Tag Archives: terrorism

F#@k it.

Once again terrorism has struck Europe, this time in Brussels, and the whole cycle begins anew. What cycle am I referring to? I guess the best comparison is something like a morbid, shameful version of “the 12 Days of Christmas.”

We’ve got Americans who’ve never had a passport talking about how this could have been prevented if only Belgians could carry concealed handguns.

Out of those, a certain portion will explain what they would have done in that situation, had they been allowed to carry their concealed firearm.

There are the Islamophobes screaming “I told you so” while totally ignoring the fact that the vast majority of Muslims don’t do anything like this, and if even 1% of them were, European cities would look like a war zone.

We’ll get the over-compensating liberal who insists that this has “nothing to do with Islam at all.”

There’s the snarky little shit who needs to remind everyone that changing your Facebook profile pic “doesn’t actually do anything,” because obviously anyone doing that believes that it does.

There’s the radical leftist demanding to know why these people didn’t change their profile pic to the flag of some other country that recently suffered a terrorist attack, just as they did as soon as they heard about the attack in Brussels.

Perhaps another leftist, maybe the same as the one above, will immediately remind everybody that this terrorism is the result of foreign policy, specifically that of the US, because otherwise nobody would know. And yes, I’ve already received reports of folks like this blaming the attacks on Belgian colonialism in the Congo. You read that correctly.

You’ve got Russian political figures rubbing their hands with glee over the misfortune of Europeans. And before you claim that there wasn’t enough sympathy over the Russian Sinai airliner bombing- keep in mind that the Russian government took a long time to even acknowledge the possibility that it was a terrorist attack even as Western governments were strongly suggesting that terrorism was the cause of the disaster.

And I don’t even need to check to know that hundreds if not thousands of people were declaring the attacks to be a “false flag” staged by the government even before the blood dried.

 

I don’t pretend to have answers to this situation. Yes, foreign policy, specifically the Iraq War, played a role. Yes, we shouldn’t let that get in the way of being outraged at terrorism and the ideology that fuels it. We should stand up against xenophobia and do what we can for innocent refugees without being afraid of criticizing Islam or refusing to tolerate those who deliberately refuse to tolerate others. We ought to wake up and realize that terrorism isn’t going to be stopped by the knowledge that one in so many dozens of people might be carrying a concealed handgun. Maybe we ought to just shut up and take at least a few hours to express sympathy before we go through the usual rituals that have come to be associated with these events.

At times I can’t help but think that on some level ISIS is a kind of punishment for our collective cynicism as a species. There’s the cynicism of neo-liberalism and neo-conservatism. The cynicism of the “left.” Everybody’s attitude in the post-Iraq War world seems to be resigned, and if it had a motto it would be “Fuck it.”

Yeah okay so Trump talks about events in living memory that never happened. He’s anti-establishment. Fuck it.

Sure, Hillary is one of the least progressive liberals in history, but we’ve got to beat Trump so fuck it.

Assad kills a few hundred thousand people but some of the people fighting him are bad so fuck it.

Sure, Putin runs a right-wing capitalist regime that supports far right wing parties around the world, but he hates NATO and the US government hates him so he must be doing something right. Fuck it.

Venezuela’s leaders ran their economy into the ground while claiming to be socialists, but again the US government doesn’t get on with them so they must be right. Fuck it.

Sure ISIS slaughters people with joy, but Iraq War, so fuck it.

Afghanistan? Either way fuck it.

I can’t be bothered to actually learn about history and the politics of the Middle East, so I’ll just let some con man tell me how he’s got it all figured out with this conspiracy theory. Fuck it.

The early 21st century is a tragic period indeed. According to most indicators people are living better than they have ever lived before, with more access to information than any other generation in our relatively short history, and yet we cannot enjoy it. We cannot stand up for the most basic values, because con men used those values to dupe us into all manner of folly both at home and abroad.

I don’t want to overstate the threat of ISIS. Movements just as barbaric and destructive as theirs have lasted far longer and probably done more damage. But it seems that they’re the only people who believe in anything, as horrible as that anything is. Maybe the reason we haven’t smacked them down yet is that we have become so cynical about our values, so disconnected from them, that we can’t muster up the courage to stand up for them.

Again, I have no answers at the moment. I’m just tired. I think from now on when I see another example of the responses I’ve listed above, I’m just going to say “fuck it” and move along.

