On the Use of Racism as Propaganda

Racism is real like a tree is real. Racial slurs, racial agitation, all that is real. Like anything else, it can be manipulated for political gain; racist incidents can be invented and propagated, accusations of racism (the deadliest there are these days, enough to wreck a life, an institution, a career) can be made up; when that happens, it’s fair to speak of propaganda, isn’t it? In the abstract, at least, right?

After Donald Trump last year became a candidate to the U.S. presidency, I noticed a trend of false accusations of racism: literally fake news. So I started to keep tabs. I wrote them down and made a list. I never trawled the Internet looking for this; it’s just stuff I kept coming across, that I kept notes of. For a longer, more comprehensive list, for which I can’t vouch, you can check here for example; or here, for one from a more controversial source.

Without further comment, raw as it is and in rough chronological order, with sources attached in each case, this is the list as it currently stands:

-In April 2016, black students were identified as the people behind a recent racist drawing found at Salisbury University’s library, school officials confirmed. The image, found April 10 on a whiteboard in Blackwell Library, showed a stick figure being hung and labeled with a racial slur. Underneath was the hashtag “#whitepower.” Huffington Post, 28.4.16

-In March 2016, Seattle’s Africatown Center was vandalized with swastikas and pro-Trump graffiti. An East African, a former employee, eventually confessed to have done it. Seattle.gov, 16.3.16

-Slate reported on Dec. 14, 2016: Nearly two weeks after what appeared to be a horrifying incident on the New York City subway, the NYPD announced that an apparent hate crime never happened, and Muslim teenager Yasmin Seweid made up the story that she was harassed by three drunk white men on the subway who shouted Trump slogans and tried to pull off her hijab. The 18-year-old has been charged with filing a false report and obstructing governmental administration.

-A 19-year-old US-Israeli citizen was arrested in southern Israel on suspicion of carrying out a wave of telephone bomb threats targeting Jewish centers and communities around the world. The months-long, multi-agency investigation led Israel Police’s International Crime Investigations Unit to the city of Ashkelon, where the suspect and his father were arrested. Various media, 23.3.17

-Florida man Vincent Palmer faked a pro-Trump KKK hate crime, set his ex’s car on fire, and then staged his own kidnapping in ransom note covered with his blood; the note for her and their four children, who are all under the age of five, had the words ‘KKK’ and ‘Trump’ written on it: ‘I HAVE WATHED [ sic ] YOU FOR A LONG TIME YOU AND YOUR N***** KIDS DON’T Belong,’ read the note left at her Ormond Beach, Florida home. Palmer, who is black, then fled but returned when ex-wife Staci Winn, who is white, called him to reveal what happened, at which point he was arrested on a warrant for failure to pay child support. He was released on Sunday at which point he faked how own kidnapping, again implying it was the work of the KKK. Police located him by pinging his telephone and tracing it to a nearby Burger King, at which point he confessed to setting the fire and leaving the note. Daily Mail, 13.12.16

-The subjects of a TV documentary series about the Ku Klux Klan abruptly canceled last week by A&E allege to Variety that significant portions of what was filmed were fabricated by the producers. The KKK leaders who were interviewed by Variety detailed how they were wooed with promises the program would capture the truth about life in the organization; encouraged not to file taxes on cash payments for agreeing to participate in the filming; presented with pre-scripted fictional story scenarios; instructed what to say on camera; asked to misrepresent their actual identities, motivations and relationships with others, and re-enacted camera shoots repeatedly until the production team was satisfied. The production team even paid for material and equipment to construct and burn wooden crosses and Nazi swastikas, according to multiple sources. Variety, Dec16.

-Police in January 2017 said it found no evidence to confirm a November report that a teacher bullied and assaulted a Muslim kindergartener at David Cox Road Elementary, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools announced, the Charlotte Observer reported. Principal Celeste Spears-Ellis notified parents that the accused teacher has returned to the classroom after the District Attorney’s Office found “no evidence of an assault other than the complainant’s report” and no grounds for criminal charges. The incident made national news in November when the Council on American-Islamic Rights wrote to the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction alleging that the teacher “continuously harassed and recently assaulted” a 5-year-old boy in her class. The letter, dated Nov. 21, said the teacher had grabbed the boy by the neck and choked him on Nov. 16. It said she had also failed to prevent classmates from bullying the boy and forced him to carry a large backpack filled with textbooks and headphones. The letter named another teacher who reportedly separated the two after the choking incident and consoled the boy.

-A 14-year-old Muslim girl who claimed she was pushed in front of a train simply for wearing a headscarf has been challenged after police checked CCTV tapes. The girl, identified only as Sinem, claimed on social media she had been called a ‘terrorist’ and was pushed onto the tracks by a man who had taken offence at her headscarf at a railway station in the Austrian capital of Vienna. She told an online anti-racism forum she was only saved at the ‘last second’ by another man who pulled her onto the platform before the S-Bahn train arrived at Wien-Döbling station. The girl, whose parents are originally from Turkey, said she was taken to hospital with minor injuries and her parents filed a criminal complaint after hearing what had happened. But The Local reported that Vienna police spokesman Irina Steirer said officers had searched through tapes of CCTV cameras on the platform and found no trace of the incident the girl described. The Daily Mail, 19.1.17

-The Anne Arundel County Police Department on Jan’17 charged a 14-year-old African-American girl with a juvenile citation for sending a threatening tweet related to Arundel High School. Police began their investigation after Arundel High School officials told them about a suspicious Twitter account. The account, named @KoolkidsKlanKkk, reportedly sent out a tweet that read, “We’re planning to attack tomorrow”. This account used similar language to a racial petition that had been passed around Anne Arundel High School by the “Kool Kids Klan”. Police worked with Twitter, and were able to identify the person who created the account and sent out the threatening tweet.

-When four black teenagers kidnapped a retarded white boy and tortured him live on Facebook in Jan 2017 while saying he was was paying for being a white Trump supporter, this is how CBS radio described this (Jan 7), so it would look like four whites attacking a black kid: “The viral video of a beating and knife attack in Chicago suggests the assault had racial overtones. CBS’s Dean Reynolds tells us the victim is described as a mentally-challenged teenager. In the video he is choked and repeatedly called the n-word. His clothes are slashed and he is terrorized with a knife. His alleged captors repeatedly reference Donald Trump. Police are holding four people in connection with the attack.”

