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history of this blog

This page covers the development of this blog-project. With just a handful of views a day, it was always too small to be of any significance whatsoever, but has been very educational for me so I think i’ll drop this diary bit here.

It started in 2013 with a very tightly focused goal, that was almost instantly abandoned as I got to see the reality of online political advocacy. But lets go over that anyway.

The plan was to use this blog as a fixed reference point in a “real-world” viral leafleting campaign. It would work exactly like a pre-internet-age, pre-email-age chain letter, but leafleted in public places. The message was to promote interest in 3rd party politics, starting with my home area of upstate NY. The target demographic, and the arguments for, were to be anti-war, pro-social-justice, pro-economic-justice – i.e., progressive/leftist. In the event it caught on, it would then be used in an upcoming election (2014 or 2016), to promote awareness within Democratic primary voters that their party locks them into much more conservative positions than a great many voters actually believe in. I was also determined to be kindof a cynical bastard in terms of advertising strategy – very much on purpose, because that is what seems to work in the real-world. (a belief I don’t think I’ll have if I am to try such a thing again).

This came from my experiences in the 2004 presidential election, including both the Dem. primary, as well as the general election. My motivation at that time was primarily anti-war (in response to Bush era neocon war crimes, not to mince words). Through that I got a pretty good introduction to the social-justice and economic-justice undercurrents within the long-lost progressive corners the D party. The fact that they were so invisible to me prior was a clear sign of how effectively the 2-party system narrows our options. The other thing I learned that cycle was that the whole “centrist” schtick involves “compromise” to the point that there’s no principles left. Kerry was a let-down. Lastly, it was an early sign that the US electorate is a lot more deeply conservative than I believed during the Clinton period – but there was more to come on that front later, so I’m skipping ahead.

There was 1 more lesson from 2004 that goes into this project. It’s that politics can get deeply emotional, and divisive. Even among friends. Even among friends with whom you share 98% of your beliefs and values – that last 2% can have you in a bitter argument if not careful. If you look at people’s online behavior, however, unreserved expression of beliefs and over-the-top criticism of another’s beliefs are so common that everyone is ready for it. Hence, I thought (and still do), anonymous or semi-anonymous online communication has a lot to offer, to anyone who wants to expand the scope of the discussion to important issues that are suppressed in family and work conversations – in the name of getting along. I don’t mean that as a euphemism for opening the door to hate speech (which is the inevitable back side of the same coin), I mean it very literally – some things, such as the Iraq war to name the canonical example of this century – need criticism but anyone with good “people skills” dare not. Saw this at work a lot.

In 2008 I was once again disappointed by the primaries, but was ready for it. I was nevertheless happy to support Obama, because like everyone else around here, I took it as a huge positive for an African American to be president of the US – perhaps the sordid history of racism in the US could finally enter its final phase-out. And he was a damn good speaker too.

If you were able to read between the lines, Pres. Obama as a candidate in 2008 did telegram his intention to not change things in certain areas. Specifically foreign policy. His key word was continuity. Still, the Iraq war finally ended, the withdrawal negotiated in Bush’s closing days. However, the financial crisis put Pres. Obama in a position where non-specific hopes of the public would face some concrete tests. Once again, I’m just going to be far too blunt: The banks got bailed out, people got screwed. OWS! The foreign policy was a disappointment as well. Perhaps getting the Nobel Peace Prize on his first day at work was a bit of a jinx, but we had the familiar neo-conservative pattern of intervention and wreckage in Libya, Egypt, and the intention to do so in Syria.

That brings me back to 2013. By late 2012, although I supported Obama’s re-election, he was no longer a transformational figure, but just another party-machine Democrat. As in Republican-Lite with a smile. Crony capitalism without the racism. A kinder gentler machine gun hand. Etc. Very soon after kicking off this blog, we heard the familiar sounds of the media machinery winding up for another neocon pattern war effort, to rid the world of the evil dictator Assad. My objection wasn’t that I didn’t believe he was an awful leader, it was that every time the neocon game plan is executed, the cure is worse than the disease. We go in, start a war, bomb the place to rubble, and anyone unfortunate enough to be young and impressionable in that place and time has a good chance of growing up into a violent extremist of one type or another. So it was to happen in Syria again.

Much to my surprise, that war effort was stopped cold by members of the military itself, in an early and very effective social media campaign. At the same time, I found out that the audience for my blog, or at least the subjects I covered: (1) responded to the anti-war message, and (2) consisted in large part of conservatives, I think. But certainly not everyone. (this was before the Russia business, we’ll get to that shortly). Anyway, that audience demographic pretty much nixed my original plan, but it was quite a realization. Since then I’ve sortof filed that in with the “rule of seconds” — it is the second most powerful entity in any power structure that drives events (works in markets too btw – price isn’t set by lowest marginal cost player, but the second lowest). Anyhow, since the US government was Democratic, it was Republicans that were more energized – and I’m not just talking about the “birther” types. Speaking of them though, the easiest and cheapest audience to get is the conspiracy-theory type. I think after this past year (2016-2017) we can see that has its use, and most definitely it’s overuse as well.

