Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

September 10, 2006

Marxism and primitive communism

Filed under: Ecology,indigenous — louisproyect @ 2:03 pm

I want to thank Scott Hamilton for calling my attention to a Jack Contrad article that appeared in the Weekly Worker. Titled “No Future in the Past,” it presents an argument that basically recapitulates what Frank Furedi’s RCP used to argue while it was still a nominally Marxist organization, namely that “primitive communism” was just as evil in its own way as capitalism, particularly with respect to the environment.

I have run into various expressions of this idea over the years both within and without Marxism. The most notable recent example is Shephard Krech’s “The Ecological Indian” that holds North American Indians responsible for hunting the wooly mammoth to extinction, etc. The bourgeois media embraced Krech’s findings eagerly since it was ammunition against land claims by native peoples in Canada and the USA. Any scholarly findings that could be used to make an amalgam between the conquered and the conqueror would help to undercut sympathy for indigenous peoples, as this review of Krech’s book from the January 23, 2000 Toronto Sun would indicate:

“What political relevance in Canada is there in jettisoning the myth of the ecological Indian?

“First, it means Canadian Indians should not be accorded the superior sanction of high-minded environmentalism in negotiations of land settlements and their claims to the right to take game and fish where and when they choose. It should also mean much more balance in responding to native demands and needs simply because discussion of them no longer should be burdened with the guilt piled on the whites for devastating a noble people whose societies once lived – and might do so again – in perfect harmony with nature. Indians are neither more noble nor ignoble than other people – in their blood, or in their history.”

Conrad’s efforts are directed toward “Krechizing” the Australian aboriginals who come across as precursors to the modern-day Republican party:

“In this continent of ghosts the aborigines cleverly learnt to survive by keeping what remained as it was. Hence their extreme conservatism. Aborigines religiously copied the ways of their ancestors. Consequently there was little by way of technological innovation. In fact the aborigines discarded and forgot about the bow and arrow and replaced it with the boomerang and the spear. But to all intents and purposes that was about it. Life was circular and repetitive, not innovative and linear. An impoverished but stable situation encountered by 19th century British migrants.”

Of course, this obsession with innovation is the hallmark of Living Marxism and Spiked Online that followed in its sorry trail. My interest in indigenous peoples was actually initially sparked by a Living Marxism article that said that capitalist encroachment into Yanomami territory in the Amazon rainforest would be a good thing since it would make labor-saving devices like shotguns and electrical generators available to them. The article did not dwell on the other benefits such as venereal disease and water pollution.

My take on this line of reasoning is that it unconsciously replicates the social Darwinist impulse that was prevalent in 19th century Marxism. In an article titled “David Harvey and the American Indian“, I deal with these questions in some depth. All I can say is that if you are going to make concessions to social Darwinism, you might as well do it the way that Harvey does with his customary elegance of thought, no matter how mistaken.

Paul Lafargue, Marx’s son-in-law, wrote two books that he intended to be situate in the Origins tradition, but erred on the social Darwinist side. For example, Lafargue argues that women occupied superior places in primitive society and supplies totally fallacious evidence about the relative brain sizes of men and women. Of greater significance is Karl Kautsky, whom the socialist movement regarded as the outstanding Marxist of the age, and intellectual and political heir to Engels. According to Bloch, Kautsky was an enthusiastic follower of Darwin and Spencer before he ever came across Marx. In 1881, Kautsky wrote an article for Die Neue Zeit titled “The Indian Question.” The reason the Europeans defeated the Indians, he explains, is that they had not gone far enough in the development of technology. In other words, they lacked Darwinian fitness, or quite possibly they lost the “competition and . . . struggle for existence,” in Harvey‘s words.

