SWERFin’ and TERFin’

When it comes to the sex work industry commentary on social media, it seems like the critics are big on speaking about the dangers of trafficking (many times conflating trafficking and sex work) but very quiet when it comes to the underlying causes of why the most toxic parts of it exist.

I really can’t give much space in my head to those who voice their concerns about coercion in sex work but refuse to acknowledge the primary pillar of that coercion. Capitalism is at the core of the coercion they are constantly concerned about, but they never acknowledge it. Sex work is an industry for a lot of vulnerable people who wouldn’t be able to survive without it. The root of that coercion that they’re SO concerned about is based on actual material need. The ignorance of the root cause and focus on the people impacted feels like “I don’t want to see you exist because of how I feel”. It’s a mixture of privilege and sanctimoniousness without genuine care or sympathy for the people doing it or providing a real alternative.

I’m not a sex worker, but I find a lot of reasons to form solidarity bonds with them. It’s a common theme put upon marginalised communities, saying, “I feel icky about sex work (or trans people, or gay people, or immigrants, etc.), and they should just go away so I don’t have to see them.” Be clear about your intent: you don’t want marginalised communities to exist, but if we do, you want us to suffer.

Trans Auld Lang Syne

As I listened to Vermont Movement News’ podcast about a transgender woman, Aunt Jenny, that was a trans mother to many people around Philly (and on the internet via IRC), it reminded me of all the people that time had forgotten. Many people around the world, like Aunt Jenny, have taken in trans people in crisis. The folks that ran places like Transy House (and many others around the world) were collectives that supported trans people, who many times were at the end of their rope. A lot of that history is lost to time.

There are many trans people in the fight for civil rights that aren’t given their due either. People like Vanessa Edwards Foster, Ethan St. Pierre, Monica Helms, and Monica Roberts, bounce around in my head often.

I love hearing stories like this. It reminds me that there is good in the world, and in our community (both past and present). That solidarity and mutual aid keep people going. That we are all that we have

…and ultimately, we are dust in the wind.

Reactionaries, TERFs, and Bodily Autonomy

A couple of things have been stewing in my brain for a while, and I can’t stop thinking about them.

First off is a term that describes people who don’t believe in the right of individuals to make decisions about their own lives and bodies. Radical feminists (TERF or not) don’t think that sex workers have that right, in much the same way that US Republican conservatives. Whether drug use, transition care, sex work, assisted suicide or abortion, the resistance to it being allowed in society is that the person doing it cannot or should not consent. They want to impose their values on the lives of people they don’t know or care about. Reactionary kind of fits, but not really.

The other thing is that the resistors of bodily autonomy are rarely honest in their assessments/debates. They will use a rhetorical trick of treating a systemic issue as an individual issue and vice versa. A good example is the issue of mass shootings. The fact that cis white men commit the majority of mass shootings routinely gets treated as a “lone wolf” or as a “mentally ill” rather than it being a systemic, societally based issue.

On the other side of this trick, TERFs use individual trans people being awful that have no systemic/institutional/societal base at the root. TERFs will claim that self-identification of gender will cause harm, say this is a “valid question”, and repeat it ad nauseam. But they never respond when the question is answered and that their “valid question” hasn’t resulted in the systemic harm they claim in the 18 countries where it’s the law (Argentina, Belgium, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Denmark, Ecuador, Iceland, Ireland, Luxembourg, Malta, New Zealand, Norway, Pakistan, Portugal, Switzerland and Uruguay).

And that’s just it; the people at the centre of the question never want to answer it. Like Young Earth Creationists, they have a belief that is centred and anything that agrees with it is true; anything that counters it is false. It isn’t a debate, as it is a propaganda campaign that tries to get more people to try and command other people’s bodily autonomy.

Rock Music and Hedonistic Capitalism

When I was younger, I hung around musicians. I wanted to be one. Music was the one place I could escape to that gave me a sense of peace. I tried every rock-based instrument, including singing. But I knew early on that wasn’t my thing. I was good at writing poetry and songs, which should have taught me that my talents were more literary than musical. I enjoyed English and History classes in high school, but my biggest struggle was math. I’m just not a math person. 

I never understood why I couldn’t find an instrument that suited me. I loved listening to music, getting lost in the songs; why couldn’t I find something I could fit into, to be in a band? 

Fast forward to a couple of years ago, I started watching Rick Beato. Wikipedia describes him as an American YouTube personality, multi-instrumentalist, music producer and educator. He routinely makes videos doing musical analysis and interviews rock musicians. Many of them are from my childhood/youth. 

