Chris Hedges: How Black Lives Matter is Part of a Larger Historic Rebellion

“What we seem to be moving toward in the United States is a kind of de facto apartheid.”

On the second episode of his new teleSUR show Days of Revolt, former New York Times reporter-turned-polemicist Christopher Hedges sat down with long time New Jersey civil rights activist Lawrence Hamm to discuss the current state of African-American rebellion and how it fits into the larger historical continuum. The conversation is very illumnating, and like much of Hedges’ writing attempts to show the intersection between poverty and race.

“Half of the prison population is African-American.” Hamm pointed out. “There’s no father for the children, no husband for the wife, and on and on and on. And it has a rippling effect that just never ceases to stop. Poor black folk live in a daily state of crisis. Daily life is one crisis after another.”

The theme of on-going crisis is reflected in the #BlackLivesMatter movement, a broad-based effort defined by urgency and a resistance to typical political structures. For Hamm, the situation is a matter of real democracy vs. race-based illegitimate government — marked by bourgeois white liberals and a “bought off” black middle class working to keep poor blacks poor.

“What we seem to be moving toward in the United States is a kind of de facto apartheid”. Hamm said. “The United States is beginning to look and will look more and more like South Africa. You will have a white minority, very small minority controlling most of the wealth, and everybody else, including white lower class and elements of the white working class, on the outside.”

Watch the interview below:

Adam Johnson is an associate editor at AlterNet. Follow him on Twitter at@adamjohnsonnyc.

 

http://www.alternet.org/media/chris-hedges-how-black-lives-matter-part-larger-historic-rebellion-video?akid=13397.265072.ls_vEa&rd=1&src=newsletter1041165&t=6

Noam Chomsky: How America’s Way of Thinking About the World Naturally Produces Human Catastrophes

The scholar talks about the seemingly innocuous elements of our socialization that promote one-world view over another.

http://video.pbs.org/viralplayer/2365466479

Tavis: Noam Chomsky is, of course, internationally recognized as one of the world’s most critically engaged public intellectuals. The MIT professor of linguistics has long been an unapologetic critic of both American foreign policy and the ideological role of the mainstream media.

He joins us now from MIT to talk about the seemingly innocuous elements of our socialization that promote one-world view over another. Before we start our conversation, a clip from “The West Wing” that I think will set this conversation up quite nicely.

Tavis: Professor Chomsky, good to have you on this program. Thank you for your time, sir.

NoamChomsky: Glad to be with you.

Tavis: I think that clip, again, sets up our conversation nicely. Let me just jump right in. Why all these years later is the west better than the east, the north better than the south, Europe better than Africa? These notions continue to persist. Tell me why.

Chomsky: There’s a generalization. We are better than they, whoever we are. So if you look through the whole history of China, one of the most ancient, most developed, civilizations which, in fact, was one of the centers of the world economy as late as the 18th century, China was better than everyone else.

It’s unfortunately a natural way of thinking, very ugly and destructive one, but it’s true. We are the west, the north, Europe and its offshoots, not Africa. So, of course, we’re better than them.

Tavis: When you say it’s a natural way of thinking, unpack that for me. What do you mean by a natural way of thinking?

Chomsky: It’s not unusual for people to think that our group, whatever it is, has special traits that make it better than others. So, for example, I happen to be Jewish. If you look at the Jewish tradition, the leading rabbis and so on, many of them held the position that Jews are a special race above ordinary mankind.

China had similar views. The north and the west had the same views and, of course, it’s enhanced by the imperialist history which ended up with Europe and its offshoots conquering and controlling most of the world.

Actually, this world view about, you know, the north somehow being on top and the south being on the bottom goes way back to the origins of what’s called western civilization.

So, for example, it was believed in classical times that nobody could live south of the equator because their heads would be pointed downward. I think even St. Augustine held that view, if I remember correctly.

And it carries over up to the present when Henry Kissinger says, “Nothing important ever came from the south.” He’s essentially expressing a modern version of the same racist conception.

