by James Corbett
February 25, 2014

You would have to have been living under a rock to have missed the rollout of so-called “smart” technologies in recent years, but for those unfortunate rock dwellers who have somehow avoided the “smart” propaganda, there is no shortage of flashy, cartoonish PR puff pieces that are willing to sell it to you.

Although these bubbly, feel-good, lowest common denominator commercials leave the viewer with the warm fuzzies, they do little to explain what this so-called “smart” technology actually is. Stripped of all the hype and sweaty-palmed hyperbole of the massive PR campaign surrounding it, the only thing that “smart” really means is that a given piece of technology can be linked up to a network to send and receive information.

The real question, of course, is why we supposedly need every gadget and appliance in our home, from our toaster to our thermostat, to be networked at all. Like all such questions, there are two answers: the cover story and the true story.

The cover story is that networking these technologies will allow us to reduce the amount of power that we consume and, as an added bonus, save us money on our monthly power bill.

What’s more, the linking of all of these appliances into one seamless personal network—the cover story assures us—will finally allow for the Jetsons-like future that has been promised us for decades.

Those with properly functioning bull excrement detectors might question whether the embedding of RFIDs and processors in our fridges and coffeemakers and egg timers is really all about saving a few Watts of electricity or the hassle of pressing a few buttons. This is where the true story of smart technology comes in.

Smart technology represents less of a breakthrough in power distribution and more of a revolution in complete, constant, panopticon-like surveillance of everyone. As these smart technologies begin to invade our homes, we are becoming mere nodes in a giant network that we yet but dimly comprehend. Called the “Internet of Things,” the plan is to create a network that will eventually include every single object on the planet. And as the public is finally becoming aware, such networks provide golden opportunities for corporations and governments alike to collect data and spy on the population.

This is not mere conjecture. Before becoming enmeshed in an affair that ultimately derailed his career, former CIA director David Petraeus bragged openly about how these smart technologies would allow intelligence agencies to spy on everyone in their own homes, using their own appliances. Speaking at a summit for In-Q-Tel, the CIA’s venture capital firm, Petraeus noted: “Items of interest will be located, identified, monitored, and remotely controlled through technologies such as radio-frequency identification, sensor networks, tiny embedded servers, and energy harvesters.[...]In practice, these technologies could lead to rapid integration of data from closed societies and provide near-continuous, persistent monitoring of virtually anywhere we choose.”

Whether Petraeus’ own downfall as a result of FBI eavesdropping on private emails is part of a plan to warn future would-be whistleblowers, poetic justice, or mere irony, it is nonetheless instructive. When everything that anyone does is tracked, traced and databased at all times, from our dishwasher usage to our television viewing to our toilet flushes, no one will be able to avoid the gaze of the state, regardless of whether or not they have “something to hide.”

As ITWorld’s Kevin Fogarty observed, if J. Edgar Hoover were alive he would die of jealousy at the technologies available to the would-be Big Brothers of today.

As nightmarish as this seems, the possibilities for tyrannical misappropriation of this technology are even worse. Given that networked appliances allow for remote access, smart technology actually raises the specter that governments and corporations will be able to control the items in your own home.

Here again, as much as this sounds like Buck Rogers fantasy or Orwellian nightmare, it is in fact mundane reality. As far back as 2008, California lawmakers were already tabling legislation that would mandate the installation of smart technologies and allow governmental bodies to automatically adjust homeowners’ thermostats up or down to conserve energy at peak usage times. The stark truth is that any appliance can be turned on or off, adjusted, or otherwise manipulated by anyone with access to the network remotely, including your own car.

Most worrying of all, whether or not we want to use these technologies, the average person is being left with little choice. More and more of the appliances and household goods we use have these technologies embedded by default, and now, thanks to the so-called “smart” meters that are increasingly being installed in people’s homes without their knowledge or consent, that choice is being removed entirely.

Thankfully, the situation is not hopeless. As Josh Del Sol, the filmmaker behind Take Back Your Power notes, there are specific steps that people can take to stop smart meters being installed in their homes, and that communities can take to stop them being installed at all.

Make no mistake, the fight against “smart” technologies is going to be an uphill one. For a population that understands little outside of the realm of bread and circus entertainment, explaining why anything with the word “smart” in front of it may be a bad thing will be challenge enough. But hopefully, as films like Take Back Your Power and other exposes begin to gain traction with the public, we can expose this “smart” technology for the stupidity that it is.

Category : Videos | Blog

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Welcome. This is James Corbett of, and you’re listening to The Well-Read Anarchist. This is Episode 2 of this podcast series, “An Introduction to Pierre-Joseph Proudhon.”

Every field of inquiry has its origin story, and anarchism is no different. And as long as that field of inquiry remains vibrant, debate–often of the most acrimonious variety–will rage over that origin story. Here again, anarchism is no different.

There is no single correct answer as to precisely when, where or how the anarchist school of thought was born. As with so many other political philosophies, its earliest forms predate the name itself. Some identify early 19th century thinker William Godwin as one of the  key progenitors of what came to be known as anarchism. Others cast their gaze further back. Anarchist themes or ideas have been discerned in the writings of Taoist philosopher Laozi writing in the 6th century BC, and in the teachings of the Cynics and the Stoics in ancient Greece. Some even argue that Jesus and his disciples represented the first truly anarchic society. But if we turn our attention to the much narrower problem of who was the first self-proclaimed anarchist, on that point there is thankfully no debate. The honour falls to Pierre-Joseph Proudhon.

The proclamation is unequivocal, and comes early on in Proudhon’s career. In his first major work, What is Property?, Proudhon lays out his still scandalous argument that “Property is theft,” and proudly proclaims himself an anarchist in an exchange with a fictitious interlocutor.

“You are a republican.” “A republican! Yes; but that word specifies nothing. Res public; that is, the public thing. Now, whoever is interested in public affairs–no matter under what form of government–may call himself a republican. Even kings are republicans.” –

“Well! you are a democrat?” — “No.” — “What! you would have a monarchy.” — “No.” — “A constitutionalist?” — “God forbid!” — “You are then an aristocrat?” — “Not at all.” — “You want a mixed government?” — “Still less.” — “What are you, then?” — “I am an anarchist.”

It is a bold proclamation. But what does it mean? Even for Proudhon himself, the answer to that question was fluid, subject to revision as his thinking developed and matured over the course of his life.

Author of Justice, Order and Anarchy: The International Political Theory of Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, Dr. Alex Prichard:

So he [Proudhon] has it in ‘What Is Property?’–towards the back-end of the book when he’s trying to explain what the whole thing means–what this critique of property and the state actually entails in terms of his politics. What he tries to do is embed this really quite bombastic claim that he’s an anarchist in much more accepted political ideologies. He essentially embeds himself in the Republican tradition of France at the time. At it’s heart it’s anti-monarchist, however many of the late-eighteenth and early-nineteenth century Republicans were also constitutional monarchists so it’s really a bit confusing about how he embeds it. But actually what he’s arguing is that he’s for freedom, which is what the Republicans were, too, and against domination, which is essentially what the Monarchy stood for.

