Imperial Truth Decay

Source: r/MapPorn

I’m devouring the new Orhan Pamuk book Nights of Plague, an historical novel about an imaginary island where plague management challenges the decaying Ottoman Empire. He’s one of my favorite authors on the power of ideas in contradiction to facts on the ground, and he always makes me laugh as when the nonstop spying of the island’s mythical Department of Scrutinia is headed by a Chief Scrutineer.

Just yesterday I read that a big hospital in the SF Bay Area reinstated a mask mandate due to a surge of covid cases there, and that an average of ten people are still dying of covid in California every day.

Cue the chorus of covid is a hoax, people masking are sheep easily led, more people were injured by the covid vax than saved by it, and so on. The divisiveness of the U.S. empire’s response to this pandemic is a subject I’ve written about before. Originating in a lab, it’s not the first but only the most novel of pathogens weaponized by those who would wield power over restive populations. It turns out that the purpose is murky: smear China via its Wuhan lab? Divide and conquer the U.S. masses seething for change that never comes? Or hasten the information control that kicked off with the post 9/11 Patriot Act and may be cemented into place by claiming free speech can be “weaponized” against the ruling class?

Pamuk writes:

Anyone who joined the Empire’s 65 year old quarantine establishment would quickly realize that their first and most important duty to the Sultan and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs was not so much to stop outbreaks of cholera, as to stop the news of those outbreaks from spreading.

Which reminds me that I was busy with family and did not manage an Earth Day post bemoaning the deadly assault of the empire of capitalism on climate and life. Politically motivated information management abounds in this arena, too, where a billionaire’s rocket uses taxpayer funding to crash and burn on liftoff, allegedly because key safety equipment was deemed too costly by the billionaire himself. Even if Starship had not exploded over the Gulf of Mexico its effect on both climate and coastal environs would have been terrible. All rocket launches, now proliferating rapidly, are terrible for the environment. So space is constantly sold to kids as hooray for science, technology, engineering and math.

Pentagon Planet by Anthony Freda

Meanwhile, liberal rags like Common Dreams provide sophisticated information management around military harm to the environment, well-documented but largely unaddressed as the U.S. military budget continues to metastasize (Space Force requested a 100% increase in its annual budget to pollute and militarize outer space). I noticed and disliked the subtle bias of CD’s Earth Day article with the ironic headline: “Can you fight for climate justice without being antiwar?” No, you cannot —  as some of us have been pointing out for years

But the author used tried and true grammatical sleight of hand to shield some culprits while vilifying others. The U.S. and NATO conspired over the biggest release of methane, the worst of the greenhouse gases, into the Baltic Sea off Denmark, but that act of war on the environment just happened in the passive voice: “the sabotage of the underwater Nord Stream pipelines.” Ditto “the shelling of Ukraine’s nuclear power plants, particularly the Zaporizhzhia plant” as if the shelling had mysterious origins rather than emanating from Ukraine.

The U.S. public has been told in both cases via its subservient corporate press that “Russia did it.” That is, destroy its own newly completed gas pipeline and attempt to blow up a nuclear power plant its military had captured quickly. These lies are easily refuted, but you won’t read about it in Common Dreams or the New York Times.

What you will read or hear in every imperial media “news” channel is the active voice when it comes to their current favorite villain. Common Dreams again: “Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has mutated the global fuel market.”

See the difference? Grammar matters.

Truth, however, is merely an inconvenience to our imperial rulers. If evidence of the president’s deep involvement in corrupt energy schemes in Ukraine might threaten his election, the press stampedes to suppress it and silence those who don’t go along.

Similarly, if the national conversation is about how best to respond to a deadly pathogen, social media platforms obediently silence dissenting voices at the behest of the federal government. The Twitter files are largely, though not exclusively, about sharing evidence of this.

When Pamuk has an Ottoman public health doctor say, “Quarantine is the art of educating the public in spite of itself, and of teaching it the skill of self-preservation,” he might also be thinking about empires and their strategies for preserving their reign.

Nowadays you can be silenced for pointing out enforcement of the preferred narrative, or just for not agreeing with the imperial version of their destructive, expensive wars.

Prior to Earth Day the FBI and DOJ collaborated on the indictment of four members of the African People’s Socialist Party for allegedly colluding with Russia to affect the outcome of an election. Hmm…

According to

On April 18, 2023, indictments were issued by the U.S. Department of Justice against African People’s Socialist Party Chairman Omali Yeshitela, African People’s Solidarity Committee Chair Penny Hess and Uhuru Solidarity Movement Chair Jesse Nevel.

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“I ain’t ever worked for a Russian. Never ever ever ever,” said Omali Yeshitela. “Their problem is, I’ve never worked for them.”

Pamuk is a writer from the last bit of the once powerful Ottoman Empire who knows: not working for the imperial forces is the ultimate crime.

More Questions Than Answers On Portland Police Coddling Neo Nazis

Screengrab of white power salutes by neo Nazi group in front of Portland City Hall April 1, 2023
Source: NewsCenterMaine

Today I return to considering the ongoing controversy in Portland, Maine about flaccid police response to a neo Nazi group that assaulted several people on April 1. If local resistance to white supremacy and street violence is not of interest, maybe skip this one. (For background with links to video and eyewitness reports, check out my April 13 blog post on this topic.)

I’ve now had time to review the two hours of testimony from the public at the City Council meeting of April 10, followed by the self-congratulatory — and evasive — remarks of the interim police chief. Also the District Attorney’s public criticism of police inaction and suggestions for improvement in coordination with her office.

Here are some questions I still have:

Why do people with privilege think they are qualified to evaluate how safe or unsafe someone else without that privilege feels?

Why did the police department refuse to take statements from any of the victims who were assaulted by members of the neo Nazi group?

Why did the police appear to order the neo Nazi group to kneel briefly on the sidewalk in front of City Hall?

Why did one officer appear to pull a gun on the group, and what kind of gun was it?

Were the neo Nazi group members carrying guns, as some have alleged?

Why did the police appear to signal to the neo Nazi group that they could depart without being questioned, identified, or charged for the assaults?

When will the police release body cam footage of the incident, and when will the city release surveillance camera footage from Monument Square and City Hall?

When the police say they couldn’t tell “who started it” in reference to one of the physical attacks they witnessed, why does this matter? (I’ve never been a cop but being a teacher on playground duty I often confronted this issue and resolved it by enforcing the consequences for physical violence no matter who started it.)

Were the neo Nazi group members federal agents, as some on social media have suggested? If so, did they coordinate in advance with the Portland police? 

Did the police have snipers on nearby rooftops as they did during the Black Lives Matter protests in 2020?

What are the likely consequences of showing a neo Nazi group that their presence will be, not just tolerated, but protected in the City of Portland?

What are the likely consequences for tourism, a major revenue source for both Portland and Maine?

How true is the claim that the culture of Portland attracting 5.4 million visitors a year was largely created by LGBTQ and/or people of color? In other words, the very groups targeted with shouted slurs and physical attacks by the neo Nazi group on April 10?

What role does the long history of white supremacist violence in Portland have in informing our understanding of what happened this month?

What role does Portland’s recent history of welcoming immigrants, including refugees and asylum seekers, many of whom are Black, have in drawing neo Nazis to Maine?

Screengrab of the first stop by the neo Nazi group, followed by them assaulting individuals in Monument Square and in front of Portland City Hall on April 1, 2023 Source: NewsCenterMaine

Councilor Andrew Zarro expressed my sentiments when he said on April 10 :

“I feel like I have more questions ending this evening’s public comment than I did going into it…

What is the next step? How are we going to show the community what the next step on this is?”