"Men, it has been well said, think in herds; it will be seen that they go mad in herds, while they only recover their senses slowly, and one by one." - Charles Mackay
Wednesday, February 22, 2006
Ghostface Fishscale
Well, he's done it again. Fishscale is yet another amazing but impossible-to-sell Ghostface album. It's the weirdest thing; he talks about how his career isn't popping off like it should, how he has Def Jam behind him now, how he's ready to go out and work himself to the bone promoting this thing, and then he goes and makes an album full of claustrophobically discordant coke-rap that will immediately scare away anyone who doesn't already love him. Only maybe three or four of the songs on Fishscale have actual hooks, and we've already heard two of them, "Back Like That" and "Be Easy." He's enlisted MF Doom for four or five tracks, and he's taken the absolute weirdest stuff Doom had to offer, dizzy and stormy and cluttered things. There's an amazingly strained and urgent Just Blaze banger, just a mind-bendingly great song, but it's not going to get Ghost's crazy ass on 106 & Park anytime soon. His one concession is "Back Like That," which will probably get some rotation just like "Tush" and that Bulletproof Wallets song with Carl Thomas, but it's not going to turn him into a star overnight.

Other than that one song, Fishscale is Ghost's most aggressively weird album since Supreme Clientele. The frenzied lyrical free-association has almost disappeared (though there is this one insane song about being underwater I'll talk about later), but it's musically his most dense and fiery work, and there's a good chance it'll end up being my favorite album of the year. The entire Wu-Tang Clan appears altogether on one song, the apocalyptic banger "Nine Milli Brothers," all of them getting a couple of bars (including a posthumous ODB), and all of them sounding great. An uncharacteristically low-key Raekwon shows up on a few tracks, as does a wildly reanimated Cappadonna ("AKA the cabriver" he says at one point) and a quickly improving Trife. Ghost's son SG, who rapped a bit at Ghost's October BB King's show, gets a verse; he sounds like an average young NY mixtape rapper, which is more than anyone could've expected. And beyond that, there are no guest rappers, just Ghost going hard throughout, lovingly describing crack-selling memories and women standing at bus stops and, like, child abuse (the Jay Dee track "Strap" finds him nostalgic about getting his ass beat).

The album flows beautifully, the one weak track ("Charlie Brown") buried near the end and "Be Easy" and "Back Like That" working perfectly in context. One song, "Big Girl," is a slightly dubious story-track about telling women to get their act together and stop getting high, but it's told with enough humane grace that it doesn't sound condescending, at least not on first listen. The first two tracks, gun-talk memories both, are nearly as strident as "Run." Other, later tracks are simply gorgeous, built from the same dusky soul samples he used through much of The Pretty Toney Album. On first listen, it seems pretty much predestined that Ghost is going to remain a critics' favorite and nothing more; that's fine with me, even if it isn't fine with him.

Keep in mind, though, that I've only heard this album once, and I heard it last night at a listening party. I'd been avoiding these things since I moved to New York; this was my first. The idea always kind of grossed me out: record companies so paranoid about music critics bootlegging their shit (whatever) that they refuse to send out promo copies and instead invite everyone into a studio so they can schmooze around and half-listen to the album while it plays on really expensive speakers. It turned out to be really fun, though, all full of writers (many of whom I know) and Def Jam intern-types, everyone sitting on really uncomfortable metal folding chairs and crowding around tiny white tables, eating free food (slightly stale fried coconut-shrimp and some kind of really spicy Jamaican chicken-wings) and drinking free booze (Bacardi with pineapple juice is nasty; Bacardi with blue Powerade is amazing). You go through metal detectors and through hallways full of posters of Beyonce and Aerosmith and Harry Connick, Jr. and Beyonce again, into a room with red lights and crinkled-up strips of cloth hanging on the walls. The best part was the DVD they showed Ghostface explaining all the songs. Apparently the artists often show up to these things, but Ghost was on the Wu-Tang tour, so he taped this thing instead. It worked out great; he wouldn't have opened up much if he was looking this room full of people in the face, but he did when he was talking into a camera: "Please people, just listen, listen carefully ... I don't want y'all checking y'all cell phones, ordering pizza and shit." He went into a surprising amount of detail about putting songs together: "If there's a wack nigga out of four niggas, usually you'll put that nigga (long pause) third." In one truly stunning moment, he talked about the album's final song, which is about being underwater, seeing mermaids and Spongebob and the necklace from Titanic, everyone eventually going to a mosque and praying. Just hearing this song is a total mindfuck; seeing Ghostface explain it is even more so. So maybe all this stuff made me like the album more than I would've otherwise, but I don't know. It's pretty fucking great.
posted by R J Noriega at 10:42 AM | Permalink | 0 comments
All That I got is you
posted by R J Noriega at 10:34 AM | Permalink | 0 comments
Competing for Attention
posted by R J Noriega at 10:30 AM | Permalink | 0 comments
The Seekers
by Jarrett Murphy

The birth and life of the '9-11 Truth movement'

Essentially, it's all about physics and common sense. Cut steel, and buildings fall. Crash a plane, and the Earth gets scarred. Fire a missile; see a hole. What's up must come down, cause makes effect, and for the truth to set you free, it must be freed itself.
It's dark in the basement of St. Mark's Church and dark outside on a mid-December Sunday night, but inside they have seen the light. Among the 100 or so people in the room, many wear buttons that read "9/11 Was An Inside Job." Others grip the vital texts in their hands—Crossing the Rubicon, The New Pearl Harbor, or 9/11 Synthetic Terror. Most in the largely (but not exclusively) white and male crowd can quote you the important passages from "Rebuilding America's Defenses" or The 9/11 Commission Report. A few can guide you through the details of concepts like "peak oil" and pyroclastic flow. All of them suspect—and a few simply know—that their government was somehow complicit in the attacks that killed nearly 3,000 Americans four Septembers ago.

They are watching the new edition of Loose Change, a slick, witty documentary featuring a hip soundtrack and a rapid-fire assault on nearly every aspect of the "official" story of 9-11. The work of 22-year-old filmmaker Dylan Avery, Loose Change came out last year to take its place in a growing library of DVDs that 9-11 skeptics can own: Painful Deceptions, Confronting the Evidence, 911 in Plane Site, 9-11 Eyewitness. Shown in similar gatherings around the country and passed among likeminded friends, the films are what tie together the disparate ends of what many of its members call the "9-11 Truth movement." They unite Luke Rudkowski, an earnest Brooklyn College freshman, with David Ray Griffin, a California theologian who wrote The New Pearl Harbor. They link Les Jamieson, a web designer and coordinator for New York 9-11 Truth, with multimillionaire Jimmy Walter, dreamer of car-free, self-sustaining cities. And they bind a FDNY lieutenant attending his first Truth movement meeting with Michael Ruppert, the Crossing the Rubicon author who blames a fiancée's CIA-and-Mafia-linked drug running and arms dealing for helping to drive him out of the LAPD two decades ago.

It's easy to dismiss the odd characters. It's harder to ignore the regular guys in the room, or the polls showing that 49 percent of New York City residents believe the government knew about 9-11 before it happened, or the rock-solid certainty of these supposed doubters. "I'd love to be proven wrong. I would love for someone to come to me and say I'm full of shit. It hasn't happened," says Avery. "I have scientists on my side. There's so much evidence supporting my side, and the government's side has nothing."

Its name notwithstanding, the 9-11 Truth movement tells a story—and is a story—about what happens when the government lies. Again, it's simple physics: For every action, there's a reaction equal and opposite.


Everyone has a September 11 tale about how we watched the events in "disbelief." But some people really didn't believe, and in the immediate aftermath of the attacks their doubts took form on the Internet on sites like serendipity.li, plaguepuppy.net, and Killtown. "They were a group of conditioned conspiracy theorists who have been around since JFK and before," says Steve Ferdman, now a 22-year-old marketing major at the New York Institute of Technology, who joined the Truth movement well after the attacks. "They knew how to get the ball rolling immediately. The moment it happened, the conspiracy theories were flying."

It wasn't long before the theories made it to Internet radio—and to shows like The Power Hour. Host Dave vonKleist was no stranger to telling alternate stories: His wife was an early Gulf War illness activist, they fled Houston ahead of Y2K, and his three-hour show deals with subjects like depleted uranium and vaccine fears. On 9-11, he recalls, "I got on and said, 'Ladies and gentlemen, this is Dave and before we even say good morning, run to your VCR and start taping. America is under attack.' " As he sat glued to the TV that day, he grew suspicious when the networks went to the file footage of the tall Arab with the gun. "They were still talking about what kind of plane hit," he says, "but they sure as hell knew that Osama did it, and I said, 'Wait a minute.' " These doubts lay dormant for months until vonKleist happened upon Hunt the Boeing, a French website. France was an incubator for many 9-11 doubts. Thierry Meyssan's 2002 book L'Effroyable Imposture (The Horrifying Fraud) spawned deeper inquiries, including vonKleist's film 911 in Plane Site.

While the Pentagon story attracted people because so little was seen or known about that attack, the demise of the World Trade Center was burned in collective memory. Eric Hufschmid, a software designer from Santa Barbara, took the attacks at face value on 9-11 and even mocked the nascent conspiracy theories. "Then I started looking at it," he tells the Voice. "It was obvious something was wrong at the towers. They looked like they'd been blown up." He began contacting engineering professors, asking them to look into it, but none did. So he took up the cause himself, penned the book Painful Questions in early 2002, and produced the companion movie, Painful Deceptions, a few months later.

Around the same time, Dylan Avery was completing a job as a helper on the construction of a new restaurant for James Gandolfini. He tended bar at the opening party, and when he got a few minutes alone with the Sopranos actor, he said he'd thought he might like to direct films. "James said, 'If you want to be a successful director, you've got to have something you want to say to the whole world,' " Avery remembers. He set out to write a fictional story about discovering that 9-11 was an inside job. "Upon researching the movie, I began to think maybe it was true," he says.

