An Animated Look at the Charade of the Global Elites: Claiming They Want to “Change the World,” They End Up Preserving the Unjust Status Quo

From Peter Kropotkin to Leo Tolstoy to Noam Chomsky, some of the most revered anarchist thinkers have exhausted page after page explaining why power over others is unjustified, no matter how it justifies itself. To those who say the wealthy and powerful benefit society with charitable works and occasionally humane policy, Tolstoy might reply with the following illustration, which opens Time editor Anand Giridharadas’ talk above, “Winner Take All,” as animated by the RSA:

I sit on a man’s back, choking him and making him carry me, and yet assure myself and others that I am sorry for him and wish to lighten his load by all means possible… except by getting off his back.

The author of Winners Take All: The Elite Charade of Changing the World, Giridharadas doesn’t make the case for anarchism here, except perhaps by the slightest implication in his choice of epigraph. But he does call out the “winners of our age,” no matter how much they determine to make a difference with humanitarian aid, for being “unwilling to get off the man’s back.” Unwilling to pay taxes, close loopholes and tax shelters, pay higher wages, or stop lobbying to slash public services. Unwilling to reinvest in the communities that made them.




“What does it look like to imagine the kind of change,” Giridharadas asks, “that would involve the winners of our age stepping off that guy’s back? Or being made to step off that guy’s back?” Here, he leaves us with an ellipses and moves to critique the idea of the “win-win” as a means of making change, rather than just exchange.

The market economy has imported the criteria of exchange into politics and social action. Everything is transactional. But in order to address the gross inequities that result in people figuratively sitting on the backs of others, some must gain more power and others must have less. The parties do not meet in a state of ceteris paribus.

One might take issue with the very terms used in "win-win" thinking. Rather than winners, some would call powerful capitalists opportunists, profiteers, and worse. (The term “robber baron” was once in common circulation.) To claim that good works and good intentions obviate massive power imbalances is to presume that such imbalances are justifiable in the first place. Answering this theoretical question doesn’t, however, address the practical problem.

In the current system of corporate misrule, says Giridharadas, “when everything is couched as a win-win, what you are really saying… is that the best kinds of solutions don’t ask anyone to get off anyone’s back.” Unfettered capitalism has brought us the “privatization of public problems." That is to say, companies profit from the same issues they help create through pollution, predatory schemes, and undue political influence.

You don’t have to be an anarchist to see a serious problem with that. But if you see the problem, you should want to imagine how things could be otherwise.

via Aeon

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

Ronan Farrow’s Catch and Kill Podcast: Stream a Gripping ‘Audio Companion’ to His Bestselling Book

In late 2017, Ronan Farrow was on the verge of blowing open the story revealing the Harvey Weinstein sexual abuse allegations. But then executives at NBC News killed the story, Farrow claims. Bewildered, he took his reporting to the New Yorker, which then vetted and published his reporting. Fast forward two years, Farrow has won a Pulitzer and Harvey Weinstein is now using a walker and getting ready to go on trial.

In his 2019 bestselling book, Catch and Kill: Lies, Spies, and a Conspiracy to Protect Predators, Farrow delves into "the systems that protect powerful men accused of terrible crimes in Hollywood, Washington, and beyond." That system includes media executives, tabloids, high-priced lawyers, undercover operatives, private intelligence agencies, and even, it appears, officials within our own legal system. A complement to his book, Farrow has now produced The Catch and Kill podcast, whose first episodes you can now stream online. Find it on Apple, Spotify, Stitcher, and other platforms. You can stream the first three episodes below.

Episode 1: The Spy

Episode 2: The Producer

Episode 3: The Wire

The Prado Museum Digitally Alters Four Masterpieces to Strikingly Illustrate the Impact of Climate Change

According to the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, global warming is likely to reach 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels between 2030 and 2052 should it continue to increase at its current rate.

What does this mean, exactly?

A catastrophic series of chain reactions, including but not limited to:

--Sea level rise
--Change in land and ocean ecosystems
--Increased intensity and frequency of weather extremes
--Temperature extremes on land
--Drought due to precipitation deficits
--Species loss and extinction

Look to the IPCC’s 2018 Special Report: Global Warming of 1.5°C for more specifics, or have a gander at these digital updates of masterpieces in Madrid’s Museo del Prado's collections.




The museum collaborated with the World Wildlife Fund, choosing four paintings to be altered in time for the recently wrapped Madrid Climate Change Conference.

Artist Julio Falagan brings extreme drought to bear on El Paso de la Laguna Estigia (Charon Crossing the Styx) by Joachim Patinir, 1520 - 1524

Marta Zafra raises the sea level on Felipe IV a Caballo (Philip the IV on Horseback) by Velázquez, circa 1635.

The Parasol that supplies the title for Francisco de Goya’s El Quitasol of 1777 becomes a tattered umbrella barely sheltering miserable, crowded refugees in the sodden, makeshift camp of Pedro Veloso’s reimagining.

