Manufacturing Dissent Since 1996
New interviews throughout the week

I think what we see from [African American's] ongoing fight, the way they sort of hunker down and get ready for the next wave of the fight, that they continue to believe [in democracy], and they continue to hope. And that's part of what we see, and they try to build a new world, and to try to protect their rights and interests with the hope that they would again be able to participate in American Democracy. That they would be able to experience those aspects of the American Dream, to have access to opportunity, to secure the future for their children. So they continued to believe and they continued to hope and they continued to fight in ways that make sense to them.

Chuck talks to historian Kidada Williams about her book "I Saw Death Coming - A History of Terror and Survival in the War Against Reconstruction."


Posted by Alexander Jerri
No face

Some people suffer from an inability to recognize faces. The neurological term is prosopagnosia, or face blindness. A film producer friend of ours has it. It’s polite to introduce yourself by name even when meeting him for the thirty-fifth time so he has no trouble knowing who he’s talking to and doesn’t have to pretend to recognize you to spare you embarrassment. It’s been said the one face can recognize is his wife’s, and only by the part of the forehead where her eyebrows approach the bridge of her nose.


I’m sure the first thing that comes to the mind of most people is the potential for the numerous pranks one could play on such a person, from something as harmless as convincing them they’re in a crowd when they’re actually in a room with only one or two other people, to the far more amusing deception of leading them to commit a crime against a close family member. You people are disgusting. That’s what you call amusement? I’m not sure I agree!


There is an odd kind of face, though, that can induce prosopagnosia in otherwise neurotypical individuals. Agnethotism is “being forgettable” or “having a forgettable face.” It’s the mirror image of the other thing we were just talking about, which I’ve since forgotten the word for. It’s odd that two afflictions that are basically about the ephemerality of the human face should be able to be called “mirror images” of each other, since each of them conjures a mirror or vision field in which an image fails to appear. It’s like talking about the mirror image of invisibility. But that’s part of the mystery of mirrors. Within a mirror lies another world, and if it were indeed invisible there almost wouldn’t be anything at all to a mirror. What is a mirror but an object that reflects whatever is in front of it? And if all it does is reflect the invisible, it’s unfit.


But the subject of a malfunctioning or malingering mirror leads us into highly speculative territory, and we don’t tolerate the highly speculative in this infotainment venue. A slight window of speculation is all we need, open just enough so that we can reach in and pull a thin conspiracy theory from it. That’s why I’m here, anyway. I don’t know why you’re here. Probably to trick someone into killing their mother, from what... read more

Posted by Alexander Jerri

This one’s for the ladies. It’s about that model of Victorian Era womanhood, Queen Victoria. She ruled during England’s most appallingly violent and nostalgically pined-for periods of global colonialism. But it wasn’t all blood, quinine, and glory. It was also the apotheosis of European royal inbreeding. But it wasn’t all inbred monarchs presiding over racist colonial violence and drinking gin and complaining about the savages and the beastly heat. It was also a time of behind-the-scenes Downton Abbey-style upstairs-downstairs soap opera angst.


In 1861, Queen Victoria lost both her husband, Prince Albert, and her mother. The loss of her mother was a source of grief, no doubt, but to lose Albert, the love of her life, sent her into an extended state of mourning. She was just coming out of it in 1878 when her daughter, the Grand Duchess of Hesse, died. The following year she turned sixty. The combined traumas caused her to remark on having begun to feel her age. The loss seemed to be somehow making the years accumulate more rapidly than they were for less tragic monarchs.


Two years later her close friend and political ally Benjamin Disraeli, who’d been born Jewish, died Anglican. Two years after that her confidant of over two decades, John Brown, one of her less barbaric Scottish subjects, rumored to also have been her lover, passed away. At around the same time she suffered a fall that left her with chronic rheumatism. And one year to the day after the death of Brown, her youngest and favorite son Leopold died.


The 1885 recalling of Gladstone, whom she despised, to the office of Prime Minister, and its whiplash reversal in 1886, although concluding in results she favored, really took the stuffing out of the old bird. She passed the Golden Jubilee of her reign with fanfare and overall national popularity, but it was clear by this time that being old was making her unhappy. Mood wise, she was not aging gracefully.

Sometime near the end of the 1880s, in secret, with her latest confidant, Abdul Karim, by her side, Victoria traveled to the wilds of deepest, darkest Ireland. This wasn’t her first trip to the Emerald Isle, and it wouldn’t be her last, but the errand she pursued on this particular sojourn was kept concealed from all but Karim. Abdul, who probably was never her lover but was rumored to be, was called the Munshi because he served Her... read more

Posted by Alexander Jerri
Darth coffee

I’m coming to you today from the shipyard in Popham, ME, where dry-dock professionals are currently refitting the fishing trawler, the SS Merkin, to be airlifted for use by the Ukrainian Navy should the hostilities become pelagically noir – or, whatever, move into the Black Sea. Somehow.


Must there be nations? Well, whether or not there must be, there are. Must a nation have a leader? Well, most do. Must the leader be wealthy? Well, most are.

If there must be nations, and if a nation must have a leader, and if a leader must be wealthy, maybe they shouldn’t be the wealthiest person in the nation. And maybe the wealthiest person in the nation, leader or not, shouldn’t be wealthier than the nation itself or be able to leverage their wealth to determine national policies. Just as a rule of thumb.

There are a lot of things wrong with the way wealth is distributed, especially now, and there are a lot of things wrong currently with the leadership of nations. It’s hard to imagine that the two problems aren’t somehow related.


Economic wealth and political power both give the bearer delusions of strength beyond their actual physical abilities. They become so used to getting what they want, it’s only natural that many of them tend to esteem themselves superhuman.


The opposite is also true, however. The über-privileged are also prone to indulge delusions of fragility. King Charles VI of France famously believed he was made of glass and took elaborate precautions to avoid accidentally shattering. Napoleon is said to have been afraid of cats, and this fear is also said (by me) to have stemmed from the worry that he might step on their tails and be visited by them in the night where they would steal his breath in revenge. Emperor Augustus Caesar was under the delusion that he contained a highly conductive fluid that would attract a fatal lightning strike. Genghis Khan was irrationally fearful of being eaten by dogs, even small fluffy ones. The celebrated novelist, Balzac, had a fear of burning up in the sunlight, as did the Count of Dracula.


Two moderately old sayings should be kept in mind, though:


1.     The rich are different.

2.     It’s not paranoia if they really are out to get you.


The wealthy and powerful are physiologically different from the rest of us losers, based on a peer reviewed... read more