Monthly Archives: December 2010

Study Guide (VIAL)

Remember the words. Words are important. Not simply as handles with which to pick up objects (to reflect upon things) but as the condition of our engagement with the world. Critical terminology– in a word, jargon– has a crucial function: to wipe away the ideological residue glazing our perceptions, perceptions which have been deadened by “common sense”– still another word that really signifies the absence of thought.

I saw a sign recently: “Unfuck the world.” Which of course begs the question: is the world fucked? How so? And so thinking can at last begin. This is our task, which we may refuse, ignore or embrace. To think the world, to unthink it and think it again. What else are we here for? To make money? Fall in love? Or like this:

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Final Study Guide 1 (Americas)

Recall that a core theme of the course has been the status of the Americas over the span of roughly half a millennium. At present we tend to think of the western hemisphere as an aggregate of nation-states and “natural” geographical regions. The Americas are fragmented, whether according to political boundaries or as the consequence of topography. But if we look back to Fernandez-Armesto, we see that these distinctions have not always been operative, and further that their significance has waxed and waned since European contact.

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“Together” transcript (VIAL)

If you listen closely to Palin’s words in this ad, you’ll probably note 1) they sound as though they are extracted from different speeches and 2) they don’t really mean anything specific.

“Across the country everyday Americans are standing up and they’re speaking out //and based on what I’ve seen there is more than enough reason to have faith in America. //We’re gonna get back to the time-tested truths that made this country great. They’ve enabled us to weather tough times before and they will see us through the challenges that we face today. // I am confident and I am hopeful // because this is our movement, this is our moment, this is our morning in America.//  We’re gonna stand up and we’re gonna speak out. // And it may take some renegades goin’ rogue to get us there. It may take folks shakin’ it up to get there. // We’ve got to do this together.


Greenwald on wikileaks

Probably the best discussion of wikileaks I’ve heard recently is with Glenn Greenwald who is a kind of model for lucid thinking and cogent argument. See the first audio link at the following post:

And consider this, from a recent post at Crooked Timber:

“states are not limited to direct regulation; they can use indirect means, pressing Internet service providers (ISPs) or other actors to implement state policy. For example, states might require ISPs to block their users from having access to a particular site, or to take down sites with certain kinds of content. More generally … a small group of privileged private actors can become “points of control”—states can use them to exert control over a much broader group of other private actors. This is because the former private actors control chokepoints in the information infrastructure or in other key networks of resources. They can block or control flows of data or of other valuable resources among a wide variety of other private actors. Thus, it is not always necessary for a state to exercise direct control over all the relevant private actors in a given issue area in order to be a successful regulator.”

No Bail

Julian Assange willingly turned himself in to authorities in London this morning only to be denied bail. Note that no charges have been filed against him; he is merely wanted for questioning in the matter of “sexual assault”– i.e., engaging in consensual sex without a condom. Meanwhile VISA has suspended wikileaks’ payments. The number of companies engaging in this form of suppression of free speech is growing, a development Assange has described as “the privatisation of censorship.” This issue is very significant, I think, in particular because it emphasizes that public discourse is increasingly governed by the imperatives of private property. For example, a mall is a privately-owned public space. As such, it is at the discretion of the owners of that mall as to whether it  would allow, for instance, a political demonstration. In such a situation the privileges of ownership ultimately trump the right to free speech. The same can be said for social networking sites such as Facebook, which are experienced by their users as a limited public forum but which are in fact the property of a corporation. What we are seeing here, it seems to me, is a complement to the much-vaunted “public-private partnerships” which have featured as a key component of neoliberal economic policy. In this case private corporations and the State are working in tandem to police the boundaries of political speech even as the neoliberal State privatizes prisons and outsources the use of force (mercenaries, private security agents, etc.).

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Hypocrisy Perfected

Recent developments concerning wikileaks: Mastercard has now distanced itself from the organization, Paypal has suspended its account, Assange’s assets have been frozen by a Swiss bank, and Eric Holder continues to threaten the Assange with legal action. Mitch McConnell, multi-millionaire senator from Kentucky, said of Assange on Sunday:

I think the man is a high-tech terrorist. He’s done an enormous damage to our country, and I think he needs to be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. And if that becomes a problem, we need to change the law.”

Got that? If what Assange and wikileaks have done is not illegal then we need to make it so in order to punish them.

Back to Attorney General Holder. Here’s what he said on Sunday regarding the leak of diplomatic cables: “We are looking at all the things we can do to try to stem the flow of this information.”

To which Hillary Clinton, might have responded (from  a speech given in January, 2010):

“Those who disrupt the free flow of information in our society, or any other, pose a threat to our economy, our government and our civil society. Countries or individuals that engage in cyber attacks should face consequences and international condemnation. In an interconnected world, an attack on one nation’s networks can be an attack on all. By reinforcing that message, we can create norms of behavior among states and encourage respect for the global networked commons….”