Fascism, Corporatism, and Big Ag

For a number of years, I’ve been trying to wrap my mind around fascism and corporatism. The latter is but one part of the former, although sometimes they are used interchangeably. Corporatism was central to fascism, a defining feature.

Corporatism didn’t originate with fascism, though. It has a long history that became well developed under feudalism. In centuries past, corporations were never conflated with private businesses. Instead, corporations were entities of the state government and served the interests of the state. Corporatism, as such, was an entire society based on this.

The slave plantation South is an example of a corporatist society. This is the basis of the argument made by Eugene Genovese and Elizabeth Fox-Genovese. They connected corporatism to traditional conservatism, as opposed to the individualistic liberalism of capitalism. Like in fascism, this slave plantation corporatism was a rigid social order with social roles clearly defined. It’s a mostly forgotten strain of American conservatism that once was powerful.

In fascist regimes, corporatism was used to organize society and the economy by way of the government’s role of linking labor and industry—similar to slavery, it was “designed to minimize class antagonisms” (Genovese & Fox-Genovese, The Mind of the Master Class, p. 668). In its initial phases, industrial corporations gained immense power and wealth, as managerial efficiency becomes the dominant priority, centralized planning combined with private ownership.

Fascism is a counterrevolutionary expression of reactionary conservatism. As Corey Robin explains, the political right worldview (fascist and otherwise) has a particular talent of borrowing, both from the left and from the past. It just as easily borrows elements from pre-modern corporatism as it does from modern socialism and capitalism. It’s a mishmash, unconcerned by principled consistency and ideological coherence. This makes it highly adaptable and potentially hard to detect.

This relates to how the right-wing in the US transformed corporatism into an element of capitalism. The slave plantation south was central to this process, combining elements of pre-capitalism with capitalism. Slave owners like Thomas Jefferson were increasingly moving toward industrialized capitalism. Before the Civil War, many plantations were being industrialized and many slaves were leased out to work in Southern factories.

Looking for fascism or elements of fascism in American society requires careful observation and analysis. It won’t manifest in the way it did in early 20th century Europe. Capitalists have been much more independent in the US, at times leading to their having more power over government than the other way around. It’s less clear in a country like this which direction power runs, either as fascism or inverted totalitarianism. Either way, the economic system is centrally important for social control.

Yet capitalist rhetoric in the US so often speaks of a mistrust of government. Some history would be helpful. Consider again the example of the South. In Democracy and Trust, Mark E. Warren writes that,

The Southern herrenvolk democracy thrived on slavery and after the Reconstruction remained “mired in the defense of a totally segregated society” (Black and Black 1987: 75). It shared with the Northern elite a suspicion of majority rule and mass participation. It continued to use collective systems of mutual trust both to provide political solidarity and to divide and discourage participation in the political system. But it differed radically from its Northern conservative counterpart in its lack of hostility to the state and governmental authorities. What the South loathed was, and remains, not big government but centralized, federal government On the state and city levels, elites see politics as a means of exercising power, not something to be shunned. (pp. 166-7)

I would correct one thing. Southerners were never against centralized, federal government. In fact, until the mid 1800s, the Southern elite dominated the federal goverment. It was their using the federal government to enforce slave laws onto the rest of the country that led to growing conflict that turned into a civil war. What Southerners couldn’t abide was a centralized, federal government that had come under the sway of the growing industry and population of the North.

The Southern elite loved big government so much that they constantly looked toward expanding the politics and economics of slavery. It’s why Southerners transported so many slaves Westward (see Bound Away by Fischer & Kelly) and why they had their eyes on Mexico and Cuba.

Slaveholders even went as far as California during the 1849 gold rush and they brought their slaves with them. California became technically a free state, although slavery persisted. Later on, Civil War conflict arose on the West Coat, but open battle was avoided. Interestingly, the conflict in California also fell along a North-South divide, with the southern Californians seeking secession from northern California even before the Civil War.

Southern California saw further waves of Southerners. Besides earlier transplanted Southerners, this included the so-called Okies of the Dust Bowl looking for agricultural work and the post-war laborers looking for employment in the defense industry. A Southern-influenced culture became well-established in Southern California. This was a highly religious population that eventually would lead to the phenomenon of mega-churches, televangelists, and the culture wars. It also helped shape a particular kind of highly profitable big ag with much power and influence. Kathryn Olmsted, from Right Out of California, wrote that,

These growers were not angry at the New Deal because they hated big government. Unlike Eastern conservatives, Western businessmen were not libertarians who opposed most forms of government intervention in the economy. Agribusiness relied on the government to survive and prosper: it needed price supports for stability, government dams and canals for irrigation, and state university research for crop improvements. These business leaders not only acknowledged but demanded a large role for government in the economy.

By focusing on Western agribusiness, we can see that the New Right was no neoliberal revolt against the dead hand of government intervention. Instead, twentieth-century conservatism was a reaction to the changes in the ways that government was intervening in the economy— in short, a shift from helping big business to creating a level playing field for workers. Even Ronald Reagan, despite his mythical image as a cowboy identified with the frontier, was not really a small-government conservative but a corporate conservative. 110 Reagan’s revolution did not end government intervention in the economy: it only made the government more responsive to the Americans with the most wealth and power. (Kindle Locations 4621-4630)

This Californian political force is what shaped a new generation of right-wing Republicans. Richard Nixon was born and raised in the reactionary heart of Southern California. It was where the Southern Strategy was developed that Nixon would help push onto the national scene. Nixon set the stage for the likes of Ronald Reagan, which helped extend this new conservatism beyond the confines of big ag, as Reagan had become a corporate spokesperson before getting into politics.

The origins of this California big ag is important and unique. Unlike Midwestern farming, that of California more quickly concentrated land ownership and so concentrated wealth and power. Plus, it was highly dependent on infrastructure funded, built, and maintained by big government. It should be noted that big ag was among the major recipients of New Deal farm subsidies. Their complaints about the New Deal was that it gave farm laborers some basic rights, although the New Deal kept the deck stacked in big ag’s favor. Early 20th century Californian big ag is one of the clearest examples of overt fascism in US history.

The conservative elite in California responded to the New Deal similar to how the conservative elite in the South responded to Reconstruction. It led to a backlash where immense power was wielded at the state level. As Olmsted makes clear,

employers could use state and local governments to limit the reach of federal labor reforms. Carey McWilliams and Herbert Klein wrote in The Nation that California had moved from “sporadic vigilante activity to controlled fascism, from the clumsy violence of drunken farmers to the calculated maneuvers of an economic-militaristic machine.” No longer would employers need to rely on hired thugs to smash strikes. Instead, they could trust local prosecutors to brand union leaders as “criminal syndicalists” and then send them to prison. McWilliams and Klein suggested that this antiunion alliance between big business and the courts was similar to the state-business partnership in Hitler’s Germany. 104

But these growers and their supporters were not European-style fascists; they were the forerunners of a new, distinctly American movement. (Kindle Locations 4134-4141)

Still, it was fascism. In The Harvest Gypsies, John Steinbeck wrote that, “Fascistic methods are more numerous, more powerfully applied and more openly practiced in California than any other place in the United States.”

The development of big ag in California was different, at least initially. But everything across the country was moving toward greater concentration. It wasn’t just California. Organizations like the Farm Bureau in other parts of the country became central. As in California, it set farmers against labor, as organized labor in demanding basic rights came to be perceived as radical. Richard McIntyre, in his essay “Labor Militance and the New Deal” from When Government Helped, he writes that, “Groups representing farmers outside the South, such as the Farm Bureau, also supported Taft-Hartley because they saw strikes and secondary boycotts as limiting their ability to get crops to market. The split between labor and various kinds of farmers allowed capitalists to heal their divisions” (p. 133).

It was also a division among farmers themselves, as there had also been agricultural traditions of left-wing politics and populist reform. “From its beginning in Indiana the Farm Bureau made it clear that the organization was composed of respectable members of the farming community and that it was not a bunch of radicals or troublemakers” (Barbara J. Steinson, Rural Life in Indiana, 1800–1950). By respectable, this meant that the haves got more and the have-nots lost what little they had.

Even though big ag took a different route in regions like the Midwest, the end results were similar in the increasing concentration of land and wealth, which is to say the end of the small family farm. This was happening all over, such as in the South: “These ideals emphasized industrialized, commercial farming by ever-larger farms and excluded many smaller farms from receiving the full benefit of federal farm aid. The resulting programs, by design, contributed significantly to the contraction of the farm population and the concentration of farm assets in the Carolinas” (Elizabeth Kathleen Brake, Uncle Sam on the Family Farm).

This country was built on farming. It’s the best farmland in the world. That means vast wealth. Big ag lobbyists have a lot of pull in the federal government. That is why fascism in this country early on found its footing in this sector of the economy, rather than with industry. Over time, corporatism has come to dominate the entire economy, and the locus of power has shifted to the financial sector. Agriculture, like other markets, have become heavily tied to those who control the flow of money. The middle class, through 401(k)s, also have become tied to financial markets.

Corporatism no longer means what it once did. In earlier European fascism, it was dependent on organizational society. That was at a time when civic organizations, labor unions, etc shaped all of life. We no longer live in that kind of world.

Because of this, new forms of authoritarianism don’t require as overt methods of social control. It becomes ever more difficult for the average person to see what is happening and why. More and more people are caught up in a vicious economy, facing poverty and debt, maybe homelessness or incarceration. The large landowner or industrialist won’t likely send out goons to beat you up. There are no Nazi Brownshirts marching in the street. There is no enemy to fight or resist, just a sense of the everything getting worse all around you.

Yet some have begun to grasp the significance of decentralization. Unsurprisingly, a larger focus has been on the source of food, such as the locally grown movement. Raising one’s own food is key in seeking economic and political independence. Old forms of the yeoman farmer may be a thing of the past, but poor communities have begun to turn to community gardens and the younger generation has become interested in making small farming viable again. It was technology with the force of the state behind it that allowed centralization. A new wave of ever more advanced and cheaper technology is making greater decentralization possible.

Those with power, though, won’t give it up easily.

