question (a copy of which they provided to Seitz-Wald) applied “only to preparations for the general election,” and had nothing to do with the primary season. That defense, if true, would be fatal to Brazile’s claims, and so DNC-loyal journalists all over Twitter instantly declared it to be true, thus pronouncing Brazile’s accusation to have been fully debunked. This post documents how quickly this claim was endorsed on Twitter by journalists and Democratic operatives, and how far and wide it therefore spread.

The problem with this claim is that it is blatantly and obviously false. All one has to do to know this is read the agreement.

DNC and Clinton allies pointed to the fact that the agreement contained self-justifying lawyer language claiming that it is “focused exclusively on preparations for the General,” but as Fischer noted that passage “is contradicted by the rest of the agreement.” This would be like creating a contract to explicitly bribe an elected official (“A will pay Politician B to vote YES on Bill X”), then adding a throwaway paragraph with a legalistic disclaimer that “nothing in this agreement is intended to constitute a bribe,” and then have journalists cite that paragraph to proclaim that no bribe happened even though the agreement on its face explicitly says the opposite.

Source:  The Intercept

That’s just the beginning of item #1 of 4 in that article.  You should read it and be mesmerized by the hypocrisy that Greenwald uncovers.  Also read Caitlin Johnstone.

The Elitist Ones will do anything to keep control of the narrative.  Let’s fight back.

Flames

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#22 A Brief Note on Politics; Free Speech Pt. IV

mine siberia

This image is of the Mir Mine, an inactive diamond mine in Siberia.  It’s about 3900′ in diameter.  The air space above is closed to helicopters, which can be sucked into the pit by the downward flow of air, according to Amusing Planet.  Per Amusing Planet, operating the mine was no walk in the park.  The winter weather is so cold that car tires would burst, oil would freeze, and the workers at the mine would use jet engines to burn through the permafrost.

 

 

Mir mine, siberia

My favorite quote regarding this subject is on a reddit page about the inactive mine:

The Dwarves delved too greedily and too deep. You know what they awoke in the darkness of Khazad-dûm…

 

MAKING LIFE HARD FOR RT

Bearing in mind the Bana Alabed RT Redacted Tonight  video on youtube I urged you to click on– which I believe is a valuable piece of reporting (albeit presented in an infotainment-style format)– let’s briefly discuss RT / Russia Today’s governmental status.  When it was launched in 2005, Svetlana Mironyuk, the director-general of RIA Novosti (the Russian news agency which was subsequently closed around the end of 2013), said that the purpose of RT is to give an alternative to the gloomy image Westerners have of life in Russia.  In her words, “[u]nfortunately, at the level of mass consciousness in the West, Russia is associated with three words: communism, snow and poverty,” she says. “We would like to present a more complete picture of life in our country.”

That seems fair enough.  As far as I know, the evidence that RT is “state controlled” or “government run” or “Russian Propaganda” versus merely “publicly financed” (the way the BBC is publicly financed) is not conclusive, despite what the MSM and our government wants you to believe.

Of course, I do suspect that RT is indeed slow to publish pieces critical of President Putin.  But then again, our own mainstream media isn’t exactly critical of our “bosses.” In America– and I think most of us realize this even if we don’t like to admit it– our bosses are the permanent political class (including the intelligence community and corporate lobbyists) and the very, very rich people who pay for political campaigns and who own media and arms companies.  As usual, no one can beat Caitlin Johnstone’s succinct description of the situation– see this article.  Again– CNN, WaPo, MSNBC, et al. are not very critical of our neocon/neoliberal globalist plutocrat overlords.

Moreover, in this 2011 bit RT points out that other countries like the UK, France, Germany, and U.S. all have their own foreign broadcasting services that receive at least partial funding from their respective governments.

In the U.S. it is the Broadcasting Board of Governors, which according to wikipedia “is an independent agency of the United States government.”  I decided to take the initiative and look at the BBG webpage.  I think the following mission statements are highly topical:

radio free asia etc

Source:  BBG

I really had to wonder how welcome the above programs are in the countries they target, so I looked up Radio y Televisión Martí.  The following is straight off wikipedia— not the best source, but a source:

Radio y Televisión Martí is an American radio and television international broadcaster based in Miami, Florida, financed by the Federal government of the United States through the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG), which transmits political propaganda in Spanish to Cuba. Its broadcasts can also be heard and viewed worldwide through their website and on shortwave radio frequencies.

Also:

Today, Radio Marti broadcasts a 24-hour radio program over short-wave transmitters in Delano, California, and Greenville, North Carolina, and a medium-wave transmitter in Marathon, Florida (GC: 24°41′58″N 81°5′19″W). Its studios are located in Miami, Florida. Cuba jams both the medium-wave and shortwave signals, but the shortwave program is heard in Canada and throughout Central America and South America. On occasion, the medium-wave transmitter at 1180 kHz can be heard as far north as Washington, D.C.

This, to me, is hilarious– the U.S. taxpayers pay to broadcast a propaganda radio show to Cuba– the signal is promptly jammed– but you can listen to it in Washington D.C.  Look, it creates jobs, okay?

Of course, like a lot of things, the truth turns out to be slightly more complicated on closer inspection.  According to the Miami Herald, the Obama Administration “began making a series of changes designed to bring their [Radio Marti and TV Marti] coverage in line with the journalism standards of the Voice of America, another U.S. government broadcaster.”  That in turn enraged anti-Castro Cubans and exiles:

But the shift of funds from the TV broadcasts — seldom seen on the island because the Cuban government blocks them — to the digital content and the decision to move away from propaganda and toward a more balanced journalism have been criticized by some Cuban exiles as well as opposition activists on the island.

Source:  Miami Herald

Moral:  You can please none of the people all of the time, or you can please some of the people some of the time.

In the general context of the above facts, and regarding its own status as “state-funded” or “state-run”, everybody’s favorite bogeyman RT concludes:

So call RT “state-funded” if you must, but if you want to “call a duck a duck,” as NPR’s host so eloquently put it, you might want to consider the pond we’re all swimming in.

Source:  RT

In isolation, the argument in the last quote is technically invalid from a strictly logical standpoint; it’s a Tu Quoque argument (“you do it too” / “two wrongs make a right”).  See this link for a pretty decent list of fallacious arguments and biases compiled by the University of Texas at El Paso. However…

In the broader (real world) context, dismissing the RT argument as Tu Quoque argument is itself just throwing out a red herring (another fallacious rhetorical technique) or a fallacious either/or argument (EITHER RT IS STATE-RUN OR NOT!).  Why?  Because the entire American focus on alleged Russian propaganda is a red herring (read:  DISTRACTION)– one created by our politicians and IC and promulgated by our media in order to keep Americans from focusing on their real problems.  If you still doubt this in October 2017, please give some attention to these two links:

The Big Fat Compendium of Russiagate Debunkery

Russia-Gate’s Shaky Foundation

In this larger context, the meaningful question is not “who produces the most propaganda?”, but whether alternative news sources have a value irrespective of who pays for them.

McAdams -- RG -- guns

The underlying issues that I am interested in are a) access to information, and b) our own government propaganda and countering it.  These days, the MSM and U.S. government are essentially saying that because some of RT’s programming is presumably biased in favor of Putin, all of its programming is “Russian propaganda.”  That is an over-generalization (another logical fallacy).  Lots of RT’s programming has no possible political angle at all– like a lot of factual reporting.  Moreover, not all Russian programming that is critical of the West is necessarily generated for the purpose of stroking Putin’s ego or bolstering his base or destroying democracy.  In the “free marketplace of ideas” that America supposedly touts, I believe that hearing a perspective that is not controlled by the Not-a-conspiracy-theory-but-something-that-exists-by-definition-Deepstate is valuable.

daou rg

No claim about actual Russian election hacking has come close to being proven, and most such claims have been debunked.  Even if Russia did hack something, the answer to cyberwarfare is cybersecurity– not to, say, unilaterally invade Iran or to bomb Syria more.  Completely outside of the Russiagate issue, we should get rid of electronic voting machines that don’t leave a (literal) paper trail.  Period.

 

I’m not sure that Trump won’t get himself impeached because of shady business dealings.  But besides for the matter of patching some cyber vulnerabilities, the current Red Scare is a joke, and the average American is the butt of the joke:

pokemon russiagate

 

But with the Russiagate hacking & collusion narrative crumbling (this post & video is so great), the Russiagaters have resorted to the idea that Russia is somehow “influencing” our people with “ads” and… (cover your ears kids)… IDEAS!

Andrew Korybko, in the same article I linked to earlier, makes the following point:

One of the more popular fake news claims going around about Sputnik and RT is that the two outlets were heavily biased in favor of Trump during the 2016 election, but that’s frankly not true, as anyone would know by listening to Sputnik’s radio programs from that time, watching RT’s shows, or reading both of their websites’ archives. Both platforms lean closer to the liberal-progressive side of things as opposed to the conservative one. Simply reporting on the many unfavorable stories surrounding Hillary Clinton and not blindly fawning over her candidacy doesn’t qualify as “institutional bias”, though in largely controlled systems such as the American one where most of the media openly back the Democrats, then the Overton window concept would suggest that Sputnik and RT’s balanced reporting and analyses would understandably stand out as attention-grabbing and exemplary.

Just for the record, I am in favor of putting the language of “Left” and “Right” on sabbatical, in exchange for recognition of a new political axis– the “Tops” (1%) and “Bottoms” (99%)– at least until we can grasp with a steady hand the holy grail of getting Big Money out of politics (one can always dream).  Nonetheless, this hilarious tweet response is one of my favorite of the year:

troll farm coastal libs

On the flipside, Korybko points out:

In addition, it should never be forgotten that it was the on-the-fence population of the Rust Belt who surprisingly turned the election in Trump’s favor. One would presume that the liberal-progressive masses in the solidly Democratic states on each coast would be Sputnik and RT’s core audiences given how these two outlets’ more leftist-leaning stance on many matters overlap with the prevailing preferences there, so it’s ridiculous to believe that these Russian companies somehow convinced voters to want to “Make America Great Again” in the more stereotypically nationalistic heartland with their liberal-progressive messaging. In fact, it’s uncertain how many people in that part of the US listen to, watch, or read Sputnik and RT in the first place when Fox News, CNN, and Rush Limbaugh dominate those media markets, and whether these Russian companies are even capable of making any difference at all in those swing states.

That. ^^

 

But NOOOOO

Instead of chilling out, the U.S. government has decided to make RT and Sputnik register as “foreign agents.”

The government is not making war-mongering thinktanks funded by oil companies, defense contractors, and foreign countries register as foreign agents.  Weird.  Even the NYT has given coverage to the idea.

The government is not making the BBC register as a foreign agent.  But the BBC carries just as much fake news as the usual MSM suspects in the U.S. (i.e. MSNBC, CNN, Fox, et al).