Plekhanov’s Fundamental Problems of Marxism also exhibits much of the same mechanistic concept of historical change. In the chapter “Productive Forces and Geography,” Plekhanov makes the case that the Indians of North America remained at a low stage of development because they lacked domesticated animals (Plekhanov 1975: 48-51). He also claims that the Masai killed all their captives because they had no “technical possibility” of making use of slave labor. Bloch points out that the crude economic determinism of this work was intended to strengthen the polemical stance of the revolutionary Marxist current in Russia. Plekhanov and Lenin were in conflict with a variety of reformism that believed that consciousness was independent of material conditions. What is lost in this undialectical approach is the reality of precapitalist society, which did not really fit into this schema.

September 7, 2006

The Ground Truth

Filed under: antiwar,Film,Iraq — louisproyect @ 3:31 pm

“The Ground Truth” is a wrenchingly powerful documentary about the mental and physical disorders of GI’s returning from Iraq and their political awakening. Made up almost entirely of interviews with these soldiers and soldier-activists from previous generations, it follows a taut dramatic narrative that evokes Ron Kovic’s “Born on the Fourth of July.”

The first part describes how the soldiers were recruited with false promises of the sort seen on television commercials and made by recruiters, including one former Marine Staff Sergeant Jimmy J. Massey who looks and sounds like a bedrock Bush supporter. Not only was he a recruiter, he was a drill instructor as well. On December 8, 2004, the Washington Post reported:

A former U.S. Marine staff sergeant testified at a hearing Tuesday that his unit killed at least 30 unarmed civilians in Iraq during the war in 2003 and that Marines routinely shot and killed wounded Iraqis.

Jimmy J. Massey, a 12-year veteran, said he left Iraq in May 2003 after a diagnosis of post-traumatic stress. He said he and his men shot and killed four Iraqis staging a demonstration and a man with his hands up trying to surrender, as well as women and children at roadblocks. Massey said he had complained to his superiors about the “killing of innocent civilians,” but that nothing was done.

 

Jimmy J. Massey

“The Ground Truth,” which is directed by Patricia Foulkrod, and dedicated to “soldiers, veterans, military families, and civilians, who may never be counted as casualties of war,” explores how unnatural it is to become a professional killer, which is really what serving in the infantry or the Marines is all about. Despite promises made to new recruits, they all get shipped to Iraq where they all become targets of the insurgency no matter their assignment. Denver Jones, a specialist in the U.S. Army Reserve had his life shattered not by a bullet but by a bump in the road. As a passenger in the front seat of a Humvee being driven recklessly by a fellow soldier, Jones first hit the roof of the cab and then bounced off the seat. A seemingly routine accident left his spine and bladder permanently damaged.

Jones, like Massey, is a stereotypical “good old boy” from the South. He speaks in a deep drawl and wears bib overalls. One can easily imagine a Northern liberal seeing him as their worst nightmare. But his wounds have woken him up politically. In an October 27, 2004 interview with Alternet’s Lakshmi Chaudhry, Jones responded to the question of “What are your hopes and fears now that you look at the future?” as follows:

My hopes are that the world can communicate as people – not governments communicating for us. If we communicated as people, there wouldn’t be disputes and problems and war.

The governments of countries go and speak as though they represent the people of the country. But they don’t represent what the people are actually saying. I’ve spoken to Iraqi soldiers who at one point wanted to kill me. And once we talked, there was no reason for fighting. Their leader tells them one thing while our leader tells us another. And we go on that.

Just because someone is in a “Third World” country, they’re not different than I am. They’re human beings and one of God’s children. Because I have been blessed with the opportunity to achieve what I have, it doesn’t mean that as a human being that I’m more deserving or any better than they are.

 

Denver Jones

“The Ground Truth” follows Iraqi war veterans in their daily struggle to adjust to civilian life. They might be hampered by the loss of a limb, as is the case with Robert Acosta, a former US army specialist, or by unrelieved psychological trauma, as is the case with Navy veteran Charles Anderson. (Anderson was deployed with Marine Corps Second Tank Battalion and was part of the initial invasion.)

