Concern over disaffected workers being swayed by radical rhetoric spurs an international call to action from labor groups
May 11, 2016 – Concerned about the rise of right-wing extremism and how it has preyed on the fears of working people across the world, labor leaders from nearly a dozen countries met in Washington, D.C. on Tuesday to declare the need for a "global New Deal" to fight these forces.
"Too many politicians in the U.S. and Europe are exploiting our differences and inciting hate and division," said Richard Trumka, president of AFL-CIO, which organized the day-long forum along with its non-union affiliate, Working America, and Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, a German political foundation associated with the Social Democratic Party.
Highlighting the unique position of the international labor movement to combat extremism, labor representatives traveled from Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden, and the UK to strategize about how best to counter the appeal of far-right rhetoric to voters frustrated by years of gross inequality and, instead, harness that energy to advance workers’ rights and values.
"Income inequality is a global problem that should unite all leaders; it should not give rise to right wing extremism and building walls," Trumka continued. "We must come together to focus on common issues like raising wages and creating good jobs. Political tactics that scapegoat hardworking immigrants and refugees only serve to pit workers against one another, while ignoring the corporate excess that created these problems."
The forum—which was convened as a reaction to the ascendancy of Donald Trump in the U.S., the National Democratic Party (NDP) in Germany, the National Front in France, Greece’s Golden Dawn Party, and others—"illustrates the extent to which progressive movements across the developed world have begun to view the far right as a common, and urgent, threat," Huffington Post reported.
In fact, as the anti-union think tank Capital Research recently noted, mainstream Republicans who have expressed reservations over Trump’s nomination also see "political opportunity" with the possibility that blue collar workers and so-called "Trump Democrats" will "gravitate toward the GOP—perhaps putting states like Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Minnesota into play in the Electoral College."
Underscoring that possibility, a poll released Tuesday showed Trump essentially tied with Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton in key swing states, including Pennsylvania.
Chinese worker inspecting solar panels
Marxism offers tool to address contemporary ecological crises
By Niu DongJie, Ming Haiying
Chinese Social Sciences Today
May 6, 2016
Zhang Yunfei was born in 1963 in Fengzhen City, Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region. He attended Renmin University of China, where he earned a doctorate in philosophy. Currently, he is a professor at the university’s School of Marxism Studies and a doctoral supervisor in basic principles of Marxism.
The concept of ecological Marxism emerged in the mid-20th century as theorists sought to transcend the capitalist system while resolving mankind’s conflict with nature and realizing true human freedom. A reporter from Chinese Social Sciences Today (CSST) sat down with Zhang Yunfei to talk about ecological Marxism and how it can be applied in a contemporary context to realize sustainable social development.
CSST: What are the connections between the ecological Marxism and Marxism?
Zhang: The connections between the two are viewed from three perspectives.
Some see ecological Marxism as orthodox Marxism. Based on Marxist texts and the history of the discipline, some theorists tried to explore the resources involving ecological thought in Marxism and established a framework of ecological thinking within Marxism. Marxism thus can serve to solve ecological issues.
Others view it as revisionary Marxism. Some scholars thought that Marxism didn’t offer solutions to the issue of “alienated consumption,” which is the cause of ecological crisis. Therefore, a view on ecological issues should be supplementary to Marxism. Other scholars contended that Marxism only dealt with the first contradiction—between productive forces and productive relations—while neglecting the contradiction between them and production conditions, but the second contradiction is the source of ecological crisis.
Hence, the second contradiction became the starting point for ecological Marxism. In fact, Marx and Engels have touched upon these issues. They just didn’t give a clear and detailed explanation of them. To introduce an ecological approach is a revision of Marxism, but the theory is not necessarily “revisionism.”
The third perspective is that ecological Marxism is an innovation of Marxism. After examining the ecological dilemmas facing mankind, some scholars have proposed various theoretical schemas and practical plans to resolve ecological problems and strive for sustainable development, sticking to the stance of Marxism while combining the viewpoints and methods of Marxism with practice in environment protection. In this way, the ecological thinking in Marxism can be enriched and developed.
