Insurrection as Resurrection

“It’s too late to put flowers in gun barrels”

From Jonathan Ray

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First, they came for the elections, but we grew up hearing that “voting doesn’t matter.” A slow boil of district manipulation and a thinning pool of viable candidates bore that out, but turnout was dismal, and symbols are important. Every election since the turn of the century has revealed more systemic corruption. We have lost a little more hope and a little more will to command our “leaders” with our voices with each lap around the ballot box. Long gone are the days when we could trust the word spoken from a podium. We had a glimpse of another way, but he showed up with a mysterious bruise and got quiet pretty fast after that.

The cabals, cartels, and corporations that put most candidates on the stage are not interested in our will. This time we would have been screwed either way, but with this administration has dissolved the facade of eligibility. Now the idea is out there that any asshole can hold an office, and it seems that any useful bastard will. A certain pall fell over the world on Election Night. It felt like a tectonic shift, or something happening in an invisible dimension. It was as if some significant changing of the guard had taken place at a level that even silenced Congress. Half the nation reeled with disgust and anxiety and the other shot off fireworks and felt empowered to out themselves as demons. Everybody got duped. Some got evil.

Next, they yanked the reigns of the media. The big networks danced to the tune of their sponsors and partner agencies. The internet gave us grassroots reporting, but the corporate bullhorn blasted from all sides the idea that dissent and conversation about corruption are “fake news” now. The division is everywhere because it is the priority and the agenda. Now is the moment where we are just about ready to tear down the last shreds of the veil, thus the efforts to keep us apart and at each other’s throats are mounting. The TV, radio, and print that used to deliver at least a degree of truth sold out to shareholders years ago. This legacy media (for with alt-this and post-that on every corner there is no actual main stream anymore) are purging the web of independent voices along with the snake oil, psychological operations, and doom dealers. Hijacking online conversations is a growth industry, employing perhaps thousands of human trolls and perhaps millions of tireless “bots” to control the narrative.

Weaving spiders are busy indeed. The alphabet agencies, be they spies or corporate mouthpieces or Google itself, tell us who to trust and who to scoff at, and we let them. We haven’t had to do real research since these little portals arrived in our pockets. Taking blue pills was easier than looking for ourselves. After generations of learning to look to Big Daddy for answers, it was child’s play to pull the wool over our eyes. Then the tools of research became the means of censorship. The big bang of available data that happened when the Internet went live is slowing down, and attempts are being made to reverse its flow so that it can be contained and controlled for good. Leaks continue. We can hope that stubborn defenders of truth will continue to burn holes in the dragnet and allow the flow of uncollared information.

Then Congress rolled back progressive laws but told us that only hurt “snowflakes.” We figured hate crimes and transphobia and racism were overblown. We didn’t think the Klan was even really a thing. It seemed like a joke or anachronism. How wrong we were, and how lucky we were to have such delusions as others watched their backs for lifetimes. Local governments are busy shadowboxing with political theater for the benefit of their base. Politicians treat bathroom laws and other rollbacks of LGBTQ rights as a priority to impress the evangelical voters. Nevermind what those same creeps get up to in bathrooms and hotels off the clock.

Meanwhile, real issues like infrastructure, education, safety and economic security are passed to the next official to deal with, if at all. The hollow men in expensive suits wrap themselves in the flag, drop crocodile tears paired with cherry-picked Bible fragments, and utterly ignore all requests to join the rest of the world in the 21st century. As long as they keep getting paid for their votes and avoid each other’s deep-dirt blackmail schemes, the circus goes on as it always has, and we get fed to the lions when we demand bread.

Then they began to shut the gates. In a brief but ominous symbol, the Statue of Liberty was unlit for a time. Only a few noticed enough to ask why, but it had a dark resonance. Fear had trumped love, and our nation of immigrants started turning people away as if that would affect a trend toward homegrown, often white terrorism. After decades of war, thousands have nowhere to go, and years of conditioning have made us associate the wrong countries with terrorism and job stealing. Our “job creators” are the ones moving all the work offshore to their tax havens and secret banks. Our “protectors” are the ones starting fires all over the world.

