Archive for the ‘Disinformation’ Category

anarchy-flagLaina Farhat-Holzman, a self-described  “historian, lecturer, and author,” has managed to invoke the spirit of yellow journalism that characterized corporate media accounts of anarchism and anarchists at the turn of the last century. Ms. Farhat-Holzman’s sensational and inaccurate piece attempts to compare the thoughts and actions of anarchists with those of adherents to political Islam, a daunting task for even the most skilled novelist. I’d prefer to avoid engaging in the kind of amateur psychoanalysis and whole cloth fabrication that Farhat-Holman engages in, but her contempt for Islam appears to be largely personal, having been married to, and divorced from, an Iranian student and losing her  job “as the cross-cultural expert on a project that involved a number of US defense firms, US intelligence agencies, and the Iranian Air Force”  when the Shah was deposed. Her biography however, offers no clue as to what her personal problem with anarchists could be. Maybe she lost her place in the ivory tower to an anti-authoritarian and that is why she is willing to teach private classes “for groups of ten or more, able to meet in a private home or clubhouse, four-part classes are available. These classes can be arranged for every other week sequentially. Cost is $40 per person per series.” Or maybe her favorite ATM was disabled as a result of solidarity actions with Greek anarchists that occurred  in Santa Cruz?

Her take on the events in Greece appeared in the hard-right, Family Security Matters, which seems to be an outlet for private-plane populists to indoctrinate soccer moms and their families into the politics of fear and terror. The “security moms” of the 2004 election. FSM  is a front group for the Center for Security Policy, a neoconservative think-tank, who counted among it members, high ranking officials of the administration of  former president, George W. Bush. Family Security Matters gained some much deserved notoriety in 2007, when it published Conquering the Drawbacks of Democracy, which advocated appointing Bush as “president for life” and then they did their very best to “disappear” the article in question, a favored tactic of the right-wing. I was only half-serious in my advocacy of “Bush for Life”, but it was due to his knack for discrediting the ménage à trois of Church, State, and Capital

But back to the much more entertaining editorial for the Santa Cruz Sentinel entitled Anarchists have a long and nasty history. (How entertaining you ask? Entertaining enough that I am using a backup keyboard while waiting for the coffee that blew out of my nose onto the 1st string keyboard to dry, from when I first read it on Anarchist

The great historian Barbara Tuchman “The Guns of August”, the expert on how World War I erupted, wrote another book: “The Proud Tower,” 1966 in which she closely examined the players and events between 1890 and 1914, when the war broke out. We forget how much terrorism, assassination, and mayhem there was during a time we think of as a long peace. It is worthwhile to explore the similarities between that period and our own the 1980s to maybe 2014.
Anarchists. Throughout the 19th century, a fringe group called “Anarchists” terrorized Western society. The group’s intellectuals, who predicted a golden age only after we dismantled all governments and laws people would just want to be good, they said, gave rise to wooly-headed activists prepared to kill and destroy. It didn’t take long before the Anarchists realized that they would need force — governance of their own. Human virtue was not enough, they found.
During this era, anarchists murdered six heads of state — none of them tyrants — in France, Spain twice, Austria, Italy, and the U.S. President McKinley. Before that period of carnage, they murdered Tsar Alexander II of Russia, and when they murdered the Austro-Hungarian Archduke and his wife in 1914, World War I began. Later in our century, ideologues murdered heads of state in India three times, the U.S. Kennedy, and Italy Aldo Moro.

One might expect a self-described “historian” to be somewhat concerned with accuracy, especially in the area of chronology, but the “historian” extended the very late 1800’s “propaganda by the deed” current in anarchism to cover the entire 19th century. This is a neat trick since dynamite had not been invented until 1862 and the anarchists were not expelled from the International until 1872, the year after the Paris Commune. The First International originally met in 1864. The phrase “propaganda of the deed” did not enter  into popular usage until 1877. The assassination attempt against Kaiser Wilhelm I did not take place until the following year.

Farhat-Holzman, who espouses an extreme right-wing worldview and may have a different definition of “tyrant” than a freedom-loving person would. There are some historians who credit anarchists  with bringing about an end to absolute monarchy in Europe. Franz Ferdinand was assassinated by members of a Serbian national liberation movement or Serbian military intelligence, but not anarchists. None of the examples she mentions from the latter century were anything resembling anarchists. The unnamed heads of state in India were assassinated by members various national liberation/sepratist movements. The unspecified Kennedy, despite all the wacky theories surrounding the death of JFK, none are so wacky as to suggest that anarchists were involved in any way, shape or form.

Islamists. The modern version of anarchists are the various Islamist cults — the most clever being al-Qaida. They too believe in a brave new world that will emerge when they destabilize the power structures of the rest of the world. They think, like the Anarchists, that with global rule of a Caliph world dictator, people will just want to be Muslim — or be snuffed out if they don’t. They too assassinate, the latest being Benazir Bhutto, who would have led Pakistan. Not that the official anarchist movement is dead. London got a taste during the G-20 meeting. There were activists against government, capitalism, global warming, abuse of animals, and abuse of land. They range from naive ideologues to murderers, ready to kill and do whatever necessary to take down governments, science laboratories, or companies they dislike.

Of course. What could be more closely related to post-Enlightenment libertarian social theory than 7th century authoritarian ethical monotheism, from the same mythical patriarch who cursed the planet with Judeo-Christianity? And what self-respecting neo-con would miss pass up an opportunity to perpetuate the enduring myth of a shadowy organization called “al Qaida” I’ve heard anarchists advocate for some silly things but “the global rule of a Caliph world dictator” is a new one. Where are all of these “ready to kill” anarchists? Getting arrested on purpose, having dance parties and continuing debates on whether a breaking a window is an act of violence, is a long way from “ready to kill.” That distinction belongs to the US right-wing, especially after the election of a Democratic president.

Tactics. The 19th century assassins had no difficulty in reaching their targets. Today with better security, they prefer sheer terror aimed at civilians — hijacking airliners, the 9/11 attack, suicide bombings, truck bombings, decapitations on television, murder of athletes at the Olympic games, and rampant kidnappings. These are low-tech methods, effective in sowing terror, but winning them nothing yet.
Asymmetric Warfare. Both anarchists and Islamists believe that they are powerless in conventional war with the world’s major powers. They pretend to be David fighting Goliath — and when Goliath slaps them down, they cry foul. The recent warfare in Gaza was such a case. The Israelis finally got tired of kidnappings, rains of missiles, and general mayhem and went in. The howl of world rage was hypocritical.

No wonder this self-described “historian” appears to be pretty much unemployed. Regardless of orientation or affiliation there is a difference between assassins, hijackers, and kidnappers. She should have consulted some of friends in military intelligence to explain the difference. The era of hijacking has pretty much long since passed, due to “better security” and the murder at the Olympic games was almost 40 years ago, hardly “today” , but context is the enemy of conservatives. Good thing Farhat-Holzman doesn’t allege to be a mathematician.

Anarchists don’t  “believe that they are powerless in conventional war with the world’s major powers”  we are certain of it. We know not to engage in direct military confrontation with a vastly superior force, especially given our lack of will, training, and equipment. Besides, no CIA-like organization is stepping up to give us that kind of aid. They know we aren’t Islamists in Afghanistan. Farhat-Holzman does not. These are not the urban guerillas of 30-40 years ago.

In my 20 years of association with anarchists, I have yet to hear anyone compare themselves to the mythological character, David, whether it is the David from the book of Middle Eastern folklore called “The Bible” or the silly TV show, Kings. I didn’t notice any “howl of world rage” over the IDF’s random killing spree, as the other governments would have to question their own State monopoly on violence.

In Gulliver’s Travels, Jonathan Swift gave us a gentle hero who was tied down by Liliputian people only a few inches tall. He could have smashed them but didn’t — to his regret later. They were small but nasty.
Asymmetric warfare tactics are growing in daring. Australia recently had a devastating province-wide fire that looked suspiciously like multiple arsons. Daniel Pipes Daniel Pipes Blog, March 26, 2009 notes that police and investigative reporters finger the arsonists as Islamists. Josh Gordon in Melbourne’s Age newspaper, says: “a group of Islamic extremists [is] urging Muslims to deliberately light bushfires as a weapon of terror” against Australia. Al Qaeda has congratulated the arsonists and cites it as a model for future action. Jihadi pyroterrorism has also been used in Israel, beginning in 1988. Other anarchist groups, Earth and Animal Liberation Fronts in the U.S., have also used arson in attacks. It’s cheap, easy, and lethal.
They are not David — and we had better not let them think we are Goliath. Goliath lost. We must not lose.
Laina Farhat-Holzman is a historian, lecturer, and author. You may contact her at or

Finally, an actual fact about persons associated with anarchism. Arson has been committed in the name of the ELF and ALF, but they are not formal organizations. To my knowledge, no ELF or ALF action could be considered “lethal”, unless you are referring to injuries to “corporate personhood”.  I have my doubts that at least a few of these actions are not insurance fraud by developers to offset cost overruns.



The echo chamber of the mainstream political right has taken a cue from the historical revisionists on its fringe who have turned Holocaust denial into a cottage industry.  One of many things mainstream right-wing pundits share is a remarkable ability to focus on the same talking points, delivered in their personal style. This consistency is a key ingredient of their success in winning the hearts and minds of an alienated, demoralized, US working class.  No, the recent alliance between the Christian Right and neo-conservatives, as well as other unconditional defenders of the Israeli state and general Muslim-haters has broken down, but they instead seek to capitalize on popular ignorance and a failed education system to revise the political spectrum as it has existed since the wake of the French revolution.

There is a concerted effort by the right-wing to portray orthodox right-wing ideologies of the 20th century, such as Hitler’s National Socialism and Mussolini’s Fascism as left-wing ideologies, using pundit/comic Jonah Goldberg’s shrill polemic Liberal Fascism as about 99% of their source material. This is quite the feat of mental dexterity, considering their frequent use of the kind of red-baiting emotional politics that gave rise to the real fascist movements of the past.

Filmmaker, Adam Curtis, has done a great job of charting the parallel courses of political Islam and neo-conservatism in his outstanding BBC documentary, The Power of Nightmares. Maybe it isn’t a stretch for people like the Taliban and mega church crowd, who believe their sacred texts are to be taken literally, to interpret the names that other homicidal father figures give to their movements and parties literally. It reminds me of a line from This is Spinal Tap, where David St. Hubbins says, “I believe virtually everything I read, and I think that is what makes me more of a selective human than someone who doesn’t believe anything. ”

Another important component of fundamentalism is a lack of context and a dualistic, black and white view of reality.  Therefore, National Socialism is considered a left-wing ideology, since the word “Socialist” is in its name. The word “National” is to be disregarded. Although in their defense, even I have to wonder if the “Republic” in People’s Republic of China refers to their brutal, state capitalist economy, of the kind favored by the GOP and Wall Street. Given their mutual fetish for heavy-handed “law and order”, productivity, and environmental devastation, maybe Mao was inspired by the Republican Party?

Given my morbid fascination with right-wing media, not a weekday goes by where I don’t hear the syndicated (from syndicalism?) right-wing pundits state that their hyper-nationalist myths are simply ‘good American exceptional liberty as favored by baby Jesus and the Founding Fathers’. Reagan/Thatcher conservatism are billed as the only right-wing ideologies, and every other political, social, or economic belief is ‘leftist’ or ‘Marxist’.  They quickly threw Polpalwaski under the bus, despite the similarity of their belief systems and rhetoric. The upsurge in putsch rhetoric that accompanies the election of Democratic president in the US, has been exacerbated by the racial and ethnic divisions that have been used by elites to manipulate the masses.

A simple way to figure this out for confused pundits who actually interested in accuracy, which is probably none of them, is using the Spanish Civil War. The Republican side-anarchists, communists, and social democrats are the left and the right wing is the Loyalist side-Fascists, Nazis, Clergy, Nobility and landowners.