What he did was he took this idea of freedom from domination and tied that up with a critique of capitalism and of the state, which put him at odds with the established Republicans and with the Liberal bourgeoisie who were obviously the emerging class at the time. And because he had a vociferous critique of the established order, aligning himself with anarchy suggested a whole range of emotive interpretations of politics that I think were absolutely central to establishing his name as a social theorist.

So what I’m trying to say is that his anarchism was embedded in this Republican critique of domination but it was also a Republican critique of capitalism and of the state. And because there was no tradition of ‘anarchism,’ if you like, really because anarchy was the idea associated with lawlessness or the absence of a state, anarchy being central to ideas about the state of nature that were central to the works of Hobbes, Kant, Rousseau and all of the social theorists that everyone would have been familiar with at the time. Aligning himself with this idea of anarchy was as bombastic as much anything and he spent literally the next 25 years explaining what he meant by that term.

Perhaps it is telling that Proudhon introduces his conception of anarchy not as an idea, but as a form of self-definition. In that vein, just as anarchists might seek the origin story of anarchism to better understand the philosophy itself, perhaps we can better understand Proudhon’s anarchism by better understanding Proudhon’s own origins. Who, then, was Pierre-Joseph Proudhon?

As Proudhon’s friend, J.A. Langlois wrote in his own introduction to the thinker, “P. J. Proudhon: His Life and His Works:”

Pierre Joseph Proudhon was born on the 15th of January, 1809, in a suburb of Besancon, called Mouillere. His father and mother were employed in the great brewery belonging to M. Renaud. His father, though a cousin of the jurist Proudhon, the celebrated professor in the faculty of Dijon, was a journeyman brewer. His mother, a genuine peasant, was a common servant. She was an orderly person of great good sense; and, as they who knew her say, a superior woman of HEROIC character,—to use the expression of the venerable M. Weiss, the librarian at Besancon. She it was especially that Proudhon resembled: she and his grandfather Tournesi, the soldier peasant of whom his mother told him, and whose courageous deeds he has described in his work on “Justice.” Proudhon, who always felt a great veneration for his mother Catharine, gave her name to the elder of his daughters. In 1814, when Besancon was blockaded, Mouillere, which stood in front of the walls of the town, was destroyed in the defence of the place; and Proudhon’s father established a cooper’s shop in a suburb of Battant, called Vignerons. Very honest, but simple-minded and short-sighted, this cooper, the father of five children, of whom Pierre Joseph was the eldest, passed his life in poverty. At eight years of age, Proudhon either made himself useful in the house, or tended the cattle out of doors. No one should fail to read that beautiful and precious page of his work on “Justice,” in which he describes the rural sports which he enjoyed when a neatherd. At the age of twelve, he was a cellar-boy in an inn. This, however, did not prevent him from studying.

His mother was greatly aided by M. Renaud, the former owner of the brewery, who had at that time retired from business, and was engaged in the education of his children.

Proudhon entered school as a day-scholar in the sixth class. He was necessarily irregular in his attendance; domestic cares and restraints sometimes kept him from his classes. He succeeded nevertheless in his studies; he showed great perseverance. His family were so poor that they could not afford to furnish him with books; he was obliged to borrow them from his comrades, and copy the text of his lessons. He has himself told us that he was obliged to leave his wooden shoes outside the door, that he might not disturb the classes with his noise; and that, having no hat, he went to school bareheaded. One day, towards the close of his studies, on returning from the distribution of the prizes, loaded with crowns, he found nothing to eat in the house.

As a budding and gifted young thinker in early 19th Century France, Proudhon found himself navigating through the intellectual milieu of his era, a milieu which–as independent scholar and Proudhon specialist Shawn Wilbur explains–was full of its share of utopian and downright strange thinkers and ideas.

He was writing and entering the printers’ trade at a time in the late 1830s where, after the French revolution and after Napoleon’s empire, France had settled back into a constitutional monarchy and what would become what we know as radical socialism was bubbling up in various areas as the defense of the working classes by social science. So there are what Engels referred to as the ‘utopian socialist’: Charles Fourier, who dreamed these beautiful and strange visions of a future in which our senses will all become enormously amplified and the seas would turn to lemonade and we would fight out World Wars with worldwide contests for who could make the best little meat pies, alongside Saint-Simon who really thought that the engineers would eventually rule the world (which didn’t prevent him from also developing a secular religion that sent his followers off on a quest around the world for a female messiah).

It’s a period where there are a lot of remarkable and remarkably mixed ideas loose in the world and they do have that utopian character in that they are well outside the envelope of what we think of as politics now. And often it came down to what now I think we would take to be a kind of pseudo-scientific belief that if you just found the right model, you could fix everything.

Something that strongly differentiated Proudhon from the other thinkers of his age, however, were the very pragmatic realities of his upbringing. At the periphery of French life in rural Besancon, detached from the rarefied world of cosmopolitan Paris, and born into a family not unused to crushing poverty, Proudhon’s life and work came to be shaped by and rooted in his experience of what it means to be born into a world ruled by and for the wealthy and powerful for their own gain.

Dr. Alex Prichard:

He came from a peasant background I suppose. His mother was a cook and a cleaner and his father was a rather unsuccessful businessman who ran a pub. His extended family was quite varied actually; one of his mothers’ or fathers’ distant cousin was a professor of law at the University of Dijon, as far as I can remember. His uncle on the other side of the family was one of the sans-culottes and took pride in rebelling against the French state. So all the way through Proudhon’s background and his upbringing he had these two-sides; the academic and the scholarly and also this rebelliousness was there. I suppose watching his father struggle as a cooper, the Napoleonic wars were quite significant in terms of his personal development but the aftermath of the Napoleonic wars were far more problematic. So the siege of Besancon in 1815, right at the end of the Napoleonic wars, was then followed by a 2-year famine. So when Proudhon was about 6 or 7 years old, the area was completely destitute and he remembers walking around eating unripened corn and really struggling.

So you can see war and peace were central to his development, likewise famine and the injustice of essentially the plight of the poor and the working-class and the peasantry even in Eastern France at that time. So this made a huge impact on him. So when he went to school and started his baccalaureate at the age of 14-15 he was by far one of the poorest students in his class, was often mocked for turning up without any shoes and never actually finished his baccalaureate because he had to go and work to support the Proudhon family. He was probably the only working-class revolutionary of that period; working-class is probably a generous way of putting it. He came from a pretty destitute background so I think those personal experiences really shaped the way he approached texts, the way read his periods’ time, the way he read the political situation in France at that time and I think that was hugely significant.

So when you see him writing about the institution of private property–which is what essentially is his first major book What is Property?–the fact that he’s declaiming against the institution of private property ought not to be a surprise at all. The institution of private property was fantastic if you have property. If you have none, then it instantly becomes a question of social justice. So his peasant background really shaped the way he read that debate around private property, essentially arguing that it was impossible by natural law standards and the only way we could have an institution of private property was for the state to enforce it. So this is where his anarchism starts. It’s a duel-critique of capitalism, structured around the institution of private property, and the state as that body which sustains this system of iniquity.