Tavis: Since you mentioned Henry Kissinger, I was just about to ask, so I will now, Professor Chomsky, how our socialization–or as you might put it–how this natural way of thinking ultimately impacts and affects our foreign policy. If we think that we are better than everybody else, how does that impact and affect our foreign policy?

Chomsky: Oh, very definitely. You see it very clearly if you study internal documents, you know, declassified documents discussing how leaders plan things among themselves.

So go back to, say, 1945 when the U.S. pretty much took over domination of the world. It was incredibly powerful without any counterpart in history, half the world’s wealth, incomparable security, military powers.

So, of course, it planned detailed plans as to how to run the world. Now a lot of it was laid out by the State Department policy planning staff. It’s head was George Kennan, one of the highly respected diplomats, one of the framers of the modern world.

And he and his staff parceled out different areas of the world and described what they called their function within the U.S.-dominated system. So, for example, the function of southeast Asia was to provide resources and raw materials for the industrial countries of Europe and the United States and so on.

When he got to Africa, he said, well, we’re not that much interested in Africa, so we will hand Africa over to Europe for them to exploit–his word–for them to exploit for their reconstruction. If you look at the history of relations between Europe and Africa, some slightly different conception might come to mind, but it never entered the thought of the planners.

So the idea that Europe should exploit Africa for Europe’s reconstruction passed without comment. This is just deeply imbedded in the consciousness of what’s sometimes called white supremacy which is an extraordinary doctrine.

Comparative scholarly studies, George Frederickson, for example, one of the main scholars who dealt with it, concludes that in the United States, white supremacy was even more extreme than in apartheid South Africa. It’s a very powerful concept here. It’s buttressed by imperial domination.

The more powerful you are, the more you dominate others, the more you create justifications for that in ideology and education and media and so on. If you’ve got your boot on someone else’s neck, it’s typical to provide a justification for it. We’re doing it because we’re right, they deserve it, we’re better and so on.

Tavis: I want to come back to how we change that thinking before our conversation ends. Let me go back one more time, though, to your Kissinger reference when Henry Kissinger said that, “Nothing good ever came out of the south”.

If the earth is a sphere–think about this–if the earth is a sphere and we’re constantly in motion, what is to be gained by drawing consistently certain countries on the top half and other countries on the bottom half? What is to be gained by that?

Chomsky: What’s to be gained by that is a graphic representation of the fact that we are more important and better than them. We’re the north, they’re the south. We dominate because of our essential superiority of character, qualities, righteousness and so on.

It’s a graphic manifestation of the we are better than them conception that, as I said, is unfortunately pretty natural and is greatly enhanced by when it’s associated with power. So when you actually dominate others, that enhances the natural we are better than them conceptions.

Tavis: Speaking of conceptions, it seems that every other day now someone else is announcing that he or she is running for president. And I suspect, between now and November 2016, we will hear the term “American exceptionalism” over and over and over again.

By any other definition or espoused any other way, is this notion again that we’ve been talking about tonight that the USA is all that and then some, what do you say to the American people about how we challenge our own thinking, how we reexamine our assumptions, how we expand our inventory of ideas, as it were, about this notion that we hold onto so dearly?

Chomsky: Well, the best way to do it is to look carefully at the facts that are easily available to us. So take the phrase, “American exceptionalism”, which is supposed to express our unique superiority to other countries, the unique benevolence of our intention with regard to others. You get this across the spectrum.

So a recent issue of the New York review of books, the kind of ideological journal of the left liberal intelligentsia, has an article by the former head of the Carnegie Institute for Peace saying that it’s just obvious beyond discussion that the United States is unique. Other countries work for their own interests. We work for the interests of mankind.

That’s American exceptionalism. There are two problems with it. For one thing, it’s flatly false. As soon as you look at the record, you see nothing like that is true.

The second problem is it’s not uniquely American. Take other great powers in their day in the sun, they had the same doctrine. England was British exceptionalism. France was France’s civilizing mission. Anywhere you look, you find the same thing.

