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Archive for October, 2018

huggablekaiju:

historium:

“Let them die in the streets” USA, 1990

This is a Gran Fury piece for ACT-UP. Landlords were evicting AIDS victims (and had been for years.) There were no legal protections to stop this, and AIDS was such a great stigma that these people were largely being erased.

ACT-UP installed an enamel sign in Petrosino Square, NYC.

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“The lesbian and gay community has been particularly susceptible to random “picking off,” a form of terrorism that makes […] a particularly effective deterrent to above-ground organizing. Bars frequented by lesbians and gay men have always been subjected to police raids where customers are beaten up by recreational pugilists who lie in wait for their gay prey. To many lesbian and gay organizers (particularly middle-class ones with greater access to private spaces, such as apartments) bars were bad for the lesbian/gay community because they encouraged alcoholism. Bars have promoted destructive individual patterns, but even in the largest cities entering a lesbian or gay bar is an act of self-declaration, and a necessary social focus for lesbians or gay men who have nowhere else to meet.

Bars and baths have been particularly subject to fires, a bizarre hazard wrought by the inadequacy of rundown facilities. Like the media image of black rioters in the 1960s who were portrayed as self-destructively burning their own ghettos, local media hype the angle that disgruntled customers or just crazy lesbian/gays have burned up their own spaces. Within the criminal justice system, lesbians/gays are labeled firebugs, vindictive and vicious people who attack their own community.

Persistent media images (including the controversial movie Cruising) make much of the supposedly “repressed” or self-hating gay man and his potential for destroying other gay men. Society is not blamed for driving gay men crazy, and lesbians and gay men, presumably programmed for self-destruction, are imagined to be doing each other in. […] The lesbian/gay community fights back against disasters perpetrated by negligence or active attack with a veritable “Red Cross” volunteer effort. When gay or lesbian churches, bars, or other establishments have been destroyed, furniture, food, money, clothing, and solace appear without even a request, with the donations coming from all segments of the community. There is a regenerative quality to lesbian and gay “institutions” that transcends the physical space. Amy Hoffman, speaking on behalf of Boston’s Gay Community News after their 1982 fire — set by a ring of ex-firemen from Boston — summed up the ethos of community: “We still have ourselves.”

Lesbians and gay men know that, like any marginal community, theirs is at the mercy of property-owners who would be happy to cash in their insurance policy at their expense. Yet, the image of self-destruction that is part of every U.S. lesbian and gay man’s socialization makes each “victim” wonder whether one of “us” may have done it.”

— Cindy Patton, Sex and Germs: The Politics of AIDS (1985), Ch. 11

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“The interpretation of fascism as an instrument of big business has been classic since Daniel Guerin. But the seriousness of his analysis conceals a central error. Most of the “marxist” studies maintain the idea that, in spite of everything, fascism was avoidable in 1922 or 1933. Fascism is reduced to a weapon used by capitalism at a certain moment. According to these studies capitalism would not have turned to fascism if the workers’ movement had exercised sufficient pressure rather than displaying its sectarianism. Of course we wouldn’t have had a “revolution”, but at least Europe would have been spared Nazism, the camps, etc. Despite some very accurate observations on social classes, the State, and the connection between fascism and big business, this perspective succeeds in missing the point that fascism was the product of a double failure; the defeat of the revolutionaries who were crushed by the social democrats and their liberal allies; followed by the failure of the liberals and social democrats to manage Capital effectively. The nature of fascism and its rise to power remain incomprehensible without studying the class struggles of the preceding period and their limitations.”

– Gilles Dauve, Fascism/Antifascism. Translation of 

« Bilan » Contre-Révolution en Espagne. Edmonton, Black Cat Press: 1982. 

(via forestrebel)

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01:56 Matt: I’m noticing that you’re saying segregation, you’re not saying solitary.

