Are we creating terrorists?

ATULYA DORA-LASKEY
STAFF WRITER

On June 20th, Adam Fox invited some friends he had met on Facebook to hang out. They met in a vacuum shop, where Fox pulled a rug up to reveal a secret trap door to a basement. Then Fox collected everyone’s phone before they went down to make sure they were not recorded. Fox and the other men vented their anger at the recent policies set in place by the state to (successfully) curb the pandemic. The conversation then took a sharp turn to an another subject: kidnapping Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer.

These would-be Michigan kidnappers also used an encrypted group chat to communicate, where the rhetoric began to get more misogynist and violent. Fox clarified his intentions by saying that the group should just “Grab the f**kin Governor. Just grab the bitch. Because at that point, we do that, dude – it’s over.” These men discussed various strategies to target the Governor, and at one point Daniel Harris messaged “Have one person go to her house. Knock on the door and when she answers it just cap her…at this point. F**k it.”

How do we know this conversation happened? There was an undercover FBI agent who managed to record the conversation with a secret wire as well as log the encrypted group chat. As the plan progressed, more undercover law enforcement began to participate. Their involvement and testimony was integral to the arrest of these men on October 7th and stopping what could have been a deadly act.

As you might expect, the defense lawyers see it differently. The defense team for the Michigan men say that it remains to see what exactly the FBI agents contributed towards the “cause,” and whether or not these agents pushed the men into going forward with this plan. Unfortunately, the FBI has sketchy history when it comes to their undercover officers. And they can sometimes act less like informants and more like driving forces in creating a potentially deadly crime.

In 2012, Sami Osmakac filmed what the FBI would later call a “martyrdom video.” To the camera, Osmakac stated his intentions to avenge the deaths of Muslims being killed around the world while wearing something that looks remarkably close to a suicide vest, while an AK-47 sits propped up in the background. Osmakac was 25 years old, and had schizoaffective disorder according to the psychiatrists who examined him before trial. In this case, the FBI provided Osmakac with all of the weapons seen in the video, the car bomb that he planned to use, and even money for a taxi to he could get to his target. In files leaked to the Intercept, it is clear that Osmakac needed repeated prodding and persuasion by FBI agents in order to go through with the plan. The FBI agent who helped Osmakac make the video said that Osmakac “acted like he was nervous” and “kept backing away.” The FBI squad supervisor described Osmakac as a “retarded fool.”

The FBI radicalizing young Muslim Americans into terrorism and then arresting them for it was a staple of the post-9/11 era. It will have to be seen in the trial whether or not the FBI was a driving force with the would-be Michigan kidnappers the same way they were with Sami Osmakac. The Michigan men were obviously wrong for plotting what they did, they are the product of a society where the President has continued to call for Governor Whitmer to be “arrested” even after this story broke, despite the fact that it was this rhetoric that placed her in

danger in the first place. However, the core question is whether or not these Michigan men would have gone through with a kidnapping even without undercover law enforcement. Due to the FBI’s track record, Michiganders deserve proper transparency on how the Bureau operated in this case.

American Nightmare

ATULYA DORA-LASKEY
STAFF WRITER

Last Tuesday, the first debate of the 2020 Election got underway, and it went just as poorly as most Americans expected. Interruptions, yelling, and personal attacks dominated the stage. Yet, one moment seemed particularly horrific. The President refused to directly condemn white supremacist, and called for a group called the Proud Boys to “Stand back and stand by.”

The group granted this Presidential endorsement are a far-right, neo-fascist organization. The Anti-Defamation League and the Southern Poverty Law Center designate the Proud Boys as a hate group, citing their numerous ties to white supremacy. The organization has made a name for themselves by assaulting leftists. Yet, the Proud Boys are not alone in their beliefs about violence. Recently, the amount of Americans open to committing political violence has increased drastically. In 2017, only 8% of Democrats and 8% of Republicans were open to using political violence to achieve their goals. In a Politico poll published this October, they found that the number had risen to 33% of Democrats and 36% of Republicans. These are symptoms of a sick and poorly functioning democracy, and it appears as though the fabric of American society is quickly unraveling.