 

 

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Too soon

I’ve been back from Cyprus for two days now, but it took me a while to adjust enough so that I can write again. Luckily, the article I worked on with Cracked.com in Ukraine finally came out. It had taken so long to get published that I started to get worried and published my own article about the trip just to make the whole thing worthwhile. Of course the Cracked article had the meat of our interviews with locals, and as of this writing it has just under half a million views. Being implicitly referred to as only “a translator” raised an eyebrow, given everything I had to do there, but I really don’t care- I’m just glad to see it published.

In more serious news, I was approached (on Twitter oddly enough) to speak about the recent Russian plane crash in the Sinai. Unfortunately this message came while I was in Cyprus, and quite possibly while I was still in the wilderness at the end of an eight-day camping trip. I first heard news of the disaster when I returned to civilization in Paphos.

In order to properly discuss my reaction I have to make a rather embarrassing confession- I have developed, only in the past couple of years, a sort of fear of flying. This is something I never had before; I used to love flying. Even after an incident in the army where I flew into Manhattan regional airport in a twin prop puddle jumper in the middle of a storm (which was accompanied by tornado warnings), I didn’t have any sort of anxiety about flying. For some reason, it was only maybe in 2013 that I began to develop this paranoia about flying, where every “unusual” bump or bank disturbs me, in spite of what I know about aircraft and their capabilities. Yes, something has gotten to me. I wonder what it is.

The flight to and from Cyprus has been the longest I’ve been on since one trip to London in the summer of 2013, so naturally hearing about this Russian plane crash was disconcerting in light of the confession above. Of course my rational brain started reacting immediately. The airline was a Russian regional carrier, not a top-tier Russian airline like Aeroflot or S7. It was an old plane. It had broken up in air; airplanes generally do not do this unless there is something very unusual afoot. Now, it’s looking more and more likely that it was a bomb planted on the plane itself. This is not the preferred way to get over one’s newfound fear of flying.

Naturally the destruction of so many innocent lives in a civilian airliner has caused some people to draw parallels between this and MH17. Personally I’d rather not, because the analogy is incorrect. What happened in the Donbas was a case of manslaughter or negligent homicide. The scumbags who provided the Buk and those who crewed it never intended to bring down a civilian airliner. If the world is ever lucky enough to see these people face justice, this must logically be taken into consideration when passing judgement on them. By contrast if it is confirmed that this Metrojet flight was brought down by a bomb planted on the plane, we know that those who planned and committed the deed knew full well what the results of their actions would be. These are people who deliberately target civilians and then engage in whataboutery that is ridiculously cynical even by Russian standards.

There are also those who want to say “I told you so,” connecting Russia’s recent adventure in Syria with the bombing. Indeed, just as 9/11 forced thinking Americans to start questioning the wisdom of their government’s foreign policy in the Middle East, Russians will sooner or later have to come to the realization that the slick Hollywood-inspired version of war they see on their TV screens comes at a price. But I don’t think this is the time to start hammering that point home. After all, Russia has suffered ongoing terrorism for years now, stemming from a conflict which it cannot so easily extricate itself from. The metro bombings in 2010 occurred a few stations from the line I lived on. What could Russia have done? Wall off the entire Caucasus?

And lastly, one could point out how RT is suddenly very concerned about getting the “official story” right. No Pepe Escobar floating conspiracy theories on Op Edge asking “qui bono” and suggesting that this was a “false flag” attack carried out by the Kremlin so as to justify further involvement in Syria. No “questioning more” about aspects of the “official story” which supposedly “don’t make sense.” Now RT wants to wait for all the facts, even if they come from the dreaded “mainstream media” of the West. Very well, let them. I’m sure there will be plenty of dipshits inside and outside of Russia who will concoct conspiracy theories surrounding this tragedy the same way Russia’s press did with MH17. To hell with the whole lot on both sides. Decent people should treat the victims of this disaster with dignity and respect, even if Russia did not do the same for the victims of MH17.

Those who see this crash as blood in the water for taking all kinds of cheap shots at Russia are the worst sort of cheerleaders. They cannot separate the lives of ordinary citizens from the government and its politics. Sure, you can argue that Russians are complicit due to their lack of activity, but how active were you in opposing the negative foreign policy of your government. I marched in several anti-war demonstrations and engaged in counter-recruitment work, but I doubt that would bring much solace to the victim of a US drone strike in Pakistan or Afghanistan. Maybe the best argument I have is that I left the US. If you live in the West, you have far more rights to oppose your government in public and participate in the process, so are you sure Russians are really more complicit in their government’s crimes than you are in those of your own government.