Acosta decided to join the army to get out of the barrios of Santa Ana, California and openly admits, “If it weren’t for the army, I’d probably be locked up right now.” On July 13, 2003, a grenade was thrown into his Humvee and it shattered his left leg and blew off his right hand. Today Acosta works with Orange County high school students, presenting alternatives to military recruitment.

 

Robert J. Acosta

Anderson eventually hooked up with Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW) and marched to New Orleans alongside Vietnam veterans demanding that funds be channeled into the hurricane-stricken area. The Nation Magazine reported:

At times the connections between Iraq and the Gulf Coast became all too real, or even surreal. The ruined homes, lack of water and sporadic electricity along the way reminded many vets of the war zones in Iraq and Afghanistan that some had left only months before.

“In Gulfport I heard a pop or a snap and looked back, and one of my guys took a knee,” said Navy corps and combat vet Charles Anderson, referring to the common military position of kneeling in preparation for action. “I went back to him, put my hand on him and told him: ‘It’s OK, we’re in Mississippi now.’ “

Among the marchers was Stan Goff, who is interviewed in the film and seen speaking at a rally. Much credit should be given to Stan for helping to organize the march to New Orleans and other antiwar activities that involve soldiers and their families. Like Jimmy J. Massey and Denver Jones, Goff is a dyed-in-the-wool Red Stater with a deep drawl and long experience in the military. After serving in Haiti in 1994, Goff went through the same kind of political transformation that the younger soldiers featured in “The Ground Truth” have gone through. In his case, it lead to a deeper commitment to understanding and changing the underlying economic institutions that make horrors like the occupation of Iraq possible.

 

Stan Goff

By demonstrating the capability of such soldiers to overcome their training as killers and evolve into peace activists, “The Ground Truth” serves as an inspiration for those working for social change in general. Although the physical and psychological wounds of the war in Iraq are extreme, there are wounds almost as great to working people on a daily basis in the USA from mining accidents to layoffs. If post-traumatic stress disorder led Army Ranger Chad Reiber to pistol whip a complete stranger in a bar and to fight off the cops who were trying to arrest him (he faced a five year sentence for felony assault), is it any surprise that American workers end up “going postal” in increasing numbers? Eventually, the injuries and insults of class society in general will lead working people to confront their oppressors and create a more rational system that puts human needs over private profits. When that day arrives, it will be the soldiers of “The Ground Truth” who will be remembered as the advance guard.

“The Ground Truth” websites:

http://www.aimpages.com/thegroundtruth/

http://www.thegroundtruth.net/

Stan Goff’s blog:

http://www.stangoff.com/

 

September 3, 2006

The NY Review of Books versus Marxism

Filed under: cruise missile left,imperialism/globalization — louisproyect @ 10:36 pm

In the “Communist Manifesto,” Karl Marx wrote:

A spectre is haunting Europe — the spectre of communism. All the powers of old Europe have entered into a holy alliance to exorcise this spectre: Pope and Tsar, Metternich and Guizot, French Radicals and German police-spies.

Even though the Communist Manifesto is widely regarded in polite, academic circles as a kind of Victorian era relic, its spectre still seems to be haunting Tony Judt, a British-born professor at NYU. In the latest issue of the NY Review of Books, his reviews of Leszek Kolakowski’s “Main Currents of Marxism” and “My Correct Views on Everything”, and Jacques Attali’s “Karl Marx ou l’esprit du monde” provide an opportunity to exorcise this spectre one more time.

Tony Judt

A word or two of introduction to Tony Judt might be in order since the NY Review has two big-time intellectuals whose first names start with T and whose last name includes “ud”:

1. Tony Judt: Specialist in French and European politics with a focus on the Marxist left; the continental equivalent of people like Harvey Klehr and John Earl Haynes.

2. Tim Judah: Spent most of the 1990s pushing for war on the Serb. The NY Review had the same relationship to this affair that the Hearst press had to the Spanish-American war.

