Best-Of Issue for the July 4th, 2012 Occupy National Gathering in Philadelphia
OccupyBR.com BATON ROUGE, LOUISIANA
Keep Reading: Veterans Return Their War Medals to Obama ☛ PAGE 3
Nabi Saleh’s Tears ☛ PAGE 3
Why I Oppose the 1% of the 1% ☛ PAGE 6
Why They Censored The People’s Censored ☛ PAGE 8
Pigeonholed: A PR Game Occupy Can Only Lose ☛ PAGE 9
Bobby’s World: Louisiana’s Little Dictator ☛ PAGE 10
Vouchers for Jesus: The Rise of the Jindal Theocracy ☛ PAGE 11
Censored is a publication The People’s [Censored] produced by participants in Occupy Baton Censored Rouge. The People’s [Censored] does not—and could not—represent anyone except its participants. We are in no way Censored or their coraffiliated with the [Censored] porate overlords Capital City Press. The views of the authors are their own.
The biggest threat to paid speech is free speech.
Reports of Occupy’s Death Have Been Greatly Exaggerated BY BEN VITELLI Occupy Baton Rouge
eople can’t seem to stop eulogizing the Occupy Movement. Since the eviction of the protestors at Freedom Plaza last November, it’s become a cliché in the media to report on the “Death of Occupy.” Articles pop up all over the web, blithely reporting on the failed second wind of Occupy, this lackluster “American Spring,” and the May Day general strike that didn’t quite shut the system down. It should be no surprise that the mainstream media is eager to report on Occupy’s supposed demise. Even ignoring the fact that the corporateowned media has a strong desire to never see social movements such as Occupy succeed, the media, as a rule, generally needs to put a dramatic narrative to everything it reports. To them, every story ought to have a captivating story arch with a beginning, middle, and an end. In the media’s eyes, the story that was Occupy began when the magazine Adbusters put out a call to Occupy Wall Street on September 17. Many people heeded the call, yet, according to the media’s story, the movement only received its dramatic momentum when cops were filmed attacking and pepper-spraying the nonviolent protestors. It reached its early demise when the police violently cleared out the various encampments. Now, except for a few curmudgeons who can’t seem to understand that Occupy is over, all that remains of Occupy is its populist rhetoric of the 99%—which has been dutifully hawked up by Democratic frontgroups such as MoveOn.org to help refuel the Obama election machine. This popular narrative of Occupy, with its clear-cut beginning, middle, and end, has been so successful that
even those who are still active within the Occupy movement can’t help but accept some of it as truth. Lately, many General Assemblies border on something closely resembling a public support group. On the internet, vaguely self-congratulatory Paul Krugman-y articles, applauding Occupy for “at least shifting the public dialogue,” are posted and reposted to different Occupy-related sites to remind each other that Occupy at least made something of a difference. All that’s left for Occupy to do, then, is to sit around, waiting for the Next Big Protest to come along-where peaceful protestors will, again, be filmed brutalized by all-too -eager to attack police officers. And then, after that, to hold their nose and vote in November, hoping that after the campaign promises of whoever wins are dashed away once more, people will remember that passively investing their hopes in politicians is a death sentence. Then the people will take to the streets again, starting the process all over. In the United States, we tend to view history as something other people (usually white, upper class men) did long ago, not something we all actively participate in on a day to day basis. In school textbooks we were taught that the American Revolution was the accomplishment of a few incredibly enlightened, well-educated men. We forget that it took hundreds of thousands of people—especially young people, women, and working class men–to support and spread the ideas of democracy throughout the colonies. The problem with how we view movements such as Occupy, then, is very similar. Through the lens of
Censored 2 July 2012 The People’s [Censored] the mainstream media, Occupy has become a spectacle taking place at a distance by people very unlike ourselves. Brutal police officers and their photogenic victims, Occupy-friendly celebrities and artists, black block style anarchists, and our cities’ despotic mayors are the characters in this drama who elaborately battle it out for headlines on the stage of our trash-strewn cities. Like most stories we find captivating as Americans, Occupy has become a newspaper story of violence, celebrity and corruption. The mainstream media’s story of Occupy accepts at face value much of what Occupy fought against. It teaches us that only through violence (whether by smashing the window of a Starbucks or by getting smashed in the face by a cop on a rampage) will we bring attention to our cause— and preferably the attention of trend-setting celebrities or some not-entirely-out-of-touch politician. It teaches us that only those with the power can make change happen, and that merely being talked about is a substitute for legitimate change. When people first came together to “Occupy,” nobody really seemed to care that we were initially ignored by the mainstream media—in fact, many of us found it somewhat amusing. We didn’t go out and protest so that the conventional wisdom of the hacks at Time Magazine could name us “Person of the Year.” The only reason we received such a brief burst of tepidly-favorable attention from the mainstream media and their star politicians was that the mainstream media and their star politicians sensed a loss of legitimacy if they continued to ignore the growing movement of resistance. And, beyond that, the goal was never to get them to pay attention and view what their out-of -touch policies have done to the rest of us. The parasitic 1% and their lackeys in the mainstream media couldn’t care less what hap-
pens to the rest of us anyways, so long as we don’t shake the structure up too much in open revolt.