* * *

American Fascism and the New Deal: The Associated Farmers of California and the Pro-Industrial Movement
by Nelson A. Pichardo Almanzar and Brian W. Kulik

Right Out of California: The 1930s and the Big Business Roots of Modern Conservatism
by Kathryn S. Olmsted

From Slavery to the Cooperative Commonwealth: Labor and Republican Liberty in the Nineteenth Century
by Alex Gourevitch

Developing the Country: “Scientific Agriculture” and the Roots of the Republican Party
by Ariel Ron

Scientific Agriculture and the Agricultural State Farmers, Capitalism, and Government in the Late Nineteenth Century
by Ariel Ron

Uncle Sam on the Family Farm: Farm Policy and the Business of Southern Agriculture, 1933-1965
by Elizabeth Kathleen Brake

A Progressive Rancher Opposes the New Deal: Dan Casement, Eugenics, and Republican Virtue
by Daniel T. Gresham

Whose Side Is the American Farm Bureau On?
by Ian T. Shearn

Farm Bureau Works Against Small Family Farm ‘Hostages’
Letter to FFC from one member of the Farm Bureau who operates a family farm.

by jcivitas

The Impact of Globalization on Family Farm Agriculture
by Bill Christison

What is the IRS ‘scandal’ about?

An Almost-Final Word On The IRS’s Alleged Tea Party Targeting

This all goes back to the scrutiny the IRS gave to politically active “social welfare” organizations between 2010 and 2013. Conservatives allege that mainly Tea Party groups were targeted. The controversy led to a housecleaning at the top of the IRS — also, to a collapse in the agency’s already feeble attempts to enforce its existing rules on political activity by 501(c)(4) social welfare groups.

The numbers and budgets of politically active social welfare groups have soared since the Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling in 2010, especially among conservatives. SuperPACs, which are also used by both sides, must disclose their donors, while 501(c)(4) groups have no disclosure requirement.

Facebook, the IRS, and the GOP’s Bullshit Feedback Loop

In reality, the IRS “scandal” was the unhappy byproduct of an agency being tasked with determining the validity of claims to non-profit status, but lacking the proper resources to do it or clear guidance on how. The fact that new Tea Party groups, many with dubious claim to non-profit status, had flooded the IRS with applications compounded the difficulty. The agency thus used watchwords like “tea party” and “progressive” to, in its words, triage the workload.

For the purposes of ginning up voters, that story is much less useful than one in which a liberal agency leader masterminded a sabotage campaign against patriotic conservatives trying to rescue the country from Obama. And so the IRS scandal was born.

Report On IRS Targeting Of Conservatives – No Christmas Pony For Darrell Issa

Now if both sides were doing it equally, it would be possible for the IRS to approach the matter in an even handed manner. As it turns out, unlike the remarkably similar activities of the Kriegsmarine U-boats in the Atlantic and the US Navy submarines in the Pacific, “dark money” is more of a conservative thing . According to Open Secrets in the 2010 election cycle conservative non-disclosure spending was $119.9 million and liberal non-disclosure spending was $10.7 million. In the 2012 election cycle it was $265.5 million conservative versus $33,6 million liberal. The gap starts closing in 2014 but remains wide with $192.8 million conservative and $54 million liberal.

That makes it impossible for IRS action or non-action to not have political effect. Now if we had really wise leaders, they would have gotten together and said that the country needs good tax administration and the Republicans would have agreed to ease up on pushing the envelope so much and the Democrats would not have pressed the IRS to worry so much about a matter that was not contributing to the tax gap. Probably too much to ask for. Instead we’ve got “Winning isn’t everything. It’s the only thing.”

New Records: IRS Targeted Progressive Groups More Extensively Than Tea Party

A series of IRS documents, provided to ThinkProgress under the Freedom of Information Act, appears to contradict the claims by Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) and his House Oversight and Government Reform Committee that only Tea Party organizations applying for tax-exempt status “received systematic scrutiny because of their political beliefs.” The 22 “Be On the Look Out” keywords lists, distributed to staff reviewing applications between August 12, 2010 and April 19, 2013, included more explicit references to progressive groups, ACORN successors, and medical marijuana organizations than to Tea Party entities.

Donna Brazile: No conspiracy here, IRS targeted liberals, too

In fact, a few months after the story of the report broke, new documents came to light showing more of the extent of scrutiny of progressive groups. At the time, Alex Seitz-Wald described the landscape this way.

But now, almost two months later, we know that in fact the IRS targeted lots of different kinds of groups, not just conservative ones; that the only organizations whose tax-exempt statuses were actually denied were progressive ones; that many of the targeted conservative groups legitimately crossed the line; that the IG’s report was limited to only Tea Party groups at congressional Republicans’ request; and that the White House was in no way involved in the targeting and didn’t even know about it until shortly before the public did.

Needless to say, especially disturbing is the idea that Issa conveyed to the IG his wish that the investigation focus on conservative groups to the exclusion of progressive ones. The IG later said that initial report was inaccurate, but he didn’t say what was inaccurate about it or offer any explanation of why his spokesperson would have said Issa told them to produce a one-sided report.

New Documents Show the IRS Targeted ‘Progressive’ and ‘Tea Party’ Groups for Extra Scrutiny

Arguably, ThinkProgress’s report implies, the IRS focused on giving extra scrutiny to groups on the left longer than it did to groups on the right, Issa’s colleagues across the aisle on the Oversight Committee have long noted that Issa has yet to produce evidence supporting his repeated claims that the IRS was acting as part of an anti-GOP political conspiracy. These documents, which ThinkProgress notes were also produced for “investigating congressional committees,” are certainly not that evidence. Here’s a list of some of the groups that show up on the full BOLO watch lists (viewable here):

  • “Progressive” groups, especially those with words like “blue” in the name
  • “Tea Party” groups
  • Not exclusively educational “medical marijuana” groups
  • Groups believed to be “successors to ACORN”
  • “Open source software” organizations
  • “Green energy” organizations
  • “Occupied territory” advocacy organizations

On the “emerging” section on one of the distributed lists, the BOLO lists contains this downright bipartisan warning:

Political action type organizations involved in limiting/expanding government, educating on the constitution and bill of rights, Social economic reform/movement

Anyway, Issa already has a response to that non-specific language. The political watch list language was “changed to broader ‘political advocacy organizations,’” he wrote in a committee report, adding that he believes “the IRS still intended to identify and single out Tea Party applications for scrutiny.” Even though it looks like progressive groups may have ended up on the watch list before the Tea Party started popping up.

Senate Report Confirms That Republicans Lied About The IRS Only Targeting Conservatives

A newly released report from the Senate Permanent Subcommittee On Investigations confirms that both liberal and conservatives groups received the same bad treatment and were targeted by the IRS. In short, Republicans lied about the IRS only targeting conservatives.

The Executive Summary section of the report put the Republican IRS conspiracy down for the count,

The Subcommittee investigation has reached many of the same conclusions as the TIGTA audit of the 501(c)(4) application process. The Subcommittee investigation found that the IRS used inappropriate screening criteria when it flagged for increased scrutiny applications based upon the applicants’ names or political views rather than direct evidence of their involvement with campaign activities. The Subcommittee investigation also found significant program mismanagement, including years-long delays in processing 501(c)(4) applications; inappropriate, intrusive, and burdensome questioning of groups; and poor communication and coordination between IRS officials in Washington and Cincinnati. At the same time, like TIGTA, the Subcommittee investigation found no evidence of IRS political bias in selecting 501(c)(4) applications for heightened review, as distinguished from using poor judgment in crafting the selection criteria. Based on investigative work that went beyond what TIGTA examined, the Subcommittee investigation also determined that the same problems affected IRS review of 501(c)(4) applications filed by liberal groups.

In addition, the Subcommittee investigation found that, by focusing exclusively on how the IRS handled 501(c)(4) applications filed by conservative groups and excluding any comparative data on applications filed by liberal groups, the TIGTA audit produced distorted audit results that continue to be misinterpreted. The TIGTA audit engagement letter stated that the audit’s “overall objective” was to examine the “consistency” of IRS actions in identifying and reviewing 501(c)(4) applications, including whether “conservative groups” experienced “inconsistent treatment.” Instead, the audit focused solely on IRS treatment of conservative groups, and omitted any mention of other groups. For example, while the TIGTA report criticized the IRS for using “Tea Party,” “9/12,” and “Patriot” to identify applications filed by conservative groups, it left out that the IRS also used “Progressive,” “ACORN,” “Emerge,” and “Occupy” to identify applications filed by liberal groups. While the TIGTA report criticized the IRS for subjecting conservative groups to delays, burdensome questions, and mismanagement, it failed to disclose that the IRS subjected liberal groups to the same treatment. The result was that when the TIGTA audit report presented data showing conservative groups were treated inappropriately, it was interpreted to mean conservative groups were handled differently and less favorably than liberal groups, when in fact, both groups experienced the same mistreatment. By excluding any analysis of how liberal groups were handled and failing to provide critical context for its findings, the TIGTA audit inaccurately and unfairly damaged public confidence in the impartiality of the IRS.

So IRS Didn’t ‘Target Conservative Groups,’ After All

It turns out that the IRS really was just doing its job — scrutinizing all kinds of groups applying for special tax status, not “targeting conservatives” as has been widely reported. Of course anti-government scandal-mongers are trying to make this sound bad, saying this means the “targeting” was “broader” than first thought. That’s like saying people are “targeted” to pay their taxes on April 15. Anyway the “scandal’s” purpose was achieved: the IRS is going to give corporate-funded political groups a pass now and let them “self-certify” that they aren’t breaking the rules. […]

But the truth doesn’t matter. The fact that there was no “targeting of conservative groups” doesn’t mean that conservatives don’t get their way. Even though the whole “ACORN scandal” turned out to just be a lie, Congress defunded ACORN anyway. Van Jones and Shirley Sherrod were both fired after right-wing media launched smear and lie campaigns. And this time the administration immediately caved to the right and fired the head of the IRS. This of course amplified the right’s “targeted conservatives” accusations and whipped the media into a full-blown scandal frenzy.