There are so many points that could be made, arguments to be made, and teachable moments to highlight, and yet I’d rather not. Sometimes being human is more important than making points or winning arguments. Those who seek to bring up this tragedy in any arguments or debates ought to at least wait for all the dead to be buried and the blood to dry. As for me, I have nothing more to say about it. Let them rest in peace.

UPDATE: Leave it to the scumbags of the Kremlin to start insulting the dead by politicizing their deaths to concoct new conspiracy theories about the West. Stay classy, Sputnik. Although I don’t know who did it first- Sputnik or War Nerd and his ridiculous unsubstantiated speculation on Pando.

False false flag

I’m starting to realize that Zerohedge is low-hanging fruit. Nonetheless, I couldn’t resist when I saw this article by…get ready for it…George Washington.  Yes, first Tyler Durden and now George Washington. I’m sure that given enough time, Zerohedge will one day have people with pen names like Captain America and Freedom Man writing for them.  Never mind that, let’s get through this.

The problems begin with the article’s title, which is obviously a reference to last week’s attack on the editors of Charlie Hebdo in Paris. The title reads: “The First Question to Ask After Any Terror Attack: Was It a False Flag?”

No, George, that is the first question Alex Jones asks after any terrorist attack.  The rest of us use something called Occam’s Razor in this case. If enough terrorist attacks in history were actually false flags, then terrorism is essentially not real and the evil conspirators would have to question why they’re trying to create this false threat of terrorism in the first place. I mean with all the money and resources you’d have to be spending on creating non-existent enemies and then killing some of them, you’d think some guy in the secret meeting room would suddenly come to an epiphany- “I’ve got it! What if we took all this money we’re spending on fake terrorism, and instead we just spend it on social programs and other perks like free water parks and go-cart tracks? Then people would love us and they’d be too busy enjoying all that free crap to threaten our power, assuming they’d even want to!” But no, in conspiracy land, that naive individual would be immediately beaten to death by the other sinister characters in the room, and then it would be blamed on Al Qaeda.

In order to support his hypothesis, the first president of the United States amasses a staggering quantity of about 36 different alleged “false flag attacks.” As you might imagine, many of these alleged attacks have nothing to do with terrorism, while several of the claims are highly dubious. The author loves claiming that this or that government has “admitted” to this or that, but experience shows how conspiracy theorists will often hear what they want and turn that into an admission. The reader is free to browse his laundry list of “false flags” and decide which ones have any historical merit(yes, some actually do). I’m more interested in making a big picture point here.

Ex-president Washington is using these examples as a reason why we should always ask whether a new terrorist attack is a false flag. As I said before, several of the items are not terrorist attacks at all. Even if we ignore that, we must ask a far more important question- How many real attacks have their been throughout history, including state-on-state violence and terrorism? In other words, even if we were to assume every item on his list is true, there is still no reason to question whether a new terrorist attack is a “false flag.”  That is not unless he’s seriously going to claim that hundreds, if not thousands of terrorist attacks in the 20th century alone are also false flags.  Naturally this conspiracy would begin to get a bit unwieldy.

Also I realize this is a bit of a digression, but have you ever noticed that these folks almost never bring up the topic of the IRA during the troubles? I’ve never seen anyone claim that IRA-linked terrorism was a false flag. Interesting that people aren’t willing to label the whole Irish struggle against the British as a royal false flag campaign.

Getting back on track, another funny moment arises when he uses Wikipedia’s definition of a false flag attack:

The term comes from the old days of wooden ships, when one ship would hang the flag of its enemy before attacking another ship in its own navy. Because the enemy’s flag, instead of the flag of the real country of the attacking ship, was hung, it was called a “false flag” attack.

The real purpose of such tactics(also used by pirates) was to approach a ship unawares, not to shift blame to another country for the attack. Flying the same flag as your quarry gave you a chance to close with them. It was also useful for avoiding authorities. In any case, the fact that there is a definition for “false flag attack” does not give us any reason to ask if any terrorist attack was a false flag.

Moving on, he says that “leaders throughout history have acknowledged false flags.”  The first person he quotes?

“This and no other is the root from which a tyrant springs; when he first appears he is a protector.”

