I Wish Trump Was a Russian Puppet

The Huffington Post, known for its great journalism (sarcasm), has been publishing total bullshit lately (not sarcasm) on Russia.

Let’s break this down though, because it’s mostly been just two journalists: Nick Robins-Early and David Wood.

They don’t know what the hell they’re talking about, but they’re certainly determined to make sure that everyone hears their ignorant opinions.

Nick Robins-Early wrote this piece, where he said that the photo is banned, which isn’t true, but rather the photo with the homophobic comment is banned. In this situation, I actually support the Russian government.

I’d like the Russian government to do more to ban homophobic language on the internet. I don’t think it does enough.

Then there’s this:

Which asks the important (sarcasm) question, why does Russia support the government of Syria? It fails to ask the important question, why doesn’t everybody? Why the fuck is Trump bombing Shayrat Airbase and groups fighting alongside the Syrian government?

 

Robins-Early also wrote this.

Which is all about poor Navalny (sarcasm) who was sentenced to jail for his bullshit. Navalny is considered to be an oppositionist in Russia, so he receives infinite support from the West. The thing that no one tells you is that Putin is to the left of Navalny, who was fond of describing Georgians as sub-human during the Russian-Georgian War in 2008.

And the Huffington Post saw fit to publish this little number by David Wood that argues that Russia is trying to start a war with the U.S. (and not the other way around)! What reality are these people living in where Russia is the aggressor when the U.S. is bombing an airbase that Russia uses? Can we imagine if the opposite had occurred?

Finally, after Tillerson’s meeting with Lavrov, Putin said that the relationship with the U.S. has deteriorated – is this not significant?

And the Huffington Post was there to report it (or at least steal it from Reuters).

This is insanity.

Meanwhile, this is the same outlet that was practically screaming that Trump was a Russian agent, personally placed (or blackmailed) into the position of president by Putin himself.

The current spat between the U$ media apparatus and the new regime demonstrates the silver lining in the ascendancy of Trump. The rupture between prototypical American institutions opens a space for exploitation. In other words, because Donald Trump is a huge idiot, he won’t be able to totally consolidate his power if he continues to attack corporate media. This means that here, for the first time, we may see the U$ population begin to genuinely question the functioning of the Amerikkkan state.

If this dumbass can be president, then clearly there’s a problem!

This is exactly what I wrote about on the day after Trump was announced the winner of the election. This is the silver lining. This is the benefit of Trump. If we use this as an opportunity to radicalize liberals and to use theory as a weapon, we can utterly transform the empire.

Trump’s open mocking of the apparently “timeless” values and mainstays of the U$ government have created a space in which everything is up for grabs. NATO, the border, and even liberal democracy itself are all under scrutiny by everyone on the political spectrum (finally) and if we take control of the narrative, we can present reality as it is.

Why do we have NATO? Why do we need a border? What is liberal democracy, anyway?

In other ways, it seems to me like Trump might be able to successfully delegitimize the whole system. My job is much easier in arguing that the state is racist, imperialist, and patriarchal with that 70-year-old walking lobotomy in charge of things. Capitalism in its most exploitative and destructive form is running around, unmasked.

Politicians are the best at making me want to punch old people.

If Trump refuses to go along with the general program, there’s also a chance that the media won’t immediately fall into line on all future policies.

In 2002, when Bush wanted to hype up for the invasion of Iraq, every media outlet in the U$ was unbelievably fast at falling in line. The same thing happened with Obama in Libya and Syria after that. When media conglomerates and the government play footsie, there’s no method to challenging the dominant narrative.

Back to Trump.

If Trump was a Russian puppet, we could at least guarantee a few things: there would be a de-escalation of war between the U$ and Russia, which would ease tensions between the U$ and Syria, the U$ and North Korea, the U$ and China…

Listen, I absolutely hate Vladimir Vladimirovich. He’s a terrible reactionary capitalist, but he’s certainly not pulling the strings.

If Trump was a Russian puppet, things would undoubtedly be better. This is particularly obvious when you consider the fact that Putin isn’t a total fucking moron.

Donald Trump can't read this, yet he's afraid of it

“Donald Trump can’t read this, but he’s still scared of it.”

 

Caveat: Any liberal criticism of Trump will dissipate in the event of a terrorist attack. Well, any terrorist attack perpetrated by Muslims. If any terrorist attack by white people occurs, it’ll barely get coverage.

But if any Muslim even hurts a white person (the media doesn’t care about Chican@s and Black people), then the media, along with the other liberals, will immediately goose-step back into line and President Literal-Cartoon-Villain will have all the power in the world.

The Assassination of Walter Scott

In April of 2015, a white cop assassinated a unarmed black man.

Period. End of Story.

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There isn’t any more discussion needed. Any facts you want to hash out, like the fact that Walter Scott was running away, are superfluous.

