01 May 2003


Perhaps because it's all based on sales -- and liberals suck at sales.

Now think about it. Wouldn't socialism give liberals a chance?

29 April 2003


Here's an eerie sign of the decline of the times: the resurgence of the primitive stage of accumulation (i.e. conquest as prior to capitalist development) in government violations of eminent domain for the sake of corporatism. Your property is NOT safe under capitalism. Thanks to Ethel's blog for pointing this out.

> if our situation is so bad that we're literally doing our best to plan for the coming grande collapse of it all

I respond: I want to be clear about this. When I refer to "collapse," I'm talking about the collapse of the current framework of capitalism, not of "it all." Think 1945 or 1973, not Armageddon.

If you want to discuss a situation that is "so bad" that the "grande collapse of it all" has already happened, you need look no further than Argentina.

Capitalism has dispossessed huge working classes before, and survived to tell the tale. The difference in the current historical sense is that, today, the regression of capitalism to Victorian-era mass slavery is accompanied by an unprecedented level of ecological devastation. Maybe capitalism will survive that too? How is Nike going to market expensive tennis shoes with no cheap oil to move them from a labor market in Vietnam to a consumer market in Chicago that doesn't exist anymore?

then he (Richard Kahn) says:

> what if we got offline, off tv, off books, off newsprint, off radio, and back into direct experience of the world and community? ah, a fucking luddite (i knew it)! but seriously, though, just as a thought experiment -- wouldn't this be tipping the scale politically, economically, and culturally towards sustainability in a way that the internet is not?

I respond: All experience is culturally mediated, the main question being "mediated by what?" Sustainability, on the other hand, is a matter of treating the world right... let me just suggest, briefly, that we consider as some of the main elements of sustainability principles such as conservation, and practices such as the increased cultivation of legumes, the decreased consumption of meat products, and the phasing-out of the capitalist economy. So, Richard, I guess what I'm saying here is that I'm not quite sure I understand. Connect the two things "media (non)use" and "sustainability" in a way that makes sense to me.

A response came into the ecosocialism board from Richard Kahn (who operates the Vegan Blog) about my media education piece...

> ok, how about this:
> 1. its not just what we watch, read,
> or say but HOW we watch, read, or
> say it, which is constrained to some
> degree by our knowledge of how the
> particular media we interact with
> frame experience. it may be that the
> types of cultures that don't create
> global ecological catastrophes have
> specific ways of being in and with
> the world that are very different
> indeed from our current reality of
> media spectacle.

To which I responded:

SDF: Here's a dilemma for you -- the
types of cultures that don't create
global ecological catastrophes are
all being CONQUERED by the culture
that is in the business of creating
global catastrophe now.
Sustainability is only one goal --
another goal is resistance. By
which I am arguing that people
should hope to resist the juggernaut
of capitalist consumer society.


> 4. in this light, what is the
> relationship between the infrastructure
> necessary to create a mediascape
> (internet or otherwise) and a
> sustainable planet or the type of
> person who might be capable of
> working towards a sustainable planet?

To which I responded...

SDF: Well, of course the Internet means
satellites and rockets and space junk,
not to mention silicon chips and plastics
and all the nasty acids and stuff that
go into making computers (not to think
about the economics of recycling
computers in a capitalist economy...)

But here's something else to think about --
the Internet is a primary tool for those
wishing to resist the media promotion
juggernaut that advertises the benefits of
the warfare state and the prison-industrial
complex to all classes -- such juggernaut
being the biggest consumer of nonreplaceable
resources this world has. They have TV and
radio (especially radio -- see Clear Channel)
-- we have the Internet. How else are you
going to reach people to explain the
propaganda barrages that reach them via
NBC and Fox News and the daily corporate
newspaper? What other medium would allow
you such easy access to their minds?

I would look at the Internet as the recent
installment of an escalation of media
warfare. Media warfare, of course, is a
mere tactical display against the
background of the Western elite's war
against labor and the natural world. But
then, of course, with every escalation of
authoritarian might, there's an escalation
of the powers of resistance. The era of
the Robber Barons had the Wobblies; the
1960s had the New Left; today we have
anticorporate protest. With each
historical era of resistance one can
observe a form of media use among both
the Establishment and the resistance forms
that have grown up to protest it.

Now, I've argued that eventually the
process of global cancerization (via the
destruction of natural habitats and the
depletion of natural resources) will have
to come to a shrieking halt, which will
be experienced as a "collapse" in some way.
This collapse will occur because we live
today in what the neo-Malthusians have
called the "era of limits." What the neo-
Malthusians don't recognize, unfortunately,
is that that the "limits" are limits upon
the power of the capitalist system to
exploit all resources with infinite ease
(while at the same time destroying the
consumer base which makes such exploitation
profitable), and that collapse is likely
in our current situation because at some
point the global capitalist machines will
have to run up against prohibitive
operating costs. In which case more
energy-efficient ecosocialist machines
will be needed.

