Posts Tagged ‘radical’

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Interesting–I went looking for this article link, but it no longer exists. It was up for about 5 years!

Are ideas about organizing politically instead of camping in parks too radical?

 


2013 UNOCCUPIED

by Joe Giambrone

“Fight not unless the position is critical.
Sun Tzu, The Art of War

The ”Occupy” movement has apparently receded into the long night.  That may not be such a bad thing, as a new Phoenix can arise from different strategies, different emphases and different goals.  The structural challenges remain the same, and opposition is still needed.  What has been exposed as fruitless, however, is the idea of occupying parks in chaotic sieges that signify nothing.

What were the benefits of occupying parks?  There was really only one, and that was publicity.  The utility of the tactic lay in attracting the media and achieving penetration into living rooms across the nation.  Once that was accomplished, there was no further benefit, and a whole laundry list of downside problems.  There is a lesson here.

No ruler should put troops into the field merely to gratify his own spleen; no general should fight a battle simply out of pique.
-Sun Tzu

Your opponents know their strategies and tactics.  They’ve been doing it for a lot longer than you have.  Centuries.  When I listened to the delusional pronouncements of “occupiers” on how they were overthrowing “capitalism” and building a new society from the ground up, already it was obvious that it was over before it had begun.  The revolution would not be televised, and this revolution would not even metastasize.

By what chain of cause and effect was camping in the city park going to overthrow anything whatsoever?  Clearly, this was a public-relations stunt, and nothing more.  It would come and go like any other minor event.

Why the name Occupy?

Websters says, “to take or hold possession or control of,therefore to occupy is a militant endeavor.  Armies occupy.  The US military and NATO occupy Afghanistan and other foreign lands.

The Occupy Movement – from its inception – intended to take public spaces and hold them.  It is in the DNA of the movement.  It was born from aggression and a belligerent posture, the mindset of an invading army.   What these occupiers intended to do once they seized the spaces is less clear – even today.

Sun Tzu tells of the key components, which determine the success of any campaign.  These include:

“The Moral Law causes the people to be in complete accord with their ruler, so that they will follow him regardless of their lives, undismayed by any danger.”
Sun Tzu

Sing it now.  “One, two, three, what are we fightin’ for?”

The Occupy Movement made some initial assumptions that never did pan out and strike gold.  Firstly, that it would be a leaderless movement, with equal time given to every lunatic street vagrant who showed up.  Secondly, that the rest of the population, the proverbial “99%,” was automatically on their side, because they said so.  It wasn’t.  Thirdly, that electoral politics was history and no longer mattered.  It does.

How did the general population respond to the movement’s strategy of seizing parks, to the idea of “occupation” itself?

We know that in the case of Zuccotti Park, in New York City, the main legal complaint brought against the encampment was that they had taken the space to the exclusion of everyone else, and for an undefined amount of time.  Some citizens were arguably denied use of the public space as a result of this occupation.  Frisbee games may have been cancelled.  This legal maneuver led to the November 2011 raid and eviction of the encampment.

Was this a violation of the First Amendment?  The right to peaceably assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances?  Quite possibly so.  Perhaps this section of the Bill of Rights has been erased now, but do self-styled “anarchists” care about concepts like the Constitution in the first place?   Do they accept the legitimacy of government in any form?  This ties into the third assumption listed above: electoral politics matters.  Who is in charge matters.  The judges who are appointed to hear these cases also matter.

It was never apparent at occupations that the protesters were petitioning the government for a redress of grievances.  So what were they doing?  Open question.

The website/magazine  “Adbusters”  is credited with originally launching their movement, to some degree.   From this opaque organization some anonymous person described the downfall of Zuccotti Park:

 We wanted a Tahrir moment, an American Spring, a new vision of the future, and they attacked us in Zuccotti Park on November 15, 2011 in the dead of the night with military precision.

Ignoring the absolute mess that is Egypt today, how is Zuccotti Park in any way analogous to Tahrir Square?  The square was a short march to the presidential palace in the center of Cairo.  The marchers had a single consistent demand: to overthrow Mubarak.  They disgraced him and overthrew him when the shifting alliances of the military and security apparatus found that they could maintain control without the old corrupt bastard.

There is nothing in the Occupy encampment of Zuccotti Park that could even be close to analogous to the Egyptian situation.  They were not even in the capital city, nor even voicing opposition to Barack Obama!  The parameters of their protest were so varied and so distant from the Egyptian uprising that the two can scarcely be compared to one another.

FJziSImage by OccupyWallSt

Occupy seemed to occupy for the sake of occupying.  Some occupiers argued that they were building a new society at the camps, a new way of organizing mankind, without capitalism.  They said this with a straight face, so we should believe they meant it.  They were certainly not building a viable political party to replace the people in charge.

The Occupy Movement first caught my attention when they promised a new congressional convention in Washington DC, scheduled for July 4th of 2012, if the Wall Street serial rapists weren’t dealt with by then.  They were going to challenge the integrity of the federal government with representatives from every congressional district, etc.  That seemed like a clear and reasonable enough demand to take them seriously, at the time.  Not soon after, this proposal disintegrated and was mostly forgotten about.  The trials and tribulations of police incursions took center stage.  The camps were swept away by Obama’s black shirts, but by then these tent cities were just hanging on for the sake of hanging on.  Nothing was happening, politically, except that the embarrassments needed to be hosed out of sight before election time.   When July 4th finally did roll around, it was a barely noticed anti-climax.  A few hundred showed up, perhaps a few thousand.  It was officially over.  The “occupy movement” had failed.

Never Achieved Legitimacy

Claiming you represent 99% of the people is not the same as actually representing the people.  This was a fundamental disconnect, born of utopian fantasies.  It was easy to remain skeptical of such bold claims that lacked evidence, that lacked gravitas.

How does one gain legitimacy in a democracy?  One gets millions of people to vote for them and wins the election.   Similarly, in parliamentary systems, one gets votes for one’s party to establish some proportional representation in the government.  The entire population is permitted to participate, and vote fraud is discouraged and policed.

While the Occupy Movement claimed to have true democracy as their guiding principle, the notion that their own version of democracy was limited to the people present at the assembly, to the exclusion of the rest of the nation, doesn’t seemed to have registered.  By eschewing electoral politics, they in fact disregarded an important democratic principle and ignored the overwhelming majority of the nation.  Less than one percent of the American people participated in these occupations, rendering their “true” democracy to just a hollow exercise of their own little 1%.

Love him or hate him, Obama took in nearly 60 million votes in the 2012 race.  The Occupy candidate received – zero.  There was no Occupy candidate.  Not in that race, not in any race.  The Occupy Movement rejected the one avenue for achieving power in the United States legitimately, and that is by convincing a majority to elect them into office.  There has yet to be a dog catcher elected from the Occupy Party.  So why should anyone take them or their politics seriously?

To secure ourselves against defeat lies in our own hands, but the opportunity of defeating the enemy is provided by the enemy himself.
-Sun Tzu

Occupy, to me, was always devoid of coherence.   By rejecting electoral politics, the end result was preordained.  They would change nothing.  They would be given the big black boot eventually, one way or another.  After months of lingering, they wore out their welcomes.   Perhaps this movement did more harm than good.  Protest is now criminalized, and police departments across the nation have been militarized and emboldened into discarding Constitutional Amendments at will.   The incoherence of the Occupiers served to denigrate and even delegitimize real critical opposition to the crimes of the government and its corporate overlords.  That’s because Occupy never had anything to offer the general population except camping in parks with signs, a publicity stunt that went on far too long.

Lessons for the future include changing strategy.  For starters: reform over revolution.  I’ve confronted some anarchists on their grand visions of smashing the state, as if that would be a positive thing and beyond debate.  Suffice to say, they don’t have the numbers, and they never will.  Most Occupiers were not of the destroy-all-government variety and wanted to maintain a fair system of checks and balances.  It is these reformers who need to step up and take it forward into the electoral arena.

The left parties of the United States are fragmented, underfunded and even in pointless competition with one-another.  Some of their disputes concern the reform v. revolution question.  Reformers need to step up and join forces to combine existing third party structures into one umbrella party.  One.  The left can at least act in solidarity with itself if it ever hopes to convince middle of the road people that they are serious and offer a viable alternative.

Hence to fight and conquer in all your battles is not supreme excellence; supreme excellence consists in breaking the enemy’s resistance without fighting.
Sun Tzu

The left can make a difference, and can even achieve power locally, where the real opportunities lie.  There have been too many showpiece presidential campaigns destined to score below 1% of the total.  Establish legitimacy town by town, state by state.  Until the masses have actually come to accept that you exist, you have no business hoping to win their votes.  It takes more than ideas.  It takes more than words.  It takes a lot more to play this game than a Facebook page.

The New Left Party, whatever its name, can employ some of the lessons of the failed Occupy Movement, and show up for a massive jubilee celebration – right back in those parks, to the delight of bored news reporters everywhere.  They might even face off against the tear gas cannons.  And then go home.  The point isn’t to “occupy,” but to make a splash across the world’s news cycles.

Then you do it again, another day, another occasion, another voter registration drive and house canvassing organizing session.  Real politics, on the ground, in the communities, and back into those parks to reclaim the First Amendment right to peaceably assemble.  Then go home.  Repeat as needed.

Therefore the skillful leader subdues the enemy’s troops without any fighting; he captures their cities without laying siege to them; he overthrows their kingdom without lengthy operations in the field. With his forces intact he will dispute the mastery of the Empire, and thus, without losing a man, his triumph will be complete.  This is the method of attacking by stratagem.
Sun Tzu, The Art of War


 

* “In that spirit, we welcome journalists, activists, educators and others to make free use of all original content authored by OccupyWallSt.org. As thanks, we ask only that you provide a link back to this site.”

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Some of us reality-based intelligentsia have been warning about this for–I don’t know–seven or eight years now. This is what happens when you cozy up with terrorists. Blame MI6, MI5, and their political bosses when SHIT STARTS BLOWING UP AGAIN.

UK rehomes some 100 Syria White Helmets and family members

 

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London Bridge terrorist was allowed to work at Westminster station despite known jihadist views
Khuram Shazad Butt, one of the three London Bridge attackers, was allowed to work at Westminster Tube station, even after he featured in a TV documentary about British jihadists in which he prayed to a black flag in Regent’s Park.

He was also free to carry out Saturday’s atrocity despite working for a man accused of helping to train the 7/7 bombings ringleader, and being investigated by police and MI5, it has emerged.

 

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KICKSTARTER
Eugenics are coming back.

Dennis Kucinich tipped me off to this. “Dangerous biological nonsense.”

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Sebastian Gorka out of White House after controversies over neo-Nazi connections and phony Ph.D.

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Genius #1

Posted: August 10, 2014 in -
Tags: , , , , ,

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Tomorrow marks the release of Genius #1, the first in a five-part comic-book miniseries about a young woman from South Central L.A. who unites the city’s gangs and attempts to secede from the U.S.

 

 

Meet the Man Who Created the Most Radical Hero in Comics

 

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by William Blum

Edward Snowden

Is Edward Snowden a radical? The dictionary defines a radical as “an advocate of political and social revolution”, the adjective form being “favoring or resulting in extreme or revolutionary changes”. That doesn’t sound like Snowden as far as what has been publicly revealed. In common usage, the term “radical” usually connotes someone or something that goes beyond the generally accepted boundaries of socio-political thought and policies; often used by the Left simply to denote more extreme than, or to the left of, a “liberal”.

In his hour-long interview on NBC, May 28, in Moscow, Snowden never expressed, or even implied, any thought – radical or otherwise – about United States foreign policy or the capitalist economic system under which we live, the two standard areas around which many political discussions in the US revolve. In fact, after reading a great deal by and about Snowden this past year, I have no idea what his views actually are about these matters. To be sure, in the context of the NBC interview, capitalism was not at all relevant, but US foreign policy certainly was.

Snowden was not asked any direct questions about foreign policy, but if I had been in his position I could not have replied to several of the questions without bringing it up. More than once the interview touched upon the question of whether the former NSA contractor’s actions had caused “harm to the United States”. Snowden said that he’s been asking the entire past year to be presented with evidence of such harm and has so far received nothing. I, on the other hand, as a radical, would have used the opportunity to educate the world-wide audience about how the American empire is the greatest threat to the world’s peace, prosperity, and environment; that anything to slow down the monster is to be desired; and that throwing a wrench into NSA’s surveillance gears is eminently worthwhile toward this end; thus, “harm” indeed should be the goal, not something to apologize for.

Edward added that the NSA has been unfairly “demonized” and that the agency is composed of “good people”. I don’t know what to make of this.

When the war on terrorism was discussed in the interview, and the question of whether Snowden’s actions had hurt that effort, he failed to take the opportunity to point out the obvious and absolutely essential fact – that US foreign policy, by its very nature, regularly and routinely creates anti-American terrorists.

When asked what he’d say to President Obama if given a private meeting, Snowden had no response at all to make. I, on the other hand, would say to Mr. Obama: “Mr. President, in your time in office you’ve waged war against seven countries – Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, Yemen, Libya and Syria. This makes me wonder something. With all due respect, sir: What is wrong with you?”

A radical – one genuine and committed – would not let such a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity pass by unused. Contrary to what his fierce critics at home may believe, Edward Snowden is not seriously at war with America, its government or its society. Does he have a real understanding, analysis, or criticism of capitalism or US foreign policy? Does he think about what people could be like under a better social system? Is he, I wonder, even anti-imperialist?

And he certainly is not a conspiracy theorist, or at least keeps it well hidden. He was asked about 9-11 and replied:

The 9/11 commission … when they looked at all the classified intelligence from all the different intelligence agencies, they found that we had all of the information we needed … to detect this plot. We actually had records of the phone calls from the United States and out. The CIA knew who these guys were. The problem was not that we weren’t collecting information, it wasn’t that we didn’t have enough dots, it wasn’t that we didn’t have a haystack, it was that we did not understand the haystack that we had.

Whereas I might have pointed out that the Bush administration may have ignored the information because they wanted something bad – perhaps of unknown badness – to happen in order to give them the justification for all manner of foreign and domestic oppression they wished to carry out. And did. (This scenario of course excludes the other common supposition, that it was an “inside job”, in which case collecting information on the perpetrators would not have been relevant.)

The entire segment concerning 9/11 was left out of the television broadcast of the interview, although some part of it was shown later during a discussion. This kind of omission is of course the sort of thing that feeds conspiracy theorists.

All of the above notwithstanding, I must make it clear that I have great admiration for the young Mr. Snowden, for what he did and for how he expresses himself. He may not be a radical, but he is a hero. His moral courage, nerve, composure, and technical genius are magnificent. I’m sure the NBC interview won him great respect and a large number of new supporters. I, in Edward’s place, would be even more hated by Americans than he is, even if I furthered the radicalization of more of them than he has. However, I of course would never have been invited onto mainstream American television for a long interview in prime time. (Not counting my solitary 15 minutes of fame in 2006 courtesy of Osama bin Laden; a gigantic fluke happening.)

Apropos Snowden’s courage and integrity, it appears that something very important has not been emphasized in media reports: In the interview, he took the Russian government to task for a new law requiring bloggers to register – the same government which holds his very fate in their hands.

Who is more exceptional: The United States or Russia?

I was going to write a commentary about President Obama’s speech to the graduating class at the US Military Academy (West Point) on May 28. When he speaks to a military audience the president is usually at his most nationalistic, jingoist, militaristic, and American-exceptionalist – wall-to-wall platitudes. But this talk was simply TOO nationalistic, jingoist, militaristic, and American-exceptionalist. (“I believe in American exceptionalism with every fiber of my being.”) To go through it line by line in order to make my usual wise-ass remarks, would have been just too painful. However, if you’re in a masochistic mood and wish to read it, it can be found here.

Instead I offer you part of acommentary from Mr. Jan Oberg, Danish director of the Transnational Foundation for Peace and Future Research in Lund, Sweden:

What is conspicuously lackingin the President’s West Point speech?

  1. Any reasonably accurate appraisal of the world and the role of other nations.
  2. A sense of humility and respect for allies and other countries in this world.
  3. Every element of a grand strategy for America for its foreign and security policy and some kind of vision of what a better world would look like. This speech with all its tired, self-aggrandising rhetoric is a thin cover-up for the fact that there is no such vision or overall strategy.
  4. Some little hint of reforms of existing institutions or new thinking about globalisation and global democratic decision-making.
  5. Ideas and initiatives – stretched-out hands – to help the world move towards conflict-resolution in crisis areas such as Ukraine, Syria, Libya, China-Japan and Iran. Not a trace of creativity.

Ironically, on May 30 the Wall Street Journal published a long essay by Leon Aron, a Russia scholar at the conservative American Enterprise Institute in Washington. The essay took Russian president Vladimir Putin to task for claiming that Russia is exceptional. The piece was headed:

“Why Putin Says Russia Is Exceptional”

“Such claims have often heralded aggression abroad and harsh crackdowns at home.”

It states: “To Mr. Putin, in short, Russia was exceptional because it was emphatically not like the modern West – or not, in any event, like his caricature of a corrupt, morally benighted Europe and U.S. This was a bad omen, presaging the foreign policy gambits against Ukraine that now have the whole world guessing about Mr. Putin’s intentions.”

So the Wall Street Journal has no difficulty in ascertaining that a particular world leader sees his country as “exceptional”. And that such a perception can lead that leader or his country to engage in aggression abroad and crackdowns at home. The particular world leader so harshly judged in this manner by the Wall Street Journal is named Vladimir Putin, not Barack Obama. There’s a word for this kind of analysis – It’s calledhypocrisy.

“Hypocrisy is anything whatever may deceive the cleverest and most penetrating man, but the least wide-awake of children recognizes it, and is revolted by it, however ingeniously it may be disguised.” – Leo Nikolaevich Tolstoi, (1828-1910) Russian writer

Is hypocrisy a moral failing or a failing of the intellect?

The New Cold War is getting to look more and more like the old one, wherein neither side allows the other to get away with any propaganda point. Just compare any American television network to the Russian station broadcast in the United States – RT (formerly Russia Today). The contrast in coverage of the same news events is remarkable, and the stations attack and make fun of each other by name.

Another, even more important, feature to note is that in Cold War I the United States usually had to consider what the Soviet reaction would be to a planned American intervention in the Third World. This often served as a brake to one extent or another on Washington’s imperial adventures. Thus it was that only weeks after the Berlin Wall came down in 1989, the United States bombed and invaded Panama, inflicting thousands of casualties and widespread destruction, for the flimsiest – bordering on the non-existent – of reasons.  The hostile Russian reaction to Washington’s clear involvement in the overthrow of the Ukrainian government in February of this year, followed by Washington’s significant irritation and defensiveness toward the Russian reaction, indicates that this Cold War brake may have a chance of returning. And for this we should be grateful.

After the “communist threat” had disappeared and the foreign policy of the United States continued absolutely unchanged, it meant that the Cold War revisionists had been vindicated – the conflict had not been about containing an evil called “communism”; it had been about American expansion, imperialism and capitalism. If the collapse of the Soviet Union did not result in any reduction in the American military budget, but rather was followed by large increases, it meant that the Cold War – from Washington’s perspective – had not been motivated by a fear of the Russians, but purely by ideology.

Lest we forget: Our present leaders can derive inspiration from other great American leaders.

White House tape recordings, April 25, 1972:

President Nixon: How many did we kill in Laos?

National Security Adviser Henry Kissinger: In the Laotian thing, we killed about ten, fifteen [thousand] …

Nixon: See, the attack in the North [Vietnam] that we have in mind … power plants, whatever’s left – POL [petroleum], the docks … And, I still think we ought to take the dikes out now. Will that drown people?

Kissinger: About two hundred thousand people.

Nixon: No, no, no … I’d rather use the nuclear bomb. Have you got that, Henry?

Kissinger: That, I think, would just be too much.

Nixon: The nuclear bomb, does that bother you? … I just want you to think big, Henry, for Christsakes.

May 2, 1972:

Nixon: America is not defeated. We must not lose in Vietnam. … The surgical operation theory is all right, but I want that place bombed tosmithereens. If we draw the sword, we’re gonna bomb those bastards all over the place. Let it fly, let it fly.

“Every ten years or so, the United States needs to pick up some small crappy little country and throw it against the wall, just to show the world we mean business.” – Michael Ledeen, former Defense Department consultant and holder of the Freedom Chair at the American Enterprise Institute

Help needed from a computer expert

This has been driving me crazy for a very long time. My printer doesn’t print the document I ask it to print, but instead prints something totally unrelated. But what it prints is always something I’ve had some contact with, like an email I received or a document I read online, which I may or may not have saved on my hard drive, mostly not. It’s genuinely weird.

Now, before I print anything, I close all other windows in my word processor (Word Perfect/Windows 7); I go offline; I specify printing only the current page, no multiple page commands. Yet, the printer usually still finds some document online and prints it.

At one point I cleared out all the printer caches, and that helped for a short while, but then the problem came back though the caches were empty.

I spoke to the printer manufacturer, HP, and they said it can’t be the fault of the printer because the printer only prints what the computer tells it to print.

It must be the CIA or NSA. Help!

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Notes
  1. William Blum, Killing Hope, chapter 50
  2. Jonah Goldberg, “Baghdad Delenda Est, Part Two”,National Review, April 23, 2002

Any part of this report may be disseminated without permission, provided attribution to William Blum as author and a link to this website are given.

 

www.indiewire.com

Blood in the Face

Yay for ignorant racism.

“We’re more Nazi than the Nazis.”

 

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Each year two abysmal propaganda holidays roll around, and they really piss me off.  The first is to celebrate the racist, genocidal conquistador Columbus.  The second is to program school children into thinking that Dr. King had a dream, and that’s it.

They Must Organize a Revolution…. Against the Privileged Minority of the Earth”

Remembering the Officially Deleted Dr. King

 

Dr. King was a radical leader who spoke out to abolish war and elite control.  That’s why he was murdered by the state.  His execution was another of the glaring covert conspiracies of the 60’s, next to JFK and RFK.

 

The East - 2
Rebel, Rebel

by Jennifer Epps

Two fiction films about domestic left-wing terrorist groups played in theaters this spring, and are interesting to consider together, since these indy thrillers approach similar themes. Robert Redford’s film The Company You Keep is new on DVD this week. The East will be released on DVD next month, on Sept. 17th.

