• print • Dec/Jan/Feb 2021

    American History XYZ

    YOU MAY NOT HAVE BEEN thinking about American history on September 17, not in the longitudinal sense. Maybe you were taking a limited view of the historical arc, something like, “What the fuck?” That morning, as he often does, Trump connected the immediate and the long-view senses of history by announcing the “1776 Commission,” a body conjured from thin air and allegedly dedicated to the case of “patriotic education.” The proximate insult that Trump and his speechwriters were responding to was the New York Times’s 1619 Project, a collection of essays and study resources with a longer view that

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  • print • Dec/Jan/Feb 2021

    A Heart Is Not a Nation

    I REMEMBER BETTER THAN MOST where I was when I knew Donald Trump would win. Not just that he would win but that “the office” would not subdue him, that he was coming because he was the crest of a wave, a force made unstoppable by its mostly unseen mass. It was October 9, 2016, I was forty-four, and I was having a heart attack. On the TV above my hospital bed, at his second debate with Hillary Clinton, Trump loomed over Clinton’s shoulder. My nurse, a Trump supporter, gave me a drip of nitroglycerin. It was a slow-moving heart attack. It’d gathered strength across days, at first fooling the ER

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  • print • Dec/Jan/Feb 2021

    Dull Access

    THE MARKETING COPY describing True Crimes and Misdemeanors as “a real-life legal thriller” sets up unfair expectations for a book rehashing recent news. The outcome is already known: Trump is still president, despite two investigations examining shady dealings with Russia and Ukraine. Early in his presidency, with liberal media at a fever pitch comparing him to twentieth century European dictators such as Mussolini and Hitler, it seemed that liberals really believed the headwinds of collective outrage would topple Trump before the end of his first term. As of this writing, two weeks before the

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  • print • Sept/Oct/Nov 2020

    Dems the Breaks

    THEY’RE BOTH ON THE BOOK’S COVER, in the backseat of a limo, winner and loser of the 1980 presidential sweepstakes, riding, one presumes, to the inauguration of the one on the (so to speak) right. The outgoing president, giving the side-eye to his successor, stoically bears what one might view as an enigmatic half-smile. When things were going better for him four years earlier, his full-bore eighty-watt grin was his calling card, his ticket to glory. He’ll smile like that again someday, but it’ll never be the same. The incoming president? Nothing can harsh this guy’s mellow on this bright-and-frosty

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  • print • Sept/Oct/Nov 2020

    A Beginner’s Guide to End Times

    “UTOPIA HAS SUDDENLY changed camp,” write Pablo Servigne and Raphaël Stevens in How Everything Can Collapse: A Manual for Our Times, just out in an English translation by Andrew Brown. “Today, the utopian is whoever believes that everything can just keep going as before.” In 2015, when the book was first published in France, such a statement might have sounded alarmist. In 2020, Collapse feels positively prophetic. Things have not kept going as before, and it seems increasingly doubtful that they ever will again.

    That doesn’t mean that these are end times. Servigne and Stevens argue that the

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  • print • Sept/Oct/Nov 2020

    Quiet Riot

    THE STANDARD DEBATES around violent and nonviolent protest are well worn, if not worn out. Those of us who defend the deployment of tactics deemed “violent”—the broken bank window, the punched neo-Nazi, the burning cop car—are told that the moral high ground lies in nonviolence alone. In response, we speak of historic successes. We bemoan the whitewashing of civil rights militancy and decry the state’s monopoly on force. We’ve been known to quote Assata Shakur: “Nobody in the world, nobody in history, has ever gotten their freedom by appealing to the moral sense of the people who were oppressing

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  • print • Sept/Oct/Nov 2020

    Necessary Errors

    THE 1990s WERE A TIME of great techno-cultural promise. But despite the radical potential of the early internet, the decade gave rise to the increasing consolidation of power in the hands of men. Artists and theorists updated feminism to account for the social changes wrought by the internet and the systematic erasure of women in tech. In the Global North, this amorphous movement came to be known as cyberfeminism, and ran the gamut from the raucous, and often filthily funny, “Girls Gone Wired” ethos of Australian collective VNS Matrix to dry-mouthed academic treatises that were rather more

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  • print • Sept/Oct/Nov 2020

    Blame It on the Rain

    EVERY SPRING FOR MILLENNIA, snow in the Rockies and Appalachians has melted, carrying silt to the Mississippi River. From Minneapolis to Natchez, the river has bulged with the mountains’ sediment and whatever soil it pulled from the banks. Near its mouth, the Mississippi widens. Its height drops and its pace slows, allowing millions of metric tons of sediment to settle. Over time, the continent’s profit has expanded the state of Louisiana.

    But over the last one hundred years, Louisiana has shrunk. The Mississippi River has washed more soil into the Gulf of Mexico than it carried from the north.

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  • excerpt • August 20, 2020

    A Different Substance

    John Dewey was right: elected politicians are “the shadow cast on society by big business”—and, we would add, by powerful state institutions like the military and law enforcement agencies. While politicians do exercise a degree of autonomy, the general parameters of their activity are determined by those larger institutional forces, the roots and dynamics of which we have sought to explain in these pages.

    The dominance of corporations, we argue, derives first and foremost from their control over the investment of capital. This gives them enormous economic, political, and social power, since

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  • excerpt • August 13, 2020

    An excerpt from Hellfire from Paradise Ranch: On the Front Lines of Drone Warfare

    The question of whether they did it—the abominable act—doesn’t apply only to victims of torture. When drone operators Westmoreland and Bryant tell us they killed hundreds of civilians, while the president and his officials staunchly deny it, the logical question is: Did they actually do the killing? Yes or no? But what if, as in Hollywood’s structure of inherent transgression, the answer is a simultaneous yes and no? Recall Casablanca’s scene in which Ingrid Bergman pulls a gun in the hotel room and threatens Humphrey Bogart in order to obtain letters of transit for her husband; the two characters

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  • excerpt • July 21, 2020

    How the US security state criminalizes and profits off its victims

    The protests in the wake of Michael Brown’s murder displaced Israel’s war on Gaza in the twenty-four-hour news cycle. It wasn’t Brown’s death that was deemed newsworthy but the “riots” that followed. And it wasn’t the mere existence of protesters that made Ferguson an international story; it was the fact that the people who took to the streets faced down police with riot gear, rubber bullets, armored personnel carriers, semiautomatic weapons, and a dehumanizing policy designed to contain and silence. To the world at large, Ferguson looked like a war zone because the police looked like the

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  • excerpt • June 30, 2020

    An excerpt from Industrial-Strength Denial

    There are many reasons why the risks of climate change would not fully register in the human mind. In addition to the denial-provoking gravity of the threat, climate change is not the type of risk our minds evolved to detect. It is gradual, and it derives largely from the familiar and widespread practice of burning fossil fuels. It is something we all contribute to and cannot just blame on enemy evildoers. And it manifests as natural phenomena like heat waves, droughts, fires, storms, and floods; we need experts, assessing global data and long-term trends, to tell us if what is happening is

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