Archive for the ‘Inspiring Moments in Resistance’ Category

 

How to Change the World

Directed by Jerry Rothwell (2015)

Film Review

Māori TV showed How to Change the World last night. It relates the story of the 1971 founding of the international environmental group Greenpeace. Based on archival Greenpeace footage and retrospective interviews with its founders, the documentary makes it appear as if the organization founded itself by accident out of Vancouver’s strong anti-Vietnam war movement. During the late sixties and early seventies, the Canadian city was a magnet for young American expatriates fleeing the draft.

The accidental pairing of eco-freaks with antiwar activists in a sea protest to block a nuclear test on the Aleutian island of Amitchitka led them to coin a name – Greenpeace – representing both camps.

Bob Hunter, an environmental reporter for the Vancouver Sun, went along on that first protest in his journalistic role. When the popular uproar generated by that first protest resulted in the shutdown of the Amitchka nuclear test site, he resigned from his newspaper job to spearhead the Greenpeace Save the Whales campaign. His genius lay in creating media “mind bombs” with spectacular footage that instantly riveted popular attention.

The documentary replays the original footage from a confrontation with a Soviet whaling ship off the California coast. It’s graphically cruel and bloody and definitely unsuitable for children’s viewing.

The founders allowed the name Greenpeace to be freely borrowed by environmental groups all over the world. Which, as with most grassroots organizations, led to significant growing pains. Hunter made a number of unpopular decisions without consulting the rest of the group. One of the most contentious was his decision to accept the CIA ‘s offer of free fuel and intelligence an the location of Soviet whaling vessels.

The film can be viewed for free for the next few weeks at the Māori TV website:

How to Change the World

The Prison Factory

Al Jazeera (2017)

Film Review

This remarkable Al Jazeera documentary is about an Alabama prisoner named Kinetik Justice who organized the September 2016 nationwide prison strike with a cellphone he smuggled into solitary confinement. The strike, which spread to 50 prisons in 24 states, also included guards in some prisons, owing to their abysmal working conditions.

Strike demands included an end the illegal use of solitary confinement and beatings by guards, overcrowding (most Alabama prisons exceed their capacity by 100%), inedible food, lack of access to health care and being forced to work without pay.

The escalating hunger strikes and work stoppages organized by Kinetik Justice and the Free Alabama Movement prompted the Department of Justice to launch a civil rights investigation into Alabama prisons (where the majority of prisoners are African American) in 2016.

Since Trump has taken office, Attorney General Jeff Sessions (who as governor reinstated chain gains in Alabama prisons in 1995) has announced the Department of Justice will “back off” this investigation.

In 1996, Sessions’ chain gangs were outlawed by federal court.

Anarchism in America

Pacific Street Films (2009)

Film Review

Despite its 2009 release, this fascinating documentary is largely based on 1980s interviews with America’s most prominent anarchists, including Karl Hess, Molly Stermer, Murray Boochkin and Ed Edamen. As well as a rare interview with Emma Goldman at age 64 (1933) when she was granted a 90-day permit to return to the US.

There is also footage from the 1919-1920 Palmer Raids, in which thousands of anarchists (including Goldman) were rounded up and jailed and/or deported; the global protests triggered by the police frame-up (1920) of Boston anarchists Sacco and Vanzetti; the Spanish Civil War (during which 3 million anarchists ran their own towns, schools, clinics and cultural centers for three years); and the anarchists involved in civil disobedience during the 1980s anti-nuclear movement.

Dispelling many common misconceptions about anarchism, the filmmakers depict anarchist political philosophy as the belief that people are capable of governing themselves independent of any state or hierarchical authority. They challenge all hierarchy – whether in male-female relations, the family, schools or work. Instead they champion decentralized participatory democracy.

Several of the anarchists interviewed view anarchism and distrust of authority as innate in the American cultural identity. This is evidenced by pervasive anti-government and anti-corporate sentiments among the greater US population. Hess asserts that right wing writer Ayn Rand borrowed most of her so-called “objectivist” philosophy from anarchist Emma Goldman.

Edamen asserts that at the end of the 20th century (before it was captured by the Koch brothers and other corporate elite), there were more anarchists in the US libertarian movement than any other group.

The filmmakers also highlight the anarchist roots seen in worker-run cooperatives and the homesteading (now called “prepper”) and anti-government punk rock groups such as the Dead Kennedys.

In 2011, to address the failed US recovery, former Congressman Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) and Congressman John Conyers (D-Michigan) introduced HR2990, the National Emergency Employment Defense Act. The bill proposed to abolish the Federal Reserve system and end the ability of private banks to create money out of thin air.* If the bill had passed, it could have instantly ended all federal deficits and debt, while simultaneously providing trillions of dollars for vital infrastructure and restoring funding to states and local authorities for education, hospitals, clinics, housing, police, libraries and other programs cut after the 2008 economic crash.