However we may live as individuals, America knows in our gut that we have become everything we once opposed. But no one can handle that, and many can’t even recognize it, so the masquerade goes on. A war on terror never ends, it just ramps up and creates an endless cycle of blood for money. See also the wars on drugs, crime, poverty, and so on. Like cancer, there’s more money in research and feel-good branding than a cure. The institutions of these troubled times work to entrench and preserve themselves rather than solving the problems that were their reason for existing.

Meanwhile, the growing police state has started stopping people on planes and stranding them in airports. They started making lists of “bad” nationalities. Men in brown with dogs and guns are at the borders asking for papers. We know where that leads. The mask is slipping, and the face is all too familiar. How long now? Do we need to endure this again? What lesson have we ignored that demands a retread of humanity’s most famous dark night of the soul?

The military is becoming the corporate police, leaving endless streams of well-meaning youth to return home as shattered shells of themselves with no structure of psyche repair in place. The beat cop is a dying breed. City police are militarizing and in some districts are goaded into procedural racism, thrill-kills and property theft which they can practice with impunity and even reward. Private mercenaries are being hired to destroy dissent to environmental and social abuse. Every peaceful protest attracts provocateurs in anarchist drag who come to break windows for the camera and frame organizations that seek reclamation of peace and justice for the people. “See, these people are out of control!”

Then the tear gas and rubber bullets can fly. Soon the privatized prisons will be full of stoners, activists, and people of color, as was the intention in ’68. First we had “Free Speech Zones,” then they started criminalizing protests, but we assumed the stories we heard about these movements were true tales of violent mob rule. We figured we had nothing to shout about until we did. So now what?

It’s too late to put flowers in gun barrels, but there is another way to invert our predicament. Turn inward and to each other now. These are the times we expected. Cross the artificial divides and build bridges where you may. Resist the death grip of the old institutions as we quietly make them irrelevant. Authority was never the friend of the people, and the pretense is finally falling away. The Germans lost the war, but plenty of Nazis got new jobs and learned to take new shapes. They won, in their way, and you can see it in the way things have gone with the Allies. History repeats and mutates.

Here we all are, and it is up to us to awaken and stop the historical cycles of abuse. This time of fear porn and hate bait is the moment for vigilance and courage, self-empowerment and cooperative subversion. The human race is on the table, about to have its organs harvested. The anesthesia needle floats just above the skin. We have excused our complacency for too long. We kept our noses in the arsenic lace of the virtual world when our duty was always to direct experience and action. Now is the time to RISE: resist, inquire, subvert, and engage. I leave it to you to choose your path.


Jonathan Ray

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Jonathan Ray is a writer, father, mystic, and musician working out of Tucson, Arizona. Driven to uncover, understand, and heal, he thinks of himself as a “conspiracy therapist.” Exploring the connections between the visible and the invisible and helping others to rediscover and empower the parts of themselves which have numb in our collective switch to survival mode is his life’s calling and the theme of his works.

Jonathan’s writing and music can be seen at apocalypsefatigue.org, named for the stage between the revelations of the world’s woes and the inspiration to embody solutions through action.


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Capitalist Extortion in the Pagan Community

“Whatever the agenda of the extortionist, their victims are left with little to no choice: become an unwilling party to unethical, harmful conduct or try to opt out of the system entirely.”

Cultural and political commentary, from John Halstead


 

Twice in the past month, capitalists have tried to extort my silence.

That sounds dramatic.  But it’s what happened.

Corporate Extortion

The first time, it was a media corporation, BN Media, which recently took over the blogging platform, Patheos, where I used to write.  BN Media/Patheos has been withholding an electronic backup of my writing (almost 1000 posts) for several months now without explanation.  They recently let it leak that the reason for the delay was that the corporation was trying to keep me from writing negative things about them.  My writing was being held hostage, and the price of its ransom was my silence.  (That’s what prompted my recent snarky “Help Wanted: Patheos Pagan Writers” post.  Suffice it to say, I don’t respond well to coercion.)