CSST: Can ecological problems be radically solved through ecological Marxism?
Zhang: In terms of the means of production, ecological Marxism opposes private ownership, especially capitalist private ownership. American scholar Joel Kovel criticized the neoliberalism preached by advocates of the “Tragedy of the Commons” theory. For the purposes of production, John Bellamy Foster, author of Marx’s Ecology, argued that basic needs and long-term environmental protection should be emphasized. When it comes to distribution, Foster held that only by adhering to “environmental equality” can environmental movements avoid becoming alienated from the working class, who stand firm against capitalism in terms of the means of production. James O’Connor argued that the essence of bourgeois justice is “distributive justice,” while productive justice is the aim of ecological socialism.
Ecological Marxism replaces capitalism with socialism as an economic model, which facilitates the ultimate solution of ecological problems. Only by adhering to the notion of popular sovereignty can the ecological transformation of society be achieved.
As for a cultural model, ecological Marxism sees the impact of culture reforms on harmony between humans and nature. Mechanistic thinking, a major factor that leads to ecological problems, should be converted to ecological thinking. Kovel held that to have an ecological understanding is to recognize the fact that humans are part of nature and inseparable from their environment. In terms of values, Foster pointed out that the perspective should be people oriented and focused on poor people in particular. Kovel argued that justice is essential to the mission of liberating the workforce and relieving ecological crisis.
As for social models, ecological Marxism has observed the severity of ecological crisis brought by high consumption in capitalist consumer society, and thus calls for reasonable and ecological consumption. In addition, as the basic unit of society and life, communities directly affect the efficiency of ecological management. Therefore, ecological Marxism emphasizes community and advocates community justice. However, some eco-socialists equte community with anarchism, which should be dealt with based on special cases.
Socialist environmentalist Fred Magdoff put forth a general model for “harmony culture.” “Harmony culture is equal to socialism plus the economic goal of meeting the basic needs of humanity while protecting the environment plus equality in essence plus simplicity in life.” This model is quite inspiring for the establishment of a sound ecological system in socialist society.
CSST: Does ecological Marxism face any limitations or dilemmas in theory and in practice?
Zhang: There are several problems facing the development of Marxism. First, Marxist philosophical ontology is not unified or clear. Realizing this, Kovel introduced the concept of “intrinsic value” of eco-centrism into Marxism, contending that ecological Marxism refers to achieving intrinsic value through a socialist means. However, eco-centrism belongs to the realm of green thought, which does not involve politics, whereas ecological Marxism pertains to red thought, which is dedicated to political issues. Therefore, there are theoretical and political barriers to integrating the two concepts. In addition, issues concerning ecological Marxism are mostly debated using historical materialism, while dialectics of nature are seldom referenced.
Second, emphasis should be placed on constructing a sound ecological system in China. The perception of ecological civilization, the creation of Marxism in a Chinese context, is an innovative development in Marxist ecological thought. Socialist ecological construction in China is an innovation to achieve this goal. Therefore, as Chinese scholars need Marxism as guiding principle, ecological Marxism need to be devoted to Chinese practices. “Organic Marxism” recently proposed by some American scholars highlighted the construction of socialist ecological civilization in China.
CSST: What efforts should be made to promote Marxist ecology studies in China?
Zhang: First, most research on ecological Marxism centers on the thoughts of representative figures, while not many touched on introducing general theoretical logic and contributions. Therefore, what we need now is a comprehensive comparative research perspective and an overall grasp of ecological Marxism to find out its significance relative to global Marxism as a whole.
Second, past research was mostly concerned with the theoretical contributions of ecological Marxism, but more attention should be paid to praxis. Future research worthy of investigation includes ecological Marxism and the Western environment movement, the relationship between environmental NGOs and the Green Party, and whether these NGOs have driven the ecological management in the West to effectively prevent ecological damage caused by capitalism. It is essential to introduce the fruits of ecological Marxism into Chinese practice while pondering the role ecological Marxism has played in global ecological management.
Of course, we must consider all the difficulties and disadvantages facing ecological Marxism. The construction of an ecological society should be promoted by running with rather than nitpicking the theory.
The origins of ecological Marxism can be traced to O’Connor’s (1988) article, “Capitalism, Nature, Socialism: A Theoretical Introduction,” which he wrote as an introduction to the new journal he founded, “Capitalism, Nature, Socialism: A Journal of Socialist Ecology.” In setting up this argument, O’Connor referred to the 1944 book, The Great Transformation, by Karl Polanyi, who O’Connor notes examined the ways in which capitalism destroys nature as one of its inherent contradictions. Polanyi’s works point out that there are limits to economic growth attached to ecological factors, an idea that resurfaced in the 1970s in limits to growth arguments. Those ecological limits to growth are the factors that impede the relentless effort of capital to grow, and present a barrier to the ideological claim of capitalism regarding limitless growth potential.
As an economist, O’Connor well understood the traditional Marxist arguments about economic crisis and the forms in which those crises appear under capitalism. Previously, he had made significant contributions to that literature. In proposing an ecological Marxism, O’Connor sought to move beyond traditional crisis theories of capitalism (e.g., under consumption, over production, the realization of surplus value, the tendency of the rate of profit to fall, the extension of credit, wage deflation, etc.,.). While these issues remain important and useful to ecological Marxism, ecological Marxism directs its attention to the “capitalization of nature.” Part of that view relates to the ways in which the distribution of ownership in capitalist society affects access to nature and its raw materials and forces access to raw materials to become class linked. Another important aspect of this argument involves the ways in which capitalism produces adverse ecological conditions that threaten its stability along with the stability of nature.
—An excerpt from a online databse Green Criminology, by Michael J. Lynch, University of South Florida
Niu DongJie and Ming Haiying are reporters at the Chinese Social Sciences Today.
By Robert Reich
Alternet via USW Blog
Why is there so little discussion about one of Bernie Sanders’s most important proposals – to tax financial speculation?
Buying and selling stocks and bonds in order to beat others who are buying and selling stocks and bonds is a giant zero-sum game that wastes countless resources, uses up the talents of some of the nation’s best and brightest, and subjects financial market to unnecessary risk.
High-speed traders who employ advanced technologies in order to get information a millisecond before other traders get it don’t make financial markets more efficient. They make them more vulnerable to debacles like the “Flash Crash” of May 2010.
Wall Street Insiders who trade on confidential information unavailable to small investors don’t improve the productivity of financial markets. They just rig the game for themselves.
Bankers who trade in ever more complex derivatives – making bets on bets – don’t add real value. They only make the system more vulnerable to big losses, as occurred in the financial crisis of 2008.
All of which makes Bernie Sanders’s proposal for a speculation tax right on the mark.
He wants to tax stock trades at a rate of 0.5 percent (a trade of $1,000 would cost of $5), and bond trades at 0.1 percent.
The tax would reduce incentives for high-speed trading, insider deal-making, and short-term financial betting. (Hillary Clinton also favors a financial transactions tax but only on high-speed trading.)
Another big plus: Given the gargantuan size of the financial market and the huge volume of trading occurring within it every day, this tiny tax would generate lots of revenue.
Even a 0.01 percent transaction tax (a basis point is one-hundredth of a percentage point, or 0.01 percent) would raise $185 billion over 10 years, according to the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center.
Sanders’s 0.5 percent tax could thereby finance public investments that enlarge the economic pie rather than merely rearrange its slices – like tuition-free public education.
By Joshua Koritz
April 14, 2016 – On April 1, over 100 people packed a room near O’Hare Airport in Chicago in advance of the biennial Labor Notes conference. Reports were shared from union locals across the country – all reflecting the still growing momentum for Bernie Sanders within the labor movement. Though the internal situations differ, veterans of the labor movement were all astonished at how quickly Labor for Bernie has grown and gathered endorsements.
Labor for Bernie has had enormous success: it has nearly 30,000 likes on Facebook, five major national unions have endorsed Sanders as well as nearly 100 other union locals. Most recently, Sanders won the endorsement of the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU). This groundswell of support, unfortunately, stands in sharp contrast to the role of a number of union leaders who rushed to back Hillary Clinton and, in many cases, gave their own membership no opportunity to express their views democratically.