The music analysis bit made me realise that music is math. You don’t play music without mathematical rules. I could never find my instrument because I suck at math. I have a good ear for music and can understand some music theories, but I can’t get lost and create it. 

One of the other side effects of watching Rick (and listening to interviews with bands on Youtube), along with the experiences I had near musicians trying to make it onto bigger stages, was that the music scene is inherently about making money. It’s one of the most capitalistic projects out there. Making it big is about selling yourself and making a product others like and want to consume. 

Also, can we talk about lyrics? When you’re younger, it’s all about the music. It’s about the sound aesthetic rather than the message of the song. As I got older, I started listening to the lyrics. Songs like Thirteen and Young Girl are straight up about paedophilia. “Every Breath You Take” is a song about stalking (along with just about every Adele song). Problematic song lyrics are the norm, not the exception. 

I’m no longer shocked when a musician from my childhood comes out as a conservative and/or a capitalist. There are exceptions, but the rule is it’s all about the benjamins. It’s a requirement to be successful in the music business. 

There’s a reason the slogan “sex, drugs, and rock and roll” exists. The hedonistic gluttony that comes from it is just an aftereffect of the drive behind why someone wants that kind of fame and fortune in the first place. 

The Dilemma at the Center of the UK Labour and USA’s Democratic Party

I’m an American living in the UK for the last six years. When I lived in the United States, I was involved with Democratic politics on a state and national level. Reflecting on that experience has made me conclude that the Labour Party and the Democratic Party share many of the same traits.

In the USA, it’s “vote blue no matter who”, and in the UK, it’s similar, “Anyone but the Tories”. There’s an undercurrent of thought that leftists can’t win, so you should just support the most left party and try to move the party left. In real-time, that isn’t the case. In Nevada, the DSA (Democratic Socialists of America) won every seat in the Nevada Democratic Party’s leadership positions. They did what their opposition in the leadership always told them to do, win elections. How did they react? They stripped the party of its financial resources and then quit. Here, you can read a complete takedown of the whole thing at the Intercept and their sister audio podcast version.

Labour has a similar version of this story. In 2015 Jeremy Corbyn was elected to be the leader of the Labour party. In 2017, Labour outperformed expectations (winning more of the popular vote than Blair in 2005) and brought the Labour party just shy of gaining power. Teresa May called this election to coalesce power around her Brexit deal. The loss of seats for the Conservatives was enough to oust Teresa May as Prime Minister. They had to find a “magic money tree” to stay in power.

During Corbyn’s rein as the leader, the Forde Report found that there were forces within the party itself that were attacking Corbyn:

“The factions ended up in a cycle of attack and counterattack, with each side assuming that the other was acting in bad faith (sometimes justifiably, sometimes not) and responding in kind.”

That there were Trotskyist witch hunts:

“I was advised that the bellringing was conducted by the ‘compliance’ unit and represented the successful suspension or expulsion of a member – often surrounded by the description of such members as ‘trots'”.

and that there were factional, racist messaging by senior party staff:

“We find that the messages on the SMT [senior management team] WhatsApp reveal deplorably factional and insensitive, and at times discriminatory, attitudes expressed by many of the party’s most senior staff. The substance of the quoted messages is concerning – and totally inappropriate from senior staff of a purportedly progressive political party”

These factions were DESPONDENT at the idea of a Corbyn-led party taking power:

“WhatsApp transcripts included in the original 2020 dossier analysed by the inquiry had suggested that some staffers became despondent as Labour climbed in the polls during the election campaign despite their efforts.”

Looking at both political parties through the lens of recent history shows their moderate base operates both when in and out of power. They’re only focused on holding on to the reigns of power (at all costs) while not changing much while in power.

Right now, POTUS Joe Biden, who campaigned on being able to work with Republicans, cannot get legislation through Congress that the Democratic Party controls. As Peter Daou points this out at Direct Left:

This is Joe Biden’s actual record:

NO minimum wage hike

NO serious student debt cancellation

NO effective pandemic strategy (more deaths than Trump)

NO medicare for all — or the promised public option

NO more Roe v. Wade

NO filibuster reform, just speeches

NO voting rights protection, just more speeches

NO court expansion, just a sham commission

NO end to racist policing

NO end to gun violence

NO end to deportations & abuse of asylum-seekers

NO end to cages for migrant children

NO end to brutalizing Afghanistan and Yemen

NO end to droning civilians without repercussions

NO end to huge military budgets (bigger than Trump’s)

NO end to arming and coddling oppressive regimes

NO meaningful climate action

NO end to oil drilling and fossil fuel subsidies

NO end to poverty, hunger, and homelessness

NO end to billionaires pocketing trillions

That’s just a partial list of Biden’s broken promises — and broken moral compass. Corporate Democrats like Joe Biden, Chuck Schumer, and Nancy Pelosi have always relied on performative opposition and theatrics to pacify their supporters while preserving the status quo.

