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Major Republican donor arrested in $100 million veterans charity scam by US Marshals

It was announced in a press conference yesterday that US Marshals have crossed another name off the “America’s Most Wanted” list, a man known variously as “Bobby Thompson,” “Anderson Yazzie” and “Ronnie Brittain,” who is accused of creating a fake veterans charity that funneled money to state and national Republican candidates, including President George Bush, Senator John McCain and House Speaker John Boehner

U.S. Marshals captured “Thompson” late Monday evening in Portland, OR. outside of Biddy McGraw’s Irish Pub with a backpack full of cash and fake IDs. Authorities say that they still don’t know what their captive’s real name is—he signed the booking sheet at the jail with an “X”—and the former fugitive is refusing to talk. Investigators tracked “Thompson” across eight states before he was apprehended. 99% of the $100 million is unaccounted for.


Via Raw Story:

Between the early 2000s and 2010, a man using the alias “Bobby Thompson” collected millions from unsuspecting donors for the charity U.S. Navy Veterans Association (USNVA), which claimed to provide support for members of the U.S. Armed Forces. Officials believe that very little, if any, of the money was ever used as intended, according to the U.S. Marshal Service.

To help legitimize his charity, Thompson allegedly donated part of the ill-gotten funds to Republican candidates like former President George W. Bush, former Republican presidential candidate John McCain and House Speaker John Boehner.

Republican Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli reportedly personally pleaded with Thompson for donations and received $55,000 for his effort, making Thompson Cuccinelli’s second-largest donor. Cuccinelli was eventually forced to turn over the tainted money to veterans support groups.

Over the years, Thompson also attended the 2008 Republican National Convention and numerous fundraisers. The Roanoke Times obtained photos of Thompson posing with Bush, Boehner and McCain — as well as Rep. Adam Putnam (R-FL), former Bush adviser Karl Rove and former Republican New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani.

Thompson fled in 2010 after learning of a criminal investigation in several states. He was later charged with unlawful flight to avoid prosecution, identity theft, fraud and money laundering.

“Thompson” is currently being held in the Multnomah County Jail and is expected to be extradited shortly to Cuyahoga County, Ohio, where he was first indicted.

Below, an ABC News story about the scam from last Fall:

video platformvideo managementvideo solutionsvideo player

Via Raw Story

Posted by Richard Metzger | Discussion
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Real Cinema: An introduction to Italian Neo-Realism

This is where Anna Magnani broke away from 2 German soldiers, ran and threw herself down on the streets. The man is explaining the making of a film, rather than some historical event. It comes at the start of a short documentary on Italian Neo-Realism, from 1973.  She even hurt her knee, he adds almost proudly. A woman’s voice joins in, Aldo Fabrizi was there too. It’s almost religious, a celluloid Stations of the Cross, there should be nuns selling small statuettes of movie cameras, and T-shirts with Magnani’s face miraculously transposed onto 100% cotton.

The man and the woman were recalling scenes from Roberto Rosselini’s film Rome, Open City, when it was filmed in their neighborhood. Rossellini along with Vittorio De Sica were pioneers of Neo Realism. Their films brought a dynamism in form, that was countered by the self-reflection of their content that put Italian cinema at the center of the post-war world. Here was launched the careers of Rossellini, Fellini, Pasolini, Bertolucci, Visconti, Zavattini and De Sica, who described the post war years as a beautiful time - “Beautiful for artists, but ugly for Italians.”

Right after the war, passions were so strong right after the War that they really pushed us, they forced towards this kind of film truth. And this truth was transfigured by poetry, and lyricism. It was because of if its lyricism that Neo-Realism so captured the world. Because there was poetry in our reality.

Films like De Sica’s The Bicycle Thief, Rosselini’s Rome, Open City, and Visconti’s Ossessione presented a new and dynamic way of presenting the world, which went on to influence movements such as Nouvelle Vague and directors as different as Martin Scorsese and Derek Jarman. Neo Realist films dealt with difficulties faced everyday by the working class; stories were rooted in the reality of a war ruined Italy; there were no simplistic morality tales, issues were complex, and often open-ended; actors mixed with non-actors; stylistically the films were loose, fluid, often documentary-like. However, their content did not please some Italians, who thought Neo-Realism only highlighted the bad things about Italy, which they feared might make Italians seem to be just thieves and bums.

