Bull Sessions on the Internet

Let’s start with a definition of a “bull session.” As I browsed the internet for a definition, the following one seemed good enough:

An informal discussion. A bull session was originally a late-night college men’s dormitory conversation with a wide range of topics — politics, sex, sports, sex, religion, sex . . . The word “bull,” which meant something boastful or outlandish, came from — no surprise here — “bullshit.”

Why do I focus on the phenomenon of a bull session?

Because as I browse the internet to garner information, analyses, anticipations, and recommendations, I come across digital books, audio books, articles, and other visual and auditory media. I am also very attracted to lectures, speeches and interviews with prominent individuals. And since my interest is primarily political, I have come to appreciate the wisdom of such people as Chomsky, Hedges, Pilger, Kinzer, Sale, and others.

However, I am also curious to hear how a younger generation approaches political issues. And I have noticed that there are all these characters wearing headsets talking to other characters also wearing headsets. I think they are called political “podcasters,” as contrasted with the talk shows on television. And there are too many of them to even enumerate.

Since I consider myself in the anarcho-socialist spectrum, I tend to listen to would-be supporters and detractors within this spectrum.

A few years ago, I came across a young man, Cameron Watt, who made a number of videos about anarchism which were clearly and systematically presented at Libertarian Communist Platform. Here is one of his videos:

A Case for Revolution (2018)

By contrast to these clear and systematic expositions of libertarian socialism (aka anarchism), I came across a podcaster, Michael (Krechmer) Malice, who also calls himself an anarchist.

I tried very hard to understand the nature of his “anarchism” through the various podcasts which he does with others. But my endeavor to understand where he stands has so far been a failure.

So far, this is what I have learned. He is against a centralized State; and he is, as I am, for the right of secession. But when I try to find out a bit more by listening to his appearances on various podcasts, these podcasts turned into bull sessions. For example, in several podcasts when he was asked to characterize anarchism, he repeated that it is a matter of relating. He uses the phrase “you do not speak for me.” If paraphrased, it means that he requires getting an agreement from him on all matters.

On the Joe Rogan show, he proposed to substitute private security services for the police. But instead of pursuing the nature of anarchism further, the exchange with Joe Rogan turned into a gossip-like bull session.

On the Dave Rubin Report, he mentioned that he was a leftist against the State, and then the conversation turned to other things — more bull session.

In his podcast with Chris Williamson, confronted with the question: What Is The Hardest Question For Anarchism To Answer?, his answer was that he had no idea how to deal with parents who mistreat their children.

Also asked if there is anywhere an anarchistic territory, he answered that it is not a place but a relationship — i.e., of mutual agreement. But other then mentioning ancient Ireland, he could not mention any experiments with anarchism.

This makes me think that he is an anarcho-capitalist, because such a thing never existed, and, in my opinion, is an incoherent idea.

And, if he were an anarcho-socialist or an anarcho-communist, as Cameron Watt is, then he would have mentioned communism in primitive tribes, and anarchist communities which have escaped the State. And he could have mentioned the various communistic societies in the United States in the 19th century, he could also have mentioned Nestor Makhno and Makhnovchina in Ukraine (1918-1921), he could have mentioned the Spanish anarchism (1936-39), and today, the Zapatistas in Chiapas, Mexico; Rojava in Syria, and the town of Cheran in Mexico.

But whatever his position is, it is smothered by the bull sessions of the podcasters.

Two films: “Manufacturing Consent” (1992), on the views of Noam Chomsky, and “Salt of the Earth” (1954), a movie recommended by Chomsky.


Below is part of Chomsky’s reaction to the film:

Noam Chomsky interviewed by various activists. Excerpted from Understanding Power, The New Press, 2002


. . .

CHOMSKY: It is, it’s completely missing the point. It’s simply not factually accurate, for one thing — because like I say, the real work is being done by people who are not known, that’s always been true in every popular movement in history. The people who are known are riding the crest of some wave. Now, you can ride the crest of the wave and try to use it to get power, which is the standard thing, or you can ride the crest of the wave because you’re helping people that way, which is another thing. But the point is, it’s the wave that matters — and that’s what people ought to understand. I don’t know how you get that across in a film.

Actually, come to think of it, there are some films that have done it. I mean, I don’t see a lot of visual stuff, so I’m not the best commentator, but I thought Salt of the Earth really did it. It was a long time ago, but at the time I thought that it was one of the really great movies — and of course it was killed, I think it was almost never shown.
WOMAN: Which one was that?
CHOMSKY: Salt of the Earth. It came out at the same time as On the Waterfront, which is a rotten movie. And On the Waterfront became a huge hit — because it was anti-union. See, On the Waterfront was part of a big campaign to destroy unions while pretending to be for, you know, Joe Sixpack. So On the Waterfront is about this Marlon Brando or somebody who stands up for the poor working man against the corrupt union boss. Okay, things like that exist, but that’s not unions — I mean, sure, there are plenty of union bosses who are crooked, but nowhere near as many as C.E.O.s who are crooked, or what have you. But since On the Waterfront combined that anti-union message with “standing up for the poor working man,” it became a huge hit. On the other hand, Salt of the Earth, which was an authentic and I thought very well-done story about a strike and the people involved in it, that was just flat killed, I don’t even think it was shown anywhere. I mean, you could see it at an art theater, I guess, but that was about it. I don’t know what those of you who know something about film would think of it, but I thought it was a really outstanding film.



