My 2020 Reading List

30/12/2020

As this rather wretched and exhausting year comes to a close, I looked back at my list from 2019 and laughed sadly at my optimistic plans to read more in 2020. Perhaps I did when you count news, analysis, etc. online, but in terms of books it was disastrously minimal. However, the books I did read offered brilliant insights or just fascinating bits of knowledge. So, in no real order:

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Did Gough Whitlam Play Us or the US?

13/12/2020

It has been generally accepted that the Dismissal of Gough Whitlam in November 1975 was a “soft coup”. It was the culmination of various tensions between Whitlam and the United States, namely its intelligence communities (and, by extension, our own). One of the oft cited reasons was Whitlam’s purported opposition to the US’ bases within Australia, perhaps the most infamous of which is Pine Gap in Alice Springs. But did Australia’s arguably best Prime Minister actually oppose them as public perception believes?

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Historical Amnesia Goes Both Ways

07/12/2020

The first time I heard the term historical amnesia, it was in relation to a discussion about American exceptionalism and the masses “forgetting” the more bothersome parts of their history of involvement (ironically, I can’t recall the specific source or case I first came across). But, rereading Noam Chomsky’s On Anarchism (again, ironically because at the time I read it, I did so without any real focus or retention), the now seemingly obvious opposite is also true: that the true victories and battles fought by the masses themselves are also victim to this international blank slate.

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Consent Manufactured? Bill Clinton, Treasury, and Russia

27/09/2020

In his 2002 book, Globalization and Its Discontents, Joseph Stiglitz goes over how he believes Russia’s transition from “communism” to a “market economy” failed after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Despite his mistake in stating that Russia was somehow “Marxist” in nature beforehand, it does explain how, with US assistance, the country continued to freefall to levels below what they were under the Soviet regime. The minute point I want to dissect from this, however, is his faith in then President of the United States, Bill Clinton, to have taken stronger action if he “had been confronted with the arguments”.

I doubt it.

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Reality is Conspiracy Without the Flair: QAnon

06/09/2020

Conspiracy theories have pervaded discourse for decades, from the assassination of JFK to the 9/11 terror attacks being an inside job carried out by the Bush administration. Regardless of the facts and implications one can draw from history and events as they happen, new theories and ideas are added to the pile frequently, particularly with the advent of the internet. These ideas – much like the rhetoric of despotic figures like Donald Trump – are alluring because they offer explanations to those blindly searching for answers. While the questions that led to those answers might be genuine, reality often offers less “fantastic” answers that nonetheless have the benefit of truth.

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The Contradiction of the Zero-Sum Game

03/09/2020

There is a contradiction in the way the proponents of capitalism approach the concept of the “zero-sum game”, the notion that wealth created or owned in one place must come at the expense of others. This conversation has taken many different forms, from the power of the British Empire on a global scale to national debates over the merits of immigration and welfare. But one on side of the debate, there appears to be a glaring inconsistency in their logic.

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Go Read Merchants of Doubt

25/06/2020

Merchants of Doubt, a 2010 book written by Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway, is a must read. As one of the testimonies on the cover of my copy says, if there is one nonfiction book you read this year, it is the one to go for (obviously try to read more than one, but make Merchants of Doubt a priority). It follows a number of stories that mar the history of scientific progress by telling them from the perspectives of actors we often don’t hear from in the modern “debates”: the scientists themselves.

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Report Truth, Not Views

23/05/2020

The idea of journalism being an adversarial “pillar of democracy” is laughable, as I have written a few times on this site before. One of the books I am reading at the moment, Merchants of Doubt, provides examples of how the “fairness” and “balance” aspects of journalism, however desirable in theory, are corrupt and abused in practice. As “conservative intellectuals” of the Internet age love to say, facts don’t care about your feelings, folks.

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Invoking 1984: Chomsky and Silber

27/04/2020

I always enjoy it when people turn to George Orwell’s 1984 in a debate. It must just be the interviews and videos I stumble across, but in a fair number of them they do so from a position of ignorance about Orwell himself and/or in a way to smear their opposition despite them being the founts of questionable information. Words have always been louder than actions in “democracies”.

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David Hannan’s Arguments Against Socialism

12/04/2020

I have recently stumbled into a few videos online with pro-capitalist arguments, decrying socialist ideas and encouraging free markets to take full form. The one thing I have found listening to them, whether their arguments have any legitimate points within, is their selective examples and, at times, complete disfiguration of facts. One such video was an argument about why socialism did not work by a man (who I know nothing about beyond this) called Daniel Hannan. I haven’t written in a while, so what better way to get back into it than by questioning this random guy’s points?

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