Radio Ecoshock January 14, 20111 (110114)
This is Radio Ecoshock. I'm Alex Smith, with an in-depth look at the works of deep green writer Derrick Jensen, an interview with film maker Lopez, and a series of ugly questions for impossible times.
After we learn a bit about the film's inspiration, Deep Green thinker Derrick Jensen, and talk with Frank Lopez - I've left some time to let out a Net rumor (again!) that the U.S. military might call home troops to put down people rioting in the streets, in an upcoming economic collapse. Do riots work?
The friendly voice you hear in this week's program is Franklin Lopez. He created a video argument for ending civilization. Kick it over - before we kill again.
That all came out in his new movie "End:Civ" - standing for End Civilization.
Lopez is fascinating. In one guise, he is "The Stimulator" - with a foul-mouthed weekly video (and audio) podcast with underground news. Some of it is original film interviews shot by Lopez.
He was raised in the Puerto Rican independence movement. In New York, Lopez was a camera-man/producer for the Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez alternative news program "Democracy Now!" As "The Stimulator" Frank gets millions of views for his regular video podcast "It's The End of the World As We Know It, and I Feel Fine".
Lopez went to the latest Republican and Democratic Conventions, plus the Cancun Climate Summit - to film the street action. To get the outside story in. He brings us activism, and voices that never make the mainstream news.
There is a lot of irreverent fun in some Lopez productions, but in today's program, you'll hear a serious, a very serious side.
For the past many years, Lopez filmed his own video interviews with hundreds of authors and activists. Many you will know, like James Howard Kunstler. But Lopez takes care to find alternative voices, from the streets and the woods. Women. Youth. Aboriginal people. The homeless. The excluded.
End:Civ is a master collection of them all. Zoe Blunt from the Forest Action Network. The late First Nations leader Qwatsinas. "Farmer" from Earth First! Critic John Zerzan, Paul Watson from Sea Shepherd, Dr. Michael Baker, Stephanie Miller, grid-crasher Aric McBay - a long list of fast-moving video shorts from the underground.
But the "star" of the show, the inspiration, is California author and philosopher Derrick Jensen. Before we go to our interview with Franklin Lopez, let's get an introduction to Derrick Jensen.
My own feelings about Jensen are mixed. I could say I "violently" disagree with some of Derrick's proposals, but when Jensen uses the word "violence", he really means it. He thinks Greens - anyone who cares about the Earth - should fight to stop the destruction of Nature. We are beyond the time of talk, he says. Most famously, Jensen wants someone to blow up dams in the Pacific Northwest, to save the beloved salmon.
Picturing relatively green hydro electric dams, I thought Jensen off-base, if not dangerously mad. But digging deeper, Derrick provides startling facts about thousands of useless dams, built and abandoned by early loggers and settlers, that continue to block many rivers. Governments have no workable plans to remove them, to restore the natural and valuable salmon fishery, and the freedom of the rivers.
The film "End:Civ" goes further. Do we revere Gandhi - because ruling Oligarchs channel us into peaceful protests? Were there other fighting figures behind India's independence struggle? Why don't we hear about them? Is Martin Luther King accepted, while the Black Panthers are smeared, because it suits authoritarian interests? What about Greenpeace? Have we been managed?
What will we say to our children and grand-children, if we let Earth go down, without a fight?
I have my opinions on all this. You need to decide for yourself.
As just one example or Derrick Jensen's continuing influence, here is a quick clip from another director and film-maker, Jon Cooksey, as an example of the impact Derrick Jensen can have. I recorded this at a recent dinner party.
[Jon Cooksey on Jensen]
"You know, there's an article that's really been sticking with me. And it was just an article about a guy named Derrick Jensen - who you probably know, and I sort of knew his name - but what was interesting in that article, you know, a fairly reasonable guy, wasn't acting like a big "doom and gloomer", crazy person, in the interview.
He was very reasonable, talking about statistics that you and I would both recognize about oil and whatever.