We happen to be the world dominant power for a long time, certainly since the Second World War economically, even before that. Sure, American exceptionalism is our version of the same disgraceful conception of history that’s concocted by the powerful. And how do you combat it? With the facts.

Tavis: Easily said, not easily done. Always pleased to be in conversation with this brilliant thinker, Noam Chomsky, challenging us tonight to reconsider our world view. Professor Chomsky, thanks for your time. Never enough time with you, but I’m honored to have had you on this program tonight, sir.

Chomsky: Thank you.

Noam Chomsky is a professor of linguistics and philosophy at MIT.

 

http://www.alternet.org/news-amp-politics/noam-chomsky-how-americas-way-thinking-about-world-naturally-produces-human?akid=13386.265072.-l10yv&rd=1&src=newsletter1040947&t=6

USA’s ‘Mr. Robot’ Is the Anti-Capitalist TV Show We’ve Been Waiting For

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A deep, visceral hatred of modern-day capitalism is what fuels the show.

The USA Network is not exactly synonymous with prestige drama. This is a channel currently airing the third season of Graceland, a show about undercover FBI, ICE and DEA agents who all live together in a fricking house. (Imagine that pitch meeting: “Guys, what if we remade Melrose Place, only populated it with characters from J. Edgar Hoover’s id?”) How delightfully incongruous, then, that USA is now the home of Mr. Robot, the best new TV show of the summer, and the most explicitly anti-capitalist work of mainstream pop culture since Snowpiercer.

Mr.Robot is narrated by Elliot (Rami Malek), who addresses the viewer as “friend,” one he believes he has made up to cope with his loneliness. As that suggests, Elliot may be suffering from mental illness, although the extent of it is unclear—one of the ongoing mysteries teased along throughout the season.

What is clear is that Elliot is a paranoid, rabidly asocial computer savant who is self-medicating on morphine. A network technician by day, Elliot is a “hacker vigilante” by night, anonymously tipping off police to online child pornography rings and gangbangers bragging about murders in code on Twitter. His daytime employer is a cybersecurity subcontractor helping the massive conglomerate E Corp.—which Elliot always calls Evil Corp.—fend off an increasingly intense series of cyber attacks. (In a nice touch, series creator Sam Esmail straight-up jacks the old Enron logo for E Corp., reasoning in one interview, “it’s not like they’re going to sue us for it.”) Because of his connection to E Corp., Elliot finds himself recruited by the mysterious “Mr. Robot” (Christian Slater) to join the hacker collective society, which wants to take down the company.

Mr. Robot has become a critical darling, and it’s easy to see why. For starters, it’s built around the performance of Malek, which is phenomenal, an unusual combination of intelligence, deadpan affect and charisma. It’s also one of the better-looking shows on television, with a visual aesthetic that alternates shots of perfect symmetry with ones framed from slightly off or tilted angles, creating an unnerving beauty. (This was especially the case for the first and fourth episodes, directed by Niels Arden Oplev and Nisha Gantara, respectively.) And the writing is generally excellent: witty dialogue that’s rarely cloying, genuinely surprising plot twists, and realistic characterization. There’s also a pretty great musical score by Mac Quayle, borrowing heavily from the playbook of rattling snare taps and spooky synths that Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross have employed in David Fincher’s most recent films.

But what truly makes the show different—which most critics have either ignored or glossed over—is what provides both its animating spirit and its primary narrative engine: a deep, visceral hatred of modern-day capitalism.

That loathing is front and center in the series’ opening scene, in which Elliot confronts the child pornographer in person. At first, the man thinks Elliot is trying to blackmail him and angrily refuses to pay a cent. But as Elliot reveals his M.O. of turning cybercriminals over to the police, the pornographer grows desperate and pleads with Elliot, promising to pay any amount. But Elliot dashes his hopes, telling him seconds before the police burst in, “I don’t give a shit about money.”

We learn, however, that this indifference is feigned; in fact, he hates money.