-Plato

Not a leader. You had one job. One…job. Also do I need to point out this has nothing to do with false flag attacks? Populations faced far more external threats in antiquity than we do in the industrialized world today. For much of human history, in fact, you wouldn’t need false flag attacks to appear as a protector, because there was always a rival tribe, city-state, or nomad horde about to come in and totally wreck your shit.  Also most of these societies were not democratic by any stretch of the imagination, therefore there was no need to whip up public opinion against an invader, assuming something as “public opinion” existed in the particular society we’re considering.  Some of the other quotes are either highly dubious, or have nothing to do with terrorism.

There are literally dozens, if not hundreds of problems with the terrorism-as-false-flag conspiracy theories, some of which I have hinted at before. One problem when it comes to activism is that it presents the system as being in the hands of omnipotent elites. Someone like me would see the contradiction between the West supporting ISIL indirectly in Syria and fighting them in Iraq or the streets of Paris as evidence of the system’s incompetence and inability of reconciling its short and long-term goals and interests. All things are rife with contradictions, especially politics. Three of the empires involved in the First World War had every reason in the world not to go to war at all. And yet two of those, the Austro-Hungarian and Russian empires, enthusiastically rushed headlong into the war that would destroy both of them.  If people learn to see the contradictions in human society, they can take advantage of them so as to change society or even overthrow the status quo.

Of course your average Guy Fawkes mask  wearing “truth” enthusiast has a different view. Of course ISIL is just controlled by the US and NATO! They train them, set them loose, and even bomb them. Everything is always going right according to plan. The conspiracy enthusiast always knows what the elites are up to, but when it comes to solutions they always come up short. Another interesting aspect of this latest terrorist attack is that in spite of the fact that the Russian media started disseminating conspiracy theories even before the culprits were neutralized, Russia would stand to benefit the most from these attacks. Of course this can’t be, because naturally Russia is part of the anti-NWO coalition!

Probably one of the biggest flaws in this false flag terrorism theory is that even though almost every attack is labeled a false flag, they simply are not frequent enough in the Western world. As plenty of rational people have pointed out numerous times, your chances of getting struck by lightning are almost infinitely higher than dying in a terrorist attack in the US. Even in spite of this latest attack in Paris, the odds would be pretty much the same there. In fact they’re even the same in Russia assuming you don’t spend too much time in rural Chechnya or Dagestan, and if you did get killed there that’s more likely to be an ordinary criminal act as opposed to terrorism. All of this is counterproductive if you’re a shadowy group of plotters trying to use fear of terrorism to bend the public to your will.

Alex Jones and his multitude of clones and followers would have us believe that these false flag terrorist attacks are designed to get us to ascent to foreign wars and restrictions on civil rights, up to and including martial law and even detention in FEMA camps. There’s no debate that fear of terrorism certainly caused many Americans to engage in ridiculously irrational behavior after 9-11, and it’s certainly the reason why most Americans did support the war against Iraq in 2002-2003. However, few ordinary people staunchly defended measures such as the Patriot Act, and opposition to this assault on civil liberties cropped up almost immediately. As the terrorism hangover subsided, many people who had either mildly supported or at least accepted the Iraq War changed their minds. Public opinion officially turned against the war in 2005 and continued to decline to the point where nowadays even confirmed Republicans will try to downplay Bush and his war.

So my question then, is the following. Why is it that the same men who could supposedly orchestrate all manner of false flag terrorist attacks so as to manipulate public opinion, couldn’t come up with more terrorist attacks to overcome opposition to the war and the Patriot Act? Sure, some will say they did, citing such attacks as the London bombings of 7 July 2005. The problem is that this apparently didn’t work. With so many terrorist attacks being labeled false flags, why can’t they pull off devastating or at least outrageous attacks on a far more frequent basis? Let’s be honest, if terrorist attacks occurred in the US with even a fraction of the frequency with which they occur in Iraq, you probably would have many people calling for soldiers on the streets, or at least being willing to tolerate such measures. Remember that common response Republicans used when people pointed out what a quagmire Iraq managed to become within a few months? “Would you prefer to fight them in Baghdad or Boston?” Right. So what political positions would you be willing to change, what sacrifice would you be willing to make, if “they” actually were in Boston?

