Archives for February 2011

W/Health: Constructions of delusional perceptions

The recent release of Deadly Spin by Wendell Potter, former head of corporate communications for CIGNA, has triggered media interest in trying to explain why there is no sound universal health care system in the United States nor does one appear on the horizon.

In fact, this book could be re-titled “The Confessions of a Public Relations Hit-man.” Potter was, as he writes, a “spinmeister” for the health insurance industry, in particular Humana and CIGNA.

He reveals some of the methods that are commonly used by corporations to “create perceptions without any public disclosure of who is doing the persuading or for what purposes.” He discloses the fundamental tools of the spin-business utilized by industries (health insurance, oil, tobacco, etc.) to manipulate so-called “public opinion” with faulty information, statistics and worse. Words and phrases like “propaganda”, “fear mongering tactics”, and “consumer” appear regularly. This spin-business has found support and sustenance in the absence of political examination of the current US society.  Potter is critical of the process but rarely, if ever, critical of the neoliberal thinking that vindicates it. In The Birth of Biopolitics: Lectures at the College de France, 1978 – 1979, Michel Foucault argued “liberalism in America is a whole way of being and thinking.” Potter’s book confirms this critique of `liberalism in America.”

In my attempts to summarize what Deadly Spin exposes, I realized that what it does not expose is equally important. Potter exposes in great detail the technique and the technology of crafting messages made to diminish actual stories of mistreated people to a mere discussion of their economic viability. He also exposes the collusion between corporate power and political power in the United States, showing how corporations get involved in writing bills aimed at controlling their own power.

Potter exposes PR groups, such as APCO, that specialize in “influencing decision-makers and shaping public opinion by crafting compelling messages and recruiting effective allies”. For instance, Michael Moore produced a truthful documentary, Sicko, on the suffering of American citizens who were denied financial coverage of their medical needs. Moore focused on American citizens who had health insurance and how they were vulnerable to the health market emphasizing that access to care was a financial privilege. APCO worked strenously with Potter’s PR team to produce propaganda against Sicko and succeeded in reducing the impact of the film.

A turning point in Potter’s professional life occurred when he came across a RAM (Remote Area Medical) clinic and saw with his own eyes the ways in which people seek care were packed and packaged. Tellingly, the clinic was installed in animal stalls. Nothing prepared him for what he saw.

What the book does not reveal is the link between neoliberal dogma as religion and the reduction of people to consumers of health care. What if Potter had the same revelation in Philadelphia, where he lives, where there is massive poverty, where life expectancy, in some areas and especially in African American communities, is lower than in Bangladesh? What if Potter hadn’t had to travel to the distant rural zones to see the health care situation?

Potter reviews the history of health care reform without revealing the profound effect of racial and social discriminations. His framework remains free enterprise, service, such as there is, remains service to the consumer. He fails to reveal that the neoliberal Public Relations industry has also worked in the worldwide promotion of the same market based health care. Cigna was among the health insurance companies that invested in countries where Structural Adjustment Programs imposed the destruction of public social services, including health care. CIGNA was one of the health insurance companies that grossly benefitted from those deregulations.

Potter also does not address reproductive health and rights, except to note that women’s policies cost more because of pregnancies. In this, he mirrors the decision of the Obama administration to bargain away coverage for abortion and reproductive health as well as immigrants’ health in the passing of an ill conceived and inadequate health care plan.

Nonetheless I appreciate and respect his personal and emotional inquiry. He is right when he says that journalism has become corporately infused. Corporate, and I would add nationalist as well. He gives many examples of PR constructions and distortions of realities meant to keep people in the dark with regard to their health care system, “selling the illusion of coverage,” constructions and distortions that were never denounced or investigated properly by journalists. Those distortions have formed the faith in the power of the neoliberal economy. In the United States, opposition to that faith is subtly silenced. Wendell Potter comes short of acknowledging this relationship. Instead he remains focused on the manipulation of news media, maybe because he started his career in journalism and has now returned to it as a senior fellow on health care at the Center for Media and Democracy.


