Thursday, May 31, 2007

A response of sorts

We don't update HIAW everyday, but we do respond to History Is A Weapon email, pay attention to new links, and work on various ventures to be unveiled in the future. So we were pleasantly surprised to discover a sharp jump in visitors yesterday after our popular map, Everything you ever wanted to know about U.S. foreign policy that history books tend to neglect, got picked up by reddit and made it to their front page. A lot of people must have voted for it to make it that high up and we say thanks.
But the squeaky wheel gets the grease and there is a long comment string on reddit debating the merits of the map, to which we offer a response. First, we agree that it could've been designed better and we've been looking for a flash designer to improve it. Second, while we know we're not revealing any secrets, we are missing a lot of stuff and are still making additions (as it says on the map, we welcome contributions).

But there were a few criticisms that we thought didn't hold much water and while a number of people made perfectly good arguments against these criticisms, we still want to dis them ourselves because we're human and it gets on our nerves.

  1. People who said we were biased: the name of the map is literally "Everything you ever wanted to know about U.S. foreign policy that history books tend to neglect," which explicitly points out which side we're biased towards. While we'll debate and refute the b.s. hagiography and mythologizing that passes for American history, we know that we're doing so within a context where those histories (the b.s. hagiography et al.) are the dominant ones. We're confident that enough people have enough sense to understand this stuff. We want people to be critical and come to an understanding of not only their history, but why some histories are promoted and others are silenced. It's absurd to suggest that there are people who get every morsel of their understanding of history from History Is A Weapon, which is why it's dumb to act like we're somehow shirking our responsibility because we think the stories of Vietnamese Women and American Soldiers and peace activists deserve a moment in the the spotlight.

  2. People who ragged on Noam Chomsky and Ward Churchill as our sources: This isn't personal and it isn't about personalities. These ad hominem arguments are frustrating enough for us to write this long screed. It is relatively unimportant that we appreciate the tremendous, and tireless, academic work that Ward Churchill has done or that we love Noam Chomsky and think that he is one of the greatest people in the world. Regardless of what you think of their ideas, they both have gigantic bibliographies to back up what they're saying. There was a funny interview with Chomsky where this reporter gushingly asked how he could become as smart as him and Chomsky said (completely paraphrasing here) "read the footnotes and the bibliography. Don't just take my word for it, I could be lying about all of this stuff. There's a reason that I put the bibliography in there. It's not about just trusting me. It's about understanding how to teach yourself how to understand this world we're in." We delight in adding, of course, that both Chomsky and Churchill depend much on the record-keeping of the institutions and political actors that they criticize. We suspect that the reason people avoid attacking Chomsky and Churchill's bibliographies is because it would introduce a much bigger can of worms in their own minds.

  3. People who implied that we're unethical nutbags: Perhaps this note isn't helping our case on the nutty front, but we didn't toss our ethics when we got political. We do have an agenda: we think a world with peace and justice is possible and we think that capitalism and the combination of oppressions - patriarchy, white supremacy, etc - are the main hurdles to this better world. None of this is hidden behind a curtain. Type in if you want to get our introductory statement. But we don't lie about it and we don't appreciate suggestions that we're untrustworthy because we have politics.

(edited for clarity)


Sunday, May 20, 2007

Brown and Perelman

After finishing Stephen Duncombe's excellent Dream, I've started reading Fredy Perlman's The Continuing Appeal of Nationalism AND H. Rap Brown's Die Nigger Die! Brown's writing is excellent, but it is his speech that is electrifying. While I'm not far into either book, what is interesting is comparing Perlman's denunciation of nationalism with Brown's celebration of Black Nationalism. I'm just starting both books, but can't recommend either of them highly enough. Which means that The Continuing Appeal of Nationalism is going to go on HIAW soon.

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Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Aborton, America, and Debate

There are two types of lefty political junkies: those who will stoop to obsessing over the elections and those who won't. With all apologies to the latter heads, we are working towards revolution and the total eradication of the capitalist state, but we also chase election gossip like the next hit on a aluminum foil pipe. For those of you still reading, we wanted to remark on a disturbing trend: Liberals' chastising of republican candidates' pro-choice histories.
Blog after blog raises hackles when uncovering decade-old contributions to Planned Parenthood and it makes us ill. But before we raise the biggest reason, let us digress a bit mercenary at first. The biggest difference between the democrats and republicans on a national level, all squawking and superficiality aside, is the choice women get in birth control. Hillary and Obama can talk on and on about all the great visions they have for a better America, but cut to specifics and Obama will take a country that we have attacked and bullied for decades and he'll threaten them with nukes and Clinton, ex-Walmart board member, is just gross. Sure, Sharpton and Kucinich will be allowed on stage to give the naive some hope, but anyone allowed to play ball for real is republican-lite. The republican model looks similar with the only difference that they use their farthest right fringe, like racist Tancredo, not as a bait-and-switch to keep the base in line, but as cover to push for their grossest visions (i.e., they're just answering to the grassroots). The battle royales they have are more like Professional Wrestling: a lot of sound and fury and very little actual heat.
Why is it so important to point this out? The day the democrats run an anti-choice presidential candidate, the Democratic party will deflate and third parties will get a rush of new dynamic recruits (maybe the republicans will win the next election, but it will fundamentally move the debate to the left on every issue, including choice); the day the republicans run a pro-choice candidate, the democrats will win the next election as the anti-choice base will immediately jump ship for the next largest antichoice party.
But, and I'm sure that this some dailykos junkie is already thinking this: what if liberals already know that the parties will never allow their nominee to buck the rule and it is just a strategy to weaken turnout from the base in case an ex-prochoicer wins the nomination. This is brings us to the second reason: abortion shouldn't be a political football. It is a right that should need no endorsement, apology, or excuse in the political ring. The ideal candidate quote is simply: "If elected, I will do everything in my power to guarantee a woman's right to choose. Next question."

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Friday, May 04, 2007

Illustrator Wanted

History Is A Weapon is looking for a talented illustrator who can work on the cheap. Email thedirectorate (the letter A and then the letter T) with a link to your work (subject line: HIAW/Illustration. We have a few small dollars (and presents!), but we're mostly looking for a fellow traveler who can hook up some sweet ink work on the cheap.

In other news, apologies on the dearth of new material. Be assured that we're not hibernating, but preparing the next offensive. If you, or someone you know, is down with the politics of the site and work in Motion Graphics or Animation, feel free to email us as well (subject line: HIAW/3D). No pay, but the awesomeness will scorch.