No one can capture this moment in history better than filmmaker (and Michigan-native) Paul Schrader. Writing films such as Raging Bull (1980) and The Last Temptation of Christ (1988), Schrader has a well-deserved reputation as “one of the crucial creators of the modern cinema.” If you want to viscerally grasp why this country is teetering so closely to the edge, both Schrader’s Taxi Driver (1976) and First Reformed (2017) are required viewing.

At first, the protagonists at the heart of both these films appear starkly different. In Taxi Driver, Travis Bickle (Robert De Niro) is a cabbie in New York City taking night shifts to cope with his insomnia. In First Reformed, Ernst Toller (Ethan Hawke) is a pastor who is struggling with his faith, preaching at the 250-year old First Reformed church that has now turned into a glorified tourist attraction.

As both films progress, you find that the two characters are united in their belief in an American dream that ultimately betrays them. Travis Bickle is a Vietnam veteran, who believes that working hard at an honest job will lead him to some kind of satisfaction. Ernst Toller is a veteran as well, and because his family considered military enlistment to be patriotic tradition he encouraged his son to sign-up. Bickle gets no fulfillment from his life as a taxi driver, and his isolation from others only grows in the process as Bickle finds that his job is “…like you’re not even there…like a taxi driver doesn’t even exist.” Toller’s life falls apart after his son is killed in Iraq during a war that Toller believes “…had no moral justification.”

The two men have their betrayals compounded as they are submerged repeatedly into a societal sickness, and they turn to uniquely American outlets in order to cope. Bickle, surrounded by poverty, violent misogyny, and child trafficking, decides to buy an assortment of guns and frequent a shooting range. Toller, surrounded by environmental destruction, the undeniable proof of climate change, and the refusal of world leaders to do anything about it, incorporates environmental activism into his preaching. Again these two are betrayed by their understandings of America. Even after shooting a man robbing a local store, Bickle can not satisfy his

increasingly violent urges. Toller is forced to stop his environmental activism as the megachurch that owns First Reformed is financed heavily by a wealthy polluter. Toller’s helpless torment watching the world light itself on fire is deeply relatable. During an argument with the director of the megachurch, he screams “Well, somebody has to do something!”

In the third acts of both their films, both men decide to fully embrace political violence. Bickle plans to assassinate a progressive senator running for President while Toller prepares to blow himself up in an act of eco-terrorism. Bickle’s plan is the result of untreated paranoia and isolation, while Toller’s believes his plan to be the only logical conclusion for a world that refuses to properly face an existential crisis.

These men are obviously not blameless for their actions, but it is undeniable that these men would not emerge in a society that was functioning properly. Throughout this country we have isolated Americans with no sense of support or community, stuck in jobs that do nothing for them and a political system that does even less. There are hundreds of Bickles and Tollers being created across the nation. If we don’t fix these issues, we can expect America’s third act to be just as violent.

(A) Historic summer

ATULYA DORA-LASKEY
STAFF WRITER

Whenever the academic year reaches its final months, students across the country pick up their school’s yearbook. These books attempt to showcase the best of student life on their glossy pages, sometimes with embarrassing little errors that managed to slip past editing. No matter how much you would roll your eyes at the cheesy production, you and your friends would still crowd around a desk to see who got featured and how many times. You might ask yourself the following: Did they use my prom pictures? Who got voted best such-and-such? What does everyone look like in their senior photos?

Whenever the academic year reaches its final week, another book might get passed around. Like the yearbook, this too was a showcase of student life, but significantly shorter in length. It is paperback instead of hardcover, the pages are not as glossy, there are significantly more embarrassing little errors. You might ask, what is this? To which the yearbook club students would respond with either excited pride or complete indifference: Stuff that happened after the yearbook published.