THE EAST

In The East, a film showcased at the Sundance Festival, co-writer and up-and-coming star Brit Marling plays Sarah, a young private-sector spy keen to do well for her agency. She has to keep her assignments so secret she tells her nearest and dearest she’s off to Dubai when really she’s just a drive away in the deep woods, infiltrating a troublesome band of youthful anti-corporate eco-terrorists. She lives with them, learns their ways, and becomes assimilated in order to uncover their schemes to disrupt big business – a service much coveted by those same businesses. But the experience is so intense, this monkey-wrench gang gradually starts to change her. Whenever the unit temporarily disbands and she heads back to her normal city life, she feels like she has come back from a foreign country, only now it’s her home that feels foreign.

The East is named after the fictitious anarchist collective Sarah spies on — a mysterious, much-hyped group of rebels out to punish mega-corps which heartlessly destroy the planet or poison masses of human beings. The movie is many things – spy caper, romance, psychological drama, crime thriller, coming-of-age story, animal-friendly environmentalist lament – but it is perhaps predominantly a journey-to-another-world. Like Alice or Dorothy, once covert agent Sarah slips into the woods, she finds herself in an alien, Looking-Glass world. There are no surreal talking animals in this universe, but with the very first initiation rite Sarah can see she’s “not in Kansas anymore” – and that she’s out of her element. Tough as nails and primed for a fight, Sarah is astonished to discover that battle isn’t really the point here among all the soul-baring and trust exercises.

Of course, Sarah is a stand-in for the audience, so Marling and writing partner Zal Batmanglij (the film’s director) peel away the outer layers of the forest-dwelling radicals incrementally, letting us first see them the way she would. The most immediately alienating is Benji (an ardent Alexander Skarsgård), who comes off at first as a Charles Manson-like cult leader. His hair is archaically, kiddingly, long, and he appears to hold a privileged status in the commune-like encampment from which he delights in breaking newcomers’ spirits. Then there’s diminutive Izzy (Ellen Page), so solemn and ideologically fierce she seems like the most potentially dangerous. And though the group turns to Doc (Toby Kebbell) for medical help, his manner and his simple home remedies are so unorthodox his ministrations seem likely to do more harm than good. Yet before too long Benji’s wild tresses have been shorn, Izzy has revealed her soft side, Doc’s qualifications have been affirmed, and we, along with Sarah, have gained insights into this band’s traumas, regrets, and vision.

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Though Batmanglij and Marling disapprove of these activists’ tactical choices when they injure others, we can see, eventually, how much respect they have for the young outliers’ heartfelt motivations, and for their willingness to explore an alternate form of living. Rather than just showing the surface trappings of counterculture, The East tries to get inside all this experimental living and find out what it’s really all about. (Marling and Batmanglij were inspired to write the film because they spent a few months living with squatting freegans.) And often the script is quite deft in the economical way it scores its points. The first dinner at the East’s remote hideout is a clever, visual way to show the group’s internal philosophy of interdependence. Then, at a climactic juncture, Sarah finds herself impulsively eating from a trashcan to illustrate the principles of freeganism – it’s a perfect merger of story, theme, character revelation, and eloquent speech-writing. It’s also a moment of humor/suspense that works beautifully.

Kudos are definitely due to Batmanglij and Marling for navigating a minefield with this kind of story: they could have easily fallen into preachiness either for or against their characters. Instead, Benji’s lynchpin character is variegated enough for Sarah and the audience to change our opinion of him in each of the film’s three acts. Likewise Sarah’s boss at the agency, the wonderful Patricia Clarkson, is never a cartoon but moves deliciously from mentor to formidable opponent.

The East doesn’t make us choose between collectivism and the power of one – it honors both. Its slight of build yet tightly-coiled heroine – thanks to a visceral performance by the ferociously intelligent Marling — is a mesmerizing protagonist. She’s no latex-squeezed, ultra-competent action-heroine, but is instead serious and resourceful, sensitive and relatable, and she pays a high cost for her achievements. But after learning about harmony, equality, and unity from the rebels, she comes out the other side as an exemplar of the idea that one person can make a difference. It is thanks to her dynamic character that the film is able to pull off its balancing act, conveying the notion that: in questions of morality, even when the goals are harmony, equality, and unity, perhaps one’s own conscience is the only reliable arbiter.

Along the way, Marling and Batmanglij expose something that gets very scant attention – corporate spying on citizen activists – and at a time when Edward Snowden has made people more conscious of the extent to which our communications are being captured as a matter of course, this film couldn’t be more timely. Without lecturing (except briefly, in the sequence where Izzy confronts her CEO dad), The East manages to convey searing criticism of current business as usual in the U.S. of A. It is one of the most eloquent and vital movies indicting late capitalism you could hope to see, underpinning its twisty, surprising climax with the burning philosophical problem: how can we save the world?