And the clincher: the IRS has issued new rules, offering corporate-funded political groups a “fast track” to getting their special tax status.

The Chronicle of Philanthropy explains, in IRS Offers Fast-Track for Advocacy Groups Awaiting Tax Exemptions. All they have to do is self-certify that they won’t break the rules, and Bob’s your uncle.

Organizations that have applied to the IRS for status as social-welfare groups but have faced inordinate delays because of the political scrutiny that engulfed the tax agency in controversy now have recourse: They can win tax-exempt status within two weeks if they pledge not to devote more than 40 percent of their time and money to partisan activities.

The IRS announced the streamlined process on Monday as part of its 83-page report, shown below, on how the agency is overhauling its process for reviewing applications for tax-exempt status. By setting the 40-percent marker, the organization for the first time was explicit about how much advocacy is acceptable for a group that has 501(c)(4) status.

So they win.

House Republicans pretend IRS ‘scandal’ still exists

Just so we’re clear, these House Republicans still haven’t uncovered any evidence of official wrongdoing, and they didn’t accuse Koskinen of having any role in “targeting” anyone. Rather, the GOP lawmakers are convinced Koskinen hasn’t done enough to help them find evidence to substantiate allegations that fell apart two years ago.

Or put another way, they want to fire the IRS guy who replaced the other IRS guy who was fired over a “scandal” that never really existed in the first place.

There is, of course, no reason to believe Koskinen’s job is in jeopardy, which is probably why House Oversight Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) raised the prospect of holding the IRS commissioner in contempt of Congress, because, well, why not? It’s been months since House Republicans held an Obama administration official in contempt of Congress, they’re arguably overdue.

Fox News’ phony scandal: The truth about the fictional “plot” to suppress conservatives

Absent campaign-finance law, and with a deadlocked Federal Election Commission incapable of acting, the IRS was the last defense against opaque and unrestricted political money. Yet as Republicans in Congress blocked efforts to address campaign-finance transparency, nonprofits were inundating the IRS with applications for tax-exempt status, many for social-welfare groups. And media outlets were focused on “Tea Party” groups forming around the country.

Against this backdrop, one IRS case manager in the Los Angeles office forwarded an application to the agency’s Cincinnati office for review, expressing concern that the organization applying for nonprofit status was not being established for social-welfare purposes, but instead for political campaign activity. The Cincinnati office, which oversees nonprofit applications, agreed to review the case.

That questionable applicant was a Tea Party group, whose application triggered the reviewer’s concern over its involvement with direct campaign activity relating to specific candidates.

As applications stacked up, the IRS identified areas with potential for abuse, and began to flag applications that followed a similar format, issuing a “BOLO” (Be On the Lookout) alert for new applications with similar features or organizations with similar names.

Throughout 2010 and 2011, the IRS continued to wrestle with how it should handle these organizations in general (and Tea Party applications in particular), while the agency faced mounting pressure from House and Senate investigative committees concerning tax-exempt organizations and donor identities. Tea Party applications were particularly problematic, because the term “Tea Party” was identified with groups backing specific candidates or opposing the policies of the Obama administration.

Such activities are not covered by the “primary purpose” rule applicable to social-welfare groups, which restricts tax exemption (and freedom from disclosure requirements) to organizations that “operate primarily to further the common good and general welfare of the people of the community.”

In September 2010, Senator Max Baucus (D-MT) wrote to then-IRS Commissioner Douglas Shulman, asking him to conduct a survey of major 501(c)(4), (c)(5), and (c)(6) organizations involved in political campaign activity to see whether they were in compliance with the “primary purpose” rule. He also requested that the IRS look at whether the organizations “were acting as conduits for major donors advancing their own private interests regarding legislation or political campaigns.”

In 2012, Senator Carl Levin (D-MI) made a formal request for the IRS to produce specific information on the activity of several high-profile organizations, including Karl Rove’s Crossroads GPS, the liberal group Priorities USA, Americans for Prosperity, and Patriot Majority USA. As dark money spending increased in 2012, Levin pressed harder, criticizing the IRS decision to interpret the word “exclusively” to promote social welfare as “more than 50 percent” of the organization’s activity. He wanted to know how many tax exemptions had been audited to see if organizations engaged in excessive political activity.

After the 2012 elections, the IRS found itself caught between mounting pressure from Congressional Democrats and from groups receiving information requests from the IRS but no letters approving their tax-exempt status. The agency was requesting that applicants provide all donors’ names and addresses (presumably to satisfy the Baucus inquiry), sparking outrage among conservative groups asked for that information.

UNBRIDLED FREEDOM

At the same time, Congressional Republicans began to hear from big donors who were concerned about the loss of anonymity—and the tax deductions that some of the nonprofits provided. And from “grass roots” groups impatient with the IRS.

One of these groups was KSP/True the Vote, a Texas-based voter-integrity organization originally known as the King Street Patriots—one of the nonprofit applicants selected by the IRS for closer scrutiny, based upon its application and media reports in 2010 in which KSP/True the Vote activists were accused of intimidating voters at the polls.

In 2010, acting under the name King Street Patriots, conservative Texas activist Catherine Engelbrecht accused a voter-registration group, Houston Votes, of being “the New Black Panthers office” in Texas. Claiming to have found thousands of fraudulent voter registrations in the Houston area, Engelbrecht appeared on Fox News, accusing Houston Votes of massive voter fraud. The King Street Patriots also produced a video that warned: “Our elections are being manipulated by the RADICAL LEFT.” Backed by an ominous soundtrack, the video also included a doctored image of an African American holding a sign that read: “I only got to vote once.”

Ironically, one documented case of voter fraud surfaced in Texas in 2010 when County Commissioner candidate Bruce Fleming, who had been endorsed by Engelbrecht, was found to have cast votes in Pennsylvania and Texas in the 2006, 2008, and 2010 elections, boasting that he “had the chance to vote twice against Barack Obama.”

Indeed, KSP/True the Vote’s literature established that they were operating for campaign purposes, as evidenced by a self-published “Legislative Agenda for Texas” in 2011 and their lobbying for stricter voter-ID laws. The state Democratic Party sued, and in 2011 a Texas court ruled that the King Street Patriots was a PAC and not a nonprofit group. The group was ordered to reveal its donors and pay Houston Votes a substantial settlement.

Despite the court ruling and extensive news coverage, when news broke on May 9, 2013, that the IRS may have singled out conservative groups for scrutiny, Engelbrecht was prepared. On May 21, KSP/True the Vote filed a federal lawsuit against the IRS for targeting them. The suit was dismissed in late 2014.

Hillary and Honduras

Let’s be honest about Hillary Clinton and the Honduran military coup.

Honduras is a great example of how the American Empire operates, through constant geopolitical manipulations, so often hidden from public view. It also shows how neoliberalism and neoconservatism are so closely linked, despite the outward ideological differences.

Hillary Clinton’s role as Secretary of State demonstrates all of this. The dire situation of Honduras today makes clear her political vision for the world and makes clear whose interests she serves.

In Honduras, corporatism means a military coup that puts business interests into power. In the US, corporatism means supporting military coups and other methods that put business interests in power, and it means corrupt big money politics at home in support of a military-industrial complex and prison-industrial complex, not to mention a growing police-and-intelligence state.

This can’t all be blamed on Hillary Clinton. She is just one of many, but she is a particularly egregious example. Few corporatists in the US have more wealth, power, and influence than someone like her.

* * *

Hillary Clinton, the Honduras Coup and Globalization

This has been going in the USA’s back yard since Honduras was declared the first “banana Republic” in 1904 with the U.S. sending in troops several times between 1903 and 1925. It is the poorest country in Central America and the gap between rich and poor has consistently risen except for a time in the 50’s when workers were allowed to unionize. In 1963 a democratically elected President was overthrown in a military coup, 10 years after a similar CIA-backed coup deposed the freely elected President in Guatemala. Ronald Reagan upped the ante by supporting the CIA’s work with the Contras fighting the Russian-supported Sandinista regime in Nicaragua. Next door violent wars raged in El Salvador and Guatemala and thousands would flee the violence north to Mexico, USA and Canada. That trend has only gotten worse with the failed War on Drugs and the potential failure of the narco-state that Mexico has become. Thousands of Central American women and children flooded the US border, only to have many of them deported back to the narco-gang violence that is terrorizing this country which is now one of the most violent in the world. Secretary Clinton said it was important to send a message.”

Dancing with Monsters: The U.S. Response to the Honduran Coup 

Because of this history, he explained, when a coup occurs, “alarm bells ring across the political spectrum in Latin America.”

This makes the 2009 coup in Honduras and the response of then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the U.S. State Department all the more startling. Secretary Clinton’s reaction to the coup was initially ambiguous and evolved to support the replacement government much more rapidly than the United States has done in other foreign states. Her motivations appear to have been numerous, but many are troubling. In particular, her attention to business interests in a matter of state should be concerning. When seeking stability in Honduras, Clinton appears to have valued military and corporate interests above Honduran democratic integrity.

How Hillary Clinton Militarized US Policy in Honduras

“I’ve been pretty much appalled by US policy with respect to Honduras,” Lawrence Wilkerson, the former deputy to Secretary of State Colin Powell, told me when I brought OTI’s Honduras program to his attention in an interview last year. “If I could sum it up for what it’s been for so many years, that’s protecting all the criminals in power, basically for US commercial interests.”

Hillary Clinton Caused the Hell in Honduras

From: Ambassador Hugo Llorens, U.S. Embassy, Tegucigalpa, Honduras, 24 July 2009.

To: Secretary of State, White House, and National Security Council.

“SUBJECT: TFHO1: OPEN AND SHUT: THE CASE OF THE HONDURAN COUP”

This lengthy message from the Ambassador closed:

“The actions of June 28 can only be considered a coup d’etat by the legislative branch, with the support of the judicial branch and the military, against the executive branch. It bears mentioning that, whereas the resolution adopted June 28 refers only to Zelaya, its effect was to remove the entire executive branch. Both of these actions clearly exceeded Congress’s authority. … No matter what the merits of the case against Zelaya, his forced removal by the military was clearly illegal, and [puppett-leader Roberto] Micheletti’s ascendance as ‘interim president’ was totally illegitimate.”