Yet for some strange reason, the conspirators never brought the Islamic insurgency home. Sure, there was a string of foiled terror plots, but most people can’t remember the names of those hapless, sometimes comical individuals. In some of these cases it’s clear that the would-be terrorist never would have managed to actually carry out a terrorist attack were it not for some undercover agent feeding him the idea and setting him up with another undercover to sell him fake explosives. Okay, perhaps they can’t pull off a 9-11 every month, but why couldn’t there by a Paris-style shooting or at least a car bomb every few weeks or so? If the Boston marathon bombings were a false flag attack, what exactly were they supposed to make us do? Was there some massive military campaign the president wanted us to get behind that particular year? Do you remember them trying to push through some Draconian gun control legislation after that? You know, it’s almost as if the reason these terrorist attacks are so infrequent and random is because they aren’t being carried out by some shadowy state agency, but rather small cells and individuals with loose ideological links. Nah, it couldn’t be that.

I’m starting to think that this false flag business is just a little too convenient. What if ISIL is a false false flag? In other words, terrorists carry out a “fishy” attack so as to embarrass the US government, thus distracting us from their real plan. Perhaps they actually work for another government. Or what if they are indeed working for the US government, but they are deliberately pulling off obvious false flag attacks because they realize that some false flag attacks need to look more real than others? A false false false flag, if you will.  Hey I’m just asking questions here! What’s wrong with asking questions?

Oh RT! (cue laugh track, credits)

Are you ready for WACKY HYJINKS with the funniest guys East of the Baltics? Better tune in to RT this week and see what CRAZY ideas they’ll come up with next.  For example, if you follow the news on president Putin’s official websites, you probably already know that Putin, in a special phone call to French president Hollande, personally gave his condolences to the families and friends of the victims in Wednesday’s Charlie Hebdo terrorist attack:

Vladimir Putin expressed his sincere condolences to Francois Hollande and the people of France following the terrorist attack on the Charlie Hebdo newspaper office.

The President of Russia condemned this barbaric act and expressed hope that its perpetrators will be found and receive the punishment they deserve. Mr Putin asked Francois Hollande to express words of deep sympathy and support to the families of the victims and wishes for a speedy recovery to the injured.

Francois Hollande thanked Vladimir Putin for his expression of friendship.

Russia’s foreign ministry also made a statement of condolences to the victims and the people of France. The link is only in Russian at the moment, but it stresses the need for “active cooperation in the fight against the threat of terrorism.”

The tone of Russia’s state-run media is a bit different, though. Literally the day after the attack, RT published this piece, entitled: “Who profits from killing Charlie?” As you might have guessed, less than a day after the attack “Pepe” Escobar, internet detective extraordinaire, has decided this attack looks a little too convenient to be a run-of-the-mill terrorist operation. No, even though the journal apparently received threats for years, in spite of the fact that their offices had been firebombed for the same reasons associated with the fanatics responsible for Wednesday’s shooting, this whole thing is just a little too coincidental! I mean come on, people who continually issued death threats and committed acts of arson eventually ended up making good on their promises of blood? Nice try, liberal media.

Obviously I’m not going to spend time debunking this idiotic theory, especially since not all the details in the case are even known. I do want to highlight a couple of things, though.

Pepe’s thesis

A pro-style jihadist commando attack in Europe’s heart. Cui bono?

Careful planning and preparation, Kalashnikovs, rocket-propelled grenade launcher, balaclavas, sand-colored ammunition vest stuffed with spare magazines, army boots, easy escape in a black Citroen…

And the icing on this particularly lethal cake: faultless Paris-based logistical support to pull it all off. A former top French military commander, Frédéric Gallois, has stressed the perfect application of “urban guerrilla technique” (where are those notorious Western counter-terrorism “experts” when one needs them?)

I’m looking at this and can’t even find a place to start. There is simply too much raw, concentrated idiocy contained in these two paragraphs. I will say this though, if you ever want to plan a terrorist attack and pull it off with efficiency, at least 90% of the information you need is right in front of your face. You’re on it now, this thing called the internet. Other than that, you can train in the woods with airsoft weapons, or as it might be the case in this situation, you can go to some foreign country and join an insurgency already in practice. Every day thousands of people around the world are engaging in paramilitary training, sometimes just for fun. Also in light of the fact that Russian officials have been using this as an example of why the West shouldn’t see Russia as the main threat, wouldn’t the most obvious conspiracy theory say that the Russians were behind the attack? Cui bono, remember?