(Photo Credit: PR Watch)


Child prisoners in Pennsylvania haunt the United States

In 2003, children started disappearing in Luzerne County, in northeastern Pennsylvania. By 2009, over 5000 had vanished, or more precisely had been disappeared. They were sold into juvenile prison system in what some call a kids-for-cash scam. On Friday, February 18, 2011, Judges Mark Ciaverella  and Michael Conahan pled guilty to wire fraud and income tax fraud.

In a nutshell, the story is that two private juvenile prisons, PA Child Care and Western PA Child Care, paid the judges to send children to jail. Over 5000 children. In a five or six year period. In one county. Many were first time offenders. Many are today still in prison. In 2009, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court voided almost all the juvenile convictions from 2003 on. Senior Judge Arthur Grim has the task of adjudicating the mess.

But what exactly is the mess? Ask the mothers of the children, ask the children themselves.

Erica Michaliga’s son damaged the hood of the family car. She called the police, to “put a good scare into him.” Once in, her son spent four years in prison. “Not only is this kids for cash, this is kids forgotten.”

Thirteen-year-old Alissa Conahan got into an argument with her grandmother. The family called the cops, to put a good scare into her. She spent most of four years, from the age of 14 to 18, in prison: “He ruined my life, so I don’t care what happens to him.”

At the age of 12, Eric Stefanski took his mother’s car and went on a quick joyride. No one was hurt. Eric ran over a barrier, smashing the undercarriage. In order to get insurance to pay for the damage, his mother, Linda Donovan, had to file a police report. She thought appearing before the judge might also “give him a little scare.” Eric Stefanski was shackled then and there, and spent the next two years in prison.

Edward Kenzakoski was 17 years old, a good kid with a bright future, a high school senior, a wrestler who was `expected to take state in his high school’. Edward looked forward to college scholarships based on his athletics, good record, and general life story. Edward started hanging out with `a different crowd, sneaking out at night.’ So, his mother called the police. She found out he was at an underage drinking party, and she asked the police to intervene, to help, “to put a little scare into him.” The police thought that’s what they were doing. Helping.

His mother, Sandy Fonzo, remembers and re-lives the rest: “Before we knew it, he was shackled, and he was taken. And I just remember his face looking at me. And it was just – it was horror. It was almost like—you know, he’s my kid, and I had just no control. They actually—at one time, while they had him in that juvenile center, he called me the next day. He’s in some place hours away. They needed a bed to fill for somebody else, so they moved him in the middle of the night, pouring down rain. I didn’t even know where my 17-year-old son was. I was having like a nervous breakdown. This whole thing has been nothing but a nightmare, and it just has never ended. It never ended. And now I live with this nightmare the rest of my life. And I just want him to at least pay for what he’s done. I mean, these people are to protect our kids. He was the adult here. He made these kids all think that they’re such bad kids. And, you know, it’s just terrible the way he beat them down. They’re not bad kids. I want them to know: it wasn’t them, it was him. They’re not bad. I want them to heal and go on with their lives so nothing happens to them like it did to my son.”

Edward committed suicide last June.

What runs through these stories? Efficiency. Child care.

According to Judge Grim, the average court proceeding for these children was “a minute and a half to three minutes.” It took that long to weigh the value of a child, of a child’s life. Judge Ciavarella was acting efficiently. Otherwise, how did this horror continue for six whole years?

Children make mistakes. In Luzerne County, families, mothers and grandmothers in particular, called on the police, called on the State, to put a scare into their kids. They called for help. In an economically devastated area, like that of Luzerne County, like that of Wilkes-Barre, that long ago lost its industrial, economic base, this is child care. There are few, if any, public services for children. There are few, if any, public services for families. The public juvenile detention centers have been closed and replaced with privately owned and operated ones, with names like PA Child Care and Western PA Child Care.

