Brian Kim Stefans
Since the beginning
Works in Los Angeles, California United States of America

PORTFOLIO (2)
BIO
Brian Kim Stefans teaches digital literature and twentith century poetry at UCLA. He is the author of the books of poems What is Said the Poet Concerning Flowers (2006) and Kluge: A Meditation (2007), along with Before Starting Over: Essays and Interviews (2008) and Fashionable Noise: On Digital Poetics (2003), among other works. His digital works are collected at arras.net.
Discussions (75) Opportunities (0) Events (1) Jobs (0)
DISCUSSION

Circulars Update


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February 25, 2003

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http://www.arras.net/circulars/archives/000228.html#000228

Robert Fisk: How The News Will Be Censored In This War

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<a href="http://www.commondreams.org/views03/0225-08.htm">How The News
Will Be Censored In This War</a>

<i>A new CNN system of 'script approval' suggests the Pentagon will
have nothing to worry about</i>

Already, the American press is expressing its approval of the coverage
of American forces which the US military intends to allow its reporters
in the next Gulf war. The boys from CNN, CBS, ABC and The New York
Times will be &quot;embedded&quot; among the US marines and infantry.
The degree of censorship hasn't quite been worked out. But it doesn't
matter how much the Pentagon cuts from the reporters' dispatches. A new
CNN system of &quot;script approval&quot; i

DISCUSSION

Circulars Update


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February 24, 2003

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http://www.arras.net/circulars/archives/000221.html#000221

Kent Johnson: Basra Exceeds Its Object

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Come off it, Tha'lab, you faker, you <i>kadhib</i>,
yes, very funny, but for goodness sake, just
put back those purple bowels in your tummy,
you'll be late for work!

Make haste, Safia, you little scamp, you pig-tailed <i>qasida</i>,
put that fat flap of scalp back on your crown,
now's not the hour for teenage pranks,
it's time to go to school!

Ah, quit moaning Miss Al-Sayab, you <i>muwashshara</i>,
we know that fetus hanging from your bottom is a rubber trick

DISCUSSION

Circulars Update


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February 24, 2003

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http://www.arras.net/circulars/archives/000220.html#000220

Marcella Durand: Tracking George W. Bush: A Not-So-Silent Spring

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I suppose that based upon his or her own particular fascinations each
individual builds a personal opposition to the projected war upon Iraq
and the current Bush administration. While the Bush administration has
certainly given many of us an extraordinary spectrum of reasons to
oppose it, it was Bush

DISCUSSION

Circulars Update


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February 23, 2003

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http://www.arras.net/circulars/archives/000212.html#000212

Keston Sutherland: A Short Critique of Pacifism

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A SHORT CRITIQUE OF PACIFISM

One benefit of the slow popularization of dialectical understanding is
that fewer and fewer people are naive enough to go on claiming that
living in a democracy means that they are free. We know that we are
not. What passes for freedom is, we know only too well, a condition of
relative civil liberation based on and expressed principally through
the free consumption of commodities; the sham forms of political
enfranchisement attendant on that free consumption are possible for us
only because they are impossible for the masses of people who spend
their lives in poverty and misery working to produce the commodities
that we pick and choose. As popular political understanding becomes
more dialectical, this fact becomes more and more obvious.

Certain consequences of this fact apparently remain less obvious. We no
longer want to be free at the expense of the freedom of others; that
is, we don't want a world in which freedom means one thing for the
superconsumers of the west and another, considerably less appealing,
thing for the proletarianized people of developing industrial and
agricultural states. And yet many opponents of the present episode in
U.S. imperialism speak as if peace, unlike freedom, meant the same
thing the world over.

Our understanding of peace--and of pacifism, which is a separate
question--seems to fall very short of our understanding of freedom.
The following few remarks are offered in the hope that we might start
to think more dialectically about the opposites of war.

Pacifism is not a political tendency but an ethical tendency. Its
fundamental proposition is unshakeable: state orchestrated violence,
like other forms of violence, is inherently indefensible since it
creates victims (of suffering, of injury, of murder). The
indefensibility of state orchestrated violence is not, for pacifism, to
be explained in terms of the specific political character of the state
which orchestrates it, but on abstract ethical grounds. The effects of
violence are of course not at all abstract, and the repugnance felt by
observers toward the acts which cause those effects is not itself a
merely speculative, abstract form of repugnance. But the position
taken up in reaction to that feeling of repugnance is nonetheless an
abstraction on ethical grounds from particular instances of violence to
a general and summary pronouncement against them.

We do not need to be immune to that feeling of repugnance to question
how it serves to legitimate an abstract ethical position. The problem
with pacifism is not that it opposes violence too absolutely or
generally, but on the contrary that it does not oppose violence
generally enough. The opposite of war in a world whose economy is
dictated by a single capitalist hegemon is not peace, but preparation
for war. When the U.S. is not at war--or more accurately, when the
U.S. is not massacring the civilians or civilian conscripts of another
state--it is very far from being at peace. It is merely in a stage of
preparation for war.

