sabotabby: raccoon anarchy symbol (raccoons of the resistance)
Last December, 19-year-old Durham teenager Dafonte Miller was savagely beaten by an off-duty Toronto cop and his brother. A cover-up ensued, made worse by the knowledge that the poor kid is going to lose one of his eyes. It's not the only instance of police brutality against racialized people in this city, but both the young age of the victim and the blatant corruption of both the Toronto and Durham police forces have made the case a symbol for everything that needs to change here.

Earlier this summer, journalist Desmond Cole—already forced out by the Toronto Star for his involvement in Black Lives Matter—was arrested at a Toronto Police Services Board meeting and inexplicably charged with trespassing (this, despite the fact that the meetings are open to the public and press and he more or less followed procedure; the man is, after all, a respected reporter who regularly attends such meetings) and fined $65 for trying to shed light on the criminal assault on Dafonte. This raised tremendous ire amongst all decent people in the city, excepting, of course, the stalwart defenders of free speech, who were strangely silent on the issue.

For this month's meeting, Cole was prepared, and asked people on Facebook to accompany him to the meeting in case they tried something sketchy again. Determined as I am to squeeze in whatever I can do to help with sorry world before I'm once again buried in an even deeper avalanche of work, I showed up, along with a massive crowd of other concerned citizens and press.

I'm not sure I've ever set foot in TPS headquarters before; I don't think I even had to do it when I did my criminal record check, but if so, that was the only time. You need to go through a metal detector and a bag search, which is apparently new this month, and due to the fact that for some reason, members of the general public have recently decided to exercise their right to attend Toronto Police Services meetings, and the cops aren't best pleased about it. They have TV screens set up inside and outside, but the mics are very quiet, and despite the fact that the meetings are supposedly open, it's near impossible to follow the actual discussion. The agendas, while available, skip a number of items for no obvious reason.

Not that anyone was there, it must be said, to discuss The Way Forward plan, budget allocations, or what colour police cars should be. No, everyone was there for the same reason—the deputations—evidenced by a slow wave of folks writing "WE'RE HERE FOR DAFONTE" on the backs of their agendas. There were two issues, somewhat related. One: Unlike every other institution in the city, including my own, the TPS has refused to implement the Don't Ask, Don't Tell* policy issued in 2013 with regards to non-status immigrations. Two: The process into evaluating the success of School Resource Officers (SROs, a.k.a. armed and uniformed cops in schools) is deeply flawed and one-sided, right down to the paltry academic research on the subject being down through Ryerson, the only Toronto university that doesn't have a faculty of education.

At any rate, the meeting went from boring and incomprehensible to seriously exciting the second the deputations, which included Cole and a number of other interesting people, my second favourite being Gita Madan from Education Not Incarceration. The Board made every attempt to minimize Cole's ability to speak, but since he wasn't actually violating any laws, he and the others got the message out—end the SRO program, implement DADT now, and Mayor McBland should resign from the Board. There were a lot of cameras. Then he led a walkout and addressed the crowd on the steps of police HQ.

You can read all about it here.

The meeting room, the overflow room, and the halls were full of people, though again, the crowd seemed to consist of everyone but the folks that claim to believe in a principled and consistent defence of free speech. There were parents with their babies, school teachers, academics, and activists, black, white, indigenous, Latinx, Middle Eastern, and Asian. I suppose you might call the meeting "raucous"; I would term it "enthusiastic" or perhaps "engaged." It was almost as if regular people decided, together, that we should get a voice in the way "our" police force is run.

Without public pressure like this, there will be no chance at justice for young Dafonte. I feel incredibly honoured that I got to be part of something like this today.

* Americans, I can feel you cringing all the way from here. It means something different in Canada! Here it means that if you provide a public service (such as being a social worker, teacher, doctor, nurse, or theoretically a police officer) you don't ask someone their immigration status, and if you do find out that they are not here legally, you are not allowed to report them to Canadian Border Services. This ensures that no one is prevented from medical care or education, abuse victims can seek protection from their abusers, etc.
sabotabby: raccoon anarchy symbol (Default)
Like many (most) of you, I'm grieving the murder of Fellow Worker Heather Heyer, a member of the IWW (an organization I was proud to be a member of for many years), the injuries of dozens of others, and the brutal assault of Deandre Harris at the hands of fascists and white supremacists in Charlottesville, VA. Unlike a lot of (white) people, I'm not surprised. This is America with its gloves off. This is what we warned against. It was always going to come to this, and I fear it will get much worse before it gets better, if it does at all.

For a good long time, I've been actively confronting local fascists who organize and demonstrate under the thin veneer of free speech. Plenty of liberals and radicals alike have informed me that this is a waste of time, that the antifa who show up reliably every time the fash demonstrate are not radical enough, are too radical, aren't diverse enough, are too militant, are not militant enough, exclude less privileged people who can't physically show up, are secretly anti-Semites despite a significant number being Jewish, and are just plain doing it wrong. I'm not into calling out individuals and groups, but I have paid careful attention to who I see there, and who I don't see there.

