Recent Resources for Feminists
The America Syndrom Apocalypse, War, and Our Call to Greatness
by Betsy Hartmann
In this thought-provoking, big-idea book, Betsy Hartmann sheds light on a pervasive butuntil nowinvisible theme shaping the American mindset: apocalyptic thinking, or the belief that the end of the world is nigh. Tracing our nation's fixation with doomsday from the Puritans to the present, Hartmann makes a compelling case that apocalyptic fears are deeply intertwined with the American ethos, to our detriment. Hartmann shows how apocalyptic thinking has historically contributed to some of our nation's biggest problems, such as inequality, permanent war, and the exploitation of natural resources. While it is tempting to view these problems as harbingers of the end times, this mindset constricts the collective imagination and precludes social change. The truth is that we have much more control over the future of our planet than we think, and our fatalism is much more dangerous than the apocalypse. In The America Syndrome, Hartmann seeks to reclaim human agency and, in so doing, revise the national narrative. By changing the way we think, we just might change the world.
Betsy Hartmann at Eugene Public Library June26 2017
Betsy Hartmann discusses her latest book, The America Syndrome: Apocalypse, War & Our Call to Greatness.
Betsy Hartmann on the Danger of Apocalyptic Thinking
Did you grow up fearing that the end of the world was nigh? In The America Syndrome: Apocalypse, War and Our Call to Greatness, author and professor emerita of Hampshire College, Betsy Hartmann, sheds light on the way that apocalyptic thinking has shaped
“Betsy Hartmann calmly eviscerates the prophets of apocalypse whether it be Malthusian doomsayers obsessed about brown-skinned immigrants with high birth rates or climate-change fearmongers . . . Hartmann’s book is a timely debunking of anti-intellectualism in American life and of all those demagogues who have stoked American nativist paranoia. The America Syndrome explains the Age of Trump in the deepest cultural sense.” – Kai Bird, Pulitzer Prize–winning historian and executive director of the Leon Levy Center for Biography at CUNY Graduate Center in New York City
“The 'America First' stance espoused by Donald Trump appears as little more than a pastiche of crowd-pleasing campaign tropes, but in fact draws on themes long embedded in American political thought. To guide us through this rich and momentous history, stretching from the Pilgrims' landing in Plymouth to the onset of climate change, there is no better account than Betsy Hartmann's The America Syndrome.” – Michael Klare, author of The Race for What's Left
“Betsy Hartmann has written a compelling tragedy of the American psyche that is a fitting riposte to Trumpery. It's a tragedy about a country that lacks self-awareness, that thinks itself special when it is 'not so special after all.' Militarists and apocalyptic environmentalists alike are caught up in this quagmire of exceptionalism, this tragedy of failed imperialism. Cut the hubris, America; it is your undoing.” – Fred Pearce, environment consultant, New Scientist magazine
Betsy Hartmann writes nonfiction and fiction about important national and global challenges. She is a well-known educator, commentator, and advocate on women’s rights, population, environment, and security concerns. Her new book The America Syndrome: Apocalypse, War and Our Call to Greatness explores how end-times thinking profoundly influences American foreign policy, environmental politics, and the persistence of injustice. Now in its third edition, Betsy’s feminist classic Reproductive Rights and Wrongs: The Global Politics of Population Control tackles the powerful myth of overpopulation and its negative consequences for women’s reproductive health and rights. She is also the co-author of A Quiet Violence: View from a Bangladesh Village and co-editor of the anthology Making Threats: Biofears and Environmental Anxieties. Her political thrillers The Truth About Fire and Deadly Election explore the threat the Far Right poses to American democracy.
Betsy is professor emerita of Development Studies and senior policy analyst of the Population and Development Program at Hampshire College in Amherst, MA. She received her BA magna cum laude in South Asian Studies from Yale University and her PhD in Development Studies from the London School of Economics. To learn more about Betsy, visit .
