Brian Mier returns to This Is Hell! to discuss his recent publication, "Anticorruption and Imperialist Blind Spots: The Role of the United States in Brazil’s Long Coup," in Latin American Perspectives. This is the first peer-reviewed study confirming that the United States played a crucial role in Brazil's long coup, which threw the left out of power in 2016 and brought about far-right rule in 2018 under the guise of anti-corruption. After that, the rest of your answers to the Question from Hell, including the week's winner, and another Moment of Truth from Jeff Dorchen.
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Welcome to the Moment of Truth: the thirst that is the drink.
As the fateful moment draws nigh when the man with an orange face and no tan from his brow ridge to his cheeks like a Creamsicle raccoon puts his hand on an ancient book and lies to its god about upholding a Constitution which is itself being eaten away from within the very structures it delineates, the slow-motion farcical death of democracy is playing itself out on the stage of the 24-hour news cycle.
Don't normalize this! Don't normalize this! It's too late, it's been normal for decades. I know, you're hollering about the fascism, the racism, the anti-Semitism of Semites both Jewish and Muslim, the misogyny, the xenophobia and LGBTQ+phobia. But as someone who's been on the receiving end of at least one of those pathologies, and as I've heard other of their targets report for decades, these threads make up the normal fiber of many a US patriot. It's not a surprise at all that a Creamsicle raccoon channeled them in order to serve himself up a heapin' helpin' of presidentially leveraged wealth an power. Leftists of every stripe, from the unrepentant Stalinist to the anarcho-feminist queer, have been predicting the rise of the Creamsicle Raccoon with ever more certainty since the days of Joe Hill.
Nothing could be more normal than sociopathic fascists using government as a festive bazaar for exchanging money and influence with each other. That's what government is: the currency exchange, complete with speculation, on the way to advancement into the Spectacle, but at this currency exchange they serve alcohol.
When was the last time a political figure was jailed for influence peddling? Or was censured for conflict of interest? Or forced to resign for giving a corporation in which they had a stake access to an open tap gushing public money, stealing from working people, the elderly, the unemployed, and school kids to stack up money and favors in the private sector and then wandering over to collect them through the public sector's revolving door? No, you have to send someone a picture of your dick to warrant removal from office. But if you bend a few hundred million people over and screw them, well, that's normal.
There's no one watching the henhouse. It's amazing there are any hens left. The only way we the people have secured the eggs we have has been by banding together and forcing the scum to... read more
In 1510 – (506 years ago) – forces of the Portuguese navy, led by the admiral Afonso de Albuquerque and assisted by local mercenaries, seized the prosperous, centuries-old port city of Goa on India’s west coast. The Portuguese, who had briefly held Goa earlier that year and then lost it to a local sultan, now retook the city in less than a day, defeating the sultan and putting large numbers of the Muslim population to death by the sword. Men, women, and children were massacred, and Albuquerque allowed his troops to spend three days sacking the city. Though the conquest took place against the wishes of the Portuguese king, it gave him an important colonial port and commercial capital which remained under Portuguese control for more than 450 years until it was finally reclaimed and annexed by India in 1961. To this day, Goa remains perhaps the most culturally European-influenced city in India, and the only one in which soccer is more popular than cricket.
In 1796 – (220 years ago) – in Caracas, Venezuela, José Leonardo Chirino, a free farmer of mixed African and indigenous blood, was hanged for the crime of leading a slave revolt in the sugar plantations of the Spanish New World colonies. Chirino had been inspired by the ongoing slave rebellion in Haiti, which would later prove successful in establishing an independent republic there. He had also been deeply affected by the ideals of the faraway French Revolution. In the eastern Veneuzelan city of Coro, he led an uprising of Congolese slaves, with the aim of expelling the Spanish and abolishing slavery and white supremacy. But when his rebellion failed, he was betrayed by an associate. The Spanish authorities executed Chirino, cut his body into pieces, put his head on public display, and sold his wife and children into slavery.
In 1907 – (109 years ago) – in the Battersea district of London, about a thousand medical students of University College and other schools staged a demonstration supporting the practice of vivisection, in which living, conscious animals were cut open, operated on for purposes of medical research and instruction, and then killed. Public passions had been aroused by the court trial of a medical lecturer who, according to witnesses, had muzzled and bound a brown terrier in his classroom, cut it open to remove internal organs, and subjected it to electric... read more
Azzurra last spoke to This Is Hell! on day two of the nation-wide prison work stoppage.
This week Yves wrote the blog post We Demand That The Washington Post Retract Its Propaganda Story Defaming Naked Capitalism and Other Sites and Issue an Apology.
Sarah wrote the article Why Anti-Trump Protests Matter for Rolling Stone.
Manuel is a Green Party politician in Kerpen, Germany.
Ashley recently wrote Trump Eats the Planet for the Verso blog.
Jeff Dorchen, classic bad boy.
