Organization is the Mobilization of Bias

“(A)ll forms of political organization have a bias in favor of the exploitation of some kinds of conflict and the suppression of others because organization is the mobilization of bias. Some issues are organized into politics while others are organized out”

EE Schattschneider 1960: 71.


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Arabia & the West: Painful Lessons from Media History

In the solid “The Arab Spring and the West: Seven Lessons from History,” The Guardian‘s Seamus Milne reaches into the British Pathe News Video Archive to recall the oil-dependent fundamentals of West-Middle East Relations.

1) The West never gives up its drive to control the Middle East, whatever the setbacks.

2) Imperial powers can usually be relied on to delude themselves about what Arabs actually think.

3) The Big Powers are old hands at prettifying client regimes to keep the oil flowing.

4) People in the Middle East don’t forget their history – even when the US and Europe (conveniently) does.

5) The West has always presented Arabs who insist on running their own affairs as fanatics.

6) Foreign military intervention in the Middle East brings death, destruction, and divide and rule.

7) Western sponsorship of Palestine’s colonisation is a permanent block on normal relations with the Arab world.

Pro Bloc v. Pro Monastery: On the Application of Social Movement Techniques

When pundits say they don’t understand what OWS is about, what that means is that OWS is a cross-(99%) stratification coalition of liberals and social democrats and the extremely marginalized and anarchists and socialists who are refusing to deny each other. That is to say, OWS is a functioning social movement bloc.

The unity of the opposing bloc of the 1% + its loyal hairy old man Teabag minions + its militarized police has probably helped to make the OWS bloc comparatively robust.

On the applicability of social movement techniques: 
Process-oriented communication

Barbara Epstein wrote a crucial book based on her study of the late twentieth century peace movement in the Pacific Northwest, Political Protest and Cultural Revolution: Nonviolent Direct Action in the 1970s and 80s, and Paul Lichterman wrote a study examining how social movement organization practices, such as a hierarchy-less organizational structure of empowered individuals, can put off key coalition partners and snuff out mobilization. Together these studies suggest that, under some circumstances, process-orientation can be at the root of social movement organizations’ ineffectiveness. The Epstein book in particular is a necessary read for people interested in social and political-economic change because it offers insight into the limits of prefigurative politics, and process-oriented communication social movement tactics–insight which corrects for the contemporary-era progressive community’s a-contextual idealization of these tactics.

Some cities’ Occupy movements this past fall have provided some support for the claim that perhaps the tactical innovations–including process-heavy communication techniques–can, in the context of adequate critical mass, effectively facilitate a coalition bloc. Elite concerns with predicting and managing social movement organizations are going to color how elite scholars look at social movements–for example in a too-short time frame. Perhaps the story is that it took people 40 years of practical R&D to innovate a social movement technique that can secure a bloc, but requires an adequate degree of preexisting critical mass to function as bloc glue and to ignite further mobilization.

This is to say that communicative process-orientation is a social movement technique that requires critical mass (cross-community participation) before it can be employed effectively. Without the critical mass precondition, communication process-orientation is not an effective social movement technique, see Epstein & satellite Occupy demonstrations without critical mass. Without adequate critical mass, process becomes counterproductive overkill as a social movement technique.

Without adequate preexisting critical mass, you’re left with a small, rather repulsive, and ineffective  assemblage of personalities that tend to get furiously frustrated in their failed efforts at micromanaging other people’s communication. But perhaps such a group can be more generously regarded as a sort of small monastery–not capable of mobilizing a movement, but monks of a social movement technique or two.

Iceland & Primitive Accumulation

Here’s Silla Sigurgeirsdottir and Robert H. Wade’s Monde Diplomatique article “Iceland’s Loud No.” Here’s a good English-language Icelandic journalist covering the transformation of private (capitalist) losses into public (working class) debt throughout Europe.

Iceland prosecutes predatory bankers, December 2011.

Iceland exits the recession, December 2011.