(With liberty and justice for all...) May 23, 2017
How the Threat of Apocalypse Justifies American Empire
A new book argues that in the military’s hands, warnings of world’s end become self-fulfilling prophecies.BY Chris Lehmann
“Everything is in place for the battle of Armageddon and the second coming of Christ,” said Ronald Reagan of the Cold War in 1971. (Getty Images)
We should break the American addiction to world-disfiguring apocalyptic fantasy in favor of a “practical and inclusive radical optimism."
As any casual visitor to a multiplex or a megachurch will attest, the American imagination is in the grip of apocalyptic fantasy. We continually rediscover that the end is nigh, be it in the popcult fables of a zombie apocalypse or the Revelation porn of the Left Behind novels.
In The America Syndrome: Apocalypse, War and Our Calls to Greatness, Betsy Hartmann traces our apocalypse obsession back to the Puritans. Her argument is pointed: America’s centuries-long courtship with world-ending calamity is crucial to the distinctively American brand of warmaking. By continually seeing ourselves on the brink of catastrophe, we rationalize catastrophic military interventions, one after another. This compulsion to cast ourselves as the chief actors in the drama of history’s end stems, in Hartmann’s view, from our Protestant culture, which created a self-ratifying sense of our national chosenness. “That Americans are special and exceptional, a chosen people to carry out God’s will or else suffer dire consequences, are held to be self-evident truths,” she writes. “So, too, is the belief that war is divinely justified.”
King Philip’s Wara 17th-century campaign to exterminate Native Americans spurred the colonists into reveries over their role as the protectors of Christian civilization. Cotton Mather memorialized the Puritan migration to the New World as “the last conflict with the anti-Christ and the harbinger of the impending millennium.”
Hartmann argues that we should break the American addiction to world-disfiguring apocalyptic fantasy in favor of a “practical and inclusive radical optimism like the kind expressed in the inscription on the side of the Scottish Parliament building: ‘Work as if you live in the early days of a better nation.’ ”
She also critiques the apocalyptic rhetoric of modern environmentalism. In two closing chapters on the overblown specter of overpopulation and the all-too-genuine threat of climate change, she shows how far the militarist-apocalyptic mindset has overtaken the movement to save the planet. The predicted “population bomb” now comes off as racist and imperialist folly. Of Malthusianism, she writes:
It convinces many otherwise well-meaning people that it is morally justified to curtail the basic human and reproductive rights of poor people at home and abroad in order to save ourselves and the planet from otherwise certain doom. Likewise, the effort to curtail carbon emissions slips too easily into a vision of an anarchic, violence-ridden social order at the outer reaches of Western civilization, marked by waves of “climate refugees” fleeing rising oceans and deforestation. As Hartmann notes, these civilization-engulfing hordes often turn out, on closer inspection, to be standard-issue economic migrants. They may be fleeing conditions exacerbated by climbing temperatures, but many are already long engaged in migratory searches for geographically and seasonally dispersed work.
Political leaders from John Kerry to Barack Obama to Bernie Sanders all signed on to a version of this fantasy by attributing the Syrian refugee crisis to climate-induced droughtdistancing the resource-depleting regime of Bashar al-Assad from the consequences of its own actions. This “creates the impression that such a mass migration is a neverending “new normal.” Hartmann writes, “Rather than seeing the current crisis as politically rooted and time-limited, we’re encouraged to believe that we’re entering a world of ‘permanent emergency.’ ”
Enter the American national security state. The defense establishment has already rallied to designate climate change as a first-order national security threata move welcomed by many environmentalists.
But, Hartmann writes, we should be careful what we wish for:
Through the securitization of climate change and disaster response, we are being taught to fear the dark people global warming will supposedly set loose. … The more we accept that racialized apocalyptic vision of the future, the more we concede control to the military. And that, in turn, seems our shortest available path to apocalypse now.
Chris Lehmann, a contributing editor of In These Times, is editor-in-chief at Baffler and the author of The Money Cult: Capitalism, Christianity, and the Unmaking of the American Dream
Friday June 16 2017
Grenfell Tower fire: BBC denies Lily Allen was pulled from Newsnight due to controversial remarks
Singer had earlier accused government of 'downplaying' real number of fatalities Jacob Stolworthy ? @Jacob_Stol
BBC responds to claims Lily Allen was pulled from Newsnight over controversial Grenfell Tower remarks
The BBC has denied it cancelled Lily Allen's Newsnight appearance because of her controversial comments about the Grenfell Tower blaze on Channel 4 News.
Allen seemed to suggest on social media that she had been pulled from the political show's line-up and replaced by “someone from the council” because of her refusal to hold back on views regarding the catastrophic London fire which destroyed a Kensington tower block and ended the lives of 30.
A spokesperson for the BBC insisted that Allen's appearance was cancelled so as to allow presenter Kirsty Wark the opportunity to conduct a “thorough” interview with the leader of Kensington and Chelsea council who the channel had signed up to appear late on in the day.
The BBC said:
“With live news programmes like Newnight final decisions on guests are often made late in the day which can mean the line up changes at short notice. Newsnight secured an interview with the leader of Kensington and Chelsea council late on Thursday evening and dropped Lily in order to allow time for Kirsty Wark to conduct a thorough accountability interview. Like other BBC outlets, Newsnight has reported official casualty figures but also made it clear that they are expected to rise substantially.”
BBC Newsnight editor Ian Katz elaborated the decision on Twitter, writing: "We generally prioritise iviews with people who can be held accountable."
Allen had earlier appeared on Channel 4 News where she accused the government of "downplaying" the real number of fatalities which, at the time of reporting, was 17.
“I have never in my entire life seen an event like this where the death count has been downplayed by the mainstream media,” she told newsreader Jon Snow.
Allen continued “Seventeen? I'm sorry but I'm hearing from people that the figure is much closer to 150, and that many of those people are children.
“Those are off the record numbers I've been given from policemen and from firemen.”
Snow played devil's advocate. While acknowledging that the fatalities will likely increase “very considerably,” the broadcaster suggested that the death toll reports may be clouded due to the difficulty in identifying victims.
Allen later expressed her views on Twitter throughout the evening, taking into account Snow's comments.
“I appreciate the difficulties with identifying bodies, but there are people out here clinging to hope when I don't think there is any,” she wrote before posting a note detailing why she's linking the tragedy to politics.
Allen isn't the only figure from the world being vocal about politics following the incident: Mobo award-winning artist Akala expressed his belief that the victims died “because they were poor.”
A reminder: On Wednesday June 14, even as the Grenfell Tower inferno raged burning many residents alive, Britain's hosting and appearance at the Int. Cricket Champions Trophy took off as scheduled in Cardiff:
1st Semi-final: England v Pakistan at Cardiff - Jun 14, 2017
England 211 (49.5/50 ov); Pakistan 215/2 (37.1/50 ov) Pakistan won by 8 wickets (with 77 balls remaining)
Join the dots: Were London bombed by foreign missiles on June 14 would a cricket match have proceeded? Fat chance! Shame on the priorities in today's world.
Friday June 16 2017
Grenfell Tower: Lily Allen accuses the media of 'downplaying' death toll
Most publications have been reporting official death counts from the Met
By Christopher Hooton
Singer and activist Lily Allen has accused the media of dishonesty with regards to its coverage of the number dead in the Grenfell Tower fire.
"I have never in my entire life seen an event like this where the death count has been downplayed by the mainstream media," she said during a Channel 4 News interview with Jon Snow.
"Seventeen? I'm sorry but I am hearing from people the figure is much closer to 150 - and that many of those people are children."
On Twitter, she retweeted users saying: "Death toll of #grenfelltower being suppressed by UK MSM" and "when i was down there they said well into triple figures so is probably even more than 150.good on you for telling some truth" (sic).
Most outlets, including The Independent, report official death counts from the Metropolitan Police first and foremost, acknowledging if they are likely to rise but trying to steer clear of estimating the dead.
Met Police Commander Stuart Cundy has said that the death toll is expected to rise significantly, but the tower is currently still too dangerous for firefighters to recover many of the bodies.
“It may be - and I just don't know - it may be that ultimately some victims remain unidentified,” he said.
"I won't know that until we've gone through the full recovery from Grenfell Tower and we know exactly what we've got and I anticipate that is going to take a considerable period of time.
"Not just the immediate recovery of the bodies we have found but the full search of that whole building we could be talking weeks we could be talking months - it is a very long process.
"There is a risk that sadly we may not be able to identify everybody."
Six bodies have been recovered from outside the 24-storey tower and identified so far, while 11 bodies have been located inside but cannot yet be removed
Friday June 16 2017
Grenfell Tower: Using fire-resistant cladding on Kensington block 'would have cost £5,000 extra'
Type of panels used on flats building reportedly banned in US on tall structures
By Jon Sharman
Smoke and flames rise from Grenfell Tower in west London (AP)
Installing fire-resistant cladding at Grenfell Tower would have cost just £5,000 extra, it has been claimed, after the spotlight fell on the building's facade as a factor in Wednesday's devastating fire.
The Kensington tower block was totally incinerated in the blaze and at least 17 people were killed. It was refurbished in 2016 at a cost of about £8.6m and new aluminium panels were added to the exterior.
A salesman for the US company Reynobond, which produces the panels, told The Times the type of material believed to have been used on Grenfell Tower was banned on tall buildings in the US “because of the fire and smoke spread”.
According to the paper, a flammable version with a plastic core was used at Grenfell Tower, in place of a fire-resistant one that cost £2 more per square metre.
Kensington and Chelsea council documents show the refurbishment, which also included new windows, was intended to provide better insulation and energy efficiency.
Rydon Construction, which refurbished the building, said that it was confident the construction was up to standards.
It said it was "shocked to hear of the devastating fire" but that all the work "met all required building control, fire regulation and health & safety standards".
London Mayor Sadiq Khan has demanded a public inquiry, ordered by the Government, produce an interim report so residents and politicians can get answers sooner about how the disaster happened.
And thousands of homes in tower blocks across the UK are undergoing urgent safety reviews following the fire.
Saturday, June 10,2017
The Patriarchal Line Up For Press Freedom
By SEEMA MUSTAFA
NEW DELHI: It was a large, and hence reassuring turn out at the Press Club of India in support of press freedom. The issue of course was narrowed almost entirely to the CBI raids on NDTV with former Indian Express editor Arun Shourie perhaps being the only one to strike out into the larger issue of the state versus media, and what scribes today could do to resist what he felt would become far more aggressive efforts to curtail the media.
NDTVs Prannoy Roy appeared to be the master of ceremonies, although all media organisations including the normally reticent Editors Guild, Press Club of India, Indian Women Press Corps, and the most constant Delhi Union of Journalists had supported the meeting. NDTV staff were there in full strength, again unusual for such a meeting that the channel has rarely participated in. Roy has rarely been seen in the premises of the Press Club, or in protests and marches for smaller banner---although no less important---media.
However, reassuring becomes an important word as often circumstances throw up unusual lynchpins for such protests and struggles. And if the attack on NDTV can draw support of the kind seen so be it. And as Shourie said, it is not the time for dfferences and nor the time to buy peace by giving space to government Ministers and functionaries in the belief that this will ease pressure on the concerned media house. It will not, he warned as the intention of the government will not change, and as it comes under increasing pressure from sections of the population it will get more aggressive in its deaiings with the media.
But it was very disconcerting to see the complete marginalisation of women journalists in this patriarchal line up of speakers selected for the occasion. And struggles cannot be fought by half the population, as should be evident to those who call themseves journalists and report the news which one would like to believe rests on facts. All meetings by concerned citizens, students and other sections today spend time in ensuring that there are women speakers to break the male shackles on discussions on strategy, security, communalism, militarization----all seen as “male” issues by the establishment but where several well known women professionals have done commendable work. Yes there was a token woman at one end, and was given the task of giving a vote of thanks!