This was not how the directors like Bernardo Bertolucci saw it:

“Realism doesn’t mean showing real things, but showing how things really are. It was this definition by Brecht that critically challenged Italian Neo-Realism. Not Rossilini though. Rossilini is the only one in Neo-Realism who didn’t just show us things, didn’t just try to be a realist, but gave us an idea of things. He wasn’t interested in the appearance of things, but in the idea behind the things. Even the idea behind the idea.”

For Cesar Zavattini Neo-Realism was:

“The most important characteristic, and the most important innovation, of what is called neorealism, it seems to me, is to have realised that the necessity of the story was only an unconscious way of disguising a human defeat, and that the kind of imagination it involved was simply a technique of superimposing dead formulas over living social facts. Now it has been perceived that reality is hugely rich, that to be able to look directly at it is enough; and that the artist’s task is not to make people moved or indignant at metaphorical situations, but to make them reflect (and, if you like, to be moved and indignant too) on what they and others are doing, on the real things, exactly as they are.”

For Pier Paolo Pasolini Neo-Realism was intensely political:

“It stood for the first act of critical, political consciousness that Italy had experienced. Italy up to that point had no history, no unified history as a nation, only a history as many divided little peoples, divided little countries, and with a great gap between north and south. And then the last 20 years have been a history of Fascism - the history of an aberrational unity. It was only with the Resistance that Italian history began.

“First of all, Neo-Realism meant the rediscovery of Italy. A first look at Italy without rhetoric, without lies, and there was a sense of pleasure in the self-discovery, even pleasure in denouncing one’s own short-comings, this was common to everything.

“The other common quality was its Marxist character. All Neo-Realist works were founded on the idea that the future would be better, or else [there would be] revolution.”

These quotes are taken form the documentary Neo Realism (1973) which can be viewed here, and contains interviews with De Sica, Fellini, Pasolini, and Bertolucci, amongst others.

Trailers for Pasolini’s ‘Accattone’ and Rossellini’s ‘The Bicycle Thief’, after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Discussion
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‘Politics is weird. And creepy’: Fox’s Shep Smith speaks unvarnished truth!

Fox News’ Shep Smith reacts to Mitt Romney’s reaction to Newt’s departure from the race the way a sane person should…

Dangerous Minds pal Taylor Jessen writes:

“A clip that needs no context, really. Soon to be a shirt, a dance remix, and possibly a new political party. Shep Smith is, for a moment, a bona fide deer in the mind-numbingest of headlights.”


Posted by Richard Metzger | Discussion
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Mitt Romney’s hiring of gay adviser smokes out Christianist bigots who (obviously) pull his strings

AS IF they needed any encouragement, Mitt Romney’s cynical hiring of openly gay Richard Grenell to sharpen his foreign policy message (and provide some cover for all of the anti-gay stuff Mittens has pledged to support) has “let the dogs out” of the Christian Right.

With Grenell stepping down before he even got started, now anti-gay rights activists like the Family Research Council’s Tony Perkins, Gary Bauer and hateful jackass Bryan Fischer of the American Family Association are crowing about their success in pressuring Romney to get rid of him.

You can, of course, easily make the argument that Republicans, on the whole, are hardly a bunch you could describe as “gay-friendly,” so there becomes the secondary side-issue of why tin-earred pol Romney felt that stirring up a hornet’s nest like this—the prominent hiring of an openly gay man—would benefit him politically with the mouth-breathing GOP base. It’s fucking ridiculous on the face of it, but in doing so, Romney has inadvertently exposed the men behind the curtain who are REALLY pulling his strings: Some of the most extreme Christianist bigots in America!

