CJW: Welcome to another edition of nothing here. This issue is MKY’s final one with us as he wants to focus more on his own writing. It’s been great having him on-board over the years, but I completely understand the need to focus on your own work. You can still find him at https://www.patreon.com/m1k3y or working out while listening to deep-dive geopolitical podcasts.
If you like what we do and want to support us, you’ve got a couple of options:
Both give you access to the full bonus archive, as well as new bonuses as they are posted. Another thing you can do to help spread the word is forward this email to someone you think might enjoy it.
For our latest bonus, see below under Society and The Culture.
Daniel Harvey (DCH) - Designer, writer, provocateur. Pro-guillotine tech critic. @dancharvey
Marlee Jane Ward (MJW) - is also Mia Walsch. Writer, apocalypse witch, goth aunt.
Corey J. White (CJW) - Author, podcaster, sin-eater.
Lidia Zuin (LZ) - Journalist, MA in semiotics, and PhD in Arts. Sci-fi writer, futurology researcher and essayist. @lidiazuin
CJW: A Conversation About Civilizational Collapse - Umair Haque (via Sentiers)
What does [the greatest wave of investment in human history] wave have to do? It has to provide decarbonized basics, from food to water to energy. But even deeper than that […] our civilization’s Big Four, fertilizer, glass, cement, and steel, all depend critically on hydrocarbons. We need to make those clean, too. And then we need to provide every human being on planet earth with a little money, food, water, shelter, sanitation, an education, so that fascism, which has already returned, is stopped in its tracks.
Big job. Big jobs.
Why do we have, at this point, three generations of chronically underemployed young people? Who are fast losing faith and optimism in the future? Who barely believe there’ll be one? Why is the feeling that young people will live worse lives than their elders?
Because we’re not doing this work.
There is a lot to this piece, so well-worth a look. The idea that the coming collapse will look like a cross between the US (in all the ways it is experiencing societal collapse) and the Indian subcontinent (where crops are failing, resources are scarce, and the temperature can kill) is a harrowing one. Still, in the cataloguing we do here, I don’t have much reason to think Haque is wrong.
CJW: Revolt Against Debt - George Monbiot
Developed by campaigners in some of the world’s most exploited countries, it’s a brilliant idea: simple but systemic. Rich nations owe a massive climate debt to poorer nations: for the devastating impacts of the fossil fuels we have burned. Yet they have no intention of paying for the loss and damage they have caused. Poor countries are deemed to owe massive financial debts to the rich nations, yet they cannot pay them without destroying their economies and their ecosystems. The proposal is simultaneously to cancel both the climate and the financial debts, liberating the money poorer nations need to take climate action.
Personally I wouldn’t mind seeing rich nations still paying their climate debt (even if it’s into some global fund for a strategic whole-Earth approach to mitigating climate change - the investment Haque talks about above?) even as we forgive poorer nations’ financial debts.
I don’t imagine it ever happening, but that’s why it seems like climate debt forgiveness shouldn’t simply be given up - it could be used as leverage to force the West to make amends for colonialism and everything else since then.
The idea that the global south, looted and enslaved for centuries, should owe money to its exploiters is grotesque.
CJW: Planting trees isn’t enough. Here’s why we need tiny man-made forests - Interview with Hannah Lewis at Inverse (via Sentiers)
Mini-forests (or perhaps micro-forests) are something I’ve been wanting to see along the sides of roads, people’s yards, and any other unused urban area for ages now, I just didn’t know it had a name. I also didn’t know that when groups do those huge tree planting programs they tend to just… plant lines and grids of trees. It’s obvious to me as a layperson that you want multiple types and layers of plant life to create an interlinked ecosystem. Anyway, great little interview.
MKY: ALL MY HOMIES LOVE THE MIYAWAKII METHOD!!!
We’ve got so far to go, esp here in the ex-English colonies, to undo the ravaging of the natural world done in the name of Progress. This is a tiny step towards it. ‘Least, it could be.
MJW: Here in Australia this could also be a meaningful way to engage with Indigenous knowledge and culture, a tiny way to start decolonising yourself and your community.
DCH: SCOTUS isn’t content to just fuck with abortion rights. They’re also abusing their authority to push ahead with a wide-ranging right-wing agenda. In the recent West Virginia vs EPA ruling, they’ve gutted the Federal government’s ability to fight climate change. Here’s a mini link dump to get you up to speed:
With time ticking for climate action, Supreme Court limits ways to curb emissions
Three Climate Rules Threatened by the Supreme Court’s EPA Decision
What’s On and Off the Table for Climate Action after the Supreme Court Ruling
The Silver Lining in the Supreme Court’s Decision to Limit Carbon Emission Regulations
All while the rest of the world expressed dismay, and environmentalists were murdered in the Amazon, and Sydney was evacuated due to life-threatining rainfall, and Japan and India struggle with deadly heatwaves. And while the US itself struggles with deadly heat domes. Oh and the water wars have come to the American suburbs.
CJW: I’m glad you’re still paying close attention to US domestic issues, Dan, because I find it such a struggle. Everything coming out of the Supreme Court is fucking depressing.
Feel the Burn - George Monbiot
Very wet and very dry: unprecedented droughts and hyper-damaging floods in the future - Ellen Phiddian at Cosmos
Plant-based meat by far the best climate investment, report finds - Damian Carrington at The Guardian
Toxic Slime Contributed to Earth’s Worst Mass Extinction—And It’s Making a Comeback by Chris Mays, Scientific American
The world will need dozens of breakthrough climate technologies in the next decade by Varun Sivaram, MIT Technology Review
MKY: The west’s Plan B: Secure the realm
Often overlooked though, has been the devastating impact of these sanctions on the Global South. US economist Michael Hudson argues that the Ukraine war is merely a catalyst to impose sanctions that would result in global food and energy crises – allowing the US to coerce the Global South to be “with us or against us.”
Indeed the impact of these crises are compounded by the earlier detrimental impact of Covid lockdowns. Food, energy and economic crises are further exasperated by the US Federal Reserve raising interest rates which directly impact the debt servicing ability of Global South countries, placing them on the edge of bankruptcy and at the mercy of the western-controlled World Bank and International Monetary Fund — the instruments for effectively locking these nations within the western realm.
Thus, despite the very negative impact of sanctions on western countries, these nevertheless fit perfectly with the strategic objective of locking in as many Global South countries within the western sphere of influence.
CJW: Related to the Monbiot piece up top, this helps to explain why debt forgiveness for the global South, however good, right, and fair it would be, will take a huge swell of support. The IMF has been a tool of Western hegemony, neoliberal austerity, and extractive asymmetrical globalisation for decades. Don’t expect that to change without a fight just because we’re fighting for a livable future for more than just the wealthy minority.
It’s an opinion piece, but still some interesting points to consider.
DCH: Oh hey. Me again. Ranting about SCOTUS again. It’s not just abortion and climate attacks (or stupid bullshit gun decisions) too.
As part The Supreme Court’s shock-and-awe judicial coup lead by the extremist Chief Justice John Roberts, tribal sovereignty has also been kicked in teeth. The corrupt judiciary is also obliterating the separation of church and state in their ongoing attacks against public schools. And as I’m sure you’re already keenly aware (but in case you’re not) Clarence Thomas wants to wipe out marriage equality and contraception next and that whole faction wants to do away with democratic Presidential elections too.
Our only hope is the Democrats find the wherewithal to finally pack the Supreme Court. Although that’s unlikely as they’ve been enablers of the right’s Supreme Court takeover the whole time. We can always hope against hope that someone, somewhere takes the fucking hint with all the Tik Tok doxxing that’s going on…
The 37 People Killed in Melilla Are Victims of Europe’s Murderous Border Regime - Eoghan Gilmartin at Jacobin
Fight to Survive Another Day - George Monbiot - CJW: The same attack on protest is happening here in Australia, particularly related to climate protestors.