The goal of Occupy from its outset was to get together as a community of equals, to claim a future different than the one given to us, and to reignite a tradition of democratic progress that reaches back far into our history. The goals of the slowly evolving Occupy movement were something of an experiment. It was a way of exploring new ways of interacting with others. Of showing each other that we can do very fine without the 1%, thank you very much. Shrugging off Occupy as a momentary fad or a leftist pipedream is to do a disservice to both Occupy and our collective yearning for a more legitimate community. When Occupy began, there was a feeling in the air that another world was not only possible, but that it was almost inevitable. Our isolation and alienation no longer seemed like an unbridgeable gap: Separations are broken down. Personal problems are transformed into public issues; public issues that seemed distant and abstract become immediate practical matters. The old order is analyzed, criticized, satirized. People learn more about society in a week than in years of academic “social studies” or leftist “consciousness raising.” Long repressed experiences are revived. Everything seems possible — and much more is possible. People can hardly believe what they used to put up with in “the old days.” (Ken Knabb, The Joy of Revolution) Since then, over 7,300 Occupy protestors have been arrested in the United States alone. Many of these have been beaten and tortured. The media has been strong-armed into not reporting on Occupy except in an unf av orab l e l ig ht, a nd non participants (but potential sympathizers) are encouraged to sarcastically
roll their eyes at those silly protestors who just don’t seem to get it. In light of all this demoralization, Occupy protestors are left wondering what those days were all about, grasping at easy explanations for their continued movement such as “shifting the national dialogue” or hoping that this next week’s protest might suddenly convince the powers that be to change their corrupt ways. While I’m personally happy that what’s called the “national dialogue” has “shifted,” celebrating the fact that Obama now has to pretend to give a shit about us and Romney must now pretend to be a human being is an incredibly hopeless prospect. The “national dialogue” is not something that happens when we reach critical mass and the media and the politicians can no longer afford to ignore us. It’s a continued conversation that reverberates among the people. It’s a process of teaching one another, of questioning the status quo and debating the proper course of action—it’s the sound of agreements and disagreements among human beings who view each other as equals. It’s the sound of people sharing their visions of a better society and realizing their common goals. It needs to be remembered that the word “occupy” is a verb. It’s a call to action, not the action itself. The word “occupy” was initially useful for getting individuals and organizations previously isolated or focused on one-issue grievances out into the streets. Whether the individuals involved want to merely overturn Citizens United or scheme to overthrow the entire capitalist system itself, Occupy has become the first all-encompassing protest movement to occur within many of our lifetimes. Whether or not the word “Occupy” continues to be the word to describe this movement is not important. What is important is that there’s wide community of opposition being formed across many social barriers, and those who hold the power and the wealth are very afraid.
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Iraq & Afghanistan Veterans “Return” Their War Medals to Obama BY WARD REILLY Veterans for Peace
n Sunday, May 20th, 2012, I was privileged to be a witness to, and to play a part in, one of the rarest anti-war actions that military veterans have ever done. U.S. soldiers of both the Iraq and Afghanistan occupations, alongside hundreds of U.S. military veterans of other eras, gathered at the NATO Summit in Chicago to make a strong statement in opposition to the continuing occupation of Afghanistan by "returning" their war medals to the Commander-in-Chief and the NATO delegates and Generals. Approximately 20,000 "Occupy" and other protesters, such as Veterans For Peace, stood in the hot Chicago sun after marching 2 and 1/2 miles from Grant Park to McCormick Place, and listened as 44 veterans, members of Iraq & Afghanistan Veterans Against the War, gave their personal reasons as to why they were returning their war medals before throwing them toward the gate that separated us from President Obama. In a country such as the USA, a nation which brainwashes it's citizens into blindly "worshiping" and "supporting" the military and our troops, and labels anti-war sentiment as "unpatriotic", there can be
Veteran Sgt. Jacob David George, who did three tours in Afghanistan, “returns” his war medals at the 2012 NATO Summit in Chicago. Photo by Ward Reilly.
little doubt that the act of these Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, and Marines returning their medals, "earned" in wartime, is about as strong of a condemnation statement that can be made about the legitimacy of our military occupation in Afghanistan. The first time this happened in U.S. history was in April of 1971 (two months after I’d taken my physical to join the Army Infantry) when hundreds of Viet Nam veterans gathered in Washington D.C. and threw their medals back at Congress—an act which ignited the civilian anti war movement and the massive worldwide active duty GI Resistance to the Viet Nam War and the entire Nixon Administration. Throwing your military medals back at the government is the epitome of resistance, and it's the loudest statement that a veteran can make to our citizens in condemning our aggressive and criminal occupations. So, to be here in Chicago, my hometown, as history repeated itself was an emotional experience that I can hardly describe, and truly a cathartic moment for ALL the hundreds of veterans that were there, and the thousands of other veterans that wish they could have been there. It's beyond time to end our horrific criminal occupation of Afghanistan, and the veterans who returned their medals made that statement, beyond any doubt, on May 20, 2012 in Chicago.
Nabi Saleh’s Tears BY CHRISTINE BANIEWICZ ImaginAction Associate Artist
lean against the walls of a small bathroom in Nabi Saleh. Someone knocks on the door. “Just a minute.” I sniff and spit into the toilet. Alright, enough. I emerge. I arrived in Nabi Saleh an hour ago with my colleague, Sarah, and a few students from Jenin. The journey took two hours. “I hope they don’t spray the water,” I said. Talib turns to face me. Morning sun bounces off his aviators as behind him, steam rises from a paper cup of coffee. “The shit water, khara.” “Ah, yes,” says Talib. “The shit.” Nabi Saleh is a small Palestinian village near Ramallah. Every Friday, local and international activists gather to peacefully demonstrate against Israel’s confiscation of the village’s land and resources. Every week they are met with a mess of soldiers, tear gas and the affably named “shit water.” “It doesn’t come off of your clothes for three weeks,” says Sarah. “It’s chemical.” “Yeah.” I think of the change of clothes I stashed for myself this morning. I hope so. After endless olive trees and terraced, sand-colored mountains, we arrive in Nabi Saleh. The driver pulls onto the main road. The smell is immediate. “Oh my God.” I pull my scarf up over my nose. It’s rancid—like skunk spray and rotting flesh. The land is saturated with it. Everyone in the car follows suit, covering their noses until we pull onto the shoulder and disembark. “There’s food, and a bathroom if you need it, in this house here.” Some folks in kuffias direct us to a stone house down the road. It is one of a dozen homes that line the
Censored 4 July 2012 The People’s [Censored] street. “Beit Bilal,” Bilal’s house. The front door’s open; we walk inside. A large table in the main room is covered with hummus and fried eggs. Tea is everywhere. Welcome, welcome! I shake hands with Bilal. He looks tired behind thick glasses. His hands are work-worn. “Please,” he gestures at the table. “Eat.” I oblige him. Talib and Noor entertain his five-year-old niece. “Come, come,” says Bilal. “I want to show you a film, to understand the situation here.” He leads us into the living room. We sit facing a large television. Talib lights a cigarette. The film begins. It’s a home video of sorts; a twenty-minute collage of footage shot over the years in Nabi Saleh. “They have a machine that fires 60 tear gas canisters at once,” says Bilal, pausing the video in a still image of the weapon. “Here’s the spring,” he says. The camera shakes, focused on a protected fresh water spring on a hill. Soldiers guard it. “No Palestinians allowed here.” The film is a nightmare: children dragged into custody, separated from their mothers on suspicion of rock-throwing; streams of high-pressured chemical water sprayed directly on houses; a soldier swats an old woman to the ground with his arm; a tear-gas canister whizzes at fatal velocity past a young girl. In one clip, soldiers break down Bilal’s door and set up camp on his roof. From this vantage point, they shoot tear gas through the windows of the neighboring house, shattering them and causing the families gathered inside to panic. I watch as white smoke hisses into the room. Parents shepherd their children into a bedroom away from the fumes. Inside the room, children sniffle. Gas creeps under the door, stinging their eyes. In desperation, parents toss their own children, as carefully as possible, out of the second-story window into the waiting arms of adults below. “Fuck.” The children cry—
Protestors in Nabi Saleh scatter as tear gas canisters rain from the sky. Villagers are consistently attacked with tear gas and the aptly named “shit water” as they protest the ongoing occupation of Palestine. Photo by Christine Baniewicz
because their eyes sting, because they’re scared to jump, because they’re confused. The bedroom slowly fills with gas. I paid for this. My face is hot. 20% of US federal tax dollars for defense. Every pay stub, every tax withdrawn from my measly waitressing salary courses through me. My students curse. Sarah’s head is in her hands. The film ends and I excuse myself. I evacuate my grief in the bathroom, ribs flapping silently. I finish. I emerge. Ben has arrived with Ghali from Ramallah, so we make our way to the main road and greet them. A pack of protestors joins us. We walk up the hill. When we arrive at the top, progressive-looking westerners pour out of busses and our numbers swell to one hundred, maybe more. “It’s important that you feel safe,” a bearded man says. He wears all black. “If you are arrested, don’t resist or struggle. Anything you do or say will be used against you.” I’m standing in a ring of newcomers. We’re being debriefed. “If you breathe the gas, it will hurt. Try to cover your nose and mouth, but if you start to feel it sting, just relax. It’s temporary. Breathe slowly.” He gives us his telephone number, in case we are arrested. “I work with an organization that can represent you if something happens.” Everyone nods. “We will try to walk down to the spring,” he says. “If you don’t want to get arrested, or are scared of the gas, then I suggest you stay back towards the road. Don’t do anything that makes
you feel unsafe. Alright?” Already chants are starting, funneled through megaphones in the center of the crowd. The debriefing ends, and the demonstration begins. “Harree-ay! Harree-ay!” A tiny girl, maybe four years old, toddles ahead of me in a red dress. In a cluster of flags towards the front, a woman leads Arabic chants. I repeat the words I recognize: Palestine, freedom, freedom. We walk together down the hill, slowly: men, women, old and young, European and Middle Eastern and American. My eyes dart from student to student. Electric tethers issue from my heart, tacked onto them and buzzing with signals. I won’t let them out of my sight. We pass Bilal’s house, round a corner, and head out of the village. It’s open here. Loose stones flank the street in steep slopes on both sides. The Israeli settlement of Halamish is perched on a nearby hilltop. A high fence circles the white, freshly constructed homes. We round a bend, and there they are: a large, olive-colored convoy of military vehicles blocks the way out of the village. Soldiers fill out the line, toting automatics. The precession shudders to a halt. There’s a disturbance behind me. Some women from the village fall to their knees in the street,
The People’s [Censored] Censored July 2012 5 sobbing. I crane my neck, trying to discern the source of concern. Ben puts a hand on my shoulder and guides me away. “That’s where Mustafa died, come on.” “Oh.” I step away. Last weekend a 28-year-old man from the village, Mustafa Tamimi, was murdered while peacefully protesting the Occupation here. An Israeli soldier fired a tear gas canister directly at him, from less than 10 meters away. The projectile smashed into his face, instantly blinding him. He bled from his eyes in the street, and in less than 24 hours, he died. “You, killed, Mustafa!” blares from the megaphones. The crowd repeats. And suddenly it begins. Without visible provocation, the army blasts a round of tear gas canisters into the sky. They sound like fireworks. Don’t just turn and run. Ghali’s voice is in my mind, from our conversation yesterday. Follow the trail of smoke in the sky, to see where they will land, and get out of the way. Like a pack of ponies, the demonstrators spook and disperse. I resist the urge to turn tail and run blindly back up the street. I look up. About six canisters fly, trailing gas in a high arch towards the rocks on my left. I approximate their trajectory. I sprint away. The students scramble along with me, down the street and then up the rocks of the embankment. My ankle almost turns on the stones. Once we’ve reached a safe distance, I turn back towards the army. Some folks are still on the road—a brave five or six sit facing the soldiers. Gas—thick, white and toxic—issues from half a dozen points on the road and in the shoulder. I tie my grandmother’s scarf around my neck and pull it over my nose. I breathe slowly. Sarah’s on my right. “Headcount?” she says. I scan the rocks. “There’s Noor. There’s Bahir.” I look behind me. About ten meters away, Talib stands, hands on hips, a black bandana covering the bottom half of his face. “I think we’re okay.” And before I can catch my
breath, more rounds. It’s a dazzling display: twelve up, then another ten; six here, four there. They are fired in every direction. “What the fuck.” I look at Sarah. She snaps photos. Our breath is heavy from running. The barrage continues, mindlessly, unprovoked, leaving ribbons of gas in the sky and small clouds of it on the ground. “I can use your camera?” Noor asks. I give it to him without a word and he begins to film. As quickly as it started, the firing ends. I hazard moving a dozen meters forward, trying to get a better view of the soldiers. The crowd timidly picks its way back together towards the road. “Free, free Palestine!” A chant rises in English. I am barely back on the road before another barrage. More canisters fly.
And then, something else: for no discernable reason, everyone around me flies into a sprint. Shit. Panic grips me and I run. Talib’s just ahead of me. “Shoo?” I call to him. “What is it?” He doesn’t respond but I don’t wait to find out. I cover 400 meters, scrambling over rocks and road. I run past a pack of Palestinians. “Mai, mai!” They say. Water. I stop at a remote spot off of the road, panting, hands on my knees. Talib’s beside me. I can’t see the soldiers or their tanks from here; however, the upward curve of the shit water arches in spectacular relief against the sky. It has incredible range. What a ridiculous, wasteful stunt. Thousands of gallons of water, mixed with a mess of chemicals, pour onto the mountain. I’m not sure what kind of protest this was designed for; I imagine the six seated demonstrators and cringe. The protest dissipates over the
next twenty minutes as more tear gas flies and stinking water flows. The Israeli convoy inches up the road, firing scores of canisters as they go. One drops down beside me, smoking like an alien pinecone. I streak away towards the village, pulling my scarf tight. The group reconvenes in a hasty blob. I avoided the gas, but Sarah staggers to join us. Her face is flushed and she coughs. Noor has also inhaled the gas. He chokes and splutters, pawing at his face. A medic comes to his aid, dabbing beneath his eyes with a cotton ball. There is a temporary lull in activity. I sit beside a small olive grove near Bilal’s house. Noor joins me. “This is a new thing for me,” he says. “This gas, wow, it feels…” he shakes his head and sniffs. “Noor,” I say. He looks to me through large green eyes, wet from the gas. “I am sorry, for my country.” He smiles. “It’s not your problem,” he says gently. “I will tell your stories, there, when I get back. I will organize something.” Guilt and anger water my eyes. When it’s clear that the army will roll straight into the village, we decide to leave. We’ve seen enough. Ben, Sarah, Ghalib and the students pile into a taxi for Jenin, and I grab a second one for Ramallah. On my way out of the town, I spy a collection of protestors, bound on their knees near a jeep. Arrested. “They’ve made a mistake,” I said to Talib when we stood on the rocks. “The violence is that way.” I gesture to the Israeli settlement. Talib nods. “Yes,” he says. “It is a pretty fucking stupid situation.” I couldn’t agree more. Christine Baniewicz is an Associate Artist with ImaginAction, a travelling theatre arts company with a focus on social justice issues. She has been working in Jenin, Palestine, which is, and has been, under military occupation for decades.
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David Comes Clean: Why I Oppose the 1% of the 1% BY DAVID KIRSHNER Occupy Baton Rouge
ecently, I proposed an amendment to the U.S. Constitution to clarify the meaning of “Freedom of Speech” as a way to attack the legitimacy of private funding of public elections. The right of private entities— individuals or corporations—to give money to amplify the voice of a political candidate (i.e., to fund electoral campaigns) is most often defended as the constitutionallyprotected Free Speech rights of those entities. But the right to express controversial and unpopular opinions without fear of sanction—the true meaning of Freedom of Speech— has nothing to do with amplifying the voices of others. Nor does it entail unlimited freedom to amplify one’s own voice during a political campaign, drowning out the voices of less well-funded candidates. We need to remove this fig leaf of legitimacy in order to expose private funding of electoral campaigns for what it is: a naked power grab, a way for the ultrawealthy to ensure that politicians work for the moneyed interests rather than in the public interest. This raises the question of what role should the ultra-wealthy play in our society? It seems the American public is very much enamored of its billionaires, quite convinced that what they give to society by way of national competitive advantage through the businesses and industries they create entitles them to special privileges, perhaps even justifies their being able to run the show—what is in their interest surely must be in our interest. At the base of this sentiment is a sense of the rights of a “ruling class” that probably traces back beyond the origins of American democracy to the class system of English society. Although the rhetoric of revolutionary America
rejected the idea of a class system, we need to recognize that classconsciousness floats just below the surface of our national conscience. The idea of a national subconscious operating below the level of our espoused ideals may be unsettling. Many of my fellow travelers on this road to political reform take their ideals seriously; they don’t want them sullied by talk of subconscious forces reflecting our true, underlying, mindset. But I do not share this hubris of pure ideals. I recognize in myself anxieties related to class consciousness: In a true democracy, one not dominated by the ultra-wealthy, would we fall prey to high ideals like “from each according to his ability, to each according to his need” and windup in a totalitarian nightmare?
Would we redistribute wealth to the extent that incentives to industriousness erode, and we become a weak nation? Might we not ultimately be better off with a political system controlled by the wealthy, even if the extremes of financial inequality we are experiencing now seem excessive and unfair? I wish I could say that I have overcome these fears, answered these questions, and now wholeheartedly embrace the ideals of true democracy. But I can’t. I share in classconsciousness. What impels me forward in the quest for fundamental political change is not a certainty that true democracy will save us, but a growing recognition that the ways of the
ultra-wealthy will surely damn us. For what has evolved over the past couple of decades of increasing domination by the wealthy is the pushing of us away from the gains of the Enlightenment toward a new Dark Age. The Way of the Wealthy When you think about it, the ultra-wealthy have an astonishingly difficult challenge posed to them by democracy: “How can we maintain an economy of amazing disparity between rich and poor within a political system wherein any schmo who happens to get elected by the rabble can propose a new tax structure that confiscates most of my hardearned income and gradually reduces me to the norm of an increasingly mediocre society?” This anxiety of the ultra-wealthy needs to be recognized as a relentless and ongoing dilemma; it is not a problem that ever can be fully solved. In a democracy, the rabble does truly have the power. Keeping them from using it in their own financial self-interest is a neverending struggle. The solution that the ultrawealthy have pursued in recent decades—with amazing success! —has been to exploit the natural fault lines that exist in any society between forces of stasis and forces of change. Societies do not exist in a vacuum, but rather within a physical and social ecology wherein circumstances change, populations grow and shrink, food and energy supplies suffice or are insufficient, neighboring societies are aggressive or peaceful. Societies constantly have to modify themselves, their internal structure, to respond to the changing environment they are part of. Nor is the optimal response evident or even unique. Neither are the impacts of change identical for all sectors of a society. As a result, the process of change
Censored July 2012 7 The People’s [Censored] is one that is fraught with tensions. An excellent exemplar of such change dates back to the European Renaissance during the middle period of the last millennium. During that time, a scientific mentality was emerging that enabled new technologies that could enhance our utilization of the physical world. However, adapting to these new possibilities required huge changes in the structures of society. Construing the world objectively became a new locus of importance that engaged with individual consciousness. Thus the right to authorize knowledge had to shift from religious institutions governed by subjective matters of faith and observance to secular institutions governed by objective reasoning. This democratization of knowledge was hugely difficult and was met with huge resistance. But undergoing it reshaped European societies as far more viable and competitive, enabling them to grow and thrive in the physical, geopolitical, and economic world of the time. In a similar way, societies always are responding to shifting circumstances which therefore produce internal tensions. The strategy of the ultrawealthy for political control centers is forming alliances in relation to social tensions so as to co-opt vulnerable sectors of society to support desired fiscal policies. This strategy involves magnifying and exacerbating existing social tensions to create the greatest base of support possible for regressive fiscal policy. That strategy has produced “culture wars” that have become so virulent in the U.S. as to hobble government and periodically even shut it down. Although the current crises of government are troubling, the longterm damage to society comes not from decisions made in the heat of the political moment, but from the rebalancing of social strata based on the perceived viability of ideas and policies. Broad shifts in the dominance of ideas and institutions are rarely marked by the elimination of social institutions or the ideas they represent, but by the rebalancing of power in relation to other institutions and ideas. Thus the Renais-
sance did not see the demise of religious institutions, but rather the shifting of some of their power and authority to secular institutions like universities and governments. These new arrangements of power are not fixed, but remain continually open to revision and refinement as physical, social, and geopolitical circumstances change.
Here is where we can see the destructive nature of the alignment of the ultra-wealthy with religion-based social conservatives. Political victories that support conservative social causes and associated religious perspectives create the illusion that those perspec-
tives are viable and adaptive within the modern world. Thus when the ultra-wealthy move to protect their industrial interests by creating faux-science to raise public doubt about, say, the science of global warming, they not only endanger our planet, they also erode the cultural status that science has achieved over hundreds of years—a status earned owing to the adaptive effects of a scientific perspective, which really does enhance our survival. That’s where we are now. The stature of scientific knowledge and scientific institutions is in decline. Even though, historically, only a small percentage of the population has understood the culture of scientific objectivity, the institutions of science have enjoyed high status and broad support. But, in the current era broad sectors of the public see scientists as serving partisan self-interest, and therefore as untrustworthy and unreliable. The faith that once accrued to science is being redistributed partly to religious institutions, but also to conspiracy theorists, Tarot card readers, and millennialists. The fabric of modernism is fraying as we flirt with resurgent pre-modern sensibilities. The scale of irresponsibility of the ultra-wealthy in their alliance with pre-modern institutions is too vast to contemplate. If unchecked, what will happen to America is easy to anticipate: we will slip quickly into oblivion as a great world power. We already see tell-tale signs in a 10year Middle-Eastern war entered into without any rational basis by a president who traded in characteristic American pragmatism and rationality for a delusional confidence in America’s Right and America’s Might. We can’t afford for this mentality to continue to dominate. Will a true democracy necessarily lead us to a great future? I still don’t know the answer to that one. But I do know that without doing something to break the hold of the ultra-wealthy over our political and cultural life, we will drift into superstition, distrust, and dissension as our standing in the world and our way of life disintegrates.
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Why They Censored The People’s [Censored] Censored (And Other Attempts by the 1% to Censor Free Press) BY BEN VITELLI Occupy Baton Rouge
n January 23, 2012, only one day after Occupy Baton Rouge released the first issue of our monthly newsletter The People’s Censored [Censored], our email account received a message from the head editor of the Baton Rouge Daily Censored newspaper, The [Censored]. It read: "While I am flattered that you Censored have copied The [Censored]’s banner and, to an extent, our standard front page design, I must ask you to come up with a new format for your newsletter. As currently presented, your newsletter could cause confusion among your readCensored newspaers that The [Censored] per and the Occupy Baton Rouge movement are somehow connected. I believe it infringes on our copyright and trademark. While we support free speech and free press, we also must maintain our position as a publication that is not aligned with any particular group or movement.” While it seems almost impossible that anyone would confuse our online newsletter with the Baton Rouge daily paper, one of our editors responded to his request stating that, though we were largely protected under parody, we would add a disclaimer to our newsletter’s front page. To be frank, we at OBR were a bit surprised the people at The [Censored] Censored were still aware of our existence, let alone regularly checking our website for updates. Ever since our attempted “Move-In Day” last Black Friday, when half of Baton Rouge’s Finest decided to use their Thanksgiving weekend (and LSU football game day) to monitor the thirty or so protestors hanging out at the park we were planning to occupy near the capitol, there had been a considerable absence of coverage of our many actions by our local paper, Censored The [Censored].
While we were initially somewhat thrown off by The [Censored]’s comCensored plaints against our paper, we found being back on the paper’s radar for such a trivial technicality slightly flattering. Our newsletter, which hadn’t been online for more than two days, was already being threatened by those in high places. We figured we must be doing something right if our modest efforts in Baton Rouge were still pissing off the Old Guard. Then, the following week, the people at The [Censored] Censored attacked again. One of our members received a formal demand letter from someone introducing himself as a lawyer for The Censored The letter demanded that [Censored]. we eliminate any and all likeness to The [Censored] Censored under threat of legal suit. One of the main ideas behind the Occupy Movement is to reclaim the public sphere. At a very basic level, the Occupy movement went after the influence of money within every pocket of our so-called democracy. Inspired by the Occupy Movement, then, people across the world created their own “Occupied” versions of their local newspapers, based on the idea of sharing ideas without the goal of any monetary compensation. Likeminded individuals across the world came together to start publications such as The Occupied Wall Street Journal or The Occupied Oakland Tribune, to share the stories that weren’t getting published in their local for-profit papers. The “non-Occupied” papers did not take kindly to these upstart publications calling them out for being the bloated protectors of the 1% that they are. The Occupied Chicago Tribune and The Occupied Oakland Tribune were the first “Occupied” papers to be threatened by their local corporateowned newspaper. Later came The Occupied Wisconsin State Journal, followed by ourselves, at The PeoCensored ple’s [Censored]. While Trademark Laws are written in such a way that some businesses are legally required to protect their Trademark by threat of legal suit lest
they lose it, the odds that any reader of these publications would confuse the ad-soaked drivel of corporate America found in the mainstream papers with our independently voiced not-for-profit papers is so minimal that it’s beyond comprehension. What is most likely happening here, at least in the case of our publication, was that the papers Censored have become like The [Censored] long established fixtures in their community. Their niche is to protect the interests of their local 1%. Anyone who comes along to oppose this set-up cannot be tolerated. While they would certainly not take steps to outright attack or censor these publications, the ambiguity of Trademark Law, as well as newspapers such as the for-profit [Censored]’s significantly Censored larger budget compared to these independent publications, allowed for the perfect set-up for some good old fashioned bullying. As of late June, 2012, The Chicago Tribune is still planning on suing The Occupied Chicago Tribune for their web address: <occupiedchicagotribune.org>. So, as a way of demonstrating how the mainstream media works—and how it doesn’t work — we at The People’s [Censored] Censored have made several noticeable changes to our newsletter from our previous edition—one of which being the periodic censoring of the word “[Censored]”. Censored Hopefully, this will free us up to continue with our independent journalism, as well as free up the lawyers of The [Censored] Censored to work on cases that are hopefully a bit more important. And, while the name of our paper may be different, we see this as an excellent opportunity to continue on with the same mission as when we started out: giving voice to The People and not the 1%, unlike Censored those [Censored]ers who run papers like The [Censored]. Censored
The People’s [Censored] Censored July 2012 9
Pigeonholed: The Story of a PR Game Occupy Can Only Lose BY BRYAN PERKINS Occupy Baton Rouge
n the beginning, no one knew how it all started. No one really could. I’m not even sure we’re far enough away from then to be able to say with any certainty still today. So, I’m not going to try to get things exactly right. There’s no use for that now. In its earliest incarnations, I heard of the movement as a planned day of rage. I was unimpressed. At this point, I was still firmly inside the machine, both body and mind. As such, I ignored that initial spark that started off the occupation of Wall Street. For some time before Adbusters made their call to occupy in New York, Stop the Machine had been planning an occupation of Freedom Plaza in Washington D.C. These were no starry-eyed activists. They were veterans of anti-war protesting, and veterans of wars, and they were composed of an advanced layer of the working class. In October of 2011 their occupation started and it has not stopped to this day. But, the mainstream media didn’t care about them. They had been rabble rousing for years by that time. Much too long for cable TV’s attention span. About a month earlier, a small group of anarchists set up camp in Zuccoti park. It wasn’t their first choice of sites, and it wasn’t their only option that first day, but that’s how history played out. In the beginning, they too were ignored. Some time passed, and those anarchists were still in the park. In fact, their numbers had grown. The police started to take notice, and the media tagged along. Soon, everyone was following the story, especially after the first two activists were subjected to unnecessary force in the form of pepper spray to the face. Not too long after that, I was clicking around reddit and someone mentioned that they wanted to start Occupy Baton Rouge. I might have literally laughed out loud. I
posted a comment saying it would never happen here, we are too deep in the south for anything like that to work. Luckily, that person wasn’t daunted. They came right back asking why I thought not. After a few more comments back and forth, I realized that the only reason it wouldn’t happen is if we didn’t do it. So, from then on out I was dedicated to making Occupy Baton Rouge a success. I was officially a part of the Occupy movement. As we fought our own personal ups and downs in Baton Rouge, the entire movement, nationally and internationally, faced similar — if not worse — adversity. There were attempts to thwart the movement, not just from police, politicians, and provocateurs, but from the media as well. From day one there was a single talking point repeated by every mainstream, corporate news source no matter which capitalist political party they appeared to support. “The Occupy movement has no demands. They don’t know what they want.” This is when the game began. Before then, I, and many people like me, believed there were two sides to the mainstream media. The right and the left. Fox News and CNN. Glenn Beck and someone else, I don’t even care to remember their names anymore. What a lot of people learned from this experience was that they were only two wings of the same avaricious beast. And so, with a new threat to the status quo afoot in the guise of anarchists sleeping in a park, a threat that required a different tactic than the ignorance that had been working with the anti-war activists who had started fighting long before Occupy became a meme, the entire corporate media machine banded together to spin a tale of a movement with a thousand problems and no solutions. Cornered as we were, and I do mean we because I include myself in this criticism, we went on the defensive. We rushed the process of filtering through the problems of hundreds of thousands of distressed working class citizens who finally found some camaraderie in realizing they weren’t alone in their recognition of the flaws in our society, and in doing so, we managed to find one prob-
lem, one cause, that we thought everyone could rally around. We found the solution the media was begging us for and we shouted it from the rooftops: Money has too much influence on politics! With our new banner flying overhead, we clung to easy-todigest, tweet-sized sound bites. End corporate personhood! Reinstate Glass-Steagall! Overturn Citizen’s United! We started playing by their rules, the very thing we tried so hard to avoid. We dropped our other complaints, and some of our other activists with them, along the way. We weren’t coopted by MoveOn or the Democratic party, sure, but we were coopted by the media machine. We fell into their trap. They knew we were dangerous when we were allowing all the problems to froth out of the oppressed masses, when we understood that they are all interrelated, that the solution must be equally complicated. They couldn’t let that go on, so they focused our ire on one issue and one issue alone. To dissipate our initial energy. That is where we are today. We’re playing their game and losing. We can only lose if we continue to play their game. It’s rigged that way. Instead, we must return to the roots of the movement. Not just the anarchist space-making that gave it its media hype—which is nevertheless still important—but to all the activism that before and since has helped to build the Occupy movement, that has lent it experienced guidance, and that has reveled in its ability to finally inject some young, new life into the working class movement, into the antiwar movement, into the feminist movement, the lgbt movement, environmentalism, anti-capitalism of all sorts. We must return to all those long ignored philosophies that [Censored] Censored for humans in general, not the privileged few. Until then, we’re just playing their game. And that’s a game we can only lose.
Censored 10 July 2012 The People’s [Censored]
Bobby’s World: Louisiana’s Little Dictator BY BEN VITELLI Occupy Baton Rouge
hen future Louisiana governor Piyush Jindal was four years old, he nicknamed himself Bobby after his favorite character on “The Brady Bunch”. But, based on the way he would come to preside over his home state of Louisiana as governor, little Piyush should have probably chosen Jan—the bratty, selfcentered middle-child—as his Brady Bunch model. It’s a well known fact that Governor Jindal seeks the presidency. His entire resume reads as if it’s particularly catered for the job. Jindal’s quick climb up the bureaucratic ladder began at age 24, when he administrated over Louisiana’s state healthcare system. At 27, he became president of the University of Louisiana system. At 33, he was elected into Congress. Then, three years later—largely as a backlash against the corruption and mismanagement that plagued post-Katrina Louisiana-Bobby was elected governor of Louisiana, to become the youngest US governor ever. The platform he ran on was one of openness and transparency; as governor, he’d go on to privatize millions in state assets and rule ruthlessly in an environment of closed secrecy. Jindal likes to present himself as a capable and visionary leader, willing to take any course of action if it means doing What’s Right. Yet, the image of Jindal propped up by his administration and the mainstream media is far from the truth. His policies are widely unpopular, and his actions as governor are more attuned to that of a bully not used to getting his own way. Jindal takes his status as future Republican frontrunner very seriously, and whatever he views as threats to his future candidacy are
not taken very lightly. Individuals within the Louisiana state government who openly criticize his plans and policies to privatize pretty much everything are quickly fired. Jindal’s propensity for firing anyone who disagrees with his policies has become such a common phenomenon that it has necessitated the creation of a word: Teague. The word comes from the story of Mr. and Mrs. Teague, a husband and wife duo who were both coincidentally fired not long after publicly criticizing Jindal’s policies. In late 2009, Melody Teague was a contract grants reviewer working within the LA Department of Social Services. In a public forum, Mrs. Teague spoke out against Jindal’s privatization plans for state services. The next day, she was fired. The reason given? For mishandling food stamps. Four years earlier. Later, she was able to get her job back, but her husband, Tommy, was not so lucky.
In April 2011, Tommy Teague, then executive director of the Office of Group Benefits, criticized Jindal’s privatization plans for his office. Under Tommy’s direction, the OGB, which provides health care to more than 250,000 state workers, retirees, and their dependents, had turned a 36 million dollar deficit into a half-billion dollar surplus. “The program is running very, very, very well,” Teague then told reporters at the TimesPicayune. Jindal’s raid on the OGB was likely used to fill in the 1.6 billion dollar gap in the state budget. While the sale of the OGB would temporarily earn the
state some money, the goals were decidedly short-sighted. Privatized services generally go on to cost the state, its workers, and the taxpayers much more in the long run. In the case of the privatization of Louisiana’s OGB, the deal basically was used to line the pockets of the super-wealthy, including banking giant Goldman Sachs, who helped broker the deal. Jindal’s firing of various stateworkers didn’t start or end with the Teagues. As early in his administration as 2008, Jindal “Teagued” James Champagne, 12 year executive director of the Louisiana Highway Safety Commission, after the two disagreed over the state’s motorcycle helmet safety law. As recently as March 2012, Bobby Jindal fired an employee over a disagreement about his plans to merge the Office of Elderly Affairs with the Department of Health and Human Services. Martha Manuel, who had been appointed to head the OEA by Jindal in February 2011, spoke at a House Appropriations Committee hearing in March 2012 saying that these plans would cut needed services for the elderly and would increase state bureaucratization. As a Jindal spokesman said of the subject, Manuel and Jindal “decided to go in a different direction.” Clearly. Like most unpopular politicians, Bobby Jindal knows he’s particularly vulnerable to criticism. Yet, his policy of firing anyone and anybody who dare speak against his policies creates an environment of willful silence within the halls of Louisiana state government. It’s become a cliché to write off Jindal’s dictatorial behavior as typical of Louisiana politics. In his heart of hearts, Governor Jindal probably relishes the comparisons made between his admini-
Censored July 2012 11 The People’s [Censored] stration and that of former Louisiana Governor Huey Long’s (192832). The subject of numerous movies and novels (including Robert Penn Warren’s All the King’s Men and Sinclair Lewis’ fascist-dystopia novel It Can’t Happen Here), Huey Long’s fierce oratory skills and artful demagogy had many in Depression-era America worried about an American-style pseudo-fascist movement occurring over here. While it’s correct that the policies of both individuals display an unbridled ambition to power, unlike the firebrand Long, Jindal is at best a bland, mediocre, uninspiring, and small-minded bureaucrat. Huey Long could inspire the masses with his philosophy of “Sharing the Wealth.” Jindal just wants to pocket his portion and share the rest with his friends. But, despite his utter lack of charisma, Bobby Jindal is a politician to be worried about. While Jindal is, to a certain extent, just your run-of-the-mill modern day Republican hell-bent on promoting made-to-order business friendly politics, Jindal’s total lack of shame and complete disregard for the welfare of others in his firing of state employees, as well as his string-pulling to get his policies passed through the Louisiana legislature, reveal something hideous and inhuman about our whole political system. As Hunter S. Thompson said in 1972: A career politician finally smelling the White House is not much different from a bull elk in the rut. He will stop at nothing, trashing anything that gets in his way; and anything he can’t handle personally he will hire out–or, failing that, make a deal. It is a difficult syndrome for most people to understand, because few of us ever come close to the kind of Ultimate Power and Achievement that the White House represents to a career politician. His words were as true then as they are today. Governor Jindal, like a mad beast in heat, is a man willing to do anything and screw over anybody, to get what he sees as rightfully his: a future seat in the White House.