It was with this strange amalgamation of academic aspirations and working class sensibility that Proudhon sought to craft his own solutions to the social problems of his day. In that quest, Proudhon, like many others of his time, was influenced by Hegel, not directly–no translation of the German thinker existed in French at the time–but through his French proselytizers. As Langlois explains:

We have said that, in 1848, Proudhon recognized three masters. Having no knowledge of the German language, he could not have read the works of Hegel, which at that time had not been translated into French. It was Charles Grun, a German, who had come to France to study the various philosophical and socialistic systems, who gave him the substance of the Hegelian ideas. During the winter of 1844-45, Charles Grun had some long conversations with Proudhon, which determined, very decisively, not the ideas, which belonged exclusively to the Bisontin thinker, but the form of the important work on which he labored after 1843, and which was published in 1846 by Guillaumin.

Hegel’s great idea, which Proudhon appropriated, and which he demonstrates with wonderful ability in the “System of Economical Contradictions,” is as follows: Antinomy, that is, the existence of two laws or tendencies which are opposed to each other, is possible, not only with two different things, but with one and the same thing. Considered in their thesis, that is, in the law or tendency which created them, all the economical categories are rational,—competition, monopoly, the balance of trade, and property, as well as the division of labor, machinery, taxation, and credit. But, like communism and population, all these categories are antinomical; all are opposed, not only to each other, but to themselves. All is opposition, and disorder is born of this system of opposition. Hence, the sub-title of the work,—”Philosophy of Misery.” No category can be suppressed; the opposition, antinomy, or contre-tendance, which exists in each of them, cannot be suppressed.

Where, then, lies the solution of the social problem? Influenced by the Hegelian ideas, Proudhon began to look for it in a superior synthesis, which should reconcile the thesis and antithesis. Afterwards, while at work upon his book on “Justice,” he saw that the antinomical terms do not cancel each other, any more than the opposite poles of an electric pile destroy each other; that they are the procreative cause of motion, life, and progress; that the problem is to discover, not their fusion, which would be death, but their equilibrium,—an equilibrium for ever unstable, varying with the development of society.

Eschewing the orthodoxy of his time, Proudhon found the synthesis of these internal contradictions not in a proposed governmental or economic model, but in the idea of anarchism as order without power. Shawn Wilbur:

What he said about anarchism, the political anarchism and the positive anarchism that he was promoting, was that it was self-government. That it was rule by reason alone, that it was the opposite of governmentalism. And he defined governmentalism as ‘external constitution.’ All that really means is that if there if are two people attempting to govern themselves the tools that are available to them if they are anarchists are what they bring within themselves without any sort of external standard, any a priori governmental system. There’s just this encounter between two people who are considered equal before one another because we don’t have a government, and we don’t have any of the things that make government which would establish any political difference between them.

Indeed, for Proudhon, anarchy is to be defined in opposition to the principle of governmentalism, which seeks to impose order through power. As he writes in his 1851 work, The General Idea of the Revolution in the Nineteenth Century:

To be governed is to be watched over, inspected, spied on, directed, legislated at, regulated, docketed, indoctrinated, preached at, controlled, assessed, weighed, censored, ordered about, by men who have neither the right, nor the knowledge, nor the virtue. … To be governed is to be at every operation, at every transaction, noted, registered, enrolled, taxed, stamped, measured, numbered, assessed, licensed, authorized, admonished, forbidden, reformed, corrected, punished. It is, under the pretext of public utility, and in the name of the general interest, to be placed under contribution, trained, ransomed, exploited, monopolized, extorted, squeezed, mystified, robbed; then, at the slightest resistance, the first word of complaint, to be repressed, fined, despised, harassed, tracked, abused, clubbed, disarmed, choked, imprisoned, judged, condemned, shot, deported, sacrificed, sold, betrayed; and, to crown all, mocked, ridiculed, outraged, dishonoured. That is government; that is its justice; that is its morality.

Opposed to this, he proposed what he called the principle of federation, a decentralization of power that occurs when all parties are treated as sovereign entities, not subject to the authority of another. He expands on this idea in his 1863 work, The Principle of Federation, where he writes:

All my economic ideas as developed over twenty-five years can be summed up in the words: agricultural-industrial federation. All my political ideas boil down to a similar formula: political federation or decentralization.

He finds the real world analogue for this idea in the anarchical order of the international relations of states, in which sovereign entities contract to safeguard their security, insure their prosperity, and settle their disputes without forsaking their sovereignty. Dr. Alex Prichard:

I think that what Proudhon was trying to do with his theory of anarchism is to find that institutional means to allow the most openness that is possible given the fact that we don’t know where we are going. How can we best organize to give everyone the best opportunity to realize their own ends without having those ambitions and those desires interfere with the ends of others? Typically those who had developed these sorts of projects in the past had said ‘well it’s the liberal-bourgeoisie that are one’s that are heralding the future and so we need a liberal-bourgeoisie state’ and so on and so forth. So for Proudhon what we need to be doing is we need to be thinking about anarchy, we need to be institutionalizing anarchy. So if you cast your mind back to what I said earlier about international relations and we think about how states exist in a condition of anarchy. Essentially what Proudhon was doing at the back-end of his career was extrapolating from that analogy. So if states can organize their relationships in anarchy–and the one conundrum that we have in international relations is if states can organize their relations in anarchy or in an orderly fashion–how does that persist? Proudhon argued that a whole range of different things sustain anarchy in international relations. But he said, the fact of the orderly relations that sustain international relations, the fact that they exist, is at a least a prima facie idea, suggestion, claim or example that we might follow at the domestic level. So why can’t all groups in society organize their relations in anarchy? Why can’t all individuals do the same?

Perhaps surprisingly for a man espousing such a philosophy, Proudhon himself participated for a brief time in the political experiment of France in the wake of the Revolution of 1848. He was elected to the National Constituent Assembly in June of that year, overseeing the National Workshops that provided work for the unemployed. He was not personally in favor of the National Workshops, believing that they failed to address the underlying conditions that created the economic hardships of the workers in the first place. His own political aspiration was the formation of a bank which would provide low interest credit and issue exchange notes, which he believed would remove economic control from financiers and capitalists and put it in the hands of the workers.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Proudhon’s tenure as a politician was as short-lived as it was unsuccessful. By 1849, he had been imprisoned for insulting Louis-Napoleon Bonaparte, and upon his release he was exiled to Belgium, where he remained much of the rest of his life.

Shawn Wilbur:

Ultimately, Proudhon was one of the people who first laid down that ‘anarchists shouldn’t engage in electoral politics’ rule. But part of the reason he did that was he did what he thought was the best thing to do; he got involved in what was a revolutionary experiment. When you look at France in 1848 and you see the things that were proposed to that government, it’s obviously not business-as-usual. All sorts of wild, wonderful, crazy and horrifying things were on the table and that sort of thing couldn’t really last for very long. Proudhon’s falling afoul of Louis Napoleon and his imprisonment was one of the clear signs that it wasn’t going to last for any length of time, but really Proudhon was fighting a rear-guard action by the time he accepted the candidacy.

He was a pretty bad politician. He really wanted to focus on ideas; he really wanted to take immediate action for what Saint-Simon had called ‘the poorest and most numerous class.’ He said the things that one ought to say to power that don’t keep you in politics for very long.