Speakers and participants arrived from around the country including Seattle socialist councilmember Kshama Sawant. Many raised the importance of continuing the network that Labor for Bernie has started after the Democratic primary. There was talk of independent electoral politics and building a lasting alternative, however it was guarded and speculative. To huge applause, Kshama called for labor to make a jailbreak out of supporting corporate Democrats and to run its own candidates. An important element of the forces that could be gathered to form a workers’ party was visibly represented in the room.
National Nurses United (NNU) and California Nurses Association (CNA) Director of Public Policy Michael Lighty explained the top issue for the NNU; “Medicare for all is at the forefront. It is unconscionable that a Democrat [Clinton] can be running saying, ‘We’ll never get single payer.’”
Reports from unions around the country included the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU), International Longshoremen’s Association (ILA), Minnesota Nurses Association, the American Postal Workers Union, United Electrical Workers (UE), New York State Nurses Association, New Jersey Industrial Council, and Unite Here Local 2 in San Francisco. Experiences and internal situations vary widely from the NNU which endorsed Bernie nationally, to the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) which decided on no national endorsement and has let its locals decide their own endorsements. From AFSCME Council 28 in Washington state which went against its international endorsement to back Bernie, to the CWA which did an online poll of its members and now backs Bernie. (Continued)
By Bill Fletcher, Jr.  /
April 12, 2016 – Every electoral cycle gives me the sense of “Groundhog Day” within progressive circles. It feels as if the same discussion take places over and again. No matter what has transpired in the intervening years; no matter what mass struggles; no matter what theoretical insights; progressives find themselves debating the relative importance of electoral politics and the pros and cons of specific candidates. These debates frequently become nothing short of slugfests as charges are thrown around of reformism, sell-outs and purism. And then, during the next cycle, we are back at it.
What has struck me in the current cycle are two related but distinct problems. First, progressives have no national electoral strategy to speak of. Second, elections cannot be viewed simply or even mainly within the context of the pros and cons of specific candidates. In fact, with regard to the latter, there are much bigger matters at stake that are frequently obscured by the candidates themselves.
Let’s begin in reverse order. In a recent exchange on Facebook I had with a friend, he raised the point that Hillary Clinton holds some positions to the right of Donald Trump. His, apparent, point was that in a final election, should it come down to Clinton vs. Trump, it would actually not make much of a difference who won. Someone I do not know responded to my friend by pointing out that Hitler was to the “left” of certain candidates as well and that the issue of intolerance needed to be the point of focus.
Looking at the platform or views of a candidate reveals only part of the equation. It gives one a sense of the candidate. What is just as important are the social forces that have assembled around a particular candidate and the direction of their motion. Let’s go back to Hitler for a moment. Within the NSDAP (Nazi Party) there were forces on the left and the right, of course these terms being quite relative. The Brownshirts, otherwise known as the SA (Stormtroopers) proselytized in favor of a “national revolution” in Germany. Hitler and his SA supporters advocated some very radical solutions to the problems facing Germany. They consciously utilized left-wing symbolism (such as a red flag as background to the swastika) in order to appeal to the working class and other disgruntled forces crushed by the economy. They did this while promoting antisemitism and militarism. On June 30, 1934, after assuming power and after cementing his alliance with the German military and major elements of the economic establishment, Hitler and the SS crushed the SA and any further discussion of a “national revolution.” While the SA may have sincerely been interested in their perverted notion of a “national revolution,” the Nazi movement had built a base and a set of alliances that was interested in something quite different: a radical restructuring of capitalism, the end of political democracy, and a relocation of Germany among the world’s powers.
Right-wing populism, whether in its fascist or non-fascist form, can assume a posture and articulate a language that can appear left-wing. History has demonstrated this time and again. Yet right-wing populism is NOT “right-wing + populism” but is, instead, a specific integral phenomenon known as “right-wing populism.” It is irrationalist, xenophobic, frequently anti-Semitic, racist and misogynistic. And it is a movement, rather than just a few crazed individuals.