Oh cool, you might think. So it is part of the yearbook…but not really. It is an extra segment, a bonus part. If later on in the summer you found out that you had lost the normal yearbook but retained the yearbook addendum you would be disappointed. If the book only includes what happened after the original yearbook was published, there is no way you can get a sense of what the entire year was like.

This summer, Black Lives Matter protests against police brutality began popping up across the nation. It did not take long for an attempt by the US government to revert everyone back to an blood-stained status quo. Democratic mayors quickly decided to sic the police on the protestors. Soon afterwards, a Republican Presidential administration resorted to even more authoritarian measures by using the Department of Homeland Security to abduct protestors into unmarked vans.

There is deserved outrage against Trump and his administration for this. However, most of the outrage refuses to discuss any history before Trump’s inauguration date. On August 10th, The Nation published an article titled “How Stephen Miller Turned the Department of Homeland Security Into a Political Weapon” in which DHS is described as having morphed into “..a tool for pushing Trump’s political agenda.”  On August 17th, The Washington Post published an op-ed titled “At Homeland Security, I saw firsthand how dangerous Trump is for America” in which former DHS official Miles Taylor writes that “The president has tried to turn DHS, the nation’s largest law enforcement agency, into a tool used for his political benefit.” The implication is clear: The DHS was a completely upstanding and non-partisan department before Trump got his hands on it.

There’s a larger history behind the young department. The DHS came into existence in 2003 as a result of the Homeland Security Act which was passed in response to the fear created from 9/11. President Bush wrote that “…the threats facing America require a new government structure to protect against invisible enemies that can strike with a wide variety of weapons.” This was part of a larger project by the Bush administration to convince Americans that scary outsiders were coming to hurt them and their families, and that they could be stopped if we all continued to give away our civil liberties. The DHS was created to be the President’s private police force. It has not been turned into a political weapon, it was designed as one.

From August 17th – 20th, the Democratic party held its national convention and allowed several disgruntled Republicans to take the stage. The Democrats wanted to push a message of “country over party,” in order to depict Trump as an anomaly. On the first night, the Democrats had former Republican Ohio Governor John Kasich appear to tell us that Trump is “…unlike all of our best leaders before him.” Kasich clearly considers his endorsement to be historic, telling the camera that “In normal times, something like this would probably never happen.” On the second night, Democrats had former Republican Secretary of State Colin Powell speak about how we must vote against Trump because we’re still the same America “…that inspires freedom all over the world.” The implication is clear: The Republican party was honorable before Trump got his hands on it, and these men are still principled enough to speak out against Trump. 

There’s a larger history behind these two men and the horrible things they’ve done with their former positions. In 2011, Ohio Governor John Kasich signed a union-busting bill that limited collective bargaining rights and banned strikes for 360,000 public workers. By 2016, Kasich had closed down nearly half of the abortion clinics in Ohio by using some of the most restrictive legislation in the country. In 2003, Secretary of State Colin Powell helped lead America into the war in Iraq by lying to the United Nations Security Council about Iraq facilitating a nuclear weapons program. Claiming to be a country that (as Colin Powell put it) “inspires freedom over the world,” America named the invasion Operation Iraqi Freedom. Operation Iraqi Freedom went on to kill 600,000 Iraqis.

These are some of the men who helped enable Trump’s rise to power. They did it by exacerbating wealth inequality, fear-mongering abortion access, and by normalizing the act of misleading the public with deadly lies while never facing consequences for any of their actions. Some might argue that the Democratic Party only platformed these men to get Trump out of office. If the Democratic Party’s sole intention was voting out Trump, they could be doing it more successfully by adopting incredibly popular proposals such as legalizing marijuana (67% of Americans support) and Medicare for All (69% of Americans support). Instead, the Democratic Party expects you to believe that they will win the election by chasing down disgruntled Republican voters even though 90% of the Republican party approves of Trump.