The movement's momentum picked up in 2004 as George W. Bush sought re-election, the 9-11 Commission finished its work, and the National Institute of Standards and Technology issued preliminary findings on the building collapses. Members petitioned New York attorney general Eliot Spitzer to convene a grand jury on the attacks. New figures emerged, like Kevin Ryan, a scientist at the testing firm that certified the steel used in the twin towers, who was fired after he wrote a letter to NIST faulting its findings, and William Rodriguez, a janitor at the twin towers credited with saving lives on 9-11.

Rodriguez has filed a federal RICO suit against Bush, the president's father and three brothers, the Republican National Committee, Alan Greenspan, Halliburton, several voting-machine companies, and others. He claims that the president and his administration participated in "approval and sponsorship of the 9-11 attacks, kidnapping, arson, murder, treason" in order to "obtain a 'blank check' to conduct wars of aggression, to consolidate economic and political power."

"The guilt of the defendants," the suit alleges, "is compellingly suggested by their myriad lies, their thwarting of any proper investigation, and their stonewalling and failure to truly cooperate even with the . . . Commission 'investigation.' "


It is a matter of public record that the government did not always voluntarily tell the whole truth about 9-11. In the first days after the tragedy, the EPA said the air was safe (see "Truth Out," page 32). The Bush administration claimed there had been no warnings of the attacks. A congressional inquiry was prevented from discussing information the intelligence community provided to the White House. The White House resisted forming an independent commission, stalled on releasing documents, delayed in allowing Condoleezza Rice to testify in public, and agreed to let the president meet with the commission only on the conditions that there be no oath administered, no formal transcript made, and that Vice President Dick Cheney be at his side. Several members of the commission had to recuse themselves from parts of the probe because their government or private-sector careers posed conflicts. And in its final report, the commission punted on such questions as where the money for the attacks originated, dubbing that issue "of little practical significance."

The long list of obfuscations and obstructions has helped the Truth movement attract sympathizers who don't buy the idea that the attacks were planned by the government. Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney of Georgia has taken up some of the movement's themes. Actor Ed Begley Jr. co-hosted a September 11, 2004, Truth event in New York because of his environmental concerns. "As to the other more fantastic theories about the events of 9-11, I don't care to comment, other than to say that they have raised some very interesting questions that I would love to see answered," Begley tells the Voice in an e-mail.

Another environmental activist, Jenna Orkin, also admires aspects of the movement but distances herself from others. "I think it's terribly important," she says, "to distinguish between the legitimate questions and the wackiness—and the wackiness has contaminated the legitimate questions in a very destructive way."

Drawing that line has split the movement. Many Truth activists now dismiss the "pod theory" and its cousin "the flash," which contend that the planes that struck the towers had unusual shapes on their undersides that may have fired missiles. More maligned is the idea that no planes hit the towers—that what we saw were drones or holograms. Even the no-planes-at-the- Pentagon theory divides Truth-ers.

Some alternative theorists avoid events involving the American Free Press, which has reported several of the vital pieces of the Truth story but has links to the neo-Nazi Barnes Review. And almost no one wants to talk about Jimmy Walter, whose money (he offered $1 million for proof that the towers fell because of the fires) helps but whose advocacy of a "no-punishment" society doesn't. The disputes aren't always friendly. VonKleist, a chief proponent of the pod theory, says the movement "has been heavily infiltrated." And Hufschmid labels most of the movement "part of the criminal movement that did the attack in the first place."

Internecine feuds are not uncommon among people who believe in conspiracies. Yet dubbing Truth movement members "conspiracy theorists" is inaccurate for two reasons. First, there's no doubt that 9-11 was a conspiracy—the question is whether it was among Muslim terrorists or others. Second, many Truth-ers deny having any theory at all. They resist efforts to construct an alternative story of the crime.

"I cannot explain it. That is not my duty," says former German cabinet minister Andreas von B a leader of the 9-11 skeptics in Europe, in a recent Dutch documentary. VonKleist takes the same line. He doesn't theorize anything, he says. "I'm simply asking questions."

That sounds fair at first, only it isn't. The movement's questions imply a different version of the story, and the true test is whether that alternative is more or less plausible that the official one. By saying they're only checking facts, the Truth activists avoid having to address the weaknesses in their own yarn. Why do the "booms" at the trade center come several minutes before the "demolition"? Why would the government destroy WTC7 when no one knew or cared about it? What happened to the people on the planes?

Some skeptics, however, aren't shy. Fringe pol Lyndon LaRouche thinks the attacks were "an attempted military coup d'état." Hufschmid says the Arab terrorists were patsies of several governments, including the U.S. and possibly Britain, France, Canada, and Israel. Ruppert, an adherent of the theory that oil reserves have peaked and that the petroleum-based economy is in great peril, postulates that 9-11 was a desperate effort by a couple dozen elites from the Clinton and Bush administrations to cling to dwindling energy supplies. His version stresses the links between the CIA and Wall Street and drug money, suspicion of the Secret Service, and a plot to rid the world of 4 billion people in order to reduce demand for petroleum.


For passengers detraining at the PATH station and climbing the stairs to ground zero on a typical Saturday, the 9-11 Truth movement is hard to miss. There at the exit stand Jamieson, Rudkowski, and a few compatriots holding a large banner declaring "9/11 Was an Inside Job." Pamphlets are handed out, and some of the vital books of the Truth movement are at the ready if a passerby wishes to debate, which happens a couple times each week. A woman is labeling as "bullshit" the idea that the entire government was behind the plot. Jamieson shakes his head. "Not the entire government," he says. "Just a small faction."

It's cold, and some passersby laugh. It has not been easy, Rudkowski says, but he sees progress. "At first my family thought I was an idiot," he recalls. "Now they're just scared." Avery and vonKleist say they've each distributed some 50,000 copies of their respective movies, but the total number of people who've seen the films must be far larger, given how often they have been shown to groups small and large. At ground zero, in the church basement, and in interviews, Truth movement members are optimistic their crusade will go far. What is clear is that it will be difficult, if not impossible, for many of them to turn back. Once you believe that official sources cannot be trusted because they are part of the conspiracy, it becomes very difficult to accept any evidence to the contrary.

Take the August 6, 2001, Presidential Daily Brief: By forcing its release, the 9-11 Commission showed the world that the president knew something about heightened threats. But to Alex Jones, the anti-government radio host who thinks the FBI plotted the 1993 Trade Center bombing, the PDB episode was just a ploy to make the commission appear independent. When the Voice mentioned to Avery that a key firefighter witness denied ever saying there were "bombs" in the towers, and that San Francisco mayor Willie Brown's "foreknowledge" of the attack seemed to have been limited to something the State Department posted on its website, the director was unfazed. "It's just one piece of evidence," he said about the Brown warning.

He's not alone. Although the Truth movement is quick to seize upon shifts in the government's story, its own version has changed multiple times. Meyssan first said a truck bomb hit the Pentagon, then suggested a drone aircraft or cruise missile did. At first, skeptics said there was too little damage to the interior rings of the Pentagon for the building to have been struck by a 757; now, some say there was too much. The number of hijackers who are supposedly alive has risen and fallen over the years.

The key to understanding the Truth movement is to realize that its members do not lack faith in all institutions of the U.S. government. On the contrary, their theories rely on a healthy respect for the power and competence of air defense units, FBI agents, high-rise building designers, and others.

Why would Bush mistakenly say he'd seen the first plane strike on TV? How could the FBI miss so many leads? Is it plausible that the CIA ignored all those warnings? And after the purported multiple failures of the FAA and NORAD on 9-11, how come no one was fired?

It's odd. For a group of people who harbor so many doubts about the intentions of their own and other governments, the media, and fellow citizens, much of the Truth movement does not suspect for a moment that our defense spending has been a rip-off, that the FBI is a clumsy bureaucracy, that our spy agencies are deaf and dumb, and that our skyscrapers are not 100 percent safe. They do not seem worried that they could be unwitting partners in a more mundane conspiracy to obscure the limits of security and science. To the lies of the Bush administration, many in the Truth movement reply with stunning and familiar certainty. "I can't jump back to the other side," says Avery. "I know that what I'm doing is right."
posted by R J Noriega at 8:26 AM | Permalink | 0 comments
Tuesday, February 21, 2006
The Violence of the Global
Jean Baudrillard

Today's terrorism is not the product of a traditional history of anarchism, nihilism, or fanaticism. It is instead the contemporary partner of globalization. To identify its main features, it is necessary to perform a brief genealogy of globalization, particularly of its relationship to the singular and the universal.

The analogy between the terms "global" [2] and "universal" is misleading. Universalization has to do with human rights, liberty, culture, and democracy. By contrast, globalization is about technology, the market, tourism, and information. Globalization appears to be irreversible whereas universalization is likely to be on its way out. At least, it appears to be retreating as a value system which developed in the context of Western modernity and was unmatched by any other culture. Any culture that becomes universal loses its singularity and dies. That's what happened to all those cultures we destroyed by forcefully assimilating them. But it is also true of our own culture, despite its claim of being universally valid. The only difference is that other cultures died because of their singularity, which is a beautiful death. We are dying because we are losing our own singularity and exterminating all our values. And this is a much more ugly death.

We believe that the ideal purpose of any value is to become universal. But we do not really assess the deadly danger that such a quest presents. Far from being an uplifting move, it is instead a downward trend toward a zero degree in all values. In the Enlightenment, universalization was viewed as unlimited growth and forward progress. Today, by contrast, universalization exists by default and is expressed as a forward escape, which aims to reach the most minimally common value. This is precisely the fate of human rights, democracy, and liberty today. Their expansion is in reality their weakest expression.

Universalization is vanishing because of globalization. The globalization of exchanges puts an end to the universalization of values. This marks the triumph of a uniform thought [3] over a universal one. What is globalized is first and foremost the market, the profusion of exchanges and of all sorts of products, the perpetual flow of money. Culturally, globalization gives way to a promiscuity of signs and values, to a form of pornography in fact. Indeed, the global spread of everything and nothing through networks is pornographic. No need for sexual obscenity anymore. All you have is a global interactive copulation. And, as a result of all this, there is no longer any difference between the global and the universal. The universal has become globalized, and human rights circulate exactly like any other global product (oil or capital for example).