“Sometimes I dream about saving the world, saving everyone from the invisible hand,” Elliot tells his “friend” during one monologue, over a montage of a coworker making his monthly minimum school-loan payment and waiters scrambling for tips. “The one that brands us with an employee badge. The one that forces us to work for them. The one that controls us every day without us knowing it. But I can’t stop it.”

He can’t, that is, until Mr. Robot comes into his life, tempting him to take down E Corp., which “happens to own 70 percent of the global credit industry.” If they manage to destroy the company’s servers, Mr. Robot promises, “every record of every credit card, loan and mortgage would be wiped clean …[creating] the single biggest incident of wealth redistribution in history.”

On one hand, the idea that 70 percent of the global credit industry would be consolidated into one company is as absurd as anything concocted by the minds that gifted us with Graceland. On the other, however, if television shows act as a reflection of our fantasies, are there many better ones than a society-wide debt jubilee? And that plays a large part in what makes the show so gripping, particularly in comparison to other shows: at the level of our desires, the stakes have rarely been higher.

Indeed, Mr. Robot succeeds by taking the premise of a pulse-pounding action film like The Matrix—one group’s struggle against the dehumanization and alienation of late capitalism—and then removing all the metaphorical dressing (evil sentient robots, virtual reality) and making the damn thing literal. Turning the subtext into the text itself has some drawbacks; the pleasures of subtlety are mostly absent from Mr. Robot. (At one point, a villainous corporate executive literally pays cash to a homeless man for the license to beat the shit out of him.) But by placing class warfare front and center, Mr. Robot makes socialism a vibrant force again in popular culture, its aims urgent and compelling.

It remains to be seen, however, if Elliot is right and viewers are “friends” to the idea of an epic redistribution of wealth, or if he’s crazy to think so.

 

http://www.alternet.org/culture/usas-mr-robot-anti-capitalist-tv-show-weve-been-waiting?akid=13363.265072.bBFmg5&rd=1&src=newsletter1040551&t=19

The Fake Courage of Caitlyn Jenner

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Well, penises come and penises go, but bad taste is timeless, I guess.  While she revels in her expensive new state-of-the-art breasts, the Marie Antoinette of transgenders has done us all a favor by revealing just how shallow, venal and corrupt her kind of “courage” really is, and how gullible the media figures who celebrate her.

First came the long, breathless wait to see what Bruce Jenner would look like when he was miraculously transformed into a woman named Caitlyn.  When the moment finally arrived, the caterpillar-to-butterfly metamorphosis produced a breathtaking vision–which looked exactly like Bruce Jenner, with fake breasts, in a dress.

This was, as Tom Brady might say, slightly deflating.  But for TV and social media it was a virtual second coming.  Athletes who dared to criticize ESPN for honoring the rich and privileged Jenner over more deserving candidates were hounded and mocked as transphobic haters.

And then Jenner finally opened her surgically-enhanced lips, and what came oozing out was the politics of identity in its purest form.

First, he told Diane Sawyer, his new BFF, that he didn’t like Obamaexcept for one single thing–and guess what that might be!–“He was the first to say ‘transgender,’ I give him credit for that, but I’m not a big fan, I’m more on the conservative side. ”

This seemed to completely astonish Sawyer–but it’s hard to see why, after countless Republican politicians have been outed as cross-dressers; Jenner is building on a long and rich tradition there, and it’s fun to imagine her trading fashion and make-up tips with J. Edgar Hoover.

But Jenner knocking Obama was pretty thin stuff, and very few people–outside of his immediate family, and MSNBC–care to defend Obama anymore, so there was a tiny hubbub about it, and it fizzled quickly.

Then came the bizarre coronation on ESPN, with the stage-managed standing ovations.  No “haters” allowed!  The king is dead, long live the queen!  Of course, Queen Cait could barely deliver her scripted words of inspiration–she didn’t seem to have  read them beforehand–but social media was deeply moved.