I can only hope that Heyer, Harris, and those standing beside them and fighting back haven't sacrificed in vain. I hope that this is the end of inaction, of false equivalence, of turning our words on each other rather than on the enemy. I hope that this is a clarion call for action.

I'll repost what I said in the Other Place:

Hey GTA people posting your outrage over Charlottesville: did you know that a group of fascists regularly demonstrate at City Hall under the guise of "free speech"? We go to oppose them and try to prevent them from marching. Sometimes we're outnumbered. If you're really angry about what happened, coming out to shut this shit down here before it becomes tiki torches and vehicular manslaughter is a concrete thing you can do.

Also, if you have $ and are not sure which crowdfunding initiatives are legit, this is a good place to start.

sabotabby: raccoon anarchy symbol (Default)
Apparently I am not completely desensitized to horror, which comes as a relief in a strange way. I'm just full of rage—at the acquittal of Philando Castile's murderer, at the barring of Black Lives Matter activists from testifying about the impact of cops in schools, and, most acutely, at the completely preventable tragedy of the Grenfell Tower fire.

The latter is, to me, the starkest depiction of austerity and late-stage capitalism in action. The residents called for repairs. Labour called for tighter safety regulations. Boris Johnson literally told them to go stuff themselves. The cladding, which was probably a major factor in the deaths of 100 or so people, was installed not to protect the building's tenants—low-income, many of them racialized, many of them Syrian refugees—but to hide the unsightly nature of the tower from wealthy neighbours.

I kind of get why people lose their shit over terrorist attacks and mass shootings, but this gets me more. There's a lot we can do as a culture to reduce terrorism and mass shootings, and of course we tend to do the opposite of that, but even in a perfect world, not every act of senseless violence would be preventable. Norway still produced Anders Breivik—even a utopia would have its madmen.

But a situation where you have people saying, "this tragedy is going to happen if you don't fix the thing," and those in charge do not fix the thing, because money is more important than human lives—that is totally preventable and entirely foreseeable. There was an obvious, simple way to prevent those 100 deaths, if our civilization valued people as much as it valued profits.

There are death tolls to tell you how many people died because of communism. There are no tallies of deaths under capitalism, as if starvation because of collectivization is somehow less preferable to starvation because of austerity, or a firing squad is worse than a fire.

This is the very heart of my politics. This is why I fight, even though it doesn't affect me, even though I don't really know how to, even though I'm exhausted. Sometimes fury is the only thing that keeps me going.
sabotabby: (doctor who)
For your enjoyment and viewing pleasure, here are some Nazis punching other Nazis. We do not know why, or who filmed this, or why people think that filming vertical video in 2017 is an acceptable thing to do, but we can just sit back and enjoy it, right?

Here is some background on the Nazis involved: Ronny Cameron (the organizer of yesterday's pitiful LARP module), and Eric Brazau.

sabotabby: (doom doom doom)
Just yesterday, I found myself arguing with a hippie on Facebook over a photo someone had posted of a man holding up an Islamophobic sign at Yonge-Dundas Square. One of the commenters had suggested that what the man needed was a good elbow in the face, and the hippie self-righteously declared that in the name of FREEZED PEACH, holding a hateful sign was not illegal but elbowing someone in the face was.

I pointed out that the sentiment in the sign would lead to genocide, whereas an elbow to the face seldom did.

I hate to say I'm right, but:

At least five people have been killed in a mass shooting at a mosque in Quebec City. The mosque was targeted with a pig's head in the summer and it's pretty safe to say—though, of course, the situation is still developing and we don't know many details—that the mosque was targeted because the most powerful voices in the world have declared open season on Muslims.

I'm so sick with rage and grief that I can barely breathe. I'm almost inured to hearing about mass shootings in the States, but this is here. I'm not so naïve as to think that Canadians are better than this—the same sick racist impulses roil just below the surface here—but it still hits close to home. There were children praying. I pass two mosques every day; it could have been the families that I casually smile at on my way home from work. It's too close, it's too real.

And regardless of what they uncover about the shooters (and we know it's going to be a lone wolf white dude who sparks a serious discussion about better awareness for mental illness; I guess two lone wolves in this case), you know who's to blame. You know who has been stoking the hatred here, in the States, in the sewers of Reddit and 4chan, on Twitter, in the White House, in the Tory leadership race. Holding up signs in Yonge-Dundas Square, aided and abetted by appeasers shrieking about free speech. J'accuse, you all have blood on your hands.

You cannot deal with them politely. You cannot appeal to their reason and humanity. This is the result of a climate of xenophobia, and muddleheaded liberalism has been fertile grounds for hatred to thrive.