It’s not about doing whatever it takes to get Trump out of office. It’s about creating opportunity through the portrayal of Trump as an ahistorical aberration instead of the horrific end result of past political decisions. Opportunity for the Democratic Party to promise to remove Trump but never have to promise to solving the problems that created him. Opportunity for men like Kasich, Powell, and even Bush to clean their hands of the responsibility they share for getting us here in the first place. Opportunity to continue some of America’s most dangerous institutions and practices by placing the blame for their inevitable consequences on Trump alone.

Let me be clear, Trump represents a unique threat to democracy, but so did Bush. If the American public can be convinced to let the Bush administration and Republicans like Kasich off scot-free for the lasting damage they’ve done to this country, then there’s no doubt they’ll be convinced to do the same with members of the Trump administration once an even worse person comes to power off the political decisions Trump has made.

We’re trapped in a cheap yearbook addendum that covers no history at all before January 20th, 2017. We need to properly analyze our entire history to find the decisions that brought us to this awful point, so we can stop them at the source. If we keep treating Trump like an ahistorical incident, we can expect our future to be filled with a never-ending cycle of even worse yearbook addendums.

Bernie 2020

ATULYA DORA-LASKEY
STAFF WRITER

We could regale you with stories about his incredible record. Or win you over with iconic policies such as Medicare for All and canceling everyone’s student debt. Maybe you’re the most pragmatic type who would be persuaded by learning that he is the best positioned candidate to beat Donald Trump by both winning over independents and turning out non-typical voters. The most compelling reason for the endorsement, however, would be that out of the two remaining Democratic nominees only one represents much needed progress while the other one represents a status quo that can no longer be tolerated in the face of a literal doomsday.

 

Climate change is an existential change to humanity. If we do not make radical changes, our generation will suffer from natural disasters with an intensity and frequency that has never been seen before on earth. After our institutions crumble, the generations after ours will be reduced to a pathetic shell of humankind, sold into oblivion by those who came before them.

 

Joe Biden’s climate plan is far behind the ambition of Bernie Sanders’s proposals, receiving the worst score by the Sunrise Movement as a result of the lack of detail. More egregious was the fact that Joe Biden held a high dollar fundraiser that was organized by a natural gas company co-founder, directly taking money from people who are responsible for pushing us closer to the brink of annihilation. In contrast, Bernie Sanders’s commitment to only using grassroots fundraising and his strong support of the Green New Deal serves as an important first step to mitigating the effects of climate change and fighting back against those poisoning the earth.

 

The Bernie Sanders campaign understands that America is a story of contrasts. It is the story of a son watching his father come home from fighting in Vietnam with PTSD he’s unable to get help for. A daughter watching her mom come home late at night from trying to start a union in her workplace. A girl growing up in a Kenyan refugee camp and eventually being elected to Congress. A woman dying from rationing insulin. A high school love story cut short in Afghanistan. A college student traveling the world even though her parents have never stepped foot outside Michigan. A man covered with newspapers freezing to death on a park bench. A couple holding their newborn baby for the first time. A frustrating call with an insurance company representative. A black community uniting to help each other in the face of natural disaster after receiving no federal aid. A non-binary person finally getting to use their pronouns. A mom borrowing money from her kid’s bank account to pay for groceries. A brave queer girl who stays closeted around her family. It is the story of a Jewish family fleeing Europe after losing half of their relatives to the Nazis, and their grandson who sets an unlikely run for mayor, senator, and then President.

 

A climate catastrophe now threatens to wipe out all these people, their memories, and their dreams. It was always just one story. Not of you and me, but a story of us. We must fight with all we have in the spirit of solidarity to better the story, or at the very least––continue it. Bernie 2020.

 

At the time of publishing, Michigan will be voting on the presidential primary tomorrow (March 10th). You can use the secretary of state’s site to find your polling place.

Title IX Visibility

ATULYA DORA-LASKEY
STAFF WRITER

The Almanian Hears YOu

In the coming weeks, the Almanian will be asking the students and employees of Alma College about their experiences with the Title IX system in order to complete a comprehensive and fully independent student-conducted report. You can DM your stories to us on Twitter at @Almanian_news or email us at editor.almanian@outlook.com. And if you prefer encrypted/anonymous communication, you can contact us on Signal at +1 937-768-3045.