Last week Bryan Fischer declared that if Mitt Romney wants to win in November, he’d “better start listening to me.” Most of the rest of the week, Fischer discussed firing Grenell and lashed Romney repeatedly for having the audacity to hire an openly gay man as his foreign policy and national security spokesman. Coincidence that Grenell stepped down? I should think not.

Andrew Sullivan writes at The Daily Beast

“It’s sometimes hard to explain to outsiders what level of principle is required to withstand the personal cost of being an out gay Republican. I’ve only ever been a gay conservative (never a Republican), and back in the 1990s, it was brutal living in the gay world and challenging liberal assumptions. I cannot imagine the social isolation of Grenell in Los Angeles today, doing what he did. And his reward for such loyalty, sincerity and pugnacity? Vilification. I mean: what do Republicans call a gay man with neoconservative passion, a committed relationship and personal courage? A faggot.”

The Stonewall Democrats had this to say:

Mitt Romney sat silently and let the bigoted wing of his party control his personnel choices. Either Mitt Romney is a coward who is afraid to stand up to the anti-LGBT bullies in his party, or he is fine with an America where LGBT people can have a career only if they’re willing to work quietly from the confines of the closet. Gay Republicans should be outraged and must demand that the organizations that represent them refuse to support Mitt Romney’s presidential aspirations in any way.”

The Human Rights Campaign’s statement:

From the moment Richard Grennell signed on as Mitt Romney’s Foreign Policy and National Security Spokesman, he faced a torrent of unfounded criticism from the far right. Not once did the Romney campaign condemn these attacks and support Grennell. Mitt Romney capitulating to the demands of extremist anti-gay groups is nothing new. He has donated to the rabidly anti-gay National Organization for Marriage and the Massachusetts Family Institute. He has even signed a NOM vow that binds him to appoint only anti-gay judges and establish a McCarthy-era commission to investigate the activities of those who support LGBT equality. The fact that Grennell is gone so quickly after a right-wing uproar is a troubling harbinger of the kind of power that anti-gay forces would have in a Romney White House.

Michelangelo Signorile makes an important point on Huffington Post:

Actually, I believe this is a big win for progressives and for gay journalists and commentators as well. We drew out the conservative leaders in addition to Fischer, like Family Research Council’s Tony Perkins, Gary Bauer and other commentators on National Review and Daily Caller, by bringing forth and continually highlighting the true facts about Grenell, which, to most Americans, are completely acceptable, but which, in the eyes of the evangelical right, make him a radical homosexual. As I wrote in a post last week, Grenell isn’t just gay, like some other gay Republicans who stay quiet about their homosexuality. He’s a gay man who very publicly expressed that he wants to get married to another man and who believes President Obama isn’t adequate on LGBT rights.

Why is it this a win? Because Grenell was being used for cover by a candidate with abhorrently anti-gay positions, a man who has promised to “propose and promote” a federal marriage amendment if elected president. I don’t buy the argument made by some that it was a measure of progress that Romney hired a gay man as his foreign policy spokesperson when he’s using that gay man to make himself appear moderate to independents while he’s promising the GOP base that he’ll make gay people into second class citizens. Actual progress in the GOP will come when their presidential candidates stop bowing to bigots and refuse to sign their extremist pledges. Otherwise, it’s all window dressing.

He’s 100% correct on this matter. During the second hour of Fischer’s radio show yesterday, the news broke about Grenell’s resignation from the Romney campaign. Watch as a gleeful Fischer declares it a “huge win” for Christian conservatives because A) they forced Romney’s hand to get rid of Grenell and B) they taught him what his boundaries are!

Elect Mitt Romney and get THIS GUY, too:

Via Joe.My.God./Right Wing Watch

Posted by Richard Metzger | Discussion
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Newt Gingrich, won’t you please just finally f*ck off?
07:42 pm


Newt Gingrich

Huh? Newt Gingrich is still dropping out of the Republican presidential primary race?

Wait a minute. I thought that… Didn’t he already drop out? Last week?

Is he doing it again?