Tim Judah

3. These two should not be confused with Timothy Garton Ash, another NY Review contributor, who is a blend of Judah and Judt. He writes Serb-bashing material like Judah but also finds time for the occasional “Marxism is dead” hackwork.

Timothy Garton-Ash

To compound the confusion, you have to remember that NYR contributors Michael Ignatieff and David Rieff are not the same person even though their last name ends in “ieff”. Both shared Ash and Judah’s enthusiasm for war on the dastardly Serbs throughout the 1990s but Rieff (son of Susan Sontag) seems to have decided recently that US imperialism has no business meddling in the rest of the world. Ignatieff, on the other hand, still maintains an outlook like Niall Ferguson’s, namely that the savages need to be civilized at the point of a bayonet.

When we read the typical “Marxism is dead” article in the NY Review, we can’t help but be reminded of Hans Christian Anderson’s “Princess and the Pea,” about a woman claiming to be a princess. She shows up at the door of a castle looking completely disheveled after being caught in a terrible storm. The Queen, who is looking for a mate for her son the prince, decides to use a pea in a mattress as a kind of litmus test:

She went into the bedroom, took all the bed clothes off and laid a pea on the bedstead: then she took twenty mattresses and piled them on top of the pea, and then twenty feather beds on top of the mattresses. This was where the princess was to sleep that night. In the morning they asked her how she slept.

‘Oh terribly bad!’ said the princess. ‘I have hardly closed my eyes the whole night! Heaven knows what was in the bed. I seemed to be lying upon some hard thing, and my whole body is black and blue this morning. It is terrible!’

They saw at once that she must be a real princess when she had felt the pea through twenty mattresses and twenty feather beds. Nobody but a real princess could have such a delicate skin.

People like Tony Judt are just like that princess. They can’t get a proper night’s sleep as long as that pea is under their mattress. No matter how irrelevant or miniscule the communist movement is today, it requires them to write one more article calling attention to how it bothers them.

A search of the NY Review of Book archives for “Marx” reveals links to 1175 articles. These are a few from the top of the list:

December 20, 1979: On Your Marx

June 29, 1978: Inescapable Marx

September 25, 1980: Dictator Marx?

November 16, 2000: What’s Left of Marx?

It is of some interest that Judt addresses this phenomenon of the dead ideology that needs to be killed over and over again:

In recent years respectable critics have been dusting off nineteenth-century radical language and applying it with disturbing success to twenty-first-century social relations. One hardly needs to be a Marxist to recognize that what Marx and others called a “reserve army of labor” is now resurfacing, not in the back streets of European industrial towns but worldwide. By holding down the cost of labor–thanks to the threat of outsourcing, factory relocation, or disinvestments–this global pool of cheap workers helps maintain profits and promote growth: just as it did in nineteenth-century industrial Europe, at least until organized trade unions and mass labor parties were powerful enough to bring about improved wages, redistributive taxation, and a decisive twentieth-century shift in the balance of political power–thereby confounding the revolutionary predictions of their own leaders.

In short, the world appears to be entering upon a new cycle, one with which our nineteenth-century forebears were familiar but of which we in the West have no recent experience. In the coming years, as visible disparities of wealth increase and struggles over the terms of trade, the location of employment, and the control of scarce natural resources all become more acute, we are likely to hear more, not less, about inequality, injustice, unfairness, and exploitation–at home but especially abroad. And thus, as we lose sight of communism (already in Eastern Europe you have to be thirty-five years old to have any adult memory of a Communist regime), the moral appeal of some refurbished version of Marxism is likely to grow.