BN Media’s attempt to shake me down was not surprising, considering how they had already attempted to extort all of the Patheos writers.  When BN Media acquired Patheos, they stepped into the corporate shoes of Patheos’ prior owners.  Writers who had formerly contracted with someone else now found themselves in an involuntary contractual relationship with an evangelical organization with a history of censorship and which had previously chased Pagans out of the Beliefnet platform.  BN Media then unilaterally rewrote the contract with the Patheos writers significantly expanding the editorial control and restricting writers’ freedom of expression.  Patheos Pagan writers now had the choice to abandon their exiting writing to BN Media or sign a contract which would give BN Media even more control over their writing.  When Pat Mosley and myself raised the alarm and attempted to build some solidarity among the Pagan Patheos writers, BN Media made an example of and summarily terminated us (which is how corporations often treat labor organizers).

Perhaps even more disturbing than the actions of BN Media were the excuses offered by the Patheos management.  The actions of the corporation were defended in terms of the profit motive (“They have to make money.”), without any regard to the people impacted–neither the Patheos writers, many of whom were unwittingly signing away control of their writing to a for-profit corporation for minimal benefit, nor the people who continue to be harmed by the anti-LGBT propaganda purveyed by BN Media’s affiliates.

This, I was told by Patheos management, was “standard in the industry.”   Indeed, it is.  And yet, why that should be any excuse for unethical behavior confounds me.  Bad behavior is bad behavior, no matter how “standard” it might be.  But I’m beginning to realize that the key word in the phrase “standard in the industry” may not be “standard”, but “industry.”  In a capitalist world, the profit motive covers a multitude of sins.

Small-Time Capitalist Extortion

The second time a capitalist tried to extort my silence this month, it was a troll who owns a couple of occult bookstores (which he calls an “empire”) and courts the worst kind of publicity for the Pagan community.  This troll was upset that I would be presenting at a Pagan Pride Day event in his region.  (Apparently, among other things, he doesn’t like my anti-capitalist views.)  He made various threats, from the vague-but-ominous (“watch yourself at that event”) to the ridiculously specific (threatening to set up an anonymous domain in the Bahamas and a website in Iceland and then publish that I molest children).

Even more disturbing than his attempts to directly extort me were his threats to harass, and even fire, his own employee, who was organizing the Pagan Pride event. This troll person unselfconsciously describes himself as “someone who not only knows how to use capitalism, but also has plenty of capital” and routinely threatens to use his capital (which I suspect is less sizeable than he likes to claim) to harass and bully those he disagrees with. I was only the most recent of his targets.

When overt threats didn’t work on me, he resorted to disingenuous appeals to my sympathy for his employees, arguing that “attacks” on him would hurt the people who work for him, like the aforementioned Pagan organizers. (Later he contradicting himself by saying that any press, good or bad, helped his business.) We’ve seen similar logic many times in the past decade, as heads of corporations escape punishment for their unethical behavior because they employ so many people.  A parallel argument was used to justify bailing out corporations which were deemed “too big to fail.”

My troll even threatened to “hire an army of gutter punks” to protest me at the event.  I admit, I had to look up what a “gutter punk” was.  Apparently it refers to a homeless or transient person who displays characteristics of the punk subculture.  So, add to the list exploiting homeless and transient people, as well as abusing the First Amendment.  (I’m not saying doesn’t have the right to hire whomever he could to stage a fake protest, but having the right to do something and doing the right thing are not the same.)

Not surprisingly, my troll also defended the management of Patheos.

Part of a Larger System

In some ways, my two would-be extortionists could not be more different.  One is a large media conglomerate that funds evangelical hate groups.  The other is a petty troll who has delusions of capitalist grandeur.  But in another way, they are two of a piece.  Both are capitalists, meaning they have accumulated capital by exploiting the work of others.  Both believe that their capital earns them the right to a louder voice than those with less.  And both attempt to use their capital to extort silence from those they disagree with.