Russiagate motives

 

Washington Post again

Predictably, the Washington Post loved the idea of making RT register as a Foreign Agent (this is a “perspective piece” from someone from the Brookings Institution– a thinktank that accepted $13 million from Haim “I’m a one-issue guy and my issue is Israel” Saban).

Here is a choice cut from WaPo:  “Just as Americans have a right to know how corporations attempt to affect legislation, they should also be informed of the ways in which other countries try to influence our political process.”

Ahh yes, let’s think about that for a second.  How I would love to see our mainstream media spend every day of the year discussing nothing except which multinational companies and arms dealers and PACs are paying for which pieces of American legislation and foreign policy– instead of spending every day talking about how $100,000 in Facebook ads with possible connections to someone in Russia– 55% of which ads didn’t appear until after the election– somehow impacted our election.

Going back to WaPo, their perspective concludes with a broad claim that “RT is not a ‘news service’ in any meaningful sense of the term.”

Great!  Then why does an American need to go to RT to watch a well-produced segment about a very reasonable theory about Bana Alabed?

Also from WaPo:  “Critics of the move to register RT and Sputnik as foreign agents generally make two arguments: that doing so would chill free speech and provoke retaliatory measures against American journalists working in Russia.”

Okay, correct.  How about this one too:   doing so would provoke retaliatory measures against Russian and American journalists working in America.

As reported in many news outlets, RT employees in America now fear for their safety:

The editor-in-chief of Russia Today, [the publicly financed Russian news program], said on Thursday that American members of its staff are quitting in their “masses” because of security concerns, appearing to suggest they were at threat of U.S. law enforcement action.

Margarita Simonyan, the head of the news site, told a parliamentary hearing on Thursday that its staff on American soil “fear for their security.”

It has become so tough for the news site to operate in the U.S. that “it’s hard for us now even to find a stringer in the USA,” Simonyan said.

Source:  Newsweek

(A “stringer” in this industry is a guy or gal who works by the individual photo or article– a freelancer.)

Of course, the ridiculously mainstream Newsweek goes on to mock RT, but the idea that American journalists– and Russian journalists– and anyone else who works at RT America– are being intimidated by U.S. law enforcement and/or other citizens is a terrible statement about the status of free speech in America.

olbermann hockey tweet crop

For the love of all that is good, free speech is free people!  It really is.  There is no cost to letting people think for themselves.  It literally is a 100% abstract, non-material thing.  It consumes no energy other than what it takes to run your own brain.

And if you tell me “well then boy, you are lucky you live in the Land of the Free and not Communist Russia,” I will quote Run The Jewels: “run backwards in a field of dicks.”  The point is that right now, we are imposing sanctions on a television show.  It’s not like they are producing snuff films.  Imposing this kind of political pressure on a news show is a ludicrous low!  If they lie, sue them for libel!!  That’s what our court system is for.

But what do we expect.  At least we’re not jamming radio signals (yet).

I already mentioned Google’s new algorithms for suppressing “fake news.”  I can’t say it better than this guy’s comment:

comment on libel laws vs algorithms

That comment was posted under an April 25, 2017 article about Google’s new algorithms.

It is sad that Alternet, a left-wing website, says it is getting hammered by Google’s algorithms (claiming search traffic has plummeted 40% since the algorithm was introduced).  Unfortunately, Alternet seems to have become a bastion of the #McResistance.  The executive editor of Alternet can’t even say that Russiagate is the real cause of his website’s catastrophic drop in readership, because that would enrage his Trump-hating audience.  Instead he chants the jingo “Our goal is to stay strong, keep our great staff and fight Donald Trump and his cult of core supporters.”

He won’t even name the true enemy staring him in the face.

You seriously need to look at his request for donations, and see how he completely fails to call out the Red Scare that is propelling the censors into power.  I didn’t include the full article below, but you can go to the page to see for yourself that I am not exaggerating when I say he doesn’t even mention Russiagate as a possible source of his problems.  No, it must be the alt-right or something.  He knows the rank-and-file Democratic voters who read his site (again, in full disclosure, I would have been one of them a year ago) would LOSE THEIR MINDS if he suggested we tamp down the anti-Russia rhetoric and the local censorship it is ushering in.  I am sorry to bash Alternet but I have to.  PLEASE READ:

alternet censorship

altneret2

alternet 3

Now.  I ask you.  Who has done the brainwashing?

 

Conclusion

My point here is not that The Motherland is great and the U.S.A. is bad.  I’ve never been to Russia, I am not a Russian government shill, and I am not Russian by ancestry, though I am 50% Polish.  I write for free.  Beyond my own catharsis, I can only hope that anyone who happens to read this and doesn’t already know this stuff will take a second to lay off the kool-aid and compare and contrast the value of uncritically absorbing the narrative offered by our mainstream media, compared to the cost of welcoming in censorship and McCarthyism.

Oh, and escalating tensions with a nuclear superpower while simultaneously making it politically impossible for our tender president to back down from any potential conflict that could otherwise be resolved diplomatically–  sad.

fake netanyahu

The above tweet is a parody account, by the way– and the account doesn’t hide that fact if you check its profile.  “Parody” is not fake news– unless we want to censor The Onion now.

I leave you with a post from my favorite independent (i.e. non-mass media) journalist:
What’s Behind the Man Behind the Curtain

 

Don’t give up my friends.

Pantera with Russian police 1991

Metal band Pantera hanging with Russian police, circa 1991 appearance at Monsters of Rock, the first Western outdoor rock festival to be held in the former Soviet Union

#21 A Brief Note on Politics; Free Speech Pt. III

bana WWIII

Bellingcat & Co., fake news, and fake “fake news”

The agenda Bana is pushing is clear: Middle East regime change (oh and yeah, maybe WWIII too).  But just in time for Christmas last year, the Washington Post published a searing indictment of Bana-doubters, which is beyond hilarious because it cites Bellingcat as its fact checker.  The article concludes with this absolutely jaw-dropping piece of Orwellian double speak from a Bellingcat associate:

“I don’t think it will change the minds of the trolls posting the horrendous comments about Bana,” Waters said. “But I think that we can influence those who know about Bana but are unsure about her veracity. Information warfare of the sort practiced by Russia doesn’t require the imposition of a coherent narrative, but rather the undermining and delegitimization of all other narratives. We hope that by exposing the truth as openly as possible, we can put it beyond doubt.”

Let’s pretend we have a truth serum and translate that into the Honest tongue:

I don’t think it will change the minds of the “awake” people who have lost faith in our mainstream media.  But I think that we can influence those who know about Bana but are unsure about her veracity. Information warfare of the sort practiced by the Deep State doesn’t require the undermining and delegitimization of all other narratives, but rather the imposition of a mono-narrative through repetition, repetition, repetition, thereby drowning out all other voices. We hope that by repeating the same falsehoods enough times, we can put them beyond doubt.

Eliot Higgins is the founder of the supposed “fact-checking site” Bellingcat.  Of course, Eliot Higgins is also a senior fellow in the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab and Future Europe Initiative.  The Atlantic Council is an American thinktank, if by American you mean funded by approximately 24 foreign governments and 102 foreign corporations as of 2013, and growing.  Its raison d’être is to argue for globalization and to dream up justifications for more NATO and American-led regime change in the Middle East (and East).  For a more detailed exposition, see WSWS.

Oh, don’t let the name of that last website scare you, all you centrists, it’s almost Halloween, you need to be brave.  The distinguished Chris Hedges (Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, former Princeton professor, best-selling author) says in a great interview with WSWS: “I’m not a Marxist. I’m not a Trotskyist. But I like the site. You report on important issues seriously and in a way a lot of other sites don’t.”  (Nonetheless, WSWS has come under attack by Google’s new censorship algorithms, and claims it has lost 70% of its web traffic since those algorithms were introduced.  Learn more and sign the petition to stop internet censorship.)

But back to our hero of the story.  Here is “praise” for Eliot Higgins– embarrassing really– from The Guardian:

Eliot Higgins has no need for a flak jacket, nor does he carry himself with the bravado of a war reporter. As an unemployed finance and admin worker his expertise lies in compiling spreadsheets, not dodging bullets. He has never been near a war zone. But all that hasn’t stopped him from breaking some of the most important stories on the Syrian conflict in the last year.

Source:  The Guardian

Eliot Higgins does not have experience covering events on the ground in Ukraine– or Syria– or anywhere.  I almost feel guilty betraying a fellow gamer and inveterate nerd (“As a video gamer, Higgins pressed well past casual bouts of ‘World of Warcraft,’ staying up late to lead teams of 40 players in complex online raids… Before getting married, he was known to game for 36 hours at a stretch.” –Huffington Post).  But the guy is a tool in multiple senses of the word.  I’m pretty sure that in the public consciousness, the concept “nerd” is no longer immediately connected to the concept of “nice, soft-spoken guy who couldn’t possibly be a psy-op.”  And I can tell you from 27 trips to GenCon that a lot of role-playing gamers and war gamers love military history and could easily be convinced to participate in writing some modern military history.  Nice try propagandists.

Oops, I went full-nerd.  That’s too deep; hang on while I take a step back.  Okay, on second thought, you will not read a mainstream article about Higgins that does not “glorify” his recent under-employed status and love of video games.  The idea of “guy who plays video games” is basically a description of the common man in the 21st century, and the “Eliot Higgins” propaganda project contains elements of “plain folks” appeal– in addition to a play on our conscious and subconscious wishes to make a difference in the world.  Unless I am just projecting here.

propaganda common man

Source: https://www.slideshare.net/prufrock6731/propaganda-and-george-orwells-animal-farm

In case you don’t read any of the links in the next paragraph, I will summarize the methodology that makes Higgins such an “unlikely nemesis” to Vladimir Putin– he searches through photos and videos on social media like Facebook, Snapchat, and Youtube– and finds “connections” between foreign military units, weapon systems, and footage of actual conflicts. Eliot Higgins has as much experience on the ground in Syria as I do.  Frankly his word about Bana Alabed should not be given more weight than that of his fellow nerd– me– especially when he is associated with an entity that could and should be made to register as a Foreign Agent under the 1938 Foreign Agents Registration Act, as even the frickin’ New York Times gently proposes.

Here is a more or less comprehensive takedown of Eliot Higgins and Bellingcat, written by a journalist named Graham Phillips, who has covered events on the ground in Ukraine and elsewhere (he is also under threat of being banned from youtube for his intense video footage from Donbass that doesn’t support Establishment narratives).  Please look at the actual evidence he provides, then look at what other people have brought forward.  This post is a year old, and speculates whether Bana is going to be “written out” of the narrative– of course we know the ending; she doesn’t get written out but instead the 8 year old who doesn’t speak English gets a highly-publicized book deal promoted by J.K. Rowling (Harry Potter).  Here is another piece, which ends with the classic line,

“At the end of the day, Bana, who mainstream media outlets, never missing a chance to pimp the holocaust, have named the ‘Anne Frank of Syria,’ is just one more in a long line of propaganda figures produced by the U.S. State Department, Western-backed White Helmets, and the corporate media.”

