Link Roundup: 17 June

Happy Monday, Flood readers. We start off this week with some sad news: Marta Harnecker - a Chilean sociologist, political scientist, journalist, and activist - has died at the age of 82. You might remember Harnecker from her shout-out in last year’s Official Flood Media Book Recommendations - Friend of Flood Liam identified her book Instruments for Doing Politics as '“clearly and methodically outlin[ing] a perspective for revolutionary political strategy that avoids narrow electoralism as well as facile insurrectionism - or any form of fetishisation of a particular tactic or strategy.” Vale, Marta. I leave you with this quote from her recent article ‘Latin America and Twenty-First Century Socialism: Inventing to Avoid Mistakes’.

We need a left that understands that we must obtain hegemony, that is to say, that we have to convince instead of imposing. We need a left that understands that, more important than what we have done in the past, is what we will do together in the future to win our sovereignty—to build a society that makes possible the full development of all human beings: the socialist society of the twenty-first century.

Now for the part of the link roundup where I blow my own horn: I wrote a piece for Overland on last week’s Adani decision. (ICYMI, the Queensland Labor government approved Adani’s groundwater management plan, which was the last environmental approval they needed from the government to begin construction on the project.) I don’t know if this piece says anything majorly original (are there contrarian hot takes on Adani? Lmk if you have one, we’ll publish it here) but hey, sometimes you just need someone to do a bread and butter left take on [x issue] and you know what? I can be that someone. Anyway, the piece goes into why Adani was approved, what Labor’s fundamental miscalculation was re: the simplistic dichotomy between jobs and climate, and how we might explode that dichotomy in future. Reading or talking about my own work embarrasses me greatly. The end.

Also in Overland, Scott Robinson has written a long and good piece entitled ‘Against liberal tolerance’. I feel like most of us are by now up on the fact that the concept of tolerance = problematic, but Robinson gives a detailed and theory-rich (not in a bad way) explanation of exactly why that is. To quote, “Tolerance is a solvent against solidarity, by which I mean the attempt to form genuine cross-cultural communities. The regime of tolerance precludes cultural contact, except that kind sanctioned by an exchange of money or made in a language of the infinitely flexible, culturally vacuous neoliberal subject.”

Our feature essay last week was Matt Halton’s piece on the Queensland Museum, entitled ‘Lost Creatures’, and it is bloody great. If you haven’t read it already, go and do that now. Matt critiques the Queensland Museum and their ‘apolitical’ take on extinction and wars, but he does so in such an intelligent, thoughtful, and original way. On an exhibit of the German tank Mephisto, he writes:

We need to see Mephisto as an actual weapon, a tool of murder, built to enable the German gunners crammed like sardines inside its metal shell to end human life in relative comfort. I would like to know if they loved their tank, their suffocating iron prison, intolerably hot and loud, reeking with cordite fumes, clumsy and slow and the only thing standing between them and death at the point of an Australian bayonet.

I mean!!! Just go and read the piece, or re-read it. It really is that good.

This is not (really) (at all) politics-related, but The Secret History and my own somewhat embarrassing love for it has come up before in the link roundups, so why not. A few weeks ago, Floodcast contributor Maddy sent me this exquisite piece, entitled (be still my beating heart!) ‘The Secret Oral History of Bennington: The 1980s' Most Decadent College.’ AAARSGHIDSGH. Reading this was such a wild ride. Maddy and I agreed afterwards that we both feel an odd mixture of (in her words) “powerful FOMO/yearning for impossible pasts combined with exhaustion even contemplating such a life”. On the one hand, ever since reading The Secret History I have absolutely wished I were at Hampden/Bennington having ambiguous sexual relationships and taking drugs, while writing famous novels in my spare time - on the other hand, a lot of the people who did that seem deeply unhappy, not to mention genuinely unpleasant. It also does sound exhausting and I need regular exercise and nine hours’ sleep a night. Regardless. The piece is amazing and if you have any touch of interest in Donna Tartt/Bret Easton Ellis/et al, you will enjoy it. (My favourite part was Donna Tartt, with a “rictus smile that was also a glare”, passive-aggressively letting Bret Easton Ellis know that his book was trash.)

Closing out this week’s link roundup is another one of those Baffler articles seeking to problematise the things you like but already vaguely suspected were problematic. This one is about Spotify! Liz Pelly writes about the way the “big mood machine” draws on data directly gained from surveillance, and shares that data with advertising firms who use it to sell you products. It’s a good (if depressing) window into the commodification of everything: “In Spotify’s world, listening data has become the oil that fuels a monetizable metrics machine, pumping the numbers that lure advertisers to the platform. In a data-driven listening environment, the commodity is no longer music. The commodity is listening. The commodity is users and their moods. The commodity is listening habits as behavioral data.”

Until next week!