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Fake online comments… July 23, 2014

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…great NPR On the Media which looks at the arrival of state-sponsored commentors online. Those of us familiar with sites like Politics.ie, or newspaper comments, will have seen numerous examples of same from people who would by any reasonable analysis appear to be operating on behalf of states various

I commented a while back on how the Guardian some commentors engaging in debate over the Ukraine/Russia situation were particularly inept, but of course it’s not just them. As the NPR programme notes the US has been at this too as well as – very obviously, other states.

What you want to say – 23rd July 2014 July 23, 2014

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As always, following on Dr. X’s suggestion, it’s all yours, “announcements, general discussion, whatever you choose”, feel free.

Sports Special – what you want to say… July 21, 2014

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Here’s our weekly thread for people to talk, sound off, discuss, give out, or whatever they want about sport… and by the way, if anyone has posts they think would be appropriate for the site on sport send them in…

The far right’s new interest in social welfare… July 20, 2014

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reading the Guardian magazine yesterday there was a piece on fascism and fascists in Italy and in particular the skinhead subculture that is avowedly fascist (and it hardly needs to be said that skinheads are not a uniform whole and take different political positions across the spectrum). But this, this was important because it reflects a trend we’ve seen in Greece:

Fulvio explains: “I like the Social Republic period [also known as the Republic of Salò]; I like the name as well. I’m not nostalgic about civil war – I hate people who are obsessed with all that. Fascism is a source of inspiration: just like Roman culture inspired fascism, fascism inspires us today. But we know we could never go back to what it was, we have to adapt it to present times.”

And:

The current battlefield is social welfare.

It’s funny, as I read that I wondered what it meant… did they have some animosity towards those on welfare, but no, not a bit of it:

The various far-right groups gather in suburban streets abandoned by political parties; they hand out clothes to the unemployed and distribute food to the elderly and books to students. They occupy uninhabited buildings to house the homeless in the same way that the far left used to do. The SPQR skinheads have taken over an abandoned school with another group, CasaPound. “It’s a five-storey building and now we’ve got 15 or 16 families living there, who haven’t got money for rent. There was no water or power: we sorted it out.

Casapound is another expression of this, for more on which see here. But, Golden Dawn is reknowned for similar activities in Greece – and let’s not be naive – a lot of this, much of it, perhaps most, is about extending and expressing social control. But here’s the thing, however marginal and inept or successful (and GD seem to belong to the latter category, at least in terms of influence) they are engaging.

Of course one can see limitations on their ability to engage, after all, the next will repel as many as (or more than) it attracts.

The strong bonds between members are the key attraction for potential recruits, who are overwhelmingly young, white, working-class men who feel alienated from western, capitalist, multicultural society. There is an all-consuming macho cult, in which physical fitness and prowess are highly valued.

But it seems to me to be a serious and troubling development.

Solidarity with Gaza and Palestine – Sligo, 3 PM Saturday July 18, 2014

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The definition of insanity… July 18, 2014

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…is doing the same thing again and again and hoping for a different outcome this time. And that’s what the Israeli government appears set upon.

Fred Kaplan on Slate makes the following point which I think is central to the rhetoric and substance of this conflict and the way in which criticism of the Israeli government is magically elided into charges of anti-Semitism:

In February, Secretary of State John Kerry publicly stated that a failure to negotiate with the Palestinians would “intensify” the international boycott of Israeli goods. Israeli officials and Jewish-American spokesmen accused Kerry of “anti-Semitism,” a preposterous charge. Kerry wasn’t endorsing the boycott; he was only making a factual statement, and he was right.

This is one of the most pernicious aspects of this, that criticism and critique is misrepresented time and again. And it’s not just the rhetorical aspect that is so problematic but that this then has very real political and actual consequences, in a further elision between the policies of the Israeli government then becoming synonymous (In the minds of that government) with Israel, Israelis in general and Jews.

In other words, not supporting those policies is in and of itself evidence of anti-semitism.

It’s a crock, it’s wrong and it’s utterly counterproductive. It’s appalling to see Palestine and Palestinians subject to collective punishment and what Baruch Kimmerling correctly termed ‘politicide’. It’s despairing to see Israel losing vital goodwill from actions that are utterly wrong, disproportionate and counterproductive.

And this is having very very real political effects as well. The Israeli government is currently more isolated than ever before, the United States has – albeit glacially – shifted its position to one of much greater (rhetorical) criticism. That may seem of little or no importance today but further down the line…

A despatch from the new economy… July 18, 2014

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I’ve got more than a certain sympathy for the customer service rep in this call in the US. But I’ll get to that in a moment.

It’s not just in the US that this is prevalent. I’ve had enough experiences with mobile and internet service providers who have been overly pushy and near enough unable to take a No, however politely phrased. On one occasion in the face of strenuous efforts to make me transition to a massively more expensive plan for my mobile (for massively read anything over approx €20 per month and that’s a push) I had to get the individual to go and look up my usage stats for the previous three years. Cue something close to an apology.