Looking at Trump and his platform tells us something but not enough. An examination of his base and their objectives is just as important. The white revanchism that exists among his base, i.e., the politics of racial and imperial revenge, flows through and from the Trump campaign like waste through a sewer. The economic anger of the Trump base is something that is very real, but it is anger seen through a racial lens and articulated through coded racial language. (Continued)
By Robert Borosage
Campaign for America’s Future
March 7, 2016 – Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders won three of four state contests over the weekend. On the Republican side, Ted Cruz emerged as the leading challenger to Donald Trump in what is quickly becoming a two-man race. And the seventh Democratic debate, in Flint, Mich., highlighted the differences between the parties as much as the differences between the two contenders.
Democrats: Sanders Still Rising
Sanders took the caucuses in Nebraska, Kansas and Maine, while losing the Louisiana primary, as Clinton continued her sweep of the red states of the South. While the mainstream media – egged on by the Clinton campaign – edges towards calling the race over, Sanders keeps on rising. His expanding army of small donors continues to fuel his campaign. And he can look forward to growing support – particularly in the contests after mid-March, as he introduces himself to more and more voters.
For Clinton, the victory in Louisiana showed her “firewall” of African-American voters continues to hold. The two candidates ended dividing the delegates won over the weekend, showing the tough challenge Sanders faces. But Clinton’s losses in the caucuses should raise concern. Unlike 2008, she is organized and intent on competing in the caucus states. But she clearly has trouble rousing the passions of the activist voters who tend to dominate caucuses.
Republicans: The Donald Is The Moderate
The Republican race is rapidly turning into a two-man faceoff between Donald Trump and Texas Senator Ted Cruz. Trump won the Louisiana primary and the Kentucky caucus over the weekend. Cruz won the caucuses in Kansas and Maine. Marco Rubio and Governor John Kasich trailed badly in all four. Rubio did pick up the Puerto Rican primary on Sunday.
Clearly, the much ballyhooed plan of the “Republican establishment” to rally around Marco Rubio has collapsed. Rubio’s schoolyard taunts at Donald Trump haven’t helped him. If Rubio doesn’t win Florida on March 15 – and he trails badly in the most recent polls – he is gone. If Kasich doesn’t win Ohio, the race may be virtually over.
Now Republicans must look on their works in horror. Trump – the xenophobic, racist, misogynistic blowhard – is the moderate in the race. Cruz, the most hated Republican in the Senate, is a right-wing zealot. He criticizes Trump not for being extreme, but for being squishy – on abortion, on immigration, on judges, on government. Moderate Republicans may now try to rally around John Kasich, if he wins Ohio. Good luck with that.
Their choice is winnowing down to the disruptor against the zealot. The politics of resentment and racial division have blown up in their faces.
The Democratic Contrast: We Do Substance
The most notable contrast during the seventh Democratic debate in Flint, Michigan was not between Clinton and Sanders, but between the Democrats and the Republicans. As Andrea Bernstein, editor at WNYC, tweeted: “Democratic debate so far: guns, schools, health care, trade, infrastructure, transportation, welfare, racism. GOP debate last week: hand size.”
The Democratic exchange was feistier than normal. Clinton is perfecting the technique of interrupting Sanders, hoping to set off a testy explosion. The campaign and the press tried to make much of Sanders telling her “Excuse me, I’m talking.” But after the Republican melee, this is pretty hard case to make. Sanders remains the courtliest of contenders. (Continued)
By Bill Fletcher
Dec 18, 2015 – It is not just Donald Trump; nor is it just Trump and Marine Le Pen (leader of the Front National in France). The specter of right-wing populism haunts the planet and places us all in a state of perpetual anxiety.
Right-wing populism is not equivalent to the entirety of the political Right. It is a specific trend within which one can find movements such as fascism. It rises in response to progressive social movements and it specifically seems to emerge in times of economic crisis when the larger capitalist system has proven dysfunctional. It poses itself as the defender of the “people” against various elites and “alien” forces, frequently defining the elites in racial/ethnic/religious terms. While it may articulate language reminiscent of the political Left, it is more a caricature or a deception which aims to peel away supporters and potential supporters of Left and progressive projects.
Right-wing populism is dangerous in its irrationalism. As one can observe in the Donald Trump campaign, Trump has never been constrained by facts or the truth. Perhaps the most obvious example has been his repeated references to alleged cheering by thousands of Arab Americans (and/or Muslims) on 11 September 2001 at the time of the al-Qaida terrorist attacks. No documentation has ever been discovered of such alleged cheering, yet Trump insists upon it and many of his supporters have either been willing to take a pass on his suggestion or go so far as to back up his story.
There is a term for seeing things that don’t exist…
The irrationalism and revanchism of right-wing populism speaks very much to the crisis faced by the white population of the U.S. and, indeed, the crisis facing so-called whites in many parts of the capitalist world. While right-wing populism is not limited to whites — with a case in point being the Hutu genocide against the Tutsis in Rwanda in 1994 — there is a particularity to right-wing populism in the advanced capitalist world. It is a combination of the sense that their [white] old world is disintegrating due to both massive economic changes as well as demographic changes. In the U.S., such a combination has fueled movements such as the Tea Party that emerged during the first year of the Obama administration.
With the rise of the Islamic State group, right-wing populism in multiple countries has shifted gears with Muslims becoming the target of choice. In fact, it can be argued that Islamophobia is the most acceptable form of open racism of the moment. Islam has been branded, by right-wing populists, not only the religion of terrorists but the religion of the brown and black barbaric masses that supposedly threaten Western so-called civilization.
Right-wing populism cannot be written off as irrelevant lunacy, despite its irrationalism. It is a powerful social movement that represents danger to progress wherever it raises its ugly head. For forces on the Left, the challenge is how to combat this phenomenon? While it will not be easy, it cannot be collapsed into simply offering an alternative for the future, though our work must contain that. It should include, but not limit itself to: (continued)
Dec. 10, 2015 – Now is the time for blunt talk. Donald Trump is a dangerous demagogue generating "scripted violence." Trumpism threatens not just the First Amendment but democracy itself. I call him a right-wing populist using fascistic rhetoric to target scapegoated groups. Other journalists and scholars have dubbed him a fascist or a totalitarian. But we all smell the stench of the burning bodies. So let us have our terminological debates, but setting aside all intellectual disagreements, as citizens of an increasingly unfree society, we must stand up and speak out.
The First Amendment guarantees the free exercise of religion, and that includes the right to call religion ridiculous. It protects devout Roman Catholics and those in the church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster–even those who sometimes wear colanders as hats. Over at Talk to Action. where I often blog, we are nonpartisan, welcome respectful contributions discussing human, civil, and constitutional rights, and find debates between theists and atheists annoying (no trolls blasting either are allowed). Democracy is what we cherish…and it is in trouble.
Some early studies of prejudice, demonization, and scapegoating treated the processes as marginal to “mainstream” society and an indication of an individual pathological psychological disturbance. More recent social science demonstrates that demonization is a habit found across various sectors of society among people who are no more prone to mental illness than the rest of society.
Philosopher Hannah Arendt taught us that ordinary people can become willing–even eager–participants in brutality and mass murder justified by demonization of scapegoated groups in a society
Lawrence L. Langer raises this as a troubling issue regarding the Nazi genocide:
“The widespread absence of remorse among the accused in postwar trials indicates that we may need…to accept the possibility of a regimen of behavior that simply dismisses conscience as an operative moral factor. The notion of the power to kill, or to authorize killing of others, as a personally fulfilling activity is not appealing to our civilized sensibilities; even more threatening is the idea that this is not necessarily a pathological condition, but an expression of impulses as native to ourselves as love and compassion.”
A troubling concept–that some of us who helped jumpstart the Talk to Action website have discussed for decades–is that when most people in a society realize that a fascist movement might actually seize state power, it is too late to stop it. So let us act now: as Republicans, Democrats, Independents and the folks who think voting just encourages a corrupt system. As people of faith, the spiritual, the agnostic, and those who think that God is Dead because she doesn’t exist. We are all in the same lifeboat here. Grab an oar.
Facing History and Ourselves reminds us of the “Fragility of Democracy” in a series of essays by Professor Paul Bookbinder, an international expert on the Weimar Republic in Germany in the period just before that nation collapsed into the inferno of Nazi rule and genocide. No, we do not face a crisis like that faced by the German people in the 1920s and 1930s. Yet as Bookbinder observes, there were moments when Hitler’s thugs could have been stopped.
In her small yet powerful book, Eichmann in Jerusalem, Arendt concluded that evil was banal, and that if there was one clear universal truth, it is that ordinary people have a moral obligation to not look away from individual or institutional acts of cruelty or oppression. We recognize the processes that lead from words to violence, they are well-studied, and the theories and proofs are readily available. Silence is consent. Denial is complicity with evil.
Chip Berlet, an activist involved with building democracy and human rights for over 50 years, is an investigative journalist and independent scholar whose blog is Research for Progress. This post first appeared on Talk to Action.
Local filmmaker Chris Ivey stands at the entrance to East Liberty, now marked by new development
Pittsburgh is poised for growth for the first time in 60 years. Will the city’s African-American community grow with it?
By Ryan Deto
Pittsburgh City Paper
It used to be that community activists, politicians and developers would fight over allowing the gentrification of city neighborhoods. If you eliminated affordable housing and replaced it with housing that was not as affordable, most people agreed it was at least the start of gentrification.
These days, the battle is apparently a little more nuanced.
On Nov. 5, for example, Mayor Bill Peduto tweeted: “So far Pittsburgh’s East Liberty neighborhood has avoided gentrification while reducing crime & improving investment,” with an accompanying study by local analytics firm Numeritics.
The study claims gentrification is “obviously not the case in East Liberty” because all new market-rate development happened on vacant land, and because neighborhood demographics from 2010 to 2013 remained the same.
However, Pittsburgh filmmaker Chris Ivey feels differently.
“The [report authors] certainly knew the story they wanted to tell and chose to ‘back up’ that story with the facts that happen to support it,” wrote Ivey, who documented the demolition of an East Liberty housing project in 2006, in an email to City Paper.
Ivey notes there has been a demographic shift in East Liberty since 2000, with the numbers of blacks declining three times as fast as whites, according to U.S. Census data. Census data also indicate that the northern tract of East Liberty lost hundreds of African-American residents since 2000, and that the median black income there went up 14 percent as a result — or, as Ivey puts it “poor blacks moved out.”
Another statistic foregone by the study was homeownership. According to statistics compiled by Pittsburgh Community Reinvestment Group (PCRG), from 2011 to 2014, East Liberty saw 55 homes purchased by whites, while only three homes were bought by blacks.
So while some may argue whether what’s gone on in East Liberty and other city communities is gentrification, one fact is uncontroverted: African Americans are leaving some of their long-time Pittsburgh neighborhoods in droves because they can no longer afford to live there, and that urban flight could get worse before it gets better.
With thousands of residential units slated for development, the city is seemingly poised for growth for the first time more than 50 years. But will Pittsburgh’s black population grow with it?
Historically, many African Americans came to Pittsburgh in the years between World War I and World War II. During this era of black migration, African Americans settled in the city neighborhoods of South Side, Garfield, East Liberty and Homewood, with the Hill District becoming the preeminent black neighborhood. (Continued)
By Chip Berlet
Demagogic rhetoric targeting unpopular groups of people can incite violence. Republican frontrunner Donald Trump can claim he never told his followers to hurt anyone, and perhaps avoid legal consequences, but Trump is morally responsible. His nasty vilification produces “scripted violence.” The victims of Trumps rhetoric are piling up. The term “incited violence” also describes this process that draws from the media studies concept of “constitutive rhetoric.” Incitement to violence also has legal ramifications.