Perhaps more detrimental to his reputation as a radical thinker than his imprisonment and exile, however, has been the way that his work has been marginalized, ignored, and downplayed by anarchists for much of the past century and a half. Partly this was due to the vagaries of history; the time period of Proudhon’s productive career slightly pre-dated the era of industrial manufacture and the rise of the workers movement which came to dominate radical thought in the later 19th century, so Proudhon’s writings seemed to lack relevance for the anarchist philosophers as their struggle developed.

But some of Proudhon’s marginalization has been due to his own writings. Much has been made of his racist and sexist beliefs, and what has been interpreted as apologia for war. That early 20th century proto-fascists and national socialists specifically regarded Proudhon as one of their philosophical progenitors did not help matters.

Some of these concerns are justified, others have been exaggerated or taken out of context or outright fabricated over the decades of neglect that his works have endured. Many have developed their critique of Proudhon less from a reading of his own words and more in the reading of others’ words about him.

Proudhon scholars today tend to admit that he made serious errors in thinking on certain issues, while denying the greater charges of war glorification or proto-fascism.

Shawn Wilbur:

Proudhon was wrong in some very, very serious ways on a very small number of possibly predictable questions. There’s no point in attempting to apologize for these things, they just have assumed perhaps a greater importance than they might. Let me run through the usual criticisms and how I understand them.

I think the most obvious misunderstanding is the ‘Proudhon as glorifier of war and potential proto-fascist.’ There were in fact people at the beginnings of fascism who latched onto bits and pieces of Proudhon and incorporated it into some pretty awful ideologies, as they did with Nietzsche, as they did with Stirner and quite a few others. So I think the ‘Proudhon as proto-fascist’ thing is pretty thin.

Proudhon as anti-Semite? There are two or three really, really horrible things in his private notebooks. That’s a much tougher question to work out because it’s hard to weigh the fifty volumes where there isn’t a peep of that kind of stuff with the shear horribleness of the two paragraphs that we do have. I think people just have to figure out for themselves how to weight that stuff.

The place that I think there isn’t must question is that Proudhon was a conservative when it came to family structures. He was an anti-feminist. He, in the process of rationalizing his anti-feminism, wrote some pretty rotten books. But in all that stuff he’s really torn himself. If you read his Catechism of Marriage, where he’s trying to show how heteronormative family relations between married couples are in fact the basis of justice in society. There’s some good stuff there. He’s got a social basis of society when he’s talking about justice; he thinks that women and men are equal. Some of it would be really forward thinking if the way that he understood the specific differences, the gender differences, wasn’t so damn backward.

I don’t think ultimately the really bad stuff even makes a dent in what’s really good about Proudhon’s writing and I think once we get past the point of feeling that he was in some ways a pretty rotten dude, I think that the mistakes he made might even be good at preventing us from making some.

In some ways, perhaps Proudhon foresaw his own relegation to the peripheries of anarchist history, worthy perhaps of a mention as the progenitor of the term but unworthy even now, 150 years later, of having the majority of his writings translated into English. As he wrote in his letter to the Academy of Besancon that became the preface to the first edition of “What is Property?,”

The nineteenth century is, in my eyes, a genesic era, in which new principles are elaborated, but in which nothing that is written shall endure.

Or perhaps not. Perhaps the anarchist canon, like all canons, is subject to revision, and that the fortunes of Proudhon’s intellectual legacy, like the fortunes of the legacy of all great figures, experiences ebbs and flows as new generations re-examine the writings of the past masters. Is Proudhon’s work overdue for a reassessment?

Dr. Alex Prichard:

Well I hope so, the point of my book really is to try and encourage people to read Proudhon again. I really do think that it’s high time that anarchists understood their history a little better. I think that most anarchists will tell you that their–well I shouldn’t generalise too much–but I would say that a large portion of the anarchist community is generally quite uninterested in its historical past and I think this is really problematic for two reasons. First of all, it essentially results in a condition of presentism. Eric Hobsbawm has this wonderful line where he says that ‘most young people at the century’s end are growing up in a sort of permanent present, lacking any organic relation to the public past of the times they lived in’ and I think the anarchists are as guilty of that as anyone else, frankly. I think part of that is because of a return to radical French philosophy that is unhistorical in quite important ways and this results in a type of presentism. Which means that contemporary anarchists can’t link their struggles back into the historical genesis of those struggles themselves and so we’re constantly reinventing the wheel and I think that this is deeply problematic.

So part of my aim, and I’ve published and written about this in a number of different places, part of what I’m trying to do is resurrect that historical tradition. To bring that big sweep back, to give that historical context back. And there’s a whole range of debates around this, don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that I right about this. But I would say that the debate that’s emerging around this question of resuscitation of “past masters” is really important to the anarchist tradition. We don’t have a Marx, we don’t have a Marxism, we don’t have a single text to which it’s quite acceptable to return too, to find out what the standard position is on X, Y or Z. We have a whole range of positions, which I think is much healthier and I think we reject that at our cost. I think that going back to the works Proudhon, Bakunin and Kropotkin is an enlightening exercise in and of itself, but I also think it sheds light on what is most unique about the times we live in. It helps us see our own times much more clearly because we can tell the difference between the past and the present and without being able to tell that difference, not only can we not see the links between those times so what generated our times, but we can’t think about radical alternatives, because those alternatives are always given to us in the present then it’s never suggested that anything of any original import was concocted in the past.

So this is really what I’m trying to do now and my future work will really be about trying to do precisely this. To link contemporary theory and political philosophy into the ideas that Proudhon was developing back then. To sort of bring it back up to date if you like but I still think that the historical exegesis, that recovery is absolutely vital as a first step and without that we really can’t do the second part any justice.

The debate over the canon, like the debate over the origins, of anarchism, is not likely to end anytime soon. And perhaps it never should. The debate, after all, proves that it is still a living field of inquiry, that people are still working, still thinking, still going back and recovering the past to see how it expands our understanding of the present moment. Sometimes the study of these great thinkers is important because they can teach us how to think about our own problems. Sometimes this study is important because it can help us to avoid the errors of the past. Whatever the case, the debate rages on.

But whatever his place in the anarchist canon of today or tomorrow, one thing is for certain. Proudhon was, is, and ever shall be, the first self-proclaimed anarchist.

This is James Corbett. Thank you for joining me for this edition of The Well-Read Anarchist. A transcript and links to the sources used in this podcast can be found at Please subscribe to the RSS feed for this podcast on to automatically receive future editions of the series in your podcatcher, and please join us next week as we begin our study of the writings of Proudhon with a reading of “What is Property?”

Category : Videos | Blog

by James Corbett
February 18, 2014

In recent weeks, the Eyeopener has been examining the politics of division. In our first report, we looked at how the left/right political spectrum is used as a wedge to divide the people against themselves. In our second report we showed how this has been accomplished in recent years to defuse the anti-war movement. And in last week’s report we examined how the corporate welfare state is maintained by way of these phony divisions.

As important as the political spectrum is in keeping the people warring with each other, it is of course by no means the only wedge issue that is used to keep the public at each other’s throats. Other tools of division include race, religion, class, and a whole host of issues that do not intersect with the political sphere at all, but nonetheless effectively help to group people into warring camps.

