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Liaizon Wakest on Autonomous Social Media and the Fediverse

Liaizon Wakest on Autonomous Social Media and the Fediverse

proposed vediverse logo of multicolor pentagon/pentagram with logos for 6 different fediverse projects around it
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This week, we spoke with Liaizon Wakest. Liaizon grew up in an anarchist commune in rural America. They can be found climbing into dumpsters from Mexico to Kazakhstan looking for trash to make art with. In recent years they have been focused on research into ethical technology and infrastructural anarchism. For the hour we speak about the interoperable, open source ensemble of federated online publishing servers and platforms known as the Fediverse and its most popular component, Mastodon. This conversation takes place in the context of media hullabaloo about Elon Musk seeking to purchase Twitter, the paradigm in which a rich egomaniac can own the addictive social media platforms over which so much social and political life is engaged and what positives we can draw from alternatives like Mastodon and the Fediverse.

You can find Liaizon’s account on Mastodon (an analog of twitter) at @liaizon@social.wake.st or on Pixelfed (an analog of Instagram) at @wakest@pixelfed.social. And you can follow us on Mastodon by finding @TheFinalStrawRadio@Chaos.Social or by visiting https://chaos.social/@TheFinalStrawRadio in a web browser.

Another interesting anarchist media project engaging the Fediverse is Kolektiva, which has a PeerTube instance at https://Kolektiva.Media (analog of youtube) and Mastodon at https://Kolektiva.Social where they’re welcoming new users. Kolektiva includes participation from projects like Sub.Media and AntiMidia

You can find a real good interview by our comrades at From Embers about Mastodon which I mention in the interview from February 3rd, 2022 entitled Social Networks, Online Life and The Fediverse: https://fromembers.libsyn.com/social-networks-online-life-and-the-fediverse

Announcement

Eric King Arrives at USP Lee: call-in continues

As a quick update on the situation of Eric King, he has been transferred this week from USP Atlanta to USP Lee where he and his supporters are concerned he’ll be placed into solitary and isolated for attack. You can find info on his situation as well as who to contact to press for his return to a medium security facility to match his current security points, visit SupportEricKing.Org and find the May 3rd, 2022 post whose title starts “Eric Transferred

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Featured Track

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Transcription

Liaizon: My name is Liaizon Wakest. I’m involved in too many projects, I don’t even know where to start in that space. But, I am from a commune in Wisconsin that I grew up on and was there for the first large part of my life. So, I’m a second-generation freak. The commune I grew up at was involved in a lot of— Our two main points were hypermedia and permaculture: the convergence of plant stuff and weird tech stuff, and thinking of life as performance art. I currently live in New Orleans. I’ve been out here for about eight years now. I’m currently working on building a treehouse, which is a very different type of thing than doing weird anarcho-tech stuff.

TFSR: What do you or the commune mean by hypermedia?

L: The H from HTML also is hyper. So… hypermedia was an early term that fell out of vogue in the 90s. But it’s the idea that you break down all the walls between different types of creation. All art forms and all creation are one in the world of— When you start integrating new technologies that enable new types of creation, those walls start breaking down, and you can just think of life as art and life as creation. But especially hypertext and the idea of hypertext and of the internet came from some of the same rhetoric in the sense of breaking down the linearity of the different types of media.

TFSR: I guess, it means more than text in some ways, right? Because suddenly you can embed links to other texts and go down this weird rabbit hole that you wouldn’t have been able to with a necessarily linear published pamphlet or book.

L: In the sense of hypertext, but then in hypermedia, it’s everything. It’s audio and video and interactive stuff, and a noise show. It’s the term that is meant to embrace all creation.

TFSR: We were going to speak about anarchistic tech stuff. I guess social media is what I was hoping to speak with you about.

Recently, a big thing in the news — and we’ve been talking about having this conversation well before this hit the news — but this is just one specific set of ripples in the pond… Elon Musk is talking about purchasing, getting control over, and going private with Twitter. There’s a lot there: we can talk about the role that non-legacy media and, in particular, social media plays in the political landscape, in terms of government surveillance, corporate surveillance… In terms of the way that government functioned in the last administration, quite literally, where presidential edicts were coming down via Twitter posts.

A thing that the media does is to focus on an individual like Musk and all the companies that he’s owned, are the statements that he makes in the media or on social media, or whatever. And that becomes a story. The story that I want to get at and I’d love to hear your comments on is more about the fact that someone can decide to take this thing that has such big political consequences, insert their ego into it and control what happens in it in a way that’s consequential to politics and sociality in our society. I wonder if you have any comments about the implications of that.

L: I have lots of thoughts on the matter for sure. I think that in the long run, this will probably be a good thing because it puts more of a spotlight on how weak this system is that we have, the system of all of the news sources and mainstream media sources and social media, and these internet companies, all being these trading blocks between a handful of billionaires. And the more people realize how messed up that is, maybe the more visibility the alternative ways of organizing this stuff can have.

After this happened, we’ve gotten about almost 200,000 new people signing up on the Fediverse in the last week, from people being “Oh, fuck, no, I don’t want to be a pawn in Musk’s game, I need to find an alternative.” It seems anytime something this happens, it pushes more people to look for alternative infrastructure. And in a lot of ways, whether Twitter is owned by a bunch of venture capitalists, stakeholder companies, or some billionaires, it’s still a giant ad machine either way, and there are still a few people who have all the power. In the long run, I don’t think that Elon theoretically owning it really makes that much difference. Though, I guess that might be a little bit of the accelerationist take or something. It’s okay for something to get slightly worse if it pushes the future probabilities closer to actualization or something.

TFSR: I definitely want to get into a bit about what the Fediverse is, and what are its some of its constituents. Can you talk a little bit — before we go into the specifics of that — of what benefits do you think people are going to see crossing over to the Fediverse, for instance, over what they would be experiencing on Facebook or on Instagram or on Twitter?

L: There are a lot of different angles to go at it to answer that question. The Fediverse is a lot of things. It’s not one platform. So all of the other options or examples that you just laid out, other than the Fediverse, are companies owned by shareholders. Those companies decide exactly what happens and how it works and what it looks like and who’s invited and have complete technical control over how their network functions and what kind of activities can happen on it, how those things work, and how to collect money, how to exploit the people who are using it, etc.

If you’re familiar with the Fediverse at all, you’re familiar with Mastodon, which is the biggest piece of software that is a part of the Fediverse. But the Fediverse is much more than just that. Mastodon was made as an alternative to Twitter using an already existing protocol that has actually been around for about 13 years in various forms under various names. The Fediverse actually started about 13 years ago. And it originally started as an alternative to a very early Twitter, 13 years ago, Twitter was a very different thing than it is today. But there was an explosion of this idea of microblogging and Twitter was not the only one to do that. There were a bunch of projects and companies and people who realized that one of the stumbling blocks of blogging, which at the time was one of the biggest parts of the internet was that, it’s so structured that people— there’s this stumbling block in finishing something before you publish it. By removing the assumption that you need to publish articles, as opposed to snippets and thoughts and little blobs, you remove this thing to be scared by, which enables a lot more activity and a lot of different interactions that weren’t intended in the blogging space when people were designing blogging software.

So, the Fediverse, in its current state, is many, many different pieces of software that all use a common protocol which is called ActivityPub. It basically just lays out how messages and data are shared between distinct servers. The Fediverse is made up of about 6,000 servers right now, all run by different individuals around the world, and all with their own codes of conduct, policies, ideologies, and politics. And all of those servers have the ability, through this protocol called ActivityPub to talk to each other. And all of the types of interactions that you would expect in social media can be related in a standard way that any developer can then implement in whatever code and stack that they want to use to be able to share the standard way of communicating packets of data between servers.

Mastodon is the biggest one, or the biggest piece of software that is being used, but there are many, many other different pieces of software that are also part of the Fediverse and are also using the same standard. There’s PeerTube, which is probably the second biggest, for video sharing, as a project specifically to combat YouTube. It’s also anarcho infrastructure-minded in its formulation. All of the Fediverse is open source and there are almost no companies involved in the Fediverse. Now there are a few little ones that people have started to support themselves working on it full-time. But in general, it’s almost all individuals working on it out of passion and care for the future of communication. There’s one called WriteFreely, which is for more long-form blogging. There’s a new one that started pretty recently called BookWyrm for logging and sharing what you’re reading and updates about— Like GoodReads or LibraryThing.

But it’s also federated. I guess I should explain what Federation is. All of the Fediverse and the Fedi part of Fediverse (federated universe) is a federated network. The analogy that most people use and are familiar with is email as a federated network design. Any email address can email any other email address, and the servers don’t need to first know about each other. In an email, anyone can start a new server, like fluffycats@mouse.net. And that can, by default, using the protocol of email, send a message to any other already existing email account in the world. People don’t even really think about that inherent difference between email and modern social media. The mainstream social media today is everyone existing on one server. Twitter is just one gigantic computer that is sharing messages on itself. Whereas email is millions of computers that have pads between them and can share messages using a federated protocol, which in the case of the email is SMTP. The Fediverse is basically that same model but updated for the kinds of interactions that we expect in modern social media. Things like liking and replying and boosting and sharing and following — are all activities that one would expect in the case of social media, but everyone has grown up accustomed to— If you’re on Instagram, you can only follow other people on Instagram, whereas on the Fediverse, you can follow anyone using any different kind of platform and the data gets into your local stream of whatever you’re using.

TFSR: I guess there’s one potential benefit to draw out of that, because of the federated model there and anyone being able to start a server if they have the resources available to them, that leads to the creation of a lot of different potential spaces where it’s allowable to have certain kinds of speech that maybe you would be excluded from Twitter or Instagram or Facebook for. So to continue as we do with the example of anarchists, anarchists can talk about radical alternatives to the state, attacks that occur against infrastructure, or prison breaks without a fear that they’re going to get shut down directly necessarily by the host of their specific platform on the Fediverse. Unless it counters the terms of service that are agreed to or the social contract or whatever that thing is. That can be a positive, right?

L: On the Fediverse, you can host everything yourself. So if you’re running an anarchist instance, and you want to host 100% of your instance, you can get a used server for $100 on Craigslist and plug it into the wall in a basement and run a Fediverse server with 1,000 people on it, with really not that much. It’s definitely working. But it’s not that complicated. And there’s a lot of people who are actually able and willing and currently doing things like that, which hasn’t been possible in previous times for what we expect. It’s been possible in the sense of collectives running email or chat servers in the past, but this is a new leaf in that ability because you could have a very public presence and a very interactive presence through infrastructure that you entirely manage yourself if you do have— There’s definitely technical know-how, but there are enough people around who do have that know-how and the excitement to do that. There’s an anarchist collective in Italy, I can’t think of their name off the top of my head right now.

TFSR: Autistici, who hosts Noblogs?

L: They’re connected, but that’s not who I was thinking of. But they run a bunch of Fediverse stuff out of a squat, using all found and collected infrastructure. They probably have about 1,000 people using their server. It’s not just an analogy, the ability to do that is currently there.

TFSR: That’s definitely a positive— If that is something that you are seeking is to have the ability to have a space that is dedicated to the kind of interactions that you want to have, you can run it yourself, and you can look at the code or have someone you trust, hopefully, running the code and keeping up on it. But then also, there’s another side to a benefit that someone as a user could have of being one of these because it’s open-source, you basically know the information that’s being collected about the users, and there’s a lot more transparency than there would be, and it’s easier to find out, than, for instance, with Twitter or with Instagram or with Facebook. And with that data being collected, it seems easier to release information that people had the presumption of being private or didn’t even know that was being collected about them when those companies get hacked, or if they sell that data to someone else. Is that a fear that people engaging with the Fediverse should have about their data if they’re starting accounts on things like Mastodon, or is it just a thing that they’ll be more aware of because there’s no profit motive there?

L: That’s a whole discussion in itself. The Fediverse is mostly public, with people posting stuff publicly. There are different modes you can post, there are private messages and there are limited visibility messages. But in general, data collection on a large scale— If we’re using advanced encryption, your data is probably getting collected, nonetheless, somewhere down the pipeline, whether or not it’s in a format that’s usable by anyone. A lot of it just gets hoarded. But I think if something is publicly visible on the internet, someone’s collecting it, no matter what. So the Fediverse is very different than something like Signal in the sense that most of the stuff on the Fediverse is people talking to each other publicly. Though it doesn’t intrinsically need to be that, and there’s a bunch of people working on building advanced encryption into the Fediverse right now, but that has been somewhat of an afterthought and something very difficult to tack on later, because the Fediverse was entirely designed around public-facing content, and the security privacy part of it came later. But thinking about what you mean when you say security and privacy, the ability to control that your data is available is a separate issue, and control who can silence you and who can limit your visibility. They’re very connected topics to privacy and security, but they’re not the first things that people think about.

TFSR: Another thing that I could see as being a benefit to something that is parallel or autonomous infrastructure like the Fediverse is that these privately held social media corporations have designed algorithms for the way that people interact with their platforms that are meant to draw people and keep people, not just based on them wanting to read the content or look at the picture in and of itself, but increasing…

L: Making it addictive…

TFSR: Yeah. Refresh rates or populating certain kinds of content at different times. Is that a thing that people could expect to engage with at this point in Fediverse platforms?