His basic point was: if there is going to be a habitat for the survivors, then we should monkey wrench the system right now. As much as we can. We should bring down civilization.
So that we don't overshoot the carrying capacity of the planet so much that there is no habitat left for the survivors, whoever they may be.
And he says that in full knowledge of the fact, that if you money-wrench the system, billions of people will die in a short period of time. Like that was obvious. That's taken as a given. And no guarantee that you and I, and our children, won't be part of that mass die-off by starvation.
That logic has haunted me. I can't pick a hole in the logic. Now I know there are other criticisms of Derrick Jensen. But the point is, he started from where we are, and he made a human emotional argument - that got me... deep.
And I'm the person who is constantly looking for the optimistic thing to root for! To present as a path. And it troubled me, because wow! Is that the most optimistic thing I can root for? Should I tell everybody to go out and monkey-wrench the system?
Is that really the most realistic option that we have - is to provide for the survivors, who ever they may be?"
That was Jon Cooksey, a professional television producer, co-creator of the CBC series "The Collectors", writer for diverse programs from The Disney Channel to Comedy Central. Now he has a one-man film about the journey to climate catastrophe, called "How to Boil A Frog".
I recorded Jon at an evening of artists and activists in Vancouver. Hear more about that in next week's Radio Ecoshock Show.
I wrote at that time:
"Caution: explicit expression of the environmentalism of despair.
Do we have to stamp out civilization to save the planet?
The American author and activist Derrick Jensen thinks so, and offers his body to defeat the organized beast that is stripping the planet of forests, soil, and species.
There are three main reactions to the developing collection of crisis here on Earth, whether you think of frightening climate change, raped ocean life, polluted slums, or economic unreality: Let's fix it, Let it fall, and finally the school of "kick it over." Jensen is the prophet of slamming civilization, hoping it will fall before doing irrevocable damage to nature. We'll hear from a recent speech, list some tenets of his belief, and add books and web sources for further exploration."
That was in 2006. Now it all looks worse. The U.S. Midwest is powered by toxic goo from the Tar Sands. The International Energy Agency admits Peak Oil is past. The climate has gone mad, slamming millions.
Derrick Jensen is back.
To introduce him, for our feature film "End:Civ" I run a quick summary of Derrick's first 8 premises, in his own words, again from my 2006 podcast "Kick It Over".
For the rest of his premises, in rapid-fire order, just download the free mp3 of "Kick It Over" from ecoshock.org. Find the link in this week's show blog, at ecoshock.info.
The music clips in between are from a benefit to stop a Canadian mining project in Australia, and the destruction of the ancient Lake Cowal, performed by Combat Wombat.
You also hear a couple of clips from "End:Civ" the movie, but it really needs the wild video clips Frank works in to get the full impact.
I think we are ready. Let's talk with film maker Franklin Lopez, about his multi-media ode to a work by Derrick Jensen: "End Game". Available in audio only.
RE: VIOLENCE - DO RIOTS WORK?
You have just heard a sample of frustration, from the Anarchist camp, and echoing throughout Western society. Riots, some deadly violent, have broken out in European countries, and in North Africa.
Do riots really accomplish anything?
Not according to Forbes Magazine, the self-labeled "Capitalist Tool". Their December 22nd article "How Riots Can Influence An Economy" carefully catalogs the economic costs of violent protest. Forbes says, quote: " Riots with clear economic proximate causes have fortunately become very rare in the United States, though they were much more common in the early days of industrialization and unionization and the protests that accompanied the WTO conference in Seattle in 1999 were an uncomfortable reminder. (If you’ve been a victim, your losses may be deductible. Find out how. See Deducting Disaster: Casualty And Theft Losses.)"
It's all tax deductible!
Well not all. There is damage to business property, and some economic activity is curtailed, while rocks and police fill the streets. It's hard to do one's duty as a consumer, when the stores are closed. Some tourists stay away, while others come for the opportunity to riot, or at least watch.