Five thousand children disappeared in a six year period, from 2003 to 2009, in a small place called Wilkes-Barre. Their mothers watched, helpless, as they were shackled and disappeared. Five thousand families suffered the disappearance of their children. The children haunt Pennsylvania. The mothers and grandmothers haunt Pennsylvania. The six years haunt Pennsylvania. Loss haunts Pennsylvania. The horror haunts Pennsylvania.

And Pennsylvania haunts the United States.


(Photo Credits: Juvenile Law Center)

In Zimbabwe, the revolution will be …

Trevor Ncube is a Zimbabwean. On Friday, February 18, 2011, Trevor Ncube, owner of The Mail & Guardian, and publisher of the Zimbabwean The Standard, The Zimbabwe Independent and NewsDay, published a piece he’d written, entitled “We are our own liberators.” In this piece, Ncube reflected on the lessons of Egypt and Tunisia, and who knows where else by now, for Zimbabwe, for Zimbabweans. He noted, “I have written before about the need for a “Third Way” in Zimbabwe’s politics. Egypt and Tunisia tell us that perhaps the people constitute that Third Way in resolving our political impasse. Only a new beginning will suffice…. Tunisia and Egypt have restored our collective faith in the power of the people.”

That was Friday.

Munyaradzi Gwisai is a Zimbabwean. Gwisai has been a member of the Zimbabwe National Parliament, is a lead member of the Zimbabwe branch of the International Socialist Organisation, and is the director of the Labour Law Centre, in Harare. Gwisai is also a law lecturer at the University of Zimbabwe.

On Saturday, the Zimbabwe branch of the International Socialist Organisation apparently held a meeting at the Labour Law Centre. Individuals and organizations were invited to a discussion. On the agenda was something like “What lessons can be learnt by the working class in Zimbabwe and Africa?” Gwisai and 50 some others were arrested for “plotting an Egypt”, or, more formally, “subverting the government.”

Fifty or so people were arrested, and for what? They were arrested for “normal academic debate,” or for the crime of discussing politics, or perhaps, as the government representative said, for having “attempted to inspire and motivate people to demonstrate.” Included among those arrested were passersby and others in the building who had nothing to do with the meeting.

Roselyn Hanzi of Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) reports that eight of the activists claim to have been tortured, beaten, starved. They have been allowed little contact with their attorneys. Shantha Bloemen, Munyaradzi Gwisai’s wife and a prominent figure in her own right, reports that the arrestees are being interviewed individually. Those determined to be `ringleaders’ are then beaten. It is reported that Gwisai is now unable to walk on his own.

Tafadzwa Choto was among the fifty or so arrested. Choto is a prominent ISO figure, a national coordinator in Zimbabwe. In 2001, at a May Day Rally in Harare, Choto was savagely beaten by “Mugabe’s thugs”. What is the distance between Mubarak’s thugs and Mugabe’s thugs? Ask Tafadzwa Choto.

According to Choto, two events served to politicize her. The first occurred in 1993: “A woman at the University of Zimbabwe was stripped of her skirt. It was said to be a miniskirt and was publicly ripped off her. I was disgusted.” The second was in 1995: “In Harare, in the city center, … three civilians were shot by the police, while the police were chasing after some thieves who had stolen a manual typewriter. Three civilians were shot dead and for what?”

Women were attacked, and for what? Civilians were shot dead, and for what? Fifty were arrested, and for what? Among them many were beaten, tortured, starved, and for what? For daring to inspire and motivate people to demonstrate? For daring to inspire and motivate people to become the people? In Zimbabwe, the revolutions of far off lands are being discussed and will be debated, and someday, hopefully someday soon, the reckoning of the `for what’ will begin. The `for what’ haunts Zimbabwe.