L: Right now, on the Fediverse, there is no sorting whatsoever, and no algorithmic decision-making of what you see. Everything is chronological. Every different piece of software on the Fediverse is currently chronological. Mastodon just launched an Explore tab, which uses some ranking of popularity of posts in a specific timeframe. But, I think, each individual server that’s running the software gets to decide how their posts are being ranked, or whether to turn that on locally. And the algorithm, everything is open source, so you can see exactly what those ranking algorithms would be doing. That’s just a way of discovering content because in the Fediverse, when nothing is being pushed at you when you sign up for an account, you basically start fresh and everything is blank. It’s not like “Here, follow Elon Musk”. Fucking Twitter, even today, I get a notification, if I open Twitter on an account, like “Would you like to follow Elon Musk?” I’ve had the same account reminded five times if I want to follow. It’s really bizarre.

TFSR: It’s like Tom from MySpace.

L: Yeah, it’s just a popularity game, if someone’s getting a lot of interaction, then the system just keeps pushing that. That kind of interaction isn’t on the Fediverse at all now, but there are some very valid reasons for some algorithmic sorting of posts that you want to see, in the sense that if you’re following a lot of people, it gets overwhelming very fast. And your ability to look at everything becomes less and less, the more stuff you’re trying to consume. Eventually, there will be the need and the willingness to build in some mechanisms for that in the Fediverse. And the main difference being that it will be entirely open and customizable by the person who’s getting that. Probably in a couple years, we’ll start to see that thing happening in the Fediverse. And the conversations that I’ve seen people have are as long as it’s entirely opt-in, and you get to know exactly what those algorithms are doing and decide which ones you want to use, and you’re able to turn them on and off personally. That changes most of the negative dynamic around it.

TFSR: You had mentioned that these protocols are interoperable between different platforms and instances in the Fediverse, different servers that are running and have their own guidelines. I wonder if you have thoughts about how tools get used in unintended ways. That’s a part of hacking, playing with the thing, trying to break it in different ways or make it do things you didn’t expect it to do. But then open source and free software, for instance, also gets used… After Gab, I might be wrong, but there was some far-right platform that was taken, Cloudflare stopped protecting-

L: You’re talking about the Gab situation? This story got so over-reported that I’m somewhat bored by it, but I can give a quick synopsis. Gab being the first big far-right social media platform, they got a bunch of investment money early on, millions of dollars, they did a very shitty job of building a modern social media website. They built it with a lot of assumptions that turned out to not be true.

When it started getting a lot of attraction, early on, there were rumors that Trump was gonna move there and there was a bunch of prominent far-right figureheads, who were over there going on about some racist bullshit or something. The main thing is first they got kicked off of their main hosting, and they were able to move on to alternative hosting. But their app was kicked off of the Apple App Store and the Google Play Store and that put a new media spotlight on them. They started growing more because they were getting silenced by “big tech” with its “Californian neoliberal stance.” So what they did, which was an interesting move, was they basically scrapped all of the platform that they had built ready and had spent over a million dollars on and took a software that is open-source and free to use… They took Mastodon, forked it and rebranded it, and just launched their own Mastodon instance on their original domain and imported all of the old user accounts from their previous software as new users into their Mastodon instance. But they did a lot of things wrong, and that didn’t work very well.

Mastodon is made entirely by leftist and anarchists and queer and trans people and people on that side of the political spectrum. So the developers working on Gab, who took Mastodon and tried to change it into their own thing, basically just got squirted at every attempt by most of the people working on Mastodon. They didn’t really succeed in utilizing that base very well. The reasons for doing that were quickly squirted because the vast majority of other servers on the Fediverse just instantly blocked and muted and restricted any interaction between Gab and the rest of the Fediverse. Each server gets to decide that and of course, there are some servers on the Fediverse who are also run by other far-right folks and trolls, and people who just like shitty content. There were a couple pools of servers that were continuing to federate with them, but they ended up not that long after changing their mind again, and they’re [the far right] actually still running a strange fork of Mastodon with some of the original Mastodon code, but they turned off all federation and are not part of the Fediverse at all now.

TFSR: A little white ethnostate on the internet.

Even if over overblown in the media, I think it’s interesting though that there are baked into these opportunities for not just having to have whatever come across your way, because of the interoperability of the servers with each other, that there are ways to decide to block content from certain directions. Because if it is free and open-source and anyone can participate in it, there’s also the right to not have to engage with certain types of content. So the fact that it is technically interoperable between that Nazi server and Kolektiva or something that, the fact that they can burn that bridge between them and say, “You go play over there by yourself, you’ve got your own sandbox, you do that,” I think that says a lot about the potentials of the platform. You don’t necessarily have to deal with— If you want to run an instance that specifically follows Juche [ideology] or something that, you can do that. And when enough users on another instance find that obnoxious enough that they talk to the mods there. They can say, “Can you just stop them from being able to interact with us from that instance?”

L: Yep, so for instance, the Fediverse is built in a very modular way, so there are lots of different levels of different types of walls you can put up between different instances and individuals. There’s every different type of wall. So on an individual level, you can block any other account, or you can block a server from interacting with you. And then on a server level, each server gets to decide on… you can exist on the allow-list or deny-list model. So you can say, “by default, I talk to everyone,” or “By default, I only talk to these servers, and then I need to add who I talk to later on.” Or you can say, “I’m open to everyone.” And then if some server has too many bad actors on it, you can silence that server, which is slightly different than blocking, it basically says, “None of the content from that remote server shows up publicly unless explicitly requested or explicitly shared.” There’s a lot more depth and dynamic-ness in the types of interactions possible, and I feel it’s a lot closer to human interaction in physical space than what we’re used to in the “everyone’s in the same mall under the same mall rules” of the Facebooks and Twitters of the world.

TFSR: I wonder if you could speak about how autonomous infrastructure can actually be, like you’ve mentioned squats in Italy that are hosting instances and connected to Noblogs, or I know of a radio station, comrades of ours in Athens that have a squatted radio station that’s been running for two decades and stealing, sorry, re-socializing electricity. (They’re very particular about that) That is so autonomous. When you’re you’re not paying the state regulators for the electricity that you’re using and you don’t own the building that you’re in, you’re taking it from a public institution. And the airwaves, literally it is a pirate station. There’re limitations in different places around the legality of that activity. In Berlin, friends of ours have told stories about how you can’t really operate a pirate radio station for very long without a bunch of police coming in with guns drawn and raiding the space to take the transmitter.

L: Yeah, and there are still lots of pirate radio stations that keep popping up in Berlin even despite that…

TFSR: So I wonder, with the way that web hosting works, when we talked about the moment of Gab being forced to be withdrawn from these different platforms that allowed them to pass their information along, including infrastructure like CloudFlare, for instance, stopping DDoS attacks… How autonomous can these instances actually be? Is that a useful question?

L: I think, in something like what Gab was trying to do, they were trying to build a large platform-size— They were basically trying to use decentralized infrastructure to build a centralized place on top of it. One of the interesting things about the Fediverse is you can build a server. For instance, I run a server that’s just for me, and I’m the only user on that server, I make my own code of conduct every time I write something in my head because it’s just me deciding what I think is appropriate and morally righteous. No other admin is deciding what I can say, though everyone following me gets to decide whether they want to interact with me and my server or not. That ability, someone using the same software can then make one for themselves, and also invite all of their friends and have one that has 10 people on it, or 100 people or 1,000 people. I think the biggest server on the Fediverse has 700,000 people on it, it’s one out of Japan, pawoo.net that’s been around for a really long time. And actually, it’s all in Japanese, so it almost exists like a tiny centralized platform, because its users are all writing in Japanese. And it’s the biggest congregation of Japanese users on the Fediverse. Most of the rest of the Fediverse doesn’t speak Japanese. So they’re mostly just talking with themselves. But every now and then, I’ll make a post that suddenly blows up on Pawoo and has hundreds of Japanese people talking about it. And that post exists over in that world openly. So there are a lot of very interesting dynamics that exist in this space that just have never been really explored before. And there are a lot of things to try and to experiment with.

TFSR: Do you feel like Mastodon or are these alternative parallel— There are lots of reasons that people would choose to come on to these other social media environments, maybe because they don’t like what’s going on in the other ones, maybe because of the open-source arguments, or what kind of data is getting collected, or what kind of stuff’s getting shoved in their face from the platform, like how many times can you be asked if you want to follow Elon Musk. But does shifting over to these platforms create a silo-ing effect or is there a danger there where we just go into an environment where we’re just hearing from people that are similar to ourselves, and not really getting in touch with newer ideas from that. Because I know that we, for instance… I don’t like going on Facebook, I’ll do a post on Facebook every week that we have an episode for the show and hope that someone will find the content and then start engaging with it on their own separately, but it seems like an opportunity for overlap where people are going to first try the things that are most available to them and then maybe explore out from there.

L: I want to say that that silo-ing is happening already, everywhere. If you have an Instagram account, and you’re posting your events to your Instagram account, if you’re posting punk shows to a small Instagram account, Instagram will limit the fuck out of you. And you’re not actually getting this global audience that you think you are unless you pay to promote each post that you make at this point. You have the potential to have your posts go viral randomly if the right person interacts with them. But in general, anyone who’s not trying to be a social media influencer doesn’t actually have that much visibility and is by default silo-ed to just the people who have explicitly gone out of their way to find them on mainstream social media. In this new dynamic, in the Fediverse, people are explicitly finding you, or finding you through a chain of friends posting something, or friends of friends posting something in this natural way, as opposed to the algorithmic boosting of content that you can play with in the Instagrams and Twitters of the world.

TFSR: One instance or one punk show made me think of the conversation that happened on From Embers a couple of months ago, which is another podcast that I listen to, and that are friends in the Channel Zero Network. And the person that was the guest hosts an instance for their small anarchist and punk community in the city that they live in. And the way that they explained what they were expecting to get out of it as in they create this instance, a server, they allow friends that they know to sign up to it, they assume that all the interactions are going to be transparent to the rest of the internet. But as you said, with an Instagram post about a punk show, you may get to some of the people that are on Instagram and that are in your community or whatever. But there’s suddenly this microblog opportunity for anyone on the internet to just say, “I’m in X city, I wonder what punk stuff is going on, I’m going to find this publicly available RSS feed coming off of that instance that says when the upcoming punk shows that they want everyone to know about is.” Approaching it in this way makes a lot of sense in some ways. It’s also kind of weird — we’ve gone back to the time when people just ran websites for their scenes, going through the eye of the needle and back through the other side.

L: Yeah, that’s a great way of looking at the Fediverse. It’s a self-hosted indie website, but with the dynamics that we expect in the modern space of more levels of interaction.

TFSR: It seems that’s the thing that a lot of blogging sites have always had is this element of it’s not just about you as the poster, but there are ways to interact with other posters on that same platform. Like with Noblogs, we can chat with or follow or friend other people, we can send private messages through encrypted email through the servers to another user that uses that same email. But it’s not a thing I ever think to use. But I think because Mastodon is such a flashy and friendly and welcoming platform, it makes me feel like “Oh, yeah, I’ll interact with this, it’s Instagram or it’s Twitter or whatever else. I can message people, I can private message people, whatever else.” It’s pretty cool.

So with this surge of new users to Mastodon that you mentioned and that’s been written about — PC Mag has a big article about it with Musk’s announcement of purchasing Twitter shares — this seems to happen actually, frequently, when major corporate platforms are involved in the news cycle. Like when CrimethInc and ItsGoingDown were kicked off of Facebook a few years back as alongside a lot of other anti-fascist sites, a bunch of people migrated to some degree over to Mastodon or to other social media. But in a lot of these cases, people will be there and then they’ll cycle back. They’ll put their account on hibernate for a little bit, try the other thing, and then when it doesn’t hit the same part of their brain, they may move back. Do you have any ideas about what may be some keys to keeping people wanting to stay with this alternative?

L: Honestly, I think a lot of that is there are no addiction mechanisms built-in to keep you. You log in and maybe everyone’s just talking about what they ate for breakfast, and there’s no exciting drama that is being shoved in your face and you’re like, “Oh, this is boring, everyone’s just talking about eggs right now.” Drama and news and horror are really addictive. There’s an intrinsic reason right there why people go back to this thing that they hate because it has, as these mechanisms built-in, that keep them hooked. The Fediverse doesn’t have that, so unless you’re actively deciding what kind of people you’re interacting with and taking an active role in that gardening, you might just drop off. And I think that’s okay, I think that’s actually fine.. I think that it probably makes the interactions that end up happening on the Fediverse a lot nicer too because the people who are there are there because they want to be there, not because they got a notification that some celebrity just punched some other celebrity on their phone, or whatever.

TFSR: Getting involved in technical projects often takes a sharp learning curve. Can you talk a little bit about troubleshooting in the community and creating instances and how to get assistance, if someone decides that they want to set up a PeerTube where they want to— I’ve been messing with Castapod a little bit and have a lot of difficulties. But partially, that’s my lack of access to French and a lot of the developers are based in France, as far as I can tell.

If someone has a project in mind, where’s a good place for them to look for support and getting started?

L: I would say, technical support wise, if you just start asking questions into the void of the Fediverse, there are a lot of very smart people who are very excited to answer technical questions. You need to have somewhat of a following to get responses. But I would say, as someone new on the Fediverse, it’s a pretty open space. And if you just start talking to people, people want to help, even the main developers. In that sense, you have to be a little bit fearless to just be okay with asking basic questions, not being afraid that you’re looking like a “newb” and just ask. Just go ask the person who wrote the software directly, publicly and say, “Hey, I can’t figure this out? Will you help?” And if they’re like “I’m too busy”, if you ask the void a little bit more, you will get a good amount of response.

There are also a ton of Matrix rooms for all the different projects that are filled with people who want to help each other figure this out. And there’s a ton of different groups that are like “We’re trying to do this, or we’re trying to help with this.” And that’s pretty active.

TFSR: You mentioned Matrix, I was gonna ask about outside of the Fediverse, which is pretty big if you could name some other interesting parallel infrastructure. Matrix, if I understand, is an end-to-end encrypted version of Discord that’s open source. Is that a fair way to describe it?

L: I wouldn’t liken it to Discord that much, but I have heard people say that. Matrix is an interesting project and it still has ways to go before it’s really, honestly, ready for primetime. But it’s usable now. I have a lot of mixed feelings about Matrix right now that I won’t go into, but I am excited for following the development of Matrix. There are a bunch of communities that are using it as their main communication channel right now. And there are a lot of really smart, interesting people working on getting Matrix up to par for being more light. It’s a very similar project to the Fediverse with a few different goals, I think they’re trying to appeal to corporations and corporate backing a bit more than a lot of other open-source-y projects. They’ve gotten some VC money and the German and French and English militaries have all agreed to start using Matrix as their chat platforms into the future, which in some ways, looks good for Matrix because it’s like “Oh, our security is strong enough that we have governments wanting to use it.” But it also makes a lot of people really uncomfortable, when they’re releasing a press release that they just signed a contract with the German military or the French military.

Another very interesting project that I’ve been following for a long time that is of similar nature, is Secure Scuttlebutt, a very similar in goal to the Fediverse, though a bit more utopian. And ways further off in the ability for it being a non-tech thing. Some people are not super technically minded using it, but there’s a hill to climb for several reasons but the project is very awesome and it’s being done by a lot of really great people. Your question was just related to social projects?

TFSR: Not even social. I guess social in terms of the aims and goals of the production of it, but just other alternative parallel infrastructure that you use, you’re interested in, or you think people might find cool to check out on their own?

L: Delta Chat is another one that is mostly being created by anarchists and it’s also a chat protocol built on top of the email standard, or not chat platform, chat protocol / server sort of thing built on email protocols. So you can use your already existing email ability and there’s a layer on top of that that you can chat with using this open standard. It’s also encrypted. So it’s similar in security standards to something like Signal.

And then also, there’s the world of XMPP and Jabber. There’s a good amount of activity in that space. And that’s one of the oldest and original federated chat protocols. And it has somewhat failed many times through many takeover attempts by different corporations. But it’s another standard with a lot of people who are very excited about it, and there’s been some renewed activity in that space in the last two years or so. That’s pretty interesting to follow. And yeah, if you’re a more security-minded person, it’s worth looking into using XMPP.

TFSR: Cool, I didn’t have any more questions, Wakest. Are there any other topics that you want to talk about? I may reach out to some folks that I know that are working and Kolektiva and just see if they have any-

L: Oh, yeah, Kolektiva is an awesome project. I’m really excited to see that continue to grow. Shouting out some instances that are doing really cool stuff-

TFSR: What do they do? They seem to have their hands in a couple of different things, right?

L: Yeah. They’re doing great stuff. Another instance in the Fediverse that’s continually been doing really awesome stuff is Posts.Lurk.Org. They’ve been doing really cool stuff. Social.coop is another really good instance that’s a cooperatively run ?? Merveilles.Town is a very small community of really incredible artists. That’s invite-only and a lot of really inspiring people are working on stuff there. They’ve attracted a lot of interest into the Fediverse just by being a bunch of weirdos doing really awesome stuff.

TFSR: There’s the Mastodon instance that Kolektiva is operating, but I think they’re also doing— Since member projects such as SubMedia have had difficulties in the past with keeping their stuff up on YouTube, I guess the PeerTube instance, right?

So I guess if you’re involved in a media project you could look at either creating— We don’t have any hosting anywhere, we have a Mastodon account on chaos.social where we post our content, and is usually not very much more than that, but I guess if you’re approaching-

L: What is your Mastodon account, if you want to just shout it?

TFSR: @thefinalstrawradio@chaos.social, I’m still not used to vocalizing the address in the way that a Twitter profile gets vocalized.

L: Yeah, that’s just the learning curve of figuring out how to say and talk about these things is interesting.

TFSR: What about yours? What’s the instance if people want to find your work?

L: My account is @liaizon@wake.st. That’s just on my own instance of one.

TFSR: Your little island. Thanks a lot for taking the time to have this conversation. I really appreciate it and all that you had to share. So thanks.

L: Cool. Thank you so much for reaching out. It was great talking to you.

TFSR: You too.

Certain Days: Freedom For Political Prisoners Calendar 2021

Certain Days: Freedom For Political Prisoners Calendar 2021

2021 Certain Days: Freedom For Political Prisoners Calendar cover
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For the release of the 2021 Certain Days: Freedom For Political Prisoners Calendars we caught up with Josh, Sara and Daniel, three outside collective members. There’s no point in me explaining about the project when they do such a good job in the next 40 minutes! Calendars are now available via BurningBooks.com in the so-called US, LeftWingBooks.Net in so-called Canada, and via Active Distribution (soon?) in Europe. Check out an interview we mention with Xanachtli and David Gilbert on Treyf Podcast.

We also talk about Jalil Muntaqim’s release from prison after almost 50 years. Well, he’s been re-arrested by a politically motivated warrant from Monroe County DA Sandra Doorley’s office for allegedly attempting to register to vote and is being accused of voter fraud! There is an article and a petition and more information available on the SFBayView National Black Newspaper’s website.

More information on the case and support for Eric King can be found at SupportEricKing.Org. To hear our chat with Eric from last year, take a listen to this interview. Also, the recent interview by the Solecast of Robcat of Fire Ant Journal (to which Eric contributes) was quite lovely.

We’ll close out now with a track entitled “Back To You” and performed by The Hills The Rivers. You can find it and more on the album Burning Down: The Songs of Anarchist Prisoner Sean Swain.

Maxida Märak and Gabriel Khun on Liberating Sápmi

Liberating Sápmi with Maxida Märak and Gabriel Khun

Book cover of "Liberating Sapmi", PM Press
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This week we are pleased to present an interview William conducted with Gabriel Khun and Maxida Märak on the 2019 PM Press release Liberating Sápmi: Indigenous Resistance in Europe’s Far North. This book, of which Khun is the author and editor and Märak is an contributor, details a political history of the Sámi people whose traditional lands extend along the north most regions of so called Sweden, Norway, Finland, and parts of Russia, as well as interviews conducted with over a dozen Sámi artists and activists.

Maxida Märak is a Sámi activist, actor, and hip hop artist who has done extensive work for Indigenous people’s justice. All of the music in this episode is by Märak and used with her permission, one of which comes off of her 2019 full length release Utopi.

In this episode we speak about the particular struggles of Sámi folks, ties between Indigenous people all around the world, and many more topics!

Links for further solidarity and support from our guests:

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Featured Tracks:

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Transcription

Maxida Märak (MM): My name is Maxida Märak, I work as a hip hop artist and producer. I’ve been acting quite a bit before I started to do music, and I’m also known for being an activist in Indigenous groups and especially for the Sámis, cause I’m Sámi. We are the Native people of the Scandinavian north. We live and breathe in Sweden, Norway, Finland, and parts of Russia. So for people who are political, they will probably know me as an activist-artist, I would say.

I don’t know what more I can say, I live in Jokkmokk which is up north in Sweden. I have a daughter, she’s 8 years old, and yeah that’s me. Parts of me.

Gabriel Kuhn (GK): So my name is Gabriel Kuhn, I was born and raised in Austria, then I left the country about 25 years ago, and moved around a lot until I ended up in Sweden in 2007, and I’ve been living here since and work as a writer and translator. And I’m involved in various social and political projects.

TFSR: So, firstly I’d love to start out with a question for Gabriel. We are here to talk about your book Liberating Sápmi, which came out this year (2020) from PM Press. Would you lay out some groundwork about this book, and how you came to writing and compiling it?

GK: Yeah! So the book, basically it’s an introduction to Sámi history with a focus on the political struggle of the Sámi people and anti-colonial resistance. The book is laid out in two major parts, there is an introduction, which I wrote and is called “A Short Political History of Sápmi”, so Sápmi being the traditional homeland of the Sámi people. And that provides general background information, and then the main part of the book which makes up about two-thirds are interviews with twelve Sámi artists, activists, and scholars. So Maxida is one of them.

In addition there are illustrations in the book, photographs, and artwork. And there is a resource guide at the end of the book, which has information about more English language literature and music and film and some online sources that people can look into.

And the reason I got the idea for the book was that I thought such a book was missing on the english language market. There are quite a few books about the Sámi people in English, some of them are very good, but most of them are academic studies, they are hard to find, or they’re quite expensive. So my intention was to do a book that was accessible, easy to read, easy to get, affordable, and that’s how the idea came about.

TFSR: I loved the interview component of the book, the introduction was really well done and I loved it too, but I also loved the intertwining of the interview component in the book and bringing in voices from all over Sápmi and all of these different backgrounds.

GK: That was the most important part of the book!

TFSR: Definitely! And I wonder Maxida if I could ask you, insofar as this is possible would you speak about the history of Sápmi and the history of Sámi people who live on the land?

MM: Wow that’s a big question! Well we are Indigenous people, so we’ve been where we are for what you can tell for over 10,000 years. The hard part is that Sweden always wanted to categorize us as a “minority”, which we are, but not just a minority. We are Indigenous, and I think that one of the hard things has been to proving that because we have a history of not leaving trails. That we are guests in nature, so we haven’t left anything to find really, no big marks. But we are Indigenous people, we have been very isolated because we live in the northern part of Sweden which is for many people I think unknown ground. When you travel far up north in Sweden, and I’ll talk just about Sweden-Norway-Finland, it’s a lot different. The landscape is a lot different from the middle part of Sweden and down to the south. So it’s kind of hard to live there if you don’t know how to use the ground and how to hunt and fish. And so we had been kind of isolated.

Then around 16th century, like in many other places in the world, the Church became very central and started to travel. And to make a very long story short they started to go farther up north and of course tried to get the Sámis into the church for the same reasons as.. I mean they treated the Sámis the same way they treated Indigenous people all around the world. So it was a battle between religions I would say. Only the fact that Sámis never went to war, we don’t even have a name for war in the Sámi language. We’ve never been a people of war.

We’ve been mistreated and killed, and slaughtered, like other Indigenous people. And I can just go on and on about how they have been treating us. I can say that the Sámi culture is very different from the Swedish culture, which is also I mean, what I notice is that it’s hard to combine, the Swedish culture and the Sámi culture, or the non-Sámi culture and Sámi culture because we live a lifestyle where the goal is not profit. We have reindeer, we still do reindeer herding, we are the only people in Scandanavia that does reindeer herding. In Sweden we have no wild reindeer anymore, so it’s just like cattle but they are free. And we have the language, our history of the yoik [traditional Sámi singing and music], like I said I could go into specific areas, so if there’s anything specific you want to talk about I can tell you.

TFSR: I mean, this is a very complex question, because how do you distill 10,000 plus years of history of a people in a short answer to a question. But I think that the groundwork that you laid just now will be very useful for listeners in just conceptualizing the things that we are speaking about. And I do wanna talk about reindeer some more, I wanna talk about music, I wanna talk about a bunch of other stuff that I think will come up organically.

MM: I can tell you one thing that I usually tell people that don’t really know what Sámis are. And that is that I feel more related to my Native American friends and my Inuit friends than I feel related to my Swedish friends. So our culture is very similar to the other more known Indigenous people, and that’s a good way to explain it. That we are not Swedish, the culture is very very different from the Swedish culture.

TFSR: Yeah that makes a lot of sense to me, and there was a question that I had later in the interview about sort of the construction of race and the construction of whiteness as it relates to Sámi folks..

MM: That is a very interesting topic! A very dangerous one too.

TFSR: Especially because of, I was born and raised here on Turtle Island [decolonial name for the so-called US] and my understanding of race is very specific and very culturally rooted here. And I was wondering if you had any words on the construction of race and whiteness as it relates or doesn’t relate to Sami folks or you specifically?

MM: This is so interesting because in Sweden, they never ask me this question because the topic is so toxic. And in Sweden we don’t say “race”, like you can’t even mention it. I’ve been to the US or Canada, and there people will come up to me and say “what race are you?” And you could never do that in Sweden, ne-ver do that! That word is like, bad. Which is for good reasons, often. But for Sámis it’s very interesting to talk about, because one thing that we don’t always have in common to other Indigenous people is that you can’t always tell if a person is non-Swedish, or if they’re Sámi. We look very different.

Like I have friends that are very tall, very light skinned, you couldn’t tell the difference between a non-Sámi person and that person. But that person could still be a Sámi. And then I have friends and my own family who are very dark, like I said, people ask me all the time where I’m from. They can’t really put a finger on it where I’m from. And that is one of the of course terrible things when it comes to racism, that you get categorized in what race you are and valued by the tone of your skin. And that is horrible! But it has also been one of the things that I think has been hard for Sámis sometimes, that we have to hold on so tight to the other cultural things that we have as Sámis because you can’t really tell by just looking at us all the time.

