fractal ethnography

REALLY Kony 2012?! distraction, exhaustion, dilemma

REALLY, Kony 2012, REALLY?  You’re going to frame your consumer-awareness campaign this literally in terms of political campaigns in 2012?  Yeah, because right now, as unprecedented amounts of Super PAC money are flowing into Romney 2012 and Obama 2012 and Santorum 2012, all we need right now is to focus on what American electoral politics are really missing right now, really.  Joseph Kony, fantastic.

Because right now we need “something we can all agree on” — REALLY, Kony 2012, REALLY?  The same season that Gingrich 2012 fueled the racist vitriol of undead violence and hate against Obama 2012, we should focus our attention on “something we can all agree on” — the abject need and violent perversions of black Africans, REALLY.  Fantastic.  Let’s forget how this racist hate rips through not only our public rhetoric but into policies and policing on statistically massive scales and real lives. Read the rest of this entry »


Election Talk 2: civic duty as public discourse

We made it past the three-ring circus that kicked off the Republican primaries.  Now, as the remaining candidates get closer to taking Obama head on, it’s getting ugly and we don’t have Bachmann for comic relief.  The remaining candidates are serious, and so are their supporters.  And so are the Super PACs who will flood the public discourse with the shitstorm of advertising and infotainment that will hammer down on us for the next nine months.  Steven Colbert has been doing excellent work getting us to think about this.  He argues here: If campaign contributions directly reflected election results, this year’s will be decided by 22 billionaires (that is, 22 individual donors who make up over 50% of money spent).  Following Colbert’s logic, the decision is not made by the vote but by owning the means of public discourse.  Even if you recognize this is not direct disenfranchisement (though the Republicans are doing that, too), it is fair to call it an undue influence.  In these proportions (over 50%!), these are not just injections of cash and a bit of trash-talking.

It structures the debate.  Whatever words we use to talk about the elections have traces of this money in them. Read the rest of this entry »

Election Talk 1: Dystopic Futures!

<——- Left

Mitt Romney evicts everyone and builds a fortress around the Americans for Prosperity club!  He buys the White House, installs an infinite pool.  The 99% face an unrelenting wave of natural disasters, never to hear from the government again!

Newt Gingrich steals the election, invades Iran, calls for mass arrests and indictments under DOMA, and finds the most racist ways possible to shut down public services!

Ron Paul reinstates feudalism, grants his son a fiefdom, and makes way for a new era of segregation!

Barack Obama spends all the Social Security money on drones!  Surviving watered-down reform bills are stuck in the public charade of congressional gridlock, while we slowly pass the deadline on climate change!  Jeb Bush is sworn into the White House in 2016 in 65 degree weather!


Mitt Romney laughs all the way to the bank, while gays marry in the streets and high school nurses perform abortions!

New Gingrich instates a “Second Lady” and replaces her twice!

Ron Paul really ruins things with Israel…

Barack ObamaaaaaaaaaaaaaaAAAAAAAHH:SLDFKJSDFJ:DFS!  We still have a Black President!!  Panic button!  Panic button!  Panic button!

the anti-bureaucracy of community

This one goes out to Justin Ruben, Daniel Mintz, and all the other faceless droids that call themselves MoveOn.  Dear Droid, I have unsubscribed from your mailing list at least three times.  When I went to your website to contact you, I found no information but the same over-elaborate submission form I use to contact Comcast.  Quit calling me your “member.”  Please.  I accidentally signed up on your listserv.  Receiving emails does not constitute civic participation.  Besides, I have no clue what you stand for besides asking me for $5 to keep your little machine alive for no other reason than to pretend the Democratic Party has a grassroots base.  The form of your organization goes against every principle of progressive values you co-opt.  If your network is not constantly being made by the substance of your members’ creative contributions and relationships, you are just another bureaucracy.  Just another self-appointed mediator, pretending your own legitimacy to cancel out the space where cooperation use to be.  No thanks, I don’t need to be managed.  Who are you and what do you stand for — that’s the first question.  Then we can meet eye-to-eye and figure out where to go next. Read the rest of this entry »


This packet gets sent home in the same folder as homework and lyrics to “Over the River and through the woods//to the shopping mall we go”

‘The Ask’ and #gradlaborcounts

Alinsky and Me, the organizer and the anthropologist: These are my efforts to work at this distance, by embedding instrumental political strategies into socio-cultural systems/histories/contexts.  The exercise is a reckoning with tempo, situating linear urgencies of a campaign in a slower ethic of the intimate, material, ecological densities that structure and exceed our everyday.

Demanding the right to unionize is like a picture within a picture: we are demanding the right to demand rights.  The Grad Labor Counts! campaign brings together student-workers already organized and already laboring, to demand legal recognition (and thus bargaining status) for what we already do.  On the other hand, the National Labor Relations Board continues to sit on the ruling that would resolve this bureaucratic absurdity; they cannot rule against us, there’s no such legitimate opinion.  We only ask they do what they are already supposed to do: their job; the nation relating to labor; public servants working for the public welfare. Read the rest of this entry »

what “occupy” is to me: a narrative on relations among people

I found #occupywallst on the Adbusters website in July, reading Micah White’s critique of MoveOn-style ‘clicktivism.’  #occupywallst, it claimed, could be our “Tahrir” moment.  Maybe, I thought then following the Tar Sands Actions; also, right on.  My uncle brought it up on 9/9/11, the 40th anniversary of the Attica Rebellion.  My family was at an event held under the Freedom Archives on Valencia St, a screening of the 1974 documentary.  Afterwards, there was a Q&A with my uncle and two young organizers speaking on Pelican Bay.  A hunger strike — a movement growing from within the prison system. Read the rest of this entry »

the anti-necessity of solidarity

State of Emergency: Cue the sovereign’s unilateral authority encroaching on democratic spaces of common living.  In times of crisis, the law is suspended, along with process and procedure.  The name of “necessity” trumps checks and balances, concentrating power to allow immediate and un-mediated action.  All in the name of the people, who are thus made objects of intervention.

This is a general plea for attention to the anti-democratic impulse of necessity, as we launch new campaigns and enter into the long-haul fight. The #occupy moment is boiling, and there are political opportunities everywhere.  Meanwhile, the corporate stranglehold on the planet leaks fresh blood and oil every minute.  There is every reason to feel anxious and ready for action.  But let’s be careful not to repeat the political abuses we’ve suffered. Read the rest of this entry »

from #occupy to #fortify: changing seasons

‘What do we want to build in the rubble of this failed system.’  That’s the conversation, not ‘what are the demands’… (Naomi Klein)

As we approach the second month of the occupation, there’s lots of talk of what happens next—a spectrum from weather-proofing encampments to reclaiming foreclosed homes.  In between, there are many emerging strategies of multiplying, moving, and decentralizing sites.  These questions about the where the occupation is (and is going), also reveal a lot about when the occupation is happening (and what it’s future could be). Read the rest of this entry »

the significance of life, the significance of death

I don’t have any judgments on the good or evil of Muammar Gaddafi’s life or death (and current contexts of the Obama Doctrine and campaign coming, of the Arab Spring and American autumn and the Global year coming, of massive arms proliferation and coming failures of international institutions).  There will surely be many relevant and consequential such judgments proffered, as History works to bend this year into a straight line of Progress and force some singular sense out of this complexity. Read the rest of this entry »