Jun. 13th, 2016 05:53 pm
sabotabby: raccoon anarchy symbol (silver mt zion)
I keep being reminded throughout the day. I mean, it's pretty hard to avoid the subject. Especially when the Board sends you that general form-letter about how to talk to children about mass shootings. Seriously, that's a thing that they have to do, because the NRA is out of control.

I don't really have anything to add that hasn't been said by wiser people. This one hits a lot closer to home than most senseless mass shootings, though. I just feel sick and sad and furious and queasy, somehow.

As—once again, wiser—people have pointed out, there is no point in asking America to get its shit together. If a school full of six-year-olds wasn't a wake-up call, a club full of queer Latinx who most of their leaders seem to want dead anyway is hardly going to stir them into action. Fucking fuck. That's it, that's my contribution. Fuck all of this shit.

There was some kind of incident at UofT today. Turned out to be nothing, but multiple buildings locked down and so on. I don't usually feel unsafe, but days like these feel pretty unsafe, y'know?

Anyway here are my cats being gay and cheering me up:
sabotabby: raccoon anarchy symbol (racist!)
I've been meaning to write a post for awhile on the bizarre sentencing arguments following the equally bizarre conviction of James Forcillo, the pig that murdered a mentally ill teenager on a Toronto streetcar, and the horrible miscarriage of justice in the Freddie Gray murder just reminded me to do so.

Forcillo, you may recall, was charged with attempted murder even though Sammy Yatim died after Forcillo shot him eight times. The weird argument here is that he was legitimately firing in self defence the first time (note that Yatim was alone, wielding a small knife, and Forcillo could have, I dunno, gotten off the otherwise empty streetcar and just waited him out, but why do that when you can gun down a kid, right?), which was when the fatal shots were fired, but the second round was gratuitious. That's dumb as shit, but thanks to the reactionary minimum sentencing laws brought in by various governments starting with Chretien's in 1995, Forcillo is looking at at least five years in prison.

Except! The defence would really like the judge to make a special exception for the rules just for him, because cops are special and get paid over $100,000 a year without having to pay for post-secondary education and get to carry guns and shoot whoever they want. So they've made a series of increasingly Dadaist arguments, including that mandatory minimum sentences were never supposed to apply to cops, and that the sentence could deter domestic violence victims from fighting back against their abusers. In fact, the defence wants house arrest, which is quaint, given that pot dealers who've never hurt anyone in their lives end up in jail all the time. It's almost like jails are unpleasant places where we should be reluctant to send people, or something.

But the most absurd, and most horrible argument for leniency in Forcillo's case is that because Yatim was paralyzed from the first volley of bullets, the second round of shooting, for which Forcillo was convicted, didn't actually hurt him any. As the judge points out, this kind of opens the door to the possibility that it's cool to go around shooting parapalegics in the legs because they can't feel it. But still, this was an actual argument heard in court and the lawyer wasn't immediately disbarred or forced to wear a dunce cap or anything like that.

As far as I can tell, no one has publicly called this argument what it is, which is a prime example of the racial empathy gap. That's one of those things that Canadians (if they've heard of it) think only applies to black people in the US, but examine the rhetoric around how "threatened" Forcillo, a large thug with a gun, felt by Yatim, a skinny teenager, and you can pretty much play racial empathy bingo. Yatim was twice marginalized, as a person of colour and a person with mental illness. Racism in Canada isn't the gaping, bleeding wound it is in the US; here, it's a slow-burning infection, but no less fatal.

We know that the racial empathy gap is real. We know it was a justification for slavery, the association of racialized bodies with mindless animals, less sensitive to pain because they were already hardened to it. We know that it's still a horror in the modern era, with medical professionals unwilling to prescribe as much pain medication to black patients. And it's a factor here, where Yatim's life, his physical and mental suffering in his last moments of life, is given less weight than that of someone with a white body, a white mind.

Forcillo, too, is facing special treatment; that there is even an argument for the courts not tossing him in jail for at least five years (the Crown is asking for 8-10) is a factor of his white skin and his blue uniform. In fact, he is still getting paid $103,967 a year, and will be until he's actually sentenced. There is a fair bit of chatter about that, and rightly so.

I typically don't believe in mandatory minimum sentencing (in fact, I'm broadly against prisons as a whole) but this is the one case where I think it absolutely makes sense, to avoid the sort of bias against victims with skin colours like Sammy Yatim and towards criminals with skin colours like James Forcillo's. I'm not convinced a primarily white legal system, which props up a system of white supremacy, is ready to be trusted with nuance in a case where ancient racist tropes can be invoked to cheapen the life of a dead teenager.
sabotabby: (furiosa)
Zoe Quinn's Tumblr post about why she dropped charges against the shitbag who's been making her life, and the lives of many women on the internet, a living hell, hit me really hard. Especially as I'm following the Ghomeshi trial, and the particularly odious Rosie DiManno columns where she calls out Ghomeshi's victims for not acting the way she'd like them to and not remembering trivial details from a traumatic event that happened years ago. I'm not linking to that.