Of course, this is a variation on a theme often heard in the NY Review. As one of the higher profile voices of social democracy and left-liberalism in the USA, the magazine frequently offers up warnings about the party in power increasing class polarization to an intolerable level. Like the supporters of FDR in 1932, they seek to save capitalism from itself. They don’t understand, however, that the anti-working class policies of Bush and company are driven not by greed, but by the iron laws of capitalist competition. When Bill Clinton was in power, welfare was abolished. That act dwarves any domestic measure ever taken by the Bush administration. The New Deal is being whittled away by both parties. The chief policy differences revolve around the tempo. The Republicans seek a quicker tempo, while the Democrats urge a go-slow policy. It should be noted that the Democrats are likely to be more effective dismantlers of the welfare state than the Republicans for the same reason that Nixon was able to travel to China.

The NY Review is fairly rife with this sort of stuff. In a review of George Soros’s “On Globalization” titled “A Fair Deal for the World,” Joseph Stiglitz writes:

Soros explains that the case for free movements of capital is far less clear than that for free trade. He could have gone further: the evidence is that liberalizing capital markets does lead to increased risk but does not lead to increased economic growth. Soros explains something that most observers of the recent stock market bubble know intuitively, but that market fundamentalists deny: “Financial markets, left to their own devices, are liable to go to extremes and eventually break down.” Robert Shiller, in his book Irrational Exuberance, has documented this tendency of markets to excess volatility. The history of capitalism, Soros writes, is “punctuated by crises.” As he points out, the problem is not new. What was exceptional about East Asia, as I have written, is not that it eventually had a crisis, but that it went so long without any serious economic downturn. Soros also points out that it is the developing countries on the “periphery” of the system that suffer the most. And herein, he writes, lies the problem for reform. Those who believe in market fundamentalism “are reluctant to accept that the system may be fundamentally flawed when it is working so well for those who are in charge.”

When I read this sort of thing, I am reminded of all the hawks who have converted to doves over the war in Iraq. It seems that this conversion had everything to do with the resistance of the Iraqi people to occupation rather than some newly discovered principles about self-determination. If the invasion were as successful as the ones mounted against Panama and Grenada, one imagines that people like John Murtha and John Kerry would have never turned around. The same is true for “globalization,” a new word for imperialism. People like Soros are understandably upset over the rise of Hugo Chavez, who openly states that socialism is superior to capitalism, as well as Vladimir Putin, the Russian president who has retreated from the open door policies of his predecessor that left his country in ruins. (To Stiglitz’s credit, he has begun lately to hail Chavez’s reforms.)

In a June 1, 1998 Nation Magazine article titled “The Harvard Boys Do Russia,” Janine R. Wedel reminds of the time when George Soros didn’t let the fact that capitalism was “punctuated by crises” bother him:

Anne Williamson, a journalist who specializes in Soviet and Russian affairs, details these and other conflicts of interest between H.I.I.D.’s advisers and their supposed clients–the Russian people–in her forthcoming book, How America Built the New Russian Oligarchy. For example, in 1995, in Chubais-organized insider auctions of prime national properties, known as loans-for-shares, the Harvard Management Company (H.M.C.), which invests the university’s endowment, and billionaire speculator George Soros were the only foreign entities allowed to participate. H.M.C. and Soros became significant shareholders in Novolipetsk, Russia‘s second-largest steel mill, and Sidanko Oil, whose reserves exceed those of Mobil. H.M.C. and Soros also invested in Russia‘s high-yielding, I.M.F.-subsidized domestic bond market.

Even more dubious, according to Williamson, was Soros’s July 1997 purchase of 24 percent of Sviazinvest, the telecommunications giant, in partnership with Uneximbank’s Vladimir Potanin. It was later learned that shortly before this purchase Soros had tided over Yeltsin’s government with a backdoor loan of hundreds of millions of dollars while the government was awaiting proceeds of a Eurobond issue; the loan now appears to have been used by Uneximbank to purchase Norilsk Nickel in August 1997. According to Williamson, the U.S. assistance program in Russia was rife with such conflicts of interest involving H.I.I.D. advisers and their U.S.A.I.D.-funded Chubais allies, H.M.C. managers, favored Russian bankers, Soros and insider expatriates working in Russia‘s nascent markets.

