Friday, June 20, 2014


The past two weeks has witnessed the stupidest things to be written about Iraq since the lead up to the 2003 invasion. "ISIS is taking over!" "Al Qaeda is coming!" "What's a Shi'ite!" Every single story has gotten everything exactly wrong.

It's painful, especially since there's no other news. No one really cares that Cantor's gone except whoever got to be John Bohner's new bitch. I wasn't paying attention because Congress voted away its own powers in the Bush years. Instead, I've been following every hoot and cry over Iraq, getting a very nasty reminder about the provincial ignorance and credulousness of the American people.

Let's establish the basics first - just what is ISIS? About ten thousand Sunnis calling themselves "Islamic State in Iraq and Syria." They've gone through a couple leaders and a couple similar names, jihadi groups being very flexible about geography. Kind of like the First International back in the Nineteenth Century, which was never all that international. ISIS has so far managed the "Iraq and Syria" part, but only due to porous borders and a sectarian culture no one inside the Beltway will admit exists in the Middle East.

It's horrifying and darkly funny, the way all the Very Serious People talk about Iraq like the Sunni-Shia rivalry doesn't exist. Like this is all because Maliki is weak - I'd never say that to Saddam's former hitman myself - or it's all because of the American president you hate the most. Or it's al Qaeda because al Qaeda al Qaeda al Qaeda.

That's really what's driving all the stupid. Americans in 2014 give even less of a damn about Iraqis than did Americans in 2004, they're all just scared ISIS is gonna somehow start flying planes into skyscrapers if we don't smack 'em down right now. This is what I mean when I say Americans are credulous - ISIS honcho Abd Bakir al-Baghdadi talks a whole lot about setting up a caliphate and making war on New York City, but what exactly are his logistic capabilities?

Keep in mind, this is the same outfit that couldn't knock off Assad a year ago. That's right, the jihadis who've got McCain's panties in a bunch today are the same jihadis he wanted to back last year, when they were talking big about an Islamic state in just Syria while never moving beyond Aleppo. If they couldn't take down the minority of Alawites on the coast, how are they gonna take down the Shi'ite majority of Iraq? Especially when said majority definitely has the backing of Iran?

International terrorism takes two things ISIS doesn't exactly have an abundance of - money and operatives who can blend in with the decadent target culture long enough to get into position. How many of those ten thousand irregulars speak English? How many are even literate in their own language? Jihad doesn't exactly attract the best and brightest, the 9/11 highjakers being a collection of upper middle-class boys with more theology than brains. On the ground guerrilla outfits like ISIS recruit more from peasant and working class stock, low on formal education but dedicated to fightin' and dyin' for the 'hood.

And no more than that. You never heard of Ulster loyalists crashing trucks of semtex into the Oireachtas in Dublin. Why would they need to when there's the more pressing matter of the Catholics three blocks over? That's the rough, sectarian reality no one cares to address. Maybe because they're dumb, maybe because it's not a sexy enough angle for the Beltway media, maybe some mutant mix of both. I don't know and I don't care - point is, ISIS can field a lot of guys to secure majority Sunni towns like Mosul and Aleppo but find themselves short of recruits when it comes to hitting places without any supportive network of cousins. That's why Maliki is as safe as Assad and it's why, for all his bluster, Abu Bakir won't be pulling off another 9/11 unless he does it all by himself.

Which would be easy to see if you first accept that Iraqis, Sunni and Shia alike, have their own local politics and agendas that come first. If the past two weeks have taught me anything, it's that the ruling class and their tame press can't accept that. Won't, in fact, as it violates the American exceptionalism subscribed to by even the most latte-sucking of liberals. This sectarian turf war is entirely because America Did X or America Didn't Do Y and now America Must Do Z or else Bad Stuff. Exactly what that Bad Stuff is depends on who you ask - either Iraq will fall apart or AQ suicide commandos will teleport into Ohio. Both ideas are equally impossible but they play into the solipsism that clouds any understanding of the world, assigning American cultural narratives which are completely alien to the situations in question, which will resolve themselves no matter who Obama bombs.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

The Libertarian Fraud

Let's start today with a bit of an allegory.

You're Poot the Peasant. The King has a war on his hands and needs soldiers, but he can't just go out and press gang folks because this is a very modern kingdom. They at least pretend to respect the rights of the peasantry, so he offers "the King's shilling," a shiny gold coin you can spend on getting platsered, which as a peasant is your only joy in life. So you figure why not? Beats pushing a plow all day for the abbot who eats all the cheese.

You join the Grand Army and get marched off to the border lands where the war is going on with the Orcs, who are considered primitive and don't have shiny new swords and crossbows like you. However, they know the lay of the land and aren't afraid to die, giving them the initiative. You and your fellow foot sloggers hunker down in a camp where you mostly repel guerrilla raids from those swarthy barbarians and try to make nice when their women and children come around - who are likely the spies of the enemy but you're a decent guy, so you're not about to put their heads up on spikes like you do with their sons and husbands.

It's a grind, physically and mentally. It takes it's toll and you start going for walks outside the camp to clear your head. Until one night, the Orcs grab you while you're out walking and carry you off to their caves. They spend years beating you, starving you, locking you in a cage - basically treating you the way an emotionally troubled child treats the family dog - until finally the King negotiates your release and you get to come home!