And, in the ultimate proof that she’s on the right side of history, Caitlin got her own reality show.  But no sooner had her show begun than she wobbled off-script for a moment, and our newborn Cinderella proved to be more of an old-fashioned Wicked Witch.  When one of her girlfriends talked about the importance of caring for homeless people, Jenner said, with an adorable toss of her bangs: “Don’t they make more by not working–wih social progams–than they do with an entry level job?”

The other transgender women on the show–who have lived actual lives–were horrified.  When they tried to explain it to her, Jenner finally revealed her true self, the one that even Diane Sawyer failed to uncover:  “Oh, you dont want people to get  totally dependent on it.  Thats when they get in trouble–‘why should I work?  I got a few bucks! I got my room paid for!”

Let’s de-construct that little beauty for a moment.  As soon as Jenner starts her feeble attempt to role-play a poor person,  she junks normal grammar–becuz poor folks iz stupid, lol!–“I got a few bucks.”  Then she faults these dumb slobs–you know, these combat veterans and mentally ill and sexually-abused women, men and children–not just for their damn laziness, but for their total lack of imagination, too–for them, a room and a few bucks (for crack, no doubt) is enough. They aren’t even ambitious enough to crave a two-room apartment, much less an L.A. mansion paid for with sex-tape money!

And girlfriend, don’t even get me started on their clothes!  Pee-yew!

Here, Jenner finds herself in bed with Earl Butz, the Republican member of Gerald Ford’s cabinet, who disgraced himself with a similar quote.  Though it seems too good to be true, this is actually how it happened.  In 1976, Butz found himself on an airplane with Pat Boone–in some ways the Kardashian of his day, because he, like Kim, became famous by exploiting black sexuality.  Boone, himself a high-level right-wing ideologue, asked Butz why there weren’t more black Republicans, and Butz replied (I quote accurately, if reluctantly): “Pat, the only thing the coloreds are looking for in life are a tight pussy, loose shoes, and a warm place to shit.”

Poor Earl Butz is as dead as vaudeville now, but if he were alive, he’d happily join Lindsey Graham in welcoming Caitlyn Jenner to the Republican party and praising her “courage.”  And that’s the core of the problem: across the ultra-narrow spectrum of American media/politics, it’s become way too easy to be “courageous” on LGBT issues.  It doesn’t cost anything. Every day and every night, MSNBC “bravely” champions gay rights, and they recently hired the first openly gay news-anchor.  Excellent!  Now when can we expect to get the first poor news-anchor?  The first Native American news-anchor?  The first ex-convict?  We all know the answer: as soon as there exists a wealthy and powerful group of the homeless, or of American Indians, or of ex-cons, who contribute millions of dollars to the Democrats and Republicans, like the gay rights groups do…and not a day before.

It’s the same old game, and you pay to play.

So in the end Jenner’s “courage” boils down to this: I will fiercely defend the right of obscenely wealthy cultural parasites to have surgeons in Beverly Hills build new breasts for us, and to then have those store-bought breasts draped in the silks of Parisian coutouriers.

Well, it’s a program, I guess, and you see some of Caitlyn’s right-on sisters shopping in Beverly Hills every day.

But if I want to see true courage in action, I’ll step outside and watch a homeless woman try to catch an hour’s sleep in an alley off Santa Monica Boulevard.

John Eskow is a writer and musician. He wrote or co-wrote the movies Air America, The Mask of Zorro, and Pink Cadillac, as well as the novel Smokestack Lightning. He is a contributor to Killing Trayvons: an Anthology of American Violence.. He can be reached at: johneskow@yahoo.com

http://www.counterpunch.org/2015/08/05/the-fake-courage-of-caitlyn-jenner/

Post Capitalism

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Jonathan Taplin on Jul 25

The British journalist Paul Mason published a provocative except from his new book Postcapitalism in the Guardian last week. His theory is that the sharing economy is ushering in a new age.

Postcapitalism is possible because of three major changes information technology has brought about in the past 25 years. First, it has reduced the need for work, blurred the edges between work and free time and loosened the relationship between work and wages. The coming wave of automation, currently stalled because our social infrastructure cannot bear the consequences, will hugely diminish the amount of work needed — not just to subsist but to provide a decent life for all.