How Hillary Clinton Enabled the 2009 Military Coup in Hunduras

On August 7, fifteen House Democrats, led by Rep. Raúl Grijalva, sent a letter to the Administration which began, “As you know, on June 28th, 2009 a military coup took place in Honduras,” and said: “The State Department should fully acknowledge that a military coup has taken place and follow through with the total suspension of non-humanitarian aid, as required by law.”

The US role in the Honduras coup and subsequent violence | National Catholic Reporter

Despite being a wealthy logger and rancher from the centrist Liberal Party, Zelaya had moved his government to the left during his four years in office. During his tenure, he raised the minimum wage and provided free school lunches, milk for young children, pensions for the elderly, and additional scholarships for students. He built new schools, subsidized public transportation, and even distributed energy-saving light bulbs.

None of these were particularly radical moves, but it was nevertheless disturbing to the country’s wealthy economic and military elites. More frightening was that Zelaya had sought to organize an assembly to replace the 1982 constitution written during the waning days of the U.S.-backed military dictator Policarpo Paz Garcia. A non-binding referendum on whether such a constitutional assembly should take place was scheduled the day of the coup, but was cancelled when the military seized power and named Congressional Speaker Roberto Micheletti as president.

Calling for such a referendum is perfectly legal under Article 5 of the 2006 Honduran Civil Participation Act, which allows public functionaries to perform such non-binding public consultations regarding policy measures. Despite claims by the rightist junta and its supporters, Zelaya was not trying to extend his term. That question wasn’t even on the ballot. The Constitutional Assembly would not have likely completed its work before his term had expired anyway.

The leader of the coup, Honduran General Romeo Vásquez Velásquez, was a graduate of the notorious School of the Americas, a U.S. Army training program nicknamed “School of Assassins” for the sizable number of graduates who have engaged in coups, as well as the torture and murder of political opponents. The training of coup plotters at the program, since renamed the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation, isn’t a bygone feature of the Cold War: General Luis Javier Prince Suazo, who played an important role in the coup as head of the Honduran Air Force, graduated as recently as 1996.

FOCUS: The Deposer in Chief: Hillary in Honduras

“Hillary Clinton had a very central role in the coup against Zelaya,” said Pine in a January 12th interview, “from orchestrating the negotiations which insured that the coup government was recognized as a legitimate bargaining partner, to assuring that military aid would continue to be sent to Honduras, by designating the coup as a regular coup and not a military coup. Which is a fictitious distinction that she created.” Pine was in the country before the coup and after.

“One of Clinton’s closest colleagues and a former campaign director, her friend from law school, Lanny Davis,” said Pine, “was directly representing the parties that had financed the coup, CEAL, which is an economic business group in Honduras. Davis was representing them here in Washington, and had her ear at all times. And she was parroting exactly the same propaganda that he was talking about, that he was promoting all over Washington. Hillary Clinton indeed takes credit for preventing Manuel Zelaya from returning to Honduras, as if that were a positive thing, in her book Hard Choices. So I don’t think there is really any ambiguity about her role in that coup.”

Emails Show Secretary Clinton Disobeyed Obama Policy And Continued Funding For Honduras Coup Regime | the narcosphere

One email exchange discovered in the recently released batch of State Department communications reveals that Clinton personally signed off on continuing the flow of US funds to the putsch regime in Honduras in the fall of 2009 — even as the White House was telling the world that such aid had been suspended.

Another email exchange involving Clinton shows that she turned to a lobbyist employed by Honduran business interests suspected of orchestrating the coup to get access to the Roberto Micheletti, the “de facto” president of the putsch regime. Micheletti assumed power after the democratically elected president of Honduras, Manuel Zelaya, was removed from office at gunpoint on June 28, 2009.

The lobbyist Clinton favored in her dealings with Micheletti was Lanny Davis — a long-time friend whom she had met while at Yale Law School and a former White House Counsel to Bill Clinton [as well as a consummate shill for the Clinton agenda].

Davis also is a lawyer and lobbyist and in the latter capacity was retained in July 2009 by the Business Council of Latin America (CEAL) to hawk for the Honduran coup regime, including Micheletti’s illegal administration.

During Honduras Crisis, Clinton Suggested Back Channel With Lobbyist Lanny Davis

The Hillary Clinton emails released last week include some telling exchanges about the June 2009 military coup that toppled democratically elected Honduran president Manuel Zelaya, a leftist who was seen as a threat by the Honduran establishment and U.S. business interests.

At a time when the State Department strategized over how best to keep Zelaya out of power while not explicitly endorsing the coup, Clinton suggested using longtime Clinton confidant Lanny Davis as a back-channel to Roberto Micheletti, the interim president installed after the coup.

During that period, Davis was working as a consultant to a group of Honduran businessmen who had supported the coup.

In an email chain discussing a meeting between Davis and State Department officials, Clinton asked, “Can he help me talk w Micheletti?”

Davis rose to prominence as an adviser to the Clintons during the Monica Lewinsky scandal, and has since served as a high-powered “crisis communications” adviser to a variety of people and organizations facing negative attention in the media, from scandal-plagued for-profit college companies to African dictators. His client list has elicited frequent accusations of hypocrisy.

Davis was not the only foreign agent with access to Clinton. As The Guardian and Politico have reported, other emails point to lobbyists with direct access to Clinton’s personal email.

Hillary Clinton’s Link to a Nasty Piece of Work in Honduras

Pine, who has worked for many years in Honduras, told Dennis Bernstein of KPFA radio in 2014 that the military forces that carried out the coup were trained at the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (formerly called the U.S. Army School of the Americas) in Fort Benning, Ga. Although the coup was supported by the United States, it was opposed by the United Nations and the Organization of American States (OAS). The U.N. and the OAS labeled President Manuel Zelaya’s ouster a military coup.

“Hillary Clinton was probably the most important actor in supporting the coup [against the democratically elected Zelaya] in Honduras,” Pine noted. It took the United States two months to even admit that Honduras had suffered a coup, and it never did admit it was a military coup. That is, most likely, because the Foreign Assistance Act prohibits the U.S. from aiding a country “whose duly elected head of government is deposed by military coup or decree.”

Although the U.S. government eventually cut nonhumanitarian aid to Honduras, the State Department under Clinton took pains to clarify that this was not an admission that a military coup had occurred.

OPINION: Hard choices: Hillary Clinton admits role in Honduran coup aftermath

The question of Zelaya was anything but moot. Latin American leaders, the United Nations General Assembly and other international bodies vehemently demanded his immediate return to office. Clinton’s defiant and anti-democratic stance spurred a downward slide in U.S. relations with several Latin American countries, which has continued. It eroded the warm welcome and benefit of the doubt that even the leftist governments in region offered to the newly installed Obama administration a few months earlier.

Clinton’s false testimony is even more revealing. She reports that Zelaya was arrested amid “fears that he was preparing to circumvent the constitution and extend his term in office.” This is simply not true. As Clinton must know, when Zelaya was kidnapped by the military and flown out of the country in his pajamas on June 28, 2009, he was trying to put a consultative, nonbinding poll on the ballot to ask voters whether they wanted to have a real referendum on reforming the constitution during the scheduled election in November. It is important to note that Zelaya was not eligible to run in that election. Even if he had gotten everything he wanted, it was impossible for Zelaya to extend his term in office. But this did not stop the extreme right in Honduras and the United States from using false charges of tampering with the constitution to justify the coup.

In addition to her bold confession and Clinton’s embrace of the far-right narrative in the Honduran episode, the Latin America chapter is considerably to the right of even her own record on the region as secretary of state. This appears to be a political calculation. There is little risk of losing votes for admitting her role in making most of the hemisphere’s governments disgusted with the United States. On the other side of the equation, there are influential interest groups and significant campaign money to be raised from the right-wing Latin American lobby, including Floridian Cuban-Americans and their political fundraisers.

Hillary Clinton Tells Daily News Honduran Coup Was Not Illegal

But this wasn’t merely a situation in which a change in leadership appeared unlawful because the president was whisked away in his pajamas. Governments all over the world regarded what unfolded as an illegal act, and they demanded Zelaya be returned to power. Although Clinton’s State Department took a different tack, President Barack Obama initially declared, “We believe that the coup was not legal and that President Zelaya remains the president of Honduras, the democratically elected president there.”

Nearly one month after the military removed Zelaya from power, on July 24, Ambassador Llorens wrote in a U.S. State Embassy cable, “The Embassy perspective is that there is no doubt that the military, Supreme Court, and National Congress conspired on June 28 in what constituted an illegal and unconstitutional coup against the Executive Branch, while accepting that there may be a prima facie case that Zelaya may have committed illegalities and may have even violated the constitution.”

The U.S. embassy in Honduras rejected all of the coup defenders’ rationalizations for a “patently illegal act” and outlined the following: “the military had no authority to remove Zelaya from the country”; “Congress has no constitutional authority to remove a Honduran president”; “Congress and the judiciary removed Zelaya on the basis of a hasty, ad-hoc, extralegal, secret, 48-hour process”; and “Zelaya’s arrest and forced removal from the country violated multiple constitutional guarantees, including the prohibition on expatriation, presumption of innocence and right to due process.”

How can anyone claiming to have sound judgment read such a clear-cut assessment and still assert there was a “strong argument” the constitution and rule of law was followed in Honduras?