The passage from the universal to the global has given rise to a constant homogenization, but also to an endless fragmentation. Dislocation, not localization, has replaced centralization. Excentricism, not decentralization, has taken over where concentration once stood. Similarly, discrimination and exclusion are not just accidental consequences of globalization, but rather globalization's own logical outcomes. In fact, the presence of globalization makes us wonder whether universalization has not already been destroyed by its own critical mass. It also makes us wonder whether universality and modernity ever existed outside of some official discourses or some popular moral sentiments. For us today, the mirror of our modern universalization has been broken. But this may actually be an opportunity. In the fragments of this broken mirror, all sorts of singularities reappear. Those singularities we thought were endangered are surviving, and those we thought were lost are revived.

As universal values lose their authority and legitimacy, things become more radical. When universal beliefs were introduced as the only possible culturally mediating values, it was fairly easy for such beliefs to incorporate singularities as modes of differentiation in a universal culture that claimed to champion difference. But they cannot do it anymore because the triumphant spread of globalization has eradicated all forms of differentiation and all the universal values that used to advocate difference. In so doing, globalization has given rise to a perfectly indifferent culture. From the moment when the universal disappeared, an omnipotent global techno-structure has been left alone to dominate. But this techno-structure now has to confront new singularities that, without the presence of universalization to cradle them, are able to freely and savagely expand.

History gave universalization its chance. Today though, faced with a global order without any alternative on the one hand and with drifting insurrectionary singularities on the other, the concepts of liberty, democracy, and human rights look awful. They remain as the ghosts of universalization past. Universalization used to promote a culture characterized by the concepts of transcendence, subjectivity, conceptualization, reality, and representation. By contrast, today's virtual global culture has replaced universal concepts with screens, networks, immanence, numbers, and a space-time continuum without any depth. [4] In the universal, there was still room for a natural reference to the world, the body, or the past. There was a sort of dialectical tension or critical movement that found its materiality in historical and revolutionary violence. But the expulsion of this critical negativity opened the door to another form of violence, the violence of the global. This new violence is characterized by the supremacy of technical efficiency and positivity, total organization, integral circulation, and the equivalence of all exchanges. Additionally, the violence of the global puts an end to the social role of the intellectual (an idea tied to the Enlightenment and universalization), but also to the role of the activist whose fate used to be tied to the ideas of critical opposition and historical violence.

Is globalization fatal? Sometimes cultures other than ours were able to escape the fatality of the indifferent exchange. Today though, where is the critical point between the universal and the global? Have we reached the point of no return? What vertigo pushes the world to erase the Idea? And what is that other vertigo that, at the same time, seems to force people to unconditionally want to realize the Idea?

The universal was an Idea. But when it became realized in the global, it disappeared as an Idea, it committed suicide, and it vanished as an end in itself. Since humanity is now its own immanence, after taking over the place left by a dead God, the human has become the only mode of reference and it is sovereign. But this humanity no longer has any finality. Free from its former enemies, humanity now has to create enemies from within, which in fact produces a wide variety of inhuman metastases.

This is precisely where the violence of the global comes from. It is the product of a system that tracks down any form of negativity and singularity, including of course death as the ultimate form of singularity. It is the violence of a society where conflict is forbidden, where death is not allowed. It is a violence that, in a sense, puts an end to violence itself, and strives to establish a world where anything related to the natural must disappear (whether it is in the body, sex, birth, or death). Better than a global violence, we should call it a global virulence. This form of violence is indeed viral. It moves by contagion, proceeds by chain reaction, and little by little it destroys our immune systems and our capacities to resist.

But the game is not over yet. Globalization has not completely won. Against such a dissolving and homogenizing power, heterogeneous forces -- not just different but clearly antagonistic ones -- are rising everywhere. Behind the increasingly strong reactions to globalization, and the social and political forms of resistance to the global, we find more than simply nostalgic expressions of negation. We find instead a crushing revisionism vis-à-vis modernity and progress, a rejection not only of the global techno-structure, but also of the mental system of globalization, which assumes a principle of equivalence between all cultures. This kind of reaction can take some violent, abnormal, and irrational aspects, at least they can be perceived as violent, abnormal, and irrational from the perspective of our traditional enlightened ways of thinking. This reaction can take collective ethnic, religious, and linguistic forms. But it can also take the form of individual emotional outbursts or neuroses even. In any case, it would be a mistake to berate those reactions as simply populist, archaic, or even terrorist. Everything that has the quality of event these days is engaged against the abstract universality of the global, [5] and this also includes Islam's own opposition to Western values (it is because Islam is the most forceful contestation of those values that it is today considered to be the West's number one enemy).

Who can defeat the global system? Certainly not the anti-globalization movement whose sole objective is to slow down global deregulation. This movement's political impact may well be important. But its symbolic impact is worthless. This movement's opposition is nothing more than an internal matter that the dominant system can easily keep under control. Positive alternatives cannot defeat the dominant system, but singularities that are neither positive nor negative can. Singularities are not alternatives. They represent a different symbolic order. They do not abide by value judgments or political realities. They can be the best or the worst. They cannot be "regularized" by means of a collective historical action. [6] They defeat any uniquely dominant thought. Yet they do not present themselves as a unique counter-thought. Simply, they create their own game and impose their own rules. Not all singularities are violent. Some linguistic, artistic, corporeal, or cultural singularities are quite subtle. But others, like terrorism, can be violent. The singularity of terrorism avenges the singularities of those cultures that paid the price of the imposition of a unique global power with their own extinction.

We are really not talking about a "clash of civilizations" here, but instead about an almost anthropological confrontation between an undifferentiated universal culture and everything else that, in whatever domain, retains a quality of irreducible alterity. From the perspective of global power (as fundamentalist in its beliefs as any religious orthodoxy), any mode of difference and singularity is heresy. Singular forces only have the choice of joining the global system (by will or by force) or perishing. The mission of the West (or rather the former West, since it lost its own values a long time ago) is to use all available means to subjugate every culture to the brutal principle of cultural equivalence. Once a culture has lost its values, it can only seek revenge by attacking those of others. Beyond their political or economic objectives, wars such as the one in Afghanistan [7] aim at normalizing savagery and aligning all the territories. The goal is to get rid of any reactive zone, and to colonize and domesticate any wild and resisting territory both geographically and mentally.

The establishment of a global system is the result of an intense jealousy. It is the jealousy of an indifferent and low-definition culture against cultures with higher definition, of a disenchanted and de-intensified system against high intensity cultural environments, and of a de-sacralized society against sacrificial forms. According to this dominant system, any reactionary form is virtually terrorist. (According to this logic we could even say that natural catastrophes are forms of terrorism too. Major technological accidents, like Chernobyl, are both a terrorist act and a natural disaster. The toxic gas leak in Bhopal, India, another technological accident, could also have been a terrorist act. Any plane crash could be claimed by any terrorist group too. The dominant characteristic of irrational events is that they can be imputed to anybody or given any motivation. To some extent, anything we can think of can be criminal, even a cold front or an earthquake. This is not new. In the 1923 Tokyo earthquake, thousands of Koreans were killed because they were thought to be responsible for the disaster. In an intensely integrated system like ours, everything can have a similar effect of destabilization. Everything drives toward the failure of a system that claims to be infallible. From our point of view, caught as we are inside the rational and programmatic controls of this system, we could even think that the worst catastrophe is actually the infallibility of the system itself.) Look at Afghanistan. The fact that, inside this country alone, all recognized forms of "democratic" freedoms and expressions -- from music and television to the ability to see a woman's face -- were forbidden, and the possibility that such a country could take the totally opposite path of what we call civilization (no matter what religious principles it invoked), were not acceptable for the "free" world. The universal dimension of modernity cannot be refused. From the perspective of the West, of its consensual model, and of its unique way of thinking, it is a crime not to perceive modernity as the obvious source of the Good or as the natural ideal of humankind. It is also a crime when the universality of our values and our practices are found suspect by some individuals who, when they reveal their doubts, are immediately pegged as fanatics.

Only an analysis that emphasizes the logic of symbolic obligation can make sense of this confrontation between the global and the singular. To understand the hatred of the rest of the world against the West, perspectives must be reversed. The hatred of non-Western people is not based on the fact that the West stole everything from them and never gave anything back. Rather, it is based on the fact that they received everything, but were never allowed to give anything back. This hatred is not caused by dispossession or exploitation, but rather by humiliation. And this is precisely the kind of hatred that explains the September 11 terrorist attacks. These were acts of humiliation responding to another humiliation.

The worst that can happen to global power is not to be attacked or destroyed, but to suffer a humiliation. Global power was humiliated on September 11 because the terrorists inflicted something the global system cannot give back. Military reprisals were only means of physical response. But, on September 11, global power was symbolically defeated. War is a response to an aggression, but not to a symbolic challenge. A symbolic challenge is accepted and removed when the other is humiliated in return (but this cannot work when the other is crushed by bombs or locked behind bars in Guantanamo). The fundamental rule of symbolic obligation stipulates that the basis of any form of domination is the total absence of any counterpart, of any return. [8] The unilateral gift is an act of power. And the Empire of the Good, the violence of the Good, is precisely to be able to give without any possible return. This is what it means to be in God's position. Or to be in the position of the Master who allows the slave to live in exchange for work (but work is not a symbolic counterpart, and the slave's only response is eventually to either rebel or die). God used to allow some space for sacrifice. In the traditional order, it was always possible to give back to God, or to nature, or to any superior entity by means of sacrifice. That's what ensured a symbolic equilibrium between beings and things. But today we no longer have anybody to give back to, to return the symbolic debt to. This is the curse of our culture. It is not that the gift is impossible, but rather that the counter-gift is. All sacrificial forms have been neutralized and removed (what's left instead is a parody of sacrifice, which is visible in all the contemporary instances of victimization).

