Wednesday, October 31, 2012

The Plutocrats are Coming!

Plutocrats have played a prominent role in the 2012 American elections. Plutocracy is basically the notion of rule by the wealthy - it has been used pretty negatively throughout history, but also has been a propaganda tool by some of the worst facist states of our time. There is little debate that we have some sort of plutocracy in America today - especially post-Citizens United, the rich have an inordinate amount of influence in our political system. In the 2010 races, outside money played a huge role in the GOP winning back the House of Representatives, and in this year's campaign cycle, the ultra wealthy are putting in even more dollars, mostly to support Mitt Romney and the Republicans. But...plutocracy isn't necessarily about political ideology - Democrats get plenty of money from the wealthy, too. In recent years, plutocrats have felt more under assault in America than ever before - this may be technically true, because they've been paying historically low taxes, so any interest in raising these rates will threaten them, whether fair or not. With the financial meltdown, there is a greater interest in the wealth gap, which has widened substantially. In the 1960s, workers made a few times less than CEOs, but now, they make hundreds of times less than CEOs. Additionally, plutocrats basically failed...their insistence on deregulation and their risky financial behavior played a major role in the economic meltdown. Of course, the backlash only seemed to solidify in their minds that they know what's right for the country, and seemed to create greater paranoia that everyone is out to get them. The right-wing hasn't helped matters much, though they might be getting their cues from the people who are financially backing them...wait for it...the plutocrats! Just look at who bankrolls the Tea Party, for example - Jane Mayer's famous expose on the Koch brothers is here). The 2012 race seems to bring the issue of plutocracy to the forefront...though, again, both Democrats and Republicans are relying on the wealthy to finance them. For a great discussion of this issue, check out this fantastic discussion on Bill Moyers' show, with guests Matt Taibbi (of Rolling Stone) and Chrystia Freeland (of Reuters).

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Argo and Hollywood's "Muslim World" Problem

I happened to read a blurb about Argo, the new Middle East thriller directed by and starring Ben Affleck a month ago. As someone with a bit of understanding of the dynamics of Iran in the 20th century, I was clearly interested. Also, knowing that Affleck, a politically knowledgeable actor who was close to one of the most outspoken progressives of the 20th century, the late Howard Zinn, made me think that this might be a movie that could teach America a little about the Middle East, minus the usual jingoism and xenophobia. Well, having just watched Argo a few nights ago...progress is slow. Considering the rise of the Islamophobia network over the past decade, this is unfortunate. Argo is only slightly better than the usual Hollywood narrative about Muslims.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Podcast Episode 11: Can a YouTube Video Really Incite Violence?

The attacks against US diplomatic outposts in Egypt, Libya, and elsewhere in the Middle East are allegedly the result of a YouTube film made mocking the Prophet Muhammed. Media coverage has shown Muslims up in arms over this offense but here at There Is No Spoon, we know there's more to the story. Uprisings in the Middle East, North Africa, and South Asia are always connected to the oppressive sociopolitical environments in these regions. This time, it's no different. This film is a distraction from the real issues. Haroon Moghul (follow him on twitter @hsmoghul) from the New America Foundation and Stephen Sheehi (follow him on twitter @stephensheehi) from the University of South Carolina join Fatima Ashraf, Fouad Pervez, and Junaid Ahmad to discuss. 
Download this episode (right click and save)