“She’s Baldly Lying”: Dana Frank Responds to Hillary Clinton’s Defense of Her Role in Honduras Coup

DANA FRANK: Well, I just want to say this is like breathtaking that she’d say these things. I think we’re all kind of reeling that she would both defend the coup and defend her own role in supporting its stabilization in the aftermath. I mean, first of all, the fact that she says that they did it legally, that the Honduras judiciary and Congress did this legally, is like, oh, my god, just mind-boggling. The fact that she then is going to say that it was not an unconstitutional coup is incredible, when she actually had a cable, that we have in the WikiLeaks, in which U.S. Ambassador to Honduras Hugo Llorens says it was very clearly an illegal and unconstitutional coup. So she knows this from day one. She even admits in her own statement that it was the Honduran military, that she says, well, this was the only thing that was wrong there, that it was the military that took Zelaya out of the country, as opposed to somehow that it was an illegal thing we did—that the Honduran government did, deposing a president.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to turn to that WikiLeaks cable on Honduras. The U.S. Embassy in Tegucigalpa, the capital of Honduras, sent a cable to Washington on July 24, 2009, less than a month after the coup. The subject line was “Open and Shut: The Case of the Honduran Coup.” The cable asserted, quote, “there is no doubt” that the events of June 28, 2009, “constituted an illegal and unconstitutional coup,” unquote. The Embassy listed arguments by supporters of the coup to claim its legality, and dismissed each of them, saying, quote, “none … has any substantive validity under the Honduran constitution.” The Embassy went on to say the Honduran military had no legal authority to remove President Zelaya from office or from Honduras. The Embassy also characterized the Honduran military’s actions as an “abduction” and kidnapping that was unconstitutional. Again, this was the U.S. Embassy memo that was sent from Honduras to Washington. Professor Frank?

DANA FRANK: Well, I want to make sure that the listeners understand how chilling it is that the leading presidential—a leading presidential candidate in the United States would say this was not a coup. The second thing is that she’s baldly lying when she says we never called it a coup; we didn’t, because that would mean we have to suspend the aid. Well, first of all, they repeatedly called it a coup. We can see State Department statements for months calling it a coup and confirming, yes, we call it a coup. What she refused to do was to use the phrase “military coup.” So, she split hairs, because Section 7008 of the State and Foreign Operations Appropriations Act for that year very clearly says that if it’s a coup significantly involving the military, the U.S. has to immediately suspend all aid. So she—they decided to have this interpretation that it was a coup, but not a military coup. So, she, Hillary Clinton—and Obama, for that matter, I want to make clear—in violation of U.S. law, that very clearly said if there’s a coup, they have to cut the military aid and that—all other aid to the country, she violated the law, decided, well, it wasn’t a military coup, when of course it was. It was the military that put him on the plane, which she says in her statement.

AMY GOODMAN: I mean, the memo is very clear.

DANA FRANK: Well, the Hugo Llorens cable is very clear. But look, even what she said on Saturday, she says, well, the military put him on the plane; that was the only problem here. She’s admitting it was a military-led coup and that so, therefore, she’s in violation of the law—so is Obama—by not immediately suspending the aid. And here she’s saying, “Well, we never called it a coup.” I mean, hello, we have so many public statements in which the State Department called it a coup.

EXCLUSIVE: Hillary Clinton sold out Honduras: Lanny Davis, corporate cash, and the real story about the death of a Latin American democracy

In the 5 a.m. darkness of June 28, 2009, more than two hundred armed, masked soldiers stormed the house of Honduran president Manuel Zelaya. Within minutes Zelaya, still in his pajamas, was thrown into a van and taken to a military base used by the U.S., where he was flown out of the country.

It was a military coup, said the UN General Assembly and the Organization of American States (OAS). The entire EU recalled its countries’ ambassadors, as did Latin American nations. The United States did not, making it virtually the only nation of note to maintain diplomatic relations with the coup government. Though the White House and the Clinton State Department denounced only the second such coup in the Western Hemisphere since the Cold War, Washington hedged in a way that other governments did not. It began to feel like lip service being paid, not real concern.

Washington was dragging its feet, but even within the Obama administration a distinction was seen very early seen between the White House and Secretary Clinton’s State Department. Obama called Zelaya’s removal an illegal “coup” the next day, while Secretary Clinton’s response was described as “holding off on formally branding it a coup.” President Obama carefully avoided calling it a military coup, despite that being the international consensus, because the “military” modifier would have abruptly suspended US military aid to Honduras, an integral site for the US Southern Command, but Obama called for the reinstatementof the elected president of Honduras removed from his country by the military.

Clinton was far more circumspect, suspiciously so. In an evasive press corps appearance, Secretary Clinton responded with tortured answers on the situation in Honduras and said that State was “withholding any formal legal determination.” She did offer that the situation had “evolved into a coup,” as if an elected president removed in his pajamas at gunpoint and exiled to another country was not the subject of a coup at the moment armed soldiers enter his home.

It’s hard to see those early evasions by Clinton, though, as a Benghazi-like confusion in the fog of the moment. Nearly a month later, Secretary Clinton would call President Zelaya’s defiance of the coup government and return to Honduras “reckless” and damaging to “the broader effort to restore democratic and constitutional order in the Honduras crisis.” Thanks to Wikileaks, we now know from a cable from the Honduran embassy sent just the day prior how certain the State Department was that Zelaya’s removal was a cut-and-dried military coup: “The Embassy perspective is that there is no doubt that the military, Supreme Court and National Congress conspired on June 28 in what constituted an illegal and unconstitutional coup against the Executive Branch,” wrote Ambassador Hugo Llorens, reporting from on the ground in Tegucigalpa.

Hillary Clinton Claims Honduran Government ‘Followed The Law’ In Ousting Its President in 2009

In the months after the coup, violence and impunity proliferated. The State Department’s own human rights report from the year after the coup cited the following:

“Unlawful killings by police and government agents, which the government took some steps to prosecute; arbitrary and summary killings committed by vigilantes and former members of the security forces; harsh prison conditions; violence against detainees; corruption and impunity within the security forces; lengthy pretrial detention and failure to provide due process of law; politicization, corruption, and institutional weakness of the judiciary; corruption in the legislative and executive branches; government restrictions on the recognition of some civil society groups; violence and discrimination against women; child prostitution and abuse; trafficking in persons; discrimination against indigenous communities; violence and discrimination against persons based on sexual orientation; ineffective enforcement of labor laws; and child labor.”

Jesse Freeston, a Canadian documentary filmmaker and reporter, told ThinkProgress what he witnessed on the ground in Honduras in the months following the coup. “What I saw was a huge cross-section of Honduran society, the indigenous community, the black community, farmers, the LGBT community, all in the streets protesting every day. And I saw daily teargassing of those protests,” he said. “There were also what appeared to be targeted assassinations.”

Following the coup, Honduras became the homicide capital of the world and led the globe in murders of environmental activists. The International Trade Union Confederation also documented nearly 60 murders of agricultural workers, and Reporters Without Borders has counted more than two dozen journalists killed since the coup, and noted that almost all of these murders have gone unpunished. “Journalists working for opposition or community media are the targets of frequent physical violence or death threats,” they added.

Freeston, who has worked for Al Jazeera and the BBC and has made two documentaries about Honduras, says the harm caused by the coup continues to this day. “A word that people use in the streets of Honduras is golpismo, which translates roughly to coup-ism,” he said. “Basically it means that the coup is not just something that happened on June 28th, 2009. It’s a long project, and it’s a way of thinking, that the ends justify the means. It’s the government saying, ‘We can do whatever we want to get what we want.’”

Freeston cited, as an example, the Honduran government ousting the majority of its Supreme Court in 2012, removing only the justices who voted against allowing corporations to set up autonomous “charter cities.”

Clinton also claimed in this week’s interview that she avoided designating Zelaya’s ouster a coup because doing so would have cut off humanitarian aid to struggling Hondurans.

“Our assessment was, we will just make the situation worse by punishing the Honduran people if we declare a coup and we immediately have to stop all aid for the people,” she said.

Yet foreign policy and foreign aid experts, including Mark Weisbrot with the Center for Economic Policy Research, told ThinkProgress, “That’s just not true.”

“There is an exception for humanitarian aid,” he explained. “Look at the recent coups d’etat in Mauritania and Madagascar, where the U.S. cut off the Millennium Challenge aid but not humanitarian aid.”

Freedom From Other People’s Freedom

Here is a common right-wing view. They’ll criticize democracy as mobocracy, apparently too much freedom for too many. And they’ll criticize anything left of that as authoritarianism, supposedly not enough freedom for those who deserve it.

So, they don’t want either an entirely free society or an entirely authoritarian society. It appears what they actually want, if they were to admit it, is a society that gives freedom to the upper class and authoritarianism for everyone else. That is to say the freedom of the ruling elite to rule over the oppressed masses.

That is the exact recipe of how fascists take over countries. Of course, once fascists have full power, everyone but the ruling elite loses power. When you take freedom away from others, you’ll eventually lose your own freedom as well. It’s one of the oldest stories around.

You’d think humans would learn after repeating the same mistakes and getting the same bad results.

More Metaphors of Madness

I first likened being a US citizen to being run over by a car. I then used a simple comparison to describe the prospective presidencies in terms of the boiling frog scenario. Here are three more metaphors for your cynical amusement.

This one is a more detailed metaphor for the candidates this campaign season:

The body politic is ailing. Hillary Clinton is a symptom of the corruption that has compromised the immune system. Trump is a secondary illness like pneumonia that is potentially life threatening.

The secondary illness wouldn’t be dangerous if the immune system wasn’t already compromised and the patient were willing to seek medical treatment. But for some reason the ailing patient refuses to go to the doctor who is Sanders.

The mainstream media is the hospice worker administering pain drugs that puts the patient to sleep, as death nears. Then the patient’s eyes open and rallies some strength asking for something in a voice too quiet to understand, either asking for the doctor or Jesus.

Is all hope lost? Or can the patient still be saved?

The next metaphor is me being plain silly:

Clinton is a monkey in a banana experiment. The monkey’s hand is stuck in the hole, unable to get the banana out and unwilling to let go of the banana.

Sanders is the scientist observing the monkey and taking notes. The scientist goes on lunch break so as to eat his banana and peanut butter sandwich that he made himself.

Meanwhile, Trump is a banana plantation tycoon. He is inquiring about buying the laboratory where the experiment is happening, as he thinks that further banana research might be good for banana profits. He is also inquiring about maybe even buying an entire banana republic while he is at it.

The voting public sees a news report about the ongoing research. It makes them hungry for a banana.