And they are not alone.  Consider the similarity between my troll, who threatened to fire his employee if I was allowed to speak at a Pagan event she was organizing, and General Motors and Chrysler, which threaten to move their business overseas unless the American taxpayers continue to subsidize their unsustainable business practices.  Both attempt to manipulate our sympathies for the victims of their capitalist exploitation, while expecting us to take that exploitation for granted.

Or consider the similarity between BN Media and the Big Banks, like JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, Wells Fargo, and Citibank, which were bailed out by taxpayers in 2008.  BN Media held the writing of the Patheos bloggers hostage in order to coerce their agreement to a new contract which would give BN Media even more power, while at the same time sponsoring anti-LGBT groups.  The Big Banks hold the world economy hostage in order to coerce bailouts and deregulation, while at the same time funding the Dakota Access Pipeline.

It’s a difference of scale, but not of method.  And the end result in both cases is that their victims become complicit in their own subjugation and the subjugation of others.

“Capitalist Extortion” is Redundant

I think this reveals something about the inherent relationship between capitalism and extortion.  I say this as a capitalist myself.  I am the part-owner of a business that employs other people who are not owners.  That we business owners exploit the labor our employees is evident by the discrepancy between our salaries and those of our employees.  And there is a kind of extortion going on there, which arises out of the unequal bargaining power between the employer and the employees, caused by a surplus of labor, the lack of a social safety net, the weakening or absence of collective bargaining organizations, and so on.  This is where the concept of “wage slavery” comes from.

But some capitalists take this extortion even further.  For them, it’s not sufficient to exploit the labor of employees.  They also have an agenda to advance–whether political or personal–and they use their capital to extort our complicity with that agenda.  For the Big Banks, that agenda is neoliberalism, with its attendant policies of deregulation and globalization (so that capital and corporations may cross nationals borders freely even while people cannot).  For my troll, the agenda was the promotion of his own cult of personality–the less said about which the better (even negative attention feeds the monster).  For BN Media, the agenda is an evangelical one, part of which involves channeling of charitable contributions to hate groups like Focus on the Family, Promise Keepers, and the American Center of Law and Justice, which promotes the criminalization of homosexuality.

Whatever the agenda of the extortionist, their victims are left with little to no choice: become an unwilling party to unethical, harmful conduct or try to opt out of the system entirely.  The latter path is being forged here at Gods & Radicals.

What I have realized through all of this is that this kind of extortionist behavior is not aberrant–it’s a feature of a capitalist system.  Obviously, not all capitalists will resort to such obvious shakedown methods as BN Media and my troll did, but there are no inherent checks to prevent it when they do.  After all, it’s “standard in the industry.”  It even finds its way even into our religious lives, at interfaith blogging platforms and at Pagan Pride events, for example. We can condemn extortionist behavior, but its not a problem of a few bad apples.  We need to get to the root of the problem–the inherently extortionist nature of capitalism.  Until we do, extortion will be an unavoidable part of our lives–and our Paganism.


John Halstead

halsteadJohn Halstead is a Pagan activist and blogger.  In addition to his writing here at Gods & Radicals, at Huffington Post, and on his personal blog, AllergicPagan.com, John is a environmental and anti-racist activist.  He is one of the founding members of 350 Indiana-Calumet, which works for a just transition from fossil fuels to a renewable energy economy in Northwest Indiana, where frontline communities of color are facing the disproportionate impacts of industrial polution. John was also the principal facilitator of “A Pagan Community Statement on the Environment” (ecopagan.com), which has collected over 9,000 signatures from 90 countries, and has been translated into 16 languages. It represents the most successful effort to date to harmonize the diverse voices of the Pagan community in defense of the Earth.


Gods&Radicals is a non-profit, Pagan Anti-Capitalist Publisher.