Memory's tricky. Cops are coached about how to act on the witness stand, but I found out recently that in general, the Crown isn't allowed to coach witnesses, just the defence. The result is that women who testify against male abusers typically get torn apart, and that's part (though by no means all) of why rapists don't get convicted.

The games played on Quinn and on Ghomeshi's victims. I know these games. I have rarely posted publicly about my biological father, even in this little dead zone of the internet with my pseudonymity. But he used to play these memory games on me when we would fight about whatever. I would bring up an incident in which he'd been abusive, and he'd question me on these little irrelevant details, and thus make me doubt my own memories of the events. I think this is why I have difficulties remembering large swathes of my childhood. Reading about someone doing this to other women (was your hair up or down? What colour and model was the car?) is just beyond horrifying.

Quinn in particular hits home because she could be me. All she did was be a woman on the internet. She made stuff. It sounded like cool stuff, I dunno. It doesn't matter. She put herself out there as a creative person doing a thing, and some psycho from her past (ladies who date men, don't we all have at least one of those) rallied an army of misogynist slime to destroy her life and her family's lives.

And he's going to view this as a victory. They all will. Same if Ghomeshi gets off—doesn't matter if the criminal justice system doesn't determine innocence, just guilt, people are going to defend this guy and he's going to get to go on with his life while the victims' reputations will be tarnished forever.

I think Quinn is right to walk away from it all. The law isn't going to defend her. It was never meant to do that. You don't call the cops when you're raped, you don't expect them to understand Twitter, you can't possibly be that naïve anymore. The law exists to protect the already powerful and their property. And in the eyes of many, women are very much still the property of men.

Free speech only exists if a white guy wants to disparage those under him and escape criticism for it. Quinn's free speech doesn't get counted.

The message we're given, again and again, is to shut up. Unplug. Stay out of the public eye. If someone hurts you, acquiesce. Don't fight back. Don't take up space or make demands. Sit with our hands on our laps and hope that someone notices our purity and takes pity on us. It's not something I'm inclined to do, but then, it's not like it doesn't inform my life anyway.

My heart goes out to Quinn and to the women brave enough to testify against Ghomeshi. The system failed you. It was always meant to fail you.
sabotabby: raccoon anarchy symbol (Behemoth (Master&Margarita))
Wanna hear a joke?

A mentally ill kid on an empty streetcar waves his dick and a knife around. The cops come to the scene. From a reasonable distance (i.e., not stabbing range) one of them shoots him three times, then stops to make sure that he's mostly dead, then shoots him five more times. The kid dies. The cop is convicted of attempted murder.

That's it. That's the joke.

I suppose we should be happy that he was convicted of anything at all, given that he was a cop and the prosecution reportedly bungled some things. The takeaway to cops, I suppose, is that if you're going to murder a kid, make sure you don't pause when you're blowing the shit out of him.

Can some more legalistic minds than mine find out if there has ever been a case of attempted murder where the victim died at the scene?
sabotabby: raccoon anarchy symbol (wall)
Created by Allan Bassi, link to original here.

If you read comments on the SUN or Star websites, the red bit is a million times funnier.

ETA: Elsewhere, [ profile] bcholmes pointed out—rightfully so—that you shouldn't donate to the Red Cross. So if you are actually using this flowchart for advice, donate to MSF.
sabotabby: raccoon anarchy symbol (wall)
I don't have much to contribute to that thing that happens whenever a Western country experiences a horrific attack. It's all been said by people smarter than me. All I can do is extend sympathies to people who are near or have family in Paris—and Beirut; to be honest, I know a lot more Lebanese people than I do French people—and feel sad and shocked and disgusted.

But I wanted to share one really good thing. This is the first good thing on LJ I'm going to say about Dustin Waterhole's government, though I've mentioned a few good things they've done elsewhere. And I think, in general, they're reprehensible opportunists. BUT.

One of their election promises was to bring 25,000 Syrian refugees to Canada before the end of the year. There's been a lot of talk about how difficult that's going to be, both logistically and politically. Personally, I don't think 25,000 is enough—this is a humanitarian crisis beyond the scope of my imagination, and if we're not doing everything we possibly can, we are failing—but it's a good start and better than Harper would have done, of course.

The attacks on Paris yesterday would have been a chance for the Libs to back out of their commitment and score political points with the hawks and racists. (The attacks on Beirut, of course, would have no affect either way, because doesn't that sort of thing happen all the time over there to those people? No need to light up the CN Tower or change our Facebook icons to the colours of the Lebanese flag.)

They have confirmed, as of today, that they are still going ahead with it.

This is absolutely the correct decision. After all, the horrors we saw in Paris are the selfsame horrors that Syrians and others—oh yes, don't forget that Syria is not the only refugee crisis—are fleeing. It was the correct thing to do a few days ago and it is the correct thing to do today.