And the best metaphor saved for last:

This campaign season is “Monte Python and the Holy Grail.” Clinton is King Arthur. The mainstream media is the guy following along making clopping noises with coconut shells. Trump is the Frenchman taunting King Arthur and his entourage. Sanders is the peasant complaining that he never voted for King Arthur. The voting public is the killer bunny.

That should clear everything up for you. I’m glad to be of service.

Why Is Clinton Disliked?

David Brooks has a short NYT piece with a title that offers a simple question, Why Is Clinton Disliked? He gives the data showing how unpopular she is and what most people think about her. It presents a harsh public perception about her as a politician.

“She is, at the moment, just as unpopular as Trump. In the last three major national polls she had unfavorability ratings in the same ballpark as Trump’s. In the Washington Post/ABC News poll, they are both at 57 percent disapproval.

“In the New York Times/CBS News poll, 60 percent of respondents said Clinton does not share their values. Sixty-four percent said she is not honest or trustworthy. Clinton has plummeted so completely down to Trump’s level that she is now statistically tied with him in some of the presidential horse race polls.”

Yet it wasn’t always the case. Before this campaign season, public perception was different.

As secretary of state she had a 66 percent approval rating. Even as recently as March 2015 her approval rating was at 50 and her disapproval rating was at 39.”

He goes overboard with his view of Hillary Clinton as being disliked for being a driven workaholic and an impersonal professional role. Still, I think he has a point.

Most people don’t connect with Hillary. Her husband is just as much a sleazy politician and yet people liked him because he connected to people on a personal level. The same thing with Bush jr.

People don’t vote for politicians. They vote for people. Elections really are popularity contests. Hillary is smart and saavy enough to know this. It’s just she lacks charisma and charm. It’s just not in her to be that way.

She is a capable professional politician. She knows how to play the game in Washington. I’m sure she is well liked or at least respected by those who directly work with and share her political goals, those who have careers that are aligned with or overlap with hers.

She just doesn’t have the personality for media attenion. She is a good professional politician. But that’s not necessarily a compliment. She flip flops and tells people what she thinks they want to hear. She is a player of the game of wealth and power. She does get things done. The issue is what she gets done.

That might be fine if no one knew her actual political record. That is where the problem begins. Before this campaign, few bothered to learn about her. Once people did learn about her, they quickly figured out that they don’t like her and trust her, much less share values with her.

It’s not complicated. They didn’t know her before and now they do. There is no point in blaming most people for not liking her for the simple reason they don’t find her likable.

Brooks mentioned another of what he considers a ‘paradox’. He writes that,

“[A]gree with her or not, she’s dedicated herself to public service. From advocate for children to senator, she has pursued her vocation tirelessly. It’s not the “what” that explains her unpopularity, it’s the “how” — the manner in which she has done it.”

That misses the point. She has dedicated herself to being a professional politician. That isn’t necessarily the same as public service. No one is arguing she has never done a beneficial thing in her life. It’s just that her doing good seems to serve the ulterior purpose of looking good, like a boy scout helping an old lady across the street to get a badge or a high school student volunteering at a soup kitchen to put on a college application.

Brooks does get to this point. Surely, she is a normal human with normal human interests, concerns, and preoccupations. “But,” as Brooks says, “it’s hard from the outside to think of any non-career or pre-career aspect to her life. Except for a few grandma references, she presents herself as a résumé and policy brief.” One gets the sense that to her everything is politics. That is to say, in this kind of political system, that everything is about wealth and power, about connections and cronyism.

She is all about big money politics. She isn’t ashamed of being a servant of corporate interests. And she isn’t ashamed of using her authority to force US power onto others, even when it harms and kills thousands of people. That is politics in her mind and her life is all about politics. One suspects she thinks about little else. She is ambitious and has dedicated her life to this aspiration, whatever one thinks of it.

Brooks states, because of her lack of presenting herself with a personal life, that therefore “of course to many she seems Machiavellian, crafty, power-oriented, untrustworthy.” It’s not that she seems that way. She is that way. That is what the minority of people who like her mean when they say she is experienced and effective. She gets things done, by any means necessary.

What the majority dislikes about her is not just how she gets things done, but also what she gets done. Even if people were able to see a more personable side to Clinton, it wouldn’t change that most people disagree with her values and policies. Most Americans don’t support neocon wars of aggression and neoliberal ‘free’ trade agreements, two areas of policy that only find majority support among the upper classes.

No amount of personal image rehabilitation and public perception management is going to change that. People dislike and mistrust her because of issues of substance. She simply doesn’t represent what most Americans want and support. It doesn’t help her campaign that right now there is another candidate, Sanders, who does represent what most Americans want and support. This is a rare campaign season in that people feel they finally have a real choice and, as such, they are intentionally not choosing Clinton.

All of this might change after the nominations, assuming Clinton is nominated as the Democratic candidate. Maybe more people will rationalize that Clinton isn’t so bad, after all, at least compared to Trump. Or maybe even then most Americans won’t be able to stomach voting for her.

* * *

Additional note:

Brooks’ article unsurprisingly gets negative attention, one assumes mostly from Clinton supporters. There is no doubt that much bias exists in society against women in positions of power and authority. But it would be disingenuous to claim that is all or even primarily what is going on.

If Bill Clinton were running for the presidency now instead of back in the 1990s, he too would be facing some of these same problems. It’s not gender or even entirely personality. It’s just that back in the 1990s most Americans didn’t yet have a good sense of how bad neoliberalism was and they hadn’t seen the full brunt of neoconservatism that would come with the War On Terror.

The ideology of the Clinton New Democrats is no longer supported by most Americans. It really is as simple as that.

 

The Hidden Desire of the Imperial Subject

Anti-Federalists were to Federalists as Marxists were to Stalinists. The Anti-Federalists considered themselves to be the real federalists, similar to how some Marxists have thought of themselves as the real communists.

The Federalists and Stalinists turned out to be just different varieties of imperialists, something the Anti-Federalists and Marxists opposed. That is what the Cold War ended up being about, which imperialism would control the world. Oddly, the rhetoric of Anti-Federalism and Marxism was sometimes used to this end, as a rationalization of and distraction from the real purpose of accumulated power.

People are so easily deceived by rhetoric. But I wonder if there is more to it than that. I’ve recently thought that people accept the rhetoric even though at some level they know it’s propaganda. Many people simply want to be lied to by their political officials because it gives them plausible deniability. That way, they don’t have to admit they too want an empire.

It’s understandable, this divide in the public mind. We’ve been taught that empires are supposed to be bad. And no one wants to think of themselves as a bad person or as part of a bad society. Yet as imperial subjects, we gain many benefits: cheap products, freedom to travel, a protected life, etc. As long as an individual doesn’t challenge that power, the individual can live a good life within the empire. We grow accustomed to such benefits and they make it easier for us to quiet the voice of our conscience.

It’s hard to gain the self-awareness, social understanding, historical perspective, and moral courage to speak out against injustice and immorality. Few ever do so.

Class Breakdown of the Campaigns

Has anyone noticed the interesting breakdown of whites for each candidate?

Clinton is winning the relatively wealthier, well educated whites who are content with the status quo and who are centrists fearing any challenges from the left or right. They just don’t want to rock the boat and so they passively float along hoping that somehow they’ll float to safety or at least not sink, as they poke their finger in the hole in the bottom of the boat. There are drowning people in the water all around them and they keep pushing them away. It’s better to save some people than to end up all drowning, they say to each other hoping to comfort themselves.

Trump has more upper working class to lower middle class whites. They are mostly middle aged, about average in wealth and education. They aren’t the worse off Americans. Rather, they are those who might be one or two bad breaks from losing their homes, falling into poverty, etc. These are the people clinging to the sides of the boat and won’t let go, threatening to overturn it. They think they deserve to be in the boat, but they aren’t about to try to save the lives of those struggling further away from the boat: poor whites, single mothers, the homeless, minorities, immigrants, etc.

On the other hand, Sanders has won the support of low income Americans. This includes poor whites and rural whites, the very people who many assume are solid Republicans. It is true that many of these low income people are more socially conservative than average, even more religious. This relates to the youth vote, as the young have been hit the hardest by the economy and the young religious are mostly on the political left. These are those aforementioned people who know they have no chance of getting close to the boat, much less getting aboard it. So, they are trying to cobble debris together to make a large raft for everyone treading water.

It maybe should be unsurprising that Clinton and Trump are liked and trusted by so few. Just as maybe it should be unsurprising that Sanders is liked and trusted by so many.

By the way, I’d love to see an economic class breakdown, either by income or wealth, for other demographics, such as race. He has won the youth vote, including young men and young women. It’s not just young whites, but also the majority of young minorities, blacks and Hispanics.

As has been shown, Sanders has the support of low income Americans. This is a demographic that is disproportionately minority. As such, I suspect the support for Sanders from low income Americans isn’t just white people. I haven’t seen the economic class breakdown for the minority vote, but I bet Sanders has won poor minorities.

It relates to the youth vote. The young have been hit the hardest by economic problems with high rates of unemployment and underemployment, along with college debt in the hope that a degree would make it more likely for them to get a job. The young are among the first to do worse than their parents at the same age.

Economic problems have hit young minorities hardest of all. But poor rural whites have also been hit hard. In both cases, the War On Drugs, school-to-prison pipeline, and mass incarceration has harmed an entire generation and ravaged entire communities.

Here is the challenge for Sanders and for American democracy in general.
 
He has the strongest support among the young and the low income. He has a majority of young men and young women, young whites and young minorities. This is probably true for the low income demographic as well, in that he probably has large numbers from the poorest minorities, especially considering there is much crossover between those who are young and those who are poor.
 
These demographics also are the least likely to vote. Young minorities, for examples, are the most likely to have lost voting rights because of being ex-cons. Young minorities are more likely to be poor than older minorities, and it’s in poor minorities where it is hardest to vote because of few polling locations and long lines. This is true for poor whites who also tend to vote at lower rates. Consider the low income rural demographic that Sanders has won at least in some states, a demographic that often doesn’t have polling stations that are close.
 
