politics of cyberspace
In Episode 89 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg takes heart at the national uprising in El Salvador against the imposition of Bitcoin as legal tender, and draws the connection to his own incessant struggles against corporate cyber-overlords Verizon—as well as the to the automated drone terror in Afghanistan. As we are distracted (or, at any rate, should be distracted) by the more obviously pressing issues such as police brutality and climate destabilization, the digitization of every sphere of human activity lurches forward at a terrifying pace—with zero resistance. Until now. The heroic protesters in El Salvador have launched the long overdue revolution of everyday life. Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon.
Protests have repeatedly erupted in El Salvador over the past week as the country became the first to make Bitcoin legal tender. The US dollar also remains official currency, but the law pushed through by President Nayib Bukele mandates that all vendors also accept Bitcoin. Small merchants and especially those in the informal sector complain of problems in trying to download the official phone app needed to use the currency. Protesters say the new law will deepen poverty by further excluding the already marginalized from the economy. They also assert that it will further enable corruption. "This is a currency that's not going to work for pupusa vendors, bus drivers or shopkeepers," one protester told Reuters. "This is a currency that's ideal for big investors who want to speculate with their economic resources."
Indian-administered Kashmir was plunged back into internet darkness Sept. 2 as India's central authorities enforced lockdowns and a news blackout following the death of Syed Ali Geelani, a prominent separatist leader. Geelani, 91, died at his home the day before. His body was immediately seized by authorities, and buried in a quiet funeral held under harsh restrictions. His son, Naseem Geelani, said the family had planned to bury him at the main martyrs' cemetery in Srinagar, as specified in his will, but was not allowed to do so. Police also charged family members under an anti-terrorism law for wrapping his body in the Pakistani flag and raising anti-India slogans. Kashmir spent months without internet following an August 2019 crackdown. High-speed mobile internet was only restored earlier this year. (TNH, AP, The Guardian)
Hundreds of activists have repeatedly filled the streets of Malaysia's capital Kuala Lumpur since July 31 to demand the resignation of Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin over his government’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic. Themed #Lawan (Fight), the movement is also demanding the resumption of parliamentary sessions and a moratorium on the repayment of all loans. Protesters accuse the Muhyiddin government of using the pandemic to suspend parliament in order to consolidate power, and relying on harsh emergency regulations to silence and intimidate critics. Protesters chant hidup rakyat (long live the people), and carry black flags and effigies of dead bodies wrapped in white cloth to signify the high daily COVID-19 death tally in the county.
The Fiscalía of Peru, the country's top prosecutor, has opened an investigation into Vladimiro Montesinos, the imprisoned former intelligence chief under dictator Alberto Fujimori, following release of a recording in which he evidently urges electoral authorities to throw the pending presidential election to Keiko Fujimori—daughter of the ex-dictator. The so-called "Vladiaudios" were released by Pedro Rejas, a retired military officer and Fujimori loyalist who received the phone call from Montesinos on June 23. In the call they appear to discuss bribing members of the National Jury of Elections (JNE). Also under investigation is Luis Arce Córdova, a JNE member who on the same day as the phone call was forced to step down for conflict of interest in response statements in favor of candidate Fujimori. (Aristegui Noticias, IDL-Reporteros, The Guardian, TeleSur)
US warplanes carried out strikes June 28 on Iran-backed militias in Syria and Iraq. The Pentagon said the targets were arms depots in the border area used by the militias Kataib Hezbollah and Kataib Sayyid al-Shuhada, which have carried out attacks against US personnel in Iraq for years. "The United States took necessary, appropriate and deliberate action designed to limit the risk of escalation—but also to send a clear and unambiguous deterrent message," Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said. Iraqi militia officials told the Associated Press in Baghdad and the Assad regime's SANA news agency that four militiamen were killed. Kataib Sayyid al-Shuhada vowed retaliation: "We will remain the shield defending our beloved nation, and we are fully ready…to respond and take revenge."
Iranians voted June 18 in a controlled election, virtually guaranteed to deliver an ultra-conservative president after all other serious contenders were barred from the race. The pre-ordained winner is Ebrahim Raisi, the chief justice, who has been under US sanctions since he oversaw repression in putting down the 2019 protest wave. The Guardian Council, its 12 members named by the Supreme Leader and the judiciary, disqualified all but seven of 592 candidates. All but one of the seven were fellow conservatives—Abdolnaser Hemmati, a former central bank chief running as a moderate. All potential frontline challengers were banned, including incumbent Vice President Eshaq Jahangiri, former Parliament speaker Ali Larijani, and even ex-president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Turn-out was historically low, seeming to signal popular disillusionment with the system. (CNN, AP, MEE, EA Worldview)
In Episode 75 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg examines distorted reportage on the shutdown of the Colonial Pipeline by Russian hackers. The disaster illustrates the urgent need for a crash conversion from fossil fuels—but also from digital technology. Signs of hope are seen in the cancellation of the Keystone XL pipeline, the recent indigenous-led protests against the Line 3 Pipeline in Minnesota, and the gas bill strike launched by Brooklyn residents to oppose the North Brooklyn Pipeline that would cut through their neighborhoods. Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon.