Monday, May 27, 2013

Uncovering Real Conspiracies

Illuminati?  Prove it.

I don't buy into the Mega–Conspiracy theory that states one organization at the top controls almost every little detail below; everything is planned, there is no "accidental" history.

There is what I call the free marketplace of conspiracies, large and small ones that can overlap, work with or against each other depending upon circumstances.

The book, Subversives: The FBI's War on Student Radicals, and Reagan's Rise to Power (2012), is based upon secret material investigative reporter Seth Rosenfeld pried lose from the FBI through FOIA (Freedom of Information Act).  He documents what was really going on behind the scenes in the 1960s with the Free Speech Movement at the University of California, Berkeley.

At that time Governor Ronald Reagan was working with FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover to suppress the student protests.  They didn't like university president Clark Kerr who they perceived wasn't standing up to the students, a liberal allowing lawlessness to reign.

The book shows how Reagan perfected the technique of the bogeyman threat, manipulating public opinion to the point that some believed the evil commies were on the verge of taking over.  Typical FUD: fear, uncertainty and doubt.  The same tactics he used during his presidency with the "Evil Empire," the Soviet Union.

In Subversives Governor Reagan is quoted from a speech before a conservative group in which he demonized all the protesters.

"What is going on in Berkeley," he said, "is not a threat to our youth but a menace to our whole land."  He claimed that "anarchists" were using the issue of academic freedom to create trouble.

Rosenfeld mentions that Reagan, a former Hollywood actor, had hosted a TV series sponsored by the Boraxo soap company. On one occasion a Berkeley city official warned Reagan that if he didn't change his tactics, blood would be on his hands.

Reagan replied: "I'll wash if off with Boraxo."

Keep that in mind when conservatives continue to engage in hagiography, trying to make Reagan into a kindly saint, one of the greatest presidents who ever walked the earth.

Speaking of notable quotes, during the Vietnam War this phrase was invoked by an US military official:  "To save the village we had to destroy it."

And during the Free Speech Movement, Reagan and Hoover believed that to save American democracy democratic rights had to be destroyed.  Rosenfeld through his dogged efforts over the years with FOIA and his lawsuits shows how governmental officials engaged in such unjustified (and unAmerican) methods as media snitches, agent provocateur tactics, illegal break–ins and planting phony news items.

Subversives details overlapping conspiracies by Reagan, Hoover, and even the local police.  Some of their attempts failed, others were successful.

There are too many to detail but to briefly discuss a couple...

The police used excessive force when handling one protest over the People's Park, an abandoned plot in Berkeley that activists cleaned up and made into a neighborhood gathering place.  Officials wanted to take back control of the plot.  Early one morning the police converged on the park to kick out the occupiers.  

This was an opportunity to put into practice some of the training in a program called Cable Splicer that was created to handle demonstrations that turned violent. 

Of course the confrontation over the community park did turn violent when word spread the police had seized it and later that day demonstrators marched towards the spot.  Some protesters did go too far, throwing rocks, bottles, whatever, at the police.  But that violence didn't entitle the police to overreact, lashing out at everyone, and then attempt to cover up mistakes.

The police were issued both birdshot and buckshot with their shotguns.  During the ongoing clash they indiscriminately fired on protesters and innocent bystanders.  Among the innocent bystanders one man lost three fingers, a second one his eyesight, and a third his life.  Just before he was shot the permanently blinded victim had been watching from a rooftop, shouting at someone on another building not to throw rocks.

So much for Cable Splicer for arresting the guilty while protecting the innocent.

During another demonstration the police made a massive sweep, arresting everyone in sight, including innocent bystanders.  The arrestees were illegally detained by the police at the Santa Rita Jail and Prison Farm, some of them beaten for no reason.

Officials denied that they had overreacted or broke the law.  One police official, the sheriff, tried to lie his way out of buckshot being used on civilians which resulted in serious injuries and one death.  Investigations were made but in most cases justice didn't prevail. 

Nothing has changed, this crap still goes on today.

But you don't need the undocumented existence of the modern Illuminati, the favorite phantom menace of the extreme left and the ultra-right, to explain why unjust acts by officials occur.  Reality is messy, involving a lot of details.  Believing in the Mega–Conspiracy does make complex issues simple to handle.  Too simple.

Seeing the world as only Us Versus Them – no shades of gray – is falling into a trap, especially if someone is barnbrushing a general group – e.g., liberals, demonstrators, activists – into a convenient mislabel like Ronald Reagan did with the "evil commie anarchists" bogeyman.

Wednesday, May 01, 2013

Papernet Blasphemy: Tablet Habit

Some zine creators who still work mainly with dead trees call their medium the papernet, a response to the popularity of the internet.

I have no problem switching between mediums, using either paper or photons.

There are those who in paperzinedom who see the internet as a threat.  I don't.

And there are a few who see the internet as the only way to communicate.  I don't.

But the world of hardcopy isn't as important as it was in the past.  Digital offers benefits that paper can't match.

I managed to save up enough money to finally buy a computer tablet (an Android, not Apple; I'm not a yuppie or have yuppie funds).   It's a seven inch tablet, portable and lightweight enough that I can easily take it with me to a wi-fi spot to download articles and posts from the Web.  Later I can lie in bed and read all the stuff as if it was contained in a large but thin paperback book.

Now I have less print-outs adding to the mass of material that is taking over my apartment.  In the past I tried to cut down on print-outs but I have problems at times reading from a computer screen.  Digital reading with the tablet has become more personal, comfortable.

I read an observation that a new generation is being created, one that doesn't have to own so many physical objects: music CDs, books, magazines, etc.  Now you can store most of your entertainment and information digitally in a tablet, notebook, or portable external harddrive.  And there is also the cloud, online storage you can access almost anywhere.

With the lousy ever-shifting job market it's easier to move elsewhere without dragging tons of physical possessions along.  And unless the job market changes to better paying jobs providing steady employment in one location, what you will see is a nation of digital gypsies moving from place to place with fewer tangible possessions.

Is my tablet perfect?  Of course not.  It does act up at times; the touchscreen can be touchy.  But I use it every day to gather files and read them later.

That said, it's still good to read a plain paper zine, taking a break from the glowing screen.  You don't have to in plug a hardcopy for recharging when its power gets low.