a15 – Small press review

Here’s a sample of the cool printed matter sent to us. The regular suspects this time around — who gave us some irregular things to consider. The underground press is like a scented garden of the mind. Won’t you taste the root?

Municipal Threat 

Issue #1 – $5

Fluke Publishing

PO Box 1547

Phoenix, AZ. 85001

Exploitation films are a very particular kind of otaku (someone who obsesses over something such as anime). Unlike steampunks and furries, underground film freaks are invisible in the daylight. It’s only at night that you find them projecting 8mm film onto the side of vacant buildings, and gathering in the parking lots of indie theaters, smoking and trading VHS dubs. 

This beefy 76-page zine is a compilation fanzine, with both exploitation film reviews and underground comics. Fans of Tales from the Crypt or the works of Robert Crumb will probably love this. But don’t forget the writing. It’s not just Charles Bronson arm wrestling alligators. Nick Anderson for example can really write. In his review of Amsterdamned he actually penned the phrase “He swims up and watches Amsterpeople do their Amsterthings.” That is a quality referential pun right there. Hats off to you, sir.

The term “exploitation” here is a catch-all phrase for all B-movies. But their fans break them down further into subgenres: Spaghetti Westerns, Monster movies, Biker films, Blacksploitation, Slasher films and so on. But they have things in common: sex, drugs, and violence. But the context is impossibly specific for an outsider.

If you haven’t seen the 1982 release of “Swamp Thing” and read at least several dozen issues of the comic book, how would you ever understand a reference like “…the British writer/occultist and his collaborators reinvented the comic book creature as an eco-metaphysical sojourner…” As someone who has, I can confirm that Jason Woodbury is spot-on accurate. Yes, writer Alan Moore is an occultist, and the Mage of Northampton is not to be trifled with. 

The comics, by comparison, are more immediate and accessible. There is some really quality stuff here. I was particularly taken with artist Jarred Smith and that noir piece by David Moses… and especially the tiny, topical comment he sandwiched in between two bottom panels “Don’t ever talk to cops.”

As a whole, this zine is just as surreal as the films it pays homage to. So you end up asking yourself: Who is the 69-foot gigolo, why is he on Demon Island, why does he need revenge? Is he a Richard Gere-style American Gigolo, or more of a Jon Voight-esque Midnight Cowboy? … Or maybe a Rob Schneider-style Deuce Bigalow. There’s a lot to unpack here, but editor Brad Dwyer knows how to share the stage with all of them. (Jose Fritz)

Invisible Generation

$18.95 (190 pages)

I read the blurb on the back cover and immediately understood that Jason Rodgers is a Burroughs fan. You can write about semantics, polemics, surrealists, and occult objectivism all day. But as soon as you begin to address psychic control systems in those specific terms, you are deep in Williams Burroughs oeuvre. 

Suddenly we’re in a sci-fi western with a dope-addled homosexual cowboy; sure he’s on the nod, but he’s quick with that pistol and don’t you forget it. Author Jason Rodgers concedes his Burroughs influence, directly quoting him multiple times in this collection of essays. Once you’re on benzos and following the road to the Western Lands, it’s all too easy to find yourself in the throes of a yage vision: bright colors, scintillating shapes, glossolalia, and giant bats. Don’t worry, you’ll see them soon enough.

Early on Rodgers makes a passing reference to the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis which reveals more than anything else what he’s getting at here. That thesis states, in short, that the language you speak influences the way you think and experience reality. For that reason it’s also called the theory of linguistic relativity.

As for Rodgers, about 30 pages in I began to question both his methods and his purpose. His explorations rely so heavily on constructing highly abstract semantics to discuss already abstract concepts, such that every topic becomes impossibly arcane. His usage of the word “occult” for example, bears little resemblance to the dictionary definition. While he deftly builds it’s new context, he does so cherry-picking from the works of Jesuit Priest Walter Ong, linguist Walter Truett Anderson, Anarchist Feral Faun, modern occultist Jason Louv and the band Throbbing Gristle. His citations relate only in extremis. That kind of contortion of a word’s denotation strikes me as disingenuous; perhaps even polemic.

After another 150 pages, it all starts to make sense: defunct Anarchist journals, Gnostic morality plays, Nintendo death camps, Primitivists with smartphones, Dionysian technocrats, narcotic misanthropy, atavistic video game messiahs, Trotskyist happenstance, guerilla ontology, cybernetic worker collectives, discordian ziggurats, nihilist lizard dreams… Do you see the bats yet?

Let it not go unsaid that Jason Rodgers is a hard man to read, and perhaps an even harder man to like, but that doesn’t mean he’s wrong. The horror is how right he is. (Jose Fritz)

Invisible Eye

Issue #1 – $5

Fluke Publishing

PO Box 1547

Phoenix, AZ. 85001

This zine starts abruptly and drops you right into the deep end. Rows of symbols: diamond, triangle, square, cross, inverted triangle, stacked shapes, shapes within shapes… The key for that first code appears 5 pages later. It’s not a skeleton key. It’s a sign that the codes are real, decipherable and not part of the decor. But by then you’ve already read past some collage art from the dark side of the moon, 27 more lines of cipher text, and some paranoid science fiction. An explanation as to the purpose of encoding the text follows.

I broke out my old Codes and Ciphers book from 1939; not a foundational text book by any measure, but what I had on hand. The first cipher looks like an old-school Louis XIV letter substitution code. I broke it that first evening with a frequency analysis formula. It’s a well-executed monoalphabetic code. It’s not meant to defeat the NSA, just to prevent random discovery. 