We are thus in the irremediable situation of having to receive, always to receive, no longer from God or nature, but by means of a technological mechanism of generalized exchange and common gratification. Everything is virtually given to us, and, like it or not, we have gained a right to everything. We are similar to the slave whose life has been spared but who nonetheless is bound by a non-repayable debt. This situation can last for a while because it is the very basis of exchange in this economic order. Still, there always comes a time when the fundamental rule resurfaces and a negative return inevitably responds to the positive transfer, when a violent abreaction to such a captive life, such a protected existence, and such a saturation of being takes place. This reversion can take the shape of an open act of violence (such as terrorism), but also of an impotent surrender (that is more characteristic of our modernity), of a self-hatred, and of remorse, in other words, of all those negative passions that are degraded forms of the impossible counter-gift.

What we hate in ourselves -- the obscure object of our resentment -- is our excess of reality, power, and comfort, our universal availability, our definite accomplishment, this kind of destiny that Dostoevsky's Grand Inquisitor had in store for the domesticated masses. And this is exactly the part of our culture that the terrorists find repulsive (which also explains the support they receive and the fascination they are able to exert). Terrorism's support is not only based on the despair of those who have been humiliated and offended. It is also based on the invisible despair of those whom globalization has privileged, on our own submission to an omnipotent technology, to a crushing virtual reality, to an empire of networks and programs that are probably in the process of redrawing the regressive contours of the entire human species, of a humanity that has gone "global." (After all, isn't the supremacy of the human species over the rest of life on earth the mirror image of the domination of the West over the rest of the world?). This invisible despair, our invisible despair, is hopeless since it is the result of the realization of all our desires.

Thus, if terrorism is derived from this excess of reality and from this reality's impossible exchange, if it is the product of a profusion without any possible counterpart or return, and if it emerges from a forced resolution of conflicts, the illusion of getting rid of it as if it were an objective evil is complete. [9] For, in its absurdity and non-sense, terrorism is our society's own judgment and penalty.


[1] Initially published as "La Violence du Mondial," in Jean Baudrillard, Power Inferno (Paris: Galilée, 2002), pp. 63-83.

[2] "Mondial" is the French term for "global" in the original text.

[3] "Pensée unique" in French.

[4] "Espace-temps sans dimension" in French.

[5] "Contre cette universalité abstraite" in French.

[6] "On ne peut pas les fédérer dans une action historique d'ensemble" in French.

[7] Baudrillard refers here to the US war against Afghanistan in the Fall of 2001 in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks.

[8] "L'absence de contrepartie" in French.

[9] Emphasis in original text.


Jean Baudrillard is an internationally acclaimed theorist whose writings trace the rise and fall of symbollic exchange in the contemporary century. In addition to a wide range of highly influential books from Seduction to Symbollic Exchange and Death, Baudrillard's most recent publications include: The Vital Illusion, The Spirit of Terrorism and The Singular Objects of Architecture. He is a member of the editorial board of CTheory.

François Debrix is Assistant Professor of International Relations at Florida International University in Miami, Florida. He is the co-editor (with Cynthia Weber) of Rituals of Mediaton: International Politics and Social Meaning. (University of Minnesota Press, forthcoming August 2003)
posted by R J Noriega at 8:58 PM | Permalink | 0 comments
Monday, February 20, 2006
The Case of Mumia Abu Jamal
by Terry Bisson

In 1978, Philadelphia Mayor (and ex-police chief) Frank Rizzo blew up at a press conference, threatening what he called "the new breed" of journalists. "They [the people] believe what you write and what you say," said Rizzo, "and it's got to stop. One day--and I hope it's in my career--you're going to have to be held responsible and accountable for what you do."

What the "new breed" was doing in 1978, and is still doing today, was exposing police misconduct. A cop had been killed in a confrontation between Philadelphia police and the radical MOVE organization (the same MOVE that was fire-bombed by the city seven years later), and the police version of who shot first hadn't been accepted without question. Rizzo feared a new trend, and he was right.

The trend has continued. Today, the Mollen Commission, the NYPD "party"in DC, the Rodney King case and hundreds of other local scandals have exposed the dark underside of police misconduct nationwide. Ironically, the most prominent of the "new breed" of journalists at whom Rizzo's outburst was directed is awaiting execution on Pennsylvania's Death Row, the victim--many believe--of a police frame-up.

Mumia Abu-Jamal began his journalism career with the Black Panther Party. The Panthers were the original "affirmative action" employer, and Mumia (then Wesley Cook) was Minister of Information for the Philadelphia chapter at age 15, writing for the national newspaper. A heady beginning for a West Philly kid. After the Panthers fell apart (helped by a stiff dose of FBI harassment) Mumia turned to broadcasting. He had the voice, the writing talent and the ambition, and by age 25, he was one of the top names in local radio, interviewing such luminaries as Jesse Jackson and the Pointer Sisters and winning a Peabody Award for his coverage of the Pope's visit. He was president of the Philadelphia Association of Black Journalists, called "one to watch" by Philadelphia magazine.

But Mumia was still a radical. The Philadelphia Inquirer called him "an eloquent activist not afraid to raise his voice," and this fearlessness was to be his undoing. His vocal support of MOVE's uncompromising life-style lost him jobs at Black stations, and he was forced to moonlight to support his family. The mayor's outburst marked the beginning of a campaign of police harassment that included such subtleties as a cocked finger and a 'bang bang' from a smirking cop, and escalated to a late-night police beating of Mumia's brother on the street.

Mumia was driving a cab that night. It is undisputed that he intervened. It is undisputed that both he and officer Daniel Faulkner were shot, and that Faulkner died. What is in dispute is who killed Faulkner. Mumia says it was someone else, and several witnesses saw another shooter flee the scene. Mumia's legally registered .38 was never decisively linked to Faulkner's wounds.

Mumia's murder trial was a policeman's dream. Denied the right to represent himself, he was defended by a reluctant incompetent who was later disbarred (and who has since filed an affadavit in Mumia's support detailing his delinquencies). Mumia was prosecuted by a DA who was later reprimanded for withholding evidence in another trial. He was allowed only $150 to interview witnesses.

But best of all was the judge. A life member of the Fraternal Order of Police, branded as a "defendant's nightmare" by the Philadelphia Inquirer, Judge Albert F. Sabo has sentenced more men to die (31 to date, only two of them white) than any other sitting judge in America. A fellow judge once called his courtroom a "vacation for prosecutors" because of bias toward convictions.

Sabo wouldn't allow Mumia to defend himself because his dreadlocks made jurors "nervous." Kept in a holding cell, he read about his own trial in the newspapers. A Black juror was removed for violating sequestration, while a white juror was given an court escort to take a civil service exam; in the end all the Black jurors but one were removed. A policeman who filed two conflicting reports was never subpoenaed (he was "on vacation"). Mumia's Black Panther history was waved like a bloody flag: Had he said, "All power to the people?" Yes, he admitted, he had said that. Character witnesses like poet Sonia Sanchez were cross-examined about their "anti-police" writings and associations.

Thus with Judge Sabo's help, an award-winning radical journalist with no criminal record was portrayed as a police assassin lying in wait since age 15. After Mumia's conviction, Sabo instructed the jury: "You are not being asked to kill anybody" by imposing the death penalty, since the defendant will get "appeal after appeal after appeal." Such instruction, grounds for reversal since Caldwell vs. Mississippi, was allowed in Mumia's case.

Mumia's appeals have so far gone unanswered. After being on Death Row for thirteen years, he is now the target of a police-led smear campaign. Last year NPR's "All Things Considered" canceled a scheduled series of his commentaries after the Fraternal Order of Police objected. Mumia's book, LIVE FROM DEATH ROW, has been greeted with a boycott and a skywriter circling the publisher's Boston offices: "Addison-Wesley Supports Cop Killers" Officer Faulkner's widow has gone on TV claiming that Mumia smiled at her when her husband's bloody shirt was shown--even though the record shows that Mumia wasn't in the courtroom that day.

Mumia and his supporters want only one thing--a new trial, with an unbiased judge and a competent lawyer. Defense attorney Leonard Weinglass has entered a motion to have Judge Sabo removed from the case because he cannot provide even the "appearance of fairness." The struggle became a race against time last month, when Pennsylvania Governor Ridge, though fully aware of the many questions in the case, signed a death warrant scheduling Mumia for execution August 17.

Mumia Abu-Jamal was not surprised. Several of the essays in his book deal with America's frantic "march toward the death chamber." As he wrote several years ago in the Yale Law Journal, "states that have not slain in a generation now ready their machinery: generators whine, poison liquids are mixed, and gases are measured and readied."

Unless Mumia Abu Jamal's final petition is answered, and he gets the fair trial he deserves, America will see its the first explicitly political execution since the Rosenbergs were put to death in 1953. Frank Rizzo's angry threat will be fulfilled, for one "new breed" journalist at least. It will stop. We won't hear any more criticism of the police from Mumia Abu-Jamal. Forever
posted by R J Noriega at 8:28 AM | Permalink | 0 comments
ONA Move! Long live John Africa's Revolution!
By Mumia Abu-Jamal, son of Abu-Jamal.
Statement read at Unity Nation's African Holocaust Conference, 15 October, 1995

Many of you will, no doubt, gasp and be alarmed when you hear that the writer of these words is on death row; But, why be alarmed? Why be surprised? In America, are we not all on death row?

Think of Malice Green, of Detroit; Brother McDuffie of Miami; of men, women and children known and unknown - nameless to all except those who loved them - Eternal Black Victims of the Great White Executioners - Since 1619 till this very day, when the relentless war on Black Life continues unabated.

Think of the martyred ones; those 28 men who soldiered for the Black Panther Party, like Fred Hampton, Mark Clark, George Luther Jackson, and Jonathan Jackson; think of the MOVE martyrs of May 13, 1985, bombed into oblivion by this very government - were they not on death row?