UK Labour is now leading in the polls (even though they said they’d be leading by 20 points— and they aren’t) and may win the next general election. That may sound great, but as Biden has shown, if you don’t lead a party of change with ideas that you implement, you won’t be able to get anything done and “nothing will fundamentally change.”

Things might not be that bad if that was all that would happen. But the promise of “hope and change” and to “fundamentally transform” America by Barack Obama that didn’t materialise led to the election of Donald Trump. This lack of political movement had consequences.

Saying that you “must vote blue, no matter who”, if it were in the context of a personal relationship, would be considered gaslighting, DARVO-like abuse.

Performative opposition is the name of the game for both of these supposedly liberal political parties. They have nothing to offer except more of the same, making the rich richer and the poor poorer. This kind of do-nothing politics will eventually lead to radical change or hyper-nationalist fascism, resulting in much innocent bloodshed.

Drag isn’t a Gender Identity, it’s a Performance

When I was a small child, the local morning television children’s shows often had events where they would read children’s stories or sign autographs.

In 2019 when I started writing this post (it’s pretty much sat in my drafts since then), there was a problem with performers reading to children. Well, it was only a problem if they’re drag queens. Now it’s gotten to the point where people are calling parents that take kids to these events “groomers” and that drag is inherently sexual.

What kind of 80’s Footloose fever dream is this?

It’s like saying that musicals are sexual

“because Chicago.” Art is sexual when its content is of a sexual nature. There’s nothing inherent to drag that makes it sexual. It’s just a type of performance art.

Proud Boys think they’re some sort of cultural heroes by attacking Drag Queen Story Hour. But in reality, they’re just the Reverend Shaw Moore (the fanatical pastor who gets dancing banned in the movie “Footloose”).

The Deprogram: S1 E2

I just started listening to a podcast called The Deprogram. You can find them on Twitter too. This episode of the podcast is about American Exceptionalism.

American Exceptionalism

Many Americans have never travelled outside of the United States meaningfully. They don’t see how people in other places live, work, and thrive. I contend that those that don’t travel outside the USA rarely travel out of their state. So they depend on their view of the outside world, the media they consume, and what they’ve learned from their schooling. 1 1. Pew research on international travel https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2021/08/12/most-americans-have-traveled-abroad-although-differences-among-demographic-groups-are-large/

American Media Plays Its Part

The news that Americans digest is mainly based on the audience’s ideology; essentially, it’s consumer-based. So you have the Fox News watchers that find information to the liking of the viewer’s worldview.
Americans are indoctrinated from a relatively early age that America is the best country in the world. They hear this from their parents from birth (and their parents were taught it in their history classes), so it’s no surprise that they don’t know any better since they don’t leave the country meaningfully .

When Americans Do Travel

The “gall” tourists or invaders is a colonial mindset that goes for the “helpful Karens” as well.

Americans think they’re welcomed worldwide; why would they NOT believe this? The mainstream media feeds off the government like a parasite to promote its message. They employ reporters, not journalists, and they work to help the government manufacture consent.2Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media is a 1988 book by Edward S. Herman and Noam Chomsky. It argues that the mass communication media of the U.S. “are effective and powerful ideological institutions that carry out a system-supportive propaganda function, by reliance on market forces, internalised assumptions, and self-censorship, and without overt coercion”, by means of the propaganda model of communication. – Wikipedia Hell, the press even embeds into the military and is financially supported by the military-industrial complex.

How the Rest of the World Sees the United States

Freedom of the Press, Equality Under the Law, Life-Liberty-Pursuit of Happiness, Representative Democracy, and Rugged Individualism

“Freedom of the press” is code in the States for an expectation that the news is nonbiased. The press is free to publish whatever they wish, so that freedom will result in unbiased news. Each catchphrase has a tiny pinch of truth, but not enough to make them accurate. They’re simply propaganda, taught from when you’re enrolled in elementary (primary) school until you leave university.

Final Thoughts on the Podcast

Overall, I enjoyed the podcast. One of the podcast’s failures is to address why American exceptionalism continues to thrive and survive in today’s world. They spoke of the history of the USA being a colonial project that continues to uplift and support the ruling elites while screwing the working poor. They pointed to why Americans want it to be the world’s policeman and how they think of other people. I’m afraid I have to disagree. I don’t believe most Americans think (or even care) about the rest of the world. The United States is a very insular, narcissistic country that huffs its farts and thinks it should earn the top prize at the county bakeoff.