(Video Credit: Union Solidarity International /

The orphan children of asylum seekers haunt Australia

Seena weeps at the funeral of an eight-month-old baby, drowned on the rocks of Christmas Island

On Wednesday, December 15, 2010, a wooden fishing vessel carrying an untold number of asylum seekers and refugees, thought to be Iranian and Iraqi Kurds, crashed off the shores of Christmas Island. The residents watched in horror, the nation watched in horror. Some of the dead were fished out of the rough seas. Others were never found. Estimates suggest that 50 people perished that day.

The survivors were either sent to hospital in Perth or sent to detention centers on Christmas Island. Prime Minister Gilliard called the event a `terrible human tragedy’.

Yesterday, Tuesday, February 15, 2011, two months to the day, eight of the dead were buried in two separate funerals in Sydney. Twenty-one survivors were flown in from Christmas Island and Perth, where they have been detained for the last two months.

Among those survivors was a nine-year old boy named Seena.

Seena lost both of his parents in the tragedy. Seena’s brother drowned that day as well. His father’s body was fished out of the waters. His mother was never found. Seena spends every day staring and waiting for new boats to arrive, for his mother to arrive. At the funeral, Seena said, “Leave me alone. I just want to go to my father. I just want to see him, I just want to see him.” According to one cousin, he wanted to be “buried with his father”.

Seena is nine years old. He has cousins, aunts and uncles, who live in Sydney. They have begged the State to let the child stay in Sydney, where he has an extended family network, where there are mental health providers ready to attend to him. “We are more than happy to take responsibility for him,” his cousin explains.

They are more than happy to take responsibility.

The State however is not happy to take responsibility for this nine year old child. The State initially planned to ship him back, with the others, back to Christmas Island, back to isolation, back to desolation, back to endless and daily waiting for his mother to arrive. If Seena is returned to Christmas Island, who will take care of him? His aunt, who is also a prisoner there. His aunt, who is in even worse psychological condition than he is.

Tonight, Seena is at Villawood Immigrant Detention Centre, outside of Sydney, … again. Seena spent the day before his father’s funeral in Villawood. When ten relatives came to see him, his spirits lifted. Seena is a nine-year old child. Of course, seeing his relatives cheered him up.

Seena is meant to be flown back to Christmas Island tomorrow, Thursday, morning. Perhaps he has been, perhaps not. The State now says it will consider the family’s request.

What does it take for the nation-State to be happy, more than happy, to take responsibility for the children in its midst?

Article 37 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child reads, in part:

“No child shall be subjected to torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment….Every child deprived of liberty shall be treated with humanity and respect for the inherent dignity of the human person, and in a manner which takes into account the needs of persons of his or her age.”

Australia ratified that ConventIon in December 1990, twenty years almost to the day of Seena losing his family and being sent to Christmas Island. More countries have ratified the Convention than any other human rights treaty in history. If there is anything like a global consensus, it is the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.

And yet … protecting, securing and sustaining the rights of the child and the rights of children is viewed as a bureaucratic obligation. Which nation-State is more than happy to take responsibility for the child?

Seena is nine years old. Seenah haunts Australia. The orphan children of asylum seekers haunt the world.


(Photo Credit: Sydney Morning Herald / Getty Images)


Prisoners die in agony, begging and screaming for care

Amy Lynn Cowling went for a drive on Christmas Eve, 2010. 33 years old, a grandmother of a one-day old child, bipolar, methadone dependent, and with only one kidney, Amy Lynn Cowling went for a drive in East Texas, where she was picked up for speeding, then arrested for some outstanding warrants on minor theft charges and traffic violations. Five days later, in the Gregg County Jail, after a day of wailing and seizures, of excruciating pain and suffering, of agony, Amy Lynn Cowling died. Amy Lynn Cowling died after five days of her family begging and pleading with the prison staff to make sure they gave her the life sustaining medicines she needed. The pills were just down the hall, in Amy Lynn Cowling’s purse, in the jail storage room. Nobody went, nobody came. Amy Lynn Cowling died.

Gregg County Jail is `troubled’. Since 2005, nine prisoners have died there, one of suicide, eight from `health conditions.’ Prisoners are dying, and prisoners are coming out hurt and injured. Across the country and across the world. Some suggest that Amy Lynn Cowling’s death `exposes health care problems in local jails.’ History suggests otherwise.