And I know I’ve heard stories from my elders that when Sweden came, and when I say “Sweden” I mean the church or the people who collect the taxes, they would actually tell Sámi women that they think she was cheating, fooling around, because they had kids who looked so different, you could have one kid that was so dark and one that was so light. So, I mean that is a question that I think is even toxic to talk about among Sámis actually.

Of course we have groups in Sápmi that are very against mixing between Sámis and non-Sámis, still! Like that you should keep the blood “pure”. And more areas are more into that than others, and definitely how connected you are to the reindeer herding, I mean only 10% of the Sámi population in Sweden is working as a reindeer herder. That’s not a lot, but it’s still one of the biggest and most important thing in Sámi culture and that becomes very important, the question of are you in the reindeer herding business or not. And how much of non-Sámi blood do you really have, I mean that is definitely a topic but it’s very toxic to talk about.

And do you have a Sámi last name? I belong to one of the people, like I do have a Sámi last name. And many people don’t, and there’s a reason for that, Sweden came and took it!! I mean, we see now the results of what they’ve done to the Sámi people that is very hard for specific groups in Sápmi to “be” a full Sámi. If they don’t have a last name, they don’t do reindeer herding, they don’t have a membership in a Sámi village. And that is nobody’s fault but Sweden’s and Norway’s.

So yeah, definitely, this is something that does exist.

Can I give an example? I have such a good example, like I have a daughter, she is NikkeSunnas, she is turning 8 this summer. I come from a very culturally Sámi family, Märak, and my grandfather, he passed away this December. He was a living legend, and now he’s just a legend, but he was one of the greatest people we’ve had in Sápmi. He was the first Sámi to become a priest, that combined this other religion with the church. He helped so many people, he brought back yoik to the church when it was still forbidden, when it was a sin. So my family’s very known for that part of the Sámi culture, the yoik and the storytelling. And my daughter’s father, his name is Pärak, and he comes from a very known reindeer herding family. They’ve been doing reindeer herding since the beginning, and his grandfather was well known, well known. So my daughter she is now brought up in such a strong mi culture family, like she has 2 heavy last names, and her first name is also very heavy “NikkeSunnas Märak Pärak”. She knows how to ride a snowmobile, a four wheeler, she has reindeer, we have a lot of cottages up in different places in Sápmi. She has the whole package, and she looks like a little elf, you know?

They will never, no one will never question her ever of her heritage, where she’s from. Everybody knows her parents, her parent’s name, grandparents, the areas that we’re from. I mean, the history goes way back, no one will ever question her. She has a friend, and I won’t mention her name, but her mother is, well we say she is mixed. She is a little bit Sámi, a little bit Finnish, a little bit Swedish, a little bit something-something, you know? And her mother, I mean she was searching for her Sámi roots when she was a grown up, so she has not been brought up in the mi culture. She has a daughter with a man from France, so the kid is very mixed I mean she’s amazing. So my daughter and her friend they went to the same preschool, which is a mi preschool for the mi kids and they can speak their language and get a foot into Sámi culture. It’s mainly for reindeer herding kids.

When they were supposed to start school, this friend went to the Swedish school instead of the mi school. And the main reason why she started Swedish school instead is because her parents wanted to spare her from being that kid in the class that is the least mi of them all. She has no cottages, nobody knows her grandparents, she has no connection to the reindeer herding whatsoever. Like she’s just a kid, but she is of course mi! She has mi blood! But she has not been brought up in a mi culture family. Which can actually make it pretty hard, because all the other kids are so connected, we have this – I don’t know what it is – but I mean it’s a special connection, we share everything and all the kids go to the reindeer herding things, and all the kids go to the cottages during the summer and the wintertime.

And this kid would be an outsider from that. And she will get questioned when they grow up, like people will start questioning her “how much mi are you? Where are you from? Do you really belong here?” I wont say that that would definitely happen, but there is a risk.

I wouldn’t act the way that her parents did, because I believe that we are actually developing now and are not as harsh as we were before. But I mean, of course there’s a risk, and I don’t think the Swedish people know this. That there is such a cultural difference between the mis and the non-mis that they wanted to spare her from a young age from not being the outsider who wasn’t mi enough. So, that’s just an example. I’ve been thinking a lot about this, like did they do the right thing? I think they should have put her thru mi school, cause she will probably grow up like her mother and wonder like, hey why did you do this? Like I have a connection to this world and you made a choice for me. Because this is in one way a choice, I know this for a fact because I live in Jokkmokk. And in Jokkmokk there is only 3,000 people in this little town, so here it’s very much like “did you go to the Sámi school or not?”

If you didn’t you have to explain yourself, why? Ok, so now you wanna become a Sámi?? you didn’t have to go thru all the shit that we did, that went to the Sámi school, getting bullied and whatnot. But now that you are a grown up, now you want to become a Sámi, and have the traditional costume and.. ok.. you know what I’m saying? I mean, you can see this in different cultures but in Sweden I don’t think the people have any idea of how it is.

TFSR: Yeah, thank you so much for that example. I think that what you’re bringing up is making me think of really just complex currents of understanding and belonging, especially in communities and in people that are heavily impacted by the ongoing violences of colonialism and how complex that can look.

Gabriel, I would love to ask a little bit more about the book and about your process in writing the book, and about sort of how you approached this kind of research and history work as somebody who is outside of the community that you are seeking to uplift and do this kind of work with. And I’m wondering what sorts of things should other researchers keep in mind in your opinion if they are seeking to do this kind of work as well?

GK: So I think this is a very important question. It’s also a question that makes me slightly uncomfortable because just the fact that I decided to do this book as an outsider doesn’t necessarily mean that I know how to do that work, or that I did it the “right” way. So I’m sure there are plenty of things I could have done better, I’m sure that people have very valid criticisms, in general I don’t think there is a blueprint for how to do this.

So I can say in response to your question, it’s all going to be very subjective. Obviously I gave that much thought before I embarked on the project. I mean, this was in many ways but also in this way a very special project for me because let’s say I work on a book about sports, or I work on a book about straight edge, I do not question my validity as an author. If I feel I have a good idea for a book and I find a publisher who wants to release the book, then I get to work and do the best I can. But I don’t really go thru a process of asking myself “is this really my place?”.

Now with this book, that was a very big question, that was the decisive question. At the beginning I felt that I had a good idea but I was not sure whether I was the right person to do it. So the first thing I did, which I guess maybe is the first part of answering your question, the first thing I did was basically to look for approval within the Sámi community. Now the Sámi community is no monolithic block, people have different opinions, there are no individual Sámi who can speak for the whole community. But I was looking for feedback and opinions of people I knew, and people whose thoughts for different reasons were particularly important to me. And I mention this because – oh and I also mention it in the preface to the book – I remember there was one very important phone conversation I had very early on with Anders Sinna, a Sámi painter who Maxida knows well.

And I’m a big fan of his work, and I also wanted him to be one of the people in the book that I interviewed, which then he agreed to. And so very early on in the process I had a conversation with him on the phone and I presented the idea to him and was just wondering what he thought. And quite frankly, had he said at that point “ah, I don’t think that’s a very good idea” or “I don’t think you should be doing a book like that”, I might have dropped the project right away. But he didn’t say that, and he was rather encouraging, and so I reached out to more people who I also got encouragement from. So thru those steps I started to see a path that I thought I could follow and reach a satisfying result.

Now, what was important along that path, I think a lot of that is common sense although I’m aware of the fact that historically people who have written books about communities that they themselves don’t belong to, didn’t necessarily follow those common sense guidelines. But one thing that I felt was important was that I was very clear about my position and what I was able to do and not able to do. So I have no firsthand experience of Sámi culture, I am not an expert scholar on Sámi culture, my approach comes from a longstanding interest in Indigenous peoples and their struggles for justice. And so because of this interest throughout the years, because of travels I did and studies I did and conversations I had, I felt that I acquired enough knowledge that allowed me to basically build a platform in this case for Sámi voices to reach a broader international audience.

So to make this really short, I just felt I could be a facilitator to spread knowledge that I thought was important.

And then the second part related to that, and this is maybe even more common sense, is that in the process of working on the book, obviously I am 100 percent dependent on Sámi contributors and Sámi advisers. And in that process you gotta be respectful, you gotta be honest about your intentions, you have to acknowledge people’s contributions, put the community at the center of the project and not yourself. And again, I cannot speak for how well I managed to do that, but this is what I tried. I can maybe add one more thing that I think helped in this process, which is that this is not a book that I will make a lot of money off. This is not a book that helps me with an academic career that I do not have. And it helped I think because those aspects add yet another layer of ethical questions that I think are difficult sometimes to deal with. So luckily, I didn’t have to deal with those. So I think that also made it in a sense easier.

I think there are very general guidelines that would probably be useful for anyone working on such a project, but then of course it very much how that plays out specifically very much depends on the specific project that people are working on. Where they are and what their position is, what their relationship is with the communities they write about. So, exactly, there is no blueprint, I think there are some general guidelines, but if you decide to do a project like that these specifics you have to work out in that specific project you’re working on.

TFSR: One thing I am curious about, Gabriel and Maxida, what kinds of support for Sámi issues is there among far left and anarchist spaces and anarchist people in Scandinavia and any invitation or provocations that you might have for how people, people around the world but specifically how people on the land can have y’all’s back a little bit better or if they’re doing something really well and you want to name that, I would love to hear.

GK: How about this, I can say something about my experiences here in the broader activist community because that in a sense there was also a, I don’t know if motivating factor is the right word, but it played into my idea of doing this book. And I know that Maxida has things to add to what I’m going to say, and then we can maybe look at more specifically what especially people outside of the Nordic countries can do to support Sámi struggles.

So if I just speak about this, my experience here with the so called activist community, it was very surprising to me when I first came to Sweden in 2007 because from the time I spent in North America and Australia and New Zealand, my sense was that, again very broadly speaking, the activist communities there with all the flaws and shortcomings and mistakes that we all make, at least had a very clear and I felt sincere ambition to be good allies, accomplices, collaborators, whatever the preferred terminology was, to Indigenous people, so to stand in solidarity with them.

And I kind of expected that to be the case here as well, but I don’t think it is. So if you look at the non-Sámi activist communities in the Nordic countries, to me there was – and maybe it has changed since I got here – but I think there still is a surprising level of ignorance. I mean I’m simplifying here, but if you talk to the average leftist radical activist in, say, Stockholm, they’re often very well versed in what’s happening in Palestine, Chiapas, perhaps even on the Pine Ridge Reservation, but they’re very ignorant about what’s happening in Sápmi.

And I’ve thought about this a lot, and I think there are a few reasons for this and I’ve not really come to conclusions so these are kind of guesses, but I mean one thing is that this ignorance is a reflection of general ignorance among mainstream society here about the Sámi people. So in that sense it’s a reflection, but I think there are other issues as well. One is, I think that historically the left (and that reaches from social democracy to the far left) in the Nordic countries was particularly technocratic and “progress” oriented. So industrialization, technological progress, science including at the beginning of the 20th century racial biology, all of that was supposed to be a way toward socialism and was considered progressive. So if you have that picture, Indigenous people like the Sámi are basically a stumbling block, they don’t fit into this picture, so I think that is one thing that you can still feel people don’t really know. Its something that doesn’t fit into this historical leftist ideology and so people have a very difficult time dealing with that.

And more concretely, I think that is then enhanced by what I as a complete outsider because I am not even originally from the Nordic countries, see as a bit of a cultural problem. What I mean by that is that here in the Nordic countries, maybe particularly in Sweden, people often have a really hard time with dealing with conflict. Whenever there is conflict, or there are certain issues that are complicated, people get very insecure and confused. Now if you look at the broad activist communities here, and the views that people have and the issues that are important and the norms that are often attached to it, some of them clash with the realities in Sápmi.

So to take an example, is like animal rights, people here on the left are often anti-hunting. Hunting is a part of traditional Sámi culture, reindeer herds are protected from predators, for example wolves. So here we have one example where that sort of clashes with what is often perceived as an anti-hunting norm. In the left, similar with environmentalism; people are in support of green energy, this is fine. However if you look at how that plays out in reality, wind parks are predominantly established in Sápmi because that’s where they least disturb mainstream society although they majorly disturb reindeer herding. So there you have another conflict that some people on the left find difficult to deal with.

Also things like national identity, a lot of Sámi activists would speak of the Sami as a nation and find that important. We have one contributor to the book for example Aslak Holmberg, who speaks of cultural nationalism as something that’s important. That clashes with some of the criticism of anything that has to do with the nation among the left here. So I think rather than addressing these issues and accepting that this is challenging, and thru dialogue and conversation which can be painful and complicated, modify your position or enhance your positions, people would rather just shy away from that and pretend it doesn’t exist which means that very often, you know, Sámi issues would seem to become too “complicated”. And I can’t just as a final example which I thought illustrated this well, there is a well known Swedish writer who writes a lot about this situation in the northern provinces of Sweden, and urban rural divide, the social injustices implied in that. He doesn’t write anything about the Sámi, and he once explained that saying “oh no, that topic is just too complicated, whenever you write it’ll be wrong” meaning whatever you write someone will criticize you for that, perhaps harshly.

And while that may be true, and I understand on a personal level that you don’t want to put yourself in that position, if most people have that approach you will miss out on debate.

And then a third aspect that I might mention, and Maxida knows a lot about this because she has experienced all of this firsthand, is that if you look at the tactics that again, the sort of average Nordic activist employs, and that’s nothing that’s specific to the Nordic countries that’s true for all of western europe, it is very much based on an urban environment. So you can be a pretty anonymous figure who attends protests and meetings, but if you want to go about your daily life you can do so pretty much undisturbed. This doesn’t work in an environment like Sápmi, or any rural environment for that matter, because people know you and there’s not place to hide if you’re outspoken on certain issues. It also means the risks you’re taking are much higher and the demands are very different, so I think to political activism. And what a lot of people in the urban general leftist activist communities are used to. So I think that creates another complication.

MM: You’ve done your job Gabriel!! Everything that you said is exactly how it is. I mean, that is so correct.

I mean, in Sweden people here are so afraid of conflict. And I’m sad to say that there is not a lot of true activists in Sweden. I have a word for this which essentially means a fake activist. I know a lot of people and a lot of so called activists groups that say that they fight for justice, when you come down to it it’s not about justice at all it’s about making yourself heard, about making yourself look cool, but when it comes to the source like what do we fight for? Or should we really fight, shouldn’t we try to gather? They back out.

So like Gabriel said, there’s a lot of so called activists, that it clashes with the Sami way of living. One example is one of my close friends, he got prison, seven years of prison, because he was accused of killing a wolverine. And I can tell you that his family, they got so thrashed for years from the so called activists, the animal friends. So I mean, we struggle with both the politicians in Sweden, the Swedish government, and the so called activists. A lot of the the Indigenous friendly people are allowed to go to the US to protest, I mean do you know how many people from Sweden went to Standing Rock? We had so many Swedes that went there, for the Native Americans! They want to put a feather on their fucking head and pretend to be some kind of spirit animal. But they would never, never, go up north to do the same for us.

And I think that is also because, Sweden I mean, the history that we have, now you can really tell the difference tho between for example the US and Sweden. Sweden has been pretty protected from war, so the Swedish people don’t know what a revolution is. The people in Sweden that have been abused are the Indigenous people, and the people that immigrate of course into Sweden. But the Swedish people have not been thru trauma. So I think this is a result of that, that when it comes down to it, they get too afraid. They will never choose a side. Like if you ask Swedish people what they vote for, 95% will not tell you. Ever. NEVER will they tell you. And if you do, you have a mark on your head and you will live with that for the rest of your life.

I mean so, that is like Gabriel said, it clashes. We have a lot of so called activists in Sweden, but to be honest, there’s not a lot of real activism going on here in Sweden. And I can just agree to everything that he said and it was very interesting to hear him speak about it, he can see it from an outside perspective, because I think that Swedish people would probably not agree. And that is also why, it’s kind of hard to live in this world because sometimes it feels like we have everyone against us, we can never do anything right. The whole culture and the way that we live and breathe up here just doesn’t combine to anything else in Sweden. We have the same temple and this is of course the Swedish government has been very good at keeping quiet, like not teaching Sámi history. So when we claim our rights, people don’t even know that we exist, it’s kind of hard to claim your rights if they don’t know that we exist. And then we get questioned about that.

So everything that Gabriel said is completely true. Which is sad! It’s very sad.

TFSR: It is, and it’s making me think of sort of something that happens here a lot, there’s a running, not a saying but, but the Indigenous people here who have been kind enough to talk to me about issues of decolonization is lean into the discomfort, because colonialism affects everybody and it affects you, the colonizer as well, and it disproportionately affects people who are impacted by the ongoing violences of colonialism and colonization, but it affects everybody. Decolonization is an uncomfortable process. It’s not like sunshine and rainbows and puppy dogs, it’s a very uncomfortable process so like, that’s making me think of conversations that are happening here about the specific situations that are happening on this landmass. But thank y’all so much for going into that!

I’m wondering if you have any ideas on, or if you even want to have more of a solidarity with the far left and what do you think that will take if that’s a desired thing.

MM: Definitely, but still I think it’s also a bit dangerous because you still want the right people to be on your side. The far left can also be fucking crazy. And that’s one of the things that I try to tell people who come out and ask us is you have to stop the fight. People love to put themselves into different groups and just fight among those groups, the more groups the better. And I try to remind people that what is the goal? My goal is to get people to be on my side. And if I just stand there and scream and disrespect people, and expect people to know everything about me already before they open their mouths. So you want to have people from both sides to have our backs.

Of course not the far right, right? But I feel it’s dangerous to categorize a whole culture to just be on the left, I think the goal is for people to understand that this is our norm and we need people on every political party – except for the racists – to be on our side. And not just activists, but normal people you know what I’m saying? People that are non-activists, people that don’t dare to be an activist. You can’t expect everyone to be the way that I am, I am very outspoken and I’m very unafraid, but people are not just like that. Everyone is not like that. So of course the goal is to get people on our side, but for the right reasons and in the right way.

And you have to aim high. You have to aim for the Swedish government. You can’t just be a grassroot, you know? That’s what I said when I started as an artist, and some people started to question me when I went to big events with all kinds of people like known artists and politicians, like ‘why is she there, she used to be in the woods screaming?’ yeah I used to be in the woods screaming, but my goal was to be in on the fucking round table!

I have to be up there with the big horses, to speak out because I need them on my side. Not just the grassroots community, you have to aim high. So I want the Swedish government, that’s my fucking goal, to get them on our side. And hopefully the next generation are smarter, but it’s important to not just look at the leftists, cause then we put ourselves in that little group one more time. The group needs to be bigger and more welcoming. The rights that we claim, they are weird! Like why shouldn’t we have our rights? it’s common sense. I mean if we start to educate people in Swedish history, colonization, what is actually been done to the mi people, what is happening NOW to the mi people, a lot of people will understand.

Cause I believe in the good in people. The dangerous thing is when you believe that most people have bad intentions. If that is what you think about everyone you’ve already lost. And I have to believe in the good in people. Maybe I have to say things ten times before you get it, but the tenth time, maybe you’ll get it. And then you will come over to my side. Cause in the end it’s about human rights, you can rape a person, you can kill a person, and the police talk to you for fucking 24 hours and then you’re out again. But if you kill a wolverine, you get two and a half years prison?! And that’s only for reindeer herders, cause our cattle are free, so that’s why we aren’t allowed to protect them, cause they’re free. Like if we had them as cows or pigs, that is different rules. But only mi people have free cattle, so we have different rules. I mean, that’s just an example of how it looks today.

And when you tell people this, a lot of people actually understand. I’ve met all the big politicians in Sweden, I’ve done TV shows with a lot of them. And I’ve been criticized for sitting with people who vote for different parties than I do. I’m very left, my heart is to the left. But I have friends that are from different parties, and of course there are parties in Sweden that I would never ever socialize with. Like any racist party, I would never do that. But I’ve been criticized for having friends who vote for different things than I do.

But then I tell them, they meet me and I’m the first and only Sámi they will ever talk to, and they hear my history, maybe I will change someones political views. Maybe they will think different the next time the question about mining industry comes up, and they will remember me. And they will remember that I respected them, and they will remember my story. And maybe the outcome will be different.

So I just think that love and respect, I mean it sounds very cliched but that is actually very true. The dangerous thing with activists is the people who do it for the wrong reasons. Just for the fight. And in the end we don’t want the fight, we want peace. We have to live next to each other, we have to know how to combine different worlds, that is the only way that we can survive in the end is to get along. Not to kill each other, not to fight. So I think that the true activists need to have that in mind. That of course I want the left to be on my side, but I also want the right to be on my side. And if they are on my side, they will become left!

TFSR: You know, the whole love and respect thing being a cliché, people really respond to it positively. And I see people from all over the world saying it, we just need to understand each other. So thank you for saying that.

MM: Of course I wanna say too, Nazis and racists are a completely different question. Just to be clear.

GK: Just real quick, since we are not at the peace stage yet, but there are struggles ongoing, I just wanted to get back real quick to what you said earlier, what was implied in your question about how people can concretely support Sámi struggles today if they wanted to. I was wondering just a very practical thing, when this is going to be aired can you add links? Cause there are cases that are ongoing about resistance to development projects, mining, there is a big plan for a railway that is supposed to be built on the Finnish side of Sápmi. And there are ongoing court cases about different things, land rights, hunting, the forced culling of reindeer herds, so there is information that people could access and they could spread it. Very often the is very concrete information on those websites, about how to get involved.

TFSR: I would be interested to hear from both of y’all about, Maxida you mentioned far right Nazis and racist political parties. We have all seen the rise of a street level and government level far right, alt right, and fascism all around the world. I’m wondering what kinds of impacts that has had on Sápmi and on y’all specifically.

MM: It’s very ironic! Because a lot of people are like yay, because we have the Swedish Democrats (a racist political party). And I often get the comment that ‘oh they will love you Sámis because you are the native Swedes!’ And that is definitely not the case, no no no. They are against probably everything that we do and especially the reindeer herding. And like all the parties, except for the left ones unfortunately, are for for example the mining industry. And the Sámi people especially the reindeer herders take up so much land.

I mean, they are against everything that is not “really” Swedish culture. And we are I think, when you start to talk about what Swedish culture is, is where you can really see that the Sámis are different from the Swedes. So I mean, of course we are affected by it, and if they would get more power than they have it would be a definite issue for the Sámi villages and for the reindeer herding industry, definitely. They want to open up the Sámi villages, and this is kind of hard to explain because then I’d have to explain what exactly a Sámi village is, but you could almost call it a tribe. And in this so called ‘tribe’ you have to have a membership, and only if you have a membership can you have reindeer. And we have specific areas in Sweden for every village which can have reindeer on. And on those areas, for every specific village or tribe, we have fishing and hunting rights. And we are the only ones who actually can fish and hunt there, because we are the so called protectors of it. So people won’t come there for vacations or a sports trip, or whatever. And so that’s one example, they want to open up the Sami villages and make it free for everyone to have reindeer, and everyone to fish and hunt.

And the result of that would be catastrophic! We would lose everything! So I mean, yeah we are definitely affected, and affected in ways of course that they are just racist pigs that hate everyone that is not white.

GK: So if I can add one thing that I think is interesting, if you observe the especially the far right parties that now are in all the parliaments of the Nordic countries, so the Sweden Democrats here in Sweden, and the so called ‘Progress Party’ in Norway, and the True Finns in Finland. I think if you look at their policies toward the Sámi, it’s interesting because it reflects a trend on the far right that goes from let’s say traditional very crude forms of racism based in biology to you know, what is sometimes referred to as ‘ethno-pluralist’ or basically cultural forms of racism. I find it interesting that sometimes you can have representatives of those parties pay lip service to cultural traits of the Sámi – the language, or traditional clothing, or whatever – something that appeals ideologically to their idea of national coherence and unity and whatnot.

However, at the same time all of those parties explicitly deny any special social or political rights to the Sami as Indigenous peoples or just minorities –

MM: Exactly!

GK: – So what you end up with is they are allowed to be part of the nation state project of Sweden or Norway or Finland, as some kind of exotic spice or possibly a showcase of how supposedly ‘tolerant’ those people are, because they let these ‘minorities’ who don’t speak their language or whatever.

But what it essentially means on the ground is that you deny them all civil and democratic rights which are essential as a foundation of sovereignty and self determination. Or if you want to put it the other way around, the only way that Sámi can get civil and democratic rights is if they become fully assimilated as citizens in the nation state project.

And this is a very deceptive, and thereby also a very dangerous form of, and I would speak in terms of ongoing racism in that case that these parties represent. But also as Maxida said you can see that very concretely here in Sweden, for example the Sweden Democrats are very clear in wanting to take away the exclusive right to reindeer herding from the Sámi. In Norway, the Progress Party is very clear about wanting to abolish the Sámi Parliament, which is one of the most important at least symbolic political institutions of the Sámi, and they want to turn it into alternatively a museum or a hotel or whatever.

So those attacks are very clear, this is nothing hidden, but there are sometimes accompanies by as I said these statements ‘oh but of course the culture is great and the culture is beautiful’ so this is very dangerous.

MM: Yes this is coming back to that question that you asked before about race, cause here it becomes very important that we have to claim our rights and they question like, either you are Swedish or you are not. What are you? So we get questioned, like Gabriel said, they want to take our rights away. Because if we live in Sweden and we claim to be Indigenous, then why should we have special treatment? That is one thing that they really push out, like, no special treatment for you guys. And this is just history repeating itself. And this is also why some people have memberships in Sámi villages and some people don’t. There are Sámis that did reindeer herding before the Swedish government and the history, they let them keep their membership in the Sámi village, and if you did not do reindeer herding you got kicked out from the village and lost your membership.

And this is the same thing that the Swedish Democrats are doing now, like, either you are Swedish or you’re not. You claim to be Sámi, then get the fuck outta here. If you want to still be in Sweden, then ‘act Swedish’. I can just see history repeating itself once again.

But like I’m saying, this is also very interesting, we live in a time now of climate change for example, and now we have this fucking coronavirus just taking over the world. And I can almost laugh and say they’ve been trying to kill us Indigenous people for ever! But they never fucking succeeded, and why is that? Because in the end the knowledge that we have is the most important knowledge. That is one thing that I notice now in Sweden, now people are starting to get more interested! Like ‘how do you live up there?’ and they want to learn, even vegans are thinking about learning how to hunt. Because we see that when the world collapses, money and guns don’t work, you have nothing!

That is a war that everyone is prepared for. So if you have guns and money and power, you can fight a war. But with climate change and a virus?? The most important things to know is Indigenous knowledge, that is how you survive. I just want to say that because that is a change that I see now, that now for the first time I hear people becoming more interested in how we live. This is also probably history repeating itself, and this is probably why they never succeeded in killing us. Because something always happens in the world, like catastrophe and trauma, and when it comes to that it’s a special kind of knowledge that you need to know. It’s a special way of living that you need to know that will make us all survive. And I just find that quite interesting actually!

TFSR: That is really interesting! This gets into a question that I had specifically about reindeer herding. I was interested in reading Gabriel’s introduction to Liberating Sápmi, sort of horrified to read that Sweden, or like the colonial governments, were sort of gate-keeping Sámi identity, and maybe this is a misrepresentation and please let me know if so, but gate-keeping Sámi identity by saying essentially that if you don’t herd reindeer you’re not Sámi? Is that correct?

GK: What is true specifically in Sweden you have this strong distinction which comes from a law from the early 20th century between reindeer herding Sámi and non-reindeer herding Sámi. There were some particular rights granted to reindeer herding Sámi that were not granted to other Sámi, and that is a classical example of a colonial divide and conquer strategy that has caused big problems also within the Sámi community which maintain to this day. So I think this is the part that you are probably referring to.

MM: Yeah I mean, parts of this definitely still exist. Like I said before, you have to have a membership in a Sámi village to have reindeer for example. And with having a membership you get specific rights, and if you don’t have a membership you don’t have the same rights. And that is also a part of that whole history and what Gabriel talked about, and that has definitely been – and still is! – a very toxic conflict in Sápmi, that forces Sámis to fight against each other because we still have families that try to get back their memberships in these Sámi villages, but there’s not enough space for them to have reindeer. We are only allowed to have a certain amount of reindeer, because we only have this and this much land to be on.

So I mean the conflicts that we have in Sápmi are horrific, and that is a definite result of the Swedish history and how they’ve treated us. Now we are left to solve all this without any rights as an Indigenous people, and it’s very hard to solve these conflicts. So that definitely still exists, that the reindeer herders have rights that non-reindeer herders don’t have.

GK: But then one could add maybe that the rights of the reindeer herders are also controlled by the government. So that’s where the forced culling comes in for example, because the number of reindeer that a specific Sámi village can have is still determined by the nation state government. If the numbers are too big, the government will come in and say ‘ok, you have to slaughter – whetever – 20% of your herd because your herd is too big’. And this is one of some of the most current, prominent examples of conflicts in court between Sámi and the governments.

TFSR: It’s really reminding me of the government of Canada and how that government really gate-keeps and detrimentally affects the lives and identities of the Indigenous people who live there. I would be interested in hearing y’alls take on, so Sápmi is a pretty large territory, it spans many hundreds of miles, and it gets crossed by several colonial borders, Sweden, Norway, Finland, and Russia.

I know in Canada, there are many peoples, the Anishinaabe, Haudenosaunee, Mohawk, and Coastal Salish and others, all those territories are crossed by a very heavily militarized colonial border, to say nothing of the colonial border in the South. And I’m wondering how that colonial border has affected the relationships between folks who are Sámi who live in Sápmi. I wonder if y’all have any words on that?

MM: I would say that this a beautiful thing with this culture, is that we still see Sápmi as, if we could say, one land. So for us we know, I mean I am Lule Sámi, which is one type of Sámi, and my people we go way into Norway. So I speak the same language and have the same traditional clothing as a lot of people in Norway, so for us they [the borders] are non-existent. We really see Sápmi as one area without borders, but of course we know that they are there! It affects the reindeer herding a lot. But I think for us, that is one of the most beautiful things in the Sámi culture is that we don’t have any borders, we have family in every country, and travel like nomads did before over the borders and everyone knows everyone.

Politically, we definitely notice it.

GK: The practical problems, just right now I mean with the pandemic-

MM: UGH oh my god!!

GK: – you know with the European Union and special treaties with Norway, since that opened up the borders generally, I think they’ve lost some of the significance they’ve had up to 20 years ago. But just right now, I mean all the borders came back up. I just emailed or texted with people a few days ago who live along the Tana River which for a very long stretch, maybe 100km, marks the border between Finland and Norway. And you have Sámi families literally on the opposite sides of the river, so some of them live in Finland and the others in Norway.

And suddenly you now have the borders coming up it becomes very difficult for them to visit one another. So obviously the practical complications that these borders create and have created, they were partly responsible for forced migration historically. As Maxida points out, that would have been my impression from talking to everyone, every Sámi I’ve talked to in connection with the book, the stress that for Sámi identity those national borders don’t matter.

And that would also include the Sámi community in Russia, which especially in the 20th century with the Iron Curtain, was very isolated from the rest of the Sámi community. But my sense is, and Maxida I would assume would confirm that, is that they are a clear part of the Sámi family and community because of the strong historical and cultural ties.

TFSR: Yeah, thank you for talking about that, and thank you so much for your time and your willingness to come onto the show, it was an absolute honor to get to speak to y’all about the work that y’all are doing and your experiences. Is there anything that we missed in this interview that you want to give voice to in closing?

MM: Shoutout to my Natives!!

I think one of the powerful things is that in percent, we are not that many Sámi, and there are not that many Inuits in Greenland, and whatnot, but wow what a huge group we are as Indigenous people. And that is so powerful to see, some of my closest friends are Indigenous from different countries. And when we ally and hold each other’s backs, I mean the government should fucking beware this new generation coming up, and just how easy it is now to have contact with one another! I mean you know Tim “2oolman” Hill of A Tribe Called Red? He is one of my closest friends, and just to see how powerful it is when Indigenous people gather as one is just amazing. And I just want to say that I am so grateful for being in this community because it is so powerful and so loving, and they can just keep on trying to kill us but they will not succeed. So never shut up, my Natives!

TFSR: And that was our interview with Sámi hip hop artist and activist Maxida Märak and author and activist Gabriel Kuhn about Kuhn’s 2019 release Liberating Sápmi; Indigenous Resistance in Europe’s Far North available now thru PM Press. If you are interested in learning more about Sámi struggles, which cover a lot of ground between government’s forcing reindeer culling and anti-mining campaigns, check out our show notes for links from our guests.

Io of ABO COMIX On Abolition, Comics, Queer Prisoner Support and Nerding

Prison Abolition, Queer Comicking, Nerding

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This week Cypress spoke with Io Ascarium. The conversation covered their work as a member of ABO Comix Collective and their work in comics and print.

Io is “a maurading pillar of salt just doing their best to make what
could, in a sense, be described as ‘art'” (I love them dearly but could not bring myself to write this into the actual script).

ABO Comix Collective is a group of buds and comrades working to help LGBTQ and HIV + prisoners publish their art and stay connected to the outside world. They also provide direct material aid to those inside and spread the good word of prison abolition. Their 3rd volume was released for presale earlier this month. All proceeds go back to the contributors.

You can visit their site at Abocomix.com.
You can visit Io’s online shop at thing.bigcartel.com

Io (they/them)
Cypress (he/him)

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playlist pending…

Humor, Shaming and Yelling At Racist Dogs w Tom Tanuki

Humor, Shaming and Yelling At Racist Dogs w Tom Tanuki

Tom Tanuki foto (stolen from Subversion1312)
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On the show this week, Bursts spoke with Tom Tanuki, front man of the group Yelling At Racist Dogs (Y.A.R.D.), a performance anti-fascist group that directs insulting yells at far-right, xenophobic events and speakers. For the hour we talk some about Tom’s background, the landscape of far-right politics in Australia and the place of humor and public shaming in confronting racist public figures in the work that Tom and his comrades do. You can follow Tom on twitter at the handle @tom_tanuki, on instagram at the same handle minus the underscore (@tomtanuki), and on fedbook by finding Yelling At Racist Dogs. And you can find the shirts Tom talks about at their bigcartel page.

[Sean Swain at 2min 53sec, Tom Tanuki at 11min 23sec]

We stole this picture from Subversion1312’s interview with Tom. A couple of the resources that Tom references at the end of the interview are Blackfulla Revolution and Black Feminist Ranter by Celeste Liddle, both pages on fedbook, and the book on Australian history he suggests is called Dark Emu by Bruce Pascoe. Stay tuned for an upcoming episode where we share my interview with Andy Fleming, the maniac behind SlackBastard, an exhaustive commentary on the far right in Australia (as well as the tankie left and Andy’s thoughts about anarchism, antifa and more) up at slackbastard.anarchobase.com.

Announcements

May Day in Asheville

If you’re in Asheville this May 1st, Wednesday, there’re a few events we’re happy to share. At 10 am there’s a rad families meetup at Vermont Ave playground at the West Asheville Park. Buncombe County schools are closed due to call ins by teachers as a part of the organizing wave known as Red4Ed and there’ll be a large march and rally in Raleigh, the state capital. For those unable to make it, there’s an 11am rally by teachers at the Vance monument downtown. Festivities begin at 3pm at the park on Vermont Ave with a roving bike ride, with some bikes provided. This’ll be followed at 4:30pm by a game of kickball and at 6pm, a short parade will commence from 644 Haywood Rd complete with a marching band. At 7:30 there’ll be a potluck with free vegan and gluten-free options and, finally, a public showing of the working class-ic, “9-5”, featuring Dolly Parton. More info by visiting https://tfsr.wtf/avlmayday

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playlist

Gord Hill on Art and Resistance

Gord Hill on Art and Resistance

"Learn from the past, prepare in the present, to defend the future" in red text split by bars of Gord Hill's Kwakwaka’wakw nation-inspired inkings
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Gord Hill is an indigenous author, anarchist, antifascist and militant, a member of the Kwakwaka’wakw nation living in so-called British Columbia, Canada. Gord is also graphic artist and comic book author who most recently published The Antifa Comic Book, out from Arsenal Pulp Press, and runs the website Warrior Publications and sometimes publishes under the nom-de-plume of ZigZag.

For the hour we speak about his writings documenting indigenous resistance history in the so-called Americas (mostly with a focus on Turtle Island), antifascist organizing, intersections of indigenous struggle and anarchism and critiques of Pacifism (see Gord’s “Smash Pacifism” zine). Some of the points of resistance that we cover include Elsipogtog (Elsipogtog in 5 Minutes video at sub.media), Idle No More, The Oka Crisis (“The Oka Crisis in 5 Minutes” video at sub.media), Stoney Point/Aazhoodena (another 5 minutes video by Gord), Gustafsen Lake (we didn’t talk about but another 5 minute video), the Zapatista Rebellion and the Unist’ot’en Camp resistance to pipelines in so-called B.C.

Sean Swain: [ 00:033:55 ], Gord Hill [ 00:11:27 ], announces at [ 00:57:29 ]

Rayquan Borum Trial Update

In a brief and sad update to last week’s interview on the case of Rayquan Borum, we’d like to read a statement from the fedbook page for Charlotte Uprising:

We are deeply saddened to report that Rayquan Borum has been found guilty of possession of a firearm and second degree murder with him being sentenced to 25/26 years in a cage.

We knew it would be difficult to receive a fair trial in the same court that allowed Officer Randall Kerrick to walk free for the murder of unarmed Jonathan Ferrell. We know the police will continue to kill Black and brown folks and escape accountability.

We suffered extreme suppression from the judge from the start of the trial. Even though the medical examiner testified there was a 51% chance that ANYTHING else killed Justin Carr, Judge Hayes would not allow any testimony naming the police. Of course, it is far easier to scapegoat a random Black man than to launch an investigation into the same police force that killed ONLY Black people in 2015.

We also know that Justin Carr would be alive were it not for the Charlotte Mecklenburg Police Department murder of Keith Lamont Scott (no trial for that officer, of course). We know that the Mecklenburg County Courts disproportionately sentence Black and brown bodies to time in cages. We know that CMPD disproportionately arrests Black and brown folks. Black people are 30% of Charlotte’s population and make up about 70% of the jail population.
Heinous.

We know that this is the American Way. In response, we will continue to rise up and resist this colonized nation and work toward building a more decolonized world, for all of us.

Forward, together

#CMPDKilledJustinCarr #CagesFixNothing #FreeThemAll #CMPD #RayquanBorum #MecklenburgCounty #NoMoreKIllerCopsOrJails

A few house keeping notes about the show. We’re happy to announce that The Final Straw is now available on the Pacifica Radio platform for affiliate stations to pick up more easily. If you, dear listener, live in an area where we aren’t on the radio but there’s a community station that airs programming from the Pacifica Network, you now have a WAY easier IN to bug the station’s programming director with. If you want us on your airwaves, check out our “broadcasting” tab on our website and reach out to a local radio station. If you have questions or want help, reach out to us and we’re happy to chat. We hope to have a some more terrestrial broadcast stations to announce soon.

Actually, yah, that was the only note. Tee hee. Otherwise, if you want to hear me, Barchive is linked up in our show notesursts, Dj’ing a 2 hour set of punk, goth and electronica on AshevilleFM, an archive is linked up in our show notes that’s available until March 12th.

Announcements

Asheville Events

If you’re in the Asheville area, there’re a few events coming up on March 16th of note. At 11am at Firestorm books, a participant in the Internationalist Commune, a self-organized collective in Northern Syria, will join us for a video chat about the revolutionary movement to transform Kurdish territory into a stateless society.