Although it sure seemed like Gingrich pulled out last week, it was really just another coy act of Newtus interruptus. He didn’t technically drop out, drop out, last week, Gingrich was only giving the media some, er, polite advance notice that he was going to drop out next week, which is now this week. Then he was supposed to make the “big announcement” that no one gives a flying fuck about today, I’d read, but that didn’t occur either (not like all that mainstream media OWS coverage was exactly crowding him out, ostensibly this was a slow news day, wasn’t it?).

Pathetically, and perhaps in a last gasp desperate bid to give the world’s news media one final chance to send camera crews (or even just an unpaid intern) to cover this historic event, Newt told the “insiders” who are his “close personal friends” and supporters via an amateurish YouTube clip (see below) that tomorrow is now the big day that he will again announce the same thing he just said in the YouTube video and that we all already knew from last week. Is he milking this shit or what?

Tomorrow it’ll be officially, officially official:

We won’t have Newt Gingrich to kick around anymore.

Lest any non-American readers be confused by how such a hideous and disgusting human being as Newt Gingrich could become a Presidential candidate of one of the two major American political parties—and not merely a candidate, but briefly the front-runner—wonder no more: He never was a plausible candidate in the first place, certainly no more likely to end up with the GOP nod than Michele Bachmann, Rick Santorum, Herman Cain or Ron Paul.

American politicians tend to, uh, “ordain” themselves and Gingrich, who has always seen himself as a “great man” (despite all of the vast piles of historical evidence that show him to be a nasty, brutish, power-mad, egotistical, tantrum-prone, OCD philanderer without a self-reflexive bone in his body), felt his “calling” and blah, blah, blah, but make no mistake about it, Newton Leroy Gingrich never had an ice cube’s chance in Hell of becoming the leader of the free world, no matter how many times he CRAVENLY and TRANSPARENTLY invited comparisons to Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan that NO ONE cared to make on his behalf or repeat, except to mock him!

As a candidate, Gingrich always was DOA. His brief front-runner status was puzzling, if not exactly all that alarming, because it was obviously so temporary and insignificant (In the end Gingrich received 2.5 million votes in a country of 300 million people, for a little perspective). That he got anywhere whatsoever is testament to his “fundamental” ORNERY VICIOUSNESS that appeals to the large, but dwindling, All-American demographic of older, Fox News-watching white dudes. For a brief, shining minute there, Newt looked like their knight in shining armor, the one who would say the nastiest things to that Kenyan Socialist occupying the White House.

Gingrich threw some red meat meanness to the idiots and they started barking and clapping like seals. Even dumbshit Sarah Palin got on board the Newt train, the low IQ “real America” seal of approval.

I’ll repeat myself for our non-American readers, Gingrich had no chance of ever getting elected President. None. Zero. Zip. His odds of becoming the POTUS were only slightly higher than yours or mine because he managed to convince a dimwitted billionaire casino magnate to drop MILLIONS OF DOLLARS on his pointless vanity candidacy and because, well, because fuckin’ South Carolina, ‘nuff said.

There is probably only but one man in America who seriously believed that Newton Leroy Gingrich could ever become the President of the United States and that one man also happens to be named Newton Leroy Gingrich. The idea that this repulsive, hypocritical turd would ever find himself in a position of elected power again, is, of course, preposterous on the face of it. Everyone—except say for Newt himself (and maybe Callista and maybe Sheldon Adelson) knew he was a no-hoper from the start. The only surprise for me was that he was taken more seriously by the media than either Buddy Roemer or Gary Johnson, both credible former GOP governors, both horses in the race with, you’d think, far better chances with voters than the decidedly unpopular Newt Gingrich. Hell, Scott Walker has a better chance of becoming president than Gingrich ever did.

Truly, it would have been fantastic to have seen Gingrich get the GOP nomination, strictly from the lulz perspective of seeing the Republicans utterly destroyed in a national election, but you’d have to sift through trillions upon trillions of alternate universes to find the one in which the pretty blonde “Stepford wife” Calista kissed a disgusting salamander that would turn into the POTUS (it’s a parallel dimension where gravity has failed, “fun” has been outlawed and Snookie is the Secretary of Spray Tans). It’s never, ever going to happen.