The film provides no easy answers but is on the side of the angels — it promotes, without spelling it out too much, mutual respect, co-operation, open-mindedness, and educating the public. It is clear that Batmanglij and Marling believe in film as a force for social change. But they also realize that to be effective they must be disciplined in providing us with compelling characters, a gripping conflict, and a tight story structure. They deliver all that in spades. The East lays down the gauntlet for other fiction filmmakers to retain a strong point-of-view on hot political topics and make an exciting entertainment to boot.

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THE COMPANY YOU KEEP

Robert Redford’s Sundance Festival gave Batmanglij and Marling’s film its premiere, and Redford even cast Marling in a pivotal supporting role in his own film The Company You Keep — clearly he wasn’t concerned about the similarities between the two indies, though they were released within weeks of each other this spring. There certainly are similarities, though. The East and The Company You Keep are both thought-provoking political thrillers about a small group of domestic left-wing militants who are designated as terrorists by authorities. Both show the radicals’ driving forces to be reactions against mass-scale atrocities perpetrated by those in power. And both films clearly condemn violence as a tool of political resistance.

Still, Redford’s film has its own precedents. It seems to make sense to view The Company You Keep as the third film in a Redford trilogy about the ‘War on Terror’. I haven’t heard him describe any such trilogy, but Redford’s last three films seem very much concerned with the post 9/11 era and the direction the country has taken. The first, Lions for Lambs (2007), was a politically laudable but artistically dull and didactic Bush-era anti-war screed. The second, the superb and moving drama The Conspirator (2010), was set in the maelstrom right after Lincoln’s assassination yet was indisputably modern in its portrait of the oppressiveness of railroading military tribunals like those Bush had brought into the fore as part of the ‘War on Terror.’ Most of the referents in Redford’s third film of the trilogy, The Company You Keep, are to the 1960’s and 1970’s, but the film is set in modern times, and its subject matter is terrorism, unjust war, and dissent. No doubt it wasn’t just a historical exercise.

The Company You Keep, like Redford’s prior two films, is the story of an older man, an educated liberal, who mentors an antagonistic or disengaged young upstart. In Lions for Lambs it was Redford as a university prof teaching apathetic student Andrew Garfield to care more about what his government is up to; in The Conspirator it was Tom Wilkinson handing over a complex defense case to Civil War veteran James McAvoy. Here it is Redford once again, as an aging attorney who is an upstanding citizen working for the public good. He scolds cocky rookie reporter Ben (Shia LaBeouf) – even while fleeing him half-way across the country. The chase begins because LaBeouf’s ambitious stringer discovers that Redford’s small-town lawyer is a big-time outlaw, an ex-member of a militant 1960’s group, and a fugitive from the FBI because of his secret terrorist past.

The mentoring dynamic throughout Redford’s trilogy may simply be a natural outcome of Redford being in his 70’s and being highly successful, sought-after, and opinionated. Yet, if there’s one overriding aspect of Company which prevents it from being truly politically effective, it might be the film’s underlying ageism – an elevation of those politicos over 60 and a patronizing slant on the uninformed under-40s. The movie evinces an implicit belief that Hippies were much more aware and engaged than Tweeters are. The politicized people in Company are all above a certain age (played by Redford, Nick Nolte, Sam Elliott, Julie Christie, Susan Sarandon, Richard Jenkins, and Brendan Gleeson). By contrast, none of the young adults in the film (LaBoeuf, Marling, Anna Kendrick, and Terrence Howard, who plays an FBI agent) are politically opinionated – except, perhaps, about terrorism. The ex-hippies express passionate views in the film on current events, but the young people are more concerned with their careers, schooling, and personal lives. It’s weird that the retirement-age radicals who flee to the deep woods in Company somehow have no idea that anyone like the young rebels of The East could be hiding out too; in Company’s world, activism seems to have halted in the mid 1970s.

This isn’t to say the youngsters don’t have winning personalities. LaBoeuf’s cheeky, devious, irreverent reporter uses some of the sly techniques Redford himself used, alongside Dustin Hoffman, in All the President’s Men. He is also the Tommy Lee Jones character to Redford’s Harrison Ford, for just as in The Fugitive we find ourselves pulled in both directions, unsure whether to root for pursuer or pursued. But ultimately, the view of the press evinced by Company is that it is both shallow and overzealous: Ben’s doggedness in pursuing the ex-Weatherman is cast in a similar vein as Sally Field’s destructive investigative reporting in Absence of Malice.