It is, furthermore, how the world should react to terror and tragedy—with compassion, empathy, and levelheadness.

So colour me surprised and impressed.
sabotabby: raccoon anarchy symbol (racist!)
Following, via the internet (because fuck knows I'm not going near actual newspapers or TV right now), the police riot in Baltimore. Like most of you, I'm full of rage and helplessness and horror.

In between updates, I've been mainlining episodes of Daredevil (which is awesome, by the way). I highly recommend it for a variety of reasons. Among them are its portrayal of a very nuanced moral universe. Without delving too deep into spoilers, both the protagonist and the villain do objectively Very Bad Things in the service of a near-identical goal: to improve the neighbourhood where they grew up. The latter sees gentrification and disaster capitalism as the key to fixing Hell's Kitchen; the former fights for the rights of tenants in rent-controlled slums. You can probably guess why I like it, beyond that I enjoy silly TV shows with superheroes beating the shit out of each other.

I'm going somewhere with this.

The show is really, really violent. Like, graphic in a way that makes me flinch, and I do not flinch easily. In between fight scenes, the characters debate whether it's justifiable to take the law into your own hands. The premise paints a picture of a dystopian city, where the rich circumvent the law, manipulate the media, and use the police as a death squad—so, pretty much like we have now—and as a viewer, while you may find it squicksome, you accept the narrative justification for Murdoch putting on a mask and beating the shit out of people every night. Because he's tried the other way, and failed.

Which brings me back to Baltimore.

David Simon, creator of one of the best TV shows ever, is requesting that the "rioters" go home. His voice carries a certain weight, since most of what I know about Baltimore I learned from watching The Wire. But he's wrong. The so-called rioters are home. And I don't see as they have much of a choice at this point.

I want you to imagine you're watching a silly show on TV. In pretty much every episode, a young man dies. Usually he's killed by the police, who are depicted as hopelessly corrupt. The deaths are horrific, over-the-top in their brutality. Helpless victims are beaten, tased, left to die. In the last episode, a young man looks at the cops funny, so they arrest him and sever 80% of his spine.

No one in authority does a thing. The friends and families and communities of the victims try to do the right thing. They try to appeal to the law. To the media. But the police are corrupt, the courts are on their side, and the media is preoccupied with Bruce Jenner or something. When their appeals are met with silence, they take to the streets in peaceful protest. You can imagine what happens next.

At what point, oh viewer, does violence become justified? Let's be honest; if this were a TV show, and not reality, you'd be rooting for the hero to be mowing down these fascists in the first 15 minutes.

Now, I wouldn't recommend violence because the state has bigger guns and is happy to use them, but I understand it. What gets me is the utter lack of empathy on the part of people wringing their hands about a few bricks being tossed, like a window matters more than a young man's life. I don't get why people don't see that every legal, civilized means of dissent has been exhausted and trampled over. I don't get why everyone in that entire city and anyone who can get in a car or on a bus, isn't out there in the streets, protecting the protesters from the cops.

I like fiction because it builds empathy. We can sympathize with drug dealers and junkies when The Wire reveals their struggles and aspirations. We can sympathize with vigilantes when we watch their desperation at an unfair system grow. And yet. We can watch high school kids, armed with nothing more than bricks and righteous outrage, face down a militarized racist police force that won't hesitate to kill them, and complain that they're not behaving like we would want them to, that they just need to lower their voices and their fists and we'll talk this out like rational people, as if anyone in power had any designs on civility. As if were ever anything but an impossible struggle against an implacable enemy. We get this in fiction, so why not when it happens in real life? Is it really that hard to understand?
sabotabby: raccoon anarchy symbol (science vs religion)
So this happened. Lest I be accused of jumping to conclusions, I will state that I am not absolutely sure that some New Atheist Reddit troglodyte cracker fuck murdered three innocent young Arabs in a vicious racist act of terrorism, but it looks like that's what happened. And if that's the case, it's not really surprising; I know people like this IRL and not a one of them is all that far from a newspaper article that ends with, "...before turning the gun on himself." Pity this jackass didn't have the decency to do the last bit, but that's besides the point.

The point is, like any other white man that kills women or POC because just having straight white male privilege isn't enough for his special snowflake self, he is now mentally ill, a lone wolf, and the act will not be classified as terrorism even though it totally is. Other people made this point, and in a less ragetastic way, before I managed to get home to my computer, so let's talk about the other thing, which is the connection to New Atheism.

New Atheism, as I've said before, is Western imperialism by other means. The history of Western imperialism has consistently been one of smug, know-it-all privilege. Libertarianism being a strong current in American political culture, and one linked to atheism, it's not surprising that there's a substantial population of über-privileged, slighly educated, entitled shitbags who still hate and fear brown people but just can't get behind the whole Onward Christian Soldier thing. And these people increasingly have a voice. If you spend a lot of time online, you'll discover that they in fact have most of the voice. They certainly—particularly through their figureheads like Dawkins, Harris, Maher, and before he died, Hitchens—seem to be adept at grabbing the mic and speaking for all atheists everywhere, and in light of what appears to be a hate crime carried out by an atheist, I feel the need to speak out about it.