(If Gingrich’s presidential ambitions aren’t totally dead, my advice to him would be to become cryogenically frozen and then get himself defrosted a couple of hundred years from now like in Idiocracy. Under those circumstances, he might stand a chance! (As Paul Krugman memorably quipped about him, Newt Gingrich is a “stupid man’s idea of what a smart person sounds like.” Vicious, but too, too true.)

In the end, rest assured, dear “foreign” readers and make no mistake about it: If there was a devastating nuclear war and the sitting President—whoever he may be—his entire cabinet, every member of Congress and every single high ranking member of the US military were dead and Newt came forward from the political wilderness, just like his inspiration, Winston Churchill, and selflessly offered to lead a tattered and broken nation, the nearest person with a loaded gun and a lick of sense would shoot the guy right in the fucking face without a moment’s hesitation!

Newt Gingrich, we hardly knew ye! You’ve obviously got nowhere to go but… away.

Now piss off, you slimy amphibian. For good this time.

Posted by Richard Metzger | Discussion
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Tom Morello’s incendiary performance of ‘Save The Hammer For The Man’ on late night TV

Tom Morello at the May Day protest in NYC.
To get in the mood for his May Day appearance at New York City’s Union Square and a march with Occupy Guitararmy to Wall Street, Tom Morello, along with Ben Harper, played a scorching version of his song “Save The Hammer For The Man” on Jimmy Fallon’s show last night.

Save the hammer for the man, save the hammer for the man
You’re never too far down the wrong road
To turn back and change your plan
Save the hammer for the man

Morello is keeping protest music alive while also making it new.

Posted by Marc Campbell | Discussion
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Protestor disrupts speech by Obama’s drone apologist

Victims of a drone attack in Pakistan.
A Code Pink activist spoke truth to power yesterday when she confronted White House counter-terrorism adviser John Brennan as he addressed an audience at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars think tank. The woman was protesting drone strikes and the collateral damage of innocent people being killed.

“I’m here today because President Obama has instructed us to be more open with the American people about these efforts,” Brennan said. Well, that WOULD be nice, but it ain’t happening.

MSNBC reports:

Brennan on Monday spoke openly — and at great length — about what has long been one of the government’s most controversial official secrets:  the use of remotely piloted drones to kill suspected terrorists.

In doing so, he became the first U.S. government official to acknowledge that the drone strikes sometimes kill innocent people, though he characterized such deaths as “exceedingly rare.” But a new analysis by an independent Washington think tank estimates that more than 300 civilians have been killed by drones since President Barack Obama took office.

300 civilians killed to get how many alleged terrorists? And is the ratio worth living with? I think not.

The protester had to be dragged off by a security guy that looks about three times her size. She was fearless. Right on!

Posted by Marc Campbell | Discussion
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Manhattan May Day protest turns nasty

May Day action in New York City heats up as protesters and cops clash.

The Gothamist reports:

At least six people were arrested after hundreds of protesters streamed through the streets of Chinatown, SoHo, and eventually the West Village in a march that began with several violent arrests at Sarah Roosevelt Park and ended at Washington Square Park. For much of the march, the NYPD kept its distance as the demonstrators, many clad in black with their faces covered, overturned trash cans and newspaper boxes, and dragged NYPD barricades out into the street.

The police caught up with the protesters shortly before they crossed Houston heading north. One plainclothes officer stopped a protester from tampering with the undercarriage of a bus. Though these sort of “black bloc,” extralegal tactics were used by the protesters, no projectiles were thrown and no other property was destroyed, at least not that we witnessed. As we noted earlier (scroll down), some protesters were seen knocking photographers cameras out of their hands, and in one instance shooting black paint at a lens.

Several times police officers attempted to yank protesters onto the street from the sidewalk or the side of the street to be arrested, only to find other protesters pull them away from their grasp. Two protesters were thrown to the ground and arrested at West 4th and MacDougal, before police violently shoved photographers and media to a distance at least 20 feet away. At least six protesters were arrested during the march, which dispersed in the general direction of Union Square, where all the marches are converging for a rally this afternoon.