-In March17, The Intercept published this: “We were horrified to learn this morning that Juan Thompson, a former employee of The Intercept, has been arrested in connection with bomb threats against the ADL and multiple Jewish Community Centers in addition to cyberstalking. These actions are heinous and should be fully investigated and prosecuted. We have no information about the charges against Thompson other than what is included in the criminal complaint. Thompson worked for The Intercept from November 2014 to January 2016, when he was fired after we discovered that he had fabricated sources and quotes in his articles.”

-On 25.2.17, the Daily Caller reported that a black waitress who received thousands of dollars in donations after she claimed she received a racist note and no tip from a patron last month fabricated the incident, the customer claims. Kelly Carter, a waitress at Anita’s New Mexico Cafe in Ashburn, Va., claimed that a white man stiffed her on his $30.52 restaurant bill and wrote “Great service, don’t tip black people” at the bottom of his receipt.

-A 21-year-old Ann Arbor woman pleaded guilty as charged to one count of false report of a misdemeanor in 15th District Court on Monday, March 6. Halley Bass admitted in court that she fabricated a story about a strange man scratching her face in downtown Ann Arbor on Nov. 15… At the time, Bass claimed her attack was part of the surge in hate crimes following the election of Donald Trump a week earlier. She told police she was targeted for wearing a solidarity pin connected to Great Britain’s “Brexit” vote. Mlive, March17

-Vandals not responsible for dozens of tipped graves at Jewish cemetery in Brooklyn, management says. Police and the general manager of a Jewish cemetery in Brooklyn said that 42 fallen headstones were not caused by vandals, saying Sunday that the memorials had naturally tipped over due to age — though some elected officials were calling for an investigation, anyway. “It definitely was not vandalism,” Marisa Tarantino, general manager of the Washington Cemetery on Bay Parkway in Midwood, told reporters. New York Daily News, 5.3.17

-The day after Trump won the 2016 election, a University of Louisiana Lafayette student who said she was physically attacked and robbed of her wallet and hijab made up the story, according to the Lafayette Police Department. Public Information Officer Karl Ratcliff told media police were reviewing the possibility of charging the 18-year-old student with filing a false police report. The young woman filed a police report claiming two white males approached her near the campus, in the 100 block of Smith Street, around 11 a.m. The 18-year-old woman told investigators she was walking near the University of Louisiana at Lafayette’s campus Wednesday morning — hours after Donald Trump’s presidential victory — when she was accosted by two white men who drove up in a gray sedan, Lafayette police said in a statement. The student said the men struck her with a metal object, knocking her down, and stole her wallet and the headscarf, known as a hijab. She also said the men shouted racial obscenities as they struck her several times in the back. She also claimed one of the males was wearing a Donald Trump hat and they both yelled racial obscenities at her, police said. As police began to investigate the student’s claims they did not locate any witnesses or surveillance video to corroborate her story. The story of her false attack went viral overnight, gaining the attention of national media outlets.

-All of this reported by media 21.12.16, a Mississippi man arrested in the burning of an African-American church that was spray-painted with the words “Vote Trump” is a member of the congregation, the church’s bishop said. Andrew McClinton, 45, of Leland, Mississippi, was charged Wednesday with first degree arson of a place of worship, said Warren Strain, spokesman for the Mississippi Department of Public Safety. McClinton is African-American. Youtube hoaxer goes viral by falsely claiming to have been kicked off a Delta flight for speaking another language.Ann Arbor police say a report of ethnic intimidation involving a woman wearing a hijab did not actually happen. According to police, a University of Michigan student told police on she was approached by a man who threatened to set her hijab on fire if she didn’t remove it. It happened on Nov. 11. She then said the suspect pulled out a lighter, so she removed her hijab before he ran away on foot. Police say detectives have been working with the U of M Police Department and the FBI. They have conducted multiple interviews and reviewed multiple surveillance videos. “During the investigation, numerous inconsistencies in the statements provided by the alleged victim were identified,” police said in a release. Detectives then determined the incident did not happen. Jasskirat Saini, of Souh Asian descent, was arrested Tuesday by Nassau County Police following an investigation into the drawing swastikas and writing of “KKK” on a college campus. ABC7 reports that the swastikas were first found at Nassau Community College on a men’s bathroom on Oct. 15 and later that month several more were found. In December there were two more incidents of swastika graffiti. Nassau County Police found Saini Tuesday writing two swastikas on the exterior of a building and “KKK” on the floor of another, ABC7 reports. Saini is being charged with Aggravated Harassment and according to ABC7 this charge is in connection with 110 anti-Semitic drawings. Initial media coverage of the discovery of swastikas tied it to the election of Donald Trump. The Long Island Press wrote, “Although three of the incidents occurred before Nov. 8, the latest discovery has further troubled minority and Jewish groups amid a surge of hate crimes across the country following the election of Donald Trump.” Babson College has cleared two students of any disciplinary violations stemming from their controversial drive through Wellesley College to celebrate Donald Trump’s victory the day after the presidential election, their lawyers said. The students, Parker Rand-Ricciardi and Edward Tomasso, faced accusations of harassment and disorderly conduct before the college’s honor board. The Nov. 9 incident sparked a post-election uproar, fueled by accusations on social media that the men spat on a Wellesley student and yelled racial and homophobic slurs while parked in front of Harambee House, a campus gathering place for African-American students. Rand-Riccardi and Tomasso denied the allegations, and an investigation by Babson found no evidence the men did anything other than drive through the campus waving a Trump flag out the truck window and yelling “Make America Great Again.” They are not facing criminal charges. On late Dec, NYPD was searching for a man who they believe committed at least two bias attacks in Bed-Stuy earlier this month, confronting his victims and asking about their ethnicity and religion before punching them in the face; he was caught on security cameras and turned out to be black. Also, history has taught us to be wary of “you won’t believe the offensive message written on this restaurant receipt” stories. The one in New Jersey was a hoax, the one in California was a hoax, and the one in Tennessee is sketchy, with a handwriting expert saying the writing on the receipt doesn’t match the customer’s. The gay slur on the cake from Whole Foods was a hoax. That “YouTube prankster” who claimed he was thrown off the plane for speaking Arabic? Other passengers say he was being disruptive and was only thrown off for repeatedly shouting. There are lesser-covered cases, too: Vincent Palmer, 27, told detectives he taped a note with racial slurs and the words “KKK” and “Trump” written on it to his ex-girlfriend’s mailbox early Saturday before throwing a brick through her car window and dousing the back seat in gasoline because they were having problems over the custody of their children, according to an arrest report. In South Philadelphia, a group residents found racist, Nazi and pro-Trump graffiti spray-painted on their homes and cars the morning after the election. The perpetrator was a 58-year-old African-American man. It’s not just the Left, of course; a New York City firefighter said his house was set aflame because he had a “Blue Lives Matter” flag outside. Earlier this month, he was charged with arson, setting his own house on fire. Jim Geraghty wrote a good summary of all this in National Review, 23.12.16.

-Arab NYC college student lied to cops, claiming racists abducted him in harrowing robbery: A Queens college student who told cops he was thrown into a van and robbed by three masked men yelling racial slurs made up the chilling attack, police said Saturday. Police declined to provide details about why Farooqi lied, but said he recanted his entire story. No word on whether [or] not he will be charged with false reporting. NY Daily News, 27.5.17

-St. Olaf College’s president told the campus Wednesday that a fellow student confessed to writing a note with racist and threatening content and admitted that it was “fabricated” as an apparent “strategy to draw attention to concerns about the campus climate”… The students had been protesting racism at the school in Northfield, Minn., since the weekend, when a black student reported having found a note on the windshield of her car that read: “I am so glad that you are leaving soon. One less n—– that this school has to deal with. You have spoken up too much. You will change nothing. Shut up or I will shut you up.” Samantha Wells, the black student who received the note, is believed to have written it, together with other similar notes. Star Tribune, 10.5.17

-A 52-year-old black man is being charged with destruction of property after allegedly getting caught spray-painting a swastika inside campus living quarters, Fox5 reported Oct. 16. Officials for the school discovered the swastika on a trash cart inside the fifth floor of Hagerstown Hall.

-In the fall of 2016 and spring of 2017, the otherwise quiet campus of Eastern Michigan University was hit by three ugly incidents of vandalism targeting blacks that rocked the community…. “It really has rocked our community,” Judith Kullberg, an EMU political scientist and president of the faculty senate told The Washington Post. “In this whole context of a very tense presidential election it has raised anxiety here considerably.” In the spring, a third racist message was left in a men’s restroom stall. Coming as other campuses were being hit by similar acts of what appeared to be hate vandalism, the incidents sparked protests and made national news. On Tuesday, the university was shaken again when police announced that a 29-year-old black man, a former student, had been charged with all three crimes… Campus police noted that they had committed more than 1,080 hours of time to investigating the incidents, with the help of the FBI and the Michigan State Police, among others. Washington Post, 24.10.17

-On Nov 7, 2017, Denver 7 News reported: Air Force Academy Prep School: Black cadet admitted to writing racist remarks on dorm doors – One of the black cadets allegedly targeted by racial slurs scrawled on a whiteboard at the Air Force Academy Preparatory School was responsible for the incident, Air Force Academy officials announced Tuesday. Officials say the cadet admitted to writing the messages on the whiteboard outside the dorm rooms of five black cadet candidates. The cadet is no longer at the school… The episode prompted a quick response by academy officials, including superintendent of the U.S. Air Force Academy, Lt. Gen. Jay Silveria, who gave an impassioned speech condemning racism. (The same day, a linebacker named Jelani Bland was transferred to a different team, from Air Force)

-‘Date Your Own Kind.’ Man Put Racist Graffiti On His Own Car, Police Say By Associated Press Nov 7, 2017 (MANHATTAN, Kan.) — A black Kansas man has admitted he put racist graffiti on his own car as a Halloween prank that got out of hand, police said Monday. Photographs posted on social media Wednesday showed the car covered with racial slurs against blacks and messages that included “Go Home,” ”Date your own kind,” and “Die.” The vehicle, covered in graffiti scrawled with washable paint, was parked Wednesday at an apartment complex near Kansas State University and the incident fueled racial tensions at the university and in the community. An emergency meeting of the Black Student Union called that evening drew concerned administrators and community leaders as well as students. Kansas State held a Facebook Live event the next day with worried parents. The university stepped up patrols on campus. The FBI opened a civil rights investigation into a possible hate crime. But on Monday the Riley County Police Department issued a news release saying the 21-year-old owner of the vehicle, Dauntarius Williams, had told investigators that he was responsible for the graffiti.

-In October, a Jewish ceremonial tent was destroyed (in Kansas State University). Initially, it was investigated as anti-Semitic vandalism. Authorities later concluded the tent was damaged during inclement weather. Topeka Capital Journal, Nov 9, 2017.

-The vandalism at five Morristown-area churches with predominantly black congregations that were attacked on November 2017 was not motivated by bias, the Morris County Prosecutor said in a prepared statement Sunday evening. The damage was allegedly caused by one man, who was a former congregant of one of the churches, Fredric M. Knapp, the Morris County prosecutor, said. “As a result of the investigation, no evidence was obtained that would indicate this was a bias incident which legally requires purpose to intimidate a person or group based upon their protected class,” Knapp said. Zuri C. Towns, 45, of Morristown was arrested and charged with four fourth degree counts of criminal mischief, and one third degree count of criminal mischief. Morristown Daily record, 27.11.17.

-A sailor who claimed someone scrawled racial slurs on his bed aboard an aircraft carrier —sparking a viral Facebook post in the process — staged the incident himself, the Navy said Friday. Marquie Little, a 27-year-old African American seaman, posted photos to Facebook on Nov. 15 under an alias that showed his rack on the carrier George H.W. Bush covered in trash and racial slurs… The sailor’s Facebook post had drawn nearly 20,500 shares as of Friday… The Navy incident follows another one this fall at the Air Force Academy preparatory school, where racial slurs were found written on the dorm message boards of five black cadet candidates. The Air Force later said that one of those five black cadet candidates had admitted to writing the slurs. US Navy Times, 8.12.17


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En Cataluña, nacionalismo de Fukuyama

Carlos Esteban, El Perroflauta Reaccionario, ofrece un punto de vista interesante sobre Cataluña, sobre todo por lo novedoso.

Su análisis se centra en el hecho constatable de que todos los gobiernos occidentales son, en la práctica, socialdemocracias con pequeñas diferencias prácticas entre ellos: el capitalismo “real” endulzado con proclamas progresistas que frecuentemente denuncia, por ejemplo, Slavoj Zizek.

Esto significa que los nacionalistas catalanes, o de cualquier otro lugar, pueden proponer rupturas revolucionarias o teóricamente dramáticas con la convicción de que al final acabarán manejados por la misma socialdemocracia que el resto, dado el triunfo de la tesis del “final de la historia” de Francis Fukuyama, con la derrota de la alternativa “socialista real”. Esto reduce el margen de error en cualquier aventura política; Cataluña no puede acabar con un gulag dirigido por la CUP:


Pero si la brusca aparición del terrorismo yijadista parecía desmentir de golpe -nunca mejor dicho- la tesis de Fukuyama, lo cierto es que el autor daba en la diana en lo que a Occidente se refiere, como parece demostrar la crisis catalana.

Me refiero a que uno de los efectos secundarios del fantástico lío derivado del ‘procés’ es que la elecciones de diciembre van a ser, en la práctica, monotemáticas. Con independencia de que los partidos elaboren sus acostumbrados programas que nadie lee, las autonómicas están ya planteadas como un extraño referéndum sobre la secesión de Cataluña y el modelo autonómico en general.

Pero si ese es el fondo, la forma y los efectos serán los de unas elecciones, es decir, los distintos partidos obtendrán unos escaños, con los que luego negociarán un gobierno. Y este gobierno tendrá que tomar decisiones que nada tienen que ver con el ‘fet diferencial’, es más, que pondrán de relieve lo que Cataluña tiene en común con cualquier sociedad europea: regular la vida común de los ciudadanos en un sinfín de aspectos.

Pero no creo equivocarme si digo que no se va a tratar demasiado, no va a ser centro de debate real, la ideología que se aplique, el modo de gobernar, la dirección política dentro del espectro tradicional.

La cuestión es que no hay mucho espacio para la maniobra política en una hipotética Catalula independiente: nadie se plantea seriamente que pueda convertirse en una república revolucionaria, o en una especie de Singapur ultraliberal.

De hecho, el análisis se puede llevar más allá. Con la diferencia política entre todos los grupos parlamentarios (quizá con la excepción patológica de la CUP) reducida a meros matices sobre cómo dirigir el estado del bienestar, el único diferencial político entre ellos está en la cuestión separatista: si están a favor los presuntos extremo-izquierdistas de ERC y los presuntos demo-cristianos de cómo se llame ahora Convergencia, si están en contra los presuntos socialistas del PSC y los presuntos conservadores del PP.

Aparte de casos patológicos, esa indiferencia es algo menos demencial de lo que parece. Quien desdeña como cuestión menor la forma concreta de gobernar del partido al que vota no lo hace tanto porque le dé igual acabar en una granja colectiva o en un paraíso libertario como porque intuye, a partir de una ya larga experiencia, que cualquier partido va a aplicar una política muy parecida, la vaga socialdemocracia que ha dominado la vida pública en Occidente desde la posguerra mundial.

En el conjunto de España, en estas cuatro décadas de democracia, se han sucedido gobiernos supuestamente socialistas y presuntamente conservadores. Retóricas tribales y electoralistas aparte, ¿han aplicado unos y otros políticas muy dispares? Los socialistas privatizaron el grueso de las empresas públicas, iniciaron la liberalización del mercado laboral y metieron a España en la OTAN. Los conservadores eliminaron el servicio militar obligatorio, aumentaron los impuestos a un nivel récord y, en su fase actual, han conservado amorosamente todas las medidas de ingeniería social de sus supuestos rivales.

Nadie teme hoy del socialismo convencional que nacionalice la banca o que colectivice la producción, ni del liberalismo que desmantele el Estado del Bienestar. Ni siquiera podrían aplicar medidas lo bastante audaces en un sentido o en otro porque la Unión Europea, a la que pertenecemos y de la que tan difícil es salir sin traumas, pone estrictos límites a tales experimentos.

La idea de Esteban de que este globalismo del siglo XXI tan opuesto al nacionalismo está alimentando, de forma paradójica, el nacionalismo catalán está en línea con el análisis que hizo hace dos años Stratfor, la CIA privada de Austin, Texas.

Como escribí entonces:

El problema, Stratfor arguye, es que la propia existencia de la UE alimenta los ánimos separatistas de las élites catalanas y escocesas, al ofrecerlas una alternativa al actual impás separatista. En ambos casos, la pérdida de los imperios antaño dirigidos desde Madrid y Londres dejó a las élites periféricas sin los mayores incentivos que les llevaban a aceptar el liderazgo centralizador: jugosos puestos en los virreinatos coloniales, protección militar que un pequeño estado independiente no podría ofrecer por sí mismo, y acceso a grandes mercados cautivos coloniales.


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A Puritan Theory of Racism

The Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Zizek often jokes about the paradoxical nature of American progressive racism by using the example of the Native Americans. If these Americans, Native, are uniquely connected to Nature then, he wonders, does that make their remaining fellow countrymen “cultural Americans”?

The notion is absurd, but it signals the contradictions at the heart of the U.S. concept of racism, commonly identified as a White pathology. This concept, unsurprisingly, is pervasive across a world happy to avoid American finger-pointing.

I recently came across a real-life example of the equivocations denounced by Zizek here:

The article in the L.A. Times describes how Yulli Gurriel, a Cuban-born player mocking an Asian player by calling him “Chinito” and making explanatory facial gestures of what he meant. The Asian player in question is half-Japanese and half-Iranian but one understands Gurriel’s intent. Hell, he himself explained it, when he apologized, saying he was fully aware that calling somebody a “Chinito” is a time-tested way of demeaning (or trying to demean) a person of Asian descent in Hispanic culture (*).