The Almanian recognizes that it may be difficult to share your stories for many reasons, and as such we promise to treat them with sensitivity and confidentiality.

You may choose to share your story solely over electronic communication, or you may message us to arrange a meeting with one of the Almanian’s reporters at a location where you feel most comfortable. You may also choose to take a break at any time during the process.

The Almanian guarantees that your story will not be shared without your consent. You will be able to choose whether you want your story to be detailed in the report or whether you want your story to simply inform the overall picture that our report paints of the Title IX system.

If you choose to have your story detailed, you may also choose whether to be anonymous or named. We will provide you a final look at what your story looks like before we publish so you have the opportunity to change your mind.

The Almanian is doing this report because we believe that there are problems with the Title IX process and other pathways to justice. These are not problems merely limited to Alma but ones that exists everywhere and at every level. These are also not problems that can be placed on one person, but are instead the combination of various institutional, legal, and cultural factors.

Perhaps the most prolific and recent example of these problems was the infamous People v. Turner case, better known as the Brock Turner story. Turner admitted to sexually assaulting an unconscious woman in an alley on his way to a party, but demanded leniency in his sentencing due to his “potential” as an athlete and a student. The judge agreed and Turner only faced 6 months in jail.

Although the injustice in this case may seem overwhelming and symbolic of so many other evils, the bright spotlight placed on this problem led to changes to address it. The judge that presided over Brock Turner’s case was stripped of his position in the following election and the state legislature passed laws to prevent an outcome like this from happening again.

Like everywhere, Alma College has problems in regards to how it seeks justice. Experiencing those problems can feel isolating because so much of the Title IX process relies on secrecy. This can make us feel alone despite many of us experiencing similar issues. The Almanian believes that sharing these stories––whether anonymously or plainly––can help us both feel less alone and identify common problems as a community.

Maybe you didn’t report. Maybe you reported but feel like the college did not take the situation seriously enough. Maybe you reported and feel like the college did properly address the situation. Maybe you had a different experience entirely.

No matter what your story is, the Almanian is here to listen.

Please feel free to contact us with any questions.

No more war nerds

ATULYA DORA-LASKEY
STAFF WRITER

Graphic by ALLISON WOODLAND

Do you feel clueless about what’s currently happening in Iran? Have you felt confused about why the US is even involved in the middle east for almost your entire life? When you were young and people told you that soldiers fight for our freedom, were you ever puzzled as to how that even worked? Recently, have you quietly muttered “Who the hell is Soleimani?” Did you ever feel like all of this was common sense, and that one day when you grew up this would click for you? If you said yes to any of these symptoms and we’re afraid or embarrassed to speak up or ask questions, then you have been unfortunately infected by the loathed War Nerd.

It’s not your fault, most people have been infected by the War Nerd (including myself), but the first step to seeking help is knowing more about what bit you. And that starts with finally asking some questions.

So, what is a War Nerd? They are not your average Republican or Democrat voter, people interested in military history, they definitely aren’t your enlisted family members. They’re not even the people who tore down the “NO WAR WITH IRAN” banner hanging in Mac Mall.

War Nerds are the wealthy sell-outs who pretend to be smart so they can personally get richer off of warfare. They are the suit-wearing talking heads who appear on the news to tell you that this war is definitely a good idea and that anyone who disagrees is either ill-informed or a terrorist. War Nerds are parasitic creatures who have one singular goal: making you divert trillions of dollars away from improving your country and instead towards their careers and the careers of their friends, no matter the bloodshed it takes.

They use a variety of tactics, but the most common is making you feel stupid. When Trump launched a missile strike and killed an Iranian commander named Qasem Soleimani which put us on a path towards violent conflict (most likely in order to get reelected), the War Nerds came crawling out of their holes with their thesauruses and hastily scrawled note cards. “Soleimani (whom the vast amount of Americans had never heard of) was one of most evil men in the entire world!” announced the smug War Nerds on their slated cable guest appearances. The clear implication is that if you don’t know who Soleimani was, then it is you who is the ignorant one, it is you who isn’t American enough.