Ashley Ellis was twenty-one years old when she went for a drive one night, in 2007, in Rutland, Vermont. She hit a motorcycle and partially paralyzed its driver. Two years later, she was convicted of misdemeanor negligence. Ellis was sent to the Northwest State Correctional Facility in Swanton, Vermont.

In the two years between the accident and the sentencing, Ellis had gone from120 pounds to 86. She was depressed. She was under treatment for anorexia. This treatment required her to take regular potassium pills. She told the staff at the prison. Ellis’s doctor faxed the prison all the necessary information concerning her illness and treatment. At that time, the prison health services were outsourced to a private corporation, Prison Health Services, or PHS.

Ashley Ellis told the Prison Health Service staff that she needed the potassium pills, to live. They said they were out, they give her food, they did not provide the pills. After two days in prison, Ashley Ellis died. That was August 2009. In January 2010 Vermont suspended its contract with Prison Health Service, because the contract had `expired’. Prison Health Service advised its employees not to speak to anyone. The investigation went nowhere.

The medical examiner found that Ashley Ellis had died in part because of denial of access to medication. As we noted last year, a similar case occurred in New York, at about the same time. Chuneice Patterson, a prisoner in the Onondaga County Justice Center, in Syracuse, New York, screamed, writhed for nine hours in pain before dying of an ectopic pregnancy. She pressed the emergency button. Nobody came.

The New York State Commission of Correction concluded: “Chuneice Patterson was a twenty-one year old black woman who died on 11/12/09 at 8:30 a.m. from a ruptured ectopic pregnancy while in the custody of the Onondaga County Sherriff at the Onondaga County Justice Center….Had Ms. Patterson received adequate and competent medical care, her death would have been prevented.”

It’s too soon to say the exact cause of death for Amy Lynn Cowling. It’s too late to claim that another women dying in prison exposes anything. As attorney, prison expert and University of Texas faculty member Michele Deitch notes, “Until it affects a family like this, no one knows how bad things are.” As long as incarceration means isolation, as long as prison is a form of exile within the borders of one’s own state, as long as prisoners are invisible to `citizens’, they will continue to die in agony, begging and screaming for care.


(Photo Illustration: Todd Wiseman / Callie Richmond / The Texas Tribune)


Mubarak did not step down today. He was pushed … by the women of Egypt

Mona Seif

February 11, 2011. The news media say that Hosni Mubarak stepped down today. They say he has resigned.

Hosni Mubarak did not step down today, and he did not resign. He was pushed. He was pushed by a mass of people, he was pushed by a convergence of sectors and forces, from students to workers to the unemployed to the working poor to the middle class to doctors to truck drivers to everyone. Hosni Mubarak did not step down. He was pushed … by women the women of Egypt.

Mubarak was pushed by women writers, novelists, poets, bloggers, such as Shahira Amin, Nawal El Saadawi, Yasmine El Rashidi, Mona Helmy, Ahdaf Soueif, Zeinobia, and Dalia Ziada.

Mubarak was pushed by women filmmakers and video makers, such as Asmaa Mahfouz, Jehane Noujaim, and Tahani Rached.

Mubarak was pushed by women doctors, such as Aida Seif El Dawla and Sally Moore.

Mubarak was pushed by women performance artists, such as Karima Mansour.

Mubarak was pushed by women who came as partners, wives, mothers, daughters, such as the mother of Khaled Said, her son beaten to death last year by police in Alexandria; Doaa Abdulla, who awakened her husband and said we must go to the protests; and Elham Eidarous, who alternated nights in Tahrir Square with her husband.

Mubarak was pushed by women human rights activists, women’s rights activists, and pro-democracy activists, such as Mona El Seif, Mozn Hassan, Nehad Abul Komsan, Selma al-Tarzi, Sonda Shabaik, and Ghada Shahbandar.