I'm an atheist. They don't get to take that label from me. Nor will I accept them being labeled as "fundamentalist atheists," or "atheist extremists" or any variation thereof, because no, they are not, I am. I'm not a moderate just because I get along with religious people and think the Flying Spaghetti Monster is lame and unfunny. I am, in fact, the most fundamentalist atheist you will ever meet. At a very basic level, possibly even at a genetic level, I am not just unwilling to believe in God, I am incapable of it.

So incapable that I do not feel the need to shout from every rooftop that I don't believe in God, because I actually don't give a fuck. As Elie Weisel put it, "the opposite of love is not hate, it's indifference." I am indifferent to religion. Accordingly, I do not feel the need to go around converting everyone to my way of thinking, and I don't think I'm superior to believers (except New Age types; fuck those guys). It's maybe because I'm Jewish and most of the so-called New Atheists are from Christian backgrounds and feel kind of insecure, maybe, or feel the need to evangelize even though that's really fucking stupid, but it grates. There should be no atheist organizations, no atheist church. Should one spring up, all of the atheists should be run out of it (I volunteer to do this; just call me Atheist Jesus) and the building should be converted into affordable housing for the homeless.

The murders in Chapel Hill were only a matter of time. Violent racism—and in particular racism directed at Muslims—is socially acceptable amongst whites of means and education in a way that it wasn't a decade ago. (Of course, it was always there, but it was institutional; the personal variety was on the wane, as white robes and burning crosses were a bit of an embarrassment.) It has found, among other channels, an outlet in what BoingBoing termed the Redpill Right, that fetid swamp of conspiracy theorists, anti-vaxxers, MRAs, and GamerGaters. These are people who are tolerated to a degree in circles that I am tolerated in, and it scares the shit out of me.

Hold the would-be leaders of this would-be movement accountable. Drag them into the sunlight. Demand Maher and Dawkins apologize for the excesses of their followers, just like we demand apologizes from Muslims every time some unhinged asshole who shares their religion kills someone. When they sprew their bile on the internet, dogpile and shame them. Turn being a Redpiller into something as socially unacceptable as being a soulbonded otherkin who never leaves their parents' basement. It was social media pressure that turned these murders into a story—I mean, Buzzfeed broke the story, ffs—and as this is primarily an online movement, it is probably up to us to do something about it.
sabotabby: raccoon anarchy symbol (she)
Two stories have really dominated my consciousness—and the consciousness of most people in this part of the world—over the past few months. One is the murder of Mike Brown by Darren Wilson; the other, is the exposure of Jian Ghomeshi as a serial rapist.

A few days ago, a grand jury voted against indicting Darren Wilson despite mounds of evidence and that whole thing where usually a prosecutor is working to prosecute the defendant, rather than exculpating him. Predictably, protests followed, and the state responded with brutal violence. That same day, Jian Ghomeshi surrendered to police and was let out on bail.

As these stories were developing, a parallel narrative emerged. Jian Ghomeshi's many, many victims were interrogated about their motives and methods. "Why," cried the concern trolls, "did these women not go to the police?" Any honest person knows the answer to this, but the question itself is a fundamentally dishonest one, designed to protect the powerful predator. The concern troll is concerned about due process and not trying the nice rich man in "the court of public opinion"; he extends no such concern to the victim, who shouldn't have been wearing such a short skirt/shouldn't have been into kink/shouldn't be working in the media, etc.

Likewise, both Mike Brown and those outraged by his murder and by the farce of the indictment hearing were placed under a scrutiny that the murderer (who profited quite handsomely for his crime, and even managed to get married while off on taxpayer-paid vacation!) somehow managed to avoid. "Why not wait for due process?" the concern trolls ask. "Why the anger, the rioting, the uppity insistence that this is about race?" Wilson was given the benefit of the doubt; the 18-year-old child he gunned down was not.

Now that The Almighty Law has spoken, we know that Ghomeshi may face jail for his crimes, and Wilson will not. (It bears pointing out that the two high-profile men who've been in the news for serial rape are both men of colour; some people get held accountable more than others.) Proof that the system works, right? The Powers That Be are listening and the bad guys get their day in court.

Except. There is no fucking way that Ghomeshi would ever, ever, see the inside of a courthouse if his victims hadn't gone to the media first. We know the CBC wouldn't have acted, and police would not have charged him. It was only the massive international outrage that forced the accumulation of evidence and the arrest.