And the Niños en la Playa captured relaxing on the beach in 1909 by Joaquín Sorolla now compete for space with dead fish, as observed by artist Conspiracy 110 years further along.

None of the original works are currently on display.

It would be a public service if they were, alongside their drastically retouched twins and perhaps Hieronymus Bosch’s The Garden of Earthly Delights, to further unnerve viewers about the sort of hell we'll soon be facing if we, too, don’t make some major alterations.

For now the works in the +1.5ºC Lo Cambia Todo (+1.5ºC Changes Everything) project are making an impact on giant billboards in Madrid, as well as online.

#LoCambiaTodo

via Colossal

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Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine.  Join her in NYC on Monday, January 6 when her monthly book-based variety show, Necromancers of the Public Domaincelebrates Cape-Coddities by Roger Livingston Scaife (1920). Follow her @AyunHalliday.

Prisons Around the U.S. Are Banning and Restricting Access to Books

“We live,” wrote philosopher Alain Badiou, “in a contradiction.” Dehumanization must be normalized in order to keep the economy going. “A brutal state of affairs… where all existence is evaluated in terms of money alone—is presented to us as ideal.” Yet the market that promises freedom just as often strips it away, in public-private partnerships that bring censorship and rent-seeking into happy symbiosis.

In recent years, free market opportunism has taken hold in the most unfree places in the U.S., the country’s prisons, which hold more people proportionally than in any other nation in the world: a huge, previously untapped market for sales of hygiene products and visits with family. “Like the military,” writes Adam Bluestein at Inc.,, “the corrections system is a big, well-capitalized customer.”




One recent commercial encroachment on prisoners’ freedoms arrived this year when the West Virginia Division of Corrections issued inmates tablets, under a contract with a company called Global Tel Link, who charge them by the minute to read books online. One might make the argument that forcing inmates to pay for basic needs satisfies some ideal of punishment. But to restrict access to books seems to dispense with the pretense that prison might also be a place of rehabilitation.

“Any inmates looking to read Moby Dick,” reports Reason, “may find that it will cost them far more than it would have if they’d simply gotten a mass market paperback.” Katy Ryan of the Appalachian Prison Book Project, which donates free books and materials to prisons, points out how limiting the scheme is: “If you pause to think or reflect, that will cost you. If you want to reread a book, you will pay the entire cost again.”

West Virginia is not banning print books, purchased or donated. It is, however, charging inmates for already free material. The books they pay per minute to read online are all on Project Gutenberg, the open platform for thousands of free eBooks. That the program amounts to a kind of economic-based censorship may hardly be coincidence. Other states around the country have begun limiting, or outright banning, books in prisons.

The Washington State Department of Corrections has prohibited all books donated by nonprofits, presumably because they might be used to smuggle contraband. Prison officials at the Danville Correctional Center in Illinois made clear what they considered contraband—books about black history, 200 of which were removed from the prison library—including W.E.B. Du Bois The Souls of Black Folk and Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin—after they were deemed “too racial.”

These are only a few examples of a widespread phenomenon PEN America details in a new report, “Literature Locked Up: How Prison Book Restriction Policies Constitute the Nation’s Largest Book Ban.” Paradoxically, some restrictions can seem at odds with market demands—such as limits on inmates’ ability to order books from online retailers. But like many contradictions in the system, perhaps these also serve a larger goal—preventing prisoners from educating themselves may ensure a steady stream of repeat customers in the hugely profitable carceral industry.

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness.

Sacha Baron Cohen Links the Decline of Democracy to the Rise of Social Media, “the Greatest Propaganda Machine in History”

Presenting a keynote address at an ADL conference, comedian Sacha Baron Cohen wasn't kidding around when he painted a bleak picture of our emerging world: "Today ... demagogues appeal to our worst instincts. Conspiracy theories once confined to the fringe are going mainstream. It’s as if the Age of Reason—the era of evidential argument—is ending, and now knowledge is delegitimized and scientific consensus is dismissed. Democracy, which depends on shared truths, is in retreat, and autocracy, which depends on shared lies, is on the march. Hate crimes are surging, as are murderous attacks on religious and ethnic minorities."

What's leading to these destabilizing changes? Baron Cohen could cite many reasons. But if pushed, he'll emphasize one:

But one thing is pretty clear to me. All this hate and violence is being facilitated by a handful of internet companies that amount to the greatest propaganda machine in history.

The greatest propaganda machine in history.

Think about it. Facebook, YouTube and Google, Twitter and others—they reach billions of people. The algorithms these platforms depend on deliberately amplify the type of content that keeps users engaged—stories that appeal to our baser instincts and that trigger outrage and fear. It’s why YouTube recommended videos by the conspiracist Alex Jones billions of times. It’s why fake news outperforms real news, because studies show that lies spread faster than truth. And it’s no surprise that the greatest propaganda machine in history has spread the oldest conspiracy theory in history—the lie that Jews are somehow dangerous. As one headline put it, “Just Think What Goebbels Could Have Done with Facebook.”

On the internet, everything can appear equally legitimate. Breitbart resembles the BBC. The fictitious Protocols of the Elders of Zion look as valid as an ADL report. And the rantings of a lunatic seem as credible as the findings of a Nobel Prize winner. We have lost, it seems, a shared sense of the basic facts upon which democracy depends.

You can watch his sobering talk above, or read the transcript here.

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Trump’s Denials Turned into a Ramones Song: “I WANT NOTHING. I WANT NOTHING. I WANT NO QUID PRO QUO.”

Yesterday Gordon D. Sondland, the United States ambassador to the European Union, had this to say to Congress: “I know that members of this committee have frequently framed these complicated issues in the form of a simple question: Was there a quid pro quo?” “As I testified previously, with regard to the requested White House call and White House meeting, the answer is yes.”

It was damning testimony. And it left the president with little choice but to try and exonerate himself. So he walked onto the South Lawn of the White House, and read some notes, written with a sharpie in CAPS, all supposedly documenting the real content of a call he had with Sondland several months ago: “I WANT NOTHING. I WANT NOTHING. I WANT NO QUID PRO QUO." “TELL ZELLINSKY TO DO THE RIGHT THING. THIS IS THE FINAL WORD FROM THE PRES OF THE U.S.”

Hours later, someone on Twitter turned the denial into a Ramones song. Punk comic relief. Listen above.

Download Stunning 3D Scans of the Bust of Nefertiti, Now Released by Berlin’s Neues Museum

Two years ago, a scandalous “art heist” at the Neues Museum in Berlin—involving illegally made 3D scans of the bust of Nefertiti—turned out to be a different kind of crime. The two Egyptian artists who released the scans claimed they had made the images with a hidden “hacked Kinect Sensor,” reports Annalee Newitz at Ars Technica. But digital artist and designer Cosmo Wenman discovered these were scans made by the Neues Museum itself, which had been stolen by the artists or perhaps a museum employee.

The initial controversy stemmed from the fact that the museum strictly controls images of the artwork, and had refused to release any of their Nefertiti scans to the public. The practice, Wenman pointed out, is consistent across dozens of institutions around the world. “There are many influential museums, universities, and private collections that have extremely high-quality 3D data of important works, but they are not sharing that data with the public.” He lists many prominent examples in a recent Reason article; the long list includes the Venus de Milo, Rodin’s Thinker, and works by Donatello, Bernini, and Michelangelo.




Whatever their reasons, the aggressively proprietary attitude adopted by the Neues seems strange considering the controversial provenance of the Nefertiti bust. Germany has long claimed that it acquired the bust legally in 1912. But at the time, the British controlled Egypt, and Egyptians themselves had little say over the fate of their national treasures. Furthermore, the chain of custody seems to include at least a few documented instances of fraud. Egypt has been demanding that the artifact be repatriated “ever since it first went on display.”

This critical historical context notwithstanding, the bust is already "one of the most copied works of ancient Egyptian art," and one of the most famous. “Museums should not be repositories of secret knowledge,” Wenman argued in his blog post. Prestigious cultural institutions “are in the best position to produce and publish 3D data of their works and provide authoritative context and commentary.”

Wenman waged a “3-year-long freedom of information effort” to liberate the scans. His request was initially met with “the gift shop defense”—the museum claimed releasing the images would threaten sales of Nefertiti merchandise. When the appeal to commerce failed to dissuade Wenman, the museum let him examine the scans "in a controlled setting"; they were essentially treating the images, he writes, "like a state secret." Finally, they relented, allowing Wenman to publish the scans, without any institutional support.

He has done so, and urged others to share his Reason article on social media to get word out about the files, now available to download and use under a CC BY-NC-SA license. He has also taken his own liberties with the scans, colorizing and adding the blue 3D mapping lines himself to the image at the top, for example, drawn from his own interactive 3D model, which you can view and download here. These are examples of his vision for high-quality 3D scans of artworks, which can and should "be adapted, multiplied, and remixed."

"The best place to celebrate great art," says Wenman, "is in a vibrant, lively, and anarchic popular culture. The world's back catalog of art should be set free to run wild in our visual and tactile landscape." Organizations like Scan the World have been releasing unofficial 3D scans to the public for the past couple years, but these cannot guarantee the accuracy of models rendered by the institutions themselves.

Whether the actual bust of Nefertiti should be returned to Egypt is a somewhat more complicated question, since the 3,000-year old artifact may be too fragile to move and too culturally important to risk damaging in transit. But whether or not its virtual representations should be given to everyone who wants them seems more straightforward.

The images already belong to the public, in a sense, Wenman suggests. Withholding them for the sake of protecting sales seems like a violation of the spirit in which most cultural institutions were founded. Download the Nefertiti scans at Thingiverse, see Wenman's own 3D models at Sketchfab, and read all of his correspondence with the museum throughout the freedom of information process here. Next, he writes, he's lobbying for the release of official 3D Rodin scans. Watch this space. 

via Reason

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

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