So when Vladimir Putin decided to call an end to this sort of bloodsucking behavior by foreign investors, George Soros grew alarmed. It is better not to be overly greedy–that is the lesson. It is akin to burglars deciding not to break into a house because there are infrared alarms in the window. Too much trouble.

As we stagger forward into the 21st century, it will be interesting to observe the twists and turns of people like Tony Judt and Joseph Stiglitz. Eventually, the contradictions of the capitalist system will produce the equivalent of the kind of armed gangs that broke up trade union and socialist meetings in the Weimar Republic, except they will rally under the Stars and Stripes and Cross rather than the Swastika. When those turbulent times arrive, it will be interesting to see if the NY Review intellectuals value civilization more than they do the capitalist system, because in the final analysis they are incompatible.

UPDATE:

Reading the Maps Blog: Tony Judt, Leszek Kolakowski, and the Stalinist school of anti-communism

September 1, 2006

Loose Change

Filed under: Film,middle east — louisproyect @ 5:50 pm

This month the Village Voice reviewed a number of made-for-the-Internet movies about 9/11 in tandem with the opening of Oliver Stone’s “World Trade Center.” One film stands out:

22-year-old director Dylan Avery of Oneonta, New York, has emerged as the hot young star of the skeptic set with his 2005 ‘tude-filled feature Loose Change. Avery claims in a recent Vanity Fair profile that he’s received over 50,000 orders for the Loose Change DVD and over 10 million viewings online, and says he’s in talks with a number of studios to release an updated cut of the film on September 11, 2006. His name frequently pops up in Technorati’s daily list of most searched-for keywords, and his MySpace profile boasts over 3,500 friends. By mainstream media standards, Loose Change remains ultra–low budget, but with Avery’s casual, no-nonsense voiceover, tight editing, and hip-hop DJ’d score, it’s by far the most accomplished and accessible example of 9-11 Truth cinema, though not free of the questionable fact-sourcing practiced by its peers (most egregious: “According to Wikipedia . . . “).

As an amateur film reviewer with a keen interest in “diy” (do it yourself) productions, I made a mental note to myself to watch “Loose Change.” I also wanted see what this “movement” amounts to, even though I have very deep aversions to any sort of conspiracy theory. It has even reached the point where I am ready to argue that Lee Harvey Oswald was really a commie after all. Remember that famous picture of him with a rifle in one hand and the Trotskyist Militant newspaper in the other? Maybe his true intention was to shoot anybody who refused to take out a subscription, an urge I had to suppress when I was assigned the thankless task of heading up sub drives for this sectarian newspaper more than 30 years ago.

After watching “Loose Change,” which is narrated by Dylan Avery, I can safely report that there are bigger wastes of time than this 81½ minute shoestring effort. For example, any chunk of prime time TV on a weekday night will contain far more lies and far less entertainment. The film’s main appeal is its visually dramatic presentation of material that would ordinarily be a crushing bore to read. With its nonstop parade of mysterious inconsistencies, you are reminded of a typical “X Files” episode. All that is missing is some kind of death bed confession of the kind so often delivered to Mulder and Scully: “Yes, agents, I am the very same Count Zdanko who discovered the secret of eternal life 8 centuries ago. I must eat the pulsating heart of a virgin every Halloween.” Too bad you don’t get the same sort of thing in “Loose Change”: “Yes, Dylan Avery, it was I Donald Rumsfeld who orchestrated the 9/11 attacks. I only did it because of the need to re-elect George W. Bush in 2004 and to test the efficacy of my new mobile army.”

My enjoyment was only spoiled by the kind of plot inconsistencies that have forced me to walk out of numerous Hollywood movies over the years, like Michael Cimino’s “The Deer Hunter.” I had to hold back an urge to scream at the screen as I was walking out of the theater in 1978, “Asshole, it was the NLF that was forced to play Russian Roulette, not American GI’s.”