At this media meet there was not even basic effort to ensure that senior women journalists spoke as well for press freedom. IWPC supported the meeting but none of the women members were invited to speak. Everyone crowded in to take the chair, be it NDTVs Prannoy Roy who could have asked one of his many women colleagues, or even his wife, to speak on the issue, or Press Club of India that has several women editors as members, or the Editors Guild that has a woman treasurer. Interestingly, the Delhi Union of Journalists that has been in the forefront of freedom for the media was not invited to speak at all.
We as young reporters in journalism had to fight for our space. First to get a job, where I myself became the first woman reporter in The Pioneer in the 1980’s with others following only later. And where there were no toilets for women, as there were no women. Then to cover the crime beat that all newspapers were not keen to assign women to. And then to move into the Bureau and cover hard politics, where women were always discouraged, often shifted to the feature pages of the Sunday magazines as the male bosses felt more comfortable with that arrangement.
It was an uphill struggle for most of us to one, convince the editors that we could do a better job covering politics that meant the political parties, the Ministries, conflict such as Punjab, Assam, Kashmir during the 1980’s onwards . An indeed looking back one feels that we worked harder than our male colleagues, to gain a foothold in this essentially male preserve. I do remember that if a woman hesitated to accept an assignment she immediately became the butt of caustic comments. “Oh you have a date,” “you want to go to the parlour” kind of remarks that we learnt to tackle with a thick skin and a rude “shut up.” A factual mistake too invited sarcasm and criticism, while for men these were hardly commented upon.
At Press Club yesterday I realised not much has changed. There were several women editors in the audience, as well as senior anchors from NDTV, but not one had been invited on to the platform in what was a carefully structured meeting. I also realised that all editors in chief of the main newspapers and television channels are men. Women, if they even make it that far, stop at resident editors, assistant editors and so on. The top post is with the man, as again those who pay for the channel and do business with it cannot tolerate women no matter how professional at the top of political, financial news. Yes of course women can head fashion magazines, housekeeping journals, even the feature sections of the major newspapers but certainly not become editors in chief. Of not just the big players, but also of the smaller media newspapers or outlets.
When women journalists formed the Womens Press Club, I resisted. And remember many conversations with the office bearers from time to time, where I passionately spoke of how we had spent our growing years in the profession fighting for our space, and for the recognition and acknowledgement that we were not women journalists but journalists. Like actors, lawyers, doctors our profession is not determined by our gender, but by our work. But perhaps I now understand why the women journalists felt the need to pull away, as perhaps this space gives them a sense of equality and with it freedom.
Many of the speakers referred to the Emergency when the press was censored by the government, and journalists like Kuldip Nayar sent to jail. Black days indeed. But there was again little reference to the new reasons between 1974 and 2017 that have curtailed the media and taken away our freedom. The political-corporate-media nexus that has cripplied functioning as well. The contract labour system, where hundreds of journalists are fired in one stroke by television channels and big media houses. The government is party to these mass lay offs but remains silent, as do the journalists for fear of falling foul of managements, not getting the money owed to them, and being seen as too irreverent by potential employers who also, after all, come from the same side of the fence.
There has not been a word from the big owners about the individual journalists challenging the might of the state, at great risk to their personal security. In Chhatisgarh, in the North East, in Kashmir, in Uttar Pradesh and elsewhere where many have been killed, many attacked and threatened, and many others implicated in court cases. They have been the first casualties, and continue to be the targets even today. There is a long list, with the stringers and free lancers being hit the hardest as they are seen as the most vulnerable too.
The government today has acted within this framework. It knows of the differences and the weaknesses within. After all most of the working editors of newspapers and television channels chose to stay away and not attend the meeting. One did send a message, but his channel is in violation of basic media ethics like many others.
So while one extends full support to NDTV in the current battle---one hopes there will be no samjhauta in the backroom as has happened in the past---it is necessary to point out that the fight cannot be strong and sustainable unless the strategy is comprehensive, and respect is given where respect is due. In that the stage is not occupied by those who have held positions but is managed on the basis of inclusiveness and without absurd, corporate and politically controlled patriarchal hierarchy.There should be no differences, and there will not be when it comes to battling a government for press freedom, but at the same time the media should become free from within as well.
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