The end result of this constant appeal to tribalism is to pit neighbor against neighbor, family against family, coworker against coworker, and even friend against friend so that our lives consist of ever-dwindling spheres of people with whom we can agree totally on every issue. Meanwhile, the people in positions of very real control over the lives of those masses go unscrutinized, their actions lost under the 24/7 babble of nonsense being generated by the politics of division.

There is, after all, a reason that the pyramid has historically been seen as a metaphor for social control. At the bottom lie millions of stones, atomized, divided against each other, but all acting in unison to support the layer above it. The further up the pyramid one goes, the fewer the divisions between the components of that layer until, finally, the capstone reveals itself as the single, unitary ruler of the entire system. This is the image of the oligarchy, rule by the few over the masses through the age-old technique of divide and conquer.

If divide and conquer is the technique that keeps the people oppressed, however, it is obvious that the one thing that the ruling class fears above all else is that the public will unite against them. If the people were ever to put aside their doctrinal differences and coordinate their efforts, the results would be staggering.

This is not mere theory, but a political fact born out by centuries of example, and one that is continuing to have dramatic effect on the world around us. A classic example in recent years was the push to force milk from cows treated with bovine growth hormone into the marketplace. After concerns about the effects of this milk on both human health and the health of the cows themselves were made known through grassroots advocacy, however, consumer pressure led to BGH milk being taken off the shelves in store after store, including Wal-Mart, Kroger, Safeway, Starbucks, Ben & Jerry’s ice cream and other places. Similarly with bisphenol A, an estrogen-mimicking endocrine disruptor used in the creation of certain plastics and resins that was found to have potentially hazardous effects on the development of babies and young children. A mass awareness campaign led to worried parents demanding BPA-free plastics, which in turn led to BPA being removed from product after product.

In recent months, pressure on corporations has led to the removal of a number of food additives, chemicals, preservatives, and GMO ingredients from their products due to pressure from grassroots campaigns.

Similarly with the fight against water fluoridation. In most cases, the fluoridation program is not the addition of medical grade sodium fluoride to the drinking supply, but Hexafluorosilicic acid, a toxic byproduct of the phosphate fertilizer industry. As scientific studies continue to mount demonstrating the harmful effects of fluoridation on people’s bones, liver, thyroid, IQ, and, ironically enough, teeth, a concerned public has increasingly begun banding together across party lines to get the toxins removed from the water supply. One such case is in Austin, Texas, where young activists recently engaged in a hunger strike outside Austin City Hall to raise awareness of the problem, and have parlayed that action into a new PAC hoping to get the issue of fluoridation on the ballot in Austin.

The idea of grassroots campaigns helping to remove fluoride from the water supply is not unique to Austin. In recent years citizen-led groups have successfully campaigned for the removal of fluoride from the water supply of cities around the globe, from Calgary, Alberta to Windsor, Ontario to Hamilton, New Zealand to the entire country of Israel, and Portland, Oregon recently voted to keep fluoride out of their water supply.

By no means are these campaigns limited to the health sphere. The Move Your Money project has encouraged people in the US and the UK to stop banking with the big, unaccountable megabanks and switch to local banks and credit unions while Ithaca Hours, Colorado Mountain Hours, Calgary Dollars, and any number of similar systems around the globe encourage people to eschew central bank funny money in favour of local business-supporting complementary money systems.

In the tech field, the open source revolution is reimagining the way people collaborate, share knowledge, and produce innovations. From 3D printing and the sharing of the digital blueprints for the design of all manner of household objects under creative commons licenses to the creation of downloadable roadworthy car chassis to the sharing of designs and ideas for farming technologies in the open agriculture revolution, people are finding all sorts of new ways to come together regardless of political or philosophical or racial or class distinction to create vibrant, alternative communities of like-minded people interested in finding solutions to humanity’s problems.

Progress in these fields, of course, is by no means straightforward, and victory, as always, is hard won. But it can and does happen. These victories will never be trumpeted in the media, which always and forever wants to continue to keep people divided and to play up petty differences to stop them from coming together on their shared concerns. Ultimately, the choice of whether we are interested in collaborating over solutions or bickering over differences is not up to the would-be rulers of society or their talking head mockingbirds or their political puppets. It is a conscious decision that we make to transcend the barriers of divide and conquer politics, to put aside petty differences and doctrinal disagreements for cooperation on positive solutions.

That decision starts with you. And it starts today.

Category : Videos | Blog

Welcome to — the video series from Corbett Report and Media Monarchy that covers some of the most important developments in open source intelligence news. This week:

Story #1: This Algorithm Can Predict a Revolution
Sentient World Simulation: Meet Your DoD Clone
Ward Lab’s Conflict Forecast
#Geopolitiks: Michael Vail of StratRisks on Sochi, TPP, Ukraine

Story #2: Kraft Cheese Singles to Lose Artificial Preservatives
Chick-fil-A to Serve Chicken Without Antibiotics
Subway to Remove Chemical Found in Yoga Mats from Bread
@LeeCamp: Join my petition -Tell @GeneralMills to remove GMOs from ALL of its breakfast cereals
NWNW Flashback: Original Cheerios to Go GMO-Free

Story #3: Patriot Coal Prep Plant Spills Slurry Into West Virginia Creek
NWNW Flashback: As Spill Fallout Continues, Freedom Industries Cited at Second West Virginia Site
Email Shows Effort to Shield Osama Bin Laden “Death” Photos
NWNW Flashback: Pentagon Hides Files On Osama bin Laden Assassination
NYPD Ogles Google Glass Specs
NWNW Flashback: Homeland Security Special Agents Hold Up Google Glass Moviegoer
China’s ‘Jade Rabbit’ Lunar Rover Declared Dead
NWNW Flashback: India Launches Its First Mission To Mars

A special thank you to Mike Krentz of for creating our new video intro.

Visit to get previous episodes in various formats to download, burn and share. And as always, stay up-to-date by subscribing to the feeds from Corbett Report and Media Monarchy Thank you.

Previous Episode: Bankster Suicides and Bank Run Chatter

Category : Videos | Blog

by James Corbett
February 11, 2014

Since 1996, the United States Department of Defense has accumulated an $8.5 trillion black hole in its budget. The number is so staggering that it is quite literally inconceivable. Several times larger than the annual budget for the entire federal government, it is equivalent to half of the entire fraudulent debt of the United States government itself. Aside from a recent report by Reuters or the occasional back-of-the-paper mention in one of the dinosaur media outlets, however, you’d have to turn to Russian state-sponsored media to discover this fact.

An alien visiting earth from another planet could be forgiven for legitimately questioning why this scandal is virtually unknown while the details of Justin Bieber’s latest arrest or Miley Cyrus’ latest antics are literally unavoidable in the cultural zeitgeist. Or why the use of steroids in Major League Baseball is considered worthy of earnest Congressional investigation while this unaccounted for $8.5 trillion is relegated to passing mention in the occasional Congressional hearing.

What seems perplexing from an outside perspective, however, is mundane reality to those inside the system. The truth is that despite all the fuzzy rhetoric about republics and inalienable rights and the rule of law, the United States is nothing but an oligarchy, run by a handful of international banking syndicates, their multinational corporate cronies, and the politicians in their back pocket. The Pentagon budget story is not reported on for the simple reason that it is the defense contractors that own much of the media, and have intimate relations with those outlets that are not directly under their control.