Since you not knowing about Soleimani is a you problem, so you shouldn’t embarrass yourself by asking questions or pushing back. “Prepare to ship out your children and your friends to die in Iran, because we must defend Freedom,” proclaims the War Nerd from his comfortably air conditioned television studio. He doesn’t mean his children or his friends, but that is left unspoken.

That isn’t the only fact that gets left unspoken when War Nerds start calling for violence. Take this article by Stephen Hadley (pictured in the top row, third from the left) in the Washington Post for example. The article opens with a byline that describes Hadley as a former national security advisor, then Hadley takes 914 words to say that these dangerous aggressions might be good because they could lead to the possibility of diplomacy. Nowhere in the article is there a disclaimer that the author also makes hundreds of thousands of dollars every year serving on the board of directors for Raytheon, a defense contracting firm that stands to make enormous amounts of money if we go to war.

On NPR, Jeh Johnson (top row, first from the right) was introduced as the former Homeland Security Secretary and treated as an objective source before the host began asking him questions about Iran. Johnson responded by “sensibly” scare mongering about what Iran could do to retaliate against us. Nowhere in the NPR story is a disclaimer given that Jeh Johnson also makes hundreds of thousands of dollars every year serving on the board for Lockheed Martin, another defense contractor that has the potential to make serious cash if people die. Both Raytheon and Lockheed Martin have seen their stocks shoot up following Trump’s missile strike.

The poisonous effects of War Nerds can even spread to anti-war advocates. On the day after Trump heightened tensions by killing Soleimani, Congresswoman Elissa Slotkin (MI-8) composed a 10 tweet long thread in which she talked about how evil Soleimani was before saying that the strike wasn’t strategic enough. In an effort to seem “reasonable,” you may also be tempted to add these disclaimers to your condemnation, you’re actually just further propagating War Nerd talking points. The average American doesn’t care about who this man was, they care about their kid coming home for thanksgiving instead of for their funeral.

“Aha!” says the smug War Nerd, “Did you know that Soleimani killed American troops in the middle east? I did, because I’m smart, unlike you.” This is where the mask of reasonableness completely slips off the War Nerd, because they always seem to forget why our soldiers were in the middle east to begin with. Maybe if they remembered to tell us that we sent Americans over there because War Nerds like Ari Fleisher (bottom row, first from the left) lied to us, the American people wouldn’t keep having War Nerds like Ari Fleisher on to lie to us again. War Nerds want to blatantly use their past mistakes to justify future ones.

If you are a fellow student on this campus, then you know our country has been at war for our entire lifetimes because older generations decided to listen to these leeches. We are not making the same mistake.

You don’t have to be a political science major to know that killing random people across the world––and getting our own soldiers killed in the process––so some corporate tool can make a couple more dollars is psychotic. You don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows. We’re not going to listen to War Nerds anymore, we are going to shove these blood-sucking monsters back in the locker where they belong.

The Bolivian coup is a rerun

ATULYA DORA-LASKEY
STAFF WRITER

Reading the news regarding Bolivia over the past couple of weeks has left me thinking a lot about Jurassic Park. More specifically what the author of Jurassic Park, Michael Crichton, coined as Gell-Mann Amnesia effect. Crichton described this effect as “You open the newspaper to an article on some subject you know well…You read the article and see the journalist has absolutely no understanding of the facts or the issues…In any case, you read with exasperation or amusement the multiple errors in a story, and then turn the page to national or international affairs. And read as if the rest of the newspaper was somehow more accurate about Palestine than the baloney you just read.”

