A Hopeless and Stupid World, Jamming, 21/02/2014

I was originally planning to write another post about the political philosophy research I’m doing for the Utopias project, perhaps about the Badiou essay that my friend B sent me a copy of the other day. Then I learned that Kyiv exploded.

As of my writing this draft (on the evening of 20 February, which will be posted on the morning of 21 February), there were over twenty confirmed dead in Independence Square. I have my own perspective on the subject, which is very simple. I’ve been watching periodic news on Ukrainian politics throughout my adulthood, not for any personal reason, but just as part of my taste for international news. I remember watching reports of Viktor Yuschchenko’s near-fatal poisoning and the public protests that resulted in his presidency. I remember Yuschchenko’s mediocre tenure as Ukrainian president until his own coalition kicked him out. I remember the most recent election, when Yulia Tymoshenko, another Orange Revolution protest leader, was defeated in her run for president by Viktor Yanukovych, the Putin-backed politician whose 2004 election fraud began this mad decade-long cycle. Yanukovych himself, since he returned to the presidency, has been following as best he can the post-Soviet script for leaders: jailing his opponents, such as Tymoshenko, on amorphous charges of “corruption,” and using the powers of his office to enrich his extended family to oligarchical levels.

Today is not a good day in Ukraine.
Now Kyiv is consumed with rioting and police and protestors are shooting each other. When this kind of violence last happened in the old Soviet sphere of influence, a coalition of NATO countries and UN peacekeepers rolled in to bring some semblance of order, or at least make a gesture towards it. But this isn’t Bosnia, and we live in a very different world than the early 1990s. It isn’t just that Russia is a much stronger country actually able to flex its muscles in what used to be its exclusive territory (indeed, in this case, its national territory). But this is the case. And it isn’t just that the United States is a much weaker power than it has been, having lost its taste and stomach for foreign intervention after imploding the material and mental capacity of its own armed forces in two protracted, practically unending Asian wars. But this is the case.

A significant part of why our world has changed, aside from the policies, economics, and military powers of states, lies in the internet. When the siege of Sarajevo began, we had only the conventional television, radio, and newsprint media to follow the situation and inform us of what was happening. Now, we can follow all the action of the Kyiv protests and police violence all over the internet, particularly on twitter. We can even trace the story and life of an individual medical volunteer wounded by gunfire during the last few days. 

Smartphone technology is an indispensable tool for anti-Putin/Yanukovych activists to organize themselves. But smartphone technology was also an indispensable tool for the Ukrainian police to track and intimidate protestors, as in the incident of police sending texts to Kyiv citizens within the region of the protests, “Dear subscriber, you have been registered as a participant in a mass disturbance.” 

Viktor Yanukovych is not a democrat. Democrats don't
throw their political opponents in prison.
Even beyond the powers and vulnerabilities that contemporary technology grants to people, the internet enables access to a plethora of knowledge and conversation. But this isn’t knowledge that informs people; it’s the chatter of conspiracy theory that plays into the hands of politicians (Viktor Yanukovych and Vladimir Putin, to avoid any ambiguity on my part) who use police state tactics and a Stalinist gulag system to oppress and silence anyone who would critique their regime or act against it.

This absolutely awful viral video, to which I will only link, because I don’t want this crap on my page, was the product of filmmakers funded by George Soros’ Open Society Foundation and US-government-funded pro-democracy groups. Its makers intended it to mobilize global support for the protests. And it’s certainly encouraging a lot of slacktivism. But after it's debunked over this weekend, many people of otherwise good conscience will turn against Ukraine’s protestors and side with 'the true people of Ukraine' in their culturally organic association with Russia and resistance to the corruption of the European Union and dominance by the capitalist empire of Washington and American corporations.

It sickens me.

The “I Am Ukrainian” video clearly echoes Kony 2012, which means Yanukovych and Putin are probably immensely happy to see it. That idiotic scam, trying to mobilize popular support for a US invasion of central Africa to arrest a warlord in the name of international peace and justice was the last nail in the coffin of the international civil society that was once the dream of people like Karl Popper and Hannah Arendt. Because politically-minded people today see conspiracy and manipulation behind every attempt to encourage the end of a war in a foreign country. Even worse, they see imperialism and racism.

The right wing is the traditional opponent of
billionaire democracy activists like George
Soros. Post Kony 2012, the left are calling
him a sneaky villain of corporate capitalism.
The 2003 Iraq War permanently turned all socially progressive civil society against any American intervention for the sake of peace in a foreign country. Now, we all take it for granted that when a rich democracy speaks out against some human rights abuse or foreign police state, it’s the pretext for a 21st century empire. 

The Ukrainian protestors have become violent, and they have killed policemen. And both police and protestors have probably killed some innocent civilians by now. But if your state police force is mobilized to use unrestrained deadly force against your protests, damn right you’ll pick up a gun and defend yourself. Or a molotov cocktail. Meanwhile, Soros and the United States are vilified as meddlers and imperialists. We used to consider them the beacons of democracy and freedom. The truth is, we live in a world where no one trusts anyone anymore, where every political agitation in the name of democracy is a conspiracy to install and enforce the terror of global capitalism.

As far as the best story on the internet is concerned, all these protests are “part of Washington’s goal to control the entire world.” The protests aren't about an established police state (Russia) aiding the evolution of Ukraine into an allied police state, they're how Ukraine is conquered by "Western corporate predators." 

A few weeks ago, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova was on The
Colbert Report. In a few months, she might be in an
unmarked grave in central Russia. Her possible death in
prison would be the fault of the anti-empire left's and the
isolationist right's heroic resister of Western corporate
capitalism, Vladimir Putin.
And idiotic leftists who take a few courses in post-structuralist philosophy and valorize the Paris protests of May 1968 will become fervent supporters of Vladimir Putin and Viktor Yanukovych as allies against Washington’s domination of the world, and the growth of Western capitalism. They’re no worse than the Communists during the Great Depression who spied on the United States and the European democracies for Stalin’s Soviet Union. The grassroots left in North America, who perhaps used to be intelligent, will forget Russian democracy activists being whipped in the street and sent back to gulags to die because the evil Western corporate empire is oppressing those poor police state elites of Ukraine. It was only the day before "I am a Ukrainian" dropped that Russian police were beating members of Pussy Riot in the streets like a sadist would beat a starving dog. But because he stands against the expansion of Washington's power, a lot of morons of the contemporary left will soon claim Vladimir Putin as a champion of the downtrodden.

Modern corporate capitalism is objectively awful in many ways. It’s created an elite of international oligarchs and a worldwide system of industrial production that rests on an impoverished underclass of billions and is causing catastrophic ecological change to our planet. Modern capitalism is our name for a culture whose solution to food shortages is to pollute our farms with layer after layer of pesticides, whose solution to flailing manufacturing industries is to dismember unions to force people to work for barely above subsistence wages and take on tens of thousands in debt. 

But we will never overcome these injustices by allying ourselves with police states!

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