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Archive for June 5th, 2020

Corporate Power, Protests and the Breakdown of a Social Contract

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Matt Stoller writes in BIG:

In 2012, I published a law review article titled “The Housing Crash and the End of American Citizenship” predicting the rise of protests and social disorder on the one hand and authoritarian politics on the other. I wrote it after several years as a Congressional staffer working on the bailouts, Federal Reserve transparency, and the foreclosure crisis. The trends playing out now were evident back then.

With that in mind, today I’m going to make a few observations about the relationship of corporate power to protest. It’s hard not to have sympathy for the aims of the protesters, considering the murder of George Floyd is just the latest in a long line of obvious and flagrant violent acts. I do suspect that the outpouring of anger reflects something deeper than frustration with police brutality. There’s a broad sense of impotence, and not just among protesters, a feeling that our social contract has broken down, that we no longer have the means to come together and address social problems via politics.

This is something of a long essay, because these are delicate topics, but if you want the short version, here you go: Protestors Criticized For Looting Businesses Without Forming Private Equity Firm First, an article in The Onion.

And now…

Wall Street, the New Deal and Jim Crow

William Levitt was the creator of the modern post-WWII suburb, and in many ways, his thinking illustrated how we chose to structure a key part of the long New Deal era, in the form of the American home. Two quotes illustrate his views. First, he argued for homeownership as an important instrument in social order. “No man who owns his own house and lot can be a communist,” he said. “He has too much to do.” In other words, a working person with a stake in society takes seriously their obligation to society, whereas someone with no stake has nothing to lose and turns radical.

The 1940s through the 1970s was a time when Wall Street had lost its power and relevance, and the American economic order was a diversified mix of manufacturing, agriculture, services, social welfare, military equipment, research, and high-technology. The collapse of financiers and monopolists was epitomized by the public financing of housing stock that enabled Levitt to build what he did. America had an increasingly empowered middle and working class.

And yet, this era co-existed with a fascist Jim Crow regime in the South enforced by vigilante terrorism against the black population, especially black leaders who were economically empowered. There was wide and broad cultural support for segregation, though not the specific violent tactics used to uphold such an order. As an example, just 4% of Americans in 1958 approved of black-white interracial marriage.

Segregation in the North was almost as bad as it was in the south, but was organized through economic arrangements, not public Jim Crow statutes but private contract law. Levitt, whose first suburbs were in the North, believed that racial segregation was a necessary mechanism to address the serious housing shortage Americans confronted. “We can solve a housing problem, or we can try to solve a racial problem,” Levitt argued. “But we can’t combine the two.”

There was a massive housing shortage immediately after World War II, because America essentially hadn’t built any housing stock since 1933. Levitt was a businessman, but he refused to integrate his housing developments racially, and had white-only covenants which made it impossible for black people to buy into his suburbs. Broadly speaking, Levitt was reflecting the social consensus of the era.

While bigotry was a widely held cultural attitude, racism as an institutional phenomenon was buried in every nook and cranny of the American order. It was not just police violence, Jim Crow laws, or the subtext of vigilante racial terrorism, though those were the most obvious signposts. There were serious disparities in health care treatment, access to capital, auto insurance, business insurance, patent law, hiring decisions, housing, media ownership, transportation, education and nutrition options, not to mention the endless number of opportunities closed off because of segregated social networks. Most of these disparities still exist. Even today, with an increasingly wealthy number of black businesspeople, monopolists like Comcast undermine the ability of black business leaders to operate as independent sellers of content.

Throughout American history, racism and corporate power have intersected in a variety of important ways. Sometimes our market structures have aided the struggle for racial liberation, sometimes they’ve impeded it, and oftentimes racial backlash has been used as a pretext to implement autocratic economic policies. There are moments when economic inequality comes wrapped in the language of justice, and moments when those who seek broad economic equality diminish the importance of racial discrimination. The relationship between corporate power and racism is not simple.

So to look at the post-war suburban creation as purely a moment of monstrous and publicly sanctioned racism is to miss that the Jim Crow order was weakening because of some of the same trends propelling Levitt’s success. Jim Crow, as I’ve written, was a *deal* between Northern monopolists and Southern whites, and it was both social and economic in orientation.