The golden nugget in the L.A. Times, though, is here:

Some argued that for Gurriel, the gesture and epithet don’t carry the same level of animus as they do in the U.S., with its record of violence against Asian Americans and other people of color.

The argument is clear: for Gurriel, raised in the innocent swamps of Cuba, racism is not such a great deal. One can almost hear Jesus pleading for the poor Natives of Cuba:  “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” But Cultural Americans, no, don’t you dare forget about your record of violence against people of color!

In response to my tweet, I had a brief exchange in Facebook with a progressive friend, explaining my position; we quickly agreed, as seen here:

XXX: Not sure that’s the dumbest


David Román: It’s certainly the worst as it asserts superiority while asserting inferiority: that WASPs are uniquely evil creatures capable of evil undreamed of by the brown masses elsewhere; that everyone else is Pocahontas, living in a state of innocence and thus lacking in moral agency.

XXX: Yes, so racism 101
The point here is that “cultural Americans,” the creators of political correctness, really like to see themselves as the only actors in this movie, with everyone else as re-actors, extras, people to whom things are done, background. Zizek puts it thus in a footnote in his book In Defense of Lost Causes:
The politically correct vision enacts a weird reversal of racist hatred of Otherness—it stages a kind of mockingly Hegelian negation/sublation of openly racist dismissal and hatred of the Other, of the perception of the Other as the Enemy which poses a threat to our way of life. In the PC vision, the Other’s violence against us, deplorable and cruel as it may be, is always a reaction against the “original sin” of our (white man’s imperialist, colonialist, etc.) rejection and oppression of Otherness. We, white men, are responsible and guilty, the Other just reacts as a victim; we are to be condemned, the Other is to be understood; ours is a domain of morals (moral condemnation), whilst that of others involves sociology (social explanation). It is, of course, easy to discern how, beneath the mask of extreme self-humiliation and selfblame, such a stance of true ethical masochism repeats racism in its very form: although negative, the proverbial “white man’s burden” is still here—we, white men, are the subjects of History, whilst others ultimately react to our (mis)deeds. In other words, it is as if the true message of the PC moralistic self-blame is: if we can no longer be the model of democracy and civilization for the rest of the world, we can at least be the model of Evil.


OK, yes. But why?
Years ago, reading his book The Parallax View, I came across Zizek quoting Kevin MacDonald, an influential alt-right author who, in his book The Culture of Critique, blames this state of affairs–somewhat predictably–on the cultural influence of Jews (**). Zizek of course rejects MacDonald’s argument, but considers it important because it has soared as a catch-all explanation for social ills among the alt-right: Jews, for long a persecuted minority, came up with social justice, identity-tinged progressive politics to ensure there isn’t another Holocaust. The state of affairs where Jews were minorities in White countries isn’t satisfactory anymore, so Jewish elites have strived to develop, fund and push an ideology that considers (Goyim) Whiteness a moral stain that must be diluted as much as possible, thus opening up the door for mass immigration so that Jews have other minorities to ally with. This we may call “the MacDonald Argument.”


Reading rightist responses to this argument –there are many, especially in the U.S. where prominent Jews were associated with Republican administrations for decades–I found a very striking one in a most unexpected place: in the blog of Mencius Moldbug, a forebear of the modern alt-right movement who stopped blogging years ago.
Moldbug argues, very persuasively, that many of the pathologies afflicting modern progressive movements are not triggered by unlikely Jewish conspiracies, but the result of the intellectual influence of one of the very first strata of European settlement in North America: the Puritans.

Consider the facts: unlike Spanish priests obsessed with the lost souls who died pagan during the Conquest of the Americas, Puritans didn’t try to convert Indians; their only concern was always and at every turn their own soul. They were used to live in isolation from other people’s concerns, and they still are.

Puritans gave us this modern world of virtue-signalling and great shows of sacrifice and charity because, for Puritans, no sin is worthy of attention unless it’s a sin that impunges on themselves; as Moldbug put it back in 2007:

In Charles Royster’s excellent and only mildly neo-Unionist picture of the Civil War, The Destructive War, he mentions a foreign traveler in 1864 who asked some random American to explain the war. “It’s the conquest of America by Massachusetts,” was the answer. Massachusetts, of course, later went on to conquer first Europe and then the entire planet, the views of whose elites as of 2007 bear a surprisingly coincidental resemblance to those held at Harvard in 1945… (Ideology rarely is a conscious thought.) But it doesn’t need to be a conscious thought. It just needs to be adaptively successful. In other words, it just needs to work.



*My wife is Chinese, so my two sons, currently living and attending school in Madrid, are half-Chinese Spanish citizens with vaguely Asian features. They have often been called “Chinitos” by kids trying to put them down or unnerving them, and my eldest son, now nine, had two such incidents playing soccer just in recent days. That’s just the way of the world, I tell him, while encouraging to respond in force when needed. In any case, racism against black or half-black people remains worse by an order of magnitude or two.

**Since alt-rightists often point to higher average Jewish IQ as the driver for the multiple Jewish conspiracies they detect, wouldn’t it be more correct to describe “white supremacists” as “white inferiorists”?

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Una buena excusa para sacar banderas europeas

Esta foto, que llegó a la portada de algún periódico español, se ha convertido en quizá la peor imagen posible para el nacionalismo catalán:

ninos catalanes

Son niños pequeños que parecen estar bloqueando una autopista. Niños, prácticamente bebés. Es difícil imaginar algo más deleznable que poner a niños pequeños en primera línea de una disputa política: he cubierto muchas protestas y manifestaciones violentas y recuerdo que, siempre que hay problemas de verdad y se reparten porrazos, los que desaparecen más rápido son los padres con niños pequeños. Y luego los ancianos.

Te habrás fijado en lo que escribí, ¿no? “Que parecen estar bloqueando una autopista”. Porque hay dudas fundamentadas de que los niños estuvieran realmente bloqueando nada; parece ser que el grupo de gente que realmente bloqueaba la autopista estaba por delante de ellos, con lo que los niños no corrían ningún peligro. Pero esta película, como otras, va de imágenes, y al final queda esta imagen, buscada por ellos mismos, del plan genial del separatismo catalán: niños pequeños bloqueando una autopista, pidiendo la liberación de “presos políticos”.