Where the Privy Council demands your head on the chopping block for reasons that have nothing to do with you.

See what I did there?

Congratulations, you've just role-played the life of Bowe Bergdahl! A man who would've just been another US Army grunt in the grotesque sideshow of Afghanistan had he not gone and gotten himself POWed, only to get released at a time when partisan hate trumps every other impulse in the American people.

Bergdahl, who's greatest crime against the nation was apparently going on walkabout, has been the target of some of the nastiest Republican attacks outside a campaign season. No sooner was he out of Taliban hands then every senator with an R in parentheses was complaining about how he wasn't worth the five starved goat-fuckers we released from Gitmo. Chris Wallace, channeling the NKVD, even floated the possibility that he be executed for treason or desertion. And this official hate has trickled all the way down to the grassroots, who spent last week sending Bergdahl's family so many death threats the FBI had to get involved.

But what really stands out is the noticeable silence from such high profile libertarians as Rand Paul. Aside from a lame crack about how we should be trading Dems instead of Talibs, the nominal Liberty 2016 candidate hasn't had much to say on the rights of an American. It's a ready-made issue - if Bergdahl deserted then he didn't want to die for the State and those five Talibs released form Gitmo are five less human beings being tortured by the Big Government. Why wouldn't a principled libertarian like Rand Paul jump all over that?

Maybe because he doesn't believe a word of that freedom stuff. Maybe none of them do - not Paul senior, not the Koch brothers, and especially not any of the talking heads who celebrated the "resistance" of that racist hick in Nevada. The libertarian angle is just "Hope and Change" for bitter white guys, a campaign gimmick to get enough rubes voting for them in November so they can stick to business as usual. A promise of low taxes and freedom from government overreach plays real well with the peasants in Peoria.

The only libertarians who live by those principles are small-time terrorists like Jerad and Amanda Miller, who only ever hurt other plebs. After planting a Tea Party flag on the two cops they murdered, they couldn't get their revolution any further than one gun owner in a nearby Wal-Mart. They really believed all that anti-government noise, they killed and died for it, and it didn't make any kind of difference.

Because at the end of the day, libertarianism is nothing but a confidence game the ruling class plays on prols. China Mieville said it best in his takedown of the laughable seasteading movement:

"Libertarianism... is a theory of those who find it hard to avoid their taxes, who are too small, incompetent or insufficiently connected to win Iraq-reconstruction contracts, or otherwise chow at the state trough. In its maundering about a mythical ideal-type capitalism, libertarianism betrays its fear of actually existing capitalism, at which it cannot quite succeed. It is a philosophy of capitalist inadequacy."

Bowe Bergdahl is getting slandered by a bunch of disingenuous hucksters playing off the low self-esteem of middle class suckers. The Taliban looks pretty good in comparison.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

The Hologram is Bleeding

If there's one thing reactionaries love more than getting up in other people's business, it's blaming a tragedy on something new that they don't understand.

Take the stabbing in Wisconsin. Two little idiots slashed up a third because they thought it would endear them to Web 2.0's perennial bogeyman:

"[Suspect Anissa E. Weier] told police that Slender Man is the 'leader' of Creepypasta, and in the hierarchy of that world, one must kill to show dedication. Weier said that [fellow suspect Morgan E. Geyser] told her they should become 'proxies' of Slender Man — a paranormal figure known for his ability to create tendrils from his fingers and back — and kill their friend to prove themselves worthy of him. Weier said she was surprised by Geyser's suggestion, but also excited to prove skeptics wrong and show that Slender Man really did exist."

You can replace every instance of "Slender Man" in that natter with "The Easter Bunny" and it makes just as much sense. This is an entirely artificial urban legend with its origins in a Something Awful photoshop contest from 2009. This is an easy history to track down and that any news source is reporting anything different is just because journalistic integrity died long ago.

The fake that started it all.

It's much better - as in it gets way more page views - to hype up a non-threat like Slender Man and the Creepypasta Wiki. Then you get all sorts of moral outrage from people who honestly worry that there's not enough God in the Constitution. And with a brilliant work of horror like Slender Man, who's noodley appendages strike something deep in the primate brain, is just unnerving enough to get every muddling middle-brow clamoring for the digital equivalent of book burnings.

However this is not to say media and deviant behavior are entirely unrelated. That would be a good topic of conversation in the wake of this crime as, since there's no corpse for a change, we might actually get somewhere. Like how these two girls legitimately believed stabbing someone to death would win them otherworldly favors from a series of JPEGs. That kind of magical thinking will lead to catastrophe no matter what you attach it to and it's epidemic in pelagic America, a flat hellscape where nothing ever happens despite a loudly enforced popular mythology that everyone is special and of consequence.

That Americans live in a bland nothingness while dreaming of the Homeric life is the great unspoken truth of our time. It drives everything from our jingoistic foreign policy to our retarded market economics, so it should come as no surprise that two All-American losers should concoct a power fantasy out of internet fiction. That they were "inspired" by Slender Man is as relevant to the debate as if they were inspired by

Not that any such discussion will happen in the national media. It's just gonna be a few weeks of "Look what the kids are into now!" before the next mass shooting happens.