Second, information is corroding the market’s ability to form prices correctly. That is because markets are based on scarcity while information is abundant. The system’s defence mechanism is to form monopolies — the giant tech companies — on a scale not seen in the past 200 years, yet they cannot last. By building business models and share valuations based on the capture and privatisation of all socially produced information, such firms are constructing a fragile corporate edifice at odds with the most basic need of humanity, which is to use ideas freely.

Third, we’re seeing the spontaneous rise of collaborative production: goods, services and organisations are appearing that no longer respond to the dictates of the market and the managerial hierarchy. The biggest information product in the world — Wikipedia — is made by volunteers for free, abolishing the encyclopedia business and depriving the advertising industry of an estimated $3bn a year in revenue.

Since the 1930’s when Lord Keynes worried about a future in which we would have so much leisure time that we might not be able to create enough poets to fill our evening hours. So of course I am skeptical as most of my friends are working longer hours than 10 years ago when their every waking hour wasn’t harried by smartphones chirping.

But I do believe that Mason’s point, about the potential of Open Source technology to break up the “fragile corporate edifice” constructed by the tech monopolies that I have written about, is real. Consider the edifice that was Microsoft’s Windows operating system in 1998 when the Justice Department brought its anti-trust action. Since that time two Open Source software systems, Linux and Apache have made huge inroads into the corporate and Web server business. Both systems were constructed by hundreds of thousands of man hours of free labor contributed by geeks interested in improving the software and sharing their improvements with a large community for free. So in that sense, Mason is right that this is a post capitalist construct.

But here is the current problem with the sharing economy. It tends towards a winner take all economy.

Whether Uber ends up buying Lyft is yet to be determined, but my guess is that market will look like markets dominated by AirBnb, Instagram, Facebook, YouTube and Google. As Susie Cagle recently pointed out:

While technology has provided underlying infrastructure to spark and support new peer-to-peer network behavior, it hasn’t really changed anything about how those networks are built and owned. For example, we now have the tools and ability to disrupt the taxi industry by allowing collectives of drivers to reach customers directly — but instead, we have Lyft and Uber, multibillion dollar companies that neither offer benefits to their drivers, nor truly give them the opportunity to run their own independent businesses.

Likewise, we have the tools and ability to build collectively owned messaging and social platforms — but instead, we have Twitter and Facebook, which mediate what users can see from other users and collect personal data to better tailor advertising sales.

My concerns relate to the media and entertainment industry that we study at the USC Annenberg Innovation Lab. And in that world the possibility of using the Open Source model to build a new kind of Digital Distribution Cooperative seems very possible.

Ask yourself this question: why should YouTube take 55% of the ad revenue from a Beyonce (or any other artist) video when all they provide is the platform?

They provide no production money, no marketing support and their ad engine runs lights out on algorithms.

Imagine in today’s music business a distribution cooperative that would run something like the coops that farmer’s use (think Sunkist for orange growers). Here is how they are described.

Many marketing cooperatives operate through “pooling.” The member delivers his product to the association, which pools it with products of like grade and quality delivered by other members. After doing whatever processing is necessary, the co-op sells the products at the best price it can get and returns to the members their share of total proceeds, less marketing expenses.

In our model (much like the early days of the United Artists film distribution company formed in the 1920’s by Charlie Chaplin, Douglas Fairbanks, Mary Pickford and D.W.Griffith) the producers of music would upload their new tunes to the coop servers, do their own social marketing and probably end up getting back 85–90% of the revenues rather the 45% they get from YouTube. The coop could rent cloud space from Amazon Web Services just like Netflix and Spotify do.

All of this is possible because in the world of entertainment the artist is the brand. No one ever suggested to you, “let’s go to a Paramount movie tonight.” It is possible that we are entering a post capitalist age, but it cannot exist as long as the sharing economy is dominated by a few monopolists. Perhaps some bold experiments on the part of music artists could point the way towards a truly innovative way of using technology for the good of the artist rather than for her exploitation.

https://medium.com/@jonathantaplin/post-capitalism-f8d687d19c3

USA Network’s Mr. Robot: A provocative start, but where will it go?

