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AlterNet / Rupert Murdoch Seems to Have Forgotten That He Fired Bill O'Reilly
« Last post by AlterNet on Today at 06:02:47 PM »
Rupert Murdoch Seems to Have Forgotten That He Fired Bill O'Reilly


He claims the only sexual harassment problem Fox News had was Roger Ailes.


In light of the news that the Walt Disney Company had reached a deal to acquire most of 21st Century Fox, executive co-chairman Rupert Murdoch spoke to Sky News TV about the move and other business matters at the empire.

But when the topic of sexual harassment allegations came up and whether they affected the network, Murdoch called the accusations "nonsense."

"It's all nonsense," he said. "There was a problem with our chief executive, over the year, isolated incidents." Former Fox News CEO Roger Ailes stepped down in 2016 after over 20 women accused him of sexual harassment, and News Corp paid $45 million in settlements related to those allegations. Upon his departure, Ailes was awarded a $40 million exit package.

Murdoch told Sky News TV, "As soon as we investigated he was out of the place in hours ? well three or four days. And there has been nothing else since then."

Since then, since Ailes left News Corp, there has actually been quite a bit else.

The network's biggest star, Bill O'Reilly was fired in April following numerous sexual harassment allegations and after the New York Times discovered that Fox had paid at least $13 million in settlements over complaints made against him. The network also terminated host Eric Bolling in September, after Huff Post reported that Bolling had sent unsolicited pictures of his genitalia to at least three female colleagues. Host Chris Payne was also suspended this summer after allegations of sexual harassment. He was later reinstated.

Murdoch claims the accusations were "largely political because we are conservative. The liberals are going down the drain. NBC is in deep trouble."

The media industry, like Hollywood, the food industry and politics, has come under scrutiny for a culture of predation by men in power and systematic sexual misconduct. From NBC's Matt Lauer, to CBS's Charlie Rose, to PBS's Tavis Smily, allegations of sexual harassment or assault have not been confined to conservatives. But to ignore how pervasive allegations specifically at Fox News have been is a very selective understanding of this current moment.

"There are really bad cases and people should be moved aside," Murdoch said. "There are other things ? which probably amount to a bit of flirting." According to Sky News, the 86-year-old said that he did not believe sexual misconduct allegations had "affected investor sentiment towards his businesses."

 

 

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Source: Rupert Murdoch Seems to Have Forgotten That He Fired Bill O'Reilly
2
AlterNet / The FCC Just Voted to End the Internet as We Know It?Now What?
« Last post by AlterNet on Today at 06:05:17 AM »
The FCC Just Voted to End the Internet as We Know It?Now What?


The pathways net neutrality activists see to keep equal access to the internet, and how feasible they are.


While hundreds of activists rallied outside the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and millions more held their breath, FCC commissioners voted 3-2 to give the keys of the internet to the Telecoms without charging them a single dime. Verizon, AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Comcast got permission to take control of the crown jewel of U.S. communications and with it, draw up their own policies in providing services to customers. The Telecoms could conceivably end or limit access to websites of their choosing, create fast lanes for higher paying ?priority? customers and/or slow down (throttle) data to lower priority customers.

Internet advocates did raise enough public interest to submit millions of comments to the FCC, urging them not to end Internet Freedom. The public also made over a million phone calls to congressional offices, demanding their representatives keep the internet free and open with equal access to all users.

Surely those comments and calls wouldn?t fall on deaf ears. But that?s exactly what happened Thursday. Led by Ajit Pai, the FCC voted along party lines to gut Title II regulations of the Communications Act of 1934. The vote was in keeping with the Trump administration?s agenda to deregulate wherever possible, ceding any public good to corporations.

Internet advocates have been warning since 2014 what this vote would do to public information access, small businesses viability, tech innovation and free speech. When then FCC Commissioner Tom Wheeler first proposed ending Net Neutrality in 2014, advocates succeeded in leveraging political support through grassroots organizing to keep the FCC from stripping Title II in 2015. The internet was saved.

But this time, grassroots organizing fell short. Net advocates were unable to navigate the new playing field at the FCC when Trump appointees tilted it sharply in favor of the Telecoms.

FCC Commissioner Ajai Pai was at the FCC in 2014 and witnessed what pitfalls he needed to avoid and how he needed to get ready for the storm of Net Neutrality advocates who would return in 2017. Ajai Pai was previously a lawyer for Verizon, which will benefit if Title II deregulation survives the coming court battles and subsequent votes in Congress to affirm the FCC vote. Pai is certain to have a job waiting for him once he leaves the FCC.

Options For Challenging FCC Vote

Don?t panic. The internet isn?t dead yet.

Anticipating this vote, the NY State District Attorney Eric Schneiderman, had already filed a lawsuit against the vote within minutes of the FCC vote. This suit was joined by several other states. It will tie up Title II deregulation in federal court for the rest of 2017 and into 2018.

The Government Accounting Office already has been sent a congressional request to investigate the FCC over a Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack it claimed occurred during a peak in comments prompted by a parody skit by John Oliver. It was the second time the comedian spoofed FCC attempts to gut Title II. It worked in 2014, helping to draw in millions of open internet supporters.

The FCC dragged its feet in releasing data about the DDoS attack in an FOIA request. The GAO has not finished its investigation and has yet to release its report to Congress.

Another possible way to gain traction to roll back the FCC vote is known as the Congressional Review Act (CRA). Congress could conceivably vote to force the FCC to return Title II to its previous language under this act. But the public pressure would have to be intense to get the Republican-led Senate and House to go this route. And it?s not likely this would happen, according to Kevin Zeese of Popular Resistance.

Nearly 83% of the public supports Net Neutrality, according to a poll conducted by the Program for Public Consultation at the University of Maryland. The poll found that 75% of Republicans, 86% of Independents, and 89% of Democrats oppose ending Net Neutrality. With a national consensus in favor of Net Neutrality, it?s a risky move politically for Congress to vote in support of the FCC vote.

There are grounds to file additional lawsuits. An analysis by data scientists at the Pew Center showed that only 6% of the comments contained unique language. Most comments were robo-generated and of those, 37% that were in support of ending Net Neutrality were sent from seven email addresses using similar language, according to the report. And one significant anomaly in the data showed thousands were sent at the same time.

Another area of concern involves submissions of comments using emails not authorized by the owners. The emails were allegedly stolen, according to a lawsuit filed in New York District Court. ?Millions of fake comments have corrupted the FCC public process ? including two million that stole the identities of real people, a crime under New York law,? said Attorney General Schneiderman in a letter published December 13.

Challenges Ahead

Open internet advocates must leverage the overwhelming bipartisan national support they?ve gained and convert it into political power. They will have to stir up public interest enough to make it too toxic for Congress to support the FCC vote. They succeeded brilliantly in 2015, even when the odds were stacked against them. The question is, can it be done again?