02:00 Lisa: So the technical official language in the legislation is segregation. To me, it’s a synonym. Solitary confinement, as we’ve known it in Canada, is synonymous with what is endorsed in the legislation as administrative or disciplinary segregation. And there were many years where Corrections took the position, “Well, we don’t have solitary confinement in Canada, that’s nowhere in our legislation. That’s an American practice, that’s not something we do.” Thankfully, that battle is behind us at this point, and there’s no doubt that this government accepts that we have been doing, what is effectively solitary confinement and that is this practice of keeping people in cells for 23 hours a day and subjecting them to sensory deprivation, social isolation, occupational deprivation, and there’s of course now a large literature on the mental and physical harms that flow from that level of isolation.

02:58 Matt: But I mean… And I guess, again, naive and largely informed by a lifetime spent in pop culture. I’ve always just kind of thought that solitary was for the worst of the worst. It’s how you… It’s where you put the people who are super bad.

03:10 Lisa: It’s a common presumption that anyone who gets thrown in the hole is the worst of the worst. And at this point, what we’re… What is very clear from the empirical evidence is that people with mental health problems are actually vulnerable to being placed in segregation. Why is that? Because they’re the ones who often have a difficult time managing in the general prison population. So general population is quite a demanding environment, socially speaking. You have to be able to navigate complex social arrangements, you have to be able to manage friendships in complex ways, in ways that in ordinary society we’re really not put to challenges like that, you have to manage your relationships with correctional officers and do all of this amid conditions of serious social deprivation.

04:02 Lisa: So people with mental health challenges often don’t do well in the prison context, and so they’re at risk because for correctional officers, they have to somehow manage, manage the prisoner society, and so where people are having difficulties there’s only so many resources and options that correctional officers have, and in recent decades placing someone in a solitary cell, is one way of dealing with the problem. But of course, people with mental health problems are not the worst of the worst, far from it, they’re people who need more meaningful social supports and more meaningful programs and interventions than other inmates. And so this has been one of the real dysfunctions of the use of solitary is that the mentally ill are at risk of being placed there, at more risk than other inmate groups, and the effects of solitary are more severe on them.

04:55 Matt: Then that raises… Just to put a fine point on it. You don’t get sentenced to solitary. When you get sent to prison, the judge doesn’t say, “I’m sentencing you to solitary.” It’s just he sends you to prison. And segregation is an administrative decision.

05:09 Lisa: That’s such an important point, it’s absolutely correct. The sentencing judge has no idea whether the person before them is going to serve their time in solitary or not. And in fact, I think if a sentencing judge were aware of this issue it may actually impact their decision not only whether to sentence you to custody, but what the length of that sentence should be, given that it’s a much more severe form of state punishment. So it’s true, the reasons you get placed in solitary have nothing to do with the offence you’re convicted of. And I do think this gives rise to real problems in terms of the proportionality of punishment in our system. I think the most famous case in Canada, and the case that really activated a national consciousness around this issue is the case of Ashley Smith, and she was of course 19 years old when she died in a segregation cell having been held there for many months and Ashley Smith had committed no remotely serious criminal conduct in the community. When she was placed in juvenile custody, she’d done nothing more than throw crab apples at a postal worker. She had difficulties as a young person, no question, but nothing resembling serious criminal conduct, and yet she was subjected to the most severe form of state punishment in our system.

06:32 Matt: So, and this sounds like… You were alluding to this earlier, it’s… It is an overstressed and in some cases probably not that well-trained system in terms of people making this decision as something they see as a tool in the toolbox and not necessarily understanding how to use it in the most appropriate way.

06:50 Lisa: Well, sure, it’s one of the only tools in the toolbox, and that is… I think this new legislation that the Federal Liberal Party have just tabled. You can see indications in this legislation that we’re gonna listen more to healthcare professionals commenting on whether a segregation placement is appropriate or what’s called these placement in these structured intervention units that the new legislation talks about. And so I think there is a growing recognition that this has been one of the only tools in the toolbox for correctional officers and that we need to move away from it, particularly where it has negative health effects and that we need to invest more in our system to delivering interventions and programs that might assist inmates rather than placing them in segregation and seeing their condition and personality deteriorate.