El uso de ancianos en primera línea fue bien documentado durante el reférendum separatista del 1 de octubre, en el que las imágenes de ancianos arrastrados y detenidos por la policía lograron el objetivo que los organizadores habían pretendido al poner a los abueletes en primera línea: dar pena al público internacional.

Todo esto muestra que el conflicto catalán se ha convertido en el primer conflicto del todo posmoderno. Sin apenas auténtica violencia ni por un lado ni por el otro (un puñado de heridos leves el 1 de Octubre, después de todo), el procés está plenamente asentado en el terreno simbólico. Es significativo que una de las grandes imágenes que nos ha dejado es la de este ruso que le recuerda a los separatistas los peligros de quemar ruedas, con lo que ello implica: una salida del marco simbólico:

El ruso sabe de lo que habla: en el conflicto de Maidán en Ucrania en 2014, hubo mucho rollo posmoderno, mucha propaganda lacrimosa para extranjeros (guapas ucranianas hablando de la corrupción del gobierno prorruso, eslóganes en inglés para consumo de CNN…) pero al final salió el toque del Este, por así decirlo, y todo acabó en baños de sangre en Kiev y luego en Donbás. Y no ha muerto más gente sólo porque a Vladimir Putin no le interesa.

En Cataluña, crucemos los dedos, parece que no habrá baños de sangre, de momento. Parece que todo seguirá en el marco propagandístico-simbólico posmoderno, de momento. Pero que conste que la batalla de la propaganda la perderán los separatistas si se les ve tanto el plumero: ¡niños en medio de una autopista! Es obvio que las patologías abundan en el bando nacionalista, pero la idea debería ser mantenerlas bajo control, no exhibirlas de ese modo.

En 2015, estuve en Barcelona cubriendo la Diada de aquel año, y me chocó la imagen cívica, esplendorosa, de cientos de miles, tal vez más de un millón de catalanes, unidos por un ideal: un ideal estúpido y destructivo, pero un ideal. Niños, abuelos, padres, madres, jóvenes, rastas, pijos… Era algo impresionante.

Hablando con un colega del Wall Street Journal, me gustó su teoría sobre el subidón del separatismo catalán en la última década: él pensaba que en gran medida se debía a la posibilidad que hay en Cataluña, como en Escocia, de tener una tribu europea que exhibe orgullosa sus símbolos tribales, sus esteladas y sus morenetas, sin que la ideología dominante les llame nazis y supremacistas blancos.

Con la excusa del anti-españolismo, el catalanismo logra un hueco para refocilarse en los instintos más primitivos del ser humano, el instinto grupal, la pertenencia; pero, cuando ponen a sus propios niños en el altar del sacrificio, aunque sea sólo para la foto ilustrativa de su conflicto posmoderno, se nota un poco demasiado.



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Top 10 Misconceptions about Catalonia

This is a blog about propaganda, so it’s only natural that we look at how propaganda distorts current events, and the separatist crisis in Catalonia remains pretty current; as always, I will try to steer clear from politics as commonly perceived (this party rocks, that party sucks) and focus on how political intent shapes perceptions and ideas about this specific situation.

In my experience, these 10 misconceptions are particularly prevalent among non-Spaniards, which makes sense since most don’t really know that much about Spain. But many are also common among Spaniards.

1-The Catalan language was crushed during the Francoist dictatorship: after the Fascist victory in the 1936-1939 Spanish Civil War, Catalonia lost the devolved powers it had won during the previous II Republic (1931-1936). But, contrary to perhaps the most common misconception of all, the Catalan language was not banned or marginalized until Gen. Franco died in 1975. While Spanish became the sole official language for government business, Catalans were allowed to publish books in Catalan (and win multiple prizes for Catalan-language books), sing and record music in Catalan and even–after a first few years of official suspicion toward ‘peripheral’ languages–study Catalan in school. “La ferida luminosa,” a Catalan-language play written by Josep Maria de Sagarra, won the national prize for theater in 1955; the government used Catalan in propaganda posters for 25th anniversary of the end of the Civil War in 1964; El Quadern Gris, perhaps the pre-eminent work of Catalan literature in the XX century, was published in Spain in 1966; Joan Manuel Serrat sang in Catalan in Spanish national TV in 1968. For those who read Spanish, there are multiple evidences of Catalan cultural production during Francoism here. Bonus point: not only Catalan was relevant in popular music under Franco; multiple songs in the Galician language made the hit lists: I don’t recall any song in a regional language making the hit lists in Spain for decades since.

2-Catalonia has a long history as a separate kingdom before Spain was created: Catalonia was always perceived as a part of Hispania (in Latin) or Iberia (in Greek) in antiquity and, like Portugal, became part of the Spanish Visigothic kingdom until 711. Unlike Portugal, it never became a separate state from others in Spain: in the middle ages, it went from French protectorate to an assamblage of counties to a (very important) part of the Crown of Aragon. From the late XV century, both Castille and Aragon were ruled by Spanish kings, while Portugal remained independent save for a brief period in the XVII century.

3-Catalonia has a markedly different culture from that of (other parts of) Spain: Not really; I could give multiple examples, including cuisine, the habit of the siesta, an obsession with soccer, and the middle-class fascination with second homes and holidays in August, but I will stick to one: even as nationalist politicians managed to get bullfighting banned there about a decade ago, they did nothing against the (similarly cruel) bull runs which are popular throughout the region. if anything says “Spain” more than “running of the bulls,” I haven’t found it.

4-Catalonia has traditionally been more closely linked to the rest of Europe: After a brief period of prominence in the late middle ages, Barcelona became for centuries a backwater of little economic relevance, with only limited trade given its distance from the booming Atlantic routes. It was only in the 19th century that the city started to become the cultural and economic center it is now. Elites in Madrid and Seville, often well-traveled in the Americas or the rest of the Spanish empire, sometimes with relatives in other European countries (especially those related to Royals) were more cosmopolitan than the insular bourgeois of Barcelona, never mind the rural population of the rest of Catalonia.