 

 

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Source: The FCC Just Voted to End the Internet as We Know It?Now What?
3
Richard Mellor / Alabama Elections: Serious Questions for Socialists
« Last post by Richard Mellor on Yesterday at 06:07:40 PM »
Alabama Elections: Serious Questions for Socialists

     
"Even though we had slavery...our families were strong our country had a direction." Roy Moore, US Politician 2017
Comrades this is a discussion document from Sean O?Torain and Richard Mellor, co-founders of Facts For Working People Blog and Think Tank.  Facts For Working People (FFWP) seeks to be a Think Tank for working people that can help workers like ourselves clarify issues and positions, strategy and tactics, that are related to the struggle of the working class against capitalism.

Those of us around the FFWP, whoever we are, whatever we are, determinedly struggle against the danger of having ideas that are set in stone. Unlike in the past when we thought we knew everything, through defeats and setbacks we came to realize we did not know everything and as a result are now in a position to know more. That is of course, as long as we face openly and state openly, our mistakes. As Joyce said, mistakes if faced up to are portals of discovery.  We have principles but we are against repeating parrot fashion, without a thought, the old formulae. We are putting our names to to this statement as the other comrades who are on our listserve and who come on our FFWP conference calls have not had time to read it and give their opinions. We are responsible for its content.

We want all those people around and involved with FFWP to have a chance to openly discuss this issue and express their agreements or disagreements in an open public discussion. We hope that others who are not involved with FFWP but who read our Blog and who will read this on our Blog will also express their views, agreements or disagreements. We hope for an open public discussion. We encourage people to add their comments in the comments section below.

We have been posing for some time the following question: Why has the left failed to put down roots in the working class? We are confining our thoughts in this post to the left in the US at this stage. When we speak of the left here we include those within organizations which consider themselves revolutionary socialist and also and more importantly the tens and tens of thousands who consider themselves revolutionary socialists who are not in any organization, many of whom who were at one time or another in a revolutionary organization. There are also the hundreds of thousands, in fact millions, in the US who in polls "favor socialism over capitalism" but we will leave these aside for the moment. Not that they are unimportant but it is easier for us to address the issue we wish to address by focusing on those who consider themselves revolutionary socialists.

We also ask Comrades to think about the ideas we raise in the context of the most conscious anti-racist anti-sexist workers, especially African American women workers in Alabama and throughout the US. How would the ideas we raise here, the position we advocate here be seen amongst these sectors?

So to take the plunge. The Alabama elections. The result was a setback for Trump and Trumpism. It was a victory for the rising women's movement. It was a victory for the anti-racist forces in the country. And whether it knows it or not, and most of the working class do not yet know it, it was a victory for the working class. If this does not sound correct consider if the creature Moore had won. The extreme right, the racist and sexist reactionaries, the ?take the US back to slavery? crowd as Moore just about said, their tails would be up. There would be crosses burning, lighted torches being carried as there was in Charlottesville, racist, sexist louts and thugs marching.

Instead, the effect of the result of this election has been the opposite. These forces have been set back. This was demonstrated by the sight of the extreme reactionary degenerate, ex Harvard, ex Goldman Sachs, Trump crony, Bannon, running from the media with his mouth shut jumping into his big chauffeur driven SUV and fleeing into the night. On the other hand the effect that the Jones victory has had on the anti-Trump forces has been to raise their heads and add impetus to the anti Trump resistance. We believe this is indisputable. You only have to look around you and listen. So what conclusions for revolutionaries? But first the objective processes behind the defeat of Moore.

The short article on the Blog on the Alabama result made some points concerning why this defeat of Moore came about. The changed conditions in the economies of the Southern states is important, particularly the increased industrialization, a result of which has been the increase in numbers and diversity of the working class, and along with this the increased consciousness and power of women workers, especially African American women workers who turned out in massive numbers to put down Moore.

It is possible that we can say today that the most conscious section of the US working class at this time is the African American women workers.  FFWP has been insisting for years now that one important feature of the class relations world wide is the increased power and struggles of women as they entered the paid workforce in their hundreds of millions. Our blog has argued that any organization that does not recognize this and look critically at its policies and organizational approach, both external and internal, with this in mind, will play no positive role of any significance. It should also be noted that as part of the rising of the women against the sexual predatory culture we are now seeing increased movements to organize in unions from the mainly women workers in the hotels and service industries. We have been right to stress the need to organize into democratic fighting unions as the way to fight the sexual predatory culture. Unfortunately most of the left as far as we can see have not done this. In part, this is a result of most of the left being swept along the road of identity politics and letting the class divide and the class struggle fall behind or even be ignored in the battle against the predatory culture.

In the article on the Blog on the Alabama election result we have pointed to another factor that is not insignificant. That is where the more strategic section of the bourgeois in Alabama through their mouthpiece Shelby, the senior Senator, came out and openly opposed Moore. We intend to write more on this issue. This development is important in relation to the future of the Trump regime and the most strategic section of the bourgeois. It looks like the Republicans are building to remove Mueller. If they do so, this will throw US bourgeois politics and the bourgeois institutions into further crisis. If they do not, we believe it highly likely that Mueller will expose crimes by Trump and there will be a move to bring him down. This will also mean a deepening of the political crisis of US capitalism and a weakening of its institutions. Either way, US bourgeois politics heads deeper into crisis.  But this is another, though related story.

We are putting this statement on our Blog for anybody to see. We realize this will give ammunition to sectarian groupings and individuals to slander us as supporters of the Democrats. But as we say we do not look over our shoulders at the petit bourgeois sectarian left, we look over our shoulders at the working class, especially the most thinking conscious and active sections of the working class. We hope that by putting this statement on our public Blog that we can develop our Blog further as a type of informal Think Tank for working people. There is a form of intimidation of thought among much of the left. This paralyses the left. This freezes the thought of the left. The authors of this statement speak of our thought being unshackled compared to when we were, in and later expelled from, left organizations. 

We are strongly committed to open discussion and to expressing what we consider our mistakes and the mistakes of the left, we will not be intimidated, we will not look over our shoulder at what the sectarian left might think and say. We consider our ideas in the light of what the most conscious and thinking sections of the working class might think and say.   

So to the meat of this post: What should serious revolutionaries have said and done in the run up to the Alabama election? In thinking about this let us not just consider this question in the context of just being a few people, or even just having a Blog with a not insignificant following, but think about it from the point of view of either trying to build a base in Alabama or even more so if we had a base in Alabama which could influence thousands of people. In other words, consider if we had, or if there already existed, a small workers party in Alabama which say could influence 5% to 10% of the vote. Richard one of the two signatories of this statement when he stood for Oakland City council many years ago won 6% of the vote. So what about the election in Alabama?