Attacks in the 1930s on financiers undermined racial segregation by replacing monopolists with public institutions responsive to a broad middle class. FDR in the 1930s made fun of Virginia Senator Harry Byrd, a segregationist Democrat who had grown wealthy growing apples. In one instance where Byrd opposed a program to put Americans to work, FDR told a subordinate Rex Tugwell, “I know what’s the matter with Byrd, he’s afraid you’ll force him to pay more than ten cents for his apple pickers.” Roosevelt did not attack segregation directly, but he did attack its economic roots. The Civil Rights movement then built on top of the political structure Roosevelt created. Political leaders, and black and white activists, sought the same economic and political empowerment for blacks that the New Deal had offered to whites.

The narrative of Jim Crow as an economic deal was first characterized in rigorous scholarly detail by W.E.B. Dubois in the 1930s in Black Reconstruction, and then reiterated by C. Vann Woodward in the The Strange Career of Jim Crow. There’s been a lot of critical and important scholarship advancing and critiquing these ideas, but Martin Luther King Jr. called Woodward’s book the “the historical Bible of the civil rights movement.” At Selma in 1965, MLK said the following.

If it may be said of the slavery era that the white man took the world and gave the Negro Jesus, then it may be said of the Reconstruction era that the southern aristocracy took the world and gave the poor white man Jim Crow. He gave him Jim Crow. And when his wrinkled stomach cried out for the food that his empty pockets could not provide, he ate Jim Crow, a psychological bird that told him that no matter how bad off he was, at least he was a white man, better than the black man. And he ate Jim Crow. And when his undernourished children cried out for the necessities that his low wages could not provide, he showed them the Jim Crow signs on the buses and in the stores, on the streets and in the public buildings. And his children, too, learned to feed upon Jim Crow, their last outpost of psychological oblivion.
By the time MLK spoke these words, the collapse of Jim Crow was evident. Woodward dubbed the post-war era a “Second Reconstruction,” analogizing it to the hopeful period after the Civil War when America had a brief chance to forge a racially egalitarian nation.

In the 1950s and 1960s, racial terrorism existed, lynchings were common, and racism was open and brutal, but gone were the days of the 1920s, when the Democratic Party feuded over whether to openly align with the Ku Klux Klan, which was then so powerful it could elect Governors and Senators all over the country. From the 1940s onward, blacks were moving out of the South due to a low unemployment rate organized by New Deal economists, and income among blacks rose at roughly twice the rate as whites for decades, albeit from a much lower base. Lifespans too closed a yawing gap.

America did chip away at these immoral racial disparities, slowly and incompletely, until the late 1960s. We used politics in the 1930s to restore economic liberties to citizens, and then we gradually broadened the scope of who could be a citizen. It is easy to sound callous in making this observation; someone killed by racial violence in the 1960s never got to experience the improved circumstances. Broadly, though, circumstances for lot of people began getting better, though not quickly enough.

And then came the 1970s, and the attack on racial egalitarianism. This was framed not as attacking the idea of racial equality, but on its economic underpinning, the New Deal. As Judith Stein observed in Pivotal Decade: How the United States Traded Factories for Finance in the Seventies as well as Running Steel, Running America, policymakers like Paul Volcker, Jimmy Carter, and William Simon chose to trade away increasing chunks of the middle class through offshoring jobs for geopolitical purposes. There were legitimate problems with the New Deal order, such as bad regulations, a loosening financial order, and gruesome errors like the Vietnam War, so change was coming regardless. But the change we sought was to elevate the political power of financial middlemen, and downgrade the political power of workers, farmers, engineers, and businesspeople.

As Stein chronicled, this was most evident in the deindustrialization of unionized heavy industry. Offshoring steel and automobile production had a special role in fueling racial tensions. White workers usually had a longer tenure of work, and according to union rules would be the last laid off because of this tenure. So offshoring would cause black layoffs first, and then white layoffs. Civil rights groups rightfully understood that as racist, but few recognized the largest context that racial tension was a result of white and black workers feuding over a smaller and smaller pie.

In my research, what I found is that an increasingly upscale neoliberal Republican and Democratic Party elite were oblivious to the underlying dynamics at play. The New Right, led by Ronald Reagan, was animated by racial backlash politics and social conservatives, as well as a goal of rolling back the New Deal order of constraining corporate power. Still, Robert Bork, an intellectual leader of the Reagan revolution, never achieved the conservative popular culture he wanted, but he did end antitrust law and public constraints on financiers.