Terms like “appropriate use of force” and “doing it by the book” don’t need to be thrown around. We don’t need pathetic apologetics like “Being a cop is hard work!” or “This wasn’t about race!”

Even the liberals, for the most part, get it. Just as they kind of got it with Michael Brown and Trayvon Martin. The bullshit American media tells the story in an isolated context, without telling the full story or asking the real question.

How do we conceptualize “justice”?

That’s the story here.

When a representative of state power murders a civilian, what are we going to do about it?

There is indeed no such thing as a “justice system” in the United States today. That ought to be obvious to anyone who even takes a cursory glance at the society (and after all, the state institutions simply maintain a society and provide some semblance of logic to it).

We could throw out the numbers about African Americans and Latinos being thrown in prison at significantly higher rates than whites. We could look at the use of the death penalty almost exclusively for black men. We could look at how “laws” are specified to target people of color.

The government has defined “justice” for us here.

“Justice” in the US means letting white people off free and terrorizing and imprisoning people of color.

But, of course, under capitalism, it is not simply a game played on race, but is much broader. The full scope of the American “justice system” is the marginalization and brutalization of the poor (comparatively).

Predominately, in the US (and throughout the global imperialist system), those who are made poor are those who don’t share the white skin of the people in power.

So the next question: do we accept this definition of “justice”?

Do we accept “laws” that are meant to disenfranchise people of color?

Do we accept cops who come into communities and shoot civilians?

Do we allow state oppression to engage in domestic terrorism (or international terrorism, for that matter)?

If we don’t accept these things, then how do we conceptualize “justice”?

And what are we going to do about it?

Muslims Outside of Western Culture

American capitalism hasn’t figured out how to integrate Muslims yet.

This exclusion perhaps ought to be something we celebrate today.

In 20 years, we may very well be decrying our total inclusion into globalization.

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For the record, I don’t forgive Trump. Fuck him.

The dominant logic of liberal activism is one of perfect integration into capitalism, rather than challenging that capitalism.

Take, for example, the petition for hijabi emojis.

The struggle for inclusive emojis will have the consequence of making a more inclusive capitalism. A more inclusive capitalism will be more vicious, all-pervasive, and dynamic.

I understand that there’s an argument for normalizing hijab in order to make society more accepting of women who choose to wear hijab (or niqab or burqa).

To what lengths must we go?

Should we even be using smartphones made in sweatshops with conflict minerals?

Where’s the critical action against imperialism?

Making Facebook status updates and blog posts (like this one) are not solving the problem.

Can we normalize Islam without integrating into capitalism? If not, perhaps we should choose not to normalize and, rather, embrace our exclusion.

As Alain Badiou has argued, the ban of the niqab and burqa in France was directly related to the inability of capital forces to successfully exploit Muslim bodies to sell products. Aside from the mere desire to force women to put their bodies on display, it’s exceedingly difficult to sell Coca-Cola with a model in niqab. 

This, I think, is a good thing.

This Coca-Cola advertisement in Afghanistan was specifically aimed at Muslims celebrating Ramadan. Meanwhile, another location where Coca-Cola was widely available was the luxury hotel complex that ISIS had opened in Mosul.

Why is no one asking the obvious question: How is ISIS so easily obtaining Coca-Cola? Is it that Coca-Cola saw a wonderful business opportunity in a new market (not unlike Nazi Germany)?

As Slavoj Zizek has noted, ISIS is totally integrated into post-modern global capitalism.

Without global capitalism, there would be no terrorism as such.

Without global capitalism, there would be no ISIS.

Since this is the case, it seems to me that the true path that we (as Muslims and non-Muslims) should be taking is that against the dominant economic structures. We will never be emancipated until we dismantle capitalism and we will always be viewed as some sort of fifth column in the West as long as there is terrorism performed by Muslims.

We should be throwing away our smartphones. Not asking for ones that reflect our image back at us. We shouldn’t see ourselves in the globalized market.

Back to clothing.

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Thus far, clothing that targets Muslims has remained isolated from greater society.

Abercrombie and Fitch isn’t selling any hijabs, thawbs, chadors, or shalwar kameezes yet.

For this, I think we should be grateful.

Update (January 4th, 2017): This process has already begun.

Recuperation of the USSR: Soviet Art and Advertising in the Russian Federation

Today is the 99th anniversary of the Russian Revolution. It’s been 25 years since the Soviet Union was torn apart by the oligarchs and bureaucrats.

We’re still living in the shadow of the destruction of the USSR.

And no where is that more obvious than in the advertisements available all throughout modern Russia.

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The legacy of the Soviet Union lives on in many ways in the post-Soviet space. From political and cultural configurations to modern discourse on the past. In its own way, the post-Soviet space is going through its own Vergangenheitsbewältigung (history-overcoming) – but this has reached a fever-pitch in Russia in the past few years.