Unlike the fictitious anti-corporate group living on the fringes in The East, the organization under scrutiny in Company is a real domestic terrorist organization: the infamous albeit small revolutionary group which dubbed themselves the Weather Underground Organization (WUO), formed in 1969 as a splinter of the Students for a Democratic Society. Discouraged by the failure of mass protest to end either the war in Vietnam or virulent racism at home, the Weather Underground chose to make bombs and try to overthrow the U.S. government. They were of course eschewed and condemned by the large protest movements of the time, but became more infamous.

Though the kernel of Company is based on actual history, the names of the former Weather members are fictional and the characters composites. Dramatic license is taken to fashion a mystery about decisions of the past. It is not a literal evaluation of the Weathermen, it doesn’t care about the exact details of their tactics, whether there was any discipline to their goals of property destruction (warnings were generally issued so buildings could be evacuated) or how exactly they crossed the line into violence against living beings. (There is a documentary about the Weathermen to cover that, however – Ben is even shown watching it as research in this movie.) The facts, which Company doesn’t dwell over, are that three members of the WUO died while bomb-building, and three security officers were killed during a Brinks truck robbery staged by a couple of ex- WUO members — who got sentenced to life, and 22 years, in prison. But Company is quite vague about the internal workings of WUO, or what led to the deaths of innocent people, because its characters are composites and because it doesn’t recreate the events of the fateful day – it is enough for the moral probing of the movie simply to establish that people died. There is a central mystery, but it manages to lie beyond the details of the long-ago crime; the film is not much interested in forensics, and focused instead on the human heart.

Screenwriter Lem Dobbs has adapted Neil Gordon’s novel The Company You Keep for this film. It is a book first published in 2003, long before the McCain-Palin campaign brought the Weather Underground back into the spotlight with charges that co-founder Bill Ayers knew Obama in Chicago. But the novel did emerge as Bush was laying the groundwork to make the world America’s battlefield. And like The East, this story asks the question of whether or not the ends justify the means, of whether criminally violent resistance against powerful criminals is warranted when the system itself is so violent to so many. Not too surprisingly, the answer in both films is no.

Author Gordon seems especially pissed off at the WUO: “I don’t think highly of the positions the Weather Underground took and I don’t believe that political violence was an effective or appropriate tool”, he told an interviewer. And he blames the WUO for an awful lot: “when Weather broke up SDS, which they did violently, undemocratically, and with huge cruelty, they destroyed what could have been an enormous, powerful progressive movement in this country…The American left never recovered.”

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The trouble with having two back-to-back films which debate a choice between violent and non-violent resistance is that, surely, non-violence won that debate for most people long ago. It is not a major question for the millions of people who oppose corporate and imperialist agendas. Given that it sure isn’t every day that features about left-wing dissent hit the big screen, when two in the same season depict committed grassroots activism as extremist, violent militancy, there is definitely the chance of creating the wrong impression about those movements. And right-wing blowhards would love to milk that wrong impression and spread it to PETA, Greenpeace, peace marchers, and many others who try to fight the systems of cruelty and oppression the right would like to protect.

Of course, that is not what any of these filmmakers would want. Neil Gordon argues: “There is a great pathos to the history of the American left. Its death is the saddest story of our country…[W]hen we look at it from the vantage of today, where America, for all its power, has near–pariah status throughout the world, it can only make us long for the lost ideals of our country.” Both films want to take a complex view, to mourn the wasted opportunities for change when people with noble motives abandon core principles. Both of them keep alive the idea that an unjust system and the need for resistance still remain.

The flaw with the approach of nostalgia and bitter regret in Company is that though the characters may find clarity, they don’t offer much of a solution to the audience  – beyond an assertion that parents should take care of their children. (Despite his age, Redford’s character is often shown, in rather cloying scenes, as a dutiful father to a prepubescent daughter, and his commitment is a pillar of the film.) It’s true that nothing requires art to provide solutions, and often asking questions or exposing problems is enough. But we are dealing with the future of the planet and human civilization, and it would be nice to have something to go on. I get that the theme of Company is the importance of taking personal responsibility, and that this could very well be interpreted as a responsibility to become more active and engaged. But the metaphor of progeny-over-politics could also make any conservative family-values champion proud – they might not admit it, but that message is right up their alley. It is also, whether intentionally or not, a kind of argument in favor of disengagement.

The East takes a different approach from The Company You Keep in many ways. The characters feel rawer and more immediate. It’s less reserved, and it has a more youthful energy. And it has more relevance in the issues it presents: it’s about the state of the union right now, and the examples of corporate lawlessness targeted by the East’s members are loosely based on true recent instances. But perhaps the most important difference of all is that The East suggests at the very end – fleetingly and delicately – a way out of this mess of corporate mayhem and crimes against humanity. And that, ultimately, is a discussion well worth having.