Rikers, what good do you think you do?

My review of Jarrod Shanahan’s excellent history and analysis of Rikers Island and penal welfarism in the Field Notes Section at The Brooklyn Rail

When Johnny Cash performed for the inmates of San Quentin prison in 1969, he wrote a song especially for the occasion. The first several verses ask why the prison exists and what good it could possibly do for those imprisoned there or society as a whole. Its last verse concludes, to a roar of applause:

San Quentin, may you rot and burn in hell
May your walls fall and may I live to tell
May all the world forget you ever stood
And may all the world regret you did no good.

At the time, the song was considered naïve pandering. This was still the era in which liberal academics and politicians believed in “penal welfarism,” that America’s carceral institutions could be transformed into something better than the torturous dungeons described by Cash. A notable example was the planned expansion of New York’s Rikers Island from a small penal work camp to a state-of-the-art facility of human rehabilitation. Jarrod Shanahan’s Captives, the first history of Rikers written in what may be its final years, explains why the project failed, why renewed progressive efforts to replace facilities like Rikers today will fail again, and why Cash was probably right.

#ReadTheGreenBook 2022 Tour!

READ THE GREEN BOOK May 2022 tour 

On April 20, 2020, I Want to Believe (nicknamed The Green Book by fans), was released as the world entered lockdown. Framed by the wave of uprisings in Chile, Hong Kong, and Ecuador, alongside the “Show me them aliens” raid on Area 51, the book is more than a simple political biography of the idiosyncratic Trotskyist leader J. Posadas, but also an investigation into revolutionary potential in our catastrophic era of radical politicization through memes. 

Gittlitz will discuss the connection between conspiracy and UFO communities and the revolutionary left, and world events since the book’s release–especially the pandemic and George Floyd Uprising, in the context of the post-Posadist autonomist revolutionary project described in the book’s closing chapter.

May 5th, New Olreans, 7pm at Metalworks. See Lobelia Commons for more info
May 9th, Tucson, Arizona, 7pm at the Blacklidge Community Collective
May 11th, Los Angeles, 7pm at Stories Books w/ Anna Merlan
May 14th, Oakland, CA, 7pm at Tamarack
May 16th, Portland, SJAC Community Center, 8:15 pm
May 20th, Seattle Washington 7pm at Third Place Books (Ravenna location)
May 24th Minneapolis, 6pm at The Landing Strip
May 27th, Chicago, Pilsen Community Books w/ Jarrod shanahan

Introducing the Journal of the History of Philosophy podcast

I’m now producing a podcast covering select articles from this JHP journal out of Johns Hopkins. In the first episode, Peter Adamson (LMU Munich) talks to Jari Kaukua (University of Jyväskylä, Finland) about his essay “Avicenna’s Outsourced Rationalism.”

Listen to the full episode here: https://www.press.jhu.edu/journals/journal-history-philosophy/podcasts

Death of an Anarchist

Memorium to the singer of the World/Inferno Friendship Society, Jack Terricloth, the scene he built, and the world he wanted to smash:

Their third LP, Just the Best Party (2002) hailed their new scene of school-skippers and cheapskates who sneak into shows (often assisted by the band) and snatch liquor bottles from the bar in its opening track “Zen and the Art of Breaking Everything in this Room.” The song identified both their friends and their enemies: the police, shit-talkers, moralists, and most of all, yuppies already taking over downtown Manhattan and Williamsburg. If a show wasn’t going well, because the venue had fucked them over or simply wasn’t punk enough, the pounding opening of Zen became a signal to fans, like Black Flag’s cover of “Louie Louie,” to mercilessly rip the place apart.

Read the rest at Hard Crackers Journal

Billionaires in Space

Blue Origin Launch

My editorial for the August 9th issue of the Nation about the Branson vs. Bezos space race, and how Gagarin and Armstrong did it all much better 60 years ago.

Yet even billionaires are forced to use the language of collectivity that space travel, both scientific and science-fictional, has always carried with it. Bezos’s Blue Origin claims a larger vision of “millions of people…living and working in space to benefit Earth.” Branson says Virgin Galactic, whose flights currently start at $200,000 a ticket, will “open space to everybody.” While SpaceX promotes Mars colonization as having the potential to make humanity a “multiplanetary species,” Musk admitted in an interview with Joe Rogan that “if this species is going to survive, we kind of have to escape.”

This nihilistic sentiment inadvertently reveals the anxieties of the one percent. We are already in an era of civilizational catastrophe fueled by political, economic, and environmental instability. Elite schemes of private islands and apocalypse bunkers no longer seem adequate to repel the inevitable billions of climate and war refugees, unemployed and precarious workers, and everyone else immiserated by the barbarity of the current order. There is only one way left to run: up.

Read the rest: https://www.thenation.com/article/society/branson-bezos-space/

Space Force vs. the Moon

Courtesy CNN.com

A new essay on the emergence of the United States Space Force as the sixth branch of the US Military, the history of the space race to secure hegemony for the US and its corporate allies, and the surprisingly true story behind the Mr. Show sketch about blowing up the moon!

Available in text format the Pluto Books blog or as an audio essay for Antifada patrons (alongside an interview with Bruce K. Gagnon of the Global Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space).