Colombia Is Finally in the Midst of a Long-Awaited Opening for Left Politics - Julián Reingold at Jacobin - CJW: More on South America’s left turn.
Thinking About the Unthinkable in Ukraine by Richard K. Betts, Foreign Affairs
Foreign Fighters in Ukraine Could Be Time Bomb for Their Home Countries - Seth Harp at The Intercept
How the Pentagon Uses a Secretive Program to Wage Proxy Wars by Nick Turse Alice Speri, The Intercept
Boris Johnson Is Going, but We’re Stuck With the Same Right-Wing Nightmare by David Broder jacobin
MIT researchers propose using Space Bubble shield to reflect the sun - (via Sentiers)
New concentrator could help solar panels capture more sunlight – without tracking it - Imma Perfetto at Cosmos
Yeah, space tourism is ruining the ozone layer, study finds by Matt Wille, Input
A Tech Millionaire Bought a Giant Cold War Radar to ‘Find UFOs’ by Matthew Gault, Vice
Information Could Be the Fifth State of Matter, Proving We Live in a Simulation by Manasee Wagh, Popular Mechanics
CJW: The Mirror of Language - Max Anton Brewer at Return
[Rather than “Artificial Intelligence” t]he more accurate term is language models. They read a ton of text and use statistics to guess the next word at each step, like an enormous autocomplete engine. They attempt to predict what language-at-large will do, not what an intelligent agent would do.
Language models are not beings, but world simulators. Your prompt sets the parameters of the simulation, of what word should come next given the situation described. The language model projects our world back to us, one word at a time.
By choosing the right prompts, you can direct this mirror world. The art is in crafting language, combining words in just the right way to express your desire to the model.
The art of prompting is pre-scientific. It deals with the imaginal, the subliminal, the “collective unconscious” of billions of minds speaking as one. It requires precision of language and intent, and it produces miracles. There is a word for such a practice: magic.
Max Anton Brewer (who’s newsletter projects we’ve previously shared) on language model “AIs” and using magic(k)al tools/thinking as you work with the models, twisting the mirror of language to reflect exactly what you’d hoped for, or perhaps something entirely surprising.
Definitely ideas I want to keep in mind the next time I go and play with MidJourney or GPT-3.
DCH: The Dobbs decision has exacerbated big tech’s shortcomings–particularly around privacy and speech. Who the fuck even knows what period tracking apps are doing with your information? Online abortion pill provider Hey Jane and even Planned Parenthood have been sending visitor data to Facebook and Google.
Google says it will delete location data when users visit abortion clinics but that’s still limited solace given tech companies may surrender abortion-related data anyway through other means.
There was a lot of justified outrage as Facebook removed posts on abortion pills even when they didn’t break any rules but to hear abortion activisits tell it, the company has long been censoring related content.
All this in light of the new risks of stalkerware and other high tech pathways to male revenge fantasies.
Big Tech remains silent on questions about data privacy in a post-Roe US - Abby Ohlheiser & Hana Kiros at MIT Technology Review
Hacker claims to have obtained data on one billion Chinese citizens at The Guardian
Parents sue TikTok after 7 kids die from profitable Blackout Challenge videos by Ashley Belanger, Ars Technica
New lawsuit claims Facebook could still access deleted user data for cops by Andrew Paul, Input
Two new fatal Tesla crashes are being examined by US investigators by Andrew J. Hawkins, The Verge
A New Lawsuit Says Instagram Hurts Teenagers by Design by Wayne Unger, Slate
Facebook could be sued for addicting children under California bill by Ashley Belanger, Ars Technica
Prepper Paradise. Designing for the end of the world by Regine, we-make-money-not-art
CJW: Revenge - Dan C. Harvey at Nothing Here
You’d be forgiven if you’ve not heard of Jane’s Revenge before. Coverage of these actions are thin in the mainstream media barring The WSJ which called the group “shadowy” and likened them to the Jan 6 Insurrectionists. More leftist outlets like The Intercept have covered them cautiously while Robert Evans suggested support for their brand of “ethical terrorism” in a recent podcast. Libertarian press like Reason Magazine has opined that Jane’s Revenge could be a “false flag op.” The rightwing media ecosphere from Fox News to Breitbart to The National Review, however, has been having an absolute field day covering them.