And that is our problem, isn't it?

At this march, let us now use this massive strength to organize, to rebuild, to breathe new life into our people's movements to free ourselves from our deadly daily reality.

If we merely come together to beat our feet, shout our lungs out, and shake our fists at an empty sky, we have failed.

All the Universe pulsates with purpose - will we be out-of-sync with the natural rhythms of the Universe itself?

What is our purpose?

Let us organize our strength for our collective freedom! Let us organize our collective power to shout out, not in supplication, but in militant affirmation of our God-given worth! ON THE MOVE!

Let us organize - for in Unity there is strength!

Use this opportunity to build strong, deep and lasting organizational expressions of our truest selves - ones which speak our truths unafraid to the world, ones that do righteous battle for our interests, ones that support the simple yet profound principle that a truly free and independent people do what needs to be done to preserve their existence and protect their tomorrows - no matter what.

Be militant! Be committed! Let freedom become your faith! Let Revolution become your religion! ON THE MOVE!

It is one of America's firmest goals to keep the grandsons of slaves helpless and virtually powerless. If you can't help yourselves, you can't help others. Power ain't a job, nor a title - it's the ability to make things happen - period.

Let us organize our collective will, let us build! Our grandmothers and grandfathers built this nation with the blood, sweat and tears of their stolen toil; Let us build - Organize!



Mumia Abu-Jamal
posted by R J Noriega at 8:25 AM | Permalink | 0 comments
Friday, February 17, 2006
Super Infector
by Kai Wright

Garry Wayne Carriker had a pretty promising life ahead of him. He’d graduated from the Air Force Academy back in 2001 and at age 26 was prepared to graduate from Emory University’s prestigious medical school this past spring. He probably never dreamed he’d instead spend most of the year sitting in an Atlanta jail. But at summer’s end, that’s just where he was, awaiting trial on three counts of a sex-crime that could get him 30 years behind bars.

Carriker’s not a rapist or a child molester, but many consider his alleged crime equally horrific. The Atlanta attorney who is representing one of Carriker’s seeming victims in a civil suit compared his actions to “shooting bullets into the crowd.” Carriker is charged with having consensual sex with a guy he was casually dating without telling the man he is HIV positive. He was arrested and released on bond, but then two additional men came forward with similar charges. So a judge locked him back up, where he remained at this article’s writing.

Publicly, it’s still unclear when or how Carriker found out he was positive. It’s also unclear exactly what sex acts he and his boyfriend, John Withrow, engaged in together, or if they used protection when doing anything in which HIV could have been transmitted. Not that any of those details matter much to the law. Nor does it matter that Withrow never actually contracted HIV. All that matters is that Carriker had sex without telling. In Georgia, as well as in dozens of other states, that’s a prosecutable offense.

Carriker, who is white, is the latest in what has been a steady, if small, stream of such prosecutions across the country since the late 1980s. The most agressively pursued cases—both by prosecutors and by news media eager to cover the action—have been those involving Black men, often who have migrated to rural areas and have had sex with white women. They represent the extreme end of a once-derided perspective that is gaining considerable currency in the world of HIV prevention. With the U.S. epidemic larger —and Blacker —than it’s ever been, the growing consensus among health officials and community activists alike is that the only way to stop the virus’ spread is to control the behavior of those who already have it.

An increasingly popular quip bouncing around the halls of AIDS conferences sums up the new zeitgeist. Every instance of HIV transmission, one knowingly remarks, involves someone who’s HIV positive. This truism ignores its corollary: There’s always a negative person in the mix, too.

From tuberculosis to syphilis, Western public health has long employed a straightforward and largely successful formula to controlling communicable diseases: find the carriers, treat them, determine who they may have already infected and repeat. Confine those who can’t or won’t cooperate. Why not adopt this “screen and treat” approach to HIV? Science can’t expunge the virus from folks’ bodies, but it can suppress it to low enough levels that it’s harder to transmit. And there’s at least some research that shows people who are engaged in treatment are less likely to do things to risk exposing others to the virus.

But HIV has never been just another communicable disease; it’s passed on by used needles and sex, often of the taboo sort, be it between men or just outside of marital monogamy. So for years, HIV prevention considered the complicated emotions that drive sexual behavior, from the quest for intimacy to the urge for adventure, to be far too layered for single-bullet solutions. Health educators held transmission’s duality as their guiding principle—it takes two to do the AIDS tango—and crafted campaigns that urged every individual to take personal responsibility for his or her own health.

But after 25 years of this approach, the epidemic is still raging out of control. In June, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced that more people are now living with HIV than ever before—over a million, with an estimated 40,000 new infections a year. Blacks account for just under half of those already infected and over half of new infections each year. In a shocking CDC study also released in June, researchers found 46 percent of the Black homosexual and bisexual men they tested in five major cities were infected. Indeed, no matter how you chop up the numbers—by gender, sexuality, or geography—Blacks in particular and Latinos to a lesser extent are now the predominant face of HIV.

So as the epidemic grows more entwined with the fabric of our lives, those who have been tasked with stopping it have grown terribly frustrated. At a packed public forum in New York City this March, convened in response to local health officials’ announcement of a potential new and virulent strain of HIV (which has since proven nonexistent), the anger in the voices of AIDS veterans was palpable. Tokes Osubu, executive director of the New York-based group Gay Men of African Descent, articulated why. “My anger stems from seeing that someone in his mid-40s, who had seen the devastation of the 80s and 90s, [became HIV positive] in 2004. That made me extremely angry,” Osubu somberly admitted, “and angry because I thought that as a provider [of AIDS services] I had failed.”

Those sort of haunting doubts have driven HIV prevention veterans to reconsider the traditional public health tools they once shunned.

Policing and Prevention

Western efforts at disease control have been firmly rooted in paternalism and policing from their inception. The German doctor Johann Peter Frank first spelled out the state’s responsibility—and authority—for maintaining a healthy citizenry in a series of groundbreaking, turn-of-the-19th century volumes, aptly titled A System of Complete Medical Police. It was a soup-to-nuts guide on what people needed to do to stay healthy, and how the state should encourage that behavior. Predictably, moralism was a recurring theme—one infamous section urged local officials to place time limits on dances that seemed too erotic, like the waltz.

That top-down perspective on prevention has persisted, and it informed government’s initial response to HIV. Washington had just begun noticing AIDS’ decade-old carnage when, in 1990, Congress passed the Ryan White CARE Act, which is now the federal government’s primary vehicle for funding AIDS services. Lawmakers included a provision demanding that every state have a criminal code that allows it to prosecute a person’s failure to disclose an HIV diagnosis to someone who may be put at risk by it.

The resulting state laws vary greatly in both form and severity, but they fall roughly into three categories: those that specifically criminalize the failure to disclose an HIV infection; those that enhance penalties to existing crimes—prostitution, rape, assault—when the person charged is positive; and those that simply use general laws like assault to prosecute “intentional” attempts to infect someone with HIV. According to the HIV Criminal Law & Policy Project, as of 2000, 24 states had laws that directly address situations like Carriker’s, in which a person fails to disclose his or her status before sex. Sentence enhancements are on the books in 15 states, most of which also have specific disclosure laws.

The laws, according to a review done by scholars at the Center for AIDS Prevention Studies at University of California San Francisco, largely require simply that the positive partner in a sex act was aware of his or her status and didn’t reveal it. Transmission is not required by any state, and using a condom gets you off the hook in only two. The penalties get as high as a life sentence, such as in Washington State, but are typically in the range of 7-15 years per count, such as the Georgia law Carriker faces. A handful of states raise the prosecutorial bar, adding that the person must have had harmful intent to be guilty of a crime.

Because the cases are difficult to win—you must prove something did not happen, and usually do it without witnesses—actual prosecutions are rare and seem to come in only slam-dunks. The HIV Criminal Law & Policy Project reviewed legal and media databases from 1986 to 2001 and found evidence of just 316 prosecutions—in 80 percent of which the defendants were convicted.

But prosecution isn’t really the point. Supportive lawmakers believe they don’t need to lock up every potential offender, just send a scary enough message to make them think twice about having sex without disclosing. The problem is, no research whatsoever exists to show these laws and their messages actually aid prevention. To the contrary, there’s plenty reason to believe they hurt it.

Does Targeting Positive Folks Work?

Many people would agree that someone who knowingly sets out to infect others with a communicable disease needs to be confined from society. But HIV’s epidemiology suggests the primary reason people who are positive have unprotected sex or share needles with others is that they don’t know they’re positive.

CDC estimates a quarter of those living with HIV don’t know it. African Americans particularly are operating blind: In the June study on Black gay men, two-thirds of those who tested positive were unaware of their infection at the study’s outset.

There are myriad reasons for Black folks’ reluctance to get tested—we don’t think we’re at risk, don’t trust healthcare providers, and/or don’t even have healthcare providers. But many people working in black and Latino communities say the real problem is one that targeting positive folks worsens.

“The answer, at least partially, is stigma,” Latino Commission on AIDS Executive Director Dennis DeLeon told the March New York City forum. “Stigma associated with even taking an AIDS test. The stigma associated with going to medical care once you learn about your HIV status. These stigmas are very heightened in people of color communities,” DeLeon warned, adding, “I have not seen enough” work on that fact.

Keith Folger, director of programs for the National Association of People With AIDS (NAPWA), adds that the focus on forced disclosure also does little to address the epidemic’s driving forces. “Just because I tell you I’m positive, that doesn’t mean that we’re going to behave differently [when having sex],” he notes.

NAPWA has long advocated for prevention efforts targeting people who are positive, but only as part of a larger suite of work and combined with efforts to reduce the stigma that drives many into the HIV closet. “There are so many reasons not to disclose, it just can’t be the only answer,” Folger argues. “What if negative people said, ‘I just refuse to be the receptive partner in sex without a condom?’ We say it’s a shared responsibility.”

