• 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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  • excerpt • June 23, 2020

    Abolitionist Alternatives

    If jails and prisons are to be abolished, then what will replace them? This is the puzzling question that often interrupts further consideration of the prospects for abolition. Why should it be so difficult to imagine alternatives to our current system of incarceration? There are a number of reasons why we tend to balk at the idea that it may be possible to eventually create an entirely different—and perhaps more egalitarian—system of justice. First of all, we think of the current system, with its exaggerated dependence on imprisonment, as an unconditional standard and thus have great difficulty

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  • excerpt • June 18, 2020

    How “School Resource Officers” became a fixture in the American education system

    In 2005, three police officers in Florida forcibly arrested a five-year-old African American girl for misbehaving in school. It was captured on video. The singer and civil rights activist Harry Belafonte, like most others, was appalled by what he saw and initiated a campaign to train the next generation of civil rights activists: the Gathering for Justice, which in turn created the Justice League, an important force in the Black Lives Matter movement. At the core of the group’s demands is a call to end the criminalization of young people in schools.

    Over the last twenty years there has been

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  • print • Summer 2020

    The Spirit of St. Louis

    In the twelfth century, the city of Cahokia, settled on mounds near the Mississippi River, had a population greater than London’s. Its trade and travel routes stretched to present-day Minnesota and Louisiana. Around 1350, Cahokia’s residents abandoned the city for unknown reasons, but its traces remained. In 1764, traders led by Auguste Chouteau built a fort across the river and saw the abandoned mounds. Assuming they were the remains of a long-gone civilization, the French traders thought the people living around them—a different group of indigenous people than Cahokia’s inhabitants—were

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