Vouchers for Jesus: The Rise of the Jindal Theocracy BY SOPHIE KUNEN Occupy Baton Rouge
n Louisiana’s 2012 Legislative Session, the Jindal Administration successfully pushed—no, shoved—through legislation that diverts funds from public schools to private, for-profit ones—the majority of which are parochial. In accordance with the ALECbacked “School Choice Movement” sweeping the nation—of which Louisiana is now the leader—the new “scholarship” program allows students at low-performing public schools to attend participating private schools by using public tax dollars for tuition—that is, provided their annual household income is no more than 250% of the federal poverty level, or just $47,725 for a family of three. At 18.7%, Louisiana has the second highest poverty rate in the country; when just looking at the state’s children, the poverty rate jumps to 27.3%. This means that of the nearly 650,000 students in Louisiana’s primary and secondary education system, more than half are eligible for the voucher program. At least the vouchers aren’t allowed to exceed the average amount spent per public school pupil annually—which was $10,584 in the 2009-10 school year. But this still means that, with the 5,000 vouchers available for this fall alone—yes, only 5,000 for the over 300,000 eligible students—we could end up spending almost $53 million on private school vouchers over the next year. Add that to the $33 million the state already gives to the non-public education sector, and that’s $86 million of the public’s tax revenue that could go to the private, forprofit, religious school industry. Death by Jindalcide It’s not that we’re just using the public’s money to fund the private school sector, but we’re actually
taking money away from the public school sector. The extra money needed for the voucher program is going to come straight out of the Minimum Foundation Program (MFP)—a funding source explicitly created for Louisiana’s public schools. As if that weren’t already bad enough, the legislature simultaneously decided to decrease the MFP’s general appropriations— decreasing funding for public schools even more. Salt on an Open Wound Although Governor Jindal and his lackeys have condemned public schools as ineffective based on “certain criteria”, they seem to have no problem shifting hundreds of millions of public tax dollars to private schools that have somehow been deemed effective based on— dum da da dum—absolutely nothing at all. Private schools that want to participate in the voucher program only have to meet two requirements: they must have an operational license and they cannot discriminate based on race. After that, it only takes a phone call to register for the program. Take a look at the New Living Word Ministries (NLWM) in Ruston, LA for example. NLWM, a school that currently seats 122 students, has already been approved for 315 student vouchers for the 2012-13 school year—despite the Chancellor himself admitting that the school doesn’t have enough facilities or teachers to accommodate that many students. Not only that, the Chancellor also admitted that the primary method of instruction used at NLWM is—wait for it—DVDs. Yep: DVDs. Mmm… sounds like a quality education to me. I just can’t wait until I can “choose” to send my children there. Right....
The Attack of the Loch Ness Monster
seem to actually offer much choice. You can either choose to send your kid to a public school that’s starving for resources or to a private school that thinks the Loch Ness Monster is real. It’s no secret that school performance tends to correlate with funding—making these attacks on public education a blatant death sentence. What’s not so obvious is Jindal’s end game: disaster capitalism.
In Bobby We Trust
This isn’t the first time we’ve Besides the obvious conflict of seen the true theocratic nature of interest in rerouting public funds Jindal’s agenda. In 2008, he from a public system to a private, signed into law the Louisiana Scifor-profit one without any stanence Education Act, allowing dards of accountability in place, of creationism to be taught in public the 125 schools participating in school science classrooms. the voucher program this fall, 115 Not surprisingly, attempts to are explicitly religious. repeal this Creationist Law have This funneling of public tax failed twice in Louisiana’s Legisladollars into religious ture: once in 2011 and schools is no minor vioagain this year, in lation of separation of 2012. church and state. So, basically, inIn fact, one of Louisistead of prohibiting ana’s parochial schools the teaching of creahas even caught the tionism in public attention of the internaschool classrooms, tional arena: Eternity we’ve decided to go in Chris t ia n Ac a dem y the opposite direction (ECA) in Westlake. by dedicating more ECA, which “caters” public funds—actually, to students in Pre-K the most in the country—to the teaching of through 8th Grade, uses a biology textbook that creationism in private not only claims the Loch school classrooms. Ness Monster is real, Thousands of teachers, parents, students, and citizens from across the Amazingly enough, but uses it as evidence state gather for a rally at the State Capitol to protest Jindal’s Education nothing in Jindal’s against evolution. education overhaul Reform Package which included the voucher program, changes in tenA biology textbook. even attempts to preure for teachers, and much more. Photo by Sophie Kunen. But here’s the real vent the use public tax kicker: ECA, which curdollars to fund the rently serves only 38 students, Considering the billions given to teaching of this overtly-religious has somehow been approved for corporations in tax breaks every BS. 135 state-funded student vouchyear, Jindal has fabricated a fiscal Not a thing. crisis in order to shock a beleaers for this coming fall. Welcome to the Era of The guered public into submission. And Jindal Theocracy. The Shocking “Choice” as the public school system starves Scared? to death, Jindal and his corporate Me. Too. Ironically, this self-proclaimed cronies can swoop in and “save it” through privatization. “School Choice” program doesn’t
The People’s [Censored] Censored is always looking for new contributors from anywhere in the world. If you have an idea for an article, editorial, or political cartoon email PeoplesCensored@gmail.com and we’ll make sure that your voice is heard.
Censored could not exist without the hard work and dediThe People’s [Censored] cation of the members of Occupy Baton Rouge. So, first, we would like to say thank you to those dedicated warriors for peace and democracy in the deep, dirty south. We also owe a debt of gratitude to Michelle Fawcett and Arun Gupta for providing us with a generous donation to assist with our printing and distribution costs. Thank you so much for allowing us to spread our voice across the nation.