Are we having terror yet? Naturalizing the Cultural and Culturalizing the Natural

by ann summers


“They have weapons. F*ck them. We have champagne!”

(Charlie Hebdo’s response to recent Paris attacks)

                           #Daesh bullshit…


Terrorism is natural in the sense that it engages fight and flight, but in the French case the other behavioral mnemonics of feeding and fornicating are perhaps always more important.

In this case, and stereotypes aside, French resilience in the face of recent attacks by Daesh has been strong despite the usual contradictions none the least of which is to control environmentalists’ protest under the state of emergency during the subsequent Climate conference.

The slickness of Daesh’s print publications like Dabiq, cannot in fact have much effect except on those who accept the convention of such media. Our best defenses against such events is to mobilize against it in a way that does not accept its premises. Recognizing and resisting its asymmetry is one method of defeating it. Another is unfortunately the increased military enlistment in France as a result of the attacks.



In the case of media, indirect effects seem more important in a post-9/11 age. recently commented on the reporting of such events and the inaccuracy of reporting contributing to the negative effects of such media events following a terrorist attack. Witness even the recent events in Colorado Springs.

Terrorism has a political-economic sign of success and failure. It’s possible to see this repeated again just as Daesh has its own (#Daesh bullshit) media division, encouraging and recruiting converts around the blasphemous cultural actions of the “West”. They do know how to mobilize, even if it is around an ignorant pre-modern ideology that somehow uses a post-modern medium like the Internet. However the scale of such cultural efforts is doomed in a modernizing world.

Semiotic success comes with the political economy of the sign as a lever of power as in the US’s 31 GOP state governors proclaiming that on the basis of allowing potential terrorists into the country, they will resist accepting any of the 10,000 Syrian refugees fleeing Daesh. They know full well that US refugee vetting procedures are more rigorous and take much longer than tourist visas. While political capital it might be transient, it shows with very little material cost, the benefits of making a media pronouncement that demonstrates their soildarity with the dominant conservative, nativist, meme of RW racism. LIVs(low-information voters) or LoFos easily buy into this message much as the belief that the US POTUS is still an as yet undiscovered “secret Muslim”. Calls now continue to heighten the conflict with various versions of “boots on the ground” as the West slouches toward Armegaddon.

The reality of the situation is that current per barrel crude oil prices are low and the concern is now for encouraging war to adjust for a shifting labor market in the petroleum sector rather than encourage substitution in energy supplies and technology from fossil-fuel to renewables. A war over prices and not a price war either of which makes the sacrifice of human life unacceptable. What if prices themselves, as measurably important to measure economies, could be eliminated. Too utopian, yet perhaps we need to achieve those Star Trekian economic solutions. Could we first start out with not the means of production but the means of circulation/distribution prior to consumption. in the circuit of capital.

But is the (mass) media a material weapon or simply another ephemeral, epiphenomenal institution only framing and reframing cognitive messages that influence actions prior to their realization. They are always material, in the last instance, and the corporate ownership of media industries and much ink continues to be spent on the analysis of its concentration as monopoly/oligopoly or in some cases monopsony.

Robert W. McChesney, Digital Disconnect: How Capitalism is Turning the Internet Against Democracy, New York, NY: New Press, 2013, 299 pp., $27.95 (hardcover).

Available at Digital Disconnect argues that American capitalism has leveraged the Internet to undermine and weaken democracy, just as it did with the communication technologies of the 20th century. Yet, McChesney argues, there is still some hope—we are in the midst of a critical juncture, and “battles over the Internet are of central importance for all those seeking to build a better society” “The tremendous promise of the digital revolution has been compromised by capitalist appropriation and development of the Internet” (p. 97). “Nearly everything about the way the digital giants conduct their operations smacks of antitrust violations,” he writes, arguing that corporate political power has “basically eliminated the threat of public ownership, as well as credible regulation in the public interest” (pp. 142-143).