Ultimately, for all the talk about sending messages to people who are positive, the real message of criminalization laws may be to everyone else: this troubling and complicated epidemic isn’t your problem, it’s that of monstrous outsiders who we can simply wall off from regular folks’ lives. It is perhaps telling that the highest-profile and most aggressively pursued prosecutions have featured America’s most recurring monster fantasy—young Black men from urban areas who were having sex with young white women in rural areas.

In 2004, a Black man named Anthony Whitfield in Washington State faced 137 years in prison for, as his public defender put it to the Seattle Weekly, “spreading AIDS to a bunch of white women.” Seventeen women accused Whitfield of having sex with them without disclosing. In 2002, prosecutors in Huron, South Dakota locked up black college freshman Nikko Briteramos, a Chicagoan who had just come to the small, largely white town on a basketball scholarship, for having sex with his white girlfriend without disclosing. He’d tested positive just a few weeks before the sex act.

But Nushawn Williams remains the unlucky poster child of the HIV criminalization movement. Williams was a 20-year-old, Black Brooklynite who had relocated to a small, economically depressed and largely white town in upstate New York to exploit its wide-open crack market. Williams commuted back and forth to New York City, and once, while in jail there on an auto theft charge, he tested HIV positive. He received no counseling or support in learning how to live with his infection. Nevertheless, he readily gave health workers the names of the 20 or so women around the state with whom he’d recently had sex.

As is routine, caseworkers tracked the women down over the course of a year, and four tested positive. Meanwhile, six women whom he hadn’t named tested positive when they went for exams without having been summoned. County health officials noticed that these women included Williams in their own partner-notification lists. So they declared an emergency, had confidentiality laws waived and put up posters that both identified Williams and encouraged anyone who had had sex with him, or even had had sex with someone who had sex with him, to come in for a test. In the ensuing national media spectacle Williams was called everything from the “devil” to “boogeyman incarnate” to “super infector”—a riff on the then-popular “super predator” caricature for young, urban Black men.

This August, news reports from tiny Milford, Iowa, suggested it may host the next installment in this series. Police there had just locked up Dewayne Boyd, a Black man in the largely white town, charging Boyd with having had sex with four women—including his wife—without disclosing his HIV infection. As one resident told the Des Moines Register, “What bothers me is that people are saying, ‘It’s that Black guy.’”

A Slippery Slope

The CDC has plunged into this volatile atmosphere with an aggressive new initiative it is calling “Advancing HIV Prevention.” In 2003, the government announced that their prevention money would now be focused on campaigns that seek to first identify and then alter the behavior of positive people. That means more testing campaigns, but it also means emboldened partner notification programs—in which people who test positive are pushed to reveal their sex partners and aid the health department in tracking them down.

Very few of those in the mainstream AIDS community who support this invigorated focus on the behavior of positive people also stand behind HIV criminalization laws. But critics of the new CDC initiative warn that, when handled poorly, it’s a slippery slope from “targeted prevention” to the sort of plain scapegoating those laws represent.

NAPWA’s Folger worries that, while the CDC’s emphasis on testing is important, the agency’s push to make it “routine”—or just part of any hospital or doctor’s office visit—is ill-advised as long as the strong stigma associated with the virus remains. Just learning your HIV status, he notes, appears to change behavior in the long term, but in the short term it can be catastrophic if the person isn’t prepared for that knowledge. A not untypical reaction is that of Williams and Briteramos: to simply choose denial, ignore the diagnosis and go on with life as usual, thereby becoming a criminal.

Folger also questions the genuineness of Washington’s commitment, given that Congress is now considering a funding cut for prevention and continues to undermine proven methods for stopping the virus’ sspread. “One of the most effective forms of prevention for positives, our federal government refuses to fund,” he scoffs, “and that is needle exchange.” A longstanding law forbids any federal money to be used for such programs.

To Folger, any real effort to encourage safety among positive folks needs to come from the bottom up and focus on helping rather than policing them. “You ask those of us living with HIV, ‘What messages work?’ Is it a women’s group that teaches women to use female condoms, so that their partners don’t even know that they’re having safe sex?” he posits. “You start with the infected population and say, ‘What do you think it is that will work for you?’"
posted by R J Noriega at 11:38 AM | Permalink | 0 comments
The White Elephant in the Room: Race and Election 2004
by Bob Wing

The 2004 presidential contest was a warning shot across the bow of all progressives. While the president and the Republican pundits vastly overstate their "mandate," progressives need to become clear on the motion of racial politics if we are to get ourselves in shape for the coming battles.

Many spin doctors would have us believe that the story of the 2004 election turns on evangelicals and moral values, the better to advance their rightwing agenda in both the Democratic and Republican parties, not to speak of the halls of power.

But an examination of the exit polls shows something very different (though not at all new): the centrality of race in U.S. politics. The bad news is that the Republicans, trumpeting their program of aggressive war and racism, swung the election by increasing their share of the white vote to 58 percent. This represents a four-point gain over 2000; a 12-point gain over 1996 and a grim18-point gain over 1992.

The good news is that people of color--African Americans, Latinos, Native peoples, Asian Americans and Arab Americans--surged to the polls in unprecedented numbers and voted overwhelmingly in opposition to the Bush agenda despite an unprecedented Republican attempt to intimidate them. People of color constituted about 35 percent of new voters and, despite their dazzling diversity, showed uncommon political unity.

A key lesson of this election is that progressives and Democrats need to stop chasing the Republicans to the right and instead adopt a clear vision that mobilizes our main social constituencies and wins new allies. Only a long term strategy that draws deeply and skillfully from the high moral ground of peace, jobs and equality and refuses to cede the South and Southwest to the right can enable us to staunch the country's longstanding movement to the right. Otherwise what Lani Guinier calls the "tyranny of the (white) majority" will continue to lead us into authoritarianism and empire.

The bitter truth is that the election marks a substantial and dangerous victory for the rightwing forces in this country. Despite a presidency marked by numerous impeachable offenses; despite daily exposure by the press over many months of the administration's lying and incompetence; despite both a disastrous war and an unprecedented loss of jobs; despite an impressive effort by the Democrats, unions and allied groups to mobilize and protect the vote; despite a massive voter turnout led by African American voters; despite the fact that people of color constituted 23 percent of all voters as opposed to 19 percent in the last election, the president turned a 500,000 vote loss in 2000 into a 3.5 million vote victory and the Republicans increased their majorities in both the House and the Senate.

Progressives have much to be proud of in our tremendous effort and substantial impact in the 2004 presidential election. But we must also face the fact our loss was not the result simply of the Republicans having more money or of a low voter turnout. The Republicans flat out organized us and methodically found white voters receptive to their racist program of "permanent war on terrorism at home and abroad."


There has been much talk by the punditry about how the evangelicals were the key to the Republican victory. They counsel the Democrats to move to the right to remain politically competitive. There was indeed a tremendous mobilization of Christian religious conservatives (and National Rifle Association members) to work the campaign for the Republicans. They were the critical ground troops for the Republicans but they were not the critical voters.

Alan Abramowitz points out, "Between 2000 and 2004, President Bush's largest gains occurred among less religious voters, not among more religious voters." Among those who attend church weekly or more, his gain was only one point. But among those attending services a few times a month he gained 4 points. From those attending a few times a year, he increased his share by 3 points and from those who never attend services he racked up a 4-point gain.

The emphasis on the evangelical vote is a smokescreen motivated by the attempt by Republicans (and conservative Democrats) to move the country rightwards. Meanwhile, most pundits, left and right, refuse to squarely face the white elephant in the room: race.

The Republican victory turned almost exclusively on increasing its share of the white vote. In 2000 Bush won the white vote by 12 points, 54-42; in 2004 he increased this to a 17-point margin, 58-41. That increase translates into about a 4 million vote gain for Bush, the same number by which Bush turned his 500,000 vote loss in 2000 into a 3.5 million vote victory this time around.

This increase came mainly from white women. Bush carried white men by 24 points in 2000 (60-36) and increased that margin by only one point in 2004 (62-37). But he increased his margin of victory among white women from only 1 point in 2000 (49-48) to 11 points in 2004 (55-44). This accounts for a 4 million plus vote swing for Bush. (Women of color favored Kerry by 75-24.)

Another overlooked exit poll result is that Kerry actually increased the Democrats' share of the vote among rural and small town voters and held steady among suburbanites. However, his share of the vote in cities fell considerably. In cities of 500,000 or more Kerry won 60 percent of the vote, compared to 71 percent for Gore. Bush increased his big city vote by 13 points, from 26 percent in 2000 to 39 percent in 2004. We are apparently looking at a significant rightward motion among white women in big cities, a real blow to progressive strategy.


The other issue that has disguised the centrality of race in this campaign has been the National Exit Poll (NEP) survey of the Latino vote. The poll concluded that Latinos voted for Kerry by 53-44, a steep decline from Gore's 62-35 victory among Latinos in 2000. But the NEP's results are self-contradictory. Larger Latino exit polls show a tremendous Latino turnout that went for Kerry by as much as 68 percent.

Since the NEP polls only 13,000 voters, the size of the sample for Latinos was very small and therefore probably not very accurate. Latinos make up eight percent of the electorate, and their geographic location (more urban) and income/education (lower) are quite different from the majority white population that shapes the polling sample.

In addition, the NEP does not include the numerous Latino nationalities in appropriate proportions. This is important because these nationalities differ politically. For example Cubans tend to vote much more Republican than all other Latino groups, while Puerto Ricans tend to vote more Democratic.

More importantly the NEP's conclusion about the national Latino vote is not compatible with its own state-by-state polling results. For example, the NEP says that Bush won a mind-bending 64 percent of Latino votes in the South, the region with the most Latino voters (35 percent of the national total). But it simultaneously reported that Bush won 56 percent of Latino votes in Florida, the state where Cuban Republicans make up most of the Latino vote and 59 percent of the Latino vote in Texas. Something is clearly wrong when it is reported that the two states where Latinos are most likely to vote Republican voted less Republican than the South as a whole.