We wish to pose this. We may be wrong and if so we wish to be corrected through comradely reasoned exchange of ideas. Whether revolutionary socialists had a base in Alabama or not we are considering that in this election if we had not taken the position to defeat Moore, we would have been ignored or if we had a base we would have lost that base. Or if we tried to get a base in the future we would have always been asked what position did we take in this election.  This is where this issue is related to why the left have not put down roots in the working class. We know there are other issues, the objective situation, the sectarianism, the ultra leftism, the opportunism of the left, that has made it difficult for the left to put down roots, but there is also this issue of ignoring the real genuine movements and struggles and consciousness of the working class, of different layers of the working class and how events effect the class balance of forces and the mass consciousness.

We wish to propose that it would not have been enough to just say we were against Moore for all the reasons we are familiar with and we are sure our readers would agree with. We believe that we would have had to go further and call for a vote for Jones. There we have taken the plunge. Call for a vote for a Democrat? Yes that is what we are saying. We do not think we would have been able to gain the ear of the most conscious and especially the African American workers in this race if we had not said this. We do not believe these workers would have listened us to. But not only that, we believe we would have to have called for a vote for Jones, we would have to have recognized what just about every thinking worker knew and especially the African American workers knew and especially the African American women and some white women workers knew, and that is that Jones winning would push the balance of forces in the country further to the side of the anti Trump movement.

A Moore victory would have raised the heads of the Trump coming movement after the election of Trump in 2016.   Jones winning has strengthened the anti Trump movement.  One of us was with their companion on the night of the election. She hates Trump and all he stands for with a powerful rage. When he said that he would not rule out Jones winning. She said: ?I do not want to hear it, I do not want to get my hopes up?. Then the results began to come in. And as Jones crept up and into the lead and then won, her mood was transformed. Her hopes were then up! The anti Trump movements' hopes are now also up. These movements have been strengthened.

Having said this, it is necessary to go further. It is necessary to add to the position of a vote for Jones. It would have been necessary not just to say vote for Jones, to come out and vote for Jones, but it would have been necessary, yes essential to have explained clearly that while we would have called for a vote for Jones we did not do so because we supported the capitalist Democratic Party, we do not, but we called for a vote for Jones because we wanted to deal a blow to the Trump forces and add fuel to the anti Trump movement.

This is how our vote would have been cast. We oppose the capitalist Republican and Democratic parties and will always do so. We would have explained that we were calling for a vote for Jones, as this election was extremely significant in terms of the balance of forces in the country. Vote for Jones because a defeat for Moore would mean increasing the strength and morale of the anti Trump forces. Vote for Jones in order to make the ground more favorable for the struggles of the working class, the anti racist and anti sexist forces. However. And it is an essential ?However?. We do not leave it there.
While advocating a vote for Jones, and if we had forces working for a vote for Jones, we would have explained on what basis we were doing so, that we were doing so on a certain basis. We would have explained that calling for a vote for Jones did not mean we were supporting the capitalist Democratic Party but as we have already said we would have been doing so to improve the ground on which the rising women's movement, the rising anti racist movement, and the rising workers movement that is inevitable in the period ahead, are fighting and will fight.

And along with this and an essential part of this while advocating a vote for Jones to defeat Moore and his crew, and to make the ground more favorable for the struggle of the working class and all oppressed minorities and people, we would have advocated and built for the following alternative: 

Build an alliance/united front against the capitalist agenda using mass direct action tactics. Organize the unorganized using the tactics, which built the unions in the 1930?s------mass occupations, mass confrontations with the state and anti union forces on the streets. Build a mass workers party by going to the rank and file in the unions and the workplaces and our communities mobilizing support for resolutions to this end.

And equally essential: Build as part of all these struggles a revolutionary socialist current based on the ideas and principles of revolutionary socialism. And do so in a non-sectarian manner. That is, throughout this entire process we recruit and build a revolutionary current with its roots in the working class. We believe this approach properly explained would be understood and supported by every thinking worker. 

At this stage we anticipate outraged cries from some left groups and individuals that we are committing the sin of sins of supporting a Democrat. We will not be intimidated by such calls. We put our position out here for discussion. We think that serious workers and activists will give it thought. As well as anticipating the cries of horror that we as revolutionary socialists would advocate voting for a Democrat we also believe that there are tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands of thinking workers out there who hate the Democrats, see their pro capitalist role but who also see the dilemma that existed in Alabama.

We anticipate that these serious workers will give consideration to our position and we believe many will support the position we advocate here.

It is of course possible that we may be wrong. We hope for feed back from readers.  So please let us have your views. Part of the change in the way we the undersigned work is we have broken from the method of so much of the left where mistakes were never acknowledged and where a culture existed in which everybody was afraid to test out ideas. We realize that we are testing an idea here; we think what we advocate is correct. We recognize that testing an idea always involves risk. But as Lenin wrote quoting the Russian revolutionary Chernyshevsky, ?Historical action is not the pavement of Nevsky Prospekt.?, a main thoroughfare in Leningrad.

The revolution is not that. It involves risks, involves necks been stuck out. It is worth quoting Chernyevsky in full. He actually wrote: ?The path of history is not paved like Nevsky Prospekt; it runs across fields, either dusty or muddy, and cuts through swamps or forest thickets. Anyone who fears being covered with dust or muddying his boots, should not engage in social activity.?  *

Having said this, we trust that class conscious workers and activists will approach this issue seriously and with the aim not to score points but to help clarify strategies and tactics for the class struggle. And we trust ourselves to consider all ideas seriously and if we are convinced we are mistaken to admit openly and in a comradely fashion that we are wrong. At this stage we do not think we are.   In some cases when comradely differences remain we allow objective circumstances determine what worked and what didn?t, what would work and what would not. It is a serious mistake to never change one?s mind in the face of changed conditions and experiences.

We would just like to add one point, or rather to re-make one point a little sharper. Imagine if the revolutionary left had had a party in Alabama where it could have won 5 or 10 percent of the vote and it had run a candidate or advocated a write in for its candidate and this allowed Moore in. That party would have never recovered. It would never be known as a revolutionary socialist party, it would forever be known as the "let Moore in party". The stain would have been indelible. And this would not only have very seriously damaged that party but it would have seriously damaged all socialist parties and all socialists. One of the reasons we think this is so important is that in the future there will most likely be opportunities for the left in various places to form sizable parties, especially as the trade union leadership will not move until they are forced to by a movement from below.

And in such cases where small left parties would develop such tactical issues as this one would mean the difference between such a party having a future and not having a future, would mean the difference between all the work of the members of that small party being wiped out or being maintained and remain in a position to be built upon.

We hope comrades will let us have their opinions. And we hope that it will be possible to have a sober comradely discussion on the issues we have raised here.
Comradely, Sean O'Torain. Richard Mellor.
12-15-17

Source: Alabama Elections: Serious Questions for Socialists
4
AlterNet / Trump's Popularity Is Plummeting Among Fox News Viewers
« Last post by AlterNet on Yesterday at 06:07:38 PM »
Trump's Popularity Is Plummeting Among Fox News Viewers


A new poll finds his net favorability has dropped from 90 to 58 percent since June.