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Millennials & the Revolution of Politics

Right now in the United States, Super Tuesday is just a couple of days away.  It’s pretty amazing that I know that.  I have never paid such close attention to American politics before.  I never cared that much; not until it came down to the actual Republican vs. Democrat.  In general we, your neighbours to the North, breathe more easily when it’s the latter.

But right now there’s a political revolution going on that has broad implications in both of our countries.  There’s a huge generational divide.  It’s the generation we call the Millennials.  They’re changing how everything works.  In current North American politics, both in the recent Canadian federal election and in the upcoming American Presidential election, there has been a visible, undeniable generational split in opinions at the polls, and it has made, and is making, a significant difference.  Millennials are the reason that the Conservative Harper regime in Canadian government was finally overthrown, and Millennials are changing the face of American politics even as you read this.  Nothing in national democratic politics is ever going to be the same again.

Why?  Is it that Millennials are creative and innovative?  Well, to some degree that’s true; the younger generation is almost always more flexible and more willing to try new things than the older generation.  Is it that they realize how fixed the system is and they are desperate for change?  Well, that’s partially true too.

But more than anything, I think it comes down to one simple thing: Boomers watch TV.  And Millennials don’t.

The Problem with Corporate Media

We in democratic capitalist societies labour under the delusion that the media is the Fifth Estate, which exists as an independent watchdog to inform us on the benevolence, and abuses, of those in power.  The media, we believe, reports on events in a way that delivers the news with forethought, expert consultation, and a fair, if not entirely unbiased, lens.  My parents still share this subconscious assumption.  But it’s not true.  It’s never been true.

Corporate media is, of course, interested in furthering the interests of things that benefit corporations.  In general, they support right wing policies because right wing governments support bigger corporate tax breaks, trickle-down economics, low wages, and lack of regulation.  It’s only common sense, really.  These things benefit any large corporation, and I don’t think there’s any denying that broadcast media is entirely ruled by large corporations.   What you may not know is just how large they are.

You would think that print media would be different; the last bastion of the independent journalist.  But again, you would be mistaken.  Almost every major newspaper in Canada is owned by two companies.  That’s right, just two.  They are Sun Media and Postmedia.  How big do you think a corporation has to be to own so many newspapers?

It didn’t used to be that way.  There was the CBC, and then there were mostly local private companies.  Until our broadcast media was partially deregulated in 2008, and again in 2011, by the Conservative government of the time.  Is it any wonder that the news seems to be favouring the right wing view more and more all the time?

Sometimes the bias is so blatant that it’s a suitable subject for ridicule.  But most of the time it is subtle; so subtle I know most people don’t notice it.  Watching coverage of the Bill C-51 protests here in Canada was most instructional for me, because I had just caught on to the tricks and so I really noticed them:

Two very different stories may be observed in the Vancouver Sun, which is a major corporate newspaper, and the Vancouver Observer, which is a somewhat respected but smaller and decidedly more left wing “alternative” media source.  Both papers are reporting on the exact same protest in the same city.  If you’d like to play along at home, I urge you to fire both of those links up in separate tabs and compare them as you read.

Our first clues as to the tack of the stories can be found in the headlines.  The editor of a paper is the one who chooses the headlines.  The Vancouver Sun headlines their story with “Vancouver protesters rally against Tories’ Bill C-51.”  Seems innocuous enough, right?  But let’s break it down a little.  First, limiting the story to Vancouver divorces it from the national movement in the minds of the readers.  Vancouver has a reputation for being a sort of “San Francisco of Canada,” and is regarded as a haven for what the right wing sees as “leftist nutbars.”  So this makes it sound like the protest is a local phenomenon.  Note, also, that the Sun is quick to call it “The Tories’ Bill.”  This demands polarization.  It makes it personal.  It suggests that anyone who might disagree with the bill is only taking exception to the then-unpopular Tories, rather than objecting to legislation which gives unsettling powers to the government. It trivializes it as “party politics.”  It’s a “nothing to see here” tactic.