My belief was, and continues to be, that people who buy into conspiracy theories are in a sort-of middle phase in their political development. They let go from believing everything they hear on Fox News or CNN or whatever, but the only alternative narrative they have yet found is seriously defective factually, and holds them by virtue of its emotional power. Still, a person at such a stage is easier to recruit to a genuine anti-war, social-justice, or economic-justice cause. That is because such a cause inevitably requires saying no to the false bait-and-switch options on offer from the 2 main “centrist” parties. Essentially, one would have to teach an audience of initially conspiracy theory types to wean themselves off the sensational, and get down to real solid progressive political advocacy (or whatever your flavor of politics is — this concept is adaptable to libertarians as well. Perhaps too easily…)

So back to 2013… The timeline isn’t perfect in my memory. Our policymakers in the US were still insisting on regime change in Syria, and appeared to encourage regional proxies to support anyone fighting Assad – which meant a pretty sketch crowd.

So now the Russia angle comes. It was in the abrupt change of power in Ukraine. This is of course going to be controversial for some, but I’ll just lay it out. Electoral shenanigans there were nothing new, the menu was between 2 plates of shameless corruption, one happened to be associated with the east, one the west. Once again the leader was a scummy oligarch. Once again, what came after was worse. What triggered me was that the vanguard of the change in power consisted of some seriously right-wing groups. Like the alt-right in the US, but you had US Senators and State Dept. figures giving them warm hugs. So great big red flag there. I’m not going to go over the details, but it was a crystal clear case of US policy makers not just bullshitting, but doing so in a very dangerous way.

Of course, living in a country that makes alliances with people you would be terrified to bring home isn’t anything new, but this was close to home for me. As a child, I lived in a place where the biggest threat, dwarfing all others, was the possibility of the US and Russia have a real fight, or even just a proxy fight in your neighborhood. At the same time, fresh from observing Neo-Conservative incompetence and wreckage from “benevolent” interventions in the middle east, with continuity from the Obama administration, I could not help but imagine the same script playing out – except this time with an adversary, Russia, who (a) hits back, (b) is on their home turf, and (c) had probably a good 75% of the facts on their side, vs maybe 25% for the weird cast of characters in Kerry’s State Dept. There were just so many ways that scenario could go wrong. You have an obligation to speak out against that kind of thing.

And to my surprise, once again, the audience for it was enthusiastic. And this time, the group with whom I shared this corner of web media space was even more right-wing than the Syria anti-war theme. At the same time, you could see all this internet-media-propaganda machinery being built up in real-time, for both sides! I chronicled those, it was fun and educational. Unfortunately in terms of the project I dreamed of starting, this ruined it all, since the propaganda machinery is built to produce the opposite effect on the audience from the one I wanted. The machinery (from both sides), seeks to destroy nuance, inflame passions, and get people to be more into conspiracy theories.

Anyway, that all went by, I got burnt out on it.

Most recently we had the 2016 cycle. It was at first very amusing, then disturbing to see Trump destroy his primary competition. It was really sad to see so many Democrats buy into the fantasy that Clinton was the “electable” one.

“Electability.” I already learned to loathe that word from 2004. It was a hugely heartwarming experience to campaign for Sanders. Interestingly, only a single person I talked to during the primaries believed that Clinton was a better candidate on her issue positions, or her performance in government – a very nice older gay man who wasn’t aware she opposed recognition of gay marriage when her voice counted the most, as a Senator.

If the people I spoke to are a representative sample (they’re obv. not), people chose Clinton out of a fear of Trump. The fear was well founded, the thought process was not. After the 2016 RNC and DNC conventions, what was left was a roll of the dice. Any skulduggery by the Clinton campaign during the primaries was forgivable. I would’ve encouraged people to vote for her, if it wasn’t for her unfortunate imitation of a neo-con as Secretary of State.

The only thing to do was to try to encourage both Democrats and Republicans to build a safer better world by not nominating such flawed candidates. The first and second best candidates were both third parties… that’s water under the bridge now, I hope.

People were absolutely shocked when Trump got elected. Including some of the most genuinely independent and progressive people I know. For a moment, I cruelly denied them my sympathy, since my disappointment was several months stale by them. I’ll leave out the post-game drama of the last year, since it’s fresh.

Lets say that brings us roughly to the present. 2017 is a hopeless year for any political advocacy — too much noise. Hopefully by mid 2018 things calm down and we can get back to talking about issues. Hopefully we won’t be starting any more wars or changing any more regimes or anything like that.

Where does it go from here? Somewhere constructive. The rest of this is rambling, I’ve been typing too long.

I am somewhat concerned that the D party’s attempt to blame Russia will actually take hold. As an institution, the national D party is still punch-drunk some 12 months later… Furthermore, with their reach within government narrowed, Democrats must make more focused use of the media. Combine that with a belief that internet trolls from Moscow manipulated the US public (unlike, say, every billionaire prince or sheikh who ever wrote a check to a PAC thru a US corporate subsidiary or charity)… that combination of beliefs leads to the conclusion that social media in the US must be censored. China’s doing it already… I suppose it will come here. We’ve seen such before, we’ll see it again I suppose. That’s really too bad – the internet is something that has great potential to be a tool for democracy.

I’m also very concerned that such a big chunk of the Trump white house consists of generals, and his primary allies in the corporate world are the big 3 defense contractors, Lockheed, Boeing, and UTC?. While it would be comforting to think this group are the “adults in the room”, the history of this century so far leaves a lot to doubt.

-20171026

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