By Christine Schofelt and David Walsh
17 July 2015

USA Network’s Mr. Robot, created and written by Sam Esmail and already renewed for a second season, began airing in late June. So far four episodes have been broadcast. The series centers on Elliot Alderson (Rami Malek), a cyber-security engineer by day and a self-described “vigilante-hacker” by night.

Elliot’s opening voiceover is unusual for American television: “What I’m about to tell you is top secret. A conspiracy bigger than all of us. There’s a powerful group of people out there that are secretly running the world. I’m talking about the guys no one knows about, the guys that are invisible. The top one percent of the top one percent. The guys that play God without permission.”

Mr. Robot

In general, those behind Mr. Robot have promoted the series by appealing to the mass hostility to the banks, conglomerates and government spies. Incendiary ads, for example, read “F–k the System,” “F–k Wall Street,” “F–k Society.” Taglines include: “Our democracy has been hacked,” “Banks own your money,” “Social media owns your relationships,” “Corporations own your minds.” The promise of something hard-hitting for once has drawn some two million people to watch each of the first four shows. Is there a gap, however, between the promise and the actual substance of Mr. Robot?

It does not take long for one’s internal alarm system to go off. Immediately following Elliot’s opening voiceover about “the top one percent of the top one percent,” the series veers off into a sort of individual vigilantism. Elliot confronts the owner of chain of coffee shops, whose computer he has hacked, about his involvement in child pornography. Later, he targets a philandering husband, who has not committed any crimes, and a violent drug dealer.

Generally well played by Malek, Elliot is another in a long and growing list of pathologically anti-social geniuses. Speaking directly to the viewer in a running inner monologue, he explains his sense of justice, his morphine addiction and his methods for getting into people’s personal computer records—which is the only way he gets close to other human beings. Malek (like the show’s creator, Sam Esmail, of Egyptian descent) does manage to convey something about the low-grade depression that afflicts large numbers of young people in the US, mired in difficult economic and personal circumstances, with nothing to look forward to. Certain shots of Elliot passing anxiously and stealthily through subway stations and passageways have something especially disturbing about them.

Mr. Robot

Christian Slater plays Mr. Robot, a member of a group calling itself F-society, obviously based on Anonymous, among others. He makes contact with Elliot through a DDOS (distributed denial-of-service) attack on E Corp, a client of AllSafe, the cybersecurity company for which Elliot works. Mr. Robot then draws him into a wider plot against E Corp, which Elliot refers to as “Evil Corp,” an all-encompassing tech company.

Through Elliot’s narration, we are presented with a litany of social ills; student debt, corporate power, easily hacked personal information, etc. His feverish list is accompanied by snapshots and clips of recent events—Occupy Wall Street, Chelsea (Bradley) Manning, newspaper headlines about growing inequality. In many of the early monologues, however, a disdain for the general populace seeps through—the notion that the people are “asleep” predominates.

The plan of Mr. Robot and F-society to bring down E Corp, which presumably will dominate the series’ first season, is put forward as a “revolution.” The elimination of E(vil) Corp and the debt it holds (largely student debt), including the hard copies of loan documents, no doubt has its appeal.

Moreover, many viewers will identify and sympathize with Elliot and his beleaguered friends, including Angela (Portia Doubleday), who is financially drowning, and Shayla (Frankie Shaw), who has serious problems with drugs. These characters are more or less realistically drawn, and some of the situations, which convey the stress of simply navigating daily life and a general sense of being at sea, pull the viewer in.

Mr. Robot

In other words, there are intriguing aspects to Mr. Robot. However, there are numerous troubling issues. First of all, there are the clichéd characters and situations. The presence of corporate evil incarnate, in the form of Tyrell Wellick (Martin Wallström), the senior vice president of technology at E Corp, is not much help. In general, the picture of business wickedness is neither earthshaking nor terribly enlightening. An accounting of contemporary corporate life and practices, which dramatized and shed light on the objective driving forces at work, would be far more intriguing as well as highly unusual. (The presence of an unredeemably monstrous drug dealer also hints at intellectually lazy territory.)

The biggest problem, however, is surely the glaring contradiction between the picture painted of overwhelming corporate criminality and overall social dysfunction, on the one hand, and the meagerness of the possible social responses envisioned by the show’s creators, on the other.

The idea of “revolution” and “revolutionaries” put forward by Mr. Robot is ludicrous. The notion that wiping out one giant firm’s records will bring about “the largest revolution the world will ever see,” in the words of Slater’s character, hardly merits a comment. In general, the series appears to have little interest, despite the references to inequality, in the conditions of wide layers of the population, much less any conception that masses of people will take part in the process of changing things. This is a “revolution” carried out by (and presumably for) a layer of disgruntled computer engineers and other professionals.

In an interview with Slate, Sam Esmail makes some revealing comments. He notes that he was in Egypt “right after the Arab Spring happened, and I was so inspired by that. One of the things that defined Elliot’s character is that revolutionary spirit I saw in my cousins. These are young people who are tech-savvy, who use technology to their advantage to channel the anger against the status quo and try and make a change to better their lives.” Esmail provides some idea of the social change he has in mind. Mr. Robot, he notes is “set in the world of technology, because I think that is a tool that young people can use to bring about change. I mean, look at the LGBT community: What massive changes have occurred in society just in terms of marriage and trans issues being more public and open.”

Esmail later tells his interviewer that “the current mixed economy system that we have in this country is broken. It doesn’t do what it’s set up to do, which is to value the best product made by the best companies.” This is pretty meager, to say the least.

One also has the right as well to be made nervous by the portrayal of the hackers, offered up as uncompromising “revolutionaries.” Slater’s Mr. Robot is distinctly unappealing—manipulative and destructive on a personal level and willing to kill people in pursuit of the plan (citing potential victims of an explosion as mere “collateral damage”). Darlene (Carly Chaikin) is unbalanced and annoying. Personalities aside, the depiction of these people as ruthless or ambivalent potential killers does little to distinguish them from their targets in the upper echelons of the corporations.

Time will tell whether Mr. Robot settles down and tells an important story. The fourth episode was not promising, focused on Elliot’s not very intriguing personal “demons” and the unlikely plan against E Corp. Will the moral of the USA Network series prove to be that what’s needed is a mere “rebooting” of capitalism and a slight redistribution of the wealth through the ascension to power of a more principled group of business men and women? It is impossible to be certain, but one has ample reason to fear the worst.

 

http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2015/07/17/mrro-j17.html

The scam of austerity explained

This Viral Video Is the Anti-Austerity Poem You’ve Been Waiting For

Yesterday, British Spoken word performer Agnes Töröka release an inspired, three-minute poetic call-to-arms for the austerity generation that quickly went viral, garnering almost 100,000 views by the end of the day.

In “Worthless” ,Töröka masterfully calls into question the unfair social contract inherented by todays youth: from nonstop internships to massive debt to the wholesale gutting of social programs. Underlying the spoken word poem is a biting sarcasm, contrasting the public funding of bank bailouts with the raiding of public trusts. She also wonderfully skewers the patronizing, “realistic” platitudes of austerity, from “cost cutting” to telling out-of-work graduates to focus on “polishing their CV’s”.

It’s a brilliant – and unexpected – piece of rage-fueled poetry that should speak to anyone who’s been tightened, cost-cutted, and left to fend for themselves by a system that glorifies the rich while, time and time again, telling the rest of us we’re “worthless”.

Adam Johnson is an associate editor at AlterNet. Follow him on Twitter at@adamjohnsonnyc.

 

http://www.alternet.org/anti-austerity-viral-video-masterful-rage-filled-poem-youve-been-waiting?akid=13305.265072.nk2hbZ&rd=1&src=newsletter1039390&t=11