Book Review of “Twilight of Democracy: The Failure of Politics and the Parting of Friends”

Twilight of Democracy: The Failure of Politics and the Parting of Friends by Anne Applebaum

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I can appreciate this Applebaum’s perspective, but a few things bother me. She centres herself as the unchangeable middle who is free from movement, ideological grift, or opportunism. I want to break down some of what she said here.

Twilight of Democracy: The Seductive Lure of Authoritarianism: “Authoritarianism appeals, simply, to those who cannot tolerate complexity: There is nothing inherently “left-wing” or “right-wing” about this instinct at all. It is anti-pluralist. It is suspicious of people with different ideas. It is allergic to fierce debates.”

But that’s precisely what she does:

Twilight of Democracy: The Seductive Lure of Authoritarianism: “This, of course, is the argument that anti-American extremists, the groups on the far-right and far-left fringes of society, have always made. American ideals are false, American institutions are fraudulent, American behavior abroad is evil, and the language of the American project—equality, opportunity, justice—is nothing but empty slogans. The real reality, in this conspiratorial view, is that of secretive businessmen, or perhaps ‘deep state’ bureaucrats, who manipulate the voters into going along with their plans, using the cheesy language of Thomas Jefferson as a cover story.”

She asks for complexity but can’t find it within herself to look for it herself. She can’t frame her argument without flowering it with words like “anti-American extremists” or groups as “fringes” or contaminating her statement by saying that the view is “conspiratorial.”

Twilight of Democracy: The Seductive Lure of Authoritarianism: “Whatever it takes to overthrow these evil schemers is justified. In Prairie Fire, the Weather Underground inveighed against ‘the Justice Department and White House–CIA types.'”

Um, FRED HAMPTON? The FBI murdered him. This isn’t a conspiracy; you can find it on something as tame as the History Channel. Herbert Hoover targeted civil rights leaders, American involvement since WW2 in overthrowing Central and South American governments isn’t a conspiracy, it’s documented historical fact.

Twilight of Democracy: The Seductive Lure of Authoritarianism: “This form of moral equivalence—the belief that democracy is no different, at base, from autocracy—is a familiar argument, and one long used by authoritarians. Back in 1986, Jeane Kirkpatrick, a scholar, intellectual, and Reagan’s UN ambassador, wrote of the danger both to the United States and to its allies from the rhetoric of moral equivalence that was coming, at that time, from the Soviet Union.”

Again, she can’t just quote Kirkpatrick; she uses the flowering of the language to influence the reader. It suggests that Kirkpatrick is put out as an expert that can be relied on and centres Kirkpatrick much as she does herself. This is the same Kirkpatrick that downplayed the rape and murder of four nuns in El Salvador (saying “the nuns were not just nuns, they were political activists”) and supported murderous dictators in Central and South America. Kirkpatrick popularised the term “moral equivalence” to not look at the USA’s history because if you do, it’s a trail of genocide, slavery, and imperialism and that continues to engage in it to this day.

Twilight of Democracy: The Seductive Lure of Authoritarianism: “Guns, weapons, even nuclear warheads were dangerous to democracies, but not nearly as dangerous as this particular form of cynicism: ‘To destroy a society,’ she wrote, ‘it is first necessary to delegitimize its basic institutions.’ If you believe that America institutions are no different from their opposite, then there is no reason to defend them. The same is true of transatlantic institutions.”

I told my partner I was writing this, and she said, “the scientific method also applies to humanities; history, sociology and political science.” In Kirkpatrick/Applebaum’s view, you have to accept that American institutions are different without any analysis.

She also wrote: Twilight of Democracy: The Seductive Lure of Authoritarianism “Buchanan’s pessimism derives partially from his sense of white decline but also, like some of those diametrically opposed to him on the left, from his dislike of American foreign policy. Over the years he has evolved away from ordinary isolationism and toward what seems to be a belief that America’s role in the world is pernicious, if not evil.”


Twilight of Democracy: The Seductive Lure of Authoritarianism AA: “In 2002, he told a television audience, using language that could have equally come from Noam Chomsky or a similar left-wing critic of America, that ‘9/11 was a direct consequence of the United States meddling in an area of the world where we do not belong and where we are not wanted.”

She quotes this but does not engage with the criticisms of Buchanan or Chomsky in any meaningful way, and she dismisses them without any counter-argument. Chomsky/Buchanan is absolutely spot on in their analysis of why 9/11 happened. Bin Laden himself: “There is America, full of fear from its north to its south, from its west to its east. Thank God for that. What America is tasting now is something insignificant compared to what we have tasted for scores of years. Our nation [the Islamic world] has been tasting this humiliation and this degradation for more than 80 years. Its sons are killed, its blood is shed, its sanctuaries are attacked, and no one hears and no one heeds.”