I’m going to stop now. There is no point in arguing with someone who produces such stupidity within the first few lines of his article. I know he already decided this was a “false flag” before the blood dried. That’s how these people work. They’re so much smarter than all us dupes who believe the “mainstream media.” If only we just accept their alternative explanations and spread them around, then…something would…happen. Remember  when they said 9-11 was an inside job and published hundreds if not thousands of books on the subject since 2001? Remember how radically this message changed our society, spurring people on to revolution? Okay, in more than a decade that revolution still hasn’t happened. But with this new false flag theory plus the 9-11 inside job claims, 2015 could be the year for radical revolution! Please just listen to me! I’m important! I know what’s really going on!

Seriously, fuck that guy. His article isn’t even the first example of Russian conspiracy theories I’ve seen on the net, blaming the attack on the US to “punish” Hollande for backing down on sanctions. No doubt other state-owned media outlets in Russia have already allowed this theory to leak out. All this is going on while Putin and Lavrov express their “sincere” condolences to the French people and the families of the victims. That shows you how trustworthy they are.  And before you object to that, yes, Putin has a direct line to all state run media in Russia via his personal press secretary Dmitry Peskov.

Since this is all rather depressing, I’d like to point out some highlights found in the comments section, always a gathering of great minds on any RT article. It’s sure to lift you up after reading that depressing garbage they subjected us to.

This comment is from a user named “justiceforall,” but I think the real culprit is “doge.”

“Wow

RT Amazing journalism.

This is the new Intercept!!”

WOW! Much journalism! Such recovery will take 2 years but is inevitable because the global economy will grow!

WOW! Much journalism! Such recovery will take 2 years but is inevitable because the global economy will grow!

Like on most sites, comments can be voted up or down by other readers. That one had a rating of +1. Keep that in mind.

This next comment is a spam message that managed to get by their mods. It had a negative rating of -2:

I was without work for 6 months when my former Co-worker finally recommended me to start freelancing from home… It was only after I earned $5000 in my first month when I actually believed I could do this for a living! Now I am happier than ever… I work from home and I am my own boss now like I always wanted… I see a lot of unhappy people around me, working the same old boring job that’s sucking the life out of them day by day… Everytime I see someone like that I say START FREELANCING MAN! This is where I started

✒✒✒✒✒✒✒✒ w­w­w­.J­o­b­s­7­0­0.­c­o­m

If he/she works from home, who are all those unhappy people they see around them? Their partner and children? I’m calling bullshit.

The next comment actually displays critical thinking and a concern for journalism.

International news sites have a duty to provide factual news articles with evidence and sources. RT is not a tabloid a columnist can just spurt an entirely opinionated article on. Granted western media isn’t unbiased and doesn’t always give the facts. But ignoring facts completely and having an article like this which is only fit for a tabloid, discredits this site (I am an avid reader).

If this article provide some factual basis, evidence or quoted sources, and was less rambling. It would be acceptable, as it is, this article isn’t worthy of RT and should be trashed.

What rating did other readers give that comment? Minus 9.

Fuck RT.

Left contrarianism

I know I’m going to take some flak for this, but here it goes. Anytime a tragedy is politicized, or in other words almost every time a tragedy occurs, people from all points on the political spectrum will express their opinions on the matter. I do not expect them to shut up any time soon. I’m simply focusing on the left in this case because I see this as my side and I do not care what antics the right chooses to engage in during this situation.  I am not responsible for them because I do not associate with them.

As the reader has no doubt guessed by now I’m referring to the reactions from yesterday’s attack on the Charlie Hedbo office in Paris, which left 12 people dead. By no means, however, is this the only example of the phenomenon I’m starting to take issue with, which for lack of a better word I shall dub ”leftist contrarianism.” I’m using this as a case study because it is the most recent example.

Left contrarianism is this tendency to see masses of people grieving over some kind of tragedy or outrage, and then instead of saying something empathetic so as to attract the masses’ attention one tries to say something totally contrarian so as to sound edgy or subversive. Perhaps at times it’s an attempt to sound more righteous than the current cause, but it fails nonetheless. I just want to share a few of the “leftist” responses I’ve seen since this tragedy, and explain why they are logically flawed. After that, I’ll discuss why this is a really shitty approach to politics and how it alienates the masses, the people any progressive movement should care about the most.

What about Michael Brown, Eric Garner, John Crawford, etc.? 