 

Trump?s Popularity Is Plummeting Among Fox News Fans

President Donald Trump loves Fox News, but fans of the conservative-leaning network are starting to like him a lot less. In June, 90 percent of respondents in a Suffolk University poll who said they trust Fox over other news networks viewed Trump favorably, but by October, approval had fallen to 74 percent and plummeted to 58?


 

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Source: Trump's Popularity Is Plummeting Among Fox News Viewers
5
What's It Gonna Be, White America? Will You Side with Roy Moore or Those Who Oppose Him?


The Alabama election has forced the country to make a moral choice.


"What Shall We Do With the White People?" is one of my favorite essays. Written in 1860 by an African-American school teacher and activist named William Wilson (aka "Ethiop"), it is a brilliant response to white supremacy and a white American society that projected pathology and inferiority onto black people as a means of legitimating slavery and all the exploitation, rape, murder and other abuse it entailed.

I read "What Shall We Do With the White People?" several times a year. It always makes me laugh. It also helps me make sense of the social and political insanity of this society, which for all its many positive social changes over the decades and centuries remains fundamentally organized to protect white privilege and the power of white people as a group.

As I watched tens of millions of white Americans elect a racist, sexist con man -- not to mention a carnival barker, professional liar, proud ignoramus and possible traitor -- as president of the United States, I thought back to the themes and questions of Ethiop's essay.

This week, as I watched Tuesday night's tight election contest between Roy Moore and Doug Jones in Alabama, I wondered again what we shall do with the white people.

As the world now knows, former U.S. attorney Jones, a Democrat, defeated former Alabama Supreme Court justice Moore, largely because of overwhelming support from the black community (especially black women). It was not a landslide victory. Jones won by about 20,000 votes out of 1.3 million cast, a margin of 1.5 percent.

Moore, who is by the preponderance of the evidence an adult sexual predator who targeted underage girls, won a majority among every category of white voter in Alabama. This was even true among college-educated white women.

Roy Moore, a man who wants to take away women's right to vote as well as control over their own bodies, won the votes of white women by a huge margin, 63 percent to 34 percent.

Roy Moore, a man who can reasonably be described as a Christian fascist -- a man who does not respect the U.S. Constitution and has spoken affectionately about the era of slavery, won every demographic of white voters by a large margin.

Roy Moore, a man whose apparent "godly" and "family values" include being a likely sexual predator and an unapologetic racist, won the self-described white evangelical vote by an overwhelming margin. This of course is no surprise.

Like Donald Trump, Roy Moore is not an aberration or outlier within today's Republican Party and broader conservative movement. The problem for Republican leaders is that both men are simply tactless and unapologetic in their racism, sexism, misogyny and bigotry. Republican voters (and the right-wing political machine) do not find such values abhorrent. They may prefer, however, that such values and beliefs are expressed more politely, through dog whistles and other cues that offer a veil of not-very-plausible deniability. It makes perfect sense that Trump embraced Moore's candidacy, despite the president's effort to walk back his endorsement after the fact.

Sociologist Michael Kimmel explained the toxic allure of sexism and racism for white Republican voters to me by email: "I think that the tradition which Moore represents is one of 'everyone knowing their place.' That is, women in the kitchen and black people subservient to whites. And in that sense, 'making American great again' is returning to that imagined era."

Of course, with Roy Moore, as with Trump, there is an obvious double standard that is one of the grossest examples of white privilege in recent memory. If a black man running for Senate were repeatedly accused of molesting young girls he would at the very least be run out of public life, and quite likely thrown in prison.

Moreover, imagine a scenario where a majority of black people in a given election had voted for a likely serial sexual abuser and pedophile. Both the right-wing and mainstream media would be hysterical, with wall-to-wall coverage and commentary. We would hear about the black community's "pathological" behavior and its "bad culture."

If black Christians cited scripture to make excuses for a man who by all accounts and preyed on underage girls for decades, sober people on television would call for a "national discussion" about whether the "black church" was a public menace. On cue, right-wing bloviators would issue poisonous rhetorical questions: Where are the black fathers? Where are the black leaders? Where do black people learn such values?

But because whiteness is by definition excluded from critical interrogation, these realities will be avoided by too many people.

Several days ago, I spoke be email with a friend who is a mentor to me. Although he would be quick to minimize his role in changing history, he is a brave and heroic person. In 1961, along with dozens of others, he helped black Americans in the Jim Crow South register to vote. My friend also risked his life to defend black Americans' human rights. Our conversations often revolve around an existential question: "What kind of white person do you want to be?" Because he is a philosopher and historian, my friend knows this is one of the most important (and unresolved) questions about the relationship between race and democracy in the United States.

Under Donald Trump this question resonates even more, in ways both familiar and new.

While watching the Alabama special election and reviewing the exit-poll data, I realized that such an existential question need not be directly asked for the answer to be apparent.

Tens of millions of white people voted for Donald Trump. Hundreds of thousands voted for Roy Moore. What kind of white people do they want to be? I think we know the answer. There are no good people who voted for Donald Trump and continue to support him. And there most certainly are no good people who voted for Roy Moore last Tuesday.

 

 

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Source: What's It Gonna Be, White America? Will You Side with Roy Moore or Those Who Oppose Him?
6
Richard Mellor / Marx: How Capitalism Works and Why it Doesn't.
« Last post by Richard Mellor on December 15, 2017, 06:05:59 PM »
Marx: How Capitalism Works and Why it Doesn't.


Richard Mellor
Afscme Local 444, retired

I shared this on Facebook already but it's just too good not to put on our blog. This man is a professor of management, so you are getting a brief and extremely good look at the crux of Marx's view of the world in particular his analysis of the capitalist mode of production, how we produce the necessities of life, and it's from a non Socialist or non Marxist. This rational explanation is very different as Marx is generally demonized and approached with extreme bias.

Even though it is a simple explanation, I know for a fact that most workers will still have some difficulty. The point is though that we never understand something the first time we approach it, we have to study and learn and familiarize ourselves with terms that we have not heard before. I know about this because I've experienced it and even in this simplified version, when I see symbols and letters replacing numbers, I get a bit frazzled.

The important aspect of Marx's view of the world though is it is concrete. As workers, sellers of our labor power, our life activity over a period of time, we can understand it in a real living way as it reflects objective reality we experience in the struggle for our material well being through work.

It's best when entering a new subject, particularly one that is so distorted and misrepresented by the paid experts of those whose world view is threatened by our understanding of how society really functions, to discuss with others, trade ideas about it and questions about it. That is why Facts For Working People blog has a workers "think tank" in order to develop a well rounded understanding of the world around us in the face of massive propaganda from the mass media and the institutions of education that are controlled by capitalism. The ruling class has hundreds of think tanks. Here they develop an understanding of the world that suits their interests and then act on it.  If you are a worker that reads our blog regularly we have weekly phone discussions and if you are interested in joining us send us an e mail. The address is on the right. Or contact us on our FB page, also on the right.