This happened first when “Loose Change” was looking at the damage done to the Pentagon, which it concludes could have not been done by a Boeing 757 jet plane. Rather, it argues that it was hit by a Cruise Missile like the one that hit Slobodan Milosevic’s party headquarters in 1999. Well, my initial reaction to this was to nod my head and say, “Good one!”–whoever did it. One would only hope that there are a whole slew of terrorists in the USA similarly armed. I can even give them a list of targets.

After a moment or two, logic returned to me and I began to ponder deeper into this speculation on missing planes, which makes the charge of inconsistencies in the official version pale by comparison. We are sure that a plane left Washington DC on the morning of September 11, 2001 with 64 people on board. We are also sure it has not been heard from ever since. So if Flight 77 was not involved in the Pentagon crash, where did it go? Area 51 in Nevada, next to the UFO’s? One of the people on board was Barbara Olson, a conservative commentator who often appeared on CNN and was the wife of U.S. Solicitor General Theodore Olson. Okay, maybe he was in on the plot himself. She was a conservative who appeared on CNN and was married to a Bush appointee. But what about Mari-Rae Sopper of Santa Barbara, California, the women’s gymnastics coach at the University of California at Santa Barbara? Is she being kept captive along with the other 63 passengers by operatives sworn to secrecy? This would not even get past a writer’s session on “The X-Files”.

When I consider this kind of thing, the Marxist side of my brain shuts down and the novelist side kicks in. This is a plot that makes “Silence of the Lambs” seem practically fact-based by comparison. How do you keep 64 people clothed and fed for the rest of their lives without a huge commitment in personnel of the sort that would inevitably lead at least one person to spill the beans. After all, if there is one thing we have learned over the past 3 years, it is that the Bush Administration generates “whistle blowers” like no other in the past half-century.

The same thing happens with Flight 93, which according to the official version crashed over Pennsylvania. We are assured by “Loose Change” that the plane landed safely in Cleveland that day, where one supposes the 40 passengers were shepherded away to the safe house that contained the Flight 77 passengers. Right. Sure.

Basically, what keeps this “movement”–such as it is–alive is a rafter of inconsistencies that were never really answered in an authoritative manner by officialdom. Is there a precedent for this? Of course, the same thing happened with the assassination of JFK. The Warren Commission has as many lapses and flaws as the 9/11 commission report. That’s the way it goes. In an age marked by mediocrity at the highest levels, the failure of the government to deliver the goods should surprise nobody. Indeed, the very failure of the government to stop the 9/11 attackers is symptomatic of the same incompetence.

Dylan Avery was an 18 year old high school senior on September 11, 2001. After inadequate grades kept him out of the film school department at Purchase College, he decided to strike out on his own. He started out with the intention of making a fictional film, but decided to make a documentary after being convinced that the conspiracy theorists were correct.

All I can say is that this is a waste of obvious talent. During the Vietnam War, people a bit older and a bit more politically experienced than Dylan Avery made documentaries like “Hearts and Minds.” Such a film put forward the true history leading up to the war and the terrible inhumanity being visited on the Vietnamese people. It was part of a vast antiwar movement that used a variety of means–including art and film–to put an end to the imperialist ambitions of the American government. There is a burning need for such a film today. The American people need to be informed about the history of Anglo-American imperialism in the area, from Lawrence of Arabia to the “Great Race” of the 19th century that pitted one imperial power against another to control Afghanistan. They need to be informed about the power of the oil companies to influence foreign policy and to work with the CIA to subvert governments that are seen as insufficiently pliant. Given the tensions over Venezuela and Iran today, there is no greater calling for a young radical film-maker than this.

UPDATES:

Loose Change debates Popular Mechanics

Skeptic reviews 9/11 conspiracy theories

Diana Johnstone article in Counterpunch

 

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