Iraq
omfaad

Iraq: harsh backlash hits sexual, cultural dissidents

Iraq’s parliament has passed a law criminalizing same-sex relations, with a punishment of 10 to 15 years in prison. An earlier draft of the law had proposed the death penalty. The new law also includes prison terms for those who “promote homosexuality” or “intentionally” act “effeminate.” Just as the law was being passed, Iraqi TikTok star Om Fahad was shot dead outside her home in Baghdad. Om Fahad, whose real name was Ghufran Sawadi, won nearly half a million followers for sharing videos of herself dancing to pop music. In February 2023, she had been sentenced to six months in prison after a court found that her videos contained “indecent speech that undermines modesty and public morality.” (Image via Instagram)

Planet Watch
toad

Podcast: further thoughts on the common toad

In Episode 221 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg continues the Spring ritual from his old WBAI program, the Moorish Orthodox Radio Crusade (which he lost due to his political dissent), of reading the George Orwell essay “Some Thoughts on the Common Toad“—which brilliantly predicted ecological politics when it was published way back in April 1946. The Social Ecology of Murray Bookchin today informs a radical response to the global climate crisis, emphasizing self-organized action at the local and municipal levels as world leaders dither, proffer techno-fix solutions, or consciously obstruct progress. Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon. (Photo: National Wildlife Federation)

Watching the Shadows
facebook

Podcast: free speech, propaganda and the Facebook dilemma

This week’s Meta outage plunged millions around the world into panic. No sooner did Bill Weinberg get back on Facebook than its robots slapped restrictions on his account for supposedly promoting “dangerous organizations”—precisely in response to his protests against online stanning for extremist groups! Apart from subjection to such Orwellian diktats from Meta’s robotocracy, Facebook has tweaked its algorithm to sideline links to news articles and instead boost “reels” and “memes,” with high entertainment value but little informational content. This has tanked hits for news outlets and resulted in ominous layoffs across the news industry. In Episode 216 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill reiterates his call for a meme moratorium, as the only means of consumer resistance to Meta’s profiteering, anti-social agenda—but also asks what can be done about the more fundamental question of this corporate Borg’s assimilation of every sphere of human reality. Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon.

Watching the Shadows
Flushing

Podcast: Reformation, Remonstrance, Reaction

In Episode 210 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg traces the paradoxical trajectory from medieval heresies to the Protestant Reformation, proto-anarchist movements of the English Civil War, fights for religious freedom in colonial America (with an emphasis on the Flushing Remonstrance of 1657), Abolitionism and the Underground Railroad (e.g. at the Quaker homestead of Bowne House in Flushing, NY)—to evangelical Protestantism as a pillar of Christian fascism in the impending MAGA order. How did we get here, and what elements of American political culture can we look to as a source of resistance today? Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon. (Image: 1957 postage stamp commemorating Flushing Remonstrance via Wikipedia)

Palestine
West Bank

West Bank tips deeper into crisis

With international eyes on the catastrophe in the Gaza Strip, an economic and human rights crisis is rapidly unfolding in the Israeli-occupied West Bank. Violence by both the Israeli army and settlers is escalating, with entire Palestinian villages emptied, the residents forced to flee. Intensified restrictions on mobility are being imposed by the occupation forces, work permits are being cancelled by the tens of thousands, and tax revenues that Israel collects on West Bank exports are being withheld from the Palestinian Authority. At least 290 Palestinians, including 75 children, have been killed since Oct. 7—double the figure for all of last year. (Photo: B’Tselem)

Europe
Lavra

Ukraine bans religious organizations linked to Russia

Ukraine’s parliament, the Verkhovna Rada, adopted Decision Number 8371, banning religious organizations found to have “colluded with armed aggressors” from operating within the country. The measure is clearly aimed at the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, which has been accused of collaborating with Russia. Some 16% of Ukrainians follow the church, which is distinct from the autocephalous Orthodox Church of Ukraine. The church claims that it is not currently aligned with the Russian Orthodox Church and argues the law is unconstitutional. Passage of the law follows the prosecution of church leaders, including the three-year prison sentence of Metropolitan Iosaf, for distributing pro-Russian literature, and imposition of a 60-day house arrest on Metropolitan Pavel, for “supporting Russia’s armed action against Ukraine.” (Photo of Kyiv’s Pechersk Lavra via Wikipedia)