Part of this process, it seems to me, includes reappropriating pieces of the past in order to either make sense of it or transform it.

Whether we choose to try to disseminate information or merely to manipulate it, the past stands as a blank page upon which we reveal our understandings. Since 1991, the blank page of the Soviet Union has been particularly attractive to countless propagandists.

I am undoubtedly one of them.

Despite spending years of my life in modern Russia, I have admittedly only been West of the Ural Mountains. However, in the few cities I have visited, the use of Soviet symbols and aesthetics have been ubiquitous.

The use of Soviet vocabulary and concepts is everywhere: “peace” and “victory” have been

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“Books in all branches of knowledge” -Soviet Propaganda (1925)

effortlessly reappropriated for the Russian Federation. Especially in Putin’s era of renewed pride in Russia.

There are also attempts at reconstructing the constellations of the history that are officially sanctioned, while devaluing the points of history that are a bit messier. For example, the state holiday of November 7th (the day of the Bolshevik Revolution) no longer exists.

The Bolshevik Revolution plays differently in the collective memory than does the Soviet era.

I’ve heard countless people list off the best rulers of Russia as: Peter, Catherine, Nicholas, Stalin, and Putin.

Ideologically speaking, these faces may seem absurd to connect. Monarchism, Socialism, Capitalism don’t seem like reconcilable systems of thought. However, these five heads of the same demon do represent one important thing: strength.

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“Buy cheaper!” -Advertisement for pharmacies (2015)

They represent strength. It’s a fact of history that under these leaders, Russia has sometimes been its weakest. But here, perception is more important than facts.

Today, “peace” and “victory” ring as hollow as ever with a collapsing ruble, militarization (and although it doesn’t get talked about in Western media, this is a response to NATO, not the other way around), and contracting economy. It’s difficult to imagine Russia reaching the status of Superpower once again.

In this situation, it’s easy to recollect some of the positive aspects of the Soviet Union. Seemingly lower prices, access to healthcare and education, and the greater dream of a better world.

This, of course, is ripe for the recuperation of radical early Soviet propaganda to become meaninglessly mundane in the modern capitalist superstructure.

Through reinterpreting, reorganizing, and reimagining the historical space, capitalism has successfully utilized the period in which it was most challenged. No longer do we see a woman shouting for all branches of knowledge to be published and accessible. Today, we see the same aesthetic, but the message has changed.

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“Fitness: Peace! Sport! May!” -Advertisement for a fitness club (2016)

In the photo above (one that I took on a bumpy marshrutka, so I apologize for the blurriness), the most interesting thing to me is the blending of themes and time periods in order to create this advertisement.

The first thing that we notice is the woman playing the same role as the woman in the 1925 propaganda poster. However, the photo is no longer centered on her face, but includes her body down to her waste. She’s standing in a feminine pose, with her left hand on her hip, and is clearly wearing makeup. With her shirt tied at her midriff, she is far more sexualized, if we could say that the woman in the propaganda poster is sexualized at all.

Undoubtedly, this modern poster has no interest in feminism (unlike the Soviet Union of the 1920s).

Behind her, the ribbon of St. George waves and billows majestically into the background. These ribbons are particularly noteworthy, because they also connect Tsarist Russia through the Soviet era and on to today. In fact, the popular use of these ribbons began in response to Ukrainian nationalism, thereby boosting Russian nationalism.

Finally, the word-choice stands out.

“Peace” was one of the most central words of the dominant Soviet lexicon. One of the most common streets in every city is Проспект Мира (Avenue of Peace).

“Sport” was obviously highly-valued during the USSR (and still is). And, of course, the advertisement is for a sports/health club, so that word is not so fascinating.

“May”, however, out to catch our eye whenever we’re talking about history (especially Russian history). May 1st, traditionally-called May Day, was the day of the biggest labor union protests and strikes around the world. May Day protests were outlawed under the Russian monarchy and weren’t openly celebrated until after the February Revolution in 1917.

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“To work on a bike!” -Advertisement for ‘Ride-to-Work Day’ in Moscow (2016)

May also came to encompass a whole spectrum of meaning after 1945. May came to mean the victory of Stalinist USSR over Hitlerist Germany in World War II. The Soviet Union was one of the countries most devastated by the war and the victory was to be used endlessly in propaganda up to today. Putin has successfully completed the circle.

May 1st can’t even hold a candle to Victory Day on May 9th in Russia.

And this is total capitalist recuperation of the socialist enterprise.

Indeed, businesses today often play on Soviet symbols or language to insinuate that they’ve got lower prices or that the quality of their products is high. Is anything more absurd than modern “USSR”-brand ice cream?