And the defense contractors, in turn, own the political figures that decide who receive the government’s defense contracts. The classic example of this is Dick Cheney. As George H.W. Bush’s Secretary of Defense, he awarded a contract to KBR, a Halliburton subsidiary, to investigate the possibility of contracting out military services to private companies. Unsurprisingly, KBR concluded this would be a good thing, and soon Halliburton and other private companies were receiving a larger and larger slice of the Washington defense budget pie. Also unsurprisingly, Cheney left his post as Defense Secretary at the end of the Bush Administration and became CEO of Halliburton.

But this is not the only example of the defense contractor revolving door. As Ryan Dawson of The ANC Report notes in his new e-book, The Separation of Business and State:

“Thomas White, the Secretary of the Army, was involved with Enron as a senior executive. He unloaded 200,000 shares (12 million dollars’ worth) of their stock during that scandal. While White was serving as the Vice Chairman of Enron Energy Services, he actively used his political contacts to give Enron a single bidder contract to privatize the power supply for Fort Hamilton. He was also fond of using military jets for personal trips for himself and his wife.”


“Gordon England, the Secretary of the Navy, flipped back and forth between General Dynamics and Lockheed Martin. Lockheed Martin is at the top of the list when it comes to Pentagon contracts and General Dynamics is usually in the top five. England was the President of General Dynamics’ Land Systems Division and later became President for General Dynamics’ entire Fort Worth Division. That Division was sold to Lockheed and he became a President there.”

Sadly, the list of such blatant conflicts of interest is nearly endless and by no means limited to the military-industrial complex. The same is true of the revolving door in the biotech industry around companies like Monsanto and in the healthcare sector, where high-ranking insurance company executives literally write the legislation that mandates everyone to purchase health insurance from the corporations.

The problem is so blatant, so obvious, so out in the open that even its opponents readily admit to its existence. And yet it continues without significant opposition from the public. How can this happen? Because—in a twist that again would be difficult to explain to anyone not steeped in this system—people disagree not on the problem itself, but on what to call it.

This is the ultimate example of divide and conquer in action. A small, readily-identifiable ruling oligarchy that no serious political observer denies the existence of is able to keep the public from attacking it by dividing them along ideological grounds so that the public spends all their time arguing over definitions and splitting doctrinal hairs instead of attacking the commonly acknowledged enemy. You couldn’t ask for a more perfect system of control.

Thankfully, the corollary of this divide and conquer strategy is that it is possible to unite the people against their common enemy simply by employing some rhetorical strategies of their own.

As we shall see next week, the idea of uniting the public against the oligarchs is not only possible, it is actually happening in case after case. But as always it is a question of whether it is enough to push back against this oligarchical control, or if it is too little, too late.

Category : Videos | Blog

Welcome to — the video series from Corbett Report and Media Monarchy that covers some of the most important developments in open source intelligence news. This week:

Story #1: Harvard Economist Is Pulling All His Money From Bank Of America
Harvard Economist Fears Starting “Bank Run” on BoA by Withdrawing $1 Million
How Likely Are Bail-Ins? Bank of England Says U.S. “Could Do Today”
People Not In Labor Force Soar To Record 91.8 Million; Participation Rate Plunges To 1978 Levels
Obamacare To Crush Workforce By 2.5 Million Workers In Next Decade, CBO Admits
Nikkei hardest hit amid global share sell off
China Manufacturing at Six-Month Low Signals Growth Easing
Greece’s third aid program may be on its way
Brazilian Real Drops to Five-Month Low as Trade Deficit Widens
Financial world shaken by 4 bankers’ apparent suicides in a week
9 Die in Fire Destroying Argentine Bank Archives

Story #2: Toothpaste threatens Olympics while poisoned dogs, bad hotel rooms taint Games
#Sochi2014 Security Updates
Sochi Officials Order Stray Dogs Killed Ahead of Olympics
#Sochi Flashback: “Satanic Dancing on the Bones of Our Ancestors”
Avoiding Sochi Snoopers

Story #3: Academics Launch Torrent Site to Share Papers and Datasets

Visit to get previous episodes in various formats to download, burn and share. And as always, stay up-to-date by subscribing to the feeds from Corbett Report and Media Monarchy Thank you.

Previous Episode: #SOTU? STFU!

Category : Videos | Blog

by James Corbett
February 4, 2014

Drone strikes in Pakistan. The surge in Afghanistan. The bombing of Libya. Aiding terrorists in Syria. Crippling sanctions on Iran. The Asia-Pacific Pivot. Here in 2014, the Nobel committee’s 2009 decision to award Obama with a Peace Prize seems like some sort of sick joke. But then, to those who were warning that Obama was just a fresh face for the same oligarchical interests that Bush had served so well in the 8 years before him, the hope and change pandemonium of the 2008 selection cycle always was always a sick joke. One look at the largest donors to Obama’s campaign was enough to confirm exactly who he was working for, and exactly what type of “hope” and “change” the public could expect.

So why did people believe in it so fervently? Surely wishful thinking played a role. A public that had just survived eight years of Bush-era insanity could perhaps be forgiven for desiring change so desperately that they were willing to see it in Barack Obama, a clean slate upon which they could project whatever fantasies they wished.

But the problem is deeper than that. As we examined last week on The Eyeopener, the fraudulent left/right political divide has been used to keep the people divided against each other even as it is used to dupe the public into supporting the very same political agenda through puppet administration after puppet administration. Perhaps nowhere is this process of divide and rule quite so transparent as it is in the so-called “anti-war” movement of the last decade.

At the height of the Bush Administration, scores gathered for protest, marches, rallies, and acts of civil disobedience to decry the acts of torture, abuse and violence being perpetrated by the Pentagon in the name of the War on Terror. At the time, the movement was dismissed by the talking heads on the right side of the political aisle as being little more than an anti-Bush movement.

As it turns out, they were largely right. After the election of Obama in 2008, the driving impetus of the anti-war movement evaporated. No longer did it matter that the wars, covert operations, military tribunals and prison torture camps were continuing. In fact, it did not even matter that American military involvement escalated with the Obama handover, expanding into Pakistan and Yemen, involving more drone strikes and extrajudicial assassinations. This was, after all, a Democrat, and so many on the anti-war left were appeased. Groups like Veterans For Peace, which had so loudly and so admirably called for the impeachment of Bush for his participation in war crimes and atrocities have been happy to look the other way while “their guy” in the White House forwards the very same agenda.

Last year, I had the chance to talk to famed activist and writer Larry Pinkney, a veteran of the original Black Panther Party, about the process by which the anti-war movement was co-opted and ultimately squashed by the left/right political fraud.

As vexing as this endless cycle of left-wing and right-wing warmongering is, the sick joke is set to be played on the public yet again and, what’s worse, it seems to be working yet again. This time it’s the Republicans who are pretending to play the role of savior, putting up a mock opposition to the worst abuses of Obama. There were protestations over the way Obama bypassed Congress to start the war in Libya. It is now″ target=”_blank”>official Republican platform policy to decry illegal NSA surveillance as an abrogation of fundamental rights. But come November 2016, after the next pre-determined, rigged, phony American coronation spectacle plays itself out and a man (or woman) with an R next to his name is inevitably installed in office, the Republicans will once again be fine with any level of presumed Presidential authority and the Democrats will once again pretend to be concerned about Executive overreach. And the public, relieved to have “thrown the rascals out” yet again will be content for another 4 or 8 years until the next time they decide to throw out the rascals.