In the meanwhile, the Vancouver Observer tells us that “Thousands protest Bill C-51 across Canada.”  We are meant to be alarmed.  Thousands? What is horrible enough to get “thousands” to protest?  And “across Canada?”  What could be causing such a sweeping concern?

Our next big clue is image.  The Observer has chosen an image that shows a vast sea of protesters, standing politely with their signs and listening to a speaker on a stage.  I am sure that they were trying to get as many people as possible in the shot to display how widespread the opposition to the bill is.

In the meantime, the Sun has chosen a much closer angle, so that you really have no idea how many people are at the event.  And they have also chosen a picture intended to make the protesters look as stupid as possible.  The big sign in the center of the image says, “Harper Darper,” which sounds like a child making fun of someone in the schoolyard.  If that weren’t bad enough, the most clearly-visible sign other than that one says, “Honk to defeat Happer!”  Obviously it’s a misprint, and the protester tried to correct it – you can see a black Sharpie line turning that first P into an R if you squint – but it’s difficult to see and obviously your first impression is meant to be “what a bunch of buffoons!”  You are supposed to dismiss them as “stupid left wing crazies.”

Now let’s break down the articles themselves.  Our first paragraphs set the stage nicely.  In the Sun we are told that “more than a thousand people” gathered to protest “Harper” in particular, and “the new anti-terror bill” by extension.  Okay, yes, there were more than a thousand people.  The Observer tells us that there were actually about a thousand more people than a thousand people, which is a total of two thousand.  So the Sun was telling the truth, but the implication minimizes things just a little.  Also, the Sun is letting us know that the protesters are protesting Harper because they don’t like him; not the proposed legislation because it’s objectionable.

In the Observer, our first paragraph tells us that about two thousand people “descended on the streets” to “express frustration with the federal government’s proposed anti-terror bill.”  So in this key sentence we are told a) there are a lot more people out there than the Sun was saying there were; b) they are frustrated with the federal government, not any party or person in particular; and c) that the bill is still a proposed bill, not something that is already law.

It seems like it’s a conspiracy.  But it really isn’t.  It’s the natural result of the corporate system of ownership; reporters making subtle changes to their pitched articles to make them palatable to their editors, who must then make them palatable to the company management, usually passing through several layers of bureaucratic stratification in between.  And ultimately, the paper is printed to please the boss, who likes things that benefit corporations just fine.

Most of Canada’s newspapers endorsed Prime Minister Stephen Harper in the last election despite plummeting popularity; the ones who didn’t supported mostly the Conservative Party with Harper’s resignation as a caveat.  People couldn’t understand it.  But Postmedia ordered all of their subsidiaries to endorse the Conservatives; which is actually a traditional owner’s prerogative.  In other words, every media company that has ever existed has a bias.  And they are expected to.

This is where publicly-owned media, run properly, can provide an alternative view and thus widen the lens we are given to look at the state of things; but even that has its problems.  Because the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation is a Crown Corporation, meaning that the Canadian government is the primary shareholder, there are limits to the powers of the CEO and the Board of Directors.  As a result, a significant faction within the CBC, angered by the Conservative appointments and the reduced budget, supported – almost downright campaigned for – the Liberal Party and our current Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.  But we need to understand their bias as well; the Liberal Party promised all kinds of things to the CBC as part of their campaign platform, including a lot more funding.  Thus, even in Canada’s nominally non-partisan public media company, every time we heard about the New Democratic Party or its leader Tom Mulcair, it was to deride and discredit their campaign promises and to make Mulcair look as foolish as possible, with photos seemingly selected for the purpose.  And that was regardless of which mainstream media company was reporting on the election.

But even publicly-owned broadcasting is not safe.  The CBC, long regarded as a public resource with a decidedly left-wing approach (and it used to be) was gutted completely by Stephen Harper in his last couple of years as Prime Minister.  He cut its funding, fired most of its executives, and appointed a whole bunch of his Conservative cronies to significant positions.  Justin Trudeau’s attempt to fix some of this has been actively stymied by tactics from these appointees that look a lot like crazy Republican stunts to me.  (Incidentally, when a government changes hands, requests for appointees to step down like this are a normal, expected part of the system; which of course, the current CBC isn’t telling us.)