The left, meanwhile, did not understand that the Civil Rights movement was built on top of the New Deal, and many were obsessed with New Age rhetoric, elite technocracy, and consumer and environmental politics. Futurist Alvin Toffler talked of getting rid of that “old New Deal clap-trap” and was a constant presence at Democratic party convenings in the mid-1970s, as well as an advisor to Al Gore. Michael Milken, the godfather of private equity, used countercultural rhetoric in his justification for financial power, saying in the 1970s, “Unlike other crusaders from Berkeley, I have chosen Wall Street as my battleground for improving society.” (He’s still at it today, pretending he was inspired to work in junk bonds after talking to a young black man following the Watts riots in 1965. “I was 19,” Milken recalled in 2016. “Everything I knew, I had to rethink. I changed my major from physics and math to business.”)

Culturally speaking, America is far less bigoted than it used to be. In the 1950s, virtually no one approved of intermarriage between blacks and whites, and even into the 1990s, a majority of Americans still did not approve of it. Today intermarriage rates are higher than they ever have been, and 87% of Americans favor interracial marriage. . . .

Continue reading. There’s much more.

And note his conclusion:

. . .  What I found in researching housing is that Levitt was a small part of a specific social contract, one in which a house would be the focal point for a white community, a school, a neighborhood, as well as a forced savings vehicle. Income growth, aka raises, would structure the middle class, which was rooted in producing things. The Federal Reserve, though the banking system’s connection to housing, could control swings in the economy, connecting the financial elite to the middle class directly. This contract existed because working class people had power, and were willing to seek other social organizational forms if they did not have their needs met.

Ronald Reagan shifted this social contract, by making the home a financial asset more than a bulwark of community. People no longer really got raises, but they were able to continue consumption by drawing down on savings and borrowing, a substitute of credit for income. The 1980s saw mass offshoring, as America turned increasingly into a rentier economy. The connection from the Fed to the real economy was weaker, but it still held. It was in this era that black people were finally able to buy homes, and so they never were able to build wealth as white people had. And most people were falling behind.

The housing crisis of 2007-2012 snapped the spine of the Reagan-era weaker social contract. Bankers and politician not only didn’t stop the foreclosure crisis, but began asserting that homeownership wasn’t an important social goal. The Federal Reserve’s strategy turned entirely towards buying or selling the financial assets of the wealthy as a means of engaging in macro-economic stabilizing. And so, leaving aside the moral validity of any particular movement, popular radicalism returned, on the right and the left. in the the form of the Tea Party, Occupy Wall Street, Black Lives Matter, Trump, right-wing anger at lockdowns, and now protests over police brutality, as well as riots.

To take just one issue, and not the only one at issue, reducing police brutality is a question of leadership, of bureaucratic management, and it requires the ability to come together as citizens and do politics. But since the 1980s, predatory financial elites have worked aggressively to break our public institutions so that we can’t collectively do politics. In some cases, they adopted the rhetorical form of racial tolerance while fighting its economic underpinning, in other cases they adopted the rhetoric of racial backlash. Either way, they have destroyed the ability of citizens to come together and do politics to foster needed social change.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, for instance, has dedicated his whole career to blocking democratic institutions from functioning, with the goal of putting conservative judges on the bench so they can write the law, immune from popular social pressure. That’s a brilliant strategy for maintaining rigid social hierarchies, but it doesn’t allow for any release of social pressure except despair and popular explosions.

We now have two paths. Restoring a stable social contract broadly will mean restoring the ability to do politics, to rearrange our productive capacity in ways that are safer, more efficient, and more fair, which will necessarily mean a reorganization of power. Or it will require a far more authoritarian society, one in which we accept a much higher level of security spending to protect a narrow elite from a disempowered and angry populace.

Either way we go, William Levitt understood that people without a stake in society tend to rebel. And that is what we are seeing play out.

Written by LeisureGuy

5 June 2020 at 3:12 pm

“The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind”

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I read Julian Jaynes’s book when it first came out and have been fascinated by it. Scott Alexander writes a review in Slate Star Codex:

I.

Julian Jaynes’ The Origin Of Consciousness In The Breakdown Of The Bicameral Mind is a brilliant book, with only two minor flaws. First, that it purports to explains the origin of consciousness. And second, that it posits a breakdown of the bicameral mind. I think it’s possible to route around these flaws while keeping the thesis otherwise intact. So I’m going to start by reviewing a slightly different book, the one Jaynes should have written. Then I’ll talk about the more dubious one he actually wrote.

