No Need for Ideological Kinship

Further proving the point of my last post, the protests in Hong Kong are now seeing some…interesting visitors, as reported by @HongKongHermit:

As one might expect, this generated a dozen competing narratives as to why Azov would show up in the first place: was it anti-communist solidarity? Proof that the protesters really are “Western fascists?” Some kind of “false flag” operation? Beijing’s supporters were quick to seize upon their presence to discredit the protests in general. See, for instance, the explanation as offered by Sputnik:

It’s unclear why the groups, sporting the apparel of a far-right hooligan group called “Honor” or “Gonor,” have gone to Hong Kong, but the fact that both the 2014 Ukrainian coup and the present protests in Hong Kong have enjoyed extensive support from the CIA-spawned National Endowment for Democracy may give a clue.

Few protest organization seem to have taken the bait, but demonstrations like the one full of Trump and MAGA gear are sure to attract the worst possible people attempting to prove their own bona fides. (The phenomenon extends to US politicians, too.)

The most pressing question, to me, though, is how Azov was able to enter Hong Kong in the first place, given previous denials of entry in Denmark and Czechia, at least. That’s the only part of this that seems as if it might have carried the tacit blessing of the CCP, and if I were trying to quietly discredit the protests, doing so through damned associations, allowing neo-Nazis and foreigners in to show their support, would be an easy way to do so.

But on th eother hand, it could just be relatively lax border controls and the attraction of right-wing moths to a flame.

The Global Crisis of Legitimacy

The main thrust of John Robb’s thesis in Brave New War – and the focus of much of his writing at Global Guerrillas – was the globalization of terrorism and the proliferation of tactics and “best practices” across borders. The same applies to nonstate movements writ large, as Branko Milanovic writes:

Revolutions of 2019, I think, presage a new breed of globalist revolutions. They are not part of the same and easily recognizable ideological pattern. They respond to local causes, but have a global element in the ability of communicate with each other (Catalan protesters imitated blockade of public infrastructure started by the Hong Kong protesters). Perhaps more importantly, they encourage each other: if Chileans are able to stand up, why not Colombians? If there is a single ideological glue to them, it is, I think, desire to have one’s voice heard. At the time of tectonic political shifts where politicians and old ideologies have lost much of their credibility, a thing which has not lost its credibility is the desire and the right to be heard and counted.

The present global crisis is one of legitimacy, of the right to be heard and to participate in the mechanisms of governance. Much of that can be attributed to political elites, and by extension capital, wanting to surrender none of their advantages, no matter the consequences. Watching from abroad at demonstrations around the world, united not in common cause so much as a common grievance, the question remains when the fires might spread here. The United States is suffering from no less a democratic deficit than many other nations but has yet to see similar outbreaks of political protest on such a scale.

I do wonder if the lack of ideological coherence across these movements will prove counterproductive or indeed, even further contribute to the sense of a worldwide crackup. The ability to adopt effective tactics without requiring adherence to a particular cause might well make some of the smaller separatist movements and other localist phenomena more viable, enabling even minor movements to achieve some measure of success (even if just recognition). But in any event, it’s clear that across the globe, governments must pay more heed to the governed, lest the widening gyre open into an abyss.

Black Bloc = False Flag?

A group of protesters all wearing black destroy a police car as the authorities stood nearby. June 26, 2010 in Toronto, Canada.

A comment on my (self-described) hilarious post on the wanton destruction of a Tim Horton’s during the G20 protests raises some interesting, if alarming questions as to their legitimacy. Now, any article from a site that has main categories like “US NATO War Agenda” and “Crimes Against Humanity” obviously deserves to be taken with a grain of salt – a massive grain of salt – but nevertheless its allegations that at least some of the ‘Black Bloc’ protesters are in fact undercover police officers seem to be partially borne out by their photographic evidence.

Some of the evidence offered, like the argument that one black-clad protester has the physique not of a “seedy ‘anarchist'” but rather “the fit strong body of a trained soldier,” seems subjective at best. Their main charge, that some of the Black Bloc-types are wearing the same heavy-duty combat boots as the riot police,  is much more possible. According to this line of thinking, the wanton destruction committed by the Black Bloc is an attempt to discredit the entire protest movement, a sort of ‘false flag‘ operation.

There are two main problems with this, the first being that reaction to the Black Bloc is tending more towards the “those guys are ruining an otherwise perfectly legitimate protest,” rather than something like “all protesters are this capable of violence!” At the same time, the credibility of photographic evidence in any form has been called into doubt (especially with the release of the near-magical Photoshop CS5). So I don’t know how much stock I put in the thesis, but it’s worth thinking about.