5-Catalonia has long been mistreated by the central government in Madrid: Catalonia’s quick economic expansion in the late 19th century and early 20th century owed much to preferential government policies looking to favor the regions closer to France, the conduit towards central and northern Europe. Catalonia’s products were favored by tariffs that caused much grief to other parts of the Spanish economy (for example, agricultural producers). On specific points, it’s true that Catalans were ill-served by specific decisions on infrastructure spending but on the whole it’s hard to make the case for a systemic mistreatment (there’s a caveat to this, referring to fiscal transfers, see point 10).

6-Catalonia was a bastion of anti-Francoist sentiment: Catalonia wasn’t welcoming to Franco’s coup against the republic, with most Catalans siding with the republican authorities in Madrid to protect their self-government. Early in the war, the Catalan government–dominated by local nationalists–prioritized operations expanding its own territory in other Catalan-speaking areas in Spain, instead of joining an all-important offensive along the French border as requested by the Spanish government. Later, after the city of Madrid, almost encircled for over two years, conducted a long, against-the-odds resistance against Franco’s army, Barcelona fell to the rebels almost without opposition in the last offensive of the war. During Francoism, protests against the dictator were muted. If one had to look for the most anti-Franco region in Spain, that would have to be the Basque Country.

7-Big Ticket Catalans have always supported separatism: the musician Pau Casals was a separatist. The painter Dalí? Exactly the opposite. Gaudí, the architect? Nope. The most prominent Catalan-language writers of the 20th century, such as Eugenio D’Ors, Sagarra, Pla and Merce Rodoreda? No. Perhaps those who wrote in Spanish like Eduardo Mendoza and Juan Marsé? No.

8-Catalonia has a long history of separatism: this is half-true, since many if not most Catalans tried to break away from Spain in the XVII century and then again in the early XVIII century. But Catalan separatism was dormant for much of the period until a peak in the 1930s and the current crisis. So the misconception would be that there’s a long, uninterrupted history of resistance to “Spanish rule.”

9-Spain’s government sent Catalonia’s separatist leaders to prison in early November: there’s a separation of powers in Spain, so it was a specific judge in representation of the judiciary, not the government, that sent these politicians to prison, right or wrong.

10-Everything is fine in Catalonia and separatists are just a noisy minority with no complaints of merit: I’m not sure anyone espouses this view, but just in case: this is also a misconception. Catalan separatists make many valuable points, mostly about complex financing arrangements that boil down to a lot of taxpayer money being spent in poorer regions, often for a net loss to both the Catalans and the recipient. As in Italy, in Spain a  system has been developed that keeps southern regions as permanent recipients of funds, so that governments have plenty of patronage cash for sinecures and bridges to nowhere, disincentivizing real investment, while northern taxpayers grumble about lazy southerners who won’t wake up early to work. You can travel for hundreds of miles in southern Spain without stopping to pay; in Catalonia, tolls are everywhere. Many Catalans are correctly upset about this abuse and waste, and many believe that Catalonia has specific customs and ways of doing things that must be preserved, all of which is perfectly defensible and not a misconception.

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Recuerdos de mi visita al Ministerio de la Verdad de Cataluña: TV3

Hace ahora cuatro años que fui a Barcelona a reportar un artículo que planeaba escribir sobre TV3, que acabó resultando el más controvertido de mi carrera periodística (y lo dice alguien que entrevistó a Arnaldo Otegi cuando estaba encarcelado). El artículo fue eventualmente publicado en el Wall Street Journal, donde entonces trabajaba, en enero de 2014, y ahora está detrás de un paywall, aunque hay varios resúmenes en español, como por ejemplo éste.

Hablé con muchos profesionales de TV3 para el artículo, en persona y por teléfono. Creo que alguno que al final no salió citado en el texto quedó muy aliviado por la exclusión, y no me extraña, viendo cómo se las gastan en aquella casa y sus defensores. Después de publicar el artículo, en las redes sociales me pusieron a caldo y llamaron de madrugada a mi domicilio. Las intensas quejas de los mandamases de TV3 llegaron hasta el director del WSJ, Gerry Baker, que ordenó una investigación profunda en la que presenté todas mis notas y acabé felicitado por mi exactitud y diligencia. El artículo, obviamente, no fue corregido sólo porque el aparato de propaganda nacionalista gruñera.

Entre los mejores gruñidos estuvieron los del gabinete de comunicación de TV3, que alegó no haber sido contactado por mí (fue lo primero que hice, y ahora explicaré más sobre ellos) y los de los sindicatos de TV3, que alegaron que les cité incorrectamente o algo por el estilo (sus alegaciones fueron inconexas).

Que quede todo claro: el gabinete de comunicación no sólo fue contactado sino que me organizó un tour de las instalaciones de Sant Joan Despí, la reunión con los sindicatos y luego una reunión off-the-record con uno de los jefes de TV3 (no diré su nombre por ese motivo), ya en Madrid.

El tour, en sí mismo, habría merecido un artículo: cuando llegué, me hicieron esperar unos minutos en recepción mientras venían a buscarme. En la pantalla de televisión delante mío estaba un “loop” perpetuo de todos los goles de Leo Messi al Real Madrid, uno detrás de otro, y luego repetido. Yo, que soy del Atleti, me lo tomé bien.

Cuando me recibió la encargada de prensa de TV3, me explicó lo importante que era transmitir el mensaje en mi artículo de que TV3 era “una televisión nacional para una nueva nación”. Creo que quedó ligeramente decepcionada con el producto final. Me llevó a la reunión con los representantes sindicales, la lectura de cuyas notas es aún una fuente de asombro y sorpresa. En un momento dado, pregunté qué pensaban de la frecuente acusación de que TV3 no representa a los catalanes, sino al separatismo catalán, ya que muchos catalanes no son separatistas. La respuesta de una que hablaba mucho (y tampoco acabó saliendo en el artículo) fue:

-Bueno, no sabemos si hay gente que no sea nacionalista, porque no nos dejan hacer un referéndum y preguntar. Puede que haya un 20%, vale.  Queremos que esta TV refleje el país, y que ese 20% que se opone a la independencia también tenga su reflejo.