07:50 Matt: So let’s talk a bit about the new legislation. What’s in it?

07:55 Lisa: Well, the main… It’s interesting, there’s been a couple of… This is now the second draft bill we’ve seen in a year from the liberals, so they’ve taken a couple of different sort of shots at this, and this new bill is really a different approach than what we’ve seen before. Previously over the last couple of years the Liberals have added some procedural protections for those placed in segregation, so some limits on reviews and the timing and so on. Whereas this new bill you’re hearing the Minister of Public Safety, Ralph Goodale, promote this bill by saying that it’s really about ending solitary. And in a significant sense, it does do that.

08:35 Lisa: So, the sections in the prison legislation that allowed administrative segregation, which was sort of the most nefarious practice of segregation, those provisions are repealed under this legislation; would be repealed. So the word segregation will no longer even appear in the legislation, they are replaced with what’s called legislation that allows the use of what’s called “structured intervention units” and the really important change here is that inmates who are placed in these units… No, inmates can still be separated from the general prison population and for the same reasons as before, but now they’ll be entitled to get out of their cells each day for a minimum of four hours, and for two of those four hours it has to be for some sort of meaningful social contact or intervention. So there’s still problems with this new bill and there’s critics who are already asking whether it’s gonna be segregation by a new name or segregation light. But I think it’s significant to really change the sort of culture around just abandoning someone in a cell for 23 hours a day and instead saying every human being in our prison system is entitled to contact with other people and to some form of programming and to be out of their cells for at least a few hours a day. I think that’s an important shift, and this legislation promises to do that.

10:04 Matt: So do you think it will pass?

10:08 Lisa: I do, I think that… I think this government… I mean I’m not an insider in the legislative process, but from what I hear, this government is committed to getting this legislation passed before the election and they really do, I think, want to be the government that ends solitary confinement and that implements, in some way at least, the inquest recommendations following the death of Ashley Smith. They’re also facing two major charter lawsuits that are now set to be heard in provincial courts of appeal in Ontario and British Columbia. And the the legal effect of the judgements that we’ve already had in those cases are that the current provisions that allow administrative segregation, are set to fall, they’ve been declared unconstitutional. There’s been a sort of delay in the effect of those judgements to give government a chance to respond, but those provisions are soon going to be void.

11:10 Matt: Right?

11:10 Lisa: So, the government really did have to act, given that that litigation is… The results of that litigation.

11:18 Matt: So this is a bit kind of spinning, at the end of the day. They’re sort of getting ahead of it and saying, “Look, we’re doing something great,” when kind of the writing was already on the wall, and they were gonna be put in that position regardless, right?

11:28 Lisa: Look, they’re government, they’re government, they’re trying to do multiple things at a time and they’re always… And they’re always having to choose what priorities they have, at any given time. This government when it came to power in those mandate letters that were released from the Prime Minister to his various ministers, they said the Public Safety Minister was directed to implement the Ashley Smith recommendations, did they work on that on day two? No. But it’s not surprising that, especially when it comes to prisoner rights, this is not a… Prisoners aren’t a group that most government spend time working for, unfortunately, they’re a very marginalized voiceless population, so it’s not surprising that pushing through with lawsuits even when we had a government that indicated willingness to reform was still hugely necessary in pushing this to the top of the list. Public Safety Minister is probably one of the busiest ministers in this government and I think that it’s understandable that it took… That it took ongoing pressure to push this legislation to the top of his to do list.

– Matt Shepherd and Lisa Kerr, “A LOOK INSIDE SOLITARY (AND THE PROMISE OF REFORM).” Queen’s University Law Podcast Series. October 29, 2018.

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“It happened on Parshat Vayera. The worst anti-Semitic attack in American history occurred while Jews around the world were reading the Torah portion that tells the story of Lot, an immigrant.