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Mickey Mouse being impaled by a robot offers some truly deep insight into capitalism.

The post-modern, diet, feel-good capitalism is pervasive in Russia as well.

By using a character from a Soviet children’s cartoon (Gena, the crocodile), we’re able to integrate the Soviet characters from a certain ideological context and place them into the post-modern landscape of competing images and aesthetics.

We have a new May holiday! Ride-to-Work Day in Moscow! Oh, how swell!

Indeed, May 20th was a wonderful day, for we got to watch stupid fat old Zhirinovsky ride his stupid bike in the stupid rain.

The farce of capitalism is everywhere. We just have to open our eyes.

What’s the Difference Between Disney World and North Korea?

Answer: Location, location, location.

North Korean Disney

Last month I had to spend a week with my family at Walt Disney World in central Florida. As we were driving in, the comment was made about how clean the streets were. I was reminded of articles I had seen about places like Turkmenistan and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

I was inside an American dictatorship.

Throughout the parks, there were little quotes from Walt Disney on the fences. One of the indicated that it was his dream that people would come to Disney World and forget about the outside world. 

Forget about our shared world outside the walls of the park.

Forget about our wars across the world.

Forget about your life.

Sounds like a terrifying, isolationist hell to me.

I made sure not to let the “magic” ever infiltrate my clear view of reality.

If one thing is obvious about Disney World, it is that the majority of the park employees are not treated so well. In fact, over a thousand Disney employees are homeless. It’s little more than a giant sweatshop.

Disney also recruits foreign workers and essentially traps them in temporary workers visas that are specially set up for Disney! So it really is a sweatshop.

Aside from the egregious labor abuses, Disney World is also a haven that perpetuates racist nonsense and cultural ignorance. We can start with the hotel.

My family stayed in an Animal Kingdom hotel. All of the workers were from Africa (not a single country, mind you). They were from Nigeria, Morocco, Kenya, South Africa, etc. In the middle of the hotel lived giraffes, gazelles, and antelope who grazed lackadaisically throughout the day.

This is Africa. 

So (mostly) rich white people can come to Florida and pretend like they have actually gone somewhere. They don’t have to worry about the actual animals, people, or situations. Everyone speaks English, so there’s no problem. There are no diseases, no poor people, no bizarre foods, no unsightly slums, no foul smells, and no health risks. Alcohol is always available, as are Coca-Cola products and air conditioning.

A diverse continent with hundreds of ethnic groups, languages, and cultures is reduced to one static Americanized dream.

You don’t need to actually travel when you can Disney travel!

But don’t worry, that’s not where the racism ends.

We have the lovely incident of when Disney (albeit the one in California) fired a woman for wearing hijab. Because, God forbid, one of the Disney employees actually exhibits the fact that they don’t comfortably fit into the perfect white American fantasy of not encountering anyone who has different beliefs than you.

One thing I did notice was the amount of Muslims who were there. I even saw a man praying Maghrib in Epcot!

However, there were no facilities for Muslims at Walt Disney World.

Not a single prayer room, no ride to a mosque in Orlando offered, no attempt to reach out to the countless Muslim tourists at the resort. 

Morocco8

Not racist.

In fact, when I went to the fake Morocco in Epcot, the woman initially told me that there was no place to pray. After she asked her supervisor, I was finally offered a rug and a spot to pray. However, it was in an incredibly public place and I had to make wudhu in a public fountain. And the rug definitely was not a standard prayer rug.

When I went to the fake Moroccan café, I had to specifically ask specifically if they had any coffee without alcohol, because everything on the menu was spiced with something.

“Do you have anything halal?” 

I was actually surprised, because I figured they would have some back secret room for all the Muslims. That’s just good business when you have that many Muslim tourists. I figured they might let something innocuous slip by here and there as a special wink. Maybe everything in Morocco would be halal or they would have a special back area where you could make wudhu in peace.

But nope.

They fulfill their goal for their target demographic.

And that goal is to cover up the real world and replace it with a fictionalized reality.

This fictionalized reality can be totally racist and nonsensical, as long as it appeals to that demographic: rich, white, straight Christians.

Because if you don’t fit any of those categories, then you’re pushed to the margins.

And don’t forget, you’re spending hundreds of dollars for this sanitized, heteronormative, imperialist fantasy world.

Ultimately, I did a pretty good job of not getting sucked up in the magic. I never forgot the exorbitant amounts of money running the place and I never forgot how little of that was going to employees. I tried to be mindful of the sexualized Disney characters, providing the girls there with a good healthy dose of patriarchy. And I tried to be ever-vigilant in my analysis of this beacon of industrial escapist capitalism.

And what lessons did I learn?

Disney World is a Hell on earth.

Disney World is an American dictatorship.

Disney World is a North Korea.