And so history repeats and repeats and repeats and repeats.

And yet, there are reasons to believe that this time can be different. As Larry Pinkney highlighted last year, there are concrete steps that the public can take to help transition away from the left/right duopoly and toward a system where people collaborate and act in their shared interest against the wishes of the warmongering ruling class.

What’s more, there is reason to believe that this is actually happening. No more stunning example of a genuine, grassroots, people’s anti-war movement can be identified than the spontaneous mobilization we saw in the wake of the false flag chemical weapons attack in Syria last August. It was the grassroots alternative media that raised the alarm about the push to war and the US/British manipulation of intelligence to try to lay the blame for the attack on Assad’s doorstep. It was mass mobilization and anti-war campaigning that derailed the war drive and forced Obama to back off from sending troops into yet another war theater. And it was this intense public backlash that ultimately shamed the administration into taking Putin’s face-saving deal.

Compared to the mass carnage that has been inflicted in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, and elsewhere over the past decade, the aversion of the Syrian war may seem like a small victory, but it nonetheless is a victory and has to be recognized as such. The fact that NATO did not begin the bombing of Syria in 2013 may prove to be the beginning of a tidal change of resistance to the imperial bankster-driven war agenda of the warmongers on the left and right sides of the phony political divide.

Or, it might turn out to be a momentary blip on the otherwise unimpeded journey toward a state of total war. The people might go back to their mainstream news, believing the mainstream lies, voting for the mainstream political parties, and thinking that as long as it’s “our guy” in office, everything will be OK again.

In the end, the choice is ours to make. But with war on Iran and a World War III scenario involving China and Russia looming on the horizon, the time to make that choice may be running out.

Category : Videos | Blog

Welcome to — the video series from Corbett Report and Media Monarchy that covers some of the most important developments in open source intelligence news. This week:

Story #1: Obama Misleads Nation on Iran Deal
Obama Brought 60,000 Troops Home From Afghanistan, But Sent 50,000 There
In State of the Union, Obama Silent on NSA Crypto Reform
Nuclear Ambiguity: Israel’s “Secret” Arsenal

Story #2: Major Patent Expiration Could Spark a Second 3D Printing Revolution
Key 3D printing patent expired yesterday
Solutions: 3D Printing

Story #3: First American Arrested With Help From Drone Is Sentenced
NWNW Flashback: Drones Assist In Corralling North Dakota Cattle Rustlers (Dec 15, 2011)
West Virginia Official Says Residents Breathing Cancer-Causing Agent After Chemical Spill
Showering in Formaldehyde? Fresh Fears in West Virginia

Visit to get previous episodes in various formats to download, burn and share. And as always, stay up-to-date by subscribing to the feeds from Corbett Report and Media Monarchy Thank you.

Previous Episode: Who Is Behind the Ukraine Riots

Category : Videos | Blog

by James Corbett
January 28, 2014

From education to the environment, business to banking, housing to health care, it seems that there is no issue in the world that the industrialized western democracies cannot reduce to a simplistic paradigm of “liberal” vs “conservative.” In fact, this point has been so hardwired into the modern political system that it has been distilled into a childlike shorthand: political positions are “left” or “right,” “blue” or “red.” These convenient, color-coded political choices infantilize the political process, making the public little more than spectators at a sporting event, rooting for one team or another without even having to understand the issues being debated.

Nowhere has this process of simplification become so refined as it has in the United States of America, sometimes laughingly referred to as the “leaders of the free world.”

This inane lowest-common-denominator reduction of all political thought has taken its toll on the public. Many are now unable to conceive of what a political movement that is not attached to one or the other ends of this so-called “spectrum” would look like. Yet, interestingly, this is precisely what has emerged in the past several years, not once, but twice, and not on one side of this left/right divide or the other, but both.

In the past five years we have watched the rise of two distinct movements expressing popular outrage at the political status quo in the US. Both movements decried the nexus of power that has developed in the fascistic relationship of big banks and big government. Both movements believed that the bought-and-paid for politicians have robbed the people of their rights and even their ability to participate in the political process. Both movements believed in mass protest as a way of effecting change in the system. And yet, we are asked to believe that these movements are not only incompatible, but diametrically opposed.

According to the corporate press, the tea party is a fringe Republican movement that arose out of a desire to move the Republican party further toward the “hard right.” Never discussed in mainstream coverage of the group is its actual origins in disgust at the Bush Administration’s 9/11 cover-up. The first “tea party” event was held in Boston in 2006 and involved throwing copies of the whitewash 9/11 Commission Report into Boston Harbor. The movement took off in 2008 in the wake of the Lehman Brothers collapse and the announcement of trillions of dollars of stimulus being directed into the pockets of the Wall Street banksters and their political cronies.

Similarly, the Occupy Wall Street movement motivated scores of Americans to actively protest the financial oligarchy and their growing ensnarement of the political machinery of the US government for their own enrichment. People sick of being asked to “tighten their belts” while banks continued making record profits, backed up and bailed out by debt that the public is being asked to underwrite, drove people into the streets for mass protests and confrontations with the so-called authorities across the country.

At their core, these movements sprang from remarkably similar origins: increasing public frustration with the money power dominating the American political process, and the dwindling space for public engagement in that system. It did not take long at all, however, before both movements were spun into the left/right political process, with the Republicans effectively capturing the tea party movement and steering much of their base into an officially sanctioned Tea Party Inc. The Democrats, meanwhile, managed to ignore the Occupy Wall Street protests while the political provocateurs and change agents steered it toward cultural irrelevance.

Those who have studied history should perhaps not find it surprising that the political outrage that is felt so keenly by people on all sides of the political “spectrum” should be controlled by spinning them off into partisan politics. Nor should they be surprised to see how effective this technique is. After all, the strategy of keeping the people pitted against each other instead of against their oppressors is one of the oldest political strategems known to human civilization.

The phrase “divide and conquer” is attributed to Julius Caesar and has been used by emperors and would-be tyrants ever since. In the age of empires, divide and conquer was used to keep the empires’ subjects from rebelling against the emperor. The Romans used it to keep their conquered neighbours competing with each other rather than their foreign occupiers. The British used it to keep their colonies squabbling along religious, ethnic and sectarian grounds so that the Queen and the British East India Company could more effectively exploit them.

In the age of the nation state and with the advent of republican democracy, the strategy necessarily took on a different form. The idea of a “left” and “right” wing in politics stems from the earliest days of the French Revolution, when the National Assembly divided into supporters of the king on the President’s right and supporters of the revolution on his left. The notion of competing parties within the government was quickly transplanted to the American context, where supporters of Alexander Hamilton united under the Federalist Party, causing Thomas Jefferson to form the Democratic-Republican party.