Looks like a series of bad moves by both the cops and the activists. It’s a shame, but deeds and not words seems to be the only way to get the media’s attention.

The march on Wall Street started at 5:30pm EST and rallies are planned downtown for 8pm.




Scroll down Dangerous Minds and watch a livestream of the rally in New York City.

Posted by Marc Campbell | Discussion
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Occupy the entire city: Global Revolution TV’s live feed from NYC

Occupy Wall Street poster by Lalo Alcaraz

Some pretty amazing images turning up on this live feed. How much of this is anyone seeing via the major media outlets? Other than The Guardian’s coverage, I ain’t seeing much at all.

Watch live streaming video from globalrevolution at
Posted by Richard Metzger | Discussion
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Noam Chomsky: Where does Occupy go from here

This is the transcript of a discussion that took place earlier this year between Noam Chomsky and Occupy supporters Mikal Kamil and Ian Escuela for InterOccupy, an organisation that provides links between supporters of the Occupy movement around the world.

Professor Chomsky, the Occupy movement is in its second phase. Three of our main goals are to: 1) occupy the mainstream and transition from the tents and into the hearts and the minds of the masses; 2) block the repression of the movement by protecting the right of the 99%‘s freedom of assembly and right to speak without being violently attacked; and 3) end corporate personhood. The three goals overlap and are interdependent.

We are interested in learning what your position is on mainstream filtering, the repression of civil liberties, and the role of money and politics as they relate to Occupy and the future of America.

Noam Chomsky: Coverage of Occupy has been mixed. At first it was dismissive, making fun of people involved as if they were just silly kids playing games and so on. But coverage changed. In fact, one of the really remarkable and almost spectacular successes of the Occupy movement is that it has simply changed the entire framework of discussion of many issues. There were things that were sort of known, but in the margins, hidden, which are now right up front – such as the imagery of the 99% and 1%; and the dramatic facts of sharply rising inequality over the past roughly 30 years, with wealth being concentrated in actually a small fraction of 1% of the population.

For the majority, real incomes have pretty much stagnated, sometimes declined. Benefits have also declined and work hours have gone up, and so on. It’s not third world misery, but it’s not what it ought to be in a rich society, the richest in the world, in fact, with plenty of wealth around, which people can see, just not in their pockets.

All of this has now been brought to the fore. You can say that it’s now almost a standard framework of discussion. Even the terminology is accepted. That’s a big shift.

Earlier this month, the Pew foundation released one of its annual polls surveying what people think is the greatest source of tension and conflict in American life. For the first time ever, concern over income inequality was way at the top. It’s not that the poll measured income inequality itself, but the degree to which public recognition, comprehension and understanding of the issue has gone up. That’s a tribute to the Occupy movement, which put this strikingly critical fact of modern life on the agenda so that people who may have known of it from their own personal experience see that they are not alone, that this is all of us. In fact, the US is off the spectrum on this. The inequalities have risen to historically unprecedented heights. In the words of the report: “The Occupy Wall Street movement no longer occupies Wall Street, but the issue of class conflict has captured a growing share of the national consciousness. A new Pew Research Center survey of 2,048 adults finds that about two-thirds of the public (66%) believes there are “very strong” or “strong” conflicts between the rich and the poor – an increase of 19 percentage points since 2009.”

Meanwhile, coverage of the Occupy movement itself has been varied. In some places – for example, parts of the business press – there has been fairly sympathetic coverage occasionally. Of course, the general picture has been: “Why don’t they go home and let us get on with our work?” “Where is their political programme?” “How do they fit into the mainstream structure of how things are supposed to change?” And so on.

And then came the repression, which of course was inevitable. It was pretty clearly coordinated across the country. Some of it was brutal, other places less so, and there has been kind of a stand-off. Some occupations have, in effect, been removed. Others have filtered back in some other form. Some of the things have been covered, like the use of pepper spray, and so on. But a lot of it, again, is just, “Why don’t they go away and leave us alone?” That’s to be anticipated.