Here's what Chuck is reading to prepare for Saturday's show:
We Demand That The Washington Post Retract Its Propaganda Story Defaming Naked Capitalism and Other Sites and Issue an Apology - Yves Smith [Naked Capitalism]
Clash in German forest as red line is crossed - Deutsche Welle
Trump Eats the Planet - Ashley Dawson [Verso Blog]
Welcome to the Moment of Truth: the thirst that is the drink.
The great British socialist standup comic, Stewart Lee, does a bit where he talks about the "iconic final scene" of the original Planet of the Apes movie, "one of the truly iconic scenes in cinema. Apparently, on their world, the apes have made an exact replica of the Statue of Liberty. And it's never explained why ... and Charlton Heston is angry, he goes, 'Dammit, why have you done this, you dirty apes, why? It's a society of apes, why would you make a statue of a human?' And the apes go, 'We don't know, we've just done it.' It's one of the most iconic scenes in cinema and it's completely meaningless and stupid."
He then goes on to explain that the author of the original novel the movie was based on, Pierre Boulle, was a socialist, thus the novel was clearly meant as satire, and he then helpfully defines satire this way: "If any ever asks you what satire is, and you want to appear clever, just say, 'Satire is where it's the same as it is now, except there's animals in it.'"
I haven't read the book, Durov's Pig: Clowns, Politics and Theatre, by Joel Schecter, in over twenty-five years, but it came to mind late this week. I'm not sure I ever owned a copy. I've had the chance to refer to a very difficult-to-navigate PDF copy I downloaded yesterday afternoon. In it, Schecter quotes US playwright George S. Kaufman's definition of satire: "Satire is what closes on Saturday night."
I now quote Schecter's description of Vladimir Durov's performance with his pig in Berlin in 1907:
"Durov placed a German officer's cap, or 'helm' as he called it, in the circus ring, and his trained pig ran to retrieve it. Using ventriloquism, Durov made the pig appear to be saying 'Ich will helm,' meaning 'I want the helmet.' But the phrase could also be translated 'I am Wilhelm,' thereby equating Germany’s Emperor, Wilhelm II, with a trained pig. 'The audience understood the pun at once and applauded it. The German police understood it too,' according to Russian critic Emanuel Dvinsky’s account of the event. Durov was arrested. The pig escaped without prosecution."
Schecter goes on to discuss politically satirical clowning in far greater depth than I can synopsize here. But he seems to conclude that theatrical satire as it was understood at this prewar moment, and between and during the wars as well, was not something that could happen... read more
In 1964 – (52 years ago) – police arrested almost eight hundred students on the campus of the University of California at Berkeley, where several thousand had occupied the central plaza and administration building to protest the university’s rules against on-campus political activity. Some activists in what became known as the Berkeley Free Speech movement had already spent the summer traveling through the South with the Freedom Riders, registering African Americans to vote. Returning to Berkeley in the fall, they tried to seek donations for more civil rights efforts, but were stymied by the university’s tight restrictions on political speech, organizing, and fund-raising. When the resulting student protests led to a sit-in of the university’s administration building, California Governor Pat Brown authorized police to move in. But despite hundreds of arrests, and despite charges later brought against the demonstrators, many Californians thought the state had been too lenient. The conservative backlash led directly to the 1966 election of Ronald Reagan as California governor, which was a crucial step in his road to the US presidency.
In 1976 – (40 years ago) – in Kingston, Jamaica, reggae singer Bob Marley and members of his household were seriously wounded by three would-be assassins who invaded his home, shot up the place, and hurried away, never to be found. An upcoming national election had given rise to street violence between rival factions loyal to parties led by the socialist prime minister, Michael Manley, and the US-backed opposition leader, Edward Seaga. Marley was scheduled to perform two days later at a free outdoor concert — and while it was billed as a politically neutral event, he was widely perceived as backing Manley and the socialists. Though the bullet in his arm left him unable to play guitar, he could still sing, and in defiance of the death threat he surprised his fans by performing the full concert with his band. But he fled to the UK soon afterward, and within a year he was diagnosed with a malignant tumor under his toenail, which would eventually spread cancer throughout his body and cause his death in 1981 at the age of thirty-six.
In 1984 – (32 years ago) – in Bhopal, India, a city of more than two million people, a high-pressure gas leak occurring in the middle of the night at a Union Carbide... read more
Heather is author of the book Blood in the Water: The Attica Prison Uprising of 1971 and Its Legacy from Pantheon.
Kate and Steve wrote the article America needs a network of rebel cities to stand up to Trump at Medium.
Sarah will be updating us on the struggle for water and land she last talked about with us in September.
Annie is author of Dead Pledges Debt, Crisis, and Twenty-First-Century Culture from Stanford University Press.
Seth wrote the article A Blueprint for a New Party in the latest issue of Jacobin.
I don't know enough about pigs or German history to understand what this means, sorry reader.
Leila Al-Shami and Robin Yassin-Kassab
Jennifer Geist Rutledge
Katherine J. Cramer
Ibram X. Kendi
Arlie Russell Hochschild