The problem is that capitalism itself is the basic structure of
violence which determines not only the character but the necessity of
current military forms of violence. Everybody knows that the war
against Iraq has geopolitical and strategic objectives whose basic
determining motive is economic, which is to say capitalistic; the
pacifistic response to this is rightly to oppose the war, but on the
wrong grounds.This war should be opposed not only because it will be
the cause of terrible suffering, but also--and this is in fact the more
important reason for opposing it--because it is the manifest outcome
and effect of terrible suffering. It is the effect of the suffering of
a proletarianized population massed across Africa and Asia, the
suffering of their daily submission to the capitalistic work process
and the value exploited from them by corporations and western consumers
alike.It is only through constant, unremitting opposition to this
primary form of violence that we can possibly hope to confront not just
this coming war, but all imperialist war, at its wellspring.

It may be objected that pacifism does not offer any support to
capitalistic violence, and that its opposition to war is in effect even
an indirect opposition to it, since by hindering the drive of
imperialism into new areas of economic exploitation it effectively
hinders the total development of that exploitation. Theoretically this
is true. But in practice the effect of pacifism is to provide the
governments of belligerent states with a form of public criticism which
they can easily handle, and on which they might even to some extent
rely, since the public argument becomes focused on a single polarity of
opinion over whether war should or should not happen. War, the
pacifists say, is inherently unjust; set against this absolute refusal,
the government's counter-arguments will always appear more specific,
more pragmatic, more engaged with the particularities of the present
crisis, and more canny in their recognition of the bankruptcies of
idealism.

What is urgently needed is a form of opposition to the basic violence
of capitalism.The upshot of this would be clear. No government of
the U.S. or Britain could claim merely to be responding to an unwanted
crisis when their citizens know that they are just the stewards and
administrative bureaucrats of an economic system which perpetually
enforces a state of crisis. What is urgently needed is popular
understanding of the fact that war is caused not by "hawks", deviants,
bigots and imbeciles like George Bush, but by the logic of capitalism
itself. For as long as the world's economy is run by capitalism, there
will continue to be massacres of the kind we are about to witness on
our TV sets. Voting out George Bush will not change this; the whole
sickening farce of democratic elections in the U.S. is first and
foremost the propaganda-means of capitalists to ensure that their
labour force remains compliant through believing that it is
meaningfully involved in the running of its country. A change of
president will achieve very little. A change of economic structure
would completely radicalize social relations across the entire planet.
It is a matter of choosing one purveyor of injustice over another, on
the one hand, or of radically transforming the meaning of justice
itself, on the other. There can be no question which of these aims
deserves our commitment and solidarity.

Pacifism is itself a dialectical problem. It is a genuine force for
good, insofar as it generates popular resistance to the growth of
imperialism during moments of military crisis.But it is a regressive
ideology insofar as it champions a peace which is really the
preparation for war. The peace which will come following the massacre
of Iraq's civilians and civilian conscripts is the same peace which led
up to it: the non-disturbance of the capitalist economy in its
inexorable growth toward its next imperialist crisis. This is
absolutely not a peace worth defending, no matter how much we justly
prefer it to outright war. It is the basic violence of exploitation
run riot across the world, unstoppable except by mass resistance in
solidarity with its most miserable and perpetual victims: the
proletarianized people who make our commodities and who suffer the
effects of U.S. policy more powerfully and fully than any American,
despite never having the opportunity to elect that policy's
administrators.

Pacifism will not only fail to prevent this war. It will not only
provide the executors of war with a form of opposition beside which
they appear pragmatic, businesslike and well adjusted to reality. Most
damagingly of all, it will allow the great spirit of resistance and
solidarity that now distinguishes the millions of people who oppose war
to dwindle and dissipate as soon as it becomes evident that the war is
indeed going to happen despite pacifistic opposition to it; or if not
at that early point, then later, when the war is finished.

What is urgently needed is a form of opposition and solidarity based on
the popular recognition that as long as capitalism prevails, the war is
never finished.

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DISCUSSION

Circulars Update


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February 20, 2003

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http://www.arras.net/circulars/archives/000204.html#000204

War On Iraq? (leaflet for teach-ins, etc.)

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[Following is another document that Jonathan forwarded to me which was
put together -- in a curt, bullet-pointed fashion -- to help with
teach-ins. Here is a <a
href="http://www.arras.net/circulars/archives/war_on_iraq.pdf">.pdf
version of the document</a>, formatted to be printed on a single
two-sided sheet and good for handing out.]

Over the past year and a half the Bush administration has put forth a
variety of arguments for prosecuting a war on Iraq to unseat Saddam
Hussein. Keeping up with these arguments can be confusing