In the late evening I transcribed the rest while listening to Ike Reilly, and then finally read the Invisible Eye. It was a fully developed mythology with tales of psychic propaganda and radical geometry. The text is rife with paradoxes and symbology. But it’s not my place to bring their message to you. I’m indoctrinated now. It’s incumbent upon each apprentice to crack the codes themself and through the process become immersed in the word virus. It reminds me of the time I wrote Shepard Fairey a letter: “Wish to obey. Await further instruction.” But it’s now incumbent on me to promulgate model with a reciprocal code:



Issue #2 – $5

Fluke Publishing

PO Box 1547

Phoenix, AZ. 85001

At first blush the pages are mostly filled with pen drawings of scary faces. Melting goblin looking creatures straight out of a 1970’s Hobbit thing. Just in time for the decriminalization of magic mushrooms. This issue also has a few words explaining the madness operating here. The art school and punk rock collision that brings us to zine making. This short essay tells of the pre-internet days and having to go great lengths to letter head a flier or what have you. This zine then offers up a few “sick-as-fuck” alphabets as well as creatures for you to use on future projects. All hand made. So unplug your 3-D printer and make art everywhere. (egg)

PLAY WITH ME a puppet kit


This came in the mail without any indication if it’s for sale. A very tiny publication about the size of a matchbox. Inside is art to cut up and assemble into puppets. Great fun for your DIY take on world events. Tired of sham trials of police misconduct, Q Anon chat rooms, press conferences for dictators??? Here’s your chance to be the one who pulls the strings.(egg)

Suburban Utopia Project #15


The (Un)Civil Society is a regular thing to arrive at our door — say every 3 months. It always has the same aesthetics with its booklet and it always comes with a CD of music (which we couldn’t play). Always the pages have an austere computer layout of lyrics that are oblique and political. Always the graphics are ugly. This issue contemplates “Society of the Spectacle” in relation to events of present day pandemic and nuclear capitalism. It’s all a bit alienating at the same time having something underneath it all that’s kinda heartfelt and mushy. At least the paper is glossy and will likely outlive the Walgreens down the block. (egg)

Here’s a sample of the cool printed matter sent to us. The regular suspects this time around — who gave us some irregular things to consider. The underground press is like a scented garden of the mind. Won’t you taste the root?

a14 – Book Review: The book on not getting booked

Book Review: Representing Radicals: A Guide for Lawyers and Movements, By Tilted Scales Collective (AK Press, 2021)

by Paul Hartman

The last time I was summoned to court seems like a lifetime ago. I had been arrested in connection with a protest, spent a few nights in jail, and thought I was off the hook when they let me out without charges. But then, shortly after, new charges showed up in my mailbox. And thus began a nearly year-long ordeal that I ended by pleading out before trial.

At the time, I was incredibly lucky to have access to a team of local National Lawyers Guild (NLG) lawyers who assisted in my case. This was a time when you could count the number of “political cases” in the city on your hands, whereas in today’s political landscape—the escalating protests since Trump’s election, then the George Floyd rebellion—these numbers have skyrocketed. These days, more and more people are finding themselves caught up in the legal system with charges stemming from activism and political action. And with these numbers on the rise, it becomes more and more crucial to find lawyers who can work with the people who often bring an entirely new perspective to the case.

This is where the Tilted Scales Collective’s Representing Radicals comes in, a new and incredibly thorough guide for assisting lawyers working with clients from radical political backgrounds. In tandem with the collective’s 2017 A Tilted Guide To Being A Defendant, these books are invaluable resources for attorneys and defendants—or potential defendants—alike. While primarily intended for those doing the representing, Representing Radicals can offer numerous insights into the dynamics of facing the legal system for the defendants as well. While working with the NLG was often much smoother than it would be with a public defender or private attorney, this book would still have significantly improved our ability to think and strategize about our cases.

The book begins by laying out why the attorney-defendant dynamic will likely differ significantly when involving those with radical politics or political charges. To demonstrate this, the authors elucidate their framework for three areas in thinking about success dealing with charges. These three areas are legal, personal, and political. While lawyers are of course well-versed in the former, bringing the latter categories into the discussion allows for a more balanced vision of success to emerge between the defendant and their attorney. These three areas certainly overlap, as the authors note, but can be summarized as follows: legal goals refer to goals in the courtroom, personal goals address the needs of the charged individual, and political goals analyze how the case affects the movements that the defendants participate in.

The book then moves to address numerous scenarios that radical defendants often face. These situations—like the use of infiltrators or grand juries—can be unfamiliar to both attorneys and those subjected to them. The Tilted Scales Collective draws on decades of experiences to cover quite a bit of ground on the kinds of scenarios that radicals could potentially find themselves in. 

Next, the authors address the specific dynamics of attorney-defendant relationships and interactions. As noted in the book, it can be immensely supportive for first-time defendants to even have the legal process explained to them. This section not only assists lawyers in understanding their relation with clients who might have different perspectives than they are used to, but can also be helpful in preparing defendants or future defendants in what to expect as their case proceeds.

After discussing the relationship between the attorney and the defendant, Representing Radicals offers some perspectives on the relationship between the lawyer and people supporting the defendant. Again drawing on a wealth of experiences, the authors examine many different ways this support could and has looked like in the past, and how to facilitate the best possible relationship between this organizing and the legal team. Additionally, those facing charges can easily draw on these examples to help shape the support they would like to see during their case.

The final chapter is dedicated primarily to discussing how defendants, their attorneys, and their supporters could interact and engage with the media. Rather than simply embracing a complete rejection of media engagement, they break it down in helpful ways that allow everyone involved to weigh the potential gains and drawbacks of different forms of engagement, or lack thereof. This balanced overview is useful for facilitating clear discussions on possible engagement between those in different roles. In a way, this could summarize the approach of the entire book: offering a variety of experiences and perspectives on the many different goals and strategies that radicals may choose to pursue, allowing