But Marx believed that the working class was the only true revolutionary class, the class that can change society. He did not state "Academics of the World Unite" or "Ph.D's of the world unite". This doesn't mean that these groups or individuals from them that put their skill and expertise at the service of the working class in it's struggle to transform society, can't be allies and play important roles, they already have, look at Marx. Che Guevara was from the middle class and died in allegiance with workers and the poor. But the wage workers, the mass of the people on this earth, cannot be subordinated to the worship of the intellectuals.

It was Michael Roberts, the Marxist economist whose writings we  feature regularly on this blog who helped bring this to the attention of a  wider audience seeing it as an excellent explanation of the basics. In the video the presenter says that Marxist economists  would be "appalled" at the simplicity of his presentation. It is to Roberts' credit that he is not "appalled" but praising of it. He sees it correctly explaining the subject that is reachable to the very audience that must know it if capitalism's destruction of life on earth is to be halted and a democratic socialist society built.
Source: Marx: How Capitalism Works and Why it Doesn't.
7
AlterNet / The Right Is Attempting to Roll Back the 20th Century
« Last post by AlterNet on December 15, 2017, 06:05:57 PM »
The Right Is Attempting to Roll Back the 20th Century


Author Nancy MacLean says Koch brothers and GOP want a new Gilded Age.


The Republican Party's "tax reform" bill has passed both chambers of Congress. After differences between the House and Senate version are worked out, it will likely soon be signed by President Donald Trump. This legislation is more than a grotesque effort to take money from the poor and working class and give it to the very richest Americans and corporations. In reality, it is an effort to wholly remake American society by undoing the social progress of the New Deal, the Great Society and the civil rights movement.

This effort has been met with surprisingly little resistance from the American people.

Why?

Unlike the Republicans and movement conservatives, the Democratic Party is terrible at translating complex questions of public policy into simple narratives that evoke emotion and, in turn, action from the American people. Moreover, while the Republican Party systematically works to roll back the 20th century by eliminating programs such as Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and the Affordable Care Act -- with the apparent goal of creating a Malthusian dystopia -- many prominent Democrats and other liberals are instead obsessed with enforcing purity tests for sexual harassment within their own party.

The mainstream news media has a very short attention span. The format of the 24/7 cable news cycle is also designed to avoid serious in-depth discussions of complex and important policy matters in favor of simple stories that generate ratings.

To a significant degree, the American people have been exhausted by Trump and the Republican Party's authoritarian and petit-fascist assaults on reality, truth and, yes, even the country's citizens. Many Americans have been driven into a sense of learned helplessness by Trump's presidential victory and the years of civic and cultural rot that enabled that outcome. Consequently, it has become difficult to imagine what a real and sustained resistance against the Republican Party, Donald Trump and the ascendant right would even look like.

How does the Republican tax bill fit into a larger strategy? Who are the "winners" and "losers"? What will the various factions in the right-wing coalition that forced through this bill receive for their machinations? In this radically revanchist effort to remake American society, how far back would the Republican Party and the Koch brothers like to take us? How can the American people fight back?

Ultimately, this assault on American democracy and society should not be a surprise. It has been operating both in the shadows and plain sight for decades. In an effort to understand the true goals and larger context for the Republican Party's tax reform legislation, I recently spoke with Nancy MacLean, the William H. Chafe Professor of History and Public Policy at Duke University. MacLean is also the author of the controversial new book "Democracy in Chains: The Deep History of the Radical Right?s Stealth Plan for America," which was nominated for the 2017 National Book Award.

A longer version of this conversation can be heard on my podcast, which is available on Salon?s Featured Audio page.

The Republican "tax reform" bill recently passed the Senate. It will be reconciled with the House version and signed by Donald Trump. This legislation can be described as a blueprint for changing American society in the vision of the most extreme elements of the right wing, including the Koch brothers, Christian fascists, plutocrats and others. You outlined their plan to undermine American society in "Democracy in Chains." How does it feel to be right?

I have a sinking feeling. I can see this thing happening and I can?t stop it. So it?s painful, actually, to be right.

Before we even get to the tax bill, let me point out that there are 30 states which are under the control of the Republican Party and the most extreme right-wing elements in the country. This tax bill, however one labels it, is intended to remake American society and government in order to push through an agenda that its advocates know is wholly unpopular and will only pass if they are dishonest about the goals involved. So instead, the Republican Party and right wing are operating by stealth. They?re moving with secrecy. They are planting things inside the bill that are like time bombs and the public does not seem to be paying any attention.

We have to help the American people understand the stealth dimensions of what the Republicans and the radical right have done with this tax bill, and also their efforts to destroy the Affordable Care Act. This legislation is being pushed through at breakneck speed and in violation of normal procedures. There were no public hearings. They did not have cost assessments. They did not allow debate.

In terms of the dishonest approach used to push this bill through, there are many examples. For example, in the near term, people will see tax cuts, but in the long term, they will see tax increases. That is particularly true for people [making less than] $75,000 a year in income. These are people who are probably the most stressed, probably working two jobs, who are not paying a lot of attention to what?s happening in the Senate for those reasons. Yet they are going to be the most hurt by this. This is so much more than a big giveaway of money to the rich. There will be huge automatic cuts to Medicare, Social Security and Medicaid that will come directly from the Republican decision to run up the deficit with these tax cuts.

When you combine this with the push for a constitutional convention, at which the No. 1 agenda item will be a balanced budget amendment -- put those things together, and this is a long-term stealth project to privatize Social Security and Medicare.

The Republicans intentionally created a budget "crisis" with this tax bill and then will claim there is an emergency that necessitates destroying Social Security, MedicareandMedicaid. It is obvious and transparent. What role does conservative contempt for poor and working-class people play in the effort to subvert American democracy?

I think that?s crucial. Increasingly, I have started to think about this right-wing cause as being a type of economic eugenics. At the turn of the 20th century, eugenicists thought that you could breed better humans by paying attention to bloodlines, gene pools and the like.

Today they won't use such explicit language. But there are right-wing libertarians who obviously believe that people who have not succeeded in this society always have themselves to blame. As a historian, that conclusion is just astonishing given what we know about structures and how the rules have been rigged to benefit some people and harm others.

This is the ethical system that allows people like Paul Ryan to feel heroic and self-righteous as they inflict harm on other people. At its most basic, this libertarian moral system says that it would be better for people to die than to get health care financed by government from taxes paid for by others. You can die. Period.

Whatarethe transactional politics involved in this tax bill? 

Well, I actually believe that Charles Koch is not in this just for the tax breaks and deregulation. I believe that he is utterly messianic, and that he believes, just as Ayn Rand did, that entrepreneurs and capitalists are the true heroes of the world. I have a feeling that Charles Koch seethes with rage that he does not get the adulation he believes that he deserves. He?s been at this now since the 1960s. That?s a very long time. He?s compared himself to Martin Luther. When Charles Koch launched this project in earnest in the late 1990s, he said, ?I want to unleash the kind of force that propelled Columbus to his discoveries.?