Indeed it is statistically impossible for both the NEP's results for individual states in the South and its conclusion that 64 percent of all Latinos in the South voted for Bush to be correct.

The William C. Velásquez Institute, as it has for many elections, performed a much larger exit poll of Latinos. The Institute polled 1,179 Latino respondents in 46 precincts across 11 states, and took into account the unique demographic characteristics of Latinos. Its survey concluded that Kerry won the Latino vote by 68-31, a strong showing in the face of unprecedented efforts by Republican operatives and Catholic priests to sway Latinos the other way.

It also found that 7.6 million Latinos voted, a record number that represents an increase of an impressive 1.6 million (27 percent) over 2000. This turnout was even more remarkable considering the widespread attempts by Republicans to intimidate Latino voters and the chronic shortages of Spanish language ballots.

Antonio Gonzalez, president of the Velásquez Institute, concludes, "President Bush tried unsuccessfully to increase his support among Latinos. The Democratsmessage appears to have resonated with Latinos.


The Republican spin-meisters, as well as some "centrist" Democrats, are even claiming a Republican breakthrough among African American voters based on appealing to conservative Christian values. However, veteran political consultants Cornell Belcher and Donna Brazile counter: "Those who trumpet inroads by Bush into the African American vote ignore history and show a strong prejudice against basic arithmetic."

The NEP concluded that Kerry won the black vote by an overwhelming 88-11 percent. Although this is two points fewer than Gore won in 2000, those two points are well within the margin of error of the poll. Even if correct, the results indicate that Bush received a lower percentage of the black vote than Nixon, Ford, Dole or Ronald Reagan in 1980.

This outcome is even more notable when one considers that, according to a Nov. 17 public memo by Belcher and Brazile, fully 60 percent of African Americans in the key battleground states, where the Republicans messaged heavily against abortion and gay marriage, consider themselves "born again Christians."

Their polling also indicates that, "The more likely African Americans are to be frequent church goers, the more likely they are to identify themselves as a strong Democrat." Clearly when pundits argue that the Republicans won by appealing to "moral values" or "evangelicals," they should really qualify their statements racially.

Perhaps most importantly, Belcher and Brazile point out that more than three million new black voters thronged to the polls in 2004, accounting for more than 20 percent of the total voter increase. They also erased the traditional 6-10 point voter participation gap between whites and blacks and increased their percentage of all voters from 10 percent in 2000 to almost 12 percent this year.

Black voters defeated the unprecedented Republican voter intimidation and suppression effort in the run-up to the election. Belcher and Brazile conclude that, "The real story is the reawakening of civic participation by African Americans in 2004."


Asian Americans also surged to the polls in historic numbers and, in all their great internal diversity, voted overwhelmingly Democratic.

The political trajectory of Asian voters has been striking. Like most immigrant groups, most Asians have historically registered and voted Democratic. However, as their incomes rose and the percentage of Asian voters who had fled Asian socialist countries climbed as a result of the 1965 immigration reform act, many became "Reagan Democrats" in the 1980s. By the 1990s a higher percentage of Asians were registered as independents than any other racial/ethnic group.

Asians were not included in national exit polls until 1992. In that election, won by Clinton, their Republican and independent bent showed through, with Bush Sr. receiving 55 percent of the Asian vote, Perot 15 percent and Clinton only 31 percent. However, since 1992 Asians have turned strongly toward the Democrats. Clinton won 43 percent in 1996, Gore won 54 percent and Kerry at least 58 percent. This trend is probably connected to the hard right turn of the GOP in the 1990s, especially its fierce attacks on immigrants.

The NEP sample of Asian American voters was tiny, as Asians represent only 2-3 percent of all voters. By contrast, the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund conducted a multilingual, non-partisan poll of 11,000 Asian voters in eight states. Mindful of the diversity among Asians, it surveyed them in 23 Asian languages and dialects as they left 82 polling places in 20 cities in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Virginia, Michigan and Illinois.

AALDEF executive director Margaret Fung said: "The record turnout of Asian American voters demonstrated our community's extraordinary interest in the electoral process this year." A tremendous 38 percent of Asian voters reported that they were first time voters despite what AALDEF called "an array of barriers that prevented them from exercising their right to vote."

The poll found that Asian Americans favored John Kerry over George Bush by 74-24 percent. First timers voted for Kerry by 78-20. A Los Angeles Times poll of 3,357 California voters found that 64 percent of Asian Americans voted for Kerry and 34 percent for Bush.


The National Congress of American Indians spearheaded Native Vote 2004, a nationwide voter registration and turnout effort. In a press release dated Nov. 3, NCAI President Tex Hall reported, "Native voters turned out to the election polls in greater numbers for this election day than any other in history." The release documented voter turnout successes across Indian country, including a doubling of Native voters in Minnesota. This show of political force was especially impressive considering widespread reports of Native voter intimidation by Republicans.

Although no exit polls on Native peoples are available, the county-by-county map of the 2004 vote indicates that the Native vote was largely Democratic. In addition, the NEP results by race shows the "Other" vote (which includes but is not limited to Native voters) as going for Kerry by 57-43. A Democratic Native vote would be in line with historical trends and pre-election polling.

The NCAI states that "The 2004 election will be the first time Native votes will be quantified in a way to benchmark the population for future elections" and that "rising political clout [by Native voters] will only grow going forward."


The only available analysis of Arab American voters indicates a major political about face by this group. According to a Zogby International poll, George Bush carried the Arab vote by 46-38 in 2000, with a strong 13 percent choosing Ralph Nader. The final Zogby poll for 2004 found Kerry winning by a landslide 63-28-3.

Arab voters contributed to Kerry's slim victories in Michigan, where they represent 5 percent of voters, and Pennsylvania, where they constitute 1.5 percent of the electorate. The Zogby poll indicates that Bush carried Arab Orthodox voters by one point, Arab Catholics favored Kerry 55-34-5 and Arab Muslims voted overwhelmingly for Kerry, 83-6-4. Both immigrant and U.S. born Arab voters went strongly for Kerry.

There are no figures available on Arab American voter turnout but, according to the Arab American Institute, there was an unprecedented Arab Get Out the Vote effort spearheaded by Yalla Vote. The Institute reports that Arabs organized GOTV efforts in 11 states that directly contacted at least 300,000 Arab American voters.

The Bush administration has rudely informed Arab Americans that they, like other immigrant groups from the Global South before them, are not just part of the "melting pot." They are also a group that is singled out by the government, the media and much of the public for racist stereotyping and harsh treatment.

As they have been increasingly treated like a racially oppressed group, Arab Americans have responded by voting like other people of color.

Taken together, people of color represented 23 percent of the total vote, but they accounted for about 35 percent of Kerry's tally. Their sense of political urgency was demonstrated by the fact that they represented about 35 percent of first time voters in this election. They are, unquestionably, the main base of the Democratic Party and the most avid anti-Bush constituencies.

White people and people of color are tremendously diverse groups and neither vote uniformly, but they are clearly trending in opposite political directions. How can we staunch the one and encourage the other?


The political map of Election 2004 has a depressing but telling resemblance to the pre-Civil War map of free versus slave states and territories. And, although blacks and other people of color now have the right to vote, the outcome of the electoral college vote in the South shows that the 55 percent of black voters who still reside there have as little impact on the presidential race today as they did when they had no right to vote at all.

The same disenfranchisement afflicts Latinos in the Southwest and Native voters in the heartland. Quiet as its kept, the racist remnants of slavery and the Monroe Doctrine are alive and well in the political life, institutions and consciousness of Americans of all colors and classes up to today.

Racism--at home and abroad--is a central element of the Republican "moral values" and strategy. And racism is conciliated if not actively promoted by the Democratic focus on winning more white voters by moving to the right while taking voters of color virtually for granted.

The Democratic refusal to mount a fight for electoral reform and for the Southern vote leaves all its residents to the tender mercies of racist white fundamentalists, oil magnates, sugar barons and militarists. And it disarms progressives' ability to invoke the political and moral weight of the fight for racial and economic justice that still has deep Southern roots. And so it also is with urban racism and the burgeoning issue of immigrant rights concentrated (though by no means exclusively) in the Southwest.

It is about time for progressives, including those in the Democratic Party, to show the same basic common sense that the right has demonstrated. We should prioritize the issues and organization of our most powerful social bases as the foundation upon which to extend our influence to the population at large. It is time to stop chasing the Republicans--and the money--to the right. It is time to develop and fight for a coherent progressive political vision and set of policies that appeal to the positive sentiments of all people, and to fight for this vision over the long haul.

The fight for social and economic progress now, as in the past, cannot be won without challenging the racist, militarist right in its historic Southern heartland and its deep Southwestern echoes. We must have the confidence that skillfully doing so will win increased support from whites as well as people of color.

This is not just rhetoric. The future of our country and the well-being of the world depend on us. We cannot stop the right's incessant drive to dominate the world's resources and to steamroll all opposition to that program unless we pose a clear alternative. A powerful vision of peace, jobs and justice is our only chance to mobilize the democratic sentiments and courage of all the people of our countr
posted by R J Noriega at 11:27 AM | Permalink | 0 comments
Secret US jails hold 10,000
WASHINGTON - Almost 10,000 prisoners from President George W. Bush's so-called war on terror are being held around the world in secretive American-run jails and interrogation centres similar to the notorious Abu Ghraib Prison.

Some of these detention centres are so sensitive that even the most senior members of the United States Congress have no idea where they are.

From Iraq to Afghanistan to Cuba, this American gulag is driven by the pressure to obtain "actionable" intelligence from prisoners captured by US forces.

The systematic practice of holding prisoners without access to lawyers or their families, together with a willingness to use "coercive interrogation" techniques, suggests the abuse of prisoners at Abu Ghraib now shocking the world could be widespread.

Iraq has become a holding pen for America's prisoners from 21 countries, according to a report from the international campaign group Human Rights Watch.