Likewise, Wilson wouldn't have even made it to the indictment hearing were it not for the protests that have shaken Ferguson since August. That we even got as far as an obvious miscarriage of justice is credit to those who wouldn't let it get swept under the rug. Because of those—yes, violent—protests, the fact that a white cop murdered a black child is now an international issue.

Marginalized people have always been told to shut up and be patient while the system works, despite the fact that the system is designed to work against them. We've seen, over and over again, that trust and patience is rewarded with inaction or re-victimization. The only justice Wilson's, or Ghomeshi's, victims will ever see is brought about by working around the system, whether that means going to the media and generating outrage on social media, or burning shit in the streets. It feels very obvious for me to type this, but over and over again, I find myself arguing with well-meaning white liberals about the futility of sitting back and trusting in some sort of magical objective legal system. Here is your concrete proof. I can never be a pacifist because it is only the threat of all hell breaking loose that can threaten the dominance of the powerful.
sabotabby: raccoon anarchy symbol (racist!)
A bunch of white people have absolved themselves of any wrongdoing. The going value of black lives has been reconfirmed—which is to say, non-existent. You can kill a dog and face more legal scrutiny than cops who kill black children. And another black child is dead for holding a BB gun. It's fucking open season.

American police have killed 996 people this year. If a street gang did this, we'd consider it a pressing concern. But these guys get paid by your taxes and called heroes so it's okay.

There's a thing at the American consulate at 6 tonight. Guess I'll go. I'm feeling pretty disheartened at the moment.
sabotabby: raccoon anarchy symbol (fuck patriarchy)
I'm not going to write a lengthy post about Jian Ghomeshi because a) other people have said it better, b) I'm about to head out and won't be around much this weekend, and c) I actually find it really difficult to read any details about this case and I'm finding it hits too close to home.

I am appalled that less than 100% of the people I know are supportive of the brave women who have come forward. I am appalled that I'm still seeing arguments suggesting that he was fired because he was kinky, or that he is innocent until proven guilty, or  that he should not be tried "in the court of public opinion," when the court of public opinion, i.e., social media, is the only justice any of these women, or any survivor of rape or domestic abuse, will ever know.

But the worst, the worst of all, is the people who are asking why the women didn't go to the police. I can't really deal, not at all, so I'm just going to leave this article, by a former Crown prosecutor, about why women don't go to the police.

Trigger warnings, obviously.
sabotabby: raccoon anarchy symbol (hellraiser kitty)

[ profile] fatpie42's recent review of The Act of Killing, a documentary (well, kind of) by Joshua Oppenheimer, reminded me that I'd downloaded it awhile back but never actually watched it. So I did.

I can't review it properly; I'm not sure this film can be reviewed properly. I mean, I could say that it's among the most brilliant films I've ever seen, and certainly the most brilliant documentary I've ever seen, but can I recommend it? I don't know. I like you guys. Not sure I want to put you through that.

Oppenheimer went to Indonesia to interview members of paramilitary death squads and gangsters who murdered 500,000 people, who they claimed were communists, between 1964 and 1965 following Suharto's coup. The purge was committed with complicity and aid from Western governments, including my own. (I have clear memories of Suharto's 1997 visit to the APEC conference in Vancouver, where he was greeted by our politicians as if he were an actual human being and not scum worthy only of eradication, like a cockroach, and those protesting the arrival of this unrepentant war criminal were treated as criminals themselves. But I didn't grasp it back then. It's one thing to be worked up into a rage against a monster responsible for mass murder—any right-thinking person would be, unlike Chretien—and another thing to be confronted with the realities of what those murders were like.)

So if it had just been interviews and information about what happened, it would have been disturbing and powerful enough, but Oppenheimer does one better than that. He convinces the men—now quite elderly—to create an art film based on their memories of the massacres. They act in it as both themselves and their victims, complete with makeup and special effects. One, Anwar Conga, founder of the Pancasila Youth paramilitary movement and personally responsible for the murder of 1000 people, has nightmares and feels some remorse; the other, Adi Zulkadry, not so much. Along with their friends, they talk about how they idolize the gangster lifestyle (repeatedly, people in the film state that "gangster" means "free man") and Western movies. The reenacted scenes are shot in the style of the movies they enjoyed in their youth. As the film goes on, there are fewer interviews and more surreal sequences.

Nearly every major subject in the film is a monster. The filmmaker, at least until the end, withholds judgment, which must have been an unimaginable struggle, allowing them to talk about their rapes and murders, to demonstrate how they did it for the camera, bask in the appreciation of journalists and politicians who see them as heroes. At one point, they travel through a market extorting money from Chinese merchants to throw a party; all on film, all completely unrepentant, with no self-reflection or question as to why they feel that they can take what they want through violence. Interspersed are scenes of Anwar with his two young grandsons, the gangsters golfing and bowling, one running for election even though he can't even remember his lines and only wants to use the position to extort more money from people.