Mubarak was pushed by women whose names are only partly known, such as Asma, Ghada, Mona, Mariam, and Rania.

Mubarak was pushed. The categories don’t matter. The filmmakers are students, the writers are doctors, the activists are dancers. The elders are youthful, the youth are wise. The names are signatures of millions of women and girls, and men and boys, who have filled the streets and the skies, who have seized the day and the night. Liberation is possible, revolution is possible, hope is material, dreams are material.

Hosni Mubarak did not step down today. He did not resign. He was pushed … by the women of Egypt.


(Photo Credit: Al Jazeera)

The child prisoners of St. Patrick’s haunt Ireland


In Ireland, today, Ombudsman for Children Emily Logan issued a report, entitled Young People in St. Patrick’s Institution. St. Patrick’s is a men’s, and boys’, prison for children and adults between the ages of 16 and 21. It is the only place in Ireland that `accommodates’ male prisoners aged 16 and 17, whether they have been sentenced or are awaiting trial. The boys of St. Patrick’s come from all over the country.

The report describes St. Patrick’s Institution as follows: “St. Patrick’s Institution is a closed, medium security prison managed by the Irish Prison Service, which holds remand and sentenced young people between 16 and 21 years of age. Adjacent to Mountjoy Prison in Dublin, the Institution’s main buildings are part of a Victorian prison complex dating back to 1850 and were the site of the women’s prison before becoming a place of detention for young offenders.” Women and children first, or, in this case, women first, then children, both subjected to a male adult prison regime.

As is so often the case with Victorian prisons still in use, St. Patrick’s has been criticized for a long time, for decades. The 1985 Whitaker Report called for St. Patrick’s closure, arguing that it was too old and dilapidated to repair, arguing further that it contributed to further juvenile delinquency rather than rehabilitation. That was over 25 years ago. In July 2007 the Irish Penal Reform Trust issued a new report, The Whitaker Committee Report 20 Years On: Lessons Learned or Lessons Forgotten? It described the earlier report as  “the most detailed and thoughtful analysis of Irish prisons to date”. There was much discussion of lessons learned, forgotten, suppressed, ignored. The 200 Years On analysis described deteriorating conditions. The prison was going from very bad to much worse.

Today, Wednesday, February 9, 2001, that prison still houses child prisoners, still does harm to them, their families, and their communities, still defines the Irish state.

According to today’s report, every aspect of St. Patrick’s denies and offends the particularities of the prisoners as children. For many, contact with family is difficult because the prison is far from home, and so getting there is expensive and time consuming. Remand prisoners are allowed five fifteen-minute visits per week. Sentenced prisoners are allowed two half-hour visits. Imagine the family that will travel hours for a fifteen-minute `interview’. Then imagine the child.

Meanwhile, maintaining and developing healthy relationships with family and friends is made almost impossible by visiting conditions and regulations that prohibit intimacy or privacy.

Children can’t be children, parents can’t be parents.

When the children’s wing, the B-Wing, is overcrowded, either the boys are dumped two to a bed, or they’re moved to C- and D-Wings, where adult prisoners are kept. Again, this includes children who are remand prisoners.

The food is terrible, the educational facilities are outmoded and archaic, the health facilities are decrepit, there is little attention to rehabilitation and reintegration in any way that is attentive to the needs of children, of adolescents. The boy’s in jail, he’s treated like a man.

Finally, there’s `the pad’, or special observation cell. The prison administration claims this is only used to protect the prisoners. The prisoners see it as solitary confinement: degrading, punitive, silencing. Putting an adult in long term solitary confinement is torture. Placing an adolescent in a `seclusion room’, without explanation, without … anything, is as well. `The pad’ teaches the young that they must not complain, they must not whimper, they must just tough it out and get through. If they have problems, especially mental health problems, they must be silent. They must not seek help. They must learn to shut up. That is the lesson of solitary confinement when administered on the young.