As most of us may know, on Nov. 10, Eva Morales stepped down from his post as President of Bolivia, but this isn’t the whole story. To see a fuller and more accurate picture, we have to know who Morales is in the first place. Morales was born to indigenous farmers in a small mining village where he grew up herding llamas. Later, becoming the union leader of coca growers, an industry that consisted heavily of former miners who had been laid off as a result of mid-80’s financial austerity in Bolivia. Through his life, Morales witnessed the effects of both colonial racism and neoliberal capitalism.

Morales defied all expectations when his campaigned for the Bolivian presidency by opposing corporate globalization and actually won, becoming the first ever Bolivian indigenous president. His supporters celebrated by waving the Wiphala flag, a flag symbolizing Bolivia’s indigenous people. Morales quickly got to work undoing centuries of colonialism by appointing indigenous activists to major positions in government and centering indigenous concerns in the national dialogue as well as the rewritten Bolivian constitution. With the political party he founded, Movement Toward Socialism, Bolivia began implementing recovery measures with huge success. The GDP grew by over 50%, poverty fell from 60% to 35%, and extreme poverty fell even steeper from 38% to 15%. On these popular reforms, Morales was reelected twice.

Like all Presidential administrations, Morales wasn’t perfect. Many have criticized him for seeking a fourth term in office, which was a violation of the Bolivian constitution. The Bolivian legislature narrowly voted to not grant him another term, but the Bolivian courts struck them down and ruled that Morales was cleared to run again. Morales won 47.1% of the vote, a large enough plurality to not require a run-off election against the second-place candidate. The Organization of American States then claimed that there were irregularities in the voting process without any actual proof, with the Center for Economic and Policy Research disputing this claim. Morales, confident of his popularity, offered to run new elections regardless. Despite this, the military asked him to step down. Wanting to stop the ongoing violence against his family members and party colleagues, he did and left for Mexico in order to gain political asylum.

This coup fits a sinister pattern that points to an obvious suspect. The United States has a habit of destabilizing foreign powers if they don’t cooperate in giving American corporations the resources they want or if they get too close to achieving functional socialism. This isn’t a tinfoil-hat conspiracy, these are open secrets that the US government has declassified and admitted. A few notable examples are the following (A more comprehensive list would require one to see Seth Lester’s “U.S. Policy in Latin America” presentation for Alma YDSA): In 1912, the US occupied Nicaragua and installed an authoritarian government for bananas; In 1916, the US began a brutal nineteen year occupation of Haiti for sugar; In 1919, the US engaged in a military intervention in Honduras for more bananas; In 1954, the US carried out a CIA operation to depose the democratically elected Guatemalan president and replace him with a decades-long brutal military dictatorship so the United Fruit Company could maintain profits; In 1973, the US carried out another CIA operation to depose the democratically elected socialist Chilean president and replace him with a 15 year- long fascist regime in order to avoid the positive example a socialist government might set; In 2003, the US started a a war in Iraq for oil; In 2009, the US used the Department of Defense to back coup in Honduras in order to take a leftist President out of office. All of these actions resulted in the unimaginably horrendous torture, rape, and murder of political dissidents that were far too gruesome to ever be described in a school newspaper. Yet all were justified by the American government due to the financial benefits it gave to US companies.

While we won’t know for many years the level of US involvement in the Bolivian crisis, we do know that the Trump administration has very publicly supported the coup. Western media has closely followed in Trump’s example and declared what happened in Bolivia as a victory for democracy.

As coup forces began to assert control over Bolivia and little-known lawmaker Jeanine Áñez declared herself president by ignoring succession rules, western media legitimized the illegal actions and initially downplayed the new government’s atrocities. Instead of reporting on the racist soldiers cutting off the Wiphala flag from their uniforms or how these soldiers were now being deployed to kill indigenous protestors, the media framed them as forces simply trying to “quell violence”. There is no focus on the racist tweets and remarks Áñez made against indigenous people, instead the western media like The New York Times frames the atrocities with calming headlines such as “In Bolivia, Interim Leader Sets Conservative, Religious Tone”.