The creation of political parties was greeted with uneasiness by many, including George Washington himself, who warned of the potential for despotism under such a system in his Farewell Address:

“The alternate domination of one faction over another, sharpened by the spirit of revenge, natural to party dissension, which in different ages and countries has perpetrated the most horrid enormities, is itself a frightful despotism. But this leads at length to a more formal and permanent despotism. The disorders and miseries, which result, gradually incline the minds of men to seek security and repose in the absolute power of an individual; and sooner or later the chief of some prevailing faction, more able or more fortunate than his competitors, turns this disposition to the purposes of his own elevation, on the ruins of Public Liberty.”

Whatever the intentions of the original creators of the Federalist and Democratic-Republican Parties, by the 20th Century the American system, supposedly the beacon of democracy for the world, had become hardwired into a two-party duopoly: the Republicans and the Democrats. This was not the result of mere happenstance, but a concerted plan to effect a divide and conquer strategy on the population by the money interests that benefit from having the public pitted against each other.

The thinking behind this two-party system that was engineered by the banking and financial interests was documented by famed Georgetown historian Carroll Quigley in his landmark work, Tragedy and Hope, published in 1966:

“The argument that the two parties should represent opposed ideals and policies, one, perhaps, of the Right and the other of the Left, is a foolish idea acceptable only to the doctrinaire and academic thinkers. Instead, the two parties should be almost identical, so that the American people can ‘throw the rascals out’ at any election without leading to any profound or extreme shifts in policy.”

Late last March I had the chance to talk to independent news commentator Charlie McGrath of Wide Awake News about this strategy of divide and conquer and how it functions to keep like-minded people apart on so many issues.

The situation would almost be laughable if it were not so tragic. Having been immersed in the left/right facade their entire lives, many have begun to see the world and those around them through that prism. Either someone is on the same “side” as they are, or they are the enemy. There is no room for nuance, no subtle distinctions to be made, no room for alliance or cooperation on matters of great import. Perhaps most devastatingly, there is now little room for any analysis of the powers behind the political throne, the oligarchical financial interests that could care less whether this or that President has a “D” or an “R” next to their name, whether a Prime Minister is “Labour” or “Conservative,” whether an MEP identifies with the “left” or the “right.” Deprived of this understanding of the real nature of political power, the public is truly powerless to identify the real problem at the root of today’s political crisis, let alone even begin to address it.

It is perhaps ironic, then, that at the end of the day the supposedly serious commentators, analysts and talking heads that are paraded in front of the public to comment on this system are little more than buffoons and court jesters, keeping the public entertained and distracted, while some of the most insightful political commentators of our day have been the comedians who have been bold enough to expose this system for what it really is.


Category : Videos | Blog

by James Corbett
January 26, 2014

As the public finally becomes outraged over the NSA’s illegal spying, members of government and the corporate media wage an information war to misdirect that anger to issues of less importance. To counteract this, a bold new citizen-led initiative to nullify the NSA is now gaining momentum around the United States. This is the GRTV Backgrounder on Global Research TV.

One of the less-remembered parts of the Osama bin Laden fairytale was that the NSA had a hard time keeping track of his communications with his Al CIAda operatives. Why? Because, as General Michael Hayden told CBS News back in early 2001, bin Laden used standard encryption and off-the-shelf American telecommunication products.

Sound unbelievable? That’s because it is. As they go on to admit in that very same report, they were tracking bin Laden’s satellite phone after all, and as James Bamford and others have described in exhaustive detail, the NSA was monitoring Al Qaeda’s “communications hub” in Yemen for years prior to 9/11, and purposefullly withholding most of that information from the CIA bin Laden unit. But the idea that the NSA just wasn’t able to track bin Laden because of his dastardly technology was a key meme for the NSA to implant in the immediate wake of 9/11. That’s why the Hayden interview was replayed on CBS less than 48 hours after the attacks, and that’s why, as recently declassified documents show, the NSA used 9/11 as an official talking point to justify their illegal surveillance of Americans.

This meme, of course, was a lie. As NSA insiders have pointed out for years, most if not all of the current illegal collections programs began before 9/11, but the false flag events of September 11th provided the perfect justification for the revelation and expansion of those programs.

Now, over a decade later, that meme is paying off. Just two weeks after a federal district court judge ruled the NSA’s collection of telephone metadata unconstitutional, a different district court judge ruled it constitutional. In his particularly florid ruling, U.S. District Court Judge William Pauley wrote:

“The September 11th terrorist attacks revealed, in the starkest terms, just how dangerous and interconnected the world is. While Americans depended on technology for the conveniences of modernity, al-Qaeda plotted in a seventh-century milieu to use that technology against us. It was a bold jujitsu. And it succeeded because conventional intelligence gathering could not detect diffuse filaments connecting al-Qaeda.”

No matter if it bears any resemblance to reality. The meme has been planted and the courts are willing to go along with it. It is now official lore that the NSA needs to spy on everyone’s phone metadata to prevent the next 9/11 from taking place.

Of course, that’s not the only lie in this story. The even bigger lie that is being propounded now is that the national conversation and the court cases are still revolving around the false notion that NSA phone spying is somehow limited to metadata, as if all the NSA is collecting are lists of phone numbers and call durations. We have suspected for years that phone calls were being recorded and stored wholesale, but that was actually confirmed by Tim Clemente, a former FBI counterterrorism agent who casually let it slip on Erin Burnett’s CNN program in May that US intelligence agencies have access to complete phone conversations whenever they want in the name of “national security.”

Although this caused a buzz at the time and was picked up by numerous publications, it was soon covered over by the Snowden story, which once again focused people’s attention on metadata. One person who did not gloss over it, however, was Russ Tice. He was a former NSA employee who became a whistleblower almost a decade ago, as one of the sources for the initial New York Times story exposing the illegal NSA wiretapping program. When he heard Clemente’s interview he immediately contacted his ex-NSA friends and discussed whether the NSA was already recording every phone conversation they could intercept and storing them at their new Utah data center. The ex-NSA gathering’s consensus: this was exactly what the NSA was doing. As a result, Tice decided to go further than ever before about what he knew regarding illegal NSA activities. In a series of interviews on, The Corbett Report, and other media venues, Tice revealed that during his time as an NSA employee he had personally handled the eavesdropping orders to monitor the communications of high-ranking judges, congressman and military officials, presumably for the purposes of blackmail.

And once again these shocking revelations are being spun away into theory and hearsay. This time it’s Senator Bernie Sanders lobbing the softball at the NSA as he sends them a letter politely asking whether the NSA is spying on Congress. Senator Sanders did not ask about the wiretapping of communications that Tice has already exposed, however, but merely whether or not the NSA metadata spying extends to members of congress. Once again, the real scandal is papered over by milquetoast non-confrontation by the bought-and-paid-for congress that have been perfectly content to let this happen for years now.

The entire NSA fiasco is stage-managed theatrics from start to finish, a carefully choreographed stage show with full cooperation from the corporate media that is only too willing to play along and misdirect the national conversation to areas of little or no importance. Meanwhile, in reality, the only question worth discussing is how to abolish the NSA entirely. Since this is not a question that is on the table politically, it is up to the public to find alternative ways of shutting down the NSA. Luckily, there is at least one innovative project happening that proposes to do just that.

Those who are interested in finding out how they can help turn the taps off on the NSA (literally) are encouraged to explore the #NullifyNSA hashtag on twitter and explore the campaign website at

Category : Videos | Blog