The late Stephen Zarlenga, founder of the American Monetary Institute and co-author of the bill, always found it ironic that in 2008-2099 the US Treasury “printed” between $3-15 trillion of new money (aka quantitative easing) – as HR2990 proposes. However instead of spending this government-created money into the economy as HR2990 specifies, they handed it over to private banks. They in turn used it to pay obscene CEO salaries and to inflate their stock prices by buying back shares.

Among other provisions, of HR2990 would

  • Dismantle the Federal Reserve and transfer its powers to a new Monetary Authority operating under US Treasury oversight.
  • Replace all Federal Reserve notes with United States Money.
  • Instruct the Secretary of the Treasury to create United States Money to address any and all deficits resulting from a discrepancy between tax receipts and funds appropriated for government services.
  • Subject to criminal and civil penalties any person [ie banks] who creates or originates United States Money by lending against deposits through “fractional reserve banking.”
  • Prohibit borrowing by the Secretary or by any federal agency or department, independent establishment of the executive branch, or any other instrumentality of the United States (other than a national bank, federal savings association, or federal credit union) from any source other than the Secretary.
  • Require the Secretary to begin to pay off all outstanding US debt payment in full in United States Money.
  • Prescribe requirements for the entry of United States Money into circulation.
  • Require the Monetary Authority to instruct the Secretary to disperse monetary grants to states for public infrastructure, education, health care and rehabilitation, pensions, and paying for unfunded federal mandates.
  • Direct the Secretary to make recommendations to Congress for payment of a tax-free Citizens Dividend to all U.S. citizens residing in the United States in order to provide liquidity to the banking system at the commencement of this Act, before governmental infrastructure expenditures have had a chance to work into circulation.
  • Prescribe requirements for federal funding of education programs, coverage of any deficits in Social Security Trust Fund account, a universal health care plan, resolution of aspects of the mortgage crisis, and a program of interest-free lending of United States Money to state and local governmental entities.

As Kucinich points out in the preamble to his bill, Article 1 Section 8 of the US Constitution places the power to create money in Congress. In 1913, Congress made the foolhardy decision to delegate this bower to the Federal Reserve system and private banks. Predictably the latter operate the US monetary system (and money creation) in such a way as to their profits – and not for the benefit of the American people. The result has been increasing economic instability, skyrocketing income inequality and growing power of private banks, such as Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan – to the extent they virtually control our so-called democratic system of government.

More information on the American Monetary Institute at their website: http://www.monetary.org/

Link to HR2990: HR2990

In the video below, Kucinich** speaks about HR2990 on the floor of Congress in 2013.


*Contrary to popular belief, the government doesn’t create the dollars in circulation in the US. The vast majority is created by private banks out of thin air when they initiate loans. See How Banks Invent Money Out of Thin Air

**Like Bernie Sanders, Kucinich was more of an anti-coproratist than a Democrat. He opposed military intervention in Iraq, Libya, Syria and the Patriot Act. As a presidential candidate in 2004 and 2008 he called for single payer health care, free education (including pre-school and university), instant run-off voting, a moratorium on GMO crops, withdrawal from the WTO and NAFTA, ending the death penalty and the War on Drugs and lowering the voting age to 16. He collaborated with libertarian Republican Ron Paul on a number of bills and currently serves on the Ron Paul Institute advisory board. He lost his seat in 2013 after the Ohio state legislature re-districted his Congressional District out of existence.

 

We Are Legion: The Story of the Hactivists

Brian Knappenberger (2012)

Film Review

We are Legion traces the early history of Anonymous, the vast leaderless international hactivist community, back to geeky pranksters from MIT’s (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) Model Railroad Club. After branching out to form the Cult of the Dead Cow, they would morph into 4Chan, a website where anonymous – mainly adolescent users – go out of their way to post the most repulsive and/or obscene images and text they could think of.

The fact that most 4Chan posts bear the screen name “Anonymous” would inspire a group of 4Channers to formally take that name in 2006-2007. Their first politically motivated prank was directed attack against Neo-Nazi talk show host Hal Turner. In addition to shutting down his website through a DoS* attack, they charged massive amounts of pizza and industrial supplies to be sent to his address. On learning he was an FBI informant (by hacking into his emails), the widely disseminated this information to his right wing supporters.

By January 2008 when they took on the Church of Scientology (after the Scientology lawyers threatened them for disseminated an unflattering video of Tom Cruise promoting Scientology), they had transitioned from pranksters into a virtual online army.

In addition to repeatedly DoS-ing the Scientology website and tying up their hotline, they staged their first street protest in February 2008 – with more than 10,000 Anonymous members picketing Scientology offices in every major city. It was these protests that first popularized the Guy Fawkes mask originating from the V for Vendetta graphic novel and film.

In 2010 they launched Operation Payback to disable Mastercard, Visa and PayPal websites, after Wikileaks published Bradley Manning’s damning emails and videos about US atrocities in Iraq and the four companies suspended Wikileaks online payment services.

In 2011 Anonymous members provided third party website, dial-up and encryption services and text-based Twitter feeds for activists in Tunisia, Egypt and other Arab Spring countries.