Things like this have already been done to the BBC several years ago and are now firmly entrenched.

It’s an interesting point because I see the American media doing the exact same thing to Senator Bernie Sanders that the Canadian media did to the New Democrats, for the exact same reason; corporations hate social democracy.  Social democracies limit corporate powers and increase wages.  Social democracies believe in what’s best for all of the people, not just a select few.  I think it’s a safe bet that the mainstream media will never show us an unbiased view of policies that might put more limits on corporations; which is why so many people seem to think that Mr. Sanders’ “socialist” policies are “unrealistic.”  Even my parents.  The funny thing about this is that most of Sanders’ platform is the way Canada did things, from the 60s right up to the Harper administration, and it worked just fine.

There’s another concern with corporate media.  The media makes a lot of money on political campaign ads, as politicians try to make their messages heard; and also on election coverage, as corporations backing particular parties or candidates sponsor programs that feature those candidates.  And the more political tension they create, the more money they make; which is probably why every political campaign is portrayed as a horse race, even when it’s not.

How the Internet is Transforming Politics

In the early days of media, there were newsletters and newspapers.  Media was a lot less centralized and thus, people read what they wanted to read.  Since there were a couple of dozen New York papers, you just read the one you preferred; or maybe a handful, if you were really well informed.  When it came to politics, you read the papers that supported your political view; for instance, if you were a socialist, you read the socialist papers.

Slowly, larger papers began buying up the smaller papers, and so your options of what to read, and thus the viewpoint you were shown, gradually diminished.  Why did the New York Times become so respected?  Because everybody read it.

We have seen how that sort of centralization reduces the scope of the information lens so that we only hear what the corporate media wants us to hear.  But that’s changing.  There are alternative sources of media emerging; blogs and journals like ours, for example.  And the reason is – you guessed it – the internet.

Right now, political blogging is in its early growing stages.  We are graduating from a few random commentors to semi-professional small blogs and YouTube channels.  And the Millennials, having realized that the food that they’re being fed is (un)liberally flavoured with Corporatist propaganda and always tastes the same, have started seeking out those alternate sources.

Or so it would seem.  The truth is actually simpler than that, if I might cast a pall of cynicism on this ray of hope with an intention of helping us to make use of it in the most efficient possible way.

Millennials don’t watch TV anymore.  They don’t read newspapers.  Between their computers and their cell phones they go online for everything; their information, their entertainment, their social outlets.

So the fact that they’re discovering the alternate media is a cosmic accident, really.  And the only reason why the alternate sources are doing so well is that we’ve been here longer.  Fortunately the large media corporations were initially more interested in fighting or discrediting internet media than they were in using it. But that’s changing too.

Before you dismiss this as a fad, it’s clear that this has changed the way Millennials think.  They are perhaps the most literate generation that has ever existed.  Because they surf the web they know things that previous generations do not.  Because of Google Translate they can talk to people in other countries even if they don’t understand a word of the language.  And thus, it has never been so easy to find like-minded individuals and organize along ideological lines as opposed to geography.

More than that, most Millennials have probably experienced a situation in which they were humiliated on social media for not fact-checking a link or a meme.  Whether this or something else is the reason, Millennials who are politically aware check their facts.  They look up the definition of “social democracy” on Wikipedia.  They Google any statistics they are offered.  They use Snopes to confirm or denounce rumours and scandals.  You can’t just give them the facts you want them to hear, cherry-picked for your convenience.  They will double check.

As a result, we are beginning to see huge ideological divides between generations and it’s starting to make a difference.  Why did Justin Trudeau and the Liberal Party win the Canadian federal election?  Because two significant demographics supported him almost unilaterally; First Nations Canadians, and young voters.