Dissecting Dylan’s Conspiracy Anthem

An essay about Bob Dylan’s bizarre hit “Murder Most Foul,” the lure of conspitorial narratives, shifts in generation thinking, and Dylan’s own career.

On November 22, 1963, Dylan was scheduled to play a concert in upstate New York. He was worried his recent opener “The Times They are a-Changin’,” with its lyrics of letting the weights of the old world sink in order to create a better one, would enrage the audience. But he played it for the sake of consistency, and to his disgust, the crowd loved it. “I couldn’t understand why they were clapping,” he told his biographer Anthony Scaduto, “or why I wrote that song even.”

Hagiographies of Kennedy often portray his assassination as the end of an Arthurian America, ushering in an era of race riots, senseless war, and parapolitical intrigues that Dylan calls “the age of the Antichrist.” The allusion to Shakespeare’s Hamlet in the song’s title, however, implies that through telling the story there may be some hope of redemption, or at least vengeance.


Read the Rest at ProteanMag.com

I WANT TO BELIEVE available now

I Want to Believe

‘Under the grim pressures of 20th century history, and now climate change, Gittlitz shows how explosions of black political humour also contain utopian hopes very necessary to keep alive. As an advocate of Partially Automated Adequate Socialism I can only agree, and applaud this fine addition to leftist history’
– Kim Stanley Robinson

Recent press round-up:
Interview by Emily Berch for the Nation
Interview by Matt Peterson for Roar Mag
Review by Erica X Eisen for the Baffler
Interview with David Broder for Jacobin [with Portuguese translation for Jacobin Brazil]
Youtube interview with Owen Hatherly of the Tribue for #RadicalMay
Review in Morning Star Online
Review by Morgan Jones for the Social Review
Review by Ian Parker for Socialist Resistance 
Review by Erik Davis for his Burning Shore newsletter
Interview with Means Morning News
Interview with Zer0 Books
Review by Socialist Party of Great Britain
Review by Arts in America
Review by Pik Smeet for Socialist Standard
Preview in El Pais by Manuel Roriguez Rivero [esp]
Review by Fabián Chiaramello [esp]
Review from Alejandro Agostinelli’s Factor El Blog [esp]
Review by Abel Gilbert in El Diaro (AR) [esp]
Review by Beatriz Garcia for El Dia News
WRadio Colombia
Review by Damian Winczewski for HistMag.org [polish]

Podcast appearances:
Rev Left Radio (includes full reading of introduction!)
Pod Damn America with Henry Zabrowski
QAnon Anonymous
Lets Talk About Sects
Nightmare Tonight
Psychic Dolphin Garage
Intergalactic Railroad
Death // Sentence
Machinic Unconscious Happy Hour
Cosmonaut Magazine Podcast
The Social Review Podcast
Parallax Views

Purchasing options:
Europe/US: Direct from Pluto Press, and use code POSADAS20 for 20% discount at checkout
From Queens independent bookshop Topos Books
From Red Emma’s in Baltimore
Or, buy it from a major online retailer and leave a review!

A Visit to Argentina’s Roswell

An essay about the origins of my Posadas project and the relevance of paranormal phenomenon and myth to the socialist project.

This was the second time on the trip my UFO interest had put me in an awkward spot. In Montevideo, where I was able to visit the secretary of one of the last remaining Posadist parties, I stayed at bed-and-breakfast operated by an employee of the national theater. I told him about my project, and he told me he was a believer. His brother, he said, was a victim of the luz mala. It had happened when his brother was very young, riding his horse home through the Pampas one night. The light chased him, and although he escaped, he was never the same afterwards. He tried to put the event behind him, but true to the tradition, he was cursed, and took his own life in his twenties. The surviving brother was certain that reality was not what it seemed, subscribing to what I gathered to be a David Icke-inspired theory that the elite were interdimensional demons. They were not aliens, he clarified, whom he believed to be a sympathetic element in a cosmic hierarchy with advanced conceptions of order and justice. Earth’s ruling class were instead terrestrial bloodsuckers, perhaps from some crevice of the hollow Earth, who have reduced the fate of Latin America to its finances, the future of 700 million people yoked to the strength of their currency against the dollar.

Read the rest: https://proteanmag.com/2019/10/17/the-bad-light-hunting-for-ufos-and-j-posadas-in-argentina/


An essay for Commune magazine about the history of antifascism, how it emerged in North America, why some leftists hate it, and where it should go next:

Antifa’s critics are correct to note that this is not the Weimar era, but they don’t offer any alternative explanations or responses to today’s developments. The street battles of 2017 had their origins in our own time. Trump’s election was part of a sequence of victories for right-populist and “illiberal” authoritarians in Britain, Russia, India, Turkey, Hungary, Italy, Colombia, and the Philippines. Militarizing borders in the face of global trade and immigration, removing all obstacles to capital in the form of unions or regulation, and attacking minority groups and women, this political wave shares enough with historical fascism that some call it “late fascism” or “post-fascism.” While there is no fully revolutionary wave to which this phenomenon responds, it has emerged in response to the Arab Spring, Occupy, Black Lives Matter and other social movements. The Trumpian emphasis on “law and order,” in particular, refers to the riots of Ferguson and Baltimore. These movements and the rightwing “illiberal” reaction to them gesture, respectively, toward revolution or dictatorship–a polarization strengthened by capitalist stagnation and ecological breakdown.

Read the rest at communemag.com