Progressives in the United States show little awareness of the disinformation specially targeting them. Denialism about Russian interference in the US elections, and the horrific realities of Russia's client state in Syria, is now translating into denialism about how dangerous the Trump presidency is. Syria solidarity activists have long been aware of the flood of pro-Assad disinformation on social media. Research from the University of Washington corroborated what activists have observed—it documented four times as many disinformation tweets about the Syrian White Helmets volunteer first-responder group in 2017 compared to factual tweets. In 2016, we saw the same pro-Assad sites and writers post memes and articles that trashed Hillary Clinton, equated Clinton and Trump, or even portrayed Clinton as the worse choice. They dominated "Leftbook" social media and helped depress the progressive vote. Ten million fewer Democrats voted in 2016 than 2012—a decisive factor in Trump's win. We are seeing a replay now. Biden and Harris are denounced far more than Trump on some "left" sites, while Trump's incipient fascism is downplayed.
Another one to file under #OrwellWouldShit. The UN General Assembly has elected China to the Human Rights Council—despite the country holding some one million Uighur Muslims in concentration camps. China was supported by 139 of the 191 nations that voted, and was one of 16 nations that sought the 15 available seats. (The General Assembly also elected Russia, Cuba, Uzbekistan and Pakistan, all similarly accused of human rights violations, if not quite such ambitious ones.) US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo criticized the election of countries with "abhorrent human rights records," stating: "These elections only further validate the US decision to withdraw and use other venues and opportunities to protect and promote universal human rights." The US left the Human Rights Council in June 2018. (Jurist)
The NYPD's violent mass arrest of peaceful protesters in the South Bronx this past June violated international human rights law and will likely cost New York City taxpayers several million dollars in misconduct lawsuits, according to a new investigation by Human Rights Watch. The in-depth report examines the June 4 incident in the Mott Haven district, where hundreds of demonstrators were "kettled" behind police barricades before being arrested. As riot police blocked protesters' path minutes before Mayor Bill de Blasio's 8 PM curfew, a second line of officers charged them from behind, "unprovoked and without warning...wielding batons, beating people from car tops, shoving them to the ground, and firing pepper spray into their faces before rounding up more than 250 people for arrest."
In Episode 57 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg makes the odious but essential case for a tactical vote to defeat Trumpism, a political phenomenon that represents an updated variant of fascism. This alone will not be sufficient, as Trump will almost certainly not leave office willingly, but attempt to cling to power by any means. If he succeeds, we could be at the moment Italy experienced in 1922, and Germany in 1933. Biden is a domesticated Beltway mediocrity, and even if he wins the country is still going to be in deep crisis. A mass movement strong enough to defeat Trump's power-grab could also be strong enough to press its offensive against Biden, and wrest concessions to a progressive agenda—or even (much more ambitiously) begin to build parallel power. But it begins with defeating Trump, and this must mean a sound electoral defeat as well as mass mobilization in the streets.
In Episode 56 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg takes stock of the evident reality that Trump is getting ready to steal the November election—whether by undermining the Postal Service, suspending the election entirely under pretext of the pandemic, or simply refusing to recognize the result and sparking a constitutional crisis that could potentially involve the military. The Transition Integrity Project, recently established to assess the looming dilemma, warns: "A show of numbers in the streets—and actions in the streets—may be decisive factors in determining what the public perceives as a just and legitimate outcome." As the RNC delegates openly call for making Trump president for life, Weinberg examines examples from around the world where people are currently filling the streets to resist an illegitimate power-grab by a would-be dictator—from Belarus to Bolivia, from Hong Kong to Mali, from Thailand to Lebanon.
Mexico's President Lopez Obrador met with Trump at the White House this month to inaugurate the new trade treaty that replaces NAFTA. Embarrassingly, the meeting was punctuated by horrific new outbursts of narco-violence in Mexico. And the country's promised cannabis legalization—mandated by the high court and looked to as a de-escalation of the dystopian drug war—is stalled by a paralyzed Congress.
The US Attorney for the District of Oregon on July 17 called for an investigation into allegations that unidentified federal agents are arresting people in the city of Portland. US Attorney Billy Williams noted that federal agents have been in the city for the past 50 nights, to defend the federal courthouse and other federal buildings from protestors. While defense of the buildings was lawful, Williams said reports had reached him of federal agents, including from Customs and Border Patrol (CBP), driving in unmarked vehicles and arresting at least two protestors without identifying themselves. The agents were not wearing any identifying insignia and were masked. Williams referred to these arrests as "questionable conduct," while Lisa Hay, Oregon's federal public defender, said, "It's a fundamental constitutional value that people in this country are free to walk the streets without fear of secret arrest."
Portland-based musician and vlogger David Rovics interviews CounterVortex editor Bill Weinberg for Fifth Estate Live. The two discuss Weinberg's upcoming story for the anarchist journal Fifth Estate on the "two faces of fascism" the US confronts at this moment—a Trumpian dictatorship or a post-pandemic "new normality" of complete surveillance and social control. But the moment is also pregnant with possibility, witnessing the mainstreaming of anarchist ideas such as abolishing the police. Initiatives such as cannabis legalization as a first step toward this aim are gaining ground nationally. Looking back, they draw lessons for the current revolutionary moment from the Tompkins Square Park uprising on Manhattan's Lower East Side in the 1980s, and the rebellion of the Zapatistas in Mexico in the 1990s—who continue to hold liberated territory in the southern state of Chiapas even today. Watch the video archive on YouTube or listen to the audio version on SoundCloud.