It’s because these people have been purposely disenfranchised and demoralized by the political system that they support Sanders. They are frustrated and tired with the status quo. They are feeling so outraged that they will likely vote at higher rates than ever before, no matter how few polling stations there, no matter how far away they are, and no matter how long the lines are. A candidate has finally given them hope, something many of them haven’t felt in a long time, maybe their entire lives.
* * *

What Kentucky Results Show About Clinton-Sanders Battle
by Dante Chinni

Rural, white counties have been a fairly reliable cache of votes for Mr. Sanders. You can see the same pattern in New York (where Mr. Sanders lost) and Michigan (where he won). The problem for him is it takes a lot of small, rural counties to equal the votes from one big, urban county. Case in point: He won more than twice as many counties in Kentucky and still lost the state.

The Graduating Class of 2016 By the Numbers
by Steven R. Watros and Cordelia F. Mendez

The picture in the general public is much different, with a recent CBS News/New York Times poll showing that 41 percent of registered voters prefer Trump in a matchup against Clinton, while 47 percent support the former Secretary of State.

But among certain populations of Harvard seniors, support for Trump runs stronger. Varsity athletes and members of traditionally male final clubs, for example, were more likely to report supporting Trump. And his supporters reported prioritizing different issues in the presidential election than those who support Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders.

While some news outlets have reported that Harvard students overwhelmingly support Bernie Sanders—and that Hillary Clinton supporters are met with backlash—data from a survey of the senior class suggests that those claims are largely false, at least among the Class of 2016: More than twice as many seniors surveyed said they prefer Clinton, and her supporters were more steadfast in their support, reporting in larger numbers that they would consider voting for a third-party candidate should their preferred candidate not prevail.

Racism, Proto-Racism, and Social Constructs

A less typical angle on race and racism is to look to the ancient world. Some early texts and other evidence can be used to this end. But these sources are sparse and the authors weren’t representative of the average person.

Plus, we end up projecting onto the past. That is how the early ideas of race developed, as those thinkers themselves looked to ancient texts. Scholars agree that modern notions of scientific racism didn’t exist in the ancient world. Still, it is normal in all periods for others to be perceived according to differences, although similarities are often emphasized.

It can be problematic to call this proto-racism, though. That is anachronistic. There is no proto-racism. There is just racism, which itself is inseparable from the rise of scientific thinking. It’s like calling the earliest Egyptian Empire proto-modern because it was an early example of what modernity would build upon millennia later. Or it’s like calling the Roman Empire proto-industrialization because they were an industrious people who liked to build infrastructure that helped their economy to develop.

Racism is a word with a ton of baggage to it. That baggage didn’t exist in the ancient world. Their entire way of looking at the world and identifying themselves is alien to us. This is something I don’t think many modern people appreciate, scholars included. Go far back enough in time and you’re in not just a foreign world but a foreign reality. It’s hard to enter a mindset so different from ours or even to imagine what that mindset might have been going by such limited evidence.

As an example, ancient people had a different sense of ethnicity, culture, language, and religion. These things didn’t exist to them. There was simply the world they knew. It also seems there was much fluidity in those societies. We can see that from how much people borrowed ideas and traditions from one another, and were regularly creating new syncretistic cultures and social systems.

The Greeks weren’t a single people. It took centuries for a collective identity to form through trade and travel. Greek culture became so influential that colonized people and even foreign empires adopted Greek mythology as their own origins. It was irrelevant whether or not people shared ancestry or necessarily looked like one another. A mythological system like that of the Greeks allowed for a fair amount of broad inclusion.

The same pattern was seen with the Celts. Like the Greeks, they had formed a large, influential trading society. It spread their Celtic culture, including religion and language, to other populations. The Irish weren’t Celtic when they took on Celtic culture.

To be Greek or Celtic was a specific worldview, not a race. It’s like calling oneself an American, an identity that contains diversity and means many things to many people. Yet Greeks and Celts, like other cultural groups, were perceived in terms of physical features. Romans saw as significant that Celts had blue skin. Were Celts born as a blue-skinned race. No, they dyed their skin blue. That is what Romans saw on the battlefield, a bunch of naked men who were blue all over.

Other cultures dyed their skin or hair various colors or else permanently modified their bodies in other ways: scarifying, tattoos, extending earlobes and lips, etc. Plus, each culture had a different way of doing their hair along with having different clothing, jewelry, etc that they wore or else lack thereof. Even two genetically near identical groups could appear as absolutely different in physical appearance, not to mention other aspects of culture, religion, language, and social behavior.

To ancient Romans or Greeks, the blue-skinned Celts were more foreign than darker-skinned Egyptians or even more foreign. Some Romans did speculate on such physical differences, but not more than they speculated about all of the thousands of other differences (and similarities) between various cultures. Besides, a barbarian was someone who spoke a different language, specifically a language that wasn’t Greek or Latin (or else spoke accented, provincial Greek or Latin), no matter their physical appearance. And a foreigner was simply anyone who was outside of one’s door, which is to say outside of one’s home and homeland. Ancients perceived certain groups as ‘other’, but race as we know it wasn’t a mental category they had to place people in.

Sure, white and black were colors with great symbolic value in the ancient world, often indicating moral and aesthetic value. It’s just not clear how that applied to people. Ancients unlikely portrayed all darker-skinned people as ‘black’, considering that darker-skinned people are actually varying shades of brown. The Roman Empire, in particular, was a cosmopolitan society including many Africans who weren’t just slaves but also gladiators, charioteers, soldiers, entertainers, philosophers, theologians, priests, and even numerous popes and emperors—diversity was found both in Rome and at the frontier and this diversity led to intermixing, through culture and marriage. Also, I doubt various swarthy Mediterranean peoples looked to the Irish and Scandinavians as being superior because of their lighter skin, no matter what was their view of the symbolic value of light and dark.

Besides, we’re not entirely sure the skin color and tone of various ancient populations, as much population mixing has occurred over the millennia. For example, the early Jews probably were darker-skinned before outbreeding with Europeans and Arabs (Palestinians are descendants of the original Jews that never left). Or consider how those early Jews perceived the Samaritans as a separate people, even though they shared the same holy texts. The ancients had plenty of prejudices, just not our modern prejudices. There is much debate about when and how long it took those modern prejudices to develop, but they certainly didn’t exist in classical antiquity.

Lets just be clear that skin color was no more defining of otherness than anything else, although in any given context in a particular text a particular defining feature would be emphasized. Sure, someone could look for all the examples of ancient people focusing one thing while ignoring all of the many more examples when ancient people focused on other things (and many have done this). But how would that offer any insight into anything beyond the biases of the person looking for examples to fit a preconceived ideological worldview?

Worse still, talking about proto-racism gives an air of inevitability to racism. How could proto-racism become anything other than racism? The theory of social construction offers an alternative perspective—as stated in a review of Ian Hacking’s The Social Construction of What?: “Hacking provides an interesting perspective on this whole trend by de-emphasizing the social aspect and focusing on the construction aspect. He views this simply as a way of arguing against the inevitability of something.”

Maybe the precursors to racism could be interpreted differently. And maybe their subsequent development is much more historically contingent than many assume, which is to say maybe there are many pathways that might not have led to racism as we know it or anything like it. What happened isn’t what necessarily had to happen.

Seeing the past with fresh eyes is difficult, as the main evidence we have are texts, what people wanted to be remembered and how they wanted it to be remembered. The texts that survived were either written by or favored by a long lineage of victors that shaped what civilization would become. And traditions of interpreting those texts have also been passed down by the victors. To impose one’s ideological views, racial or otherwise, onto others is the ultimate privilege for who controls the stories a society tells controls that society.

Consider a specific piece of evidence. In Airs, Waters, Places, Hippocrates of Kos has a passage that indicates a worldview of environmental determinism. Some modern scholars have interpreted this as proto-racism.

The problem with this is that environmental determinism is often used as evidence against modern race-based explanations of human differences. What Hippocrates argues is that people are the way they are because of the environments they live in, but that leaves much left to explain. He never claims that people have inherent traits outside of an environment, that people can’t change by changing environment. That is significant for in the ancient world, entire populations were known to migrate to new environments. This point is emphasized by how, during the colonial era, Europeans began to worry that their unique identity or superior character could be lost by spending too much time in native environments. Also, Hippocrates seems to argue, using Greeks as an example, that people in other environments can sometimes take the best traits from nearby environments while making them their own and so not be trapped by environmental determinism of their own narrow environmental niche.

By the way, the majority of the Greek population were slaves and the majority of slaves were ethnic Greeks. When Greek thinkers sought to justify slavery, they sometimes argued about physical differences. These perceived differences, however, weren’t skin color. Instead, the slave was different, even more animal-like, because he stooped over or something like that. It’s not as if supposedly stooped over people represented a separate race. Greek society was rare in having so many slaves, possibly the earliest example. The reason there were so many slaves is because Greeks were constantly fighting each other and they chose to enslave rather than kill the defeated people. Africans and other non-Greeks were rare slaves among Greeks and they were highly prized as more valuable than the ethnic Greek slave.

The negative connotation was in being enslaved, not in being a particular ethnicity or race. This is why group identity was so often based on kinship, more than even ethnicity. What differentiated the enslaved ethnic Greek and the free ethnic Greek is that they didn’t tend to intermarry, unless a slave gained freedom or a free person lost it, which wasn’t uncommon but even then a former slave wouldn’t likely marry far above their own class. Kinship identity in such a society was to some extent class identity (and that remained dominant until the end of feudalism and persists to this day with the aristocracy in Britain), although most importantly kinship was about familial descent. It required later multicultural colonial empires for larger group identities to form, but the fluidity of ancient ethnic/cultural/mythological origins demonstrates an early form of larger identity (specifically in how origin stories were more mythological than biological). It’s hard to make clear conclusions with confidence, as much vagueness exists in ancient texts.

Even if we wanted to accept that proto-racism is a valid theory, how is environmental determinism (or whatever other similar theory) clearly, necessarily, and inevitably proto-racism? Others have noted this is extremely weak evidence being used in a biased manner. We are in severely problematic territory. Race has been shown to be scientifically meaningless, as the genetic difference between humans is smaller than found in most similar species and certainly couldn’t justify the classification of racial sub-species. Trying to interpret the past according to a proto-racism lens based on modern racialist thought is asking for endless confusion and hence false conclusions.

