There is something deeply propagandistic in the disappearance of the notion of propaganda from artistic discourse. The word only resurfaces bluntly to dismiss certain practices as one-dimensional, as pamphletism, or as ideological and doctrinal. In our capitalist-democratic age, art is merely expected to “hold up mirrors,” to “ask questions,” and to show the ambiguities of our existence. As Hito Steyerl succinctly stated: “If contemporary art is the answer, the question is: How can capitalism be made more beautiful?” Art’s answer comes precisely in the form of a permanent critical questioning insulated from affecting the foundation of violent exploitation that sustains the capitalist-democratic doctrine.
The disappearance of the notion of propaganda is the result of a delicate ideological operation meant to obscure the fact that modern propaganda was developed by capitalist-democratic countries, rather than by so-called totalitarian ones. Our unwillingness to speak of art as propaganda proves the success of this operation.

This take on institutional critique has obviously not been shared by many, and the consequence has been that our conception of propagandistic art has been restricted to so-called totalitarian regimes, including Fascist Italy and Maoist China. Only when hysterical musicals and posters slip through the North Korean border is the word “propaganda” used in a more or less serious manner, yet always with the full conviction that only the most brainwashed of people could be susceptible to the manipulative force of this kind of imagery. This is what I refer to as “propaganda’s propaganda”: the absolute conviction of inhabitants of democratism that their world is lucid, whereas the poor, underdeveloped subjects of Kim Jong-un still naively gather in celebration around images of happy factory workers and peasants. Apart from this being a grave misunderstanding of those subjected to this type of imagery, it is exactly this logic that structures democratist propaganda par excellence: the belief that we are somehow “beyond” propaganda. The idea that there is a clear and absolute historical distinction between totalitarianism and democracy is the core of propaganda’s propaganda.

—  Jonas Staal - Art. Democratism. Propaganda.

[…] neoliberalism heralds [a shift] from relatively differentiated moral, economic, and political rationalities and venues in liberal democratic orders to their discursive and practical integration. Neoliberal governmentality undermines the relative autonomy of certain institutions — law, elections, the police, the public sphere — from one another and from the market, an independence that formerly sustained an interval and a tension between a capitalist political economy and a liberal democratic political system. The implications of this transformation are significant. Herbert Marcuse worried about the loss of a dialectical opposition within capitalism when it “delivers the goods” — that is, when, by the mid–twentieth century, a relatively complacent middle class had taken the place of the hardlaboring impoverished masses Marx depicted as the negating contradiction to the concentrated wealth of capital — but neoliberalism entails the erosion of oppositional political, moral, or subjective claims located outside capitalist rationality yet inside liberal democratic society, that is, the erosion of institutions, venues, and values organized by nonmarket rationalities in democracies. When democratic principles of governance, civil codes, and even religious morality are submitted to economic calculation, when no value or good stands outside of this calculus, then sources of opposition to, and mere modulation of, capitalist rationality disappear. This reminds us that however much a left analysis has identified a liberal political order with legitimating, cloaking, and mystifying the stratifications of society achieved by capitalism (and achieved as well by racial, sexual, and gender superordinations), it is also the case that liberal democratic principles of governance — liberalism as a political doctrine — have functioned as something of an antagonist to these stratifications. As Marx himself argued in “On the Jewish Question,” formal political principles of equality and freedom (with their attendant promises of individual autonomy and dignity) figure an alternative vision of humanity and alternative social and moral referents to those of the capitalist order within which they are asserted. This is the Janus-face or at least Janus-potential of liberal democracy vis-à-vis a capitalist economy: while liberal democracy encodes, reflects, and legitimates capitalist social relations, it simultaneously resists, counters, and tempers them. 

Put simply, what liberal democracy has provided over the past two centuries is a modest ethical gap between economy and polity. Even as liberal democracy converges with many capitalist values (property rights, individualism, Hobbesian assumptions underneath all contracts, etc.), the formal distinction it establishes between moral and political principles on the one hand and the economic order on the other has also served to insulate citizens against the ghastliness of life exhaustively ordered by the market and measured by market values. It is this gap that a neoliberal political rationality closes as it submits every aspect of political and social life to economic calculation: asking not, for example, what liberal constitutionalism stands for, what moral or political values it protects and preserves, but rather what efficacy or profitability constitutionalism promotes … or interdicts.

Wendy Brown, “Neo-liberalism and the End of Liberal Democracy,” Theory & Event, Vol.7, No.1 (2003), pg.8-9

Daily reminder that the United States is prosperous and existing as it is today only because of the exploitation, destruction, and theft of resources, governments, and people from Central American, Carribbean American, South American, Indigenous North American, African, Southwest, Southeast, and Eastern Asian countries, nations, confederations, and tribes all throughout North American history to today.

America only became great from the destruction, enslavement, and manipulation of others.

And no matter who’s in charge of the nation, this trend will always continue.

Twice I’ve seen up close the face of death: when I was tortured for days on end and submitted to cruelties that would make one question humanity and the meaning of life itself; and [again] when a serious and extremely painful disease could have cut short my existence. Today, I only fear for the death of Democracy.
—  Dilma Rousseff, President of Brazil, on her Impeachment trial.

When Donald Trump claimed, “the election’s going to be rigged,” he wasn’t entirely wrong. But the threat was not, as Trump warned, from Americans committing the crime of “voting many, many times.” What’s far more likely to undermine democracy in November is the culmination of a decade-long Republican effort to disenfranchise voters under the guise of battling voter fraud. 