My hypothetical Jaynes 2.0 is a book about theory-of-mind. Theory-of-mind is our intuitive model of how the mind works. It has no relation to intellectual theories about how the mind is made of cognitive algorithms or instantiated on neurons in the brain. Every schoolchild has theory-of-mind. It goes like this: the mind is an imaginary space containing things like thoughts, emotions, and desires. I have mine and you have yours. I can see what’s inside my mind, but not what’s inside your mind, and vice versa. I mostly choose the things that are in my mind at any given time: I will thoughts to happen, and they happen; I will myself to make a decision, and it gets made. This needs a resource called willpower; if I don’t have enough willpower, sometimes the things that happen in my mind aren’t the ones I want. When important things happen, sometimes my mind gets strong emotions; this is natural, but I need to use lots of willpower to make sure I don’t get overwhelmed by them and make bad decisions.

All this seems so obvious that it sounds like common sense rather than theory. But it has to be learned. Very young children don’t start out with theory of mind. They can’t separate themselves from their emotions; it’s not natural for them to say “I’m really angry now, but that’s just a thing I’m feeling, I don’t actually hate you”. It’s not even clear to them that people’s minds contain different things; children are famously unable to figure out that a playmate who has different evidence than they do may draw different conclusions.

And the learning isn’t just a process of passively sitting back observing your own mind until you figure out how it works. You learn it from your parents. Parents are always telling their kids that “I think this” and “What do you think?” and “You look sad” and “It makes me feel sad when you do that”. Eventually it all sinks in. Kids learn their parent’s theory-of-mind the same way they learn their parents’ language or religion.

When in human history did theory-of-mind first arise? It couldn’t have been a single invention – more like a gradual process of refinement. “The unconscious” only really entered our theory-of-mind with Freud. Statements like “my abuse gave me a lot of baggage that I’m still working through” involves a theory-of-mind that would have been incomprehensible a few centuries ago. It’s like “I’m clicking on an icon with my mouse” – every individual word would have made sense, but the gestalt would be nonsensical.

Still, everyone always assumes that the absolute basics – mind as a metaphorical space containing beliefs and emotions, people having thoughts and making decisions – must go back so far that their origins are lost in the mists of time, attributable only to nameless ape-men.

Julian Jaynes doesn’t think that. He thinks it comes from the Bronze Age Near East, c. 1500 – 750 BC.

II.

Jaynes (writing in the 1970s) was both a psychology professor at Princeton and an expert in ancient languages, so the perfect person to make this case. He reviews various samples of Bronze Age writing from before and after this period, and shows that the early writings have no references to mental processes, and the later ones do. When early writings do have references to mental processes, they occur in parts agreed by scholars to be later interpolations. If, with no knowledge of the language itself, you tried to figure out which parts of a heavily-redacted ancient text were early vs. late by their level of reference to mental processes, you could do a pretty decent job.

I don’t speak fluent Sumerian, so I am forced to take Jaynes’ word for a lot of this. It’s even worse than that, because Jaynes argues that other translators sometimes err and translate non-mental terms in mental ways. This is an easy mistake for them to make, because most cultures, once they got theory of mind, repurposed existing language to represent it. Jaynes makes a convincing case for why this would happen, and convincingly argues for why his interpretations are truer to the spirit of the text, but it does mean you can’t double-check his work by reading the works in translation.

Jaynes spends the most time talking about the Iliad, with good reason – it’s the longest Bronze Age work we have, and in many ways it’s a psychodrama, focusing as much on the characters of Achilles, Hector, etc as the plot itself. It came together piecemeal through the efforts of Greek bards between about 1100 and 800 BC, finally reaching a canonical version in the mouth of “Homer” around 700 BC – the period Jaynes says theory of mind was starting to evolve. Jaynes uses it to trace the development process, showing how older sections of the Iliad treat psychology in different ways than newer ones.