The question of how to respond to it – the primary way is one of the points that you made: reaching out to bring into the general Occupation, in a metaphorical sense, to bring in much wider sectors of the population. There is a lot of sympathy for the goals and aims of the Occupy movement. They are quite high in polls, in fact. But that’s a big step short from engaging people in it. It has to become part of their lives, something they think they can do something about. So it’s necessary to get out to where people live. That means not just sending a message, but if possible, and it would be hard, to try to spread and deepen one of the real achievements of the movement that doesn’t get discussed much in the media – at least, I haven’t seen it. One of the main achievements has been to create communities – real functioning communities of mutual support, democratic interchange, care for one another, and so on. This is highly significant, especially in a society like ours in which people tend to be very isolated and neighbourhoods are broken down, community structures have broken down, people are kind of alone.

There’s an ideology that takes a lot of effort to implant: it’s so inhuman that it’s hard to get into people’s heads, the ideology to just take care of yourself and forget about anyone else. An extreme version is the Ayn Rand version. Actually, there has been an effort for 150 years, literally, to try to impose that way of thinking on people.

During the onset of the industrial revolution in eastern Massachusetts, mid-19th century, there happened to be a very lively press run by working people, young women in the factories, artisans in the mills, and so on. They had their own press that was very interesting, very widely read and had a lot of support. And they bitterly condemned the way the industrial system was taking away their freedom and liberty and imposing on them rigid hierarchical structures that they didn’t want. One of their main complaints was what they called “the new spirit of the age: gain wealth forgetting all but self”. For 150 years there have been massive efforts to try to impose “the new spirit of the age” on people. But it’s so inhuman that there’s a lot of resistance, and it continues.

One of the real achievements of the Occupy movement, I think, has been to develop a real manifestation of rejection of this in a very striking way. The people involved are not in it for themselves. They’re in it for one another, for the broader society and for future generations. The bonds and associations being formed, if they can persist and if they can be brought into the wider community, would be the real defence against the inevitable repression with its sometimes violent manifestations.

How best do you think the Occupy movement should go about engaging in these, what methods should be employed, and do you think it would be prudent to actually have space to decentralise bases of operation?

Noam Chomsky: It would certainly make sense to have spaces, whether they should be open public spaces or not. To what extent they should be is a kind of a tactical decision that has to be made on the basis of a close evaluation of circumstances, the degree of support, the degree of opposition. They’re different for different places, and I don’t know of any general statement.

As for methods, people in this country have problems and concerns, and if they can be helped to feel that these problems and concerns are part of a broader movement of people who support them and who they support, well then it can take off. There is no single way of doing it. There is no one answer.

You might go into a neighbourhood and find that their concerns may be as simple as a traffic light on the street where kids cross to go to school. Or maybe their concerns are to prevent people from being tossed out of their homes on foreclosures.

Or maybe it’s to try to develop community-based enterprises, which are not at all inconceivable – enterprises owned and managed by the workforce and the community which can then overcome the choice of some remote multinational and board of directors made out of banks to shift production somewhere else. These are real, very live issues happening all the time. And it can be done. Actually, a lot of it is being done in scattered ways.

A whole range of other things can be done, such as addressing police brutality and civic corruption. The reconstruction of media so that it comes right out of the communities, is perfectly possible. People can have a live media system that’s community-based, ethnic-based, labour-based and [reflecting] other groupings. All of that can be done. It takes work and it can bring people together.

Actually, I’ve seen things done in various places that are models of what could be followed. I’ll give you an example. I happened to be in Brazil a couple of years ago and I was spending some time with Lula, the former president of Brazil, but this was before he was elected president. He was a labour activist. We travelled around together. One day he took me out to a suburb of Rio. The suburbs of Brazil are where most of the poor people live.