Who said that we’re supposed to stop being concerned for those travesties of justice? Does showing sympathy for ordinary people getting gunned down in an act of premeditated murder exclude continuing to speak out against unwarranted police violence? Seems to me like these two causes go together pretty well, seeing as how they both share a very simple message- “Don’t shoot people.”

What about drone wars, Syria, etc.? 

Again, there is no reason why a person can’t express sympathy for the victims of the Charlie Hebdo shooting and continue to condemn the wars that are waged by the US, NATO, Russia, etc. Yes, this can be a good opportunity explain how Western foreign policy contributes to the spread of terrorism, or the inconsistency of fighting radical Salafists in one country while supporting them or at least looking the other way when they happen to be fighting an unfriendly regime. The thing is, there’s a right and a very wrong time to bring this issue up. The day after it happens would be the wrong time.

But Charlie Hebdo sometimes published racist and Islamophobic images

Indeed. I’m sure they published sexist and perhaps homophobic images as well. Does that deserve capital punishment? They also made fun of Islamophobes and right-wingers like Le Pen. It’s not like this was some kind of right-wing political propaganda organ which was deliberately trying to whip up pogroms against Muslims. We’re not talking about Julius Streicher here. Keep in mind that throughout the world there are leftists, including Communists and anarchists,  who have been killed by radicals with the same ideology as those killers in Paris.

Racism, sexism, and xenophobia are just a few of many social ills in our society. Chances are that you, at some point in your life, have been guilty of one if not all of these things. What if an offended gunman had got to you then? Keep in mind these are working people, working for a publication which must attract readers to survive. Are you sure that the company you work for is squeaky clean? What if you work for the state?

Lastly, if you think these guys’ jokes deserved the death penalty, why don’t you put your money where your mouth is. Are you prepared to go gun down Louis CK or Dave Chapelle? Both of them have made plenty of racist jokes in their career.  Here’s a tip, a lot of people secretly realize that they have racist or sexist impulses. They’d probably be a lot more open to talking about them and working them out if they didn’t think you’re advocating that they be shot for them.

But freedom of speech is a liberal idea! 

Yes, yes, I know “freedom of the press is freedom for those who own a press.” I know that freedom of speech is never absolute, nor is it entirely fair in a capitalist society. By no means does this mean it isn’t real or can’t be quantified. Plenty of people in Russia and numerous other countries can tell you all about what it’s like not to enjoy the level of freedom of speech you have in countries like France, the UK, or the all-time winner for freedom of speech, the United States. This isn’t liberalism nor patriotism, it is a statement of fact. It is really fucking hard to get so much as indicted for making public statements or publishing things in the US.

Yes, the American corporate media can easily drown out dissenting voices. You know what they can’t do? They can’t get the state to open a bogus legal case against you or have police sent to search your home because you published something that fell under the ill-defined label of “extremism.” These are things that actually happen to people in most of the world.

It’s true that people are often hypocrites when it comes to free speech- They will often call for the banning or restriction of speech they don’t like. That being said, people generally do not like the idea of being punished for saying, writing, or drawing the wrong thing. If they believe that we will place all kinds of restrictions on them were we to achieve any measure of power, they will be put off by us. Also keep in mind that leftists have also often been the target of censorship by self-appointed moral police.  Perhaps you need a refresher course about the abolitionists, labor organizers, socialists, anarchists, and Communists who were jailed, lynched, or shot for speaking out for equality and social justice.

Pretty much everything I’ve seen that fits into this category of contrarianism is just a variant on one of those themes. Whatever form it takes, and whatever the event, left contrarianism always seems to raise its head.  Why is this such a problem? Let me make it perfectly clear: It makes you look like a total asshole with no empathy. 

You don’t come off as subversive or revolutionary. You come off as a dick. Here you have these people who are just expressing grief and condolences and in comes what seems like a Che T-shirt wearing college student to make sure everyone knows they are all wrong and that they should be talking about his or her favorite topic.  Yes, I realize that this discourse attract Islamophobic bigots. Save your anger and arguments for them, not people who are just trying to show a little empathy. It’s not that you look like a dick just because you’re telling them they aren’t caring about the right issues. You’re also making an unjust assumption that they have no concern with those issues you think they need to be talking about right now, when the blood has barely dried. That, my friend, makes you a giant dick.