So for example, a typical translation might use a phrase like “Fear filled Agamemnon’s mind”. Wrong! There is no word for “mind” in the Iliad, except maybe in the very newest interpolations. The words are things like kardianoosphrenes, and thumos, which Jaynes translates as heart, vision/perception, belly, and sympathetic nervous system, respectively. He might translate the sentence about Agamemnon to say something like “Quivering rose in Agamemnon’s belly”. It still means the same thing – Agamemnon is afraid – but it’s how you would talk about it if you didn’t have an idea of “the mind” as the place where mental things happened – you would just notice your belly was quivering more. Later, when the Greeks got theory of mind, they repurposed all these terms. You can still find signs of this today, like how we say “I believe it in my heart”. In fact, you can still find this split use of phrenes, which has survived into English both as the phrenic nerve (a nerve in the belly) and schizophrenia (a mental disease). As the transition wore on, people got more and more flowery about the kind of feelings you could have in your belly or your heart or whatever, until finally belly, heart, and all the others merged into a single Mind where all the mental stuff happened together.

The Iliad uses these body parts to describe feelings despite its weak theory of mind. Its solution for describing thoughts and decision-making is more…unconventional.

Suppose Achilles is overcome with rage and wants to kill Agamemnon. But this would be a terrible [idea]; after [thinking] about it for a while, he [decides] against. If Achilles has no concept of any of the bracketed words, nothing even slightly corresponding to those terms, how does he conceptualize his own actions? Jaynes:

The response of Achilles begins in his etor, or what I suggest is a cramp in his guts, where he is in conflict, or put into two parts (mermerizo) whether to obey his thumos, the immediate internal sensations of anger, and kill the king, or not. It is only after this vacillating interval of increasing belly sensations and surges of blood, as Achilles is drawing his mighty sword, that the stress has become sufficient to hallucinate the dreadfully gleaming goddess Athene who then takes over control of the action and tells Achilles what to do.

Wait, what?

III.

As you go about your day, you hear a voice that tells you what to do, praises you for your successes, criticizes you for your failures, and tells you what decisions to make in difficult situations. Modern theory-of-mind tells you that this is your own voice, thinking thoughts. It says this so consistently and convincingly that we never stop to question whether it might be anything else.

If you don’t have theory of mind, what do you do with it? Children don’t have theory of mind, at least not very much of it, and more than half of them have imaginary friends. Jaynes has done some research on the imaginary friend phenomenon, and argues that a better term would be “hallucinatory friend” – children see and hear these entities vividly. The atheoretical mind is a desperate thing, and will comply with any priors you give it to make sense of its experiences. If that prior is that the voice in your head is a friend – or god – it will obediently hallucinate a friend or god for you, and modulate its voice-having accordingly.

I know some very smart and otherwise completely sane evangelical Christians who swear to me that God answers their prayers. They will ask God a question, and they will hear God’s voice answer it. God’s voice may not sound exactly like an external voice, and it may give them only the advice they would have given themselves if they’d thought about it – but they swear that they are not thinking about it, that their experience is qualitatively different than that. And these are normal people! If you’re a special person – a saint or mystic, say – and you actively court the experience by fasting and praying and generally stressing your body to the limit – then the voice will be that much louder and more convincing.

There are even whole forms of therapy based on this kind of thing. In Internal Family Systems, the therapist asks the patient to conceptualize some part of their mind (maybe the part that’s producing a certain symptom) as a person, and to talk to it. I know people who swear that this works. They approach their grief or anger or anxiety, and they get a clear image of what “he” or “she” looks like, and then “he” or “she” talks to them. Usually he/she tells them some appropriately psychological sounding thing, like “Hello, I am your anxiety, and I’m only inflicting these fears on you because we were abused as a child and I want to make sure nobody ever abuses us like that again”. Then the patient talks to their anxiety and hopefully strikes a bargain where the patient agrees to take the anxiety’s perspective into account and the anxiety agrees not to make the patient so anxious all the time. Some people swear by this, say it’s helped them where nothing else can, and absolutely insist they are having a real dialogue with their anxiety and not just making up both sides of the conversation. [See also psychosynthesis, in particular books by its founder, Roberto Assagioli and Piero Ferrucci’s What We May Be. – LG]

Most of the people who seem to really like IFS have borderline personality disorder. And borderline people are also at the most risk of dissociative identity disorder (multiple personality). Multiple personality has two main risk factors: borderline, and somebody suggesting to you that multiple personality disorder might be a reasonable thing to have. For a while in the 80s, psychiatrists were really into multiple personality and tried diagnosing everyone with it, and sure enough all those people would admit to having multiple personalities and it would be very exciting. Then the APA told the psychiatrists to stop, people stopped talking about multiple personality as much, and now the condition is rarer.