Look at the evidence Graham Phillips and others present, then, like Phillips says,

make your own mind up.

The Atlantic Council would probably like to tell you that the multicultural rebels in last year’s Rogue One are like Syrian rebels fighting the Assad government.  In furtherance of that fantastical take on reality, Bana Alabed now has a book deal and is being paraded in front of the U.N.  Look at the U.N. tweet below.  Also, you must feast your eyes on the comments, which are almost universal in decrying this blatant bullshit, and comprise a flickering light of hope for our world.  There is also some photographic evidence used in support of the proposition that Bana’s father is a member of the al Safwa Islamic Battalion, an anti-Assad rebel group.

bana UN tweet.jpg

We have seen this too many times before, folks.  For me, the memory of Iraq’s “WMD” is still fresh.  I hope and pray that the internet will enable citizens to think for themselves, and more quickly debunk war propaganda.  Then again, the military and its sort-of-stewards in government might just roll into Iran or North Korea whether we have enjoyed the attendant propaganda effort or not.  But knowing is half the battle, as GI Joe would say.

gi joe

At this point I would like to thank Caitlin Johnstone, the independent (i.e. not Big Media) journalist whose concise, honest, and entertaining articles were my best medicine this last year.  As I try my hand at broaching some political topics, I keep hearing this voice saying, “Caitlin is so much better at this– I should just link to her articles and say goodnight.”  In that spirit, I highly recommend this piece on Syria.  (Watch this Redacted Tonight piece too.)  Caitlin was on top of this Syria business when it was happening live.  My part here is just to remind people about Deep State propaganda and to get focused for the next wave.

Next– an examination of some current threats to journalistic freedom and a free internet.

# 20 A Brief Note on Politics– Free Speech Pt. II

Case Study:  The Folk Who Run the Media in America  

The Washington Post was purchased by billionaire, drone aficionado, and Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos in 2013.  The purchase surprised people at the time, considering the newspaper’s circulation, like ALL PRINT, was floundering.  Here are some bullet points  from a 2016 Business Insider piece:

“I didn’t know anything about the newspaper business … But I did know something about the internet,” Bezos told Business Insider in a 2014 interview.

In fact, Bezos liked the opportunity so much that he didn’t do any due diligence and just signed the first $250 million offer sheet that came from [Don] Graham.

Its [the Post now under Bezos] content-distribution strategy also involved a lot of social media, like Facebook and Twitter. It also offered discounts to Amazon Prime members, while making The Washington Post app pre-installed on Amazon’s Fire tablets.

Bezos continues to be very involved with The Post’s operations. He holds one-hour conference calls with executives every two weeks, and brings them into Seattle twice a year for longer meetings.

Source:  Business Insider

It’s also the case that Bezos was voted the “World’s Worst Boss” in relation to Amazon, the company he runs.  Good to know.  Doesn’t that say something about how Bezos views the world?  Oh, and I’m assuming the unions were voting on the worst boss in the world, but they could have been voting for worst boss of the world, considering Bezos’ planetary influence.

The union organization, the International Trade Union Confederation, met in Berlin in 2014, with over 1500 delegates from 161 countries.  The ITUC is the world’s largest trade union federation and says it represents 180 million workers.

As far as how ITUC General Secretary Sharan Burrow views the world:

“Corporate power is out of control, it is cowering governments with threats of capital flight. The greed of the 1% is of more interest to our governments than the 99%.  We decided we would start exposing some of the elements of the worst boss phenomena – undermining democracy, undermining workers’ rights.”

Burrow spoke of Amazon specifically:

“Amazon operating in Germany treats its workers as if they are robots. The company makes no secret that within just a few years they will replace workers with robots. A rich American corporation operating globally with disdain for dignity, for rights for working people. Jeff Bezos represents the inhumanity of employers who are promoting the American corporate model.”

Burrow continued to summarize workers’ complaints (I am not sure if this is in relation to Amazon’s operations in Germany or elsewhere):

“Workers at Amazon distribution centres are required to wear digital arm mounted terminals that monitor their every move. There are no agreed protocols about breaks and speed, and a culture of bullying and harassment is rife. Staff are reprimanded just for speaking to one another or even pausing to catch their breath.”

Source:  ituc-csi.org

bezos quote

Even though I love to buy my C.D.s and other shit from Amazon, man, I feel a little guilty about it now.  Bezos appears to be a psychopath and/or sociopath, which I suppose is the tried and true genetic and psychological rig if your soul’s destiny is a position of power in our society.

UNI Global Union, which claims to represent 20 million workers, weighed in by way of General Secretary Philip Jennings:

Against tough opposition Amazon’s CEO Jeff Bezos has today been voted worst boss in the world, beating off rivals from other serial workers rights offenders, including Walmart.

Commenting on Bezos’s accolade as the worst boss in the world, the General Secretary of UNI Global Union, Philip Jennings said, “We don’t accept the Amazon model of the new economy. Their model is unsustainable and is based on treating its workforce – permanent, part-time and temporary, as inhuman robots.”

“Bezos is seen as a great innovator but Amazon owes its success to a vision of the future which treats its staff as if they were 19th century factory workers. The Amazon model is a scam which takes public funds while mistreating that same public, siphons profits out of the countries to avoid paying tax and creates a culture of precarious jobs. There is nothing fulfilling about working at Amazon’s so-called ‘fulfilment’ distribution centres.”

“He represents the image of the new economy in the worst possible way and that is why this large public vote called him out as the worst boss on the planet. Who knows how many of Amazon’s 15,000 work force in Germany added their voice against him! Bezos won because if we, the people, do not stand up to the Amazon vision of the new economy no one else will, not governments and certainly not businesses themselves.”

Source:  uniglobalunion.org  For a brutal account of Amazon’s sweatshop practices, see too:  Salon

Amazon got called out in America too.  According to a 2015 New York Times article, the conditions are terrible for Amazon’s white collar workers too.  Think of the times you have had to deal with a psychotic, back-stabbing co-worker– and then imagine a company culture that does everything it can to foster such behavior:

At Amazon, workers are encouraged to tear apart one another’s ideas in meetings, toil long and late (emails arrive past midnight, followed by text messages asking why they were not answered), and held to standards that the company boasts are “unreasonably high.” The internal phone directory instructs colleagues on how to send secret feedback to one another’s bosses. Employees say it is frequently used to sabotage others. (The tool offers sample texts, including this: “I felt concerned about his inflexibility and openly complaining about minor tasks.”)

Losers leave or are fired in annual cullings of the staff — “purposeful Darwinism,” one former Amazon human resources director said. Some workers who suffered from cancer, miscarriages and other personal crises said they had been evaluated unfairly or edged out rather than given time to recover.

Even as the company tests delivery by drone and ways to restock toilet paper at the push of a bathroom button, it is conducting a little-known experiment in how far it can push white-collar workers, redrawing the boundaries of what is acceptable. The company, founded and still run by Jeff Bezos, rejects many of the popular management bromides that other corporations at least pay lip service to and has instead designed what many workers call an intricate machine propelling them to achieve Mr. Bezos’ ever-expanding ambitions.

[One worker] lasted less than two years in a book marketing role and said that his enduring image was watching people weep in the office, a sight other workers described as well. “You walk out of a conference room and you’ll see a grown man covering his face,” he said. “Nearly every person I worked with, I saw cry at their desk.”

Source:  New York Times

(As I conceded in my last post, just because a news source is a mouthpiece for the Establishment doesn’t discredit everything it says.  There are reports from a variety of sources that Bezos treats his employees like Medieval serfs.  The NYT is one of the usual suspects when it comes to Fake News, but that doesn’t mean the NYT is incapable of writing a true story.)  That NYT article went on to recount (and link to) a graduation speech Bezos gave:

He wanted his grandmother to stop smoking, he recalled in a 2010 graduation speech at Princeton. He didn’t beg or appeal to sentiment. He just did the math, calculating that every puff cost her a few minutes. “You’ve taken nine years off your life!” he told her. She burst into tears.

Bezos mistreats his newspaper employees also, according to a WaPo writer who was given a 9/1/2017 op-ed in the Huffington Post:

Two years ago… Bezos slashed retirement benefits… Bezos’ decision on retirement benefits had nothing to do with the balance sheet and, arguably, everything to do with ideology.

Only by making sacrifices was the Post’s union able to maintain health insurance for part-timers — whose cost of coverage was about what the Post spent to send its publisher to the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner.

He seems to be enjoying his newfound acclaim as the Post’s savior while displaying a laissez faire attitude to the financial well-being of its employees — especially those who do not have a famous byline but who make its journalism possible by copy-editing stories, driving circulation trucks, mining social media or selling ads.

Source:  Huffington Post

Of course, the WaPo employee who wrote the Huffington Post op-ed, Fredrick Kunkle, was disciplined by WaPo.

Finally, it is interesting to note that Bezos’ Amazon secured a $600 million contract from the CIA to build a “computing cloud… allowing agencies to share information and services much more easily.”

I don’t know the details about why Amazon got the job instead of the other bidders like IBM; most of the process was “secret” anyway and I’m not sure it matters.  But there is no denying that Bezos (now) has a connection to the CIA.  Many people have voiced concern about the “tips” and “leaks” from the intelligence community that are routinely fed to Bezos’ newspaper, and which the Post dutifully publishes (usually as “fact”).

There may be those of you who think this sounds like a conspiracy theory.  All I am doing here is pointing out the obvious– that really rich, greedy plutocrats run our newspapers and other MSM sources, and they have no interest in the regular Joe’s plight (or worse, they have an actual ideological bias in favor of social Darwinism, which tends to mean “might makes right”).

wapo missile

Do I think Jeff Bezos bought a newspaper because newspapers are having a huge resurgence in circulation?  Hell no.  Well actually, yes and no.  It appears that Bezos was able to “update” the paper and build its online presence tremendously.  The Post still carries a lot of cachet with coastal elites.  But more to the point, I agree with the hordes of unwashed masses who suspect Bezos was actually more interested in having a convenient way to dictate our reality.

chaos ad image

Regardless of Bezos’ schemes, the WaPo’s relationship with the CIA goes back to the 50s or earlier.  See this great summary from December 2016 in Zero Hedge.

Next:  A return to the Bana Alabed discussion.

# 19 A Brief Note on Politics– Free Speech Pt. I

Roadmap

This particular blog began as a hard rock and metal discussion.  In my opening statement I parodied standard corporate articles of incorporation and their drab invocation of being “organized under this [Corporations] Act for any lawful purpose.”  In like manner, this blog is organized for any lawful speech. Like the dystopian urban wasteland of Blade Runner, this post is going to sprawl out over everything– but you can expect the built-up area to be ground zero for the battle over free speech.  The heavy metal community has traditionally opposed and battled censorship, but the discussion is relevant to anyone who cares about ideas and their free dissemination.