They have semi-tropical weather there, and the evening Lula took me out there were a lot of people in the public square. Around 9pm, prime TV time, a small group of media professionals from the town had set up a truck in the middle of the square. Their truck had a TV screen above it that presented skits and plays written and acted by people in the community. Some of them were for fun, but others addressed serious issues such as debt and Aids. As people gathered in the square, the actors walked around with microphones asking people to comment on the material that had been presented. They were filmed commenting and were shown on the screen for other people to see it.

People sitting in a small bar nearby or walking in the streets began reacting, and in no time you had interesting interchanges and discussions among people about quite serious topics, topics that are part of their lives.

Well, if it can be done in a poor Brazilian slum, we can certainly do it in many other places. I’m not suggesting we do just that, but these are the kinds of things that can be done to engage broader sectors and give people a reason to feel that they can be a part of the formation of communities and the development of serious programmes adapted to whatever the serious needs happen to be.

From very simple things up to starting a new socio-economic system with worker- and community-run enterprises, a whole range of things is possible. The more active public support there is the better defence there is against repression and violence.

How do you assess the goals of the Democratic party as far as co-opting the movement, and what should we be vigilant and looking out for?

Noam Chomsky: The Republican party abandoned the pretence of being a political party years ago. They are committed, so uniformly and with such dedication, to tiny sectors of power and profit that they’re hardly a political party any more. They have a catechism they have to repeat like a caricature of the old Communist party. They have to do something to get a voting constituency. Of course, they can’t get it from the 1%, to use the imagery, so they have been mobilising sectors of the population that were always there, but not politically organised very well – religious evangelicals, nativists who are terrified that their rights and country are being taken away, and so on.

The Democrats are a little bit different and have different constituencies, but they are following pretty much the same path as the Republicans. The centrist Democrats of today, the ones who essentially run the party, are pretty much the moderate Republicans of a generation ago and they are now kind of the mainstream of the Democrat party. They are going to try to organise and mobilise – co-opt, if you like – the constituency that’s in their interest. They have pretty much abandoned the white working-class; it’s rather striking to see. So that’s barely part of their constituency at this point, which is a pretty sad development. They will try to mobilise Hispanics, blacks and progressives. They’ll try to reach out to the Occupy movement.

Organised labour is still part of the Democratic constituency and they’ll try to co-opt them; and with Occupy, it’s just the same as all the others. The political leadership will pat them on the head and say: “I’m for you, vote for me.” The people involved will have to understand that maybe they’ll do something for you, that only if you maintain substantial pressure can you get elected leadership to do things – but they are not going to do it on their own, with very rare exceptions.

As far as money and politics are concerned, it’s hard to beat the comment of the great political financier Mark Hanna. About a century ago, he was asked what was important in politics. He answered: “The first is money, the second one is money and I’ve forgotten what the third one is.”

That was a century ago. Today it’s much more extreme. So yes, concentrated wealth will, of course, try to use its wealth and power to take over the political system as much as possible, and to run it and do what it wants, etc. The public has to find ways to struggle against that.

Centuries ago, political theorists such as David Hume, in one of his foundations for government, pointed out correctly that power is in the hands of the governed and not the governors. This is true for a feudal society, a military state or a parliamentary democracy. Power is in the hands of the governed. The only way the rulers can overcome that is by control of opinions and attitudes.

Hume was right in the mid-18th century. What he said remains true today. The power is in the hands of the general population. There are massive efforts to control it by less force today because of the many rights that have been won. Methods now are by propaganda, consumerism, stirring up ethnic hatred, all kinds of ways. Sure, that will always go on but we have to find ways to resist it.

There is nothing wrong with giving tentative support to a particular candidate as long as that person is doing what you want. But it would be a more democratic society if we could also recall them without a huge effort. There are other ways of pressuring candidates. There is a fine line between doing that and being co-opted, mobilised to serve someone else’s interest. But those are just constant decisions and choices that have to be made.

Extracted from Occupy by Noam Chomsky, published by the Zuccotti Park Press and the Occupied Media Pamphlet Series in the US and Canada.

Posted by Richard Metzger | Discussion
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