A few years ago, someone rediscovered/invented tulpamancy, the idea of cultivating multiple personalities on purpose because it’s cool. People who try to do this usually succeed. At least they say they’ve succeeded, and I believe they think this. I think their internal experience is of talking to a different entity inside of them. Also, I have a friend who writes novels, and one time she created such a detailed mental model of one of her characters that it became an alternate personality, which she still has and considers an important part of her life. She is one of the most practical people I know and not usually prone to flights of fancy.

I also have less practical friends, friends who are into occultism . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

5 June 2020 at 2:38 pm

Posted in Books, Science

The direction the US is going: The Messengers

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Maddy Crowell writes in the Virginia Quarterly Review:

The offices of Caravan, a small but influential Indian monthly magazine, are housed on the third floor of a Soviet-style building in New Delhi. For a long time, Vinod Jose, the magazine’s executive editor, didn’t give much thought to the view outside his window: a budding thicket of gulmohar trees where, down below, smokers convened in small circles on their lunch break. But then, a few years ago, the view began to change. The netted steel cage of a new building began to rise out of the foliage, piquing Jose’s interest: It would be, he soon found out, the New Delhi headquarters for the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), India’s most powerful right-wing Hindu-nationalist organization, and a longtime fixation of Jose’s journalistic career.

“A colleague once told me that if he were writing a profile of me, that this would be the opening scene,” Jose said, gesturing to his view of the RSS headquarters, when we met in April 2019. Jose, who is forty and speaks in tranquil bursts, carries himself with a calm authority that can often feel out of place in Delhi’s cacophony. He crossed his office, passing precariously stacked books and locked filing cabinets with labels such as “The Gujarat Files” and “Amit Shah,” then fell into a worn swivel chair. For Jose—one of India’s more subversive journalists, and my former boss when I was an intern at Caravan six years ago—pointing out a good opening scene was no different than providing me with the weather forecast for the day. His life and his journalism are practically inseparable.

He was right: The scene was, indeed, a good metaphor. Caravan and the RSS are intimate adversaries in the Indian public sphere. Founded in 1925, the RSS has long advocated for India to abandon its pluralistic ambitions and become an entirely Hindu nation—an idea that has only gained strength since Narendra Modi, an early protégé of the group, was first elected prime minister in 2014 through the RSS’s unofficial political wing, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Caravan, meanwhile, has embraced a mission of protecting India’s tradition of democracy and religious pluralism, more often than not through exhaustive investigations into the RSS and its affiliates.

For the most part, confrontations between the magazine and the nationalist organization have remained in the courts and online. This should go without saying in just about any democracy, but lately there has been concern that a story could lead to actual violence. In one incident, a few months before Modi’s election, Caravan published an explosive cover story based on a series of interviews with Swami Aseemanand, a right-wing Hindu monk who claimed that the RSS had been aware of his plans to bomb multiple venues targeting Muslims from 2006 to 2008, attacks that left more than a hundred dead. The day the story was published, around one hundred RSS protestors gathered outside Caravan’s offices, waving the party’s saffron flags and carrying signs reading ban anti-hindu caravan as they set fire to copies of the magazine. That morning, Jose received dozens of calls, to both his office and cell phone, from anonymous numbers: “We are coming for you,” several callers told him; another screamed “motherfucker” and threatened, vaguely, to “stop” the magazine. Police and private security arrived to prevent protesters from entering the building, while television reporters covered the chaos outside. Since the protests, menace toward the magazine has persisted in the shadowy, nebulous way that most journalists are pressured these days: online trolls, breaches of its computer network, and, in Caravan’s case, a handful of defamation lawsuits.

Living under a constant, simmering threat is, for Jose, evidence that he’s doing something right as a journalist. Nearly every day, he receives ominous online messages that accuse him of being “rabidly anti-Hindu” or “anti-national” or a “Christian bigot” or “DEEP STATE JOURNALIST VINOD K JOSE…FROM COMMIE COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY.” Jose is almost certain that his cell phone is bugged, not to mention the entire Caravan office. Six months after Modi first became prime minister, Jose fired his personal driver, who had been acting suspiciously; friends, meanwhile, began warning him to take different routes to work each day, just in case.