 

RT

This is already a few months old, but pieces like the one in the youtube video I’m featuring further below– from the “Russian Propaganda” news outlet RT (Russia Today)– are why our government is pushing to limit our access to RT.  Go ahead.  Watch it.  It’s just youtube.  It’s not going to electrocute you; you’re not a hacker with a neural link jacked into a cyberdeck, right?  We may be in the Matrix, but we aren’t running the Neuromancer or Shadowrun simulation yet.  It’s okay.  Go ahead, DO IT.  Everyone’s doing it.  Didn’t you hear there is a global information war going on? Scroll down and click the link.  Push the button!  It’s not going to put you on a government blacklist.

Oh, wait.  STOP!

 

neuromancer__brazilian_edition_smaller

f1x-2’s cover art for a recent print of Neuromancer published by Aleph (Brazil)

 

Actually, I can’t promise that last thing: you are probably using Google right now, and Google owns youtube.  I don’t know the extent of Google’s possible collusion with the U.S. government, intelligence community (IC), and/or military in the design of its algorithms to suppress what is allegedly “fake news”– nor do I know what kind of information the ICs are collecting on us with or without Google’s collusion.  I don’t think they are going to start rounding up dissidents yet, but if you don’t hear from me in a while, it may just be that I sometimes take up to six months between blog posts.  What I do know is that neoconservative/neoliberal thinktanks make their own software to sniff out dissenting opinions, and that software is currently in a state of being pathetic:

 

stars and stripes twitter

To be fair, the software is only “pathetic” if you don’t like the idea of the thought police casting an insanely wide net.   Go ahead and look at the bizarrely-named program Hamilton 68— and tell me it doesn’t give you the creeps.  Named after Federalist Paper #68 for either asinine or obfuscatory reasons (see the Hamilton Electors who opposed Trump), it was put together by the “bipartisan” Alliance for Securing Democracy.  Note that “bipartisan,” when translated from the Military-Industrial Guild thieves’ cant, is usually rendered “neocon-neoliberal marriage made in hell,” i.e. pro-war players from both the Red Team and the Blue Team.

 

Foreign Meddling Case Study:  The German Marshall Fund of the United States

The Alliance for Securing Democracy is a creation of the German Marshall Fund of the United States (GMF)– which is itself funded by a number of arms dealers, transnational oil corporations, AIPAC affiliates, and other countries (specifically NATO countries).  Go ahead– take a look at the entities that fund it (examples:  Lockheed Martin {arms dealer}, American Israel Education Foundation {AIPAC affiliate}, Chevron {transnational oil corporation}, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Latvia {foreign country}).  So before you indict me for tossing around terms like “neoliberal” and “Jabba the Hutt”, bear in mind that we are talking about a policy group that is not exactly American as apple pie.

 

Jabba_the_hutt

Speaking of portly gangsters, the Iraq War “WMD” co-conspirator Kristol is still beating the drum for the Iraq War.  The following tweet is less than a year old:

Kristol

 

Uh, Mr. Kristol, 2002 called, they want their propaganda back.

In league with Satan, oops, I mean Billy Kristol (who is on the GMF advisory council), Hamilton 68 targets literally anything that might be deemed remotely critical of regime change and foreign interventionism– as you can see from this analysis by the Ron Paul Institute:

the dashboard more often targets hugely popular independent news sites like Robert Parry’s Consortium News, The Federalist, Breitbart, and WikiLeaks. As The New York Times mentions, “Of 80 news stories promoted last week by those accounts, more than 25 percent ‘had a primary theme of anti-Americanism.'” It is impossible to know what, according to the site’s designers, “anti-Americanism” means, but it no doubt involves articles which are critical of US foreign policy. This means that if a Washington Post or Reuters article, for example,highlights “staggering” Iraqi civilian deaths under US coalition bombings, that article would likely register as “anti-American” by the platform and its creators. By such methods, the Washington Post, Reuters, and numerous independent sites are brought under suspicion alongside RT News and Sputnik. But “anti-American” could also simply mean any article produced by a site that Hamilton 68’s creators don’t like. Again, the data is meaningless.
Indeed, on Thursday both The Intercept and Antiwar.com were top trending sites on the Hamilton’s 68 dashboard. Ironically, The Intercept has take [sic] various editorial positions concerning Russian hacking allegations, and last June published a rather sensational headline, Top-Secret NSA Report Details Russian Hacking Effort Days Before 2016 Election, which ended up making only a small splash, but landed NSA leaker Reality Winner in jail.
Thursday’s (9/28) list of Top Trending Domains advanced by what Hamilton 68 identifies as Russian backed social media accounts [sic]. Antiwar News and The Intercept were trending.
Antiwar.com was founded as far back as 1995 for the purpose of opposing American militarism and interventionism. It was one of the early and consistent few news and activist sites which opposed the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Starting in 2011 it came under FBI investigation after what the FBI admitted was a “mistake”. The site’s founders, who were also personally under FBI monitoring for their “anti-war views”, estimate that they had lost at least $75,000 per year after donors pulled their support while citing fears that the FBI might monitor them too.

Source: Ron Paul Institute For Peace and Prosperity

Like a bungload of probe droids ripped in the general direction of every planet potentially harboring a rebel base, Hamilton 68’s wide-net approach doesn’t mean it isn’t good at alerting its Imperial masters to possible rebel scum.

imperial probe droid

The Last Jedi comes out in America on December 15, by the way– just thought I would save you the time of looking that up.  That means it’s almost Holiday season, but it is too early to get sweaty palms over Christmas shopping and whether Disney’s annual reliably-good installment in the franchise is going to pass muster.  Let’s stay focused.

You are a unique human being.  A valuable node of information.  An interesting person– but not a “person of interest.”  So I urge you to live a little, and take a chance watching an alternative news source that, by the way, is completely legal–

 

WikiLeaks Is Legal to Read

–Just like reading WikiLeaks is legal, by the way– notwithstanding what Chris Cuomo of CNN tried to trick you into believing.  And we are not talking about something that is “legal” in a highly (no pun intended) conditional way, like how “you can smoke weed in California, but a Fed agent might still bust you” kind of way.  Rather, it’s LEGAL in an unconditional way.  Once a document is in the public domain, claims to legal privilege and confidentiality evaporate (DISCLAIMER:  kids, if you want to play it safe, you might want to resist the temptation to reproduce droves of such documents yourself.  Also– steal less music).  WikiLeaks publishes leaked documents (that’s risky, obviously), putting them in the public domain– once it’s out there, it’s fair game for anyone to read.  Of course, in S. 1761 Congress may make its opinion on WikiLeaks “official”:

S congress better

 

Status of that bill here.  One perspective is here.

Again, WikiLeaks documents are no more illegal to read than a newspaper left on the counter in a greasy diner.  In fact, the legality is even more concrete in the case of WikiLeaks.  In the case of the newspaper, someone could theoretically walk out of the bathroom and claim you converted his property or committed a theft– and as we all know, even being wrongly accused of a crime can generate a resultant legal status.  But regardless of your opinion on leakers and publishers like Julian Assange, reading WikiLeaks is not illegal.  Here anyway.  The law may be different in Myanmar for all I know; I’m talking about AMERICA here.  The First Amendment in this country is not dead yet.

 

BANA

So without further ado, I urge you to watch this short clip from RT about Bana Alabed.  It’s fun:

 

 

For more about RT’s Redacted Tonight, see here.

As the great rogue journalist Caitlin Johnstone puts it, in her usual honest, concise, and passionate way:

Bana Alabed is undeniably a deceitful war psy-op which has been advanced by the highest levels of the mainstream media. There is a mountain of irrefutable evidence for this fact, including hard proof that CNN knowingly staged a fake, scripted interview with a little girl who can’t speak English for the purpose of selling an anti-Assad, pro-interventionist narrative against Syria to the American people. They presented that fake interview to their audience as real, and CNN’s Alisyn Camerota necessarily had the other half of the script they used.

(Above quote from “Oh You’ve Got To Be Fucking Kidding Me” by Caitlin Johnstone)

The Bana Alabed psy-op is an example of the “Save the Children” Fallacy.

save the children fallacy

The above text is excerpted from a University of Texas El Paso course taught by Owen Williamson.

Exploiting children to tug at your heart strings is patronizing, isn’t it?  That’s why anyone who wants an alternative to insulting propaganda should be thankful for the freedom of the press.  Sure, your government and MSM are going to get mad when those alternative outlets don’t support their narrative, and the current craze is to discredit those alternative sources by labeling them “Russian Propaganda.”  That’s another logical/rhetorical foul, by the way– it’s called Poisoning the Well.

Some RT content is going to be pro- Russian Federation.  That doesn’t discredit everything RT says.  Likewise, the fact that CNN is pro-Wall Street, pro-MIC, pro-IC, and pro-Washington Establishment does not mean that CNN is incapable of reporting a true story about wildfires in California.

 

kid rock

 

Next, a look at the kind of culture created by Washington Post owner Jeff Bezos.

#18 The Only Band That Matters Pt. III

reinventing-the-steel

Pantera released five major label albums.  Slipknot has released its fifth album and Avenged Sevenfold has recently released their sixth major label album– but for the most part let’s pretend that never happened.  Incidentally I’m not counting the former’s Mate.Feed.Kill.Repeat or the latter’s Sounding the Seventh Trumpet; indeed, any more than metalheads generally count Pantera’s Power Metal as part of the canon.

 

Slipknot-5-The-Grey-Chapter-2014.jpg

 

For reference, Metallica’s fifth album was the Black Album of 1991.  As much as I love A7X and Slipknot– and for that matter, as much as I love Load— I think it is fairly safe to say both A7X and Slipknot are past their prime.  Both bands have, however, survived tragedy and line-up changes and have shown that they are probably here to stick around (knock on wood).  I expect great things to come from both bands.

 

avenged-sevenfold-hail-to-the-king-new-single-art

As for the other big metal bands of the past, I think things are rough.  But I haven’t fully explored the revival of the bay area Big Four / Five, so I have that to look forward to.

You can search through early Mastodon’s vestigial sludge organs in vain to find a faint resemblance of something ejected by the great Neurosis.  No, I think what people found in the band’s heavy early era and proggy mid era was merely a premonition of the surreal and subconscious depths that would be explored by other bands in the coming psychedelic and occult rock of the 10s.  Generally I tend to call B$ on the history of off-the-charts Mastodon hype.  But they have drastically improved, in my opinion, by going into more straight-forward hard rock territory.  Obviously that is not the majority position.  Maybe I just don’t like “prog”.  Maybe I am just mad that Matt Pike didn’t get recognized by the masses at Rolling Stone until, what, 2015?– while the mainstream was beating Mastodon’s drum for a long time.  And while Brann Dailor may be a heavy metal Ginger Baker, guess what?  Not everyone likes Ginger Baker’s overdrumming on everything.  It depends on my mood.  But I never have qualms about High on Fire’s thunderous beatdowns.

homepage_header-d8add87f

 

I don’t care much for the material Meshuggah released after The True Human Design EP. My God this sounds like the grumblings of an old crotchety man.  Then there is Lamb of God.  To be honest, the metalheads I hang out with are divided on the subject.  When Ashes of the Wake was released we thought it might be the new Pantera.  Nope.  Some still love the band.  Some suggest that LOG are well past prime, and having released seven albums under their current moniker, the band is starting to look like they are going for quantity over quality at this point.