There is already enough confusion in the world. This confusion is even found among highly intelligent and well informed people. This was demonstrated to me recently when talking to a guy I’ve known for many years. He is a left-winger in the Marxist tradition, although when he was younger he was a right-winger, maybe a libertarian or something like that.

I’ve talked to him many times over the years about race and racism. He is well versed in views such as race being a social construct. In talking to him not too long ago, he kept repeating that he didn’t think race as social construct meant what liberals think it means. I wasn’t quite sure what he was getting at. He knows me fairly well and so knows that I’m not a typical liberal. He also should know that liberalism is a wide category, including much disagreement, as I’ve often explained this to him. Who are these ‘liberals’ he speaks of? And what does he think they think? I don’t know.

As far as I’m concerned, it doesn’t seem like anyone really knows what it means to say race is a social construct. The one thing that is clear is that ideas are powerful in the human mind, in shaping imagination and perception. Talking about this, we are going deep into the muddy waters of the psyche. The confusion that exists goes far beyond a single ideological group such as liberals.

I didn’t think too much about this at first. I figured maybe he meant that people weren’t thinking carefully enough. I’d agree with that much, if that is what he was trying to communicate. Then he said something that caught me off guard. What he said was basically this: That Africans look all the same. Or at least look more the same than Europeans. Of course, he used scientific terminology to make this statement. But the basic message was too close to bigotry for my taste. I was surprised to hear him say it.

Ignoring the racist connotations, it simply makes no sense scientifically. Africa has the most human genetic diversity in the world, moreso than all the rest of the world combined. I told this guy that I doubt Africans would agree with him about his assessment. He tried to defend himself by saying he visited Africa, as if a visit to Africa would even begin to touch upon the vast number of distinct populations across a vast continent, second only to Asia in size of landmass.

This racist/racialist/race-realist viewpoint is even more meaningless in the larger historical context. In the ancient world, all Mediterranean people had more genetically and culturally in common with each other than they did with the other societies far away on the the respective continents. For example, some Greeks looked to the Egyptians as their cultural forefathers, as the source of great art and high culture. A number of great thinkers in the supposed ‘Western’ tradition didn’t even come from Europe, such as Augustine who was an African (even some ‘Greek’ philosophers weren’t born and raised in Greece: Plotinus, Porphyry, Iamblichus, Proclus, Damascius, etc). Millennia of Mediterranean trade had not only spread culture but also genetics. The genetic aspect can still be seen today, as certain Southern European populations and certain Northern African populations remain linked by common genetics.

The statement about all Africans looking the same (or more simiar than other found on other continents) in order to justify racial ideology could, at best, be called lazy thinking. The guy who made this statment is normally a more careful thinker. And he wouldn’t accept that kind of simplistic comment from someone else. That is the problem with ‘race’ as an ideological lens. By design, it adds confusion to the thought process. That is its purpose, to obscure details and pulverize them into a mass of generalizations.

Having been raised in a society where racial ideology is ubiquitous, such a social construct gets embedded deeply in our minds. Trying to free ourselves of such maladaptive thinking is like trying to remove a barbed hook out of your chest. This is one of the most powerful memes ever released into the world. It messes with your head in a way few things can. It’s a mind virus of plague proportions, easy to be infected and yet no known cure.

It’s hard for us to imagine a society that might have operated with entirely different social constructs based on entirely different worldviews and cultures. This is why the ancient world ends up being a foreign land. Go back far enough and societies begin to seem incomprehensibly alien to us. And this can be disconcerting. It’s more comforting to get the past to fit the present.

I would point out that we don’t even have to look to the ancient world to see how much the world has changed over time. The word race was originally used to refer to such things as breeds of cattle. It came to be associated with socioeconomic class in the feudal social order. Peasants were considered a separate ‘race’ from the aristocrats and monarchs. As others have pointed out, “in early modern discourse, the concept of race was primarily linked with notions of bloodline, lineage, and genealogy rather than with skin colour and ethnicity.”

It’s not just that broad groups were seen as different: Europeans vs Africans, Eastern Europeans vs Western Europeans, Germans vs French, Britains vs Mainland Europeans, English vs Irish, etc. Originally, race was seen as distinctions within a single society or some other defined population area, which is to say there wasn’t even an English race, much less a white race (such thinking persisted into modernity, such as how Antebellum American whites in the North and South talked about one another as if they were separate races, Roundheads and Cavaliers). If notions of race itself were so drastically different in the recent past, imagine how different was thinking millennia before race was even an idea.

It wasn’t until the era of colonial imperialism in Europe that Europeans even began to think of themselves as Europeans. This is because of their encounter with American Indians who were more different than any societies they had ever before seen. Europeans, Middle Easterners, and Africans had been interacting with and influencing each other for Millennia by that point. However, American Indians were foreign and strange beyond all imagination, and this required new ideological thinking.

If (proto-)racism existed in the ancient world, how would we recognize it without any word for and concept of ‘race’? Early texts show evidence of prejudice and othering. I get that some elite thinkers among an ethnic group like Athenians considered themselves as part of a distinct people, but that was such a small population that shared physical appearance, culture, religion, and language with neighboring Greeks. How could a tiny population be considered a race in any meaningful sense? Speculating on such meager and unclear evidence seems pointless.

Anyway, this isn’t ultimately and solely about race. Many scholars have questioned the application of a number of modern concepts to the ancient world, from the idea of a distinct thing called ‘religion’ to the experience of ‘individuality’ that we presently take for granted. The point being is that the ancient world isn’t merely the modern world in less developed form. The ancient world must be taken on its own terms. We must study those temporally distant societies as an anthropologist observes a newly discovered tribe.

It’s not only that our understanding of the present is projected onto the past. Also, how we interpret the past determines how we will see the present. More importantly, how we imagine the past, accurate or not, constrains the kind of future we are able to envision. And never doubt that imagination fueled by ideas is the most powerful force of humanity.

Anyone who claims to have all of this figured out is either lying or deceiving themselves. I could read something tomorrow that might change my entire understanding of social identities in the ancient world and how they relate to the modern world. Even the scholars in the the related fields disagree immensely.

One thing does seem clear to me, though. In the ancient world, all aspects of culture were central in differentiating people. That is unlike the modern world where race often trumps culture. It would have been incomprehensibly bizarre to the ancients that geographically distant and ethnically/nationally diverse peoples with different languages, religions, and customs would be considered as having a common social identity because of being categorized within an arbitrarily defined range of skin color and tone.

* * *

Nina Jablonski, Living Color: The Biological and Social Meaning of Skin Color
reviewed by Josh Trapani

The Color of Sin / The Color of Skin:
Ancient Color Blindness and
the Philosophical Origins of Modern Racism
by Nicholas F. Gier

The central question: what was Hellenization
by Monte Polizzo Project

Hellenicity: Between Ethnicity and Culture
by Jonathan M. Hall

Ethnic Identity in Greek Antiquity
by Jonathan M. Hall

Ancient Perceptions of Greek Ethnicity 
by Irad Malkin (Editor)

Lee E. Patterson, Kinship Myth in Ancient Greece
reviewed by Naoíse Mac Sweeney

Denise Demetriou, Negotiating Identity in the Ancient Mediterranean: The Archaic and Classical Greek Multiethnic Emporia
reviewed by Meritxell Ferrer-Martín and reviewed by Álvaro Ibarra

Greeks, Persians, and Perseus: Oh, My!
Herodotus and the Genealogy of War
by Carly Silver

Herodotus’ Conception Of Foreign Languages
by Thomas Harrison

Race and Culture in Hannibal’s Army
by Erik Jensen

Us vs. Them: Good News From the Ancients!
by Carlin Romano

Understanding The ‘Other’ In An East Greek Context
by J.D.C. McCallum

Philosophy and the Foreigner in Plato’s Dialogues
by Rebecca LeMoine

Roman Perceptions Of Blacks
by Lloyd Thompson

Egypt In Roman Imperial Literature:
Tacitus’ Ann. 2.59-61
by Lina Girdvainytė

Papyrology, Gender, and Diversity: A Natural ménage à trios
by M. G. Parca

The Archaeology of Ethnicity: Constructing Identities in the Past and Present
by Siân Jones

Alterity in Late Antiquity: Disrupting Binaries
by Susanna Drake

The Origins of Foreigners
by Emily Wilson

Erich S. Gruen, Rethinking the Other in Antiquity
by Michael Broder

Rethinking the Other in Antiquity, by Erich S. Gruen (Book Review)
by Craige Champion

Review: E. Gruen, Rethinking the Other in Antiquity (1)
by Jona Lendering and Bill Thayer

Reading Rabbinic Literature: It’s Not All Black and White
(A Response to Jonathan Schorsch)
by David M. Goldenberg

Jew or Judaean?
by Michael L. Sa

The Beginnings of Jewishness: Boundaries, Varieties, Uncertainties
by Shaye J. D. Cohen

 

Assholes for a Good Cause

“I no longer look for the good in people, I search for the real… because while good is often dressed in fake clothing, real is naked and proud no matter the scars.”
~ Chishala Lishomwa

Having good intentions isn’t the same as fighting for a good cause.

There are some people who can be gruff, confrontational, argumentative, and such. One might be tempted to call them assholes. But quite a few of these people are among the strongest defenders of truth and justice you’ll ever find. And behind the rough exterior many of them can be fiercely compassionate.

They are the kind of people you want in a fight. They will have your back and they won’t abandon you. They are often people who have had struggles in life and have dealt with serious shit. They know the dark side of life and they know full well the problems we face. They’ve sacrificed much and they are willing to sacrifice even more, when that is what is needed.

Without these people, the world would be a thousand times worse. Yet these people rarely get credit for all that they do. The more polite, moderate, civilized people find them offensive, radical, or even dangerous. Yet what a horrific world we would live in if not for those who are willing to put themselves on the line, again and again.

The trick is to be an asshole for a good cause.