One other possibility is that it’s a reverse false flag op, and that the Black Bloc protesters specifically sought out the same issue combat boots as the police are using. The targets of their demolition could point in either direction; they are utterly predictable:

For the most part, their targets are specific and symbolic: As the crowd tore across Queen St., they hammered police cruisers, attacked banks and other corporate companies. Yet they left a record store, a local tavern and an independent hardware shop untouched.

This is all more food for thought than any kind of accusation. One more idea: would we want to use any kind of false flag operations in Afghanistan? Are the Taliban doing so? Perhaps it’s an idea best consigned to the Cold War; one can only hope this is the case.

Like Burning the Stars and Stripes, or Kicking a Bald Eagle

A violent anti-G20 protester, using Black Bloc tactics, throws a chair through the window of a Tim Horton's while demonstrators smashed their way through downtown streets June 26, 2010 in Toronto, Canada.

Even the Greeks in their orgy of destruction would never dream of touching a Goody’s. Aren’t all Canadians outraged? Are they pressuring the Harper Government to send all three tanks at the protesters? Is everyone buying Timbits in solidarity? Come on, Canada, time to rrroll up the rim your sleeves!

For Love of Country, Part I

Part 1 of 5. Adapted from “For Love of Country? Britain, France, and the Imperial Multiethnic Army, 1815-1919.”

The British and French Empires at their greatest territorial extents (British in red, French in blue).

AT THE HEIGHT OF EMPIRE, nearly thirty percent of the peoples of the world and more than a third of its surface area were controlled by only two nations. The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland ruled a quarter of the earth’s population and a quarter of its landmass. As the saying went, “the sun never sets on the British Empire,” and indeed, for nearly two hundred years it never did.

By far the most expansive and successful empire in history, Britain consolidated and expanded its holdings through wars of conquest and a military might unmatched by any other power on the planet. Britain was not the only globe-spanning empire, though. France controlled much of Africa (to an even greater extent than Britain), as well as holdings in Indochina, the Middle East, and the Caribbean.

French and British Empires alike were kept in power by the violent repression of rebellions, mutinies, and ‘uprisings’. In large part, however, the armies participating in the repression were not composed of all-white formations. The sheer size and scope of the global empires required the imperial powers to recruit heavily from among local populations, and the manpower demands of the two world wars necessitated their deployment to the Western Front.

In many cases, the colonial troops performed even better than their European counterparts. The French Tirailleurs Sénégalaise in particular enjoyed a widespread reputation after the war as both peaceful and respected occupation forces, and as daring and highly successful soldiers. Many other French colonial troops garnered equal praise. The British ANZAC and colonial troops also earned warm words for their bravery (Erwin Rommel was quoted as saying, “If I had to take Hell, I would use the Australians to take it and the New Zealanders to hold it”).

It is no exaggeration to state that both French and British Empires alike were founded on the backs of the native populations. But this went beyond local labor forces and resource extraction.

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Just Do It Yourself

Rapidly spreading around the internet right now is Chris Anderson’s article in Wired, “Atoms Are the New Bits.” Anderson talks about the spread of small-scale garage manufacturing, thanks to the advent, miniaturization, and drastically falling prices of 3D printers and the like. Works on the level of resilience, decentralization, sustainability… a win-win for everyone.

It’s definitely got me excited for the coming microindustrial revolution (or is it an industrial microrevolution?). I may very well need to invest in a MakerBot.

A garage renaissance is spilling over into such phenomena as the booming Maker Faires and local “hackerspaces.” Peer production, open source, crowdsourcing, user-generated content — all these digital trends have begun to play out in the world of atoms, too. The Web was just the proof of concept. Now the revolution hits the real world.

In short, atoms are the new bits.

Not everyone is quite so excited. But Joel Johnson might be the only naysayer. He does have a slight point – outsourcing some manufacturing to China is nothing new. Shlok Vaidya likes it except for the emphasis on China, and has further reading for you. John Robb loves it, of course (and is even more concerned with the business implications). Bostonist is proud of local Local Motors.

I know what I want for Christmas.

Brave New War: A Review

I had the pleasure of reading John Robb’s Brave New War: The Next Stage of Terrorism and the End of Globalization over the last week. I’ve been familiar with his excellent blog, Global Guerrillas, for some time now, but reading the framework that he’s constructed for his own analyses has added a great deal of depth to my own understanding of his philosophy. Robb has a peculiar style of interpreting news and events, and one that’s very much influenced me. His predictions may not come true, but regardless, he has laid out some fine groundwork even just as a futurist.

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