None of this is new and none of this is news. The conditions of St. Patrick’s have been known for longer than any of these children have walked the earth. This is what it means to be a child in the care of the modern State.



(Image Credit: The Ombudsman for Children, Ireland) (Video Credit: The Ombudsman for Children, Ireland / YouTube)

Tahrir Means Liberation

Today, Saturday, February 5, 2011, the eyes of the world are on Egypt. According to Al Jazeera’s most recent report, the protesters in Tahrir Square are standing their ground, consolidating their gains, and organizing further. Ten thousand pro-democracy protesters showed up outside the main train station in Alexandria, Egypt’s second largest city, as well.

Tahrir means liberation. The people in Tahrir Square have said they will stay until liberation. The people in Tahrir Square are teaching the world a new lesson, the lesson of liberation now and liberation to come. Ask the women of Tahrir Square, ask the youth, ask the workers, ask … everyone.

Another word emerged this week with stunning ease and fluidity: thugs. And a phrase: Mubarak’s thugs.

Yesterday, for example, in a one-hour international news of the week roundup, the National Journal’s Defense Correspondent Yochi Dreazen referred to “pro-Mubarak thugs”, and no one batted an eye, not the NPR host nor the reporters from MBC, the Middle East Broadcasting Center, and from the Washington Post, respectively.

Al Jazeera today reports: “On Friday, Al Jazeera’s offices in Cairo were attacked by “gangs of thugs”, according to a statement from the network. The office was burned, along with the equipment inside it.”

From Tahrir Square itself, Egyptian activists Mona El Seif and Selma Al-Tarzi offer a more detailed picture of thugs. According to El Seif, “We have caught a lot of the thugs….We have searched them. Most of them were one of two things. Either they had police IDs on them …or they were unemployed people that were promised either jobs or money….We know this. We know this since every demo we went to. They always plant thugs and pretend—let them pretend to be civilians, so they can start the violence. I just never saw this amount of violence, this publicly displayed, and nobody stopping it.”

Al-Tarzi added, “The Mubarak thugs were shooting at us with the machine guns. The army shot back at them. Two of them were killed. One of us was killed….More are coming. And we are so tired. People are so tired. We’ve been fighting for the past 12 hours. And we’re just protesters; we’re civilians. We’re protesters.…All we have is stones and sticks. And we’re tired. This is not what we’re here to do. This is not—this is not how—this is a crime of war. They’re killing us.”

Mozn Hassan, Director of Nazra for Feminist Studies, tells a similar story: “If the military is ever to be a legitimate national force, it must side with the protesters against Mubarak’s thugs and the police.… It is crucial at this moment in the Egyptian Uprising to understand that this is the Egyptian Army’s moment of truth. As the thousands of unarmed demonstrators are tortured, trampled, firebombed and molested by Mubarak’s thugs, will the military move to protect, or to crush the non-violent democratic movements that have occupied Tahrir Square in Cairo for the last ten days.”

Who are the thugs? They are the police, the are the security forces, they are the baltaguia, “plainclothes thugs from the state security services and gang members on their payroll.” And they are everywhere: Cairo, Alexandria, Luxor. And they are everywhere all the time: protests, labor strikes, elections. They are the body politic of `security’. When it is reported, or rumored, that 90 percent of the `thugs’ caught in Tahrir Square had identity cards linking them to the police, state and Central Security forces, the only surprise was that they were actually carrying the cards. They are the State.

A State that relies on thugs for security, for stability, for well being, for its identity as a nation-State is a thug state. It is a rogue, whose gender “remains generally, as it was originally, masculine”, who knows only the reason of the strongest and the practice of fear: “those who inspire fear frighten themselves, they conjure the very specter they represent. The conjuration is in mourning for itself and turns its own force against itself.”

Tahrir means liberation. The protesters in Tahrir Square, such as Mona El Seif and Selma Al-Tarzi, they are living a form of liberation now, today. Liberation haunts the thugs and the thug states.


(Photo Credit: