Hypernormalization in a Prismatic reality.

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How to fight it.

There is a popular photo app called Prisma that takes a user’s smartphone photo and passes it through a series of filters and automatic rotoscoping to produce something between a Roman mosaic and a watercolor painting. This manipulation of reality creates works of art from what may otherwise be mundane, poorly composed photos–a boon for those of us who have never taken a good photo in their lives. “Artists beware! AI is coming for your paintbrush too…” warns a Techcrunch review quoted on the app’s website. But far from simply automating the jobs of artisans, something technology has done for centuries under capitalism, Prisma takes our drab reality and makes it appear as an image on a fun house mirror. This isn’t so much a They Live scenario where we are lied to directly (though that certainly happens), as it is a deliberate move on our part. We fracture the image in front of us, preferring a more compelling version, something that is ready made for sharing on the networked world of social media, and the curated lives we offer there.

Adam Curtis’s recent Hypernormalization posits that, more and more, our experiences are becoming uncoupled with the picture of the world that are presented by the media elites and governments and mediated by traditional systems of power. And we know this, but there is little we feel we can do, because any standards of behavior or mechanisms of power checking are completely undermined. Bankers break the law and do horrible things resulting in millions losing their jobs and homes, but they aren’t prosecuted. Cops shoot unarmed blacks in the back and plant evidence, all on camera, but face no jail time. Wars are waged on lies around terror or good western morals, but when the lies are exposed and the reports point to those responsible, the purveyors are let off and hailed as elder statesmen. And to all of us, the results come off as completely expected and normal; to have a chain of cause and effect would be the truly striking thing. Hypernormalization is our individual and collective attempt to make order of the barrage of nonsense–to accept not just the unacceptable, but the impossible.

For Curtis, who released his film in October, a figure like Donald Trump (and his electoral success) fits perfectly into this off-kilter bizarro-world. Trump called the bluff of the traditional elite and their pantomime grasp of power. He used the sheer confusion of the Prismatic apparatus to rise to power, making not a straightforward case for why he should become president, as exemplar of traditional state power Hillary Clinton tried to do, but via misdirection from the linear narrative of the election and sometimes a complete rejection of recent historical facts. Trump is the affirmation of this new disjointed reality, in a Gibsonian sense, he is the living avatar of the Tessier-Ashpool family who sleep while the twin algorithms of facebook and financial capitalism system drive up their profits with credit and clicks.

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Soapbox hosts Screening of “Condemned”

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keithhighscansKeith LaMar has been on death row for 20 years. He spends 23 hours a day in solitary confinement and has little contact with the world outside his cell. He is facing capital punishment for a crime he did not commit. LaMar is among the 5 prisoners sentenced to death after the Lucasville prison uprising in 1993, one of the largest prison rebellions in history. Like the other 5 prisoners, LaMar’s refusal to cooperate with state prosecutors and correctional officials, whose actions prior to the uprising escalated tension to the breaking point, led him to be singled out, given an unfair trial and convicted on unsupported witness testimony.

On Monday, “Condemned,” a film about LaMar’s case, was screened at Soapbox Books & Zines, a lending library in Northside. The documentary made by local filmmaker Barbara Wolf examines the flimsy evidence against LaMar and exposes an array of misconduct before, during and after his trial. For example, LaMar was convicted of a murder during the uprising that another person admitted to in earlier testimony. The state swept the admission under the rug in return for that individual’s cooperation. In another instance, a witness first testified that he didn’t know who LaMar was and that LaMar wasn’t active in the uprising, then later testified that he saw LaMar leading an apparent death squad that killed 5 inmates. The defense were never provided with any information about the dubious testimonies, a violation of LaMar’s constitutional rights.

LaMar’s is now in limbo. In November, a hearing of oral arguments was held in the 6th district court in Cincinnati to determine whether Keith will get a new trial in light of all the misconduct 20 years ago. By all accounts, the hearing went well, but LaMar was barred from attending to defend himself, the latest in decades of injustice. It may be as late as spring 2016 before a ruling is made. The hope is that LaMar’s original conviction will be thrown out, and the state will not attempt to retry allowing him to finally walk free.

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Politics Minus Zero/No limit: Electoral strategy when it doesn’t matter.

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By Ben Stockwell and Mark Grauhuis with help from Kyle Galindez and Mark Lause.

Democratic candidate For Ohio Governor Ed Fitzgerald trails incumbent Republican John Kasich by some 20% in the latest poll. This gap has widened over the course of the last year and shows no signs of reversing, especially not in the month before election day. Kasich is going to win this year.

Building a strong, radical movement from below is the only way to force the system to meet the needs and desires of the people. More and more, it’s becoming clear that this system may not even be able to meet our basic demands at all.

This is an appeal to Democratic voters to vote for the Green party candidate, Anita Rios, instead of Fitzgerald.

In 2012, a UC professor hosted a dinner party with members of Occupy Cincinnati and others in the professor’s union. Every half hour or so, the guests would converge in the same room to talk about what Occupy meant and how it might be active in the future. In one session the debate took a turn toward the coming presidential election. While admitting the limitations of, and even their utter disappointment with, the Democratic party, people in the room made it clear that a Republican presidency would be much worse. “This year,” one professor insisted, “it is a zero sum game.”

This is the refrain every year. The Biden thesis – “we’re not as totally bad as the alternative” – is admittedly seductive in the face of the waking nightmare of what’s to come (Hillary, Portman, Kasich, Ron Paul, etc.). Democrats in Ohio are consequently positioning this year’s election as a referendum on Kasich and other Republican policies like SB5, but Fitzgerald’s electability has been reduced to near-zero by a number of scandals involving himself and his running mates. Still, the meme “remember in November” is circulated ad nauseum among Ohio liberals: remember all the terrible things Kasich has done or tried to do when you enter the voting booth.” This is passive, cynical, negative politics at it worse, which begs the question “When do we get to vote for what we want?” — This year, certainly.

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This year, Fitzgerald is the throw away vote.

Sure, we can remember what Kasich did and does, but voting for the Fitzgerald is not the proper response to that memory. We must keep in mind not only what Kasich did, but the realities of what voting for Fitzgerald will do or not do. Putting aside whether or not Fitzgerald offers an actual alternative to Kasich or could support resistance to a system bent on austerity (i.e. making us pay for a system in crisis), if the question is simply about expressing dissatisfaction, there is a non-Republican vote that is much more effective in the long term.

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Messer blinded by class interests

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Ryan Messer, President of the Over-the-Rhine community council, recently wrote of the need for a party that represents “urban interests.” Such a party, he says, would be fiscally responsible but socially progressive. Messer, who recently married his partner in Washington Park and lives in the highly gentrified area south of Liberty Street, laments the fact that neither the Republican or Democratic party matches the interests of the “urbanists” in the city. Without a shred of irony, Messer describes the process that the basin has undergone over the last decade or so:

In the past, the urban core of a city was predominately [sic] poor and Democratic, but that’s changing as people nationally and locally are moving back to the inner city, driving up property values. Those who are willing to pay a half million dollars or more for a condo tend to lean fiscally right yet embrace such socially progressive issues as urban renewal, transit and same sex marriage. For which party should they vote? The answer, it seems, is neither.

8f36b882638911e3907e121b5d90bda3_8He paints the transformation of Over-the-Rhine and the surrounding area as being of a natural origin, and that the new richer residents are moving in as a result of–not a constituent part of–that process. This description is tone-deaf to actual forces at play in more ways than one. His narrative is completely self-serving, Messer is a property owner and he has flaunted his class interests in the past. During the debate around the streetcar, Messer, a leader in the “Believe in Cincinnati” movement, made issue of the fact that his family’s financial interests were tied to the continuation of the project. He went so far as to threaten a lawsuit in order to “protect” his family’s investments along the proposed route. And in this latest opinion piece he ties Obama winning re-election in 2012 to his and his husband’s ability to file taxes jointly in 2014 (seeming to make the cause of gay marriage out to be over an economic relation, but that’s another discussion).

These show two great disconnects with reality. First, Messer ignores the fact that the majority of the non-voting electorate are the people he identifies as the traditional population of the urban core–“poor and Democratic.” Blacks make up about a 45% of Cincinnati’s population, and about 70% in OTR. This population has faced obstacles to actually being able to vote that harken back to the Jim Crow Era. Black men, disproportionately targeted by the racist and corrupt criminal justice system, the “New Jim Crow,” face high levels of disenfranchisement based on criminal histories, along with a slew of other setbacks coming out of prison that affect their ability to find housing, education and employment.

Even so, in the last presidential election Historic Black turnouts were a key indicator early on of an Obama victory. However, in the area of OTR north of Liberty, which still has largely black streets and is relatively untouched by the gentrification in the neighborhood’s southern half, voter turnout in the last presidential election was lower than black turnout overall (about 40% of registered voters in the precinct turning out, with 66% black turnout nationwide). But Messer’s focus is a different population, a wealthier, more conservative group, which have not been historically apathetic or disenfranchised in the political system in America. On the contrary, this group is representative of policy makers, now and historically.

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