Below is the film: Salt of the Earth (1954)


Commentaries on Salt of the Earth, see:
Herbert J. Biberman, Salt of the Earth; The Story of a Film (Boston: Beacon Press, 1965) [includes the screenplay by Michael Wilson];
James J. Lorence, The Suppression of Salt of the Earth: How Hollywood, Big Labor, and Politicians Blacklisted a Movie in Cold War America (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1999).

Why is the government of Switzerland invisible?

Most of the governments of the world have a person with whom we identify a country. The most visible and troublesome ones are Donald Trump, the President of the United States, and Vladimir Putin, the President of the Russian Federation. Then there is the motley crew of Angela Merkel, the Chancellor of Germany; Emmanuel Macron, the President of France; and Boris Johnson, the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. Then there is Kim Jong-un, the Dictator of North Korea; Nicolas Maduro, the President of Venezuela; Benjamin Netanyahu, the Prime Minister of Israel. Also there are a host of — at least to me — peripheral leaders: Xi Jinping, President of China; Mohammed bin Salman, the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia; Viktor Orbán, Prime Minister of Hungary; Justin Trudeau, the Prime Minister of Canada; Volodymyr Zelensky, the President of Ukraine. Other leaders are, for me, at the margins — and I have to look them up or be reminded of who they are.

As to Switzerland, the government of Switzerland is basically invisible to me — even if I look up who’s who. Why? Primarily because they do not have a single leader, but a Federal Council consisting of seven individuals, who — unlike the nine-member Supreme Court in the United States who are often quite visible because of their individual identifiable controversial decisions — cannot be individually identified with any decisions because their individual votes are unrecorded and unknown.

Besides, whatever the Federal Council’s decisions are, they are neither controversial nor of international significance. The significant decisions of Switzerland are made through national referendums and national initiatives by the people; not by any leader. The result of this type of government is a prosperous, peaceful, and neutral country in times of war.

Viva la Switzerland!

Der Gesamtbundesrat 2020 (von links nach rechts): Bundeskanzler Walter Thurnherr, Bundesrätin Viola Amherd, Bundesrat Guy Parmelin (Vizepräsident), Bundesrat Alain Berset, Bundespräsidentin Simonetta Sommaruga, Bundesrat Ignazio Cassis, Bundesrat Ueli Maurer, Bundesrätin Karin Keller-Sutter. Foto: Annette Boutellier/Yoshiko Kusano

My criticism of John Mearsheimer and Timothy Snyder for focusing on ideologies rather than the interests of individual leaders

My comments are about the videos posted at: Is the United States really interested in a liberal (democracy) hegemony? and Timothy Snyder’s Red Herrings in “The Road to Unfreedom”

Anne Applebaum on Russia

As I listened to Anne Applebaum, it appears that her current interest is in understanding how propaganda works and how it is being actually used. [A topic covered by Noam Chomsky’s Manufacturing Consent] Although propaganda is universal, her interest is focused on Russia, her field of expertise. She is the author of:
Between East and West: Across the Borderlands of Europe (1994);
Gulag: A History (2003);
Gulag Voices: An Anthology (2011);
Iron Curtain: The Crushing of Eastern Europe 1944-56 (2012)
Red Famine: Stalin’s War on Ukraine (2018)

Disinformation & the Threat to Democracy (Jan. 4, 2019 at the Library of Congress)

In Jan. 2013, she gave a lecture. Putinism: the Ideology. I would add to this title: Fake democracy by Fake opposition, by Real control, and by Real assassination.

Dealing with Noam Chomsky: a benchmark for credible institutions and news sources

I do not believe that there is such a thing as an unbiased institution or news report. Why? Simply because a judgment has to be made as to what information or news is important and should be reported on, as contrasted with what is trivial and not news worthy.

Well, how does a reader make this demarcation for institutions and news sources? The reader has to have some guideline or benchmark.  My ad hoc recommendation for such a guideline or benchmark is simply this:
Does the institution or news agency deal with Noam Chomsky in any form? Does it have him as a guest for interviews? Does it report on his opinions? Does it publish his articles or books?

The reality is that the corporate media shuns anything to do with Noam Chomsky. Why? For propaganda reasons. It is best to ignore your critics. And since Chomsky is an arch critic of American corporate imperialism and the corporate media, he is silenced by omission — by shunning.