The latest tool: Election officials in more than two dozen states have compiled lists of citizens whom they allege could be registered in more than one state – thus potentially able to cast multiple ballots – and eligible to be purged from the voter rolls. [Rolling Stone]

So, there’s something called the Interstate Voter Registration Crosscheck Program that’s supposed to ensure that people aren’t registered to vote in multiple states. Sounds fair! (It’s important to note, though, that the number of people charged with double voting in any election is remarkably low compared to the paranoid fantasies of Republicans. But, okay, eliminating voter fraud is good.)

If you’re searching huge databases of voters for duplicates, common sense would tell you that you should check against several fields like first, middle, and last name, birth date, and the last four digits of a Social Security number. This is what they claim to do.

Investigative reporter Greg Palast got his hands on some of these Crosscheck lists, and you won’t believe what happened next:

  • “We found that one-fourth of the names on the list actually lacked a middle-name match. The system can also mistakenly identify fathers and sons as the same voter, ignoring designations of Jr. and Sr.”
  • “According to Crosscheck, James Willie Brown is supposed to be the same voter as James Arthur Brown. James Clifford Brown is allegedly the same voter as James Lynn Brown.”
  • “The Crosscheck instruction manual says that ‘Social Security numbers are included for verification; the numbers might or might not match.’”
  • “Statistical analysis found that African-American, Latino and Asian names predominate, a simple result of the Crosscheck matching process, which spews out little more than a bunch of common names. The U.S. Census data shows that minorities are overrepresented in 85 of 100 of the most common last names.”
  • In Virginia, “a stunning 41,637 names were 'canceled’ from voter rolls.”

If you’re flagged as a “match” (i.e. not actually a match at all in many cases), the state sends you a postcard to confirm your info and send back. If you miss this, or you forget, or it gets lost, or you moved, or your dog eats it, or it never gets delivered: You’re off the voter rolls.

Fucking sigh.

The worst part of this is that it’s the same scheme used in Florida in the 2000 election. The state paid a private company $4 million to “cleanse” the voter rolls of felons (who can’t vote), but their matching came up with 12,000 false-positives, based only on last names and other data weirdness. African-Americans were disproportionally targeted by this system, and 93 percent of African-Americans in Florida voted for Al Gore.

Bush officially won Florida by 537 votes after the Supreme Court stopped recounts. 537.

Fucking sigh again. 

Don’t get mad, get registered to vote.

Your homework
To confirm your voter registration status, start with the website for your state’s Board of Elections. can help you get there. If you’re not registered, start the process now so you’re all official in time.

You should vote for the candidate who you think would make a good president. Not a lesser of two evils. When you vote for someone just because you perceive them to be better than the other most popular candidate, you’re being dishonest, and you’re ultimately hurting democracy. I’m going to go on record and say voting for someone you don’t actually want as president is immoral. You’re not making your voice heard if you vote for someone who you don’t actually want to be president. We only live in a two party system for as long as people allow for such a system to thrive. You can change it. You just have to stop being so afraid of losing.

Turkey's military coup explained in under 500 words by Zack Beauchamp

On Friday afternoon, an as-yet unidentified faction of the Turkish military launched a coup attempt aimed at toppling President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government.

The coup leaders, claiming to speak for the entire Turkish Armed Forces, said they’d done so in the name of protecting democracy — despite the fact that Erdogan and his party were democratically elected.

“Turkish Armed Forces have completely taken over the administration of the country to reinstate constitutional order, human rights and freedom,” the statement said.

This may sound crazy to American ears, but it makes at least a little sense in the Turkish context. The modern Turkish Republic was founded in 1923 by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, a former military officer deeply committed to a form of democratic nationalism and hardline secularism now called Kemalism.

The Turkish military sees itself as the guardian of Kemalism, and has overthrown four Turkish governments since 1960 in the name of protecting Turkey’s democracy from chaos and Islamic influence. Each time afterwards, the military has returned the country to democracy — though in a degraded form.

Erdogan is clearly a threat to Turkish democracy and secularism. He leads the AKP, a moderate Islamist party that has “reformed” Turkish schools along Islamist lines. He’s cracked down on Turkey’s freedom of the press and pushed constitutional changes that would consolidate dangerous amounts of power in the president’s hands.

The military had been shockingly quiet about these developments in recent years, leading many to believe that Erdogan had successfully cowed them into submission. But this coup attempt suggests — given the stated rationale of the coup-launchers — that some in the military are taking up its traditional role as enforcers of Kemalist orthodoxy.

Yet it’s looking likely they’ll fail. According to Naunihal Singh, a political scientist at the Air War College, coups tend to succeed when their leaders convince other members of the military that they will inevitably succeed. If people think resistance is futile, even regime loyalists will just go with the flow.

That doesn’t appear to be happening. Reports on the ground in Turkey suggest that large portions of the military have sided with Erdogan. So, too, have street demonstrators and leading politicians — including Erdogan opponents. The New York Times reports that Erdogan has returned to Istanbul, which he wouldn’t do unless it was safe.

It’s early still, but these are all signals that the coup hasn’t successfully created the perception of inevitability — which means the armed forces will remain divided, and the coup will likely fail.

Ironically, this could help Erdogan’s quest for authoritarian control in Turkey. If he is perceived as the defender of Turkish civilian government, his popularity could well soar. He could leverage this popularity into votes in Turkey’s parliament for constitutional changes granting him extraordinary powers, his longtime objective.

If that happens, the coup leaders may have doubly failed. They will have failed to seize control of Turkey’s government and failed to defend Kemalism from its greatest enemy in a generation.