He has that deep an ideological commitment. Others have relative degrees of that ideological commitment. Some are just operatives who understand that this is a really good gravy train to ride, that the pockets and the bank accounts are just endless or bottomless.

For the religious right they can get tax breaks for Christian home schooling and for Christian private schools. Ultimately, they can see their enemies humiliated.

Grover Norquist explains this strategy as "one fish, one hook." In other words, they don?t have to tell anybody the whole agenda that they are pushing for. So it is not even clear to me how many of even the upper-level operatives in this right-wing plot actually understand what the ultimate plan is.

How do we fight back against pure ideologues whose beliefs are their religion? The Democrats are a loose coalition of different interest groups. Frankly, they are not equipped to fight back against a Republican Party and broader right-wing movement that operates like a political cult.  

I agree with you in the broad outlines. But it is important to make some key distinctions.  For example, there is the Bernie [Sanders] wing of the Democratic Party. It is pretty astonishing that a Jewish socialist is now the most trusted and respected elected official in America.

There has also been a surge of grassroots activism in the past year in places such as Virginia. So I think there are definitely some places where you can see hope with how people are trying to both reinvent the Democratic Party and also renew the idea of democracy in America for the 21st century.

I can imagine a historian 20 or 30 or 50 years from now, looking back to this moment and coming up with two stories. I can imagine the story of how we didn?t stop this Koch network push to transform our democracy, even when it was so obvious. Instead we just pushed our society, our kids and grandkids, over a cliff.

But I also think on the more positive side. As a historian who studies social movements as being fundamental to significant historical change, I hope that someday people will look back on this moment and say that, right now, in this moment, in December of 2017, we were deep in the churning that was part of our beginning to figure our way out of this. There are people in all kinds of organizations and places who are feeling new urgency, who are coming together in creative ways, who can begin to turn the tide and to churn those larger gears of the sleepy, big organizations to make them change. But is that going to happen? I don?t really know. As you say, how we react to this Republican tax bill is going to be highly predictive of which way the story turns out.

America is an oligarchy, if not just a plutocracy. Could it be that Republicans and other members of theright wingdon't really care how unpopular their ideas and policies are because in practice this country is not a functioning democracy? So what if there?s a mass movement? So what if there are new social movements that are birthed out of this moment? The Republicans have gamed the system to maintain power.

You just pointed out another element of the stealth nature of this tax plan. It is being pushed by people who say they are for limited government. But the Republicans and their allies are actually using the power of national government to prevent voters in more progressive localities and states from being able to choose more progressive policies without being penalized for it.

Consider [economist] Tyler Cowen at George Mason University, who has been working with Charles Koch for 25 years on the Mercatus Center, the main academic outpost of this Koch effort to leverage universities for their political project. Cowen said in a recent book that people on the left keep saying the masses are going to react to this. There?s going to be protest on the streets. There?s going to be revolution and the like. Cowen said, ?Ah, I don?t see it. I think the people are pretty happy with their technology. They?re absorbed with Facebook and binge-watching Netflix.? You know what? I think there?s some truth to that. As a historian, I don?t think that?s going to continue forever, but I can see why the Kochs and their operatives have gotten brazen.

In plain terms, if you were speaking to the average American about the dangers posed by this tax bill and the Republican Party andright wingmore generally, what year do they want to return the country to?

James McGill Buchanan, a Nobel-winning economist who devised the playbook that the Koch network is using, was very clear that he liked the constitutional rules of 1900. Consider that the constitutional rules of 1900 had us in a situation of chaos and ever-worsening depression because only the wealthy were doing well and everybody else was screwed.

That was also the period of the Lochner Court, as it was called, which issued a Supreme Court decision that was akin to the Citizens United of our day. That court basically said that workers had no right to organize together collectively, so corporations had all the power. It was a plutocracy. America had these roving battles between labor and capital. We had horrible, almost unimaginable levels of pollution. We had terrible problems with public health care. We had a country that you would not want to live in, and that?s a world that is idealized by the Republicans, the Kochs and the other elements of the extreme right who want to radically remake America in the worst way possible.

Do not forget that this was a period when the Constitution enabled mass voter suppression and racist decisions such as Plessy v. Ferguson, which argued that "separate was equal."

So these people don't just want to get rid of Obama?s legacy. They want to reverse the whole 20th-century model of citizen-driven government and make it so that property reigns supreme. That?s the beginning and the end of it. The American people need to realize that we?re going to be in ever-deepening trouble.

 

 

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Source: The Right Is Attempting to Roll Back the 20th Century
8
AlterNet / Roger Stone Is Convinced That Robert Mueller Will Be Donald Trump's Demise
« Last post by AlterNet on December 15, 2017, 06:17:51 AM »
Roger Stone Is Convinced That Robert Mueller Will Be Donald Trump's Demise


"It?s painfully obvious Mueller will bring charges."


 

Notorious political dirty-trickster Roger Stone has begun writing a new book titled, ?The Unmaking of the President? according to a new Vanity Fair interview.

Stone claimed he started writing the book after watching President Donald Trump?s White House struggle to defend against special counsel Robert Mueller investigations.

?It?s painfully obvious Mueller will bring charges,? Stone said. ?The theory is Mueller will indict him on some process-related matter.?

Stone, a decades-long Trump confidant, blasted Trump?s legal team.

?The only people who don?t seem to know it are Ty Cobb, [John] Dowd, and the president,? Stone explained.

Stone also claimed that his vote-count showed only two members of Trump?s cabinet would vote against invoking the 25th Amendment, which is one legal mechanism to remove a president from office for being unfit. Impeachment is the second legal mechanism to remove Trump from office prior to the end of his term in 2021.

?I hope it?s a book I don?t have to publish,? Stone claimed. ?I just don?t think Trump is being told the truth about how bad things are.?

Editor's Note: This article has been updated to accurately reflect the working title of Stone's forthcoming book.

 

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Source: Roger Stone Is Convinced That Robert Mueller Will Be Donald Trump's Demise
9
Richard Mellor / Alabama: Trump Receives Another Defeat.
« Last post by Richard Mellor on December 14, 2017, 06:08:05 PM »
Alabama: Trump Receives Another Defeat.

Alabama: To hell with him and the horse he rode in on. (Apologies to Horse) 

Sean O'Torain.

The authors of this Blog have from the beginning been saying that the election of Trump and the rise of Trumpism would, with bumps here and there, with steps forward and steps back, evoke a new movement of opposition of working people and women and oppressed minorities. This is what we have seen in the Senate election in Alabama. In spite of the state's  history, in spite of support from Trump and his cronies, and towards the end the support of the National Republican Party the lout, the thing, I mistakenly wrote thing here when I meant thug, but I will let it stand as both 'thing' and 'thug' are appropriate, the racist, the sexist, the sexual predator, the pedophile, the homophobe, was defeated. 

The main reason for this was that African American voters surged to the polls. African American working people especially African American working women once again showed their high level of political understanding and their determination to fight. At the same time a section of white women who had voted Republican in the past peeled off and either went for the Democrat Jones or stayed at home. And in general in the more urban areas where the greater amount of voters lived more people turned against Moore. He also probably lost a few votes by riding to the polls on a horse. A section of people must have said to themselves how can we let Alabama be represented in the Senate by a clown like this. The jubilation amongst many with Moore's defeat is palpable. Laughter can be heard throughout the land. Heads have come up throughout the land.  

This Blog has in the past been pointing to the change in the Southern states of the US. There has been increased industrialization. This has increased the urban working class as a proportion of the population. This has also increased the unity of the working class as the workplaces that have sprung up as corporations moved into the South for lower wages have drawn together workers of all races and genders and sexual orientations. The working class has been strengthened numerically, in absolute terms, as a proportion of the population, and in terms of diversity. With increased women entering the paid workforce this has also chipped away at the efforts of the extreme right to gain support on issues such as women's rights, abortion rights, reproductive rights.  The defeat of Moore is a reflection of the increased strength of the working class in the Southern states. 

Since the rise of Trump in the primaries and since he was elected by the rigged electoral college system, this Blog has been continually discussing the role of the big bourgeoisie, the most conscious section of the bourgeoisie in relation to Trump. Yes they want him to get them their tax cut, yes they want him to deregulate further. However as we have been explaining on this Blog, the most strategic section of the big bourgeoisie, of the capitalist class are very worried about how Trump is wrecking their institutions through which they rule.

We have been carefully watching the actions of the most strategic section of the capitalist class to see when they would move against Trump. There was an indicator of this process unfolding in the Alabama election. Shelby the senior Senator for Alabama is a mouthpiece for the newly strengthened capitalist class in Alabama, especially the new corporations that have moved in. A few days before the election he came out against Moore. This reflected the decision of the dominant sections of the capitalist class in the state to not only move against Moore but also to move away from Trump. This is a process that is likely to accelerate nationally in the future. Either through the Mueller probe on collusion with Russian imperialism, on financial dealings and money laundering, on obstructing justice or through the accusations of sexual aggression against Trump by increasing numbers of women, it is likely that the decisive sections of US capitalism will move against Trump in the coming period. Of course this will be a developing of the political crisis of US capitalism. It will seriously weaken the institutions through which the US capitalist class rules, but these institutions are being weakened by Trump in any case, so it is most likely that at some stage this decisive section of the capitalist class will move against him and bring him down. 

Another process that this Blog has been pointing to is what we have termed the coming to an end of the two capitalist party monopoly over US politics. If the leaders of the 14 million strong trade union movement would use the resources of the movement to build a labor party this could be achieved at this time. However they will not do so until they are threatened with a movement from below. So this coming to an end of the two capitalist party monopoly, the Democrats and Republicans, will be a complicated process. Probably it will see splits in the Republican and Democratic Party and the rise of new right wing parties and perhaps new left parties. Possibly a women's party.  It is impossible to say how this will turn out. But the old US political equilibrium is coming to an end. 

For activists there are a number of tasks. One is to build an alliance against the attacks of capitalism against working class people using mass direct action tactics. Along with this to build an opposition movement in the trade unions which would oppose the present union leaders' collaboration with the bosses and the capitalist Democratic party and which would use the militant tactics that were used to build the unions in the 1930's. Along with this to advocate and work for the building of a labor party, a party of the working class. And within all these movements and within the labor/workers party build a non sectarian socialist current with the clear objective of ending US imperialism and building a democratic socialist society.

If you would like to join our weekly conference calls where we discuss these issues send us an e mail to: we_know_whats_up@yahoo.com and tell us a little about why you would like to participate.

Source: Alabama: Trump Receives Another Defeat.
10
AlterNet / Debate Over 'Black Pete' Is Forcing the Netherlands to Reconsider Its Values
« Last post by AlterNet on December 14, 2017, 06:08:03 PM »
Debate Over 'Black Pete' Is Forcing the Netherlands to Reconsider Its Values


It's time for the Dutch to retire a racist Christmas tradition.


In London, Black Pete travels to children?s houses in a cab with tinted windows. His boss Sinterklaas could walk the streets and be taken for either a peculiar Santa or a strange dress-up saint, but Dutch expats worry that Pete?s black face paint, red lips, gold earrings, and black curly wig might be misinterpreted. When asked about the distinctly Dutch folk character at an international summit in 2014, current prime minister Mark Rutte responded laughingly in English:

It is not green Pete or brown Pete, it is Black Pete. [?] I can only say that my friends in the Dutch Antilles are very happy when they have Sinterklaas, because they don?t have to paint their faces. When I?m playing Black Pete I am ? for days! ? trying to get that stuff off my face.

Denying race?s relevance while affirming it in the same breath, the prime minister is emblematic of the larger Dutch public. Even knowing how people outside the Netherlands will perceive the character, most Dutch people categorically refuse to acknowledge the possibility of Black Pete being racist. Indeed, Dutch efforts to find non-offensive origins for Black Pete?s face are impressive, ranging from ?it?s because of the chimney soot? to ?it?s an ancient remnant of the two ravens that were Wodan?s helpers.? They are surpassed only by the ability to render the suggestion that the beloved blackface character is racist as both an attack on Dutchness and a threat to progress itself.

Dutch activists of color have long fought to get the majority white country to look at Black Pete and see what he is. Sinterklaas is part of a dearly beloved, long-standing folk tradition. Each winter, Sint and his Petes come to the Netherlands from Spain per steamboat, carrying candy and gifts. While Sinterklaas rides his white horse from roof to roof, the Petes climb down the chimneys to fill the shoes children have put out for that purpose. The holiday ends December 5th, when children find a coarse jute bag full of presents in an unexpected place.

Although Sinterklaas is dressed as a Catholic saint, the tradition is ostensibly a secular one. Since at least the 1940s, people of color have argued that the blackface aspect of the cherished tradition was hurtful and ruined its supposed inclusivity. However, the discussion never really gained traction until 2011, when two protesters were violently arrested for wearing shirts that said ?Black Pete is racism? at an event welcoming Sinterklaas? steamboat. While a small minority is now in favor of a modified ?soot-Pete,? a whopping 82% of Dutch people feel that Black Pete should stay as is, forever.

Supporters of the blackface tradition have defended it tooth and nail. Two weeks ago, pro-Black Pete activists blocked a highway to prevent a van full of anti-Black Pete protesters from reaching a parade. The police did not arrest the highway obstructers, and the protest was canceled. Politicians demurred that they understood people ?got emotional? about children potentially seeing signs equating the beloved Black Pete character with racism. Even people agreeing that Black Pete should change often lament that the ?Black Pete is racism? slogan is far too polarizing and alienating.

There are myriad reasons for the Dutch to love Sinterklaas: nostalgia for childhood, the deeply felt need for authentically Dutch traditions in the face of American cultural dominance, and so on. But why would one?s tradition being called racist inspire such outrage that one cannot help but block one?s ears ? or a highway ? while the suggestion of one?s tradition being racist is disqualified from the get-go? It is this aspect ? the intense emotional response to Black Pete being called racist ? that the study of religion helps frame.

In her writing on the Danish cartoon affair, Saba Mahmood invites us to think about what constitutes moral injury in our secular world today. In an essay titled ?Religious Reason and Secular Affect: An Incommensurable Divide?? Mahmood argues that the relationship Muslims have to Mohammed is predicated on an assimilative rather than a representational model, something that cannot become intelligible through the secular and crypto-Christian lens of European law. Mohammed is not a referential sign, but a moral exemplar, a way of inhabiting the world. He is, to borrow the words Faisal Devji uses to characterize Mohammed in his work on the Rushdie affair, a ?civic ideal.? An attack on this civic ideal constitutes a profound moral injury, because it is felt as an attack on the core of one?s being. It is a defiling of one?s aspirational self.

Though religious figures are particularly concrete and laden civic ideals in secular societies, they are not the only type imaginable. Pamela Klassen?s concept of civic secularism suggests how civic ideals may take shape outside religious traditions. Civic secularism denotes the careful remembering of those aspects of the nation?s past that sustain its current image of itself, while forgetting those histories that would undermine this self-conception. Writing of Canada, Klassen delineates how the Christian violence at the settler-state?s founding has been suppressed in favor of remembrances that support contemporary conceptions of Canada as always already harmoniously multicultural. She emphasizes that civic secularism always operates locally, clinging to some stories and tuning out others.

A key civic ideal in the Netherlands is to be ?normaal,? i.e. ?ordinary.? To be considered normaal in spite of extraordinary achievements ? that is a compliment of the highest order for the Dutch. Remaining normaal is to remain true to oneself, to not get carried away. Normaal people are good people who consider their moral values self-evident, basic decency. When people bump into each other in the street, they might shout ?doe normaal!? (behave normaal!) at one another, as if to say: be better.

While not crystallized into one figure, being normaal is a ubiquitous civic ideal, potent enough to shape the state position on divisive issues. The center-right party that won the most recent elections did so with ?normaal doen? (?behaving normaal,? in its sense of ?be better?) as their slogan. Last week, prime minister Rutte called an incident, where pro-Black Pete activists entered an elementary school in blackface to hand out candy and stickers about Dutch heritage, ?not normaal.? However, he added that he did not consider protesting at parades ?decent,? making the response somewhat understandable. Normaal means never getting so heated as to be disruptive. For Dutch people, ?normaal? is a key mode of ?inhabiting the world, bodily and ethically,? to return to Mahmood?s work on the relationship one has with a civic ideal as a site of potential moral injury.

To understand how ?normaal? interacts with whiteness, it?s important to remember that many of the socially progressive values the Netherlands is known for in North America are also very much ?normaal?: to have solid social security in place is normaal, providing women with full access to contraceptive care is normaal, and it is most normaal of all to be tolerant and inclusive in reference to LGBTQI difference. Racism is definitely not normaal ? a grave issue in the United States, to be sure, but not in the Netherlands, where race is so not ?normaal? that it can never become a topic at all.

The letter the prime minister published in all major newspapers as part of last year?s election campaign is a prime example of how ?normaal? operates in relation to racialized difference. The letter opens by stating that even though the Netherlands are doing so well, some people insist on behaving poorly, i.e. not normaal. They ?want to throw over everything Dutch people stand for,? he writes, giving examples that are associated with Muslims in the Netherlands (i.e. not shaking hands, ?harassing gay people?) to argue that some people ?abuse the freedoms and tolerance they came here for.?

Also not normaal: ?accusing normaal Dutch people of racism.? And whoever can?t be normaal, he states outright, had better leave. The civic secularist ideal of ?normaal? is predicated on a remembering of traditions of tolerance, and ? the irony is painful here ? of being ?ahead? of the rest of the world, especially the United States, in matters of social justice. The ideal of normaal is sustained by constantly forgetting histories of Dutch racism, sexism, and bigotry; a vigilant wiping away of the fog of these stories.

In a response to Talal Asad and Saba Mahmood?s reflections on blasphemy Judith Butler offers theoretical depth to the moves the prime minister makes in his letter. Butler traces how the state?s co-optation of progressive values renders those values a prerequisite of citizenship, referring to the Dutch government?s screening of prospective migrants by monitoring their responses to a video of two men kissing. Gay rights are the prime example of what ?normaal? fervently remembers as quintessentially Dutch.

In the prime minister?s letter, it?s very clear that the civic ideal is wielded to exclude: normaal is a civic ideal white Dutch people naturally aspire to, while Muslims must be taught and corrected in their aspiration for that civic ideal. Butler brings up the Dutch example in relation to free speech to argue for the importance of left alliances: when social justice is left to the state entirely, it becomes ossified as ?Dutchness? to such an extent that any criticism directed at that state is rendered un-Dutch and therefore not worthy of being heard.

Although Dutch Muslims are generally peripheral to the anti-Black Pete struggle, the move Rutte?s letter makes to align them is insightful. Rutte?s letter reinforces that all Dutch people should aspire to be ?normaal,? and thus aligned with a socially progressive state that looks, talks, and acts white. Simultaneously, the letter renders anyone who is not white (Muslims, or all who might have reason to accuse normaal Dutch people of racism), and is critical of the ?normaal? endorsed by the state, as undeserving of Dutchness and an enemy of progress.

The activists holding up ?Black Pete is racism? signs puncture ?normaal.? They are fighting for their right to tell their stories of the present and the past, and hearing these stories out would mean acknowledging that racialization does in fact affect people in the Netherlands. It would mean recognizing ?normaal? does not suit all Dutch people; that not all children can grow up to will themselves to see pre-Christian ravens on Wodan?s shoulder when they look at Black Pete.

A challenge to ?normaal? is a challenge to the moral superiority felt over Dutch Muslims and other minority groups, which is especially unwelcome in the current political climate of the Netherlands. By pushing for the blackface tradition to change, activists challenge the claim the civic secularist ideal of ?normaal? has to the moral good. Blasphemy: ?normaal? Dutch is not the high point of tolerance, justice, and progress, it?s in the eyes of all those Dutch citizens who inhabit their world by aspiring to that civic ideal. That is the moral injury that underpins the intensity of emotion in the debate.

For people who want to keep Pete Black, this sense of injury moves them to send their letters, to look away as activists are arrested for using their democratic right to protest, and to loudly lament that their freedom to be Dutch is under siege, all along legitimating the belief that they are fighting the good fight.

 

 

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Source: Debate Over 'Black Pete' Is Forcing the Netherlands to Reconsider Its Values
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