Worse again was the person who wanted me to shift from my phone and internet service provider despite my saying I wasn’t interested. And I’m not. I don’t need the hassle of having people trying to push me to make decisions I don’t want to make – there’s some of that about the energy companies as well when people arrive at the door promising six months cheaper electricity or gas.

But there’s a reason for that intensity on the part of the Comcast rep. Jordan Weissmann in the Slate article kind of cuts to the chase…by noting that ‘their pay really does depend’ on not ‘losing’ customers and…

…in short, yesterday we were all listening to a deeply fearful employee trying to hold onto his paycheck. I’ve contacted txmadison, who kindly provided images of some Comcast pay stubs to confirm his employment there.

Of course, they’re not ‘losing’ the customer in this and most other instances in the first place. That loss is due to customers broader experience of service from a company. And it seems almost perverse (though no doubt financially expedient) to be focusing on the reps both to dissuade and retain someone who does want to leave. In other words they carry the can for faults and flaws in service provision entirely outside of their control.

So these can be very difficult jobs with grim pressures on them. And there’s a mad logic to the whole thing as well – the customer rep in the Comcast example perhaps half-believes what he’s saying. Perhaps more than half-believes – I’ve seen the dynamic of identification with one’s employer in action. Most of us have. Who could blame him? If he doesn’t he might lose his job.

GAZA – Rally and March July 17, 2014

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Garth Brooks and the reality of protest in the 2010s… July 16, 2014

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Watching the photos of the Garth Brooks protest in Dublin which was attended by all of 50 people I’ve got to admit that the feeling I had wasn’t one of satisfaction – because the truth is that that’s about as perfect a demonstration of the current dynamic of protest that one could wish for. Enormous media and social media chatter and then at a given protest (for the most part) low or no shows of actual participants.

Now granted, some of that media chatter was very calculated – and expedient too on behalf of the organisations that were promoting it, but there is genuine upset on the part of those who have tickets, and have had to make and perhaps break other arrangements, as to the outcome of this, and why not? One can argue that their ire is misdirected and that it is the promoters and artist who should be feeling their wrath rather than residents or Owen Keegan or DCC, and one would argue correctly, but that doesn’t assuage the upset.

But even still, out of a potential attendance of 400,000 (with numerous caveats around that figure) plus potential supporters less than a hundred turn up on the day.

It’s this disconnect between frustration, anger and other emotions and actual activity that is so characteristic of this period. The point was made to me that an earlier pro-Brooks street side protest in the North Inner City was ironic given that local activists had been unable to get people out to protest against cuts to social and local provision including, for example, the closure of swimming pools that benefit local residents and communities all year round. And that too is telling. A swimming pool in the hand one might think was worth five Garth Brooks in the bush. But on the other hand one could see a certain logic there in relation to (almost) immediate financial benefits as against medium and long term benefits. Indeed while perhaps stretching all this to breaking point there is a certain parallel with taxation as a political issue.

But even then, the numbers at the NIC protest were very small too. Motivating people out is – it would appear – near enough impossible.

It raises a question asked previously on here and elsewhere, what if anything would see large numbers take to the streets? I’m not sure. In a way the examples of the North, or of Greece work in a counter intuitive way, since even significant protests don’t alter the trajectory of state thinking. Actually, I’m not convinced about that latter line. I think the careful and adroit application of protests in very significant numbers (that being 100,000 or so) is precisely the sort of thing to make a government take notice, and if not bend to that sort of will at least modify in part policies.

But the problem is – and this is as true for the left as a Garth Brooks fan – is getting to that 100,000 or better still more. It’s also difficult to know whether it will get easier or less easy to mobilise people as time goes on. My immediate thought would be the latter, for a range of reasons. It is true that there’s little but bad news in the immediate to medium term political future – LPT’s, water charges and so on. But having spoken to those involved in campaigns on the latter there’s a lot less optimism as to how they will play out than might be expected. That said there’s also enormous hostility (if not quite anger) to these measures.

And this, I think is where we see an effect, that being at the voting level. I’d hesitantly think that we’ll see an effective acquiescence to the measures while simultaneously an electoral beating for the government parties. That, certainly, is the lesson of the polls to date, and for all the much-vaunted government ‘reset’ hard to see why it should change significantly (though it may see a certain firming up of FG, and even LP, support).

Actually, the thought strikes that for the GB fans the situation is more difficult. It’s not as if there’s a vote on the matter a year and a half down the line. Nice to think that those who chanced their arm and left such an enormous cohort of fans in the lurch might pay a price – but I wonder if that will happen.

What you want to say – 16th July 2014 July 16, 2014

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As always, following on Dr. X’s suggestion, it’s all yours, “announcements, general discussion, whatever you choose”, feel free.

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