And it's just horrible. It keeps going. It's so hard to watch, but I felt I owed it to the victims to know what happened to them and to try to understand their murderers' psychology. I'm constantly baffled by how regular people justify their support for or complicity in atrocities; this film is a window into that mentality without allowing a single easy answer.

Anyway. You should watch it. Or you shouldn't. But you probably should.
sabotabby: raccoon anarchy symbol (racist!)
People shocked by Ferguson—and a lot of good, intelligent people are—and by the militarization of thuggish local police appear, to my jaded eyes, to lack a certain historical perspective.

There was a blip in North American history, lasting less, I think, than a century, where this sort of atrocity outraged the general population for any length of time. The Lawrence Textile Strike and the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire were horrible but up until the Reagan-Thatcher era, that violence begat basic protections for workers. The war in Vietnam, the first televised war, meant that the US had to tread a bit more carefully internationally. But essentially the armed wing of the state has been beating on marginalized and, in particular, racialized populations, regardless—and this is important, would-be pacifists—of whether they resist or not or resort to violence or not, as long as it's been in existence, to a chorus of shrugs and sighs from those too privileged to be directly affected.

Ferguson dominates the media cycle at the moment, not because it is radically different in content from similar crackdowns in the past, but because it is the first of a thing. The first time many people have seen the active deployment of police outfitted with military gear. (Unless you've been at a protest in the past twenty years. Or you're not white.) The first time it's not just televised, but livestreamed, tweeted, reblogged. The first time people have been able to hold out long enough without being crushed to get it into the news cycle. Among the first times the citizen media has been able to loudly counter the mainstream narrative. But beyond the technological angle, it's not shocking or surprising or any sort of historical aberration; if anything, the aberration is the aforementioned few decades where speaking truth to power actually had an effect.

The next time this happens, the militarized police response, the almost inevitable murder of demonstrators, will be routine. That's how it works. That's why it's happening now, unfolding in the way it is; to pave the way for the new normal. So that next time we can just sigh and remember that getting outraged didn't work last time so why bother now? That's just how things are.

The other day on the radio, I was listening to an interview with Ken Jarecke, the photographer who, in 1991, took a picture of an incinerated Iraqi soldier just before the Gulf War ceasefire (this is the photo, if you need to see it; here is an interview—with the man's face blurred out—about the photo's significance). The photo was suppressed in the North American press; at the time, the trend in news reporting was to sanitize the war, to make it look like there were really no casualties at all on either side. I was 12 in 1991; I knew what war was, that obviously people were dying, but the essential truth of it, the genuine outrage and the horrific human cost, didn't hit me until several years later, when I came across that photo. Nowadays, such images are commonplace, and Jarecke was speaking about how photos of dead bodies from war zones had completely lost their power to shock. I think he's mostly right; the photos of dead kids in Syria and Gaza splashed all over my Facebook feed have never changed a single person's mind on the issues at hand. In 1991, the AP felt the need to suppress that photo for no reason I can see other than that it might make people question the war, might make them not go along so readily with the next one, might—and this would have been the worst thing—recognize the humanity of the enemy. It had power, back then. Now, we understand that the Other is human, suffers horribly as the result of our actions, and we don't give a fuck.

We are able to briefly give a fuck about Ferguson because it still has the power to shock—this time, and not completely; open racism is socially acceptable again in the US, and so the KKK can raise money to smear the reputation of the murdered child in question. When it happens again—and make no mistake, Ferguson is the future of policing—we will all understand the collective truth that this is the way it always happens, the way it's always been done.


Aug. 13th, 2014 09:06 pm
sabotabby: raccoon anarchy symbol (Behemoth (Master&Margarita))
The stupidest comment I've seen today (in response to a comment I made elsewhere about how police can basically murder with impunity):

"I don't think being put on adminstrative leave pending investigation and having your murder inspire riots and protests is "impunity.""

Pity the poor cop on paid leave who isn't currently dead or having his skull bashed in, unlike a good many other people. The only thing worse than cops is the culture of racism and bootlicking that enables them. And that's regular people with a fetish for authority and a delusion that what happened to that poor kid in Missouri won't ever happen to anyone they love.
sabotabby: raccoon anarchy symbol (fighting the man)
So the Fords held a completely illegal propaganda fest—sorry, a barbecue in which they bribed poor people with free food to score votes, during a municipal campaign, which is in no way political—last night. There's a sentence in that article about a skirmish between queer activists who came out to remind people that the Honourable Wife-Beater is a homophobic douchecanoe. Ford Nation people—who had nothing to do with the official campaign, of course, or the Laughable Bumblefuck's sustained attacks against queer people in this city—attacked the demonstrators, grabbed their signs, stomped on them, and even choked a guy:

While, you know, the immediate Ford family did not engage in personally bashing any queers, I checked the Star just now to see if there was any kind of statement disapproving of the actions of their supporters, and—nada. One can only conclude that they approve.


sabotabby: raccoon anarchy symbol (Default)

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