(As I've argued earlier on this board,
Garrett Hardin's notion of the "tragedy of
the commons" assumes each individual to be
a capitalist actor. Hardin's assumption
is not only socially-constructed (rather
than being "natural), but it's also an
assumption which is bound to collapse when
the society of capitalist actors itself

After that collapse, I theorize, we will
all be in the great untheorized future,
and the theorists of today should rightly
feel "behind" in their speculations
on what that will look like. This of
course includes media theory -- we'll use
the Internet today, but if the Internet
collapses, who knows -- we may end up
writing the future upon old pieces of
cardboard which were too small to be
employed in permaculture...

Of course, it can't be helped that we're so
far behind -- but still, it would be nice
if we'd theorize a little harder, because
frankly I'd prefer that the next
ecosocialist society take place through
negotiation than through open warfare.

Samuel Day Fassbinder
Claremont CA

28 April 2003


One of the screaming needs in political life today, as I've hinted earlier, is for media education. As Ralph Nader once pointed out, the Nation's children get their educations from their television sets, which would explain why the American electorate appears to be evenly divided between apathy and outright support for corporate dictatorship. Here are some initial things to teach about the mass media, for people as they try to make sense of a coerced world:

1) Follow the money. The mass media, like the government, operate with corporate money as the first-and-last interest explaining what is being said and done. The most obvious clue to money's influence over media are commercials, but attention must also be paid to the way in which even the TV news imitates the modes of persuasion that can be seen in the typical TV commercial.

2) Hysteria is where the people who claim to be solving the problem create such an emotional fever-pitch that they themselves are the problem. Key words and images mark the mass-media attempt to provoke hysteria. Calling opinions "extremist," for instance, is usually an attempt to deny them a fair hearing, to provoke mass ignorance of their actual content. Also important, of course, are emotionally-charged music and images.

3) The media don't usually lie -- except when they're quoting the lies of the State Department -- but they are horribly biased about which facts they choose to discuss and which ones they don't. Try to find a mainstream media representation of how many civilian casualties there were in the war on Afghanistan, for instance. The smart media viewers listen to Pacifica Radio and read alternative media sources in order to find "balance" in the news.

4) "Balance" in discussions about the news actually means discussing those issues which empower the consumer and citizen to make policy decisions. It doesn't mean armchair disagreements which leave the average person voicing a powerless opinion on the sidelines. Balanced discussion of the war against Iraq, for instance, meant a debate about whether the US should go to war against Iraq at all, or not. It didn't mean a discussion of whether the war would turn out poorly or well.

A footnote: a discussion of this material is a pre-requisite for more advanced discussions such as "What is ecosocialism?" If ecosocialists would hope to be more than a tiny clique of the well-educated, they'd better be out there spreading a "smart consciousness" about the mass media.

27 April 2003


The whole "liberal" critique of Dubya's economics is overly focused upon the critique of tax cuts. The tax cuts are bad, but they are only the tip of the iceberg of a global economy arranged for the first-and-last purpose of buttressing corporate profits.

Instead, its advocates should proceed to the more radical focus upon the possibility that US hegemony will eventually end, because someday, someday, the world will refuse to accept the US Government's treasury bonds. Hudson's theory explains, at least, why the world tolerates US government adventurism, rampant US national debts, and "Washington Consensus" economic policies that make the world into a big museum for corporate looting. America is the "consumer of last resort" for the world's production machines, and thus if the world were to stop giving the US government a free ride in using the planet as its bottomless bank account, the US economy and global economies would separate, and the global economy would tank. The global belief in capitalism is what holds the whole farce in place. So the world accepts a steadily-worsening global economy as the price of business, which allows the US to blackmail it with unapproved invasions, right-wing politics, Argentina, etc.

I find Hudson's theory believable because it fits the phenomena of US hegemony and $6 trillion US national debt into the Harry Shutt economic theory that explains the global economy in terms of a world organized for the sake of corporate profit. Ecosocialism would end the whole issue by ending the dollar's hegemony with a general forgiveness of debts and a phasing out of the money economy. The whole house of cards will eventually collapse. The world, then, needs to admit that it is playing a game with a limited time-frame -- eventually, the US will kill the global goose that lays golden eggs for corporate consumption, and it will all be over. Admitting this is the first step toward the negotiation of a new global economic order, which will hopefully be something closer to ecosocialism than what we now have.