Supongo que ése podría ser un resumen del consenso de los empleados actuales (por supuesto, no de los que han echado por ser insuficientemente separatistas, durante años) en TV3: quizás haya un 20% de catalanes que no son separatistas, pero oye, no se puede hablar sin pruebas. En todo caso, si se les encontrara, les haríamos algún caso.

Hubo otras perlas en aquella larga reunión con los representantes sindicales, de casi dos horas. Cuando les pregunté sobre posibles voces disidentes, otra representante distinta me dijo algo que creo a pie juntillas:

-Si la dirección le dice algo con lo que no esté de acuerdo, aquí un periodista tarda tres minutos en ir a contárnoslo y nosotros tardamos un minuto en ir a quejarnos a la dirección.

Lo que estoy seguro que es verdad: cualquiera que sepa algo de propaganda sabe que la forma más efectiva de contarla es creérsela, para empezar. Unas semanas después, con la polémica aún coleando, me llamó la SER catalana para entrevistarme sobre el artículo. Me lanzaron unas preguntas blandas, y después la estocada: ¿pero no es cierto que en las televisiones españolas funciona el prejuicio opuesto, que las voces nacionalistas son marginadas? Yo les di la razón. Les dije que sí, que desde luego ya podrían aparecer más nacionalistas, en lugar de los típicos tertulianos, en los coloquios de las teles nacionales. Lo que es cierto.

Lo único que siento es que, ya que el artículo se refería específicamente a la manipulación política de TV3 y no en global a toda su programación, no pude escribir todo lo que es bueno sobre aquella casa. Como muchos, incluso los críticos, me comentaron, en un país donde Telecinco es aún líder de audiencia, da gusto poder ver una televisión con programas sobre cazadores de setas y la mínima cantidad posible de telebasura. Lo que es bueno en TV3 es muy bueno; el problema es que lo es malo es más tóxico que la basura nuclear.



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James Salter: the Writer’s Writer who betrayed all Writers (2)

I discussed how Salter achieved greatness in a previous post. This is about how he betrayed his gifts and fellow writers, and even literature, in his later years.

After The Hunters (1957) and the similarly-themed The Arm of Flesh (1961), Salter took up film writing, and then moved on to producing two carefully plot-less novels. The Hunter’s success was never replicated, but Salter came to convince himself that this had been his destiny all along: crafting pretty prose, striving for effect while describing the common place and the uninteresting.

His novels didn’t sell much, but he was very well reviewed by friends and acquaintances. He publicly derided his two air force novels, as not worthy of much attention. Many fellow novelists, I’m sure, were glad to see that the much-talented Salter had been reduced to writing up erotica (“A sport and a pastime,” a 1967 novel that was a personal favorite), and troubled marriages (“Light Years,” 1975).

In Light Years, the characters have literary-sounding names: Viri, Nedra, Franca. They conduct ponderous conversations about life, destiny and happiness. And they have literary-sounding jobs: architect, doctor, writer, psychologist.

There are no deputy-directors of public transportation for Neward, N.J., in Light Years, nor vicepresidents for life insurance claims. There are only people with deep thoughts who have simple job titles. Salter, the air force pilot, appears mildly confounded by just exactly how civilians go about their daily lives, but he never loses a chance to show his wonderful command of the English language, especially when such display is less needed. Take this paragraph:

 “They were in traffic, driving across town at five in the afternoon. The great mechanical river of which they were part moved slowly at the intersections and then more freely on the long transverse blocks. Nedra was doing her nails. At each red light, without a word, she handed him the bottle and painted one nail.”

This is written by a highly talented writer. The detail about Nedra doing her nails while slumping on the front seat, using her husband as bottle-holder when possible, is a brilliant way of showing her carefree, mildly irritating way of conducting herself. But notice how Salter wanted to be cute: wouldn’t the paragraph read much better like this?

 “They were in traffic, driving across town at five in the afternoon. The great mechanical river of which they were part moved slowly at the intersections and then more freely on the long transverse blocks. Nedra was doing her nails. At each red light, without a word, she handed him the bottle and painted one nail.”

Unnecessary addition of description is the late Salter’s trademark. It’s not really clear to me that Salter has anything newsworthy or relevant to say about traffic jams. The comparison with a river is cliched and lazy; the sentence is well-written, and flows very nicely: but the idea is, again, ponderous. It adds up to a surfeit of pointless verbiage.

Like The Hunters, Light Years has a simple story to tell: how Viri’s and Nedra’s marriage comes apart among recrimination and sleeping around, and how their children grow up to see it all. The story is just not as riveting or resounding as that of The Hunters. Failed marriages are much more humdrum than fighter-pilot careers during the Korean War, and many millions know as much about the subject as Salter, or even more.

The novel’s style is overkill; its most remarkable feature is the excessive deployment of precise, well-crafted language to describe bohemian burgeois types, a segment that was already mainstream in the 1970s and now accounts for a majority of the population in developed countries. Here, for example, Sailer describes Nedra as an aging, sick divorcee in her late forties being visited by one of her daughters. It’s great writing devoted to its own contemplation, looking to be unmoored from reality in order to become all the shinier:

“They had long lunches. They drove to the sea. They read Proust. In the house they went barelegged and without shoes, their limbs tan, their eyes the same gray, their lips smooth and pale. The calm days, companionship, the sun leached all care for them, left them content. One passed them in the morning. They were in the garden, a beautiful woman watering flowers, her daughter standing near her holding along her forearm and stroking slowly a long white cat. Or the house when they were gone: the windows silent, brief bathing suits spread on the woodbox, the robins with their dark heads and weathered bodies hurrying across the lawn.”

It’s a sad reflection on Salter’s talent that Light Years reads like a particularly uneventful, slow-moving episode of the 1960s-themed TV show Mad Men, with much of the wit cut out in the final edit.

In 1979, Salter published Solo Faces, a bit of a return to form, a novel about mountain climbing that has an actual plot. It was too late to turn his fortunes around and take him out of the “writer’s writer” box, though.

All the same, it’s a sign that, in the end, Salter understood. He had this to say, in the 1997 preface to my edition of The Hunters (the Yalu is a large river in Korea):




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