From November 2011:

 Deena Stryker’s adaptation of the Italian article “Iceland’s Ongoing Revolution” is on the alternative news, essentially arguing that Iceland’s response to the transformation of private investor losses into public (cross-national and cross-generational working class plundering) debt throughout Europe is not adequately covered by the English-language press. She argues that this may be because Iceland has been striving to find alternate ways to pay off British and Dutch investors, other than working through the IMF (like Malaysia did successfully in the 1997 East Asian crash), and Icelandic people have been working to reform their political system to prevent plundering capture by global financial capital.

 This is an important contribution because, first, the question for smaller-economy Western countries ultimately is: When Iceland/Greece/etc. govts are forced by global capital and larger-economy (more powerful) governments to strip wealth off their own citizens to pay off British and Dutch etc. investors, with interest, how much wealth will be transferred to the big-economy investors and their bankers?

 Those investors were gambling. If it were just an economic market, they should have to absorb the risks and take the losses of their own gambling. But economics is also political, because it’s about amassing and maintaining power. British and Dutch political regimes exist in capitalism to take up the sticks and guns and punitive trade strategies to make sure that there is all profit (growth) and no risk to British and Dutch investors, and by extension the bankers that served them–That the costs of Accounting-books economic “growth” are confined (inasmuch as is possible–Aye. There’s the rub.) to the Icelandic, Greek, Spanish, Irish, US, British, etc. tax-paying working-class. That Accounting-books economic “growth” (AKA unregulated, state-backed investment) is a successful wealth-plundering strategy (AKA primitive accumulation). In this way big economies hope to attract capital and stay big, and smaller-economy countries hope to ride upon and not be eaten by bigger ones.

 So there is the vital second question, which Ms. Stryker has tapped, of how much wealth transfer will be forced and must be conceded by various populations. This is an ongoing political fight involving: 1) the blackmail capitalist claim that the global capitalist economy cannot be restored until the wealth transfer is realized as exclusive private accumulation, 2) coercive and coerced enforcement of this transfer by governing regimes, and 3) many countries’ working class populations, their range of beliefs about how political-economies can work, and their capacity to resist and fight. It is necessary for liberationists and democrats to engage those working class political-economic beliefs, as Ms. Stryker is doing by gesturing to the Icelandic differences, if nothing else to raise a reflexive working class limit on predatory financial capitalist machinations around the globe. (Well, that’s the liberal ideal outcome. I can think of more ambitious outcomes.)

The carping about Stryker’s article in Iceland’s The Grapevine is about journalists’ endemic quick and dirty deployment of econ stats in service of political extrapolations, in the midst of ongoing political contention in Iceland. It’s nice that The Grapevine is clearing up the stats and reassuring Icelanders that le jeu n’est pas fait; but their critique  is not essential to Stryker’s argument. The constraints are similar; but there is a difference in the Icelandic popular political-economic imagination and strategies–a difference that, if not decisive, other working class populations need to see.

It’s not helpful when, as at The Grapevine, journos confuse bank relations with investors with the state guarantees to those investors’ powerful countries, and feed into conservative obfuscation of what is at stake in “bank bailouts.” Moreover, you can expect The Grapevine critique to be blown out of proportion by conservatives who are on the primitive accumulation warpath. Yet I do not think The Grapevine editor is conservative. His Davidsdottir recommendation (above) is helpful; and he and his commentators are right in urging Stryker to correct the article–if not to pay respects to more precise  Icelandic understanding of Icelandic political-economy stats and affairs, then to make her contribution  more robust to right-wing attack.

Confidence Game

‎”The confidence we experience as we make a judgment is not a reasoned evaluation of the probability that it is right. Confidence is a feeling, one determined mostly by the coherence of the story and by the ease with which it comes to mind, even when the evidence for the story is sparse and unreliable. An individual who expresses high confidence probably has a good story, which may or may not be true…(Y)ou should not take assertive and confident people at their own evaluation unless you have independent reason to believe that they know what they are talking about” Daniel Kahneman, “Don’t Blink!“, October 2011.

Chris Hedges Smacks Down Corporate-whore Media

Chris Hedges knows who he is and what he’s seen; he has the steadying background to summon the strength and call down liberal corporate-whore media. Watch him, on his feet, control this interview:

CBC: Called down, smacked down, served, pwned.
If you’re going to employ crude meat, do what the American and Latin American media does and at least get it fresh out of the sorority house.