Oh yes, I know that saying “Je suis Charlie” doesn’t actually help anyone. But go back through all your status updates that “express solidarity” for workers in Bangladesh or the residents of Gaza. Are you sure that does so much more? Yes, it is pretty oblivious when a white female college student at a protest says, “I am Mike Brown.” Does she need some explanation from the people around her about why that is problematic? Yes. Does she need dozens of people attacking her for being so out-of-touch thanks to her privilege? What about the fact that in spite of her privilege, she has enough empathy and sensitivity to understand that a white woman should care when unarmed black people are gunned down by cops. Do you need someone to constantly remind you that your ” statement of solidarity with the people of Gaza” doesn’t alleviate their suffering in the slightest, and most likely there is nobody in Gaza who even knows you exist?

Progressive politics are supposed to be based on empathy. That’s what made abolitionists look at slaves in chains and in spite of the law, the prevailing ideas of the time, and the danger that opposing either of those posed to one’s person and still loudly say, “No, they are not property, they are human beings!” This is what made Marx, an intellectual, and Engels, an actual factory owner, look at the plight of industrial workers and realize that for all its progress, capitalism was an inherently immoral system that needed to be abolished.

Indeed, people must be made to see the big picture and understand the structural, systemic factors which make tragedies like this possible. They need to understand that just as these gunmen had no concern for the humanity of their targets in Paris, governments exercises no more compassion when a 19-year UAV pilot is ordered to fire a missile at “suspected militants” who may well be unarmed villagers.  The thing is that you have to make them see how these things are connected, how they need to stand up for those powerless, impoverished people thousands of miles away and not just the urban office workers whose lives resemble their own. You don’t do this by attacking people when they express sympathy for latter.

In short, if the left wants to start winning for a change, it had better start recognizing the importance and power of people’s emotions. If we don’t, rest assured the right has that mastered. They will seize upon people’s empathy and turn it into fear, outrage, and finally hatred and a lust for vengeance. We will be portrayed as self-righteous hypocrites. Do you really want those bigots to score such an easy victory? Have they not had enough triumphs in the past few decades for us to wake up and realize that what we’ve been doing all this time hasn’t been working? Left wing politics are about the masses, and yet all we’ve seen since about the 1980’s is the left continually alienating those masses and turning into a university-based subculture while the right-wing all over the world wins over the working class again and again. Maybe it’s time to stop being a contrarian asshole and start learning how to deal with people, don’t you think?

Even MORE tough questions

This morning I awoke to find that terrorists had staged an attack in central Grozny, the capital of the Chechen Republic. The rebels, associated with the so-called Caucasian Emirate, took over the press house, a multistory building.  From the beginning official statements changed rapidly. At first police forces supposedly suffered zero casualties including wounded. Later it was reported that several traffic police died. Hours ago it was said that there were six fighters. Now it has been reported that there were ten, all killed.

It’s unlikely we’ll have any idea as to what actually took place. There are some bizarre details about the attack, however. For one thing, videos of the attack show large caliber machine guns, possibly auto-cannons, firing into the building from what appears to be a considerable distance.  The video below best shows this distance.

This is quite an odd response to a handful of men bearing only small arms. Suppose security forces had been misinformed as to the location of the insurgents, causing them to fire 14.5mm or even 30mm rounds into civilian-occupied structures. This would have caused a massacre. But what is even stranger is the results of the attack, as seen below.

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This is the building in which the 10 insurgents were allegedly holed up. It’s anyone’s guess as to who destroyed the UAZ in the left foreground. It’s obvious that a lot of ordnance was expended on the building, quite a lot for 6-10 insurgents without heavy weapons. Was there really no dead space from which security forces could infiltrate the building? Why were they firing with such heavy weapons from so great a distance?

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It’s not clear where this photo was taken. Were there insurgents here? Who actually caused the damage?

It’s still early, but it seems as though either the security forces were utterly incompetent(par for the course in Russia), or there were more than ten insurgents and Kadyrov and Putin are trying to downplay how coordinated the attack was. Even if it was just ten guys, this could have been some kind of test to probe the security forces’ response.

Shit just got real, folks.

UPDATE:

I was just given a link to this RT video, which shows security forces using RPGs on the building. We can also see BTR armored vehicles firing on the building with their 14.5mm KPV machine guns. It also appears that more than one building was occupied. How ten men managed to hold out in two buildings against such firepower is unknown.