Social media however was exceedingly quick to respond… by censoring the group, and any support of it entirely.
I’ve gone ahead and unlocked Dan’s latest bonus because it’s timely and because I think it’s a great piece and I wanted to talk more about it here. It’s a great encapsulation of the cowardice of both social media companies and the Democrats in the face of right-wing theocracy.
One of the takeaways I had from Dan’s piece is recognising that as polite liberalism continues to collapse and fascism’s resurgence continues, you might find yourself supporting so-called “terrorist” organisations, whether those are abortion activists, climate activists, or antifa.
The Democrats Have Been Embarrassingly Useless on Abortion - Branko Marcetic at Jacobin
How Colombian Feminists Decriminalized Abortion: With Help From Their Neighbors
Women had much more autonomy over abortion decisions in the 1700s. Here’s how history turned by Maurizio Valsania, fastcompany
The Lessons From the Right’s 50-Year-Long Crusade to Limit the Freedom of Women by David Corn, motherjones
The Abortion Rights Movement Must Now Turn to Grassroots Organizing and Direct Action by Anne Rumberger, jacobin
Voting Harder Won’t Bring Back Roe by Ben Burgis, jacobin
Biden Signs Executive Order Aimed at Protecting Abortion Rights by Samantha Michaels, Mother Jones (DCH: don’t get your hopes up. It’s vague and tepid thus far.)
CJW: I Should Be Able to Mute America - Patrick Marlborough at Gawker
America has effectively built a Green Zone in our cultural consciousness, replete with the obligatory Maccas. Our imaginations, memories, and selves have been well and truly occupied, and the schizoid psychic agony of mainlining our nation’s duel nightmares is, more often than not, excruciating.
Inspired by the beautiful thread that saw fungbunger banned from Twitter. Amen to the headline, a-fucking-men.
Dangerous herbal abortion misinformation is thriving on WitchTok by Jessica Lucas, Input
The Strange and Terrifying Ideas of Neoreactionaries by Elizabeth Sandifer, Current Affairs - CJW: This is a fantastic read, and works as a great summary of the alt-right/new right/neoreactionary movement.
Redditors Revived An Obscure Cult That Believes A ‘Mass Harvesting of Souls’ Is Imminent by Tamlin Magee, Vice
Who Segregated America? by Colin Gordon, Dissent
The Science on Anal Pleasure Is In (But Not All the Way) by Samantha Cole, Vice
NYPD Is Posing as Amazon and FedEx Drivers to Arrest ‘Sexual Offenders’ on the Subway by Aaron Gordon, Vice (DCH: speaking of assholes…)
CJW: Why pregnancy is a biological war between mother and baby - Suzanne Sadedin at Aeon
When scientists tried to gestate mice outside the womb, they expected the embryos to wither, deprived of the surface that had evolved to nurture them. To their shock they found instead that – implanted in the brain, testis or eye of a mouse – the embryo went wild. Placental cells rampaged through surrounding tissues, slaughtering everything in their path as they hunted for arteries to sate their thirst for nutrients. It’s no accident that many of the same genes active in embryonic development have been implicated in cancer. Pregnancy is a lot more like war than we might care to admit.
On the various vicious contests involved in mammalian (and specifically human) pregnancy. It’s all body horror.
DCH: Fucking hell. That’s the next Cronenberg movie sorted then.
MJW: Jfc, I KNEW reproduction was trying to kill me, it’s why I have been trying so hard to avoid it. It’s trying to kill us all. Bitch causing as much harm to women’s bodies as the Supreme Court.