Later, across town, there’re a couple of Blue Ridge ABC events at Static Age on Saturday, March 16th. From 3-5pm there’ll be an N64 Super Smash Brothers tournament with vegan philly cheese steaks and fries available, and then from 9pm onward an antifascist black metal show featuring Arid from Chicago, plus local bands Rat Broth and Feminazgul.

Then, a reminder, that on March 22nd at the Block Off Biltmore is a benefit for info-sharing between Southern Appalachia and Rojava. The event will include a discussion, a short documentary showing, vegan desserts and nice merchandise. For more info, check out the flyer in our shownotes from March 3rd, 2019.

And now a couple of prisoner announcements

Chelsea Manning Imprisoned

U.S. Army whistleblower and former Political Prisoner, Chelsae Manning, has been jailed for criminal contempt for refusing a subpoena to participate in a Federal Grand Jury in Virginia concerning her 2010 disclosures to Wikileaks of U.S. drone killings of civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan. A support committee called “Chelsea Resists!” has been set up and updates will be coming from the website xychelsea.is and there’s a fundraiser up at actionnetwork.com for her as well. We hope to feature members of her support as well as former Grand Jury resisters who’ve been on this show before in an episode soon. You can write to Chelsea at the following address:

Chelsea Elizabeth Manning

AO181426

William G. Trusdale Adult Detention Center

2001 Mill Road

Alexandria, VA 22314

Some quick guidelines to keep her safer while writing are in the show notes

  • Address your letter exactly as shown above
  • send letters on white paper
  • use the mail service to send letters
  • include color drawings if you’d like
  • sparingly send 4×6 photos, as she may only keep 10 at a time
  • Do not send cards, packages, postcards, photocopies or cash
  • Do not decorate the outside of the envelope
  • do not send books or magazines

Exonerated Vaughn 17 prisoners transferred out of state

As the cases proceed against the Vaughn17, 17 prisoners on trial in Delaware for a prison uprising following the election of Trump as president, an uprising sometimes compared to the Lucasville Uprising, repression continues.

The uprising was as follows: prisoners took over Building C at the Vaughn prison in Smyrna, Delaware, and took three prison guards and one prison counselor hostage. Demands issued during the hostage standoff included that Delaware Governor John Carney investigate poor living conditions at the facility. One correctional officer who was taken hostage, Steven Floyd, would later be found dead after police re-entered the facility. The case can be followed at vaughn17support.org as it enters it’s third trial group. A few words from the support site note the continued repression of some of the court-exonerated prisoners:

The State of Delaware retaliated against defendants in the Vaughn uprising trial last week, by moving them out of state to Pennsylvania.

Kevin Berry, Abednego Baynes, Obadiah Miller, Johnny Bramble, Dwayne Staats, and Jarreau Ayers were all transferred to solitary confinement at SCI Camp Hill, a maximum security facility. They joined Deric Forney, who was transferred weeks earlier in January. Berry, Baynes, and Forney have all been fully acquitted on all charges.

“It’s unusual to move prisoners with short terms left in their sentence out of state,” said Fariha Huriya, an organizer working closely with Vaughn 17 prisoners. “They’re being held in solitary confinement, with no showers, no access to commissary, and limited phone calls. It’s the same inhumane conditions that they faced at James T. Vaughn.”

“The State’s vindictiveness will cost them,” said Betty Rothstein, who also organizes with the prisoners. “The Vaughn 17 have resisted these charges, and will continue to resist and expose the corruption of the DOC and abuse on prisoners.”

There are nine defendants who are still awaiting trial. New trial dates for groups 3 and 4 are scheduled for May 6th, 2019, and October 21st, 2019.

. … . ..

Playlist

Donald Rooum, pt1: Author, Cartoonist + Anarchist

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This week’s episode is part one of two (keep an eye out for part two in the future). Most of this show post is notes about repression updates, calls to take part in demonstrations and to support repressed prisoners. YAY!

Donald Rooum

This week, we invite you to listen in on the first part of a conversation we had with 90 year old anarchist, cartoonist and author, Donald Rooum. Donald was born 1928 in Bradford, UK. Donald is most known for his longtime illustration of the wiley, bomb-throwing, firebrand anarchist cartoon character, Wildcat. In this episode, Donald talks about his early political trajectory and development from childhood involvement during World War II in a Communist Party front group into anarchism via the speakers corner in Hyde Park. Donald talks about the Malatesta Anarchist Club, his artistic development and love of cartooning and engagement with activism to stop corporal punishment in schools in the U.K. and ideas about social change and anarchist intervention.

Donald’s work was recently the focus of an animated film  by film-maker Adam Luis-Jacob. Here’s a brief biography with some of Donald’s art (including some Wildcat comics).

Some notes from the conversation (followed by announcements):

Donald was published in:

Peace News website and wikipedia page
Freedom (newspaper) website + wikipedia + Donald’s
history of Freedom
Freedom Press website and wikipedia page
Donald’s Intro to Anarchism on anarchistlibrary
Donald’s “The Ethics of Egoism” on anarchistlibrary
Some low-quality images of Donald’s at Spunk.Org

People Donald mentions:

Philip Sansome (UK anarchist) wikipedia
Vernon Richards (UK anarchist) wikipedia
Article from 1945 reprinted on shutting of the War
Commentary / Freedom Paper
Abdulrahman Mohamed Babu (Zanzibari Revolutionary
Nationalist) wikipedia
Colin Ward (UK anarchist) wikipedia
works by Colin Ward at anarchistlibrary
David Hockney (artist) wikipedia
Nicholas Walter (anarchist + atheist) wikipedia
Benjamin Tucker (American anarchist) wikipedia
Works by Benjamin Tucker at anarchistlibrary
Ken Reid (British cartoonist) wikipedia

STOPP in wikipedia

Announcements:

Sean Swain

Sean Swain, a long-term anarchist prisoner in Ohio, has come under fire by the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction. The ODRC has increased Sean’s security level from 3 to 5b, an increase that has sent him to solitary confinement, led to him being handcuffed during visits, and further removed him from any possibility for parole. Additionally, the ODRC is threatening to put Sean on interstate compact, a system that ships subversive prisoners around the country, places heavy restrictions on communication, and interns them in the black hole of the interstate compact system. We’re calling for any who feel compelled by Sean’s plight to call ODRC director Gary Mohr and demand that Sean’s appeal to the current disciplinary hearing be granted and that Sean’s security level be lowered. (A script for the call can be found below.)

Thank you all. Your solidarity means so much.

some friends of Sean Swain”

Call: Director Gary Mohr 614-387-0588 drc.publicinfo@odrc.state.oh.us melissa.adkins@odrc.state.oh.us (Administrative Assistant for Mohr)

CALL-IN SCRIPT:

“I am calling on behalf of Sean Swain, inmate #243-205. I am a friend of Sean. I am calling to request the ODRC grant Mr. Swain’s appeal regarding his most recent disciplinary record, drop the charges, and lower his security level from 5b to 2. Mr. Swain is not a physical security risk, and there is no reason to keep him at such a high security rating where he will be unable to get the programming he needs to be eligible for rehabilitation and parole. Thank you for your consideration.”

In prisoner news, we’d like to start off with a little bit of positivity:

Nicole Kissane, indicted in 2015 for conspiracy to violate the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act via releasing thousands of animals from fur farms and destroying breeding records in Idaho, Montana, Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, was released after 21 months in federal prison. She still has 3 years of supervised release, but she’s out from behind the actual bars. Welcome home, Nicole!

In local concerns:

If you’re in the Asheville area next weekend, August 3-5, consider Pansy Fest II, a DIY queer/trans music and art festival. The fun starts at 2pm on Friday the 3rd at the Mothlight with a full-ticket of bands and ending out with a dance party til 2am. The weekend includes workshops at Firestorm Books & Coffee with more shows & after parties. Proceeds will go to support the Trans Kindred Fund & Tranzmission Prison Project. More info on their fedbook, or by emailing pansyfestavl@gmail.com

And now a few updates from the world of anti-fascist street presence:

First, coming up fast in early August, fascist and proto-fascist groups are trying to build up some steam for the one year anniversary of the Unite The Right rally on August 12th. The Islamophobic and Western Chauvinist groups Patriot Prayer and Proud Boys are calling for a demonstration and plan to amass a large and likely violent mob in Portland, OR, on August 4th. Antiracists are organizing under #AllOutPDX & #StopTheHate. So a coalition called PopMob, or popular mobilization, is organizing a broad event on August 4th at 10:30 at PDX city hall and then moving at 11:30 to join the larger event at Chapman Square. You can find more information by checking itsgoingdown.org, or finding the events on fedbook called “Stop The Hate” and “Resist Patriot Prayer”. The latter is being called by Eugene Antifa & other groups and will meet up at 11:30 at Tom McCall Waterfront Park.

Then a week later on the east coast of the so-called U.S. on August 12th there is a call for an Antifascist/Abolitionist Bloc to join the resistance to the far right’s call for the Unite The Right 2 at a time and place to be announced on the site ShutItDownDC.org and news can be found under the tag #DefendDC & #AllOutDC.

Mumia

On August 30th in Philadelphia, PA at 13th and Filbert there will be a rally during the hearing of imprisoned journalist, intellectual and former Black Panther, Mumia Abu-Jamal. From 8am til 11am people are asked to show up in support of this man who has spent nearly 40 years in prison, 30 of it in solitary on death row, for a political show trial for the killing of a cop many believe he didn’t commit. Whether he did or didn’t, Mumia was obviously railroaded for his political beliefs and his reporting critical of the Philly PD & the administration of Frank Rizzo. More on the event, including the nature of the current legal motion, can be found on fedbook.

#August21 Repression Starts

People are pushing back. For starters:

Imam Siddique Abdullah Hasan

There is a phone zap in support of Lucasville Uprising prisoner and death row inmate, Siddique Abdullah Hasan, a voice you’ve heard on this show before. Hasan, a member of the Free Ohio Movement and outspoken activist behind bars for peoples dignity, is believed to be suffering similar repression as he did in the run up to the 2016 National Prison Strike. He has been transfered into the hole, likely as a way to shut him up. There is a phone zap called by the Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee on Monday, July 30th between 9am and 5pm central time. Details forthcoming on the fedbook event.

Kevin “Rashid” Johnson

Kevin “Rashid” Johnson, a leader of the New Afrikan Black Panther Party (NABPP) and member of the Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee (IWOC), whose organizing was discussed in DHS/FBI fusion center “terrorism threat assessment” publications as far back as 2009 (page 50) is being kept in solitary confinement after being given an “inciting a riot” charge for writing an article about the Operation PUSH strikes in Florida, and has faced punitive transfer after transfer.;

Keith “Comrade Malik” Washington

Keith “Malik” Washington, a Texas inmate who is also involved with the NABPP and IWOC, has spent the past two years in ad-seg (solitary confinement) on a bogus riot charge connected to his involvement in the 2016 prison strike. He was due to be released from ad-seg, but then had his clearance abruptly revoked and was sent back to solitary on the grounds that the classifications committee had “received additional information” from the Fusion Center in Texas. He has also had issues with medical information about his health issues mysteriously disappearing, leading to the administration putting him in dangerous situations, and is currently being held in an extremely hot and humid punishment cell that he describes as being like “a living hell” and causing headaches, nosebleeds and dizziness.;

Jason Renard Walker

Meanwhile, Jason Renard Walker, another Texas inmate involved with the NABPP and the 2016 strikes, and a contributor to the Fire Inside zine, has managed to get released from solitary, but faces constant threats and harassment from staff, including threats to send him back to solitary on bogus charges for things as simple as asking for water and medical attention, and trying to get back into his own cell so he can use a fan to cool down.

Both Malik and Jason have reported having their mail tampered with, and the explicitly political nature of this censorship was made clear in a conversation with a prison official who told Jason that any writing containing the words “black panther” would be treated as gang material.

Supporting the prison strike means monitoring and opposing the repressive methods that the prison system uses to try and break it, and paying attention to the treatment of 2016 strike organizers like Rashid, Malik, Jason and others can indicate the tactics that are likely to be used more widely in the weeks to come.

Numbers and scripts to call in with for Malik’s situation:

Malik has specifically requested a call-in campaign urging Texas legislators to investigate the conditions at the McConnell Unit. Below are some details of Texas legislators and TDCJ officials, along with a suggested script you can use:

John Whitmire, chair of the Texas Senate Criminal Justice Committee –

(512) 463-0115 or (713) 864-8701

john.whitmire@senate.texas.gov (713) 864-5287 (fax)

Sylvia Garcia, member of the Texas Senate Criminal Justice Committee –

(512) 463-0106 or (713) 453-5100

sylvia.garcia@senate.texas.gov (512) 463-0346 (fax)

José Menéndez, member of the Texas Senate Criminal Justice Committee –

(512) 463-0126 or (210) 733-6604

jose.menendez@senate.texas.gov or (512) 463-2424 (fax)

James White, chair of the House Committee on Corrections – (512) 463-0490 or (409) 283-3700 James.White@house.texas.gov or (512) 463-9059 (fax)

Alma Allen, vice-chair of the House Committee on Corrections – (512) 463-0744 or (713) 776-0505

Alma.Allen@house.state.tx.us or (512) 463-0761 (fax)

Abe Martinez, US Attorney – (713) 567-9349 or abe.martinez@usdoj.gov

Ryan K Patrick, US Attorney – (713)-567-9000

Bryan Collier, TDCJ Excecutive Director – (936) 437-2101 / (936) 437-2123 or exec.director@tdcj.texas.gov

Billy Hirsch, TDCJ Deputy Director – Billy.Hirsch@tdcj.texas.gov

Philip Sifuentes, McConnell Unit Warden – (361) 362-2300 or philip.sifuentes@tdcj.texas.gov

Miguel Martinez, Regional Director with responsibility for the McConnell

Unit – (361) 362-6328 or miguel.martinez@tdcj.texas.gov

Patricia Chapa, Assistant Regional Director – Patricia.Chapa@tdcj.texas.gov

Emil Garza, Assistant Regional Director – Emil.Garza@tdcj.texas.gov

Garth Parker, Telford Unit Warden – (903) 628-3171

garth.parker@tdcj.texas.gov

Billy Howard, Assistant Regional Director with responsibility for the Telford Unit – billy.howard@tdcj.texas.gov

Carl McKellar, Assistant Regional Director with responsibility for the Telford Unit – carl.mckellar@tdcj.texas.gov

“Hello, my name is —-, and I am contacting you about conditions in the prisons run by the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.