Lot moves to Sodom, and prospers there. The Midrash says he becomes a judge. His daughters intermarry with the locals. Then one day, while sitting at the gates of the city, the assimilating immigrant sees two strangers approach. He asks them to “spend the night and bathe your feet”— the Midrash says he learned to welcome strangers from his uncle Abraham, the first Jew. Lot “prepares them a feast.”

But in Sodom, the natives hate strangers. “Where are the men who came to you tonight?” they demand. “Bring them out to us.” Lot tries to protect his guests. “I beg you friends,” he implores, “do not commit such a wrong.” For the men of Sodom, however, this just underscores Lot’s foreignness. He hasn’t really assimilated; he isn’t one of them. He’s a threat. “The fellow came here an immigrant and already acts the ruler,” they declare. “Now we will deal worse with you than with them.” […] Obviously, America is not Sodom. But Bowers tried to harm Jews, at least in part, for the same reason the men of that ancient city tried to harm Lot: Because Jews were welcoming strangers. Instead of assimilating into a culture suffused with anti-immigrant hatred, HIAS — which was founded to help Jewish immigrants to the United States —now assists immigrants and refugees from across the world. […]

For Jews, the lesson of yesterday’s massacre is very simple and very old: Protecting the strangers among us is not charity. It is self-defense. Every time Jews defend the right of American Muslims to follow sharia, we protect our right to follow halacha. Every time Jews reject politicians who demonize Latinos we make it less likely that those politicians will demonize us. “Hate them, not us” is a losing strategy because once empowered, bigots widen their targets. For people who define America as a white Christian nation, Jews will never be white enough.

Robert Bowers accused Jews of “bringing” Muslims and refugees to the United States. To him and all the other white nationalists Trump has emboldened, our answer should be: Damn right. We will demand a humane policy for people seeking refuge in the United States and defend those immigrants — no matter their race or faith — who are already here.”

– Peter Beinart, “Hate That Drove Pittsburgh Shooter — And Trump.” Forward, October 28, 2018.

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“One common accusation leveled against Latour is that he promotes a more or less neoliberal, market-driven ontology in which all things are actors who meet on equal footing in order to exchange, translate, arbitrate, and indeed flesh out their very existence. To these accusers Latour’s chief flaw is a political one, for at best he abstains from the political question by naturalizing it, and at worst he unwittingly assists the dominant ideology by endorsing and recapitulating it. I’ll admit I’m persuaded by such accusations, and find Latour’s work shallow because of them. But it is one thing to crab and complain about one’s political enemies. It is another thing to investigate why such positions are malformed. So let’s suppress the epithets for the moment–bourgeois, neoliberal, Hobbesian, or otherwise–and instead try to clarify Latour’s chief defect. Hint: it has nothing to do with the postmodernism wars or the veracity of scientific fact.

Latour still believes the old myth that systems are disruptive of hierarchies, that bazaars are better than cathedrals, that networks corrode the power of the sovereign, that markets are the most natural, most democratic, and most scientifically accurate heuristic for redistributing and indeed defining knowledge. Such claims are often necessary to make, and are often true within a certain limited arena. Yet Latour is unable or unwilling to move beyond them, to take the ultimate step and acknowledge the historicity of networks. Such a step requires a number of things, but most importantly it requires an acknowledgement of the special relationship between networks and the industrial infrastructure, a relationship that began in the middle twentieth century and has become dominant now after the turn of the millennium. On this score, then, Latour has never been postmodern, not that he ever wanted to be. (He is, like Deleuze, often inaccurately lumped into that tradition.) Latour has never been postmodern because he won’t admit the contingency of one particular grand narrative, systematicity. He would never agree that there is an historical phase “after decentralization” has taken place. And even if we might convince him of such an historical periodization, he would not likely agree that this new reticular infrastructure should itself be the object of criticism. Latour views the reticular infrastructure as the real world, literally and explicitly.”

– Alexander R. Galloway, “Theory Hot and Cold.” Culture & Communication, October 28, 2018.

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Christopher Lasch, The Culture of Narcissism: American Life in an Age of Diminishing Expectations. New York: W. W. Norton, 1979.

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