Last August the Washington Post in an editorial warned that “Mr. Trump’s immigrant-bashing rhetoric breeds violence.” In a column, Robert Reich collected a long list of violence in the path of Republican bigoted blustering. Those that commit bigoted violence “often take their cues from what they hear in the media” wrote Reich in November following the murderous attack on the Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs. Reich said “the recent inclination of some politicians to use inflammatory rhetoric is contributing to a climate” in which violence against targeted groups is real.
Writing about Trump’s nasty rhetoric, and the alarming welcome it has found during the Republican pre-primary media blitz, American Prospect journalist Adele Stan put it bluntly:
===What Trump is doing, via the media circus of which he has appointed himself ringmaster, is making the articulation of the basest bigotry acceptable in mainstream outlets, amplifying the many oppressive tropes and stereotypes of race and gender that already exist in more than adequate abundance.
And it is not just Trump. Some of the other Republican hopefuls closer to the Christian Right also demonize gay people and feminists, and excoriate defenders of reproductive rights. One militant slogan is “If abortion is murder, then act like it is.”
How does the process of scripted violence work? The leaders of organized political or social movements sometimes tell their followers that a specific group of ‘Others’ is plotting to destroy civilized society. History tells us that if this message is repeated vividly enough, loudly enough, often enough, and long enough—it is only a matter of time before the bodies from the named scapegoated groups start to turn up. Social science since World War II and the Nazi genocide has shown that under specific conditions, virulent demonization and scapegoating can—and does—create milieus in which the potential for violence is increased. What social science cannot do is predict which individual upon hearing the rhetoric of clear or coded incitement and turn to violence.
In their study of how media manipulation for political ends can help incite genocide, Frohardt and Temin looked at ‘content intended to instill fear in a population’, or ‘intended to create a sense among the population that conflict is inevitable’.  They point out that ‘media content helps shape an individual’s view of the world and helps form the lens through which all issues are viewed’. They found two patterns: content creating fear and content creating a sense of inevitability and resignation that violence was about to occur. According to the authors:
- In Rwanda prior to the genocide a private radio station tried to instill fear of an imminent attack on Hutus by a Tutsi militia.
- In the months before [conflicts] in Serbia, state television attempted to create the impression that a World War II–style ethnic cleansing initiative against Serbs was in the works.
- Throughout the 1990s Georgian media outlets sought to portray ethnic minorities as threats to Georgia’s hardfought independence.
Frohardt and Temin found that media can create a sense within a target population of potential perpetrators of violence that ‘imminent’ and serious threats were to be expected, even though ‘there was only flimsy evidence provided to support them’,
===When such reporting creates widespread fear, people are more amenable to the notion of taking preemptive action, which is how the actions later taken were characterized. Media were used to make people believe that ‘we must strike first in order to save ourselves’. By creating fear the foundation for taking violent action through ‘self-defense’ is laid.
In approaching some of these questions social science uses the concepts of ‘constitutive rhetoric’; the vilification, demonization, and scapegoating of a named ‘Other’; coded rhetorical incitement by demagogues; the relationship between conspiracism and apocalyptic aggression; and the process of scripted violence by which a leader need not directly exhort violence to create a constituency that hears a call to take action against the named enemy. These processes can and do motivate some individuals to adopt a ‘superhero complex’ which justifies their pre-emptive acts of violence or terrorism to ‘save society’ from imminent threats by named enemies ‘before it is too late’.
Conspiracism evolves as a worldview from roots in dualistic forms of apocalypticism. Fenster argues that persons who embrace conspiracy theories are simply trying to understand how power is exercised in a society that they feel they have no control over. Often they have real grievances with the society—sometimes legitimate—sometimes seeking to defend unfair power and privilege.  Nonetheless, Conspiracism can appear as a particular narrative form of scapegoating that frames demonized enemies as part of a vast insidious plot against the common good, while it valorizes the scapegoater as a hero for sounding the alarm. 
Conspiracist thinking has appeared in mainstream popular discourse as well as in various subcultures in the United States and Europe.  In contemporary examples we can see conspiracy theories built around fears of liberal subversion by President Obama; fears of government attempts to merge the United States, Canada, and Mexico into a North American Union; and fears that Muslims living in the United States are plotting treachery and terrorism. (Contnued)