And I love the slightly cynical summary Forbes Magazine gives to this tactic. Quote:
"By and large, there is very little evidence that rioting “works” in the sense of leading to any lasting redress of grievances. If anything, many governments tend to respond to riots by enacting more draconian laws and beefing up the budgets of those charged with suppressing trouble. When governments do respond, it usually just with temporary solutions designed to pacify the protesters and get them off the streets; vague promises of redress, government-sponsored reforms, or temporary subsidies (particularly in the case of food or fuel riots) will often mollify the crowds, but seldom lead to any lasting improvement in the quality of life of the people."
I suppose that's true enough, until the crowed overwhelm the government, as happened in Iceland. After tossing the debt of less than a hundred bankers on to the people of Iceland, the government was tossed out. Every few hundred years or so, this does happen.
Then again, the poor peasants of France suffered poverty and hardship for several hundred years before rising up in their famous revolution. There is nothing to indicate North Americans will not take another hundred years to revolt.
American right-wing radio is rife with rumors the American military is waiting in the wings, to wade into any riots coming out of the economic crisis. Two years after the original Pentagon study, that fear finally leaked off the Internet, into mainstream TV, while you were Christmas shopping. It's instructive to follow the gossip, especially since the Pentagon has already announced a kind of Net information war-fare, which might include planting false rumors. Or are they subtly announcing a threat to jobless Americans?
The sliver of information leaked out through cable news, on CNBC. The date is uncertain, although the Net video says November 19th, 2010. Glenn Beck on Fox News quoted the same CNBC story, on December 8th, 2010.
Conspiracist radio host Alex Jones had a field day with it. And Ultra-Conservative or Christian Militarist Net radio stations, with names like "The Warning", "MorningStar", and "Liberty Bell" blurted out the fearsome news. The troops who trained kicking in doors in Iraq, are coming home. To rule us. They say.
Here is the essential clip, with reporter Eamon Javers.
And that came courtesy of this site.
If we riot, the Pentagon has apparently already got plans to put it down. They have war-gamed it in a project called "Unified Quest 2011."
AND A MILITARY RESPONSE ON UK STREETS AS WELL?
And Paul Watson, the British mirror of talk show host Alex Jones, says the same plans for a military take-over are ready in the UK as well. Watson is drawing from this article in the UK Daily Express.
To save you an hour of Googling time, here is the scoop, on the American "Unified Quest".
That’s where something called Unified Quest comes in. Every year, the Army’s chief of staff instructs talented mid-career and senior officers and senior enlisted (wo)men to evaluate where the service is falling short — and propose remedies. On Tuesday, about 120 soldiers and their civilian and foreign-military friends (and even some Marines) swarmed onto the manicured northern Virginia campus of mega-consultant Booz Allen Hamilton to kick off the first four-day debating bull session for Unified Quest 2011, to figure out how best to cultivate the next generation of Army leaders."
End quote. Ackerman claims to be the only blogger allowed in, providing he did not mention any names. We wonder why HE was let in. Spook abound. And the implied date in the article is wrong. The "what-if" war-games party in Fort Monroe, Virginia started July 15th. There are official Army documents available on the Web about the time and location, but not the contents.
And the project appears to have continued at least later in the Summer, and perhaps until the present day.
CNBC quotes the trade journal "InsideDefense.com" as THEIR source for the same quotes that went out everywhere.
The abstract reads:
Army officials met outside Washington last week for a thought experiment about the implications of a large-scale economic breakdown that would force the Army to absorb significant funding cuts and prepare the service for an increased role in keeping domestic order amid civil unrest. 323 words"
The same few words, found all over the Net, came from this simple abstract, rather than the full article, hidden behind a rather low pay wall. Actually, you can get it for free as a sample. Or download it free as a PDF here.
This shines a sad light into journalism. Months, or even YEARS, after the event, the same few phrases are released as news, without even an hour of investigation.