Southeast Asia
Burmese Days

Podcast: Orwell and the crisis in Burma

In Episode 191 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg revisits George Orwell’s first novel, Burmese Days (1935), to see if it offers any insight into the current crisis in Burma. The novel is actually problematic in its portrayal of the Burmese, but Orwell’s anti-colonialist views are better articulated in his little-known 1929 essay “How a Nation is Exploited: The British Empire in Burma.” Ironically, the factors he identified as necessitating “despotic” rule by the British in Burma still mandate dictatorial methods by the regime today—such as the imperative to pacify “frontier areas” where indigenous peoples wage pro-autonomy insurgencies. Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon. (Image via eBay)

East Asia
Yuen

Hong Kong steps up crackdown on Cantopop stars

Hong Kong District Court judge Ernest Lin Kam-hung handed down a judgment sentencing Tommy Yuen, a former Cantopop boy-band member, to 26 months imprisonment. Yuen was convicted of “acts with seditious intention” among other charges. Lin found that Yuen made seditious statements on Facebook and Instagram in 2021 disparaging police and officials. Lin asserted that Yuen had been advocating for Hong Kong independence and insulting Hong Kong’s government. Yuen was well known as a member of the Cantopop boy group E-kids, which was disbanded in 2006. He had been active in the 2019 anti-extradition protests, while Lin won a reputation for his harsh sentences handed down to protesters. (Photo: Yuen, outside West Kowloon Court in March 2021, standing to right of Alexandra “Grandma” Wong. Credit: Studio Incendo via Wikimedia Commons)

Planet Watch
Oppie

Podcast: Oppenheimer and techno-hubris

In Episode 185 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg reviews the Oppenheimer movie, and discusses the legacy of J. Robert Oppenheimer 78 years after Hiroshima. Manhattan Project dissidents like Leo Szilard petitioned to stop the dropping of the atomic bomb on Japan. But such sentiment was overruled by Harry Truman’s geopolitical imperatives—and what Freeman Dyson called the “technical arrogance” of Oppenheimer and his circle. Now, as open Russian nuclear threats continue to mount in Europe, we are poised at the brink of unparalleled catastrophe. Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon. (Image via The Day After Trinity)

Watching the Shadows
computer smash

Podcast: artificial intelligence and the abolition of humanity

In Episode 183 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg continues his rant on the dangers of artificial intelligence, this time focusing on the threat it poses to human evolution. The advent of Elon Musk’s Neuralink brain implant technology, now approved for human testing by the FDA, actually portends the ultimate abolition of humanity, and its replacement by a conditioned post-humanity stripped of all dignity and reason. But there are signs of human resistance to robot rule that we must fan the flames of before it is too late—such as the current strike by Vancouver dockworkers against their replacement by automation. Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon. (Image: Earth First! Newswire)

Watching the Shadows
computer smash

Podcast: artificial intelligence and the abolition of truth

In Episode 182 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg takes heart in SAG-AFTRAjoining the Hollywood writers’ strike, demanding limits on the use of artificial intelligence by the industry. This is a sign of human resistance to robot rule and the growing hegemony of silicon-based “intelligence” over carbon-based intelligent life-forms. Although journalists are not yet at risk of being rendered redundant as script and copy writers are, Weinberg’s own trade of journalism is already being impacted. The post-truth zeitgeist and online cognitive environment of total propaganda is set to become exponentially worse, quantitatively and qualitatively, with the advent of “deep-fakes,” indistinguishable from actual reality. Objective truth, even as a concept, is about to be abolished—unless the human race stands up and says no to AI, before it’s too late. Contrary to the dogma that the “advance” (sic) and ubiquity of this technology is inevitable, resistance is possible. Italy has banned use of ChatGPT within the country. Listen on SoundCloud or Patreon. (Image: Earth First! Newswire)

Southeast Asia
South China Sea

Podcast: geopolitics of the Barbie affair

In Episode 181 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg discusses the strange reality that the Barbie move has been banned in Vietnam over a brief image of a world map appearing to show the “nine-dash line” demarcating China’s unilaterally claimed territory in the South China Sea. While US-China brinkmanship over Taiwan wins headlines, Beijing’s maritime dispute with Hanoi holds unsettling potential for escalation. In a surreal paradox (for those who remember their history) Vietnam has actually been tilting to the US in the new cold war with China. It has also been increasingly resorting to internal police-state measures to protect the interests of foreign capital in the country. All of this constitutes a rebuke both to the neoliberals, who cling to the discredited dogma that “free markets” inevitably lead to peace and democracy, and to the tankies, who rally around both the regimes in Beijing and Hanoi, in defiance of political reality. Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon. (Map via IDSA)