Note that these are both traditionally underrepresented groups in the political landscape.  But this time they overcame their reluctance to engage with a system so obviously stacked against them and came to the polls.  This, despite deliberate changes in election laws, such as gerrymandering electoral ridings and requiring proper picture ID as well as a voter registration card to vote – a tactic almost never done in Canadian history and obviously disadvantaging the young and the poor.  And as a result, our First Nations and our youth changed the course of Canadian history.

We are seeing this in American politics as well.  Would Bernie Sanders be doing so well against the likes of former Secretary of State and First Lady Hillary Clinton if it weren’t for the massive support he’s receiving from America’s youth?  Millennials hear Sanders using the language of the Occupy Movement and his call to fight the 1%, and they are protesting the system with their ballots.  It is even starting to affect demographics that were believed to be unassailable, such as creating a generational divide in the black vote.

Will this factor change the course of this American election?  It already has.  Even among the Republican voters, nobody expected Donald Trump to do as well as he has.  In a way he’s the right wing equivalent of Bernie Sanders; he sounds like a rebel against the system.  He’s just going about it in a way that openly reveals the fascist heart of Corporatism.

Either way, this is likely the last U.S. Presidential campaign that will be so strongly influenced by the mainstream media.  It’s a whole new world out here.

But the battle isn’t over yet.  The halcyon days of net neutrality are already behind us, and there are ways in which large corporations are manipulating the internet to their advantage.  Also, the way in which we access the internet and social media corrals us into echo chambers which entirely lose touch with anyone who doesn’t share our views.  I will address these issues in my next article.

 

*I have chosen to use the gender-inclusive singular “they” as my default general pronoun in this article.

A Prayer to Athena for Canadian Democracy

So-called “Mattei Athena”. Marble, Roman copy from the 1st century BC/AD after a Greek original of the 4th century BC, attributed to Cephisodotos or Euphranor. Related to the bronze Piraeus Athena. Public domain image by Jastrow, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
So-called “Mattei Athena”. Marble, Roman copy from the 1st century BC/AD after a Greek original of the 4th century BC, attributed to Cephisodotos or Euphranor. Related to the bronze Piraeus Athena. Public domain image by Jastrow, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

O Grey-Eyed One,

She of the Steel Gaze;

In nine days my country goes to cast ballots

In the ancient ritual You taught to Your city.

Our system is broken.

Hateful betrayers of Your sacred trust hold power,

As they have for many years now.

We elected them because we trusted them,

But they have betrayed our trust.

They have prorogued our Parliament,

Ignored Parliamentary rulings,

Accepted bribes,

Corrupted our electoral system,

Gerrymandered democratic ridings,

Taken the rights of our expatriates,

Denied voting access to the disabled, the young, and the poor,

And told people to vote in the wrong place

So as to spoil ballots.

They have lied continually to us,

Stolen our money and our future,

Denied basic rights to our citizens,

Reduced the rights of women

And of people of non-conforming gender,

Oppressed our poor and disenfranchised,

Oppressed our First Peoples,

Abandoned our ancestors and our veterans,

Broken the unity of our labourers,

Spit upon the sanctity and sovereignty of the earth,

And deprived us of the right to speak against them;

All to better serve their Corporate Masters.

Lady of Wisdom, You see more clearly than I do,

But I see all that You stand for being suborned.

I implore You; give us back our nation!

Strike these betrayers down!

Cast them from the lofty seat they have stolen!

Make our voices count!

Give us back the gift that You gave us

That we may once again govern ourselves,

Instead of being ruled over by Corporatist lackeys.

May Your steel gaze fall upon these corruptors with wrath!

May You look upon us with favour!

Help us to take back what was stolen

Without the shedding of innocent blood.

Send Your Owl to give Sight and Wisdom

To our people, who have been denied it.

Call upon any friends You have

Among the Sacred Spirits of our First Peoples

To ask them to take part in the ritual,

If only this once.

Draw Your Aegis over us!

Give us back our Canada!

I shall cast my ballot in honour of You.

I shall ask all who know me to do the same.

Praise be to the Lady of Wisdom!

Praise be to the Grey-Eyed One!