I’ll take a “new” band, like Huntress or Uncle Acid & The Deadbeats, over LOG any day.  Why?  Easy.  Huntress builds on the Metallica blueprint better than Lamb of God ever built on the Pantera blueprint.  Ditto for Uncle Acid & The Deadbeats, who make brilliant new songs ranging from psychedelic to folk to doom all on a 70s rock foundation.  They are arguably better than any “doom” band from the original era besides Black Sabbath.  They’re close to the missing link between The Beatles and Black Sabbath, or perhaps more precisely, the missing link between The Beatles and Electric Wizard.  Hahahaha.  Screw it, there is really no easy way to describe Uncle Acid.

I’m not into economics as a science.  I loathe unfettered capitalism, so I reluctantly use this metaphor, but:  the value of a band like Huntress is related to supply & demand.  We all adore gritty death metal and thrash with monstrous, sneering vocals. And lo, we are blessed, for there is much of the same to feast upon (albeit mostly from older decades).  It has no emotion, or its only emotion is anger, but it looks awesome in the stoner’s third eye.  In contrast, are there barrels full of good classic-style metal / thrash with powerful, emotive, diamond-sharp Valkyrie vocals?  No.  Truckloads of music with energy and euphoria that is not of either the electronic or hipster-drivel category?  Impossible.  Finding a new band of that nature is close to impossible.

***

I’ve previously cited not one but TWO dichotomies from the mostly blighted 00s:

1) In the rock realm, the garage rock “revolution” (e.g. White Stripes and The Strokes and their superior brethren in At The Drive In, Arctic Monkeys, Franz Ferdinand, The Black Keys, and Modest Mouse) versus hard rock / metal (Avenged Sevenfold) on the one hand, and–

2) In the metal realm, brutal metal (Slipknot, Lamb of God, Warbringer at al, Suicide Silence, Whitechapel, All Shall Perish et al) versus hard rock / metal (Avenged Sevenfold) on the other hand.

The ’10s don’t seem so much like a synthesis of the past decade’s various musical experiments so much as a further deterioration in the quantity of memorable guitar-based bands. I think brutal metal is treading water right now.  I am sure it will bounce back, but in my opinion this is not a great time to be a death metal, deathcore, “groove metal”, or black metal fan.  But then again, maybe I am just out of touch.  The lack of journalistic integrity at the major metal blogs– the absurdist year-end lists, etc– makes it really hard separating the wheat from the chaff.  Those blogs like MetalSucks are close to useless in terms of promoting what I would regard as good music, and I guess I haven’t felt motivated to do the work myself.  Lazy.

I know the underground metal folk are going to groan.  They can send me a death threat or a band recommendation and I will listen to it.  Give me the next Gorgoroth or Mayhem or Morbid Angel or Cannibal Corpse or Suicide Silence or Whitechapel– that also doesn’t sound anything like those bands.  Preferably nothing that exceeds Cryptopsy-levels of technicality, and nothing that has an anonymous vocalist.  Picky.  Spoiled.  Yeah.

 

The rock of the ‘10s is metal

We are left with some bands that straddle the hard rock / metal divide.  So we ask yet again, is Black Sabbath metal?  Yeah it’s a rhetorical question but the answer is not an automatic “yes”.  In the historical sense the answer is yes; obviously many people credit Sabbath with the invention of metal.  In the functional definition of metal, the answer depends on the context.  It depends on you.  What are you using the music for?  Are you drinking, or are you smoking?  In the former context Black Sabbath is as rock & roll as AC/DC or Guns-n-Roses.  In the latter context– or if you are just going to sleep, or waking up, or meditating, or doing anything else that heightens or alters your perception– you probably came in looking for shapely metal constructs.  Complex sonic sculptures. For the desensitized modern metaller, older Black Sabbath albums are less capable of scratching that itch.

Sometimes a name is a badge of honor.  As a great band that can play effortlessly in a number of genres (blues, rock, speed metal, prog– even indelible instrumental melodies like “Fluff”), not only is Black Sabbath capable of playing metal songs, but at an earlier time in history Black Sabbath arguably invented metal.  Like many other bands that pushed the boundaries of an older era, Black Sabbath will forever carry the title “metal” as a badge of honor.

But functionally, I am more prone to listen to Black Sabbath– and Ghost, Blood Ceremony, and Ruby the Hatchet– when I am drinking and getting sentimental (=ROCK), whereas I will listen to Huntress when I am flying down the open road, or grilling beast and slamming beer at a summer revel (=METAL).  Uncle Acid and Electric Wizard I find best serve as catharsis when I am depressed.  I never got the “stoner doom” tag– when I am stoned I like fast music like death metal and thrash.  “Narco-doom” makes sense to me though (or “Norco-doom,” lulz).  The mass media has made much of the fact that religion is no longer the opium of the people.  Uncle Acid and Electric Wizard are best after a nip of dope and a beer or two (the laudanum affect)– but I quit the milk of the poppy not too long ago, so that experience is no longer available to me.  (By the way, I strongly discourage anyone from drinking if they are consuming the milk of the poppy– it’s dangerous.  In the past I would only imbibe very small amounts for the laudanum effect.  And speaking frankly, it seems like a shameful waste of a good pill to mix in alcohol– but that’s just me.)  Finally, besides for having really good songs, the allure of bands like The Devil’s Blood (RIP Selim “SL” Lemouchi) and Jess & The Ancient Ones is hard to describe.  Occult dance-rock for full moon rituals– I’m not even going to get into the formulas fatal to the flesh that are optimal for those rites.

Is every single one of these bands “metal” by the hyper-desensitized modern standard?  Not all of them, no.  But it doesn’t matter.  They all bear the alchemical potentiality of the metal spirit,  and each transcends genre classification to deliver unforgettable songs and emotions.  Anyone who has looked at my blog knows my favorite of the current crop, and I have tried to argue for why that band is criminally underrated.  But really, for the discerning “metal and hard rock” fan, the ’10s have actually been inordinately generous in terms of bestowing not one but several genuinely great bands.  If you just can’t do indie rock (and I know I can’t for the most part)– depending on your unique proclivities, I think any or all of the following bands could be the “only band that matters” for you this decade.  Finally, these are bands that are on album number three (or four in the case of Blood Ceremony).  These trailblazers have glory ahead of them.

GHOST

ghost mel

 

 

HUNTRESS

huntress-static-album-cover

 

UNCLE ACID

Uncle-Acid-The-Night-Creeper-01

 

BLOOD CEREMONY

blood ceremony

 

 

 

 

 

 

#17 Only Band That Matters Pt. II

Oh boy a lot has happened since my last post.  Alas, I feel I must finish coughing up the last several years’ sundry thoughts that have accumulated, like so many dust mites in a pillow– for only then might I finally cleanse myself of bygones and be ready to tackle the true Zeitgeist.  So let’s finish kicking up the mummy dust and sweep away the blown grit so we can get down to finding the real secrets.

As I have mentioned elsewhere in this blog, I often place palatable rock & roll above metal in my personal hierarchy of needs.  To me, “palatable” in rock usually means it has some reek of the forgotten, cobwebbed corridors of the subconscious– the kind of thing that 20 years ago, I would have listened to stoned, and which at that time awoke visions of surreal twilit vistas and archetypal shapes from my dreams (“dream fragments falling across the sky of my consciousness like shooting stars” I once so described them; “cool memories” from another life).  Nirvana, Alice In Chains, Smashing Pumpkins, Danzig, and TOOL, in a nutshell.  If you can hear “Come As You Are” and not get what I mean about the dream-thing, we are not speaking the same language (one friend from high school simply described Nirvana as, I paraphrase, “music that sounds like you are stoned”).  And if you don’t see how the aforementioned bands are different from Stone Temple Pilots (they would be on the glam side, which is okay but different) and Pearl Jam (on the meat & potatoes, bar rock side, like an alternative Chicago or Journey, which is okay but different), you also don’t get it.

smashing-pumkins-bullet-art1-small-1-final

Today, the same indelible recordings serve as my drinking music when the best experience I can muster up is to sit home drunk alone and wax sentimental for a more romantic time.  That’s not a dig on music or myself– sentimentality is wonderful.

I’ve long thought that a memory is at its sweetest when fermented, for which the optimal time has varied over the years, but which for me usually is a period of around 1-4 years.  Too new a memory hasn’t been distilled through the filter of nostalgia.  And after too many years, a memory begins to gather dust and lose potency.

When my own Glory Days began to fade into obscurity in the mid 00s, I listened to a lot of crappy music (or for a more positive spin, you can say I explored more electronic and urban music).  But I got lucky– I managed to pull a Glory Days II in my late 20s, and of course, subsequently enjoyed a resurgence of nostalgia in the years that followed.  The second Glory Days where marked by a sequence of more hipster-ish girls who brought some indie rock to the table.  Many of those bands have wonderful one hit wonders (some day I’ll make you a playlist on spotty-potty and prove it to you).  But for “album” experiences, I still turned to my old favorites, and then found a gold mine of classic metal that at that point I hadn’t thoroughly rummaged through (Judas Priest et al.).  My second run of glory years covered approximately ’06 – ’10 and you better believe I utilized Screaming for Vengeance and all that classic metal I skipped past in the 90s.

Now, to help focus on the problem of music from the 00s, let me ask you a question.  Do you know a metalhead who has really random taste in non-metal music?  So do I.  Ask me who the best rock bands of that 00s decade are.  Easy man.  Avenged Sevenfold and Franz Ferdinand get my vote.  (Note, that decision was made even easier because I unilaterally opted to categorize Audioslave and QOTSA as continuations from the 90s; that methodology is certainly up for critical evaluation.)

Don’t like my picks?  Hmm.  Now look, I know a lot of metalheads have really corny taste in rock & roll.  For example, see my best buddy from high school, who at one point in time only professed a love for two classic rock artists– John Fogerty, and then the band America (“Horse with no Name”).  I love John Fogerty and CCR (I have seen the former in concert), and like my buddy, I have always had a sweet spot for “Horse With No Name”.  BUT WHY THOSE TWO BANDS AND ONLY THEM?!  LOLZ.  No really.  Seriously, so random.  In the 00s, that same guy’s brother (the guitarist in their band– my buddy was the lead singer), insisted that Modest Mouse was the best 00s rock band.  Again– LOLZ!  Not because there is anything wrong with Modest Mouse (I own one of their albums and have seen them in concert a couple times, so there), but because JESUS.  How arbitrary can you be?  Then there’s Lars Ulrich inviting the Arctic Monkeys to play.  Don’t get me wrong, great band.  But still.  Random.