Twilight of Democracy: The Seductive Lure of Authoritarianism: “And this is what Trump has proven: beneath the surface of the American consensus, the belief in our founding fathers and the faith in our ideals, there lies another America—Buchanan’s America, Trump’s America—one that sees no important distinction between democracy and dictatorship. This America feels no attachment to other democracies; this America is not ‘exceptional.'”

“This America has no special democratic spirit of the kind Jefferson described. The unity of this America is created by white skin, a certain idea of Christianity, and an attachment to land that will be surrounded and defended by a wall. This America’s ethnic nationalism resembles the old-fashioned ethnic nationalism of older European nations. This America’s cultural despair resembles their cultural despair.”

America has been at war in some form or fashion since its founding, minus about 30 odd years. The “Founding Fathers” were slave-owning misogynists. The “spirit of Jefferson” isn’t democratic at all (he was a rapist, after all). The “spirit” she’s talking about is almost a religion, and it’s on what MAGA is built. That’s just it, she can point to Trump and say why he’s terrible, but she can’t or won’t do the deep dive into the important questions “why” questions like why he exists, why he’s popular, why people follow him and his horrible ideas.

The reality is that people have been suffering in some form or fashion because of the neoliberal politics that’s been dominating since the 1970s. Wages have been stagnant while income inequality rises. The stagnation results from those policies, and Trump is built on top of Ronald Reagan’s legacy.

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Twitter is a Choice, Don’t Opt Out

I see a lot of people I follow say they are going to leave Twitter, and I think that’s a bad idea.

Something I realised listening to Chelsea Manning on the It Could Happen Here podcast, that the “pay to play” internet has been in the works for a long time. Chelsea isn’t a conspiracy theorist; she’s worked as an intelligence analyst, developer, and now as a network security expert.

TikTok, Instagram, and Facebook all make you think you have this large following when you don’t, via algorithms. It is a mirage. Here’s an example: @CaseyHammybone has 6.5 million followers on TT, but most of his views are 30k-150k on average.

Most posts are seen by 2% or less of his followers. And this is how social media works. There’s an illusion of being seen, but it is mostly just smoke and mirrors to give the illusion of audience.

But there is an alternative that’s been around for a while. Mastodon isn’t an algorithm-driven social media site; it doesn’t make money from access to content. Blogs and open-source media sites run on ActivityPub lists your timeline in a chronological order. And it’s not as if you have to stop posting to these popular social media sites. Moaparty, for example, crossposts to and from Twitter and Instagram.

The default Mastodon desktop looks a lot like Tweetdeck:

Toot! (iOS)

Fedilab (Android)

Both are very “Twitter-like”. Toots=Tweets, Boosts=Retweets, and Favourites=Likes.

Don’t leave algorithm-based sites; use them to push people from those platforms to platforms that aren’t algorithm-based. Push your Twitter followers to your Mastodon instance, your Medium readers to your blog, or your Youtube viewers to Peertube. Push content to Patreon and Fanbase (instead of TikTok), where you get paid to produce content. It may SEEM like you’ve entered a smaller universe, but that’s just an illusion that algorithms produce. Leveraging the current parasitic ocial media platforms is key to taking back the power from those that have effectively silenced online discourse.

Bayard Rustin’s Vision is Why Bigots Use Dog Whistles

Bayard Rustin was an American civil rights icon. He was the main organiser of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. He also influenced Dr. Martin Luther King Jr to use non-violence as a tactic in the fight for civil rights. He said:

” Our job is not to get those people who dislike us to love us. Nor was our aim in the civil rights movement to get prejudiced white people to love us. Our aim was to try to create the kind of America, legislatively, morally, and psychologically, such that even though some whites continued to hate us, they could not openly manifest that hate.” 

Bayard Rustin; From Montgomery to Stonewall (1986)

This has come to pass, people can’t openly manifest their hatred in public. That doesn’t mean that hatred and bigotry go away. Bigots have found other means to inject their bigotry into society. Social conservatives do this frequently. They will talk about the “traditional family” being under attack, or that the transgender agenda is destroying society.

When Seth Andrews tries making the point that Nazis don’t exist (because the National Socialist German Workers’ Party/Hitler was defeated in 1945), Thomas Smith tries to claim that New Atheists haven’t merged with right-wing conservatives, or Sam Harris claims that white supremacists have no cultural influence/that they’re the fringe of the fringe, they are being destructively pedantic.

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