As tense as the atmosphere was for India’s free press following Modi’s first election, things have only worsened since. A number of editors claim to have been bullied by Modi loyalists seeking to remove online coverage that was critical of the BJP; newspapers that have published negative stories have been penalized financially, often through the loss of government-funded advertisements. At the same time, journalists at mainstream outlets have become ever more explicit, if not boastful, about their political connections. When Arun Jaitley, the BJP’s finance minister, died in August 2019, a reporter from one of India’s largest television channels, Times Now, tweeted: “I’ve lost my Guiding Light my mentor. Who will I call every morning now?”

Most sinister of all, the censorship of Modi’s critics has escalated into violence. Since he first came into office, twelve journalists have been killed because of their work, and at least nine have been imprisoned. In 2017, the prominent journalist and editor Gauri Lankesh was gunned down in the early evening in front of her estate in Bangalore. Lankesh, an outspoken feminist and human-rights activist famous for her left-wing tabloidesque attacks on Hindu-nationalist figures, was a close friend of Jose’s—the two had worked together covering contentious riots in Goa in 2005. Her death confirmed the seriousness of what Indian journalists were up against under the new regime. Not long after, a right-wing nationalist followed by Modi on Twitter posted: “One bitch dies a dog’s death all the puppies cry in the same tune.”

After Lankesh’s murder, Jose began implementing protocols for Caravan’s staff to follow: All communications are now handled on encrypted channels, such as ProtonMail or Signal (WhatsApp, he believes, is compromised in India), and reporters working on sensitive stories are instructed to be especially vigilant in protecting their sources. And yet, like almost everyone else I spoke with at Caravan, Jose wasn’t all that interested in talking about the government’s intimidation. “You . . .

Continue reading. There’s much more, and it shows what can happen.

Later in the article:

. . . One of the best known of those features was written by Jose in 2012—an eighteen-thousand-word profile of Modi, a star of the BJP who was rumored to be considering a run for prime minister. The article traces Modi’s political evolution, beginning at age eight, when he volunteered to join an RSS training camp in his hometown in Gujarat, to his ascent as one of the BJP’s leading figures. At the same time, the story exposed the inner workings of one of the most powerful political machines in India’s modern history. “The story of Narendra Modi,” Jose wrote, “is also the story of a series of organizations under which he was nurtured and trained,” the most important of which, he argued, was the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh.

According to Jose, to understand Modi’s rise is to understand a history nearly one hundred years in the making—one that begins with the birth of the Hindu-nationalist movement in 1925, when an Indian doctor named K. B. Hedgewar founded the RSS. Hedgewar was concerned that the Hindu identity—which he saw not just as a religion but as an entire race—needed to be protected, purified, and preserved from other religions, and believed India’s Muslims and Christians were actually descendants of Hindus who had been converted to their respective religions by force.

A self-proclaimed admirer of European fascists, Hedgewar soon established military training camps in his hometown of Nagpur, in central India, in order to tutor young Hindus in combat techniques using swords, trishuls (three-pronged spears often seen in Hindu mythology), explosives, and gas cylinders. After Hedgewar died, in 1940, the group’s new “supreme director,” Madhav Sadashiv Golwalkar, maintained the RSS’s extremist views, writing glowingly of Nazi Germany in his popular manifesto, We, or Our Nationhood Defined. “To keep up the purity of the Race and its culture,” Golwalkar wrote, “Germany shocked the world by her purging the country of the Semitic Races—the Jews. Race pride at its highest has been manifested here. Germany has also shown how well-nigh impossible it is for Races and cultures, having differences going to the root, to be assimilated into one united whole, a good lesson for us in Hindusthan to learn and profit by.” To Golwalkar, India was not a pluralistic, religiously diverse country but “Hindusthan”: To him, Muslims and Christians were godless “invaders.”  . ..

Written by LeisureGuy

5 June 2020 at 2:11 pm

Hypertension, hibiscus tea, and a plant-based diet

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Worth considering.

Written by LeisureGuy

5 June 2020 at 10:33 am

CK-6 Dapper Doc makes a fine shave

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The brush is a Mühle silvertip with a very fluffy knot that feels soft on my face, a pleasant sensation. The CK-6 lather is remarkably good — when I’ve been away from it for a few shaves, I’m always struck by the contrast. (Tomorrow I’ll use Declaration Grooming’s Milksteak for a side-by-side comparison.)

Three passes with the iKon Shavecraft 101 left my face perfectly smooth, with the CK-6 contributing soft and supple to the result. A splash of the Old Time Lilac & Fig aftershave, and Friday is underway.

Written by LeisureGuy

5 June 2020 at 9:41 am

Posted in Shaving

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