So, what news sources or institutions give voice to Noam Chomsky? One way to find out is to do a video search for “Noam Chomsky” in Google or some other search engine, and note the sponsor.

Take a look at The Noam Chomsky Website, and take note of who is willing to deal with Chomsky.


Here are some of my findings:

Noam Chomsky makes frequent appearances on Democracy Now!

The Real News Network

Chris Hedges interviews Noam Chomsky

Independent (UK)

TeleSUR

Abby Martin interviews Noam Chomsky 

Cathy Newman of Channel 4 News interviews Noam Chomsky

BBC Newsnight

Al Jazeera

 

 

Diseases and Symptoms of States

There is common distinction made between a disease and its symptoms. For  example, let’s consider the Black Death which killed off one third of Europe at its peak between 1347 and 1351. The cause of the disease was the bacterium Yersinia pestis, spread by fleas on rats. The symptoms:

“Contemporary accounts of the plague are often varied or imprecise. The most commonly noted symptom was the appearance of buboes (or gavocciolos) in the groin, the neck and armpits, which oozed pus and bled when opened.”

“It is said that the plague takes three forms. In the first people suffer an infection of the lungs, which leads to breathing difficulties. Whoever has this corruption or contamination to any extent cannot escape but will die within two days. Another form . . . in which boils erupt under the armpits, . . . a third form in which people of both sexes are attacked in the groin.”

During the period of the Black Death, if the cause was known, there would have been some chance for some people of avoiding it — even though the disease could not have been cured.

Why do I focus on this? Because when I read or watch the news — I mean the insightful news (not that issuing from corporate media) — everywhere there is a focus on the symptoms. I have in mind such programs as Democracy Now, the Real News, the Young Turks. The symptoms are unemployment, immigration, poverty, war. There is also focus on some objectionable laws or lack of laws dealing with taxation, abortions, voting, gay rights — recently the separation of children from immigrant parents. The news programs are “shows” which must fill in their news hour with content. Why do they focus on symptoms? I suppose that dwelling on the causes of these symptoms would either be boring or repetitious — so, the focus is on symptoms.

The causes of all these problems are both economic and political,  because they work together. There are some people who have rightly identified the economic problem as due to capitalism. Noam Chomsky has been criticizing capitalism for decades. A recent noticeable voice is that of Richard Wolff, a self-proclaimed Marxist. However, for some reason, neither Chomsky nor Wolff, zero in on the nature of capitalism which makes it possible. Both Karl Marx and Max Weber were acutely conscious of what made industrial capitalism possible: the deprivation of people of access to free subsistence land. Historically, this first occurred in England where people were evicted from their land for the sake of sheep runs, called for by the demand for wool for the textile industry. This is the economic disease — depriving people of free access to subsistence land.

The other cause of our misery is representative democracy. People hope for a savior president or prime minister — or even a parliamentarian. Currently there is excitement in the United States that a 28 year old Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez won a Democratic primary. I understand the excitement because for a self-proclaimed social democrat to win is almost a miracle, and this generates hope. But really what can one or a few persons do when the majority are on the side of corporations? The root problem is the US Constitution — this is the political disease.

[A very insightful critique of the U.S. Constitution was done by Lysander Spooner in his three articles, collected by the title “No Treason” (1867-1870)]

A better constitution is that of Switzerland. Why? For several reasons. First, Switzerland does not have a popularly elected president; instead it has a Federal Council of seven individuals nominated by four political parties, and confirmed by the joint vote of their bicameral parliament.   [Corruption occurs when one individual has power]  Second, amendments to their constitution have to be approved by popular vote and the majority of the cantons. People have a right to initiate amendments. And they also have a right to veto laws passed by their legislatures. Third, they have no Supreme Courts which can pronounce laws as unconstitutional.

Even though Swiss democracy is superior to that of the United States, it is not the best form of government. Why? Because when masses of people vote, they can be swayed by well-funded propaganda. A referendum or plebiscite — although better than none — can be manipulated with propaganda, which money can buy.

The remedy for this is to make the unit of government a small community with a directly elected council. All other political arrangement are to be by federation with other communities. This way, money plays almost no role in politics.

Centralized states have to be dismantled — perhaps by secession. [I have assembled a bibliography on secession:  Bibliography on Secession.]

Bullshit in Education

Education Is a System of Indoctrination of the Young – Noam Chomsky

Beware of the Handmaid Scorned

The Aim of Liberal Education

Norman Finkelstein, DePaul, and U.S. Academia: Reduction Ad Absurdum of Centralized Universities

Trying to Understand the Program of Educational Reform through Critical Thinking Across the Disciplines

In 1999, I came to Chicago to create and manage the site “In Search of the Real University of Chicago.”  It no longer exists, but it can be accessed via the Wayback machine: click here.