Learning and Not Learning Abortion - Laura Kolbe at N+1 Mag
The U.S. will offer nearly 300,000 doses of monkeypox vaccine in the coming weeks by William Stone, npr and What You Need to Know About Monkeypox by Céline Gounder, scientificamerican
Parts of Manhattan Back at 20% COVID Positivity as 6th Wave Gains Steam at nbcnewyork & COVID was the leading cause of death in Americans aged 45-54 in 2021 by Beth Mole, arstechnica
How lax social media policies help fuel a prescription drug boom by Hirsh Chitkara, protocol
MJW: Ocean Freight Shipping Costs Are Driving Goods Prices Higher - Michael Grabell at ProPublica
“Demurrage charges are one way in which ocean carriers abuse their monopoly power over ocean transport,” the fruit importer William H. Kopke Jr. Inc. wrote to the commission. “Particularly when the cargo is perishable, it is as if the cargo is held hostage. If the receiver does not pay any charges demanded immediately, not only does the cargo rot while the charges are under dispute, but demurrage charges will continue to accrue.”
On supply chains, fragility, monopolies and waste.
DCH: Crypto was always driven by a whole lot of debt and now that winter has sent in those debts are being called in. While Wall Street has avoided the worst of it, Crypto hedge fund Three Arrows has not. Nor has Voyager–which is blasting some people’s life savings.
And that’s the worst part about all this. It’s not just libertarian tech bros—there are a lot of real people getting really fucked. Black Americans’ higher exposure to cryptocurrencies has left them more vulnerable to the meltdown. Members of the community bought into the marketing and hype that they could use this to get ahead. Turns out it’s all just racist wealth extraction.
Of course even this blustery winter isn’t enough to stop the zealots. House flippers are gentrifying neighborhoods with crypto mining in crypto towns across the US. Beyond the US, In El Salvador, things are getting even bleaker though as Bitcoin and the police state are increasingly entangled with one another.
Thankfully some countries are getting serious about regulation. Hopefully the US can learn a thing or two from the EU on that front. Although current proposals aren’t exactly heartening since they’re all but asking the crypto industry to regulate itself.
Clearly we need more crypto-sceptics like Molly White influencing policymakers.
Google’s ‘Democratic AI’ Is Better at Redistributing Wealth Than America by Janus Rose, Vice
Tesla hit by new lawsuit alleging racial abuse, The Guardian
Pro-union group claims Amazon lied about worker safety by Sarah Roach, Protocol
Amazon Hub in Newark Is Canceled After Unions and Local Groups Object by Karen Weise and Noam Scheiber, The New York Times
We Are in a Unique Moment of Labor Upsurge That Requires Rethinking the Old Organizing Rules by Chris Brooks, Jacobin
Worker-Owned Apps Are Redefining the Sharing Economy by Megan Carnegie, Wired
Dutch Parliament Approves to Make Work From Home a Legal Right by Diederik Baazil, Bloomberg
Belabored: Reproductive Justice Is Labor Justice by Sarah Jaffe and Michelle Chen, Dissent (DCH: excellent read)
MJW: I posted a link to Eloise Grill’s fantastic essay The Fat Bitch in Art a while ago. Since then her debut book has been released. big beautiful female theory is a fucking beautiful book, a graphic memoir that romps through concepts of the body, shame, sexuality, social media, and more, with wild abandon and watercolour nudes.
CJW: Love and Monsters
I avoided this film when it first came onto Netflix. Partly because it’s rated PG and I’m an adult, partly because it’s infuriating the way Netflix pushes their new shit and I can tend to be contrarian. (Worse is the current thing where the text description doesn’t tell you anything meaningful about the film because they want you to watch the trailers [which fucking autoplay all over the place with no option to turn off].)
The other day I actually bothered to watch the trailer for Love and Monsters and from that, put the movie right on.
It’s a comedic post-apocalyptic tale, not unlike Zombieland in a number of ways, but with a variety of mutated animals in place of zombies. I hope that doesn’t sound too reductive because I mention the similarity because I think both films are great (even Zombieland 2 is worth watching, though the Homer zombie “jokes” are so bad they almost ruined it).
Teens Joel and Aimee are separated as the apocalypse begins, each going with their families to find safety. Seven years later, lovestruck Joel is able to locate Aimee at another survivor “colony” 80-odd miles away. Despite being useless in dangerous situations (he has a freezing problem), he decides to trek all those dangerous miles to be reunited with his lover. On the way he meets interesting characters, learns things, etc etc - nothing here is going to feel unfamiliar, but it’s well-written, well-acted, and has a lot of heart.
The thing that really sold it to me as a film that I knew I would love, was the way it treated cooperation between species. The first time Joel meets the dog named Boy, he talks to the animal as though it can understand him - and this being an adventure film, it kind of can. He admonishes himself just once for talking to a dog, but he doesn’t stop doing it. Sure, this is probably meant to show how he’s a bit of an odd guy, but above all sweet and considerate, but I saw it as the first sign of a thread of interspecies cooperation that would run through the whole film. The two continue the adventure together, but it’s not a man and his dog, it’s two travelling companions, two equals.
And one of the most touching scenes in the film is a conversation between Joel and a robot who he again treats as an equal. It’s not a human, but Joel approaches it as a person worthy of consideration. If you’ve read Repo Virtual you’ll know why this appealed to me.
Anyway, I highly recommend the movie. And no, nothing bad happens to the dog, don’t worry.
MKY: Sounds like it might be something for people who enjoyed Kipo and the Age of Wonderbeasts.
MJW: It was also filmed in Australia, which is evident in the many forest scenes. The bush is distinctive, yo.
DCH: Does Batman Have to be Copaganda? by Kevin Fox, bloodknife
Superheroes are fun flights of fantasy, and any social critique of them will be met with dismissal by some. But as superhero films continue to dominate box offices, their commercial importance contributes to their cultural importance, and many fans continue to demand they’re taken seriously. Batman was ahead of the curve on this, with each consecutive live-action reboot since 1989 (aside from Schumacher) more “realistic,” for better or worse. A grounded Batman means a Batman dealing with solving problems that a neglectful or incompetent police force is struggling to handle or complicit in creating. The only way for Batman stories to escape being police propaganda is to accept that police are not the cure, and crime is merely a symptom of the sickness. It’s a sickness that requires an excess workforce to keep demand for work higher than demand for workers, allowing wages to be suppressed. It’s a sickness that rewards greed and empowers people with resources to hoard those resources at the expense of people they are supposed to serve. It’s a sickness that criminalizes survival and that criminalizes any response to government corruption that might create change. It’s a sickness that imprisons and extracts labor and the resultant excess value from the imprisoned. It’s a sickness that, in real life, requires art to conform to its ideology to maximize profit.
The reason Gotham teems with corruption and graft is because of capitalism, and—despite all the tools in his cave and utility belt—Batman isn’t prepared to fight it.
A terrifically spot-on teardown of the central dilemma being a lefty reader/viewer of Batman comics and movies.
CJW: Elsa Bleda MidJourney Experiments
In this thread, Bleda recommends people use a more abstract to their prompts with MidJourney. I thought the images in this thread were great, but I think Bleda perhaps downplays the importance of the “lighting and render style preferences” that you also need to add when creating. I also tried using some more poetic and/or abstract prompts with MJ, but without those render style preferences it can tend toward simply trying to draw the words from the prompt. So do the abstract prompts actually create the interesting output, or is it mostly the style preferences and the pre-existing images MJ refers to when looking at examples of that style?
Anyway, I’ve had some ideas for some MJ projects, so I might end up paying for a subscription soon, in which case expect more here. (And I’ll certainly be relating to Brewer’s piece above.)
DCH: it’s gorgeous but why does all AI fine art look like this? Like what if Simon Stalenhag did album covers for Tool?
DCH: Check out an online art exhibit of the censored and shadowbanned by Chris Stokel-Walker, input
Renowned photographer Rankin has curated an online exhibition–The Unseen––of images censored by social media giants like Instagram and TikTok. Alongside each image is the, often nebulous or non-existent or outright bullshitty rationale offered by the tech companies. I know a few of the creators in the exhibit and have seen the ongoing struggles they’re enduring thanks to uptight cis white tech dudes and their nipple panic.