The US military is keeping prisoners at 10 centres, most of which were used by Saddam Hussein's regime. The total in January was 8968, and is thought to have increased.

Prisoners are being held from, among other countries, Algeria, Egypt, India, Iran, Iraq, the Palestinian territories, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, Malaysia, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Sweden, Tunisia, Turkey, Ukraine, the United Kingdom and Yemen.

A report in the Washington Post has revealed that up to 8000 Iraqi prisoners are being held at Abu Ghraib, the jail west of Baghdad also known as the Baghdad Central Correctional Facility or BCCF, and nine other facilities inside Iraq.

It is impossible to know for sure because the Pentagon refuses to provide complete information.

Officials say prisoners range from those accused of petty crimes to detainees believed to be involved in attacks on US forces, though it is increasingly clear that many hundreds are simply Iraqi civilians swept up in raids by US and British soldiers.

Military and diplomatic sources say a number of detainees were taken to Iraq from Afghanistan.

In Afghanistan, the US military still holds 300 or more prisoners at Bagram, north of Kabul, and at facilities in Kandahar, Jalalabad and Asadabad.

The CIA, meanwhile, runs an interrogation centre in Kabul that is known by special forces and others simply as "The Pit".

At Guantanamo Bay, more than 600 prisoners remain incarcerated more than two years after they were captured in the aftermath of the US operation against the Taleban.

Last week the US admitted that two guards at the camp had been disciplined for using "excessive force" against prisoners.

Michael Ratner, vice-president of the New York-based Centre for Constitutional Rights, which has represented many of the Guantanamo prisoners, said yesterday it was clear that a pattern was emerging.

"To me it means they are breaching international law as well as domestic law. The treatment is obviously illegal," he said.

"It puts what is happening in Iraq into perspective. The idea that just a few soldiers came up with this is inconceivable. It has come from very high up in the Administration."

From interviews with relatives and lawyers for the seven US soldiers facing courts-martial for the Abu Ghraib abuse, there is growing evidence that their actions were encouraged and even ordered by Military Intelligence and privately contracted interrogators to "soften up" the prisoners. Major General Geoffrey Miller, formerly the warden at Guantanamo Bay, took control of Abu Ghraib last year with a plan to turn it into a hub of interrogation.

He placed the military police under the tactical control of the 205th Military Intelligence Brigade.

The lawyers representing Lynddie England, the 21-year-old woman from the 372nd Military Police Company who was caught in photographs sexually humiliating hooded Iraqi prisoners and leading one by a lead, insisted she was following orders.

The pictures were a deliberate part of the humiliation, they said.

"People told Pfc England, 'Hold that leash' ... told her to smile, so they can show the photos to subsequent prisoners," said lawyer Carl McGuire. Another member of her legal team, Rose Mary Zapor, said: "They picked her to get the smallest, youngest, lowest-rank woman they could find and that would increase the humiliation for an Iraqi man."

This claim is supported by two members the 205th Military Intelligence Brigade, assigned to Abu Ghraib, who on their arrival immediately realised what was taking place was illegal.

The soldiers said beatings were meted out with the full knowledge of intelligence interrogators, who let military police know which prisoners were co-operating with them and which were not.

A leaked report by the International Committee of the Red Cross, the only outside body permitted to visit the prison, also confirmed widespread ill-treatment and abuse that the authorities failed to stop.

It estimated that up to 90 per cent of the prisoners had been "arrested by mistake".
posted by R J Noriega at 10:59 AM | Permalink | 0 comments
BAYARD RUSTIN (1912 - 1987)
By Walter Naegle
[Bayard Rustin’s partner from 1977 until Rustin’s death in 1987; executor and archivist of the Bayard Rustin Estate.]

For more than 50 years, Bayard Rustin was a strategist and activist in the struggle for human rights and economic justice. Born in 1912, he grew up in West Chester, Pennsylvania, where he excelled as a student, athlete and musician. While he never received his B.A., Rustin attended Wilberforce University, Cheyney State College, and the City College of New York. He earned money for tuition by working at odd jobs and singing with Josh White’s Carolinians.

Raised as a Quaker, Rustin began his lifelong career as a social and political activist in 1937, when he moved to New York after completing an activist training program of the American Friends Service Committee. At City College, he became an organizer for the Young Communist League, which hired him as a youth organizer to work on the problem of racial segregation and to advocate an anti-war position. Rustin quit the League in 1941, after the Communist Party changed its organizing focus due to the war in Europe.

He began to work with A. Philip Randolph, president of The Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, the premier black trade union. Simultaneously, he began a long association with the Fellowship of Reconciliation (FOR). Serving as its Race Relations Secretary, he toured the country conducting Race Relations Institutes designed to facilitate communication and understanding among racial groups. He was active in Randolph’s March on Washington Movement, and became the first field secretary of the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE). In 1942 he was dispatched to California by the FOR and the American Friends Service Committee to help protect the property of Japanese-Americans imprisoned in internment camps.

During this time he also became acquainted with Norman Thomas, a leader in the democratic socialist movement in America. Rustin remained a democratic socialist throughout his life, and became staunchly anti-Communist after his disillusionment with the party.

As a committed pacifist, Rustin refused to register for the draft, and also declined to perform alternative service in one of the Civilian Public Service camps set up for Quakers and other religious pacifists. He served three years in federal penitentiary, beginning in 1943, as a way of protesting the war.

In 1947, under the auspices of the FOR and CORE, Bayard Rustin helped plan the first "freedom ride" in the South, challenging Jim Crow practices that had been made illegal by a 1946 Supreme Court decision outlawing discrimination in interstate travel. Known as the Journey of Reconciliation, riders engaged in direct protest by intentionally violating the segregated seating patterns on Southern buses and trains. Along the way, they were beaten, arrested and fined. Arrested in North Carolina, Rustin served 22 days on a chain gang. His account of that experience, serialized in The New York Post, spurred an investigation that contributed to the abolition of chain gangs in North Carolina. The Journey was the prototype for the Freedom Rides of the early 1960s. In the late 1940s, Mr. Rustin was instrumental in securing President Truman’s order eliminating segregation in the armed forces.

While working to promote democracy at home, Bayard Rustin also supported human rights struggles worldwide. In 1945 he organized the FOR’s Free India Committee, which championed India's fight for independence from Great Britain. Following the example of Gandhi, whose methods he studied during visits to India, he was frequently arrested for protesting Britain’s colonial rule in Africa. In the early 1950s, he consulted with Prime Minister Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana and Nnamdi Azikiwe of Nigeria, both leaders in their countries' independence movements. At home, he helped organize the Committee to Support South African Resistance in 1951, which later became the American Committee on Africa.

As a gay man, relatively open for his time, Bayard Rustin experienced anti-gay prejudice in addition to racial discrimination. Because of his sexual orientation as well as his controversial political positions, he was often relegated to a behind-the-scenes role in various campaigns. Arrested in 1953 on a "morals charge," he lost his job at the FOR, but found work with another anti-war group, the War Resisters League.

In 1956, at Mr. Randolph’s request, he was granted temporary leave from his position to assist Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in the early days of the Montgomery Bus Boycott. His extensive background in the theory, strategies, and tactics of nonviolent direction action proved invaluable to Dr. King.

Mr. Rustin organized the Prayer Pilgrimage for Freedom in 1957, The National Youth Marches for Integrated Schools in 1958 and 1959, and was the Deputy Director and chief organizer of the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom which, at that time, was the largest demonstration in the nation’s history. Thought by many to be the high point of the Civil Rights movement, the March on Washington served as the platform for Dr. Kings historic "I Have a Dream" speech and helped secure pending civil rights legislation.

In 1964 Bayard Rustin helped found the A. Philip Randolph Institute (APRI), named for his mentor. The Institute has 200 local affiliates involved in voter registration drives and programs designed to strengthen relations between the black community and the labor movement.

A longtime supporter of workers' rights, Mr. Rustin participated in many strikes and was a staunch ally to organized labor. During the mid-1960s he participated in the formation of the Recruitment and Training Program (R-T-P, Inc.), which successfully increased minority participation in the building and construction trades.

Mr. Rustin had a long involvement with refugee affairs. As a Vice Chairman of the International Rescue Committee, he traveled the world working to secure food, medical care, education, and proper resettlement for refugees. His visits to Southeast Asia helped to bring the plight of the Vietnamese "boat people" to the attention of the American public. In 1980 he took part in the international March for Survival on the Thai-Cambodian border. In 1982, he also helped found the National Emergency Coalition for Haitian Refugees.

As Chairman of the Executive Committee of Freedom House, an agency which monitors international freedom and human rights, Mr. Rustin observed elections in Zimbabwe, El Salvador, and Grenada. His last mission abroad, coordinated by Freedom House, was a delegation to Haiti to help create democratic reform in that country.

In 1983, Mr. Rustin and two colleagues made a fact-finding visit to South Africa. Their report, South Africa: Is Peaceful Change Possible? led to the formation of Project South Africa, a program that sought to broaden Americans’ support of groups within South Africa working for democracy through peaceful means.

Late in life, Bayard Rustin gave numerous interviews discussing how anti-gay prejudice had affected his life’s work. He was invited to address gay and lesbian groups and testified on behalf of New York City’s gay rights bill.

A collection of Mr. Rustin’s essays, Down the Line, was published in 1971. In 1976, he delivered the Radner Lecture at Columbia University. It was published under the title Strategies for Freedom: The Changing Patterns of Black Protest. He made three recordings of songs which have been reissued by The Bayard Rustin Fund, Inc. and are available from the address below. The recordings include spirituals, work and freedom songs, and Elizabethan songs.

At the time of his death, Bayard Rustin was Co-Chairman of the A. Philip Randolph Institute and President of the A. Philip Randolph Educational Fund. He was Chairman of Social Democrats USA, a member of the United States Holocaust Memorial Council, and a life member of Actors' Equity. He also served on numerous boards and committees, and was the recipient of more than a dozen honorary doctorates.
posted by R J Noriega at 10:53 AM | Permalink | 0 comments

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