I demand that the dangerous conditions of extreme heat and humidity that are widespread in units such as the McConnell and Telford Units are fully investigated and rectified immediately. I further request that immediate heat relief measures are put in place, as this is especially urgent for prisoners with health issues.

The prison administration needs to stop the retaliation and harassment of whistleblowers such as Keith Washington (TDCJ 1487958) and Jason Walker (TDCJ 1532092). This retaliation includes, but is not limited to, unjustified use of solitary confinement as a punishment for constitutionally protected speech, denial of parole applications, and direct threats of harm. Please be aware that the State of Texas and the TDCJ may be held legally responsible for any harm suffered by these or any other inmates as a result of the administration’s negligence or punitive actions.

The practice of giving guards quotas of disciplinary reports to meet must also be stopped at once, as this leads to the generation of false or trivial reports as a way of meeting quotas.

In closing, I also wish to state my support for the demands of the ongoing prison strike movement.

Yours sincerely,”

Other ways to help Malik:

1. *Finding legal representation*

Malik has stated that he urgently needs professional legal help in challenging the various forms of harassment he has been subjected to, particularly the interference with his mail. If you know of any sympathetic lawyers or other legal-minded folk who might be able to help, please contact them and ask if they could take the case on.

2. *Write to the comrades!*

Every letter they receive lifts their spirit and protects them, because it lets prison officials know they have people around them, watching for what happens to them. It should also be possible to contact them via jpay.com if you prefer.

Keith H. Washington, #1487958
McConnell Unit
3100 South Emily Drive
Beeville, TX 78103

Jason Renard Walker, #1532092
Telford Unit
3899 Hwy 98
New Boston, TX 75570

Kevin Johnson, #1007485
Sussex 1 State Prison
24414 Musselwhite Dr.
Waverly, VA 23891

Shameless Plug

If you’ve made it this far into the announcements, you are obviously a glutton for punishment. Congrats! Now, we’d like to invite you to help us out a bit. The Final Straw Radio has been bringing you interviews with anarchists, anti-capitalists, feminists, eco-defenders, anti-racists and anti-fascists, prison rebels and prison abolitionists, authors and iconoclasts every week since 2009. And we’ve only been getting better. If you appreciate the work that we do, here’re a few things you can do to show your appreciation:

If you live in an area with a community radio station, one of those that isn’t run by something like ClearChannel and just bumping the top 40’s hits nor one that’s preaching a gospel of pie in the sky when you die, consider helping us get onto your local airwaves. Community radio is often a shoestring venture with little locally produced content and is often happy for suggestions of what may bring listeners to their airwaves and get involved in local media and activism. If you are one of the lucky ones who lives near one of these stations, you can email the station or programming director and say that you are an avid listener and that you want to hear The Final Straw Radio on your local airwaves. Tell them that our show is free to air, that we produce an FCC-acceptable show that won’t get them tattled on and that we produce it consistently, each Sunday night at 59 minutes in length. You can find out more about our radio option at our website by clicking the “Radio Broadcasting” tab.

Another way you can help us out might be to share our podcast with people you care about in your community. You could rate us on iTunes so more people will see us, or share us on the obnoxious social medias that we are present on which you can find links to on the kontact page of our website. While you’re sharing us, why not share the monthly anarchist news show we participate in known as B(A)D News: Angry Voices From Around The World produced by the A-Radio Network or check out the shows that share the Channel Zero Network?

Or, you could drop us a line, tell us how we’re doing, comment on our shows or give us suggestions for future episodes. We are always welcome to dialogue and suggestions, though we don’t take ‘em all.

Finally, you could give us a donation, one time over paypal or recurring via Liberapay, an open source donation platform from France, or Patreon. Check out our Patreon for the thank you gifts that we offer to recurring donators. We have shirts, buttons, stickers and other swag up on there. See something you like but can’t afford a monthly donation? Send us an email and we’ll see what we can work out. The money goes to cover our production costs and save up for travels to conferences and events where we can get you more of that anarchist audio that you crave. Thanks so much!

. … . ..

Playlist

“If you stay up all night you owe it to yourself to watch sunrise, every time”; A Presentation with Margaret Killjoy about her new book The Barrow Will Send What it May, anarchist subculture, and representation.

Download Show Here

This week we are airing a presentation that Margaret Killjoy gave at Firestorm Books on the release day of her new release The Barrow Will Send What it May. This is the second in her Danielle Cain series which highlights magic, anarchism, queerness, punk squatter subculture and a bunch more.

The presentation consisted of a brief intro, a reading, and to end up a q&a session. As a warning to listeners, the reading describes the events of a car crash. This occurs between 11 and 12 minutes after the presentation starts, it is not graphic but if you aren’t in a good spot to hear that please feel free to turn the volume down.

Also, we have transcribed and re-recorded the questions in the final section, not because anything said was sketchy, but just to not air people’s voices that may not have wanted to be broadcast.

To find copies of Margaret’s book you can go to tor.com and search her name or the title of the book, and to see more of her work you can visit birdsbeforethestorm.net

To hear an interview that we did with her on the release of the first novella in this series alongside other interviews with her, check out our website.

This episode is scored with Nomadic War Machine’s new release, which is Margaret’s solo music project, called The Fields Lay Fallow off of her new album Always//Forever.

To round out the hour, we are presenting a much abridged version of the most recent Error 451, our sometimes weekly tech podcast that tackles tech as it pertains to anarchism, anarchists, and more generally, how to understand this strange, often terrible and sometimes alright world of tech!

Any aspiring techsters can find the full version of this podcast here, and if you wish you can keep up to date on these releases by either subscribing to our podcast feed by using “The Final Straw Radio” as your search or by keeping an eye on our website.

. … . ..

Juneteenth and BRABC Event

This year incarcerated human rights activist Comrade Malik Washington put out the call for an international day of actions in solidarity with the movement to #EndPrisonSlavery on Juneteenth.

Juneteenth is a holiday celebrated on the 19th of June to commemorate and celebrate the end of legalized slavery in the United States. However, as prison rebels from Alabama to Texas to Florida and beyond have pointed out, the 13th amendment to the Constitution, which supposedly ended slavery, actually carves out an exception for people who have been convicted of a crime, meaning slavery was never fully abolished for incarcerated folks–a condition of exploitation and dehumanization clearly visible within the brutality of every aspect of the US prison system, and in the fact that incarcerated workers receive no meaningful compensation for their labor while in prison.

In response to this call for events, Blue Ridge Anarchist Black Cross will host a Juneteenth event at 5:30pm on June 19, at Firestorm Books. We will screen Ava Duvernays award-winning documentary “13th,” discuss how people can get involved in the movement to #EndPrisonSlavery, and send some cards to prison rebels who need a little love and light right now! Hope to see you there!

Malik Washington’s Statement in Support of Sean Swain

Revolutionary Greetings, comrades! It’s me, Comrade Malik in Texas.

This June 11th I’d like to ask all of y’all to send some Love, Light, and Commissary CA$H to my brother in struggle Sean Swain in Ohio.

Sean has dedicated a lot of time and effort to supporting and sustaining the work done by the Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee. Sean has edited our publications and provided much needed direction for our Abolition movement. Sean continues to make personal sacrifices for the good of all, and he never ceases to speak Truth to Power. In the following months I hope to work directly with Sean so we can tear this entire thing down!

Hopefully I will become an honorary 13th Monkey!!?

In Struggle 4 Life,

Malik

. … . ..

Playlist here.

Eleanor Goldfield on Paradigm Lost and Creative Activism

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Interview with Eleanor Goldfield

This week we spoke with Eleanor Goldfield, who is an activist on the far left and a proponent of creative activism, a stance that centers creative approaches to direct action with the aim of leading people to interrogate their own politics on an emotional and psychological level. From her website: “Creative Activism is outreach and change through the mediums that appeal to all people and all of people – their emotions, conscience and intellect, in that order. It places itself at the intersection of pop culture and politics, bringing the two together.”

We talk about different approaches to politics and direct action, as well as her new book Paradigm Lost; Radical Verse and Visuals for the Shift, which is a collection of her original spoken word poetry accompanied by mixed media artwork from around a dozen artists. We also talk about the book and her upcoming performance date in Asheville on December 9th at Firestorm Books and Coffee!

To see more of Eleanor Goldfield’s work, including links to the musical project Rooftop Revolutionaries, information about the media project Act Out! (available on occupy.com and Free Speech TV) and many more writings, you can visit artkillingapathy.com.

The radio version has some material cut due to length, though the podcast version has all those pieces included back in. To see that version, plus archives of this show, you can visit thefinalstrawradio.noblogs.org.

 

Announces for Asheville

Next Sunday, December 3rd, Blue Ridge ABC does it’s monthly letter writing night at Firestorm Books & Coffee from 5:30 til 7:30pm. Paper, pens, stamps, envelopes and the addresses and info on political prisoners in the U.S., particularly those having upcoming birthdays, are all available for free! Come on by and send someone behind bars some kind words.

After that at 8pm you can join folks across town for a game of Radical Trivia. This event is 21 and up, happening at the Lazy Diamond bar at 98-A N. Lexington Ave, there’ll be some potluck food for sharing and a cash prize for the winning team or person. To form a team and get on the roster, you can drop an email to jtheophilos@gmail or sign up at the night of. This event will benefit the 2018 Asheville Anarchist Bookfair happing in the summer. Various levels of knowledge are welcome and topics will span a few categories.

Playlists here

Author interview: Margaret Killjoy on “The Lamb Will Slaughter the Lion”

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For a 59 minute long, radio clean version for syndication purposes, please visit the archive.org collection. For a full version, click the link under the picture on the left.

Interview

This week I had the opportunity to speak with Margaret Killjoy about her new novella The Lamb Will Slaughter the Lion, which is coming out on August 15th from Tor.com. In this interview we will talk about how she got into writing genre fiction, how writing has shaped her politics, about the book itself, and about fighting a battle on a cultural front, among many other things.

If you are interested, you can come to a book release event that Killjoy will be doing at Firestorm Books and Coffee on August 15th at 7pm! You can pre-order a copy of this book from your local bookstore or from Red Emmas, an online anarchist source.

You can find more of her writings at her website, Birds Before The Storm, alongside some of music and artwork!

Announcements

NC Resists a Grand Jury, Solidarity with Katie Yow!

On Monday, July 31st, people will gather in Greensboro at 9am at the Federal Courthouse, 324 W. Market St in order to support Katie Yow, who is refusing to comply with a Federal Grand Jury convening there to which she’s been subpoena’d.

And here’s an update from Katie on what she’s learned about the fgj:
“We have now learned more from the Assistant US Attorney about the subject of the federal grand jury to which I have been subpoenaed. This grand jury is looking into what the government has described as a bombing at the GOP headquarters in Hillsborough, NC this past fall. The AUSA has also indicated that they are interested in “other people” and “other events.” I don’t know anything relevant to a criminal investigation of the alleged incident at the GOP headquarters. The broad nature of the government’s interest in other information makes clear the way that this and other grand juries are used as fishing expeditions to attempt to coerce testimony on 1st amendment protected information. This is one of the many ways grand juries are used to repress social movements, and one of many reasons why we resist them.

Whatever new information we may learn about this grand jury, I will continue to refuse to cooperate. We didn’t have to know what this grand jury was about to know what we are about. Our values are long held, they are nurtured through both triumph and incredible loss, and they cannot be compromised. My resistance to this grand jury is the easiest decision I have ever made, even if the consequences may be difficult. I will continue to refuse to comply with this subpoena, and I have every faith in my community’s ability to support me in doing so.”

If yr feeling it, show up in Greensboro on Monday to show support!

More information can be found at NC Resists the Grand Jury

Did you say “Grand Jury”? What the heck is that??

If you are in Asheville on Wednesday, you are invited to attend a workshop at Firestorm Books and Coffee (610 Haywood Rd) at 7pm entitled “What Is A Grand Jury?” The discussion will be presented by the Scuffletown Anti Repression Committee.

Smashing the Fash, Every Day

Keep your eyes on your favorite anarchist news source for updates on resisting AmRen in Tennessee, which is going on today and tomorrow (7/30 and 7/31). For context, you can hear an interview that Bursts did about this resistance by searching “AmRen” on our blog. Also, keep your eyes peeled for information on resisting the far right in Charlottesville on August 12th by following the #NoNewKKK

Playlist here