So why the refusal to acknowledge what this historical pattern or even properly report on what is happening in Bolivia at this very moment? There’s no insidious conspiracy theory here, no shadowy figure secretly pulling the strings from behind the scenes. As I’ve said before, the real truth is that the mainstream media suffers from biases as a result of its structural values. And the structural values of both the media and the US government aren’t truth or justice, but instead the simple generating of profit. And until that changes, we should always take what these two institutions proudly declare with a heavy grain of salt. We might like to tell ourselves that these core democratic intuitions serve the people, but they won’t actually serve us until we really demand it and fundamentally restructure how they independently work. In the words of Jurassic Park’s Ellie Satler, “You never had control. That’s the illusion!”

The mouse and the monopoly

ATULYA DORA-LASKEY
STAFF WRITER

Graphic by MEREK ALAM

Last Tuesday, Disney officially launched their Disney + streaming service. An initially impressive subscription-based service that allows you to watch all the nostalgic Disney works from your childhood along with all the current Marvel and Star Wars movies, along with some new original additions such as The Mandalorian and High School Musical: The Musical: The Series. I’m here to predictably tell you why this is actually bad upon closer inspection.

One might argue that Disney + is good because it gives people another chance to relieve their younger days by watching classic Disney shows like The Suite Life of Zack and Cody, Kim Possible, Hannah Montana and even The Simpsons. Even more importantly, Disney + provides a platform to watch older classics such as Fantasia, Beauty and the Beast and Aladdin so the younger generation can properly appreciate classics of the past.


I argue that you shouldn’t even need Disney + to watch these at all.

When the United States Copyright Act was first passed, copyrights only lasted about 14 years. This was amended over time, and soon the original author could file an appeal to extend it. By the time the first every Mickey Mouse cartoon emerged, “Steamboat Willy,” copyright had been extended to 56 years (not including renewal). This would not do for Disney, who began immediately pressuring Congress to extend this. In 1976 Congress passed new copyright terms that gave copyright protections for an author’s entire life as well as an additional 50 years. Then, when the deadline for Mickey’s copyright got dangerously close again, Disney pushed Congress to pass the Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act which gave corporate-owned works up to 120 years of copyright protection and free reign to sue anyone who hosts or creates something similar.

In addition, Disney has slowly formed a growing monopoly and makes up near 40 percent of all U.S. box office sales. It’s not creatively or democratically healthy to have so many creative works coming out of one corporation. When Disney once again wants more legislative changes to be made in favor of the corporation, they will leverage your love for their unfairly held properties in order to instill in you actual political opinions.

If the government attempts to increase tax margins and it affects Disney shareholders, you’ll get Marvel movies where Peter Parker must stop an evil government from unjustly taxing Tony Stark’s estate. If Disney workers begin fighting for employee rights, you’ll have a Star Wars sequence where Yoda’s ghost explains to disgruntled cantina workers how unions are actually bad for them. If Congress tries to break up monopolies, they will announce a Guardians of the Galaxy and Star Wars crossover movie so you personally rally for Disney to hold on to their copyrights. Occasionally, a LGBT+ subplot will be added into an animated movie so they still seem “progressive,” but the subplot won’t be too heavily emphasized. After all, Disney will need to edit it out so they can still make money by showing it in China.

Disney is playing a dangerous game. As people realize more and more that the company is solely interested in making money, or that it is coming dangerously close to producing a majority of the art and political messages for our society, they might want to monetarily support it as little as possible. They might install a VPN so they can’t be tracked by their internet service provider or college wi-fi. They might look into how or ask a friend to download these shows and movies through torrents so they can keep these nostalgic works on their computers offline or delete them when they’re finished. They might get into seeding, hostin, and uploading art so everyone can view them without the stranglehold of a monopoly dictating the monthly terms of enjoyment.

Alternatively, they might just use their grandmother’s login.

Regardless, it is important to remember these corporations are never your friend, no matter the friendly content they shove in your face and attempt to hold on to forever. Creative works of our childhood should belong to everyone, not merely the Mouse trying to profit off us.

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