Public ownership of media still can happen, whether it’s some version of municipal-area-networking in the form of free public Wi-FI built off the electrical grid that will ultimately recharge automobiles, or some actual public utility appropriation of telecommunications.

Postal Banks can help the US move to a European socialist  PTT model which is inherently more democratic and one could argue is a key element in institutionalizing socialism given the instability of interwar banking and the capitalist looting done during and since the Great Recession.




What if Capital was absolutely biometric (making it a kind of Natural(sic) Capital) associating it with DNA information, making all capital quasi-public by tying its ownership to its value. It would have not allowed Bernie Madoff to take the rap for his kids. Social Security could not be claimed to be a Ponzi scheme by a GOP ready to loot the public treasury, rather, all capital’s ponzi-relations could be identified as all previously hidden capital would have to have its property relations matched to it. Off-shored financial value would then have to be account for and tax havens could only perhaps be made in metals or silos of other commodities. Transfer and flow exchanges of capital would then be identifiable in ways always distinguishable and ultimately neutral in rate. Unless you had your own smelter, perhaps.

Eye scanning is over 200 times more accurate than fingerprinting and can identify up to 50 people a minute. In the world of biometric identification, iris scanning is the next big thing.

In addition to primary schools, these systems are rolling out in enterprise, higher education, law enforcement, health care, border patrol, security, and commercial industries. Global biometric market revenues are expected to reach $10 billion by 2014 and $20 billion by 2018, according to Tech Sci Research.

So how to we get there, this creation of a “naturalized capital” that is not monetized but rather moves toward social erasure or collective ownership. It clearly cannot be based on existing notions of capital and requires a very different kind of revolutionary action that is not incremental nor is it reducible to terminology. Are we then left with elemental measures of wealth like extracted metals. 


 Natural capital is the land, air, water, living organisms and all formations of the Earth’s biosphere that provide us with ecosystem goods and services imperative for survival and well-being. Furthermore, it is the basis for all human economic activity.

Natural Capital is not synonymous with Nature especially as all labor is also “natural”


George Monbiot (2014) recently identified the real enemy in all of this: a neoliberalism willing to monetize everything — why US firms’ Personnel departments have become Human Resource departments, as though natural resources would be the next step after controlling and commanding human capital. And Cultural resources? That’s just commodity stuff you consume, socially choosing it from a “free” market.


In a recent interview George Lakoff singled out what he considered to be the perfect example of the utter incompetence of progressives hoping to defend the issues they care about. What was it? The Natural Capital Agenda.

It is, plainly, the longstanding failure to protect nature that powers Lakoff’s exasperation with liberals. “They don’t understand their own moral system or the other guy’s, they don’t know what’s at stake, they don’t know about framing, they don’t know about metaphors, they don’t understand the extent to which emotion is rational, they don’t understand how vital emotion is, they try to hide their emotion. They do everything wrong because they’re miseducated. And they’re proud of that miseducation. Oxford philosophy reigns supreme, right? Oxford philosophy is killing the world.

As Lakoff has pointed out, these people are trying to do the right thing but they are completely failing to apply a frames analysis. A frame is a mental structure through which you understand an issue. Instead of framing the issue with our own values and describing and projecting our values – which is the only thing in the medium- to long-term that ever works – we are abandoning them and adopting instead the values of the people who are wrecking the environment. How could there be any long-term outcome other than more destruction?…

So you say to me, “Well what do we do instead? You produce these arguments against trying to save nature by pricing it, by financialisation, by monetisation. What do you do instead?”

Well, ladies and gentlemen, it is no mystery. It is the same answer that it has always been. The same answer that it always will be. The one thing we just cannot be bothered to get off our bottoms to do, which is the only thing that works. Mobilisation.

This short piece will not solve the transformation problem of prices and values, but there are points where this activity still has relevance to research programs that address the viability of critical, dialectical materialist analysis of environmental resources in the face of powerful neoliberal forces. I commend the following working paper Basu 2015 to your attention.

Acheronta movebo – dare to move the underground! 

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