Then you have little old me loving Franz Ferdinand, especially their third album.  I hope that my love for Franz Ferdinand will be rewarded by the gods of objectivity in some glass-walled heaven of rational thought, but perhaps it won’t.  It’s no secret there has been a worldwide “failure” of consensus on rock since the glory days of grunge waned.

I probably sound like an old marm from the 90s complaining how bad the music from the 80s was.  That said, my Franz Ferdinand and A7X fandom presents two irksome conflicts.  A first world problem called cognitive dissonance.

The first is that Franz Ferdinand clearly doesn’t fit nicely into my preexisting framework for rock & roll excellence. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I love Talking Heads and Eurythmics.  But the whole disco rock genre is so different to my ideal of hard rock– the gritty and at once otherworldly kind that effortlessly bounds between angst and ecstasy– i.e. rock from Zeppelin to Nirvana.

 

LET’S THINK

Okay, I got this one.  I get over that aforesaid conflict by remembering that there were a lot of things we called “rock” and loved in the 90s that didn’t fit a mold, too:  say, Sublime (reggae influences), Tori Amos (singer-songwriter, folk influences), Tricky (trip-hop), Pulp (disco rock), and Godflesh (industrial).  And then just saying “fuck you” to the need for a mold.

The other irksome dichotomy (if you will allow me to abuse that term) is that A7X, like the NWOBHM classics, is a metal band that, by virtue of its energy and passion, “transcends metal” to become a rock & roll band also.  It’s adrenalized music for the highway, or for going to a strip club in the Quad Cities with the boys.  A7X doesn’t fit my mold for the surrealist dream merchant a la Nirvana any better than Franz Ferdinand does.  Simultaneously, A7X don’t fit in with the brutal metal gang a la Pantera and Cannibal Corpse.  But you know what?  That too is okay.  No firing squad needed here. BREAK THE MOLD!!

But seriously, only two bands, some indie-pop playlists, and some really heavy metal like Slipknot and deathcore that is definitively not rock?  That’s all I got from the 00s?  Well maybe the new decade will be better (yeah, this decade is new to me.  Maybe I am a brain-damaged amnesiac.  Maybe half this was written five years ago.  Don’t judge).

 

The “New” Decade

The dichotomies from the 00s that I just described have in some ways been resolved in the current decade.  Say hello to the The Hard Occult Rock Revolution (THORR!).  This thing is as big as The Beatles and has revitalized a stagnant music industry (see John Darnielle‘s South Pole Dispatch from the back end of Decibel #145 for proof– that guy writes like a metal Harlan Ellison).

Of course, fewer of the metal hipsters favor Ghost these days, not only because the band has achieved unprecedented popularity for a 21st century metal band (it took me five years to stop hating on them), but also because they continue to carry the retro 70s tag, which itself is losing currency with the hipsters (but for the amaranthine “doom” fetish).  Now there are retro bands, who try to capitalize on someone else’s sound for lack of any good ideas and songs of their own.  But when you use the tag “retro” to mean any “rock & roll”, you’re just a damn fool and are misusing the word.  Hard rock is not itself “retro”– some of us even cling to a desperate belief that it will someday enjoy a resurgence.

Or maybe, just maybe, that has already happened!!

The current decade sees The Return of the Melody, with Ghost leading the pack in popularity.  Like Blood Ceremony, Ghost is a rock band, and only “metal” in spirit.  That they have “retro” inspiration only means that they draw from a wide palette of classic metal and rock influences.  Blood Ceremony and Ghost, like Huntress and Uncle Acid, are perfectly aligned with the occult rock Zeitgeist– and as such, completely of this time, i.e. “modern.”

 

End

At one time in the late 70s, The Clash may have been “the only band that matters”. For me in high school, Pantera was the only thing I wanted to listen to. During my stoner years all I wanted to do was to find one more Alice in Chains or Nirvana (a quixotic mission).  But for most of the last 20 years, rarely has there been a time when it even made sense to elect one (or even two or three) band(s) to truly rule over them all.  In 2017 we again have a case where there is a handful of perfectly primed bands; bands that are so far ahead of the competition that they redefine what good rock music is.

Who do you think that band is? Huntress?  Ghost?  Some tinkly indie pop band?  A new brutal death outfit?  In my next post I will further my exposition on what I believe is the answer.

 

 

#16 The Only Band That Matters

When The Clash’s PR people called them “the only band that matters”, it actually stuck, and there are reasons for that.  Joe Strummer and Co. could straddle the line between rebellious punk and timeless rock in a time when synths and tape loops were taking over the world.  I wasn’t listening to music at the time, being about three years old, but The Clash would later represent a bridge between my favorite rock of the 70s and my favorite rock of the 90s.

Pantera was the metal band I grew up with in high school.  Much later, in an airport in Australia, I picked up my copy of Getcha Pull!, which is a Pantera tribute curated by Metal Hammer magazine.  I usually save it for special occasions, but the other day was an exception.  It was most definitely not a special occasion, but I needed something to get me through work, and those covers really gave me some fuel. That’s what a superlative band like Pantera can do.  The collection starts out with a rendition of “Suicide Note Pt. 1” that should be fucking famous.  I have had a lot of breakthrough moments with big bands in the last year, and when I was listening to Zakk Wyld’s guitar solo, I suddenly felt like I was stoned, doped-up, and cumming like a horse.  Wow.  Of course, I may have gotten into the zone even better on account of the fact I had just snuck off to the bathroom at work and shoveled down a heaping tablespoon of green powder– high-grade kratom– a few minutes earlier (man, I really underestimate that shit sometimes.  Good-for-shit federal government made it illegal at the beginning of this month).

metal-hammer-getcha-pull

Hearing the songs remade on Getcha Pull!, I am reminded of a couple things. First, wow!  It’s easy to not even notice how versatile those guys were, and the variety of musical styles they worked with.  Like The Clash, who famously threw every rock & roll style under the sun on their London Calling album (and later branched heavily into dub and reggae), Pantera albums had everything from classic metal (“Cemetery Gates”), thrash burners (“Fucking Hostile”, “Rise”) to their inimitable groove pieces (“Walk”, “A New Level”, “Yesterday Don’t Mean Shit”), to demi-death (“Slaughtered”, “13 Steps to Nowhere”).  It’s the geniuses that matter in music, that much is demonstrated by Dime, Phil & co.

The great bands– the musical geniuses– do two things.

FIRST, they do defy easy characterization, not because they throw accepted musical forms out the window, but because they deftly meld disparate influences into a new whole– and then recast the alloy as a batch of bang-up new songs.  For example, sitting at the complete opposite end of the metal spectrum from Pantera is the whole genre of classic metal, with bands like Avenged Sevenfold and Huntress existing as the current exemplars of the style.

On City of Evil, Avenged Sevenfold shed its barbaric metalcore roots and united rock & roll swagger with speed metal velocity and energy.  The band’s raw musical skill is so immense that on their self-titled album and subsequent releases, they successfully incorporated country music and show tunes into their repertoire.

Huntress couples the star-powered voice of Jill Janus with stripped-down thrash & roll rhythms and precision guitars that cut like glass.  Static’s “Mania” even shows that Huntress can play a song in the perennially popular doom mold.  Best classified simply as metal, what matters most are the actual songs.

SECOND, the great bands play to their strengths.

 

Strength Beyond Strength

Here’s a question for you.  How is it that at one point in the 90s, death metal became bigger than thrash in the metal underground?  Well, I will tell you, it’s because DM plays to its strength.  DM is there for when you want pure extremity, something visceral or visual– death metal is the state-of-the-art music developed for that.  If you are someone who “sees” the music (synesthesia), nothing matches the brutal shape and rugged grooves of a good death metal composition.

giant-ass-saw-thing

Visual inspiration for death metal

Thrash on the other hand, wasn’t born fully armed and armored like Athena bursting from Zeus’s skull.  Rather, its evolution towards greater and greater heaviness unfurled like an exaggerated reflection of rock & roll’s own voyage from pop structures in the 50s to the galloping hard rock of the 70s.  People don’t call thrash “extreme metal” until they are talking about a death-thrash band.  No one is ever going to call Morbid Angel “rock & roll”.  On the other hand thrash, when it has songwriters going for “songs” in the traditional sense, peppering in some melody and harmony– well then it is a form of rock & roll.  Amped up rock & roll.

Metallica, Megadeth, and to a lesser extent Anthrax thrive on melody.  Out of the super-huge thrash bands, only Slayer and the German bands (and to a lesser extent Exodus and Overkill) truly focus strictly on speed and intensity.  Of course, Slayer is also angry as hell; that’s something distinct from both death metal and the more rock & roll strains of thrash.  Death metal is opposed to human emotion, whereas Metallica and Megadeth are about that manic, flying-down-the-highway emotion.

 

metal-branchMy point is that when you have a band that plays in the thrash style, you have to make a choice– you can go the Slayer route of angry, death-thrash intensity, or you can go the Megadeth and Metallica direction of having good songs in the more traditional sense.  If you take the latter path of actual SONGS, you can’t just rely on structurally-interesting compositions; you need some melody.  One of the reasons why bands like Huntress, Avenged Sevenfold, and Pepper-era Corrosion of Conformity are so rare, is that they play with the Metallica or Judas Priest blueprint for metal, which is basically thrash that has catchy songs and simple rhythmic elements, and they do it well.  At the end of the day, bands like that live and die on how well they infuse melody with raw energy.  Very few bands can do it.

Then there’s Pantera– metal that has good riffs in the hardcore metal style, metal that you listen to when you are lifting weights that just gets you pumped as hell; like Slayer it’s angry, and can drop jaws just on account of its sheer destructive power.  But in the Pantera school, only one “modern” disciple has come close to doing it as well as them– Slipknot– and I’m not sure another band will get as close if people are on this planet for another thousand years.  I would love to see it, believe me.  And the metal alloy forged by Slipknot is not as unbreakable as Pantera. Shoveling more dirty and disparate elements into the blast furnace, Slipknot is smelted from Far Beyond Driven -groove metal, schizoid tribal scat-rock (i.e. nu metal), grunge and occasional death metal blasts.

SURE, you get a few bands like Killswitch Engage that write amazingly good riffs, but that band obviously made a conscious decision to take a vocal route that doesn’t really work for most of us metalheads… that emo-pandering vocal style.  That’s like having half of a really brilliant band, which is about as useful to me as half a horse is to a cowboy.  In the Pantera mold you have early Fear Factory (before the cheesier emo-laced vocal melodies, which first reared their head on Archetype), Chaos A.D. / Roots -era Sepultura, Domination -era Morbid Angel, late-era Bolt Thrower, early Meshuggah, Slipknot, Undisputed Attitude and Diabolus In Musica -era Slayer, LOG, the better nu metal bands like Soulfly, and the better deathcore bands (All Shall Perish, Through the Eyes of the Dead circa Malice and Skepsis, Suicide Silence, Whitechapel, early BMTH et al).  If you like Machine Head (i.e. you can tolerate Robb Flynn), well I guess you can throw them in there too.  Predating and probably influencing the Pantera mold are thrash and other classic death metal albums (presumably ones by Cannibal Corpse, Suffocation, Obituary, and Entombed).

Listen to “Infecting the Crypts” at 3:30 and tell me the vocal pattern doesn’t remind you of “Slaughtered” by Pantera at the latter song’s 0:30 mark:

“Slaughtered” remains one of my favorite Pantera songs anyway.

The last decade started out rough but ended strong.  If you take A7X as an exception (in the classic school), the early 00s were really about Slipknot (and to a lesser degree, LOG) teaching people an object lesson in the Pantera school of abject brutality.  As melogoth metalcore gained influence, things started to look grim for those of us who don’t like their music watered down.  But the decade was redeemed when, seemingly out of nowhere, the aforementioned deathcore giants launched a vicious counterstrike and for the most part, wiped metalcore off the face of the planet.

Well, in a perfect world they did.

But what about today?  Is there anything new that is shockingly good?  Yes, there is.  But Avenged Sevenfold, Slipknot, Lamb of God and all the good deathcore bands rose to power in the previous decade, which is to say, oh you know, roughly the time period around 2000 through 2009.  WTF?!  Kids, listen to me, when you get old, you start to lose track of time.  Indeed, by the time I finally managed to convince one metalhead friend to relinquish the clean singing and embrace the death(core), I looked back and realized the deathcore scene was all laying dead on the ground behind me.

TO BE CONTINUED…

#15 Why Metal Must Adopt Rock; or, “Why Ghost are Metal”

illusion

One Divides into Two

The expression has many meanings and might appear circular: Zhang says that this is because difference has, within itself, an identity that becomes difference.  Is this an infinite evolution of these internal “seeds”?  In this case, do the new arrive since everything is entirely continuous with its antecedent dialectic?

The Rational Kernel of the Hegelian Dialectic, Alain Badiou, Joël Bellassen, Louis Mossot, p. 60 (re.press 2011)(originally published 1978)

Indefatigable foe of ignorance, Grulog, recently wrote an article on how genre labels and subgenre language add precision to the way we talk about music. This is true. Like binary fission, this is the concept of One Divides into Two. As a genre gets bigger and its exponents begin to test the genre’s limits, the inevitable result is that a new genre or subgenre breaks away from its parent. Most people think of metal as a subgenre of rock.

I also accept the value of subgenre labels. For the majority of the last 17-18 years, death metal has been my go-to genre.  During any given week I might have a sudden burst of interest in say, narco-doom (sometime I’ll explain why I use that term) or thrash, and all I want to listen to that week is music that explores the parameters of that genre. X number of subgenres comprise metal: One divides into two.

But in the last year or so, I have become increasingly concerned with what we might call the inverse concept; Two Unites into One. Why?

 

O LORD, heal me; for my bones are vexed    

Anyone who cares about rock & roll also fears deeply for its health.  Look, no, this is not about me getting old and going softcore.  I am confident that every year I will continue to have at least one phase where I will burn through almost every Cannibal Corpse album in a bout of intense musical concentration.  Indeed, metal has been one of the constants in my life despite all the changes that have occurred since high school.  But in contrast to Grulog, I don’t have a sharp concern that the integrity of the metal underground might be compromised.  Maybe it’s because I am spoiled— as the blog metal stuff says, the scene’s insular habits and native population of metal elitists serve as an effective deterrent to corporate meddling.  I’m thankful for that, truly.  Part of what I am going to say could be interpreted as a vindication of Grulog’s focus on the purity and integrity of the metal scene.

Nonetheless, I’m still arguing that the metal underground needs to be more generous in bestowing the coveted mantle of “metal”. Look, the metal underground will continue to flourish like mutant cockroaches even if everything else is destroyed.  That’s a compliment.  I know it, I wouldn’t change it.  My concern is not at all that metal’s borders should be more porous and accept more influences.  In fact, my concern is not rooted in issues of aesthetics at all per se.  Rather, I believe that metal needs to (re)adopt rock & roll whole horse, essentially as a noble act of charity to the bands that straddle the line.  Metal needs to gracefully allow hard rock to live under its tent for cultural reasons that are specific to our times.

 

If Not Us, Who?  If Not Now, When?

Anecdote 1.  Do you remember the hellscape that was the ‘00s music scene?  Back 10 or 15 years ago, I dreamed of what the music landscape might look like TODAY in 2016.  Here was what I reasoned:  a great rock music revolution occurred in the time between ’68 and ’76.  I reaped its fruits, albeit more than twenty years after the fact.

And yet amazingly, I lived through an equally great electric guitar revolution that transpired between ’88-‘96 or so.  Therefore, I reasoned that maybe, if we prayed a lot or got lucky or the gods smiled upon us, another generation of genius musicians might still magically arrive, notwithstanding cultural and technological changes, after another 20 year cycle– starting in, oh, say ’08 or so.  They would then go on to pick up steam through the first half of the ‘10s.  If I was really lucky, I might even be young of spirit enough to recognize these new rockers for the geniuses they would be(come).

Now I can already see some of the metal purists out there groaning or not exactly harmonizing with me on the subject of the two great past eras of rock.  In the town of 800 people where I went to high school, the legit metalheads loved Nirvana and Alice In Chains also.  Let’s just agree to disagree, and remember that I am allowed to like– no, live– both rock and metal.

Anecdote 2.  D&B and jungle.

I got into the rave scene towards the tail end of the 90s.  It was great until Mayor Daley waged a war against raves in the city and ruined it (Daley and Chi-town’s finest were pulling that shit way before 2001 btw).  Here was a subculture annihilated before my eyes. Years later, I would ask burner friends (that’s a great article on another scene, by the way) their opinion on what killed off the Chicago rave scene.  I’ve always been kind of perplexed by the variety of answers I’ve been given. Some people claim that there was a defection to the club scene– which doesn’t really add up in my opinion.  Others cite some sort of artistic burnout after the scene reached its critical mass.  FALSE.  It’s because cops started rolling up on every other party, drumming nightsticks, and when you’re rolling balls, those fuckers look like giant armored stag beetles with fascist intent spilling out of them like inky black clouds.

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Alighting on the moon to evade the flying pigs: ’09 BM Camp.  Photo:  Tom Christiansen

Oh wait, I didn’t bring this up to discuss the systematic governmental dismantling of a genuine subculture, or police suppression of peaceful public gatherings.  My point was that before techno marvels like dubstep and trap, my preferred form of electronic music was drum & bass.  In the 90s, it was by far the darkest, hardest form of rave music (hardcore techno is to drum & bass what grindcore is to death metal).

It always irked me that flyers would tout the presence of “drum & bass and jungle” at a party.  THEY ARE THE SAME THING.  It’s like saying there is going to be timber and wood at Menards.  In electronic music the subgenres are defined by the type of beat that is involved, and there is no technical distinction between a “jungle” beat and a “drum & bass” beat.  “Jungle” was the name for a beat that was popular during an earlier part of the 90s rave era, and “drum & bass” was the name that got popular for essentially the same beat later in the 90s.  Of course, slightly different production techniques became associated with the two names, corresponding to the production techniques that were in vogue during the respective time periods (if you want to see an old blog from when I was in a dubstep mood in early 2008, click away– but I’m not making any apologies for the cheesiness.  Now on the other hand, if you want a contemporary shot of the best thing you could possibly listen to while rolling balls, hit up Oh My Darling (Don’t Cry) and make sure you can feel the bass in your chest).

 

Rock is now a subgenre of metal

The pairing of the words “hard rock and metal” is a totally different story.  They are obviously different things.  And I believe that it is great when magazines like Revolver and Metal Hammer use the words together.  Look, I don’t need to be a metal elitist.  I can be the resident “hard rock and metal” elitist.  The world needs someone who understands what makes Avenged Sevenfold infinitely better than Disturbed, and who at the same time understands what makes Cryptopsy better than Kataklysm.

As we get older, our parents also get older.  Sometimes, our parents even move into our houses because they can’t be on their own.  They used to take care of you, and now you are taking care of them!  How fucked up is that?

Why must metal adopt rock?  Why should metalheads be generous with what they allow to fall under the “metal” umbrella?  BECAUSE NO ONE ELSE GIVES A DAMN ABOUT HARD ROCK!!!  Rolling Stone is for Beyoncé fans, and AP is for emo fans.  Are you going to watch callously as hard rock dies alone in a ditch clutching a cigarette butt it found on the ground?  Modern market forces and genre diversification have sundered “rock & roll” into two wildly different continents– metal on one side and indie rock on the other– and that makes it essential that we claim Ghost as a metal band.  After all, who else will take them in?  The mall kids?  Well maybe that is a bad example.  Everyone seems to be embracing Ghost.  But a good musician plays to his or her muse.  And a lot of artists bristle at being labeled, no matter how much we like handing out labels.

Therefore, we shouldn’t take the mainstream’s problem with being stupid out on the good hard rock bands that, against all odds, do materialize today.

Here’s another thing.  I understand that Blabbermouth and Loudwire embrace both metal and rock and are useful resources for metal news.  But what the hell is up with all these meat & potatoes pop rock bar bands?  What is “Pop Evil”?  I know I am going to sound close-minded here, but that band doesn’t sound like something I would like. Papa Roach?  Look at Loudwire’s best-of-rock list from 2015.  Look at their metal list.

Now let me ask you a question.  Where is Night Creeper by Uncle Acid?  It’s not on the rock list.  Ahhh, must be on the metal list.  Oh wait, NOPE. Where is Valley of the Snake by Ruby the Hatchet?  Nowhere to be found.  Where is Static by Huntress?  Same scenario.  WHERE IS THE ARK WORK BY LITURGY?  Hell, where is Pitworthy by XII Boar?

Instead we get Five Finger Death Punch in the rock category and some hipster shit in the metal category.  By the way, does Nile or Malevolent Creation get in?  NOPE.

Let’s look at 2014 according to Loudwire, maybe it will be better.  NOPE.  One of the best rock albums of the century, The Eldritch Dark by Blood Ceremony, was ignored (so was Sunset on the Golden Age by Alestorm.  As the band’s name suggests, they are great for getting wasted to– which is the whole point of rock music!).  Guess what did make it on?  Godsmack and Chevelle.  It reminds me of being at a junk yard with my dad and how he explained that there is a big difference between a Corvette and a Chevette.

Those year end lists perfectly illustrate the problem– the popular metal is too rocky and the rock is too metallic.  Watered down, in other words.  There is too much bleed through, I would argue.

In this context I can fully see Grulog’s point about how metal’s ideals and barriers to entry have enabled it to stay a relevant and respectable force in the world– while meanwhile, “hard rock” has died out as a commercial and cultural force.  At least metal has magazines and web pages that are not completely bought and sold.

Nonetheless, hard rock is good for metalheads, and I say, “let the rockers into the metal tent”.  When metalheads don’t inoculate themselves with an occasional dose of pure rock & roll, they tend to start listening to these weird things that are too soft to be metal and too hard to be rock.  And above all, do you want some kid’s “gateway” bands to be Disturbed, Godsmack, and 5FDP?  Or would you rather that their gateway bands are Blood Ceremony, Uncle Acid, and Ghost?  Both sets have equally catchy music.  If you picked the former bunch, let me ask you something.  How do you live with yourself?  (By kid I mean someone 19 or 20, not high schoolers.  High school kids are a totally different problem/challenge, which is perhaps where the former set fits into the equation.)

I already told the story of how, when I first started getting stoned and really listening to good music, I was drawn to the heavy 90s rock bands (AIC, Nirvana).  When I used up all five or so bands that ruled the genre, I turned to Fear Factory and Sepultura and high school favorites Pantera, and later to the Corpse and Morbid Angel.  Now that is a healthy progression (I can’t speak for going from All That Remains to modern In Flames). Finally, if you haven’t agreed with me on a single thing I’ve said in this whole post, let me ask you a final rhetorical question:  what is up with all these “stoner doom” bands beloved by the metal media?  Technically speaking, most are straight-up swinging rock & roll. Looks like metal is already taking the high road, taking the good rock under its wing– and if we are lucky, metal will keep it a separate subgenre with high walls and minimal bleed-through.

Metal is composed of X subgenres.  Two Unites into One.

#14 The Occult Cauldron Boils Pt. III

“In the pragmatist, streetwise climate of advanced postmodern capitalism, with its scepticism of big pictures and grand narratives, its hard-nosed disenchantment with the metaphysical, ‘life’ is one among a whole series of discredited totalities. We are invited to think small rather than big…

…As far as belief goes, postmodernism prefers to travel light: it has beliefs, to be sure, but it does not have faith.”

― Terry EagletonThe Meaning of Life

We live in a secular world.  It is hard to live a spiritual life in this age when every household is helmed by a pair of worn-out “dual wage-earners” who bleed themselves dry every day just to keep on living. Does art make it all worth it?  Or is it just a distraction as we wait to expire?

A Nameless Ghoul explains the title of Ghost’s third album Meliora:

“I think that the super-correct translation [from Latin] is ‘for the pursuit of something better,’ or ‘all things better,’ or something like that. It is actually more thematical with the lyrical content and the backdrop that we wanted to paint … a super-urban, metropolitan, pre-apocalyptic, dystopic futuristic thing. The title is more implying, ironically, this zenith that we think that we have reached. We’re always building higher, and we’re always getting a little bit faster, and everybody keeps earning a little bit more money, and everybody gets a little bit taller and a little bit tighter and a little bit… It’s a constant improvement that we’re hysterically trying to achieve.” (Blabbermouth)(parenthetical comment in original)

But the name ‘Ghost’ is also a clear reference to the Holy Spirit, and it is here that the ascension of Ghost and Huntress dovetails perfectly.

There is a Huntress song called “Aradia” on the first album, and one day I looked up the name.  Lore on the net is scarce, but I found a few scattered references to the Italian witch of yore, and at least one reverent tribute. I know no more of the latter’s author, Raven Grimassi, than a wiki will yield, but he seems to be a published authority on witchcraft.  In contemplating Millennial social progress and a new Age receptive to a less monolithic Christian god, Grimassi mentions a Catholic mystic named Joachim of Fiore who existed in the Twelfth century.  I would love to ground the thoughts here with a footnote to some kind of original source material, but I have neither Joachim’s texts nor Latin at my disposal.  Yet, when playing in the realm of myth and archetype, perhaps it is not always necessary to ground every idea with a footnote, but to let the archetype speak for itself.

joachim_of_flora

This Catholic mystic, Joachim, predicted a third Age, a new Age of Reason, when the Age of the Son would give way to the Age of the Holy Spirit.  In this new era organized religion would become redundant, as God’s children would learn to see beyond the literal words of scripture.  Around 1300 A.D., Joachim’s prophecy inspired a cult.  In rather bold contravention of the patriarchal rules of the day, the cult held a lady, one Guglielma of Milan, to be the incarnation of the Holy Spirit.  It also anointed one of its members the female Pope (more on that below).  This sect, Grimassi says, laid the groundwork for the resurgence of the goddess Diana as an object of worship in Italy– and also for the rise of the witch Aradia in the Fourteenth century.

In keeping with this fine millenialist tradition, I would suggest that we do live in The Age of the Holy Spirit, or Joachim’s Age of Reason.  But the emblems of Reason are not the physical fruits of the intellect, the bombs, factories, planes, trains, and automobiles that threaten to hasten our demise on a global level.

Perhaps true Reason owes a debt for the free time rendered possible by those machines of industrialization, and also for the printing press and interlinked computers and the attendant widespread accessibility of knowledge enjoyed by the common man– all which renders possible a level of self-reflection and self-mythologizing that was not readily available to our forefathers.   I might complain about having to work a lot, but I still have an unprecedented power to gather intelligence through all these square portals.

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In a very conditional way, The New Age man of reason also owes a debt to the hard sciences that, in their merciless assault on Western religion, have made it quite easy for many of us to decouple ourselves from traditional religious dogma.

Joachim of Flora describes the “experience of illumination given after mental striving in terms of the city seen intermittently by the approaching pilgrim, or of the spirit breaking through the hard rind of the letter” [of scripture](Britannica).  Unfortunately, a lot of people seem to be badly missing the point.

It can be surmised that Joachim, were he among us today, would see the common man’s victory over literal scriptural interpretation to be a boon of our Age.  But on the other hand, Joachim would surely throw down the gauntlet before giving one inch to physicalism, determinism, and cultural relativism, those unfortunate dogmas of our age that are gobbled up as gospel by the Western masses.  Rather, the true hallmarks of the Age of Reason are a collection of more liberating, self-replicating programs for self-actualization:  start with the para-romanticist,  para-millenialist 18th/19th century German metaphysical idealists:  Kant, Fichte, Schelling, and Hegel.***

*** (Why do I invoke those well-nigh impenetrable maestros?  Just to be obscurantist and pretentious?  No.  Those guys represent a major turning point in the history of thought– the watershed being Kant’s own version of the “Copernican Revolution”, wherein the locus of reality was moved out of the “thing” and into the “observer”.  People who find the Copernican metaphor oddly inverted may be taking the metaphor too literally [compare to Heliocentrism, in which any subject we are likely to care about is the one that revolves around the fixed object] —  I think the point of the metaphor is to accentuate the importance of the observer’s position, or alternatively, to signify a massive shift of perspective.)

Pair the aforesaid with science of a fine vintage.  In the hundred years after Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit was published in 1807, science was busy with the discovery of cathode rays, black-body radiation, and in 1877, discrete energy states. That wave culminated in Albert Einstein’s 1905 explanation of the photo-electric effect, then the theory of Relativity, and finally, the advent of quantum physics.  While contemporary philosophy and mathematics are only beginning to understand the depth of their interrelationship (see the n lab), I believe that Hegel’s version of natural science and logic is much more compelling in the light of Quantenmechanik.

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To this feast add a final course, its name coined by the great psychiatrist Dr. Carl Jung– SYNCHRONICITY (Paul Levy’s note on synchronicity is as inspiring and as good as any).  As Maynard J. Keenan said in an interview around the time Ænima came out:

You literally have a third eye in your head… It’s your pineal gland and it is an eye. It focuses light. People talk about dolphins and whales being more evolved, because they have a better breathing element. If you do meditation, you understand the idea of the Prana, breathing in light through the pineal gland. In mythology, there’s talk about how people used to breathe that way, but over time, they began to breathe more through the mouth. That’s the connection that we’ve forgotten … Your consciousness is like a radio frequency. If you turn the dial, all those radio stations are there simultaneously. You can dial in to hear what station you want to hear. Consciousness is the same way. Through meditation, you can alter that, you can come upon an alternate reality. Drugs is a shortcut to that. The trick is to really understand the medium you used to get there.

Read More: 19 Years Ago: Tool Conjure Spirituality + Anger With ‘Ænima’

I don’t know if the pineal gland really is a “mind/body” nexus– that’s been a debate since René Descartes.  (Is there anyone out there who is still a Dualist anyway?)  What I do know is that synchronicity works, and it’s not selective perception.  It’s about harmonizing the radio station in your mind with the radio station in your external reality.  Normally, it’s not a power we can actively harness, but a passive phenomenon.  A sign, a gift from the Gods, a startling coincidence.  But by becoming more in tune with yourself– whatever that means– you can sharpen your receptivity to it.    Those patterns enable you and me to discover sense in the comet-size chunk of competing particle-ideas that hurtle through us, and to weave from its tail a meaningful self.  The Kingdom of the Holy Spirit is a sum of souls connected by a higher plane.  Whether it is necessary to define souls as “bodies” and higher planes as “constructs of language” is up to you.  Let’s also agree that what we need on this rather sad local region of the spacetime continuum named Earth is leaders, spiritual and otherwise, that are in tune with that higher plane.

ghost vance kelly poster

Poster by Vance Kelly, arguably the “Dan Seagrave of modern metal” in terms of the value of his endorsement. From  http://vancekellyart.blogspot.com/2014_04_01_archive.html

About twenty years ago, when I was first truly opening my mind to the higher planes (the shortcut mentioned by Keenan played a prominent role), my favorite bands were Alice In Chains and Nirvana.  If “synchronicity” was just a matter of selective perception and wish fulfillment, I feel like those two bands would have figured more prominently in my experiences of synchronicity.  But for some reason, I consistently had experiences of synchronicity that involved TOOL and The Smashing Pumpkins.  I think that might be because the leaders of the latter bands are especially open to synchronicity and magick.  Today my favorite band is Huntress, and I am having music-related experiences of synchronicity again after a very long drought.  Why don’t I have synchronicity involving Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats, or Ghost, who I also love?  I think the answer is obvious.  On Easter of 1300, a band of heretics in Milan declared Maifreda Visconti da Pirovano their Pope.  Let’s just say their efforts were a little premature.  But our Age is ready for a female pope, and this time her followers won’t all be burned at the stake.  Jill Janus of Huntress, with her open embrace of magick and nature worship, represents the antithesis of the “super-urban, pre-apocalyptic” techno-utopianism that Ghost warns of.  She embodies the rare, positive alternative to metal’s mainly “negative” critique of existing societal norms and structures.

Well, there you have it– my attempt to explore some of the broader themes in two of my favorite artists today.