And there are earlier versions of the same tale of "the Army is Coming" for years previously. Jim Meyers wrote "U.S. Military Preparing For Domestic Disturbances" on December 23rd, 2008. His source was a paper titled "Known Unknowns: Unconventional 'Strategic Shocks' in Defense Strategy Development" by former Army lieutenant colonel Nathan Freier.
Freier wrote: "Widespread civil violence inside the United States would force the defense establishment to reorient priorities in extremis to defend basic domestic order … An American government and defense establishment lulled into complacency by a long-secure domestic order would be forced to rapidly divest some or most external security commitments in order to address rapidly expanding human insecurity at home."
Maybe that's the good news! The Administration finds a face-saving way to bring the troops home, citing the need for domestic security, i.e. putting down mass riots. Instead of the embarrassing loss of funds, or belief in the U.S. dollar abroad. American can't afford all those bases anyway.
Going with Jim Meyers selection, quote, "The Army College report states: "DoD might be forced by circumstances to put its broad resources at the disposal of civil authorities to contain and reverse violent threats to domestic tranquility. Under the most extreme circumstances, this might include use of military force against hostile groups inside the United States.
"Further, DoD would be, by necessity, an essential enabling hub for the continuity of political authority in a multi-state or nationwide civil conflict or disturbance."
He concludes this section of the report by observing: "DoD is already challenged by stabilization abroad. Imagine the challenges associated with doing so on a massive scale at home."
But why rely on second hand sources? This super-secret document is available as a free .PDF download from the Strategic Studies Institute, at army.mil. Or buy the book for $9.99 cents from ... the online book publisher with no name. You know, the big online book company who buckled to State Department pressure in the Wikileaks scandal.
Army think-tanker Nathan Freier writes, quote:
"Thus, there is perhaps no greater source of strategic shock for DoD than operationalizing that component of the oath of service in a widespread domestic emergency that entails rapid dissolution of public order in all or significant parts of the United States.
While likely not an immediate prospect, this is clearly a “Black Swan” that merits some visibility inside DoD and the Department of Homeland Security. To the extent events like this involve organized violence against local, state, and national authorities and exceed the capacity of the former two to restore public order and protect vulnerable populations, DoD would be required to fill the gap. This is largely uncharted strategic territory.
Widespread civil violence inside the United States would force the defense establishment to reorient priorities in extremis to defend basic domestic order and human security. "
Just for a little icing on the cake, on how crowds can surge into the street due to an economic break down, I've added a quick clip from the BBC about riots in Bangladesh, when their stock market plunged.
I urge you to listen to that report, maybe a couple of times, and just translate the whole commentary to the UK, a European country, South America, or simply New York or Chicago. The very same thing could happen here. Many say it will.
My initial reaction to all the conspiracy talk and outrage from the far right is "Duh!" Of course the military and civilian governments have always had backup plans to use the army to suppress rebellion. They would be derelict is they didn't. It would not be news at all, except the economic crash, plus weird climate and high energy prices, are creating a nervous herd. It's news because the risk is rising.
That is one objection to the strategy of violence. It breeds more violence, and repression. The American society, and most modeled after it, have specialized in force as an export product. But the troops can always come back home.
With the federal government already impotent, it isn't hard to imagine a series of riots. The shop-keepers and some of the public long for public order. A magnetic figure, or an unknown Army officer, pops up to fill this longing. After decades of support for military dictators abroad, the United States attempts to prolong the dream of empire, with a decade or two of military rule.
Rome did it. Why can't we?
And hey, the U.S. Armed Forces appear to understand that both Peak Oil and Climate Change are realities that can't be denied. The Army, Navy and Air Force are looking for more and more alternative energy, being far ahead of their own government.
Sad to say, but some desperate Greens might welcome a "war-time" style project trying to save civilization.
Derrick Jensen says "Civilization is the problem."
I'll be in the hills growing potatoes, if you need me.
I'm Alex Smith, for Radio Ecoshock.
Visit our web site, at ecoshock.org