It was around this time the FBI began investigating Anonymous – resulting in the arrest of the Anonymous 16 for taking down the PayPal website. Several of the arrestees are featured in the documentary as they prepare to go to trial. Owing the amorphous and leaderless nature of the network, the arrest of dozens of Anonymous activists  seems to have done little to curtail their activists.


*A denial-of-service attack (DoS attack) is a cyber attack where perpetrators seek to make a website  unavailable by temporarily or indefinitely disrupting services. It’s typically accomplished by flooding the targeted website with superfluous requests in an attempt to overload its systems.

Anonymous – The Hacker Wars

Vivien Lesnik Weisman (2014)

Film Review

The Hacker Wars is a riveting documentary about members of Anonymous – the leaderless international hacking community – who have made their identity public. It focuses on four individuals: Andrew (Weev) Auernheimer, Barrett Brown, Jeremy Hammond and a hacker turned FBI informant who went by the screen name SABU.

The first two men made their identify public as a form of civil disobedience – directed at government surveillance, secrecy and suppression of civil liberties. Hammond’s name became public after an FBI informant named SABU entrapped him into hacking into Stratfor, the infamous private intelligence/security contractor.

Weev was arrested in 2013 – not for hacking – but for downloading over 100,000 government email addresses from an unscecure AT&T website and sharing the security glitch with journalists. He served 13 months in jail before his conviction was overturned on appeal.

Barrett Brown, a non-hacker, was a journalist who reported on Anonymous activities. He was arrested for allegedly copying a publicly available Stratfor link to his Project PM website, a clear violation of his first amendment rights. He was sentenced to 63 months in Federal prison. He was released to a halfway house (on house arrest) in November 2016.

SABU was arrested in June 2011 and released after one day after agreeing to infiltrate Anonymous on behalf of the FBI. Eight days later (at the behest of the FBI), he formed the splinter group Antisec, which in September 2011 aggressively promoted Occupy Wall Street to other Anonymous members. In December 2011, he persuaded Jeremy Hammond to assist him with the infamous Stratfor Christmas Hack. This was the operation in which scores of ex-CIA and ex-military operatives who worked for Stratfor woke up on Christmas to discover they had donated $50,000 each to various charities.

Hammond pled guilty and was sentenced to ten years.

The FBI was an active member of Anonymous for nine months in all. SABU’s role as an informant came out at his trial in April 2012. Owing to his invaluable service to the FBI, he walked away a free man.

Steal This Film – Trial Edition

League of Noble Peers (2006)

Film Review

Steal This Film is the prequel to TPB-AFK (see Pirate Bay, Wikileaks and the Swedish Pirate Party), the documentary about Sweden’s prosecution of the four Pirate Bay founders.

It goes much deeper into the ideological values behind Pirate Bay, whose activities its creators view as civil disobedience aimed against Swedish (and American) copyright laws.

The Pirate Bay (TPB) founders and their supporters (including members of the Swedish Pirate Party and the late Aaron Swartz – see The Mystery of Aaron Swartz’s Alleged Suicide) argue that the Motion Picture Association (MPAA), the powerful US lobby that forced Sweden to prosecute Pirate Bay, experienced minimal economic damage from Pirate Bay users sharing free copies of their films. In the their view, the main financial damage to the film industry, music industry and print and electronic stems from the Internet allowing millions of ordinary people to become creators of video, music and the written word. They feel that file sharing is one the best ways to fight archaic copyright laws, which limit creativity and control of information to a handful of elites for their own profit and political control.

They argue it’s virtually impossible to end file sharing owing to its extremely decentralized nature. Every time a big file sharing site like Knapster, Pirate Bay or Kim Dotcom’s Megaupload (see Kim Dotcom and America’s Diabolic Intellectual Property Laws) is shut down, thousands of new ones spring up to take their place.

The documentary also explores historical precedents going back thousands of years where ruling elites have sought to suppress information exchange and creativity. Following the invention of the printing press, France enacted strict censorship laws on printers, publishers and booksellers. This would lead to a dedicated publishing industry in bordering countries that made a fortune by smuggling banned titles to eager French readers.

They point out the MPAA also filed numerous court actions against the first video recorder and MP3 player manufacturers.

Although the Swedish government was extremely reluctant to take action against TPB (and violate Sweden’s guaranteed right to public access), the powerful MPAA put pressure on the US State Department. They, in turn, threatened Sweden with WTO sanctions for failing to uphold “intellectual property” rights. After the MPAA hired their own private investigator to locate TPB’s server and its four founders.

The film TPB-AFK (see link above) covers the trial, in which all four men were found guilty of “accessory to crime against copyright law.” They each served eight to nine months in jail – the last, Fredrik Neij, was released in 2015

Membership in Sweden’s Pirate Party swelled on the back of the TPB case. Countries all over the world have formed Pirate Party – in 2015 Iceland’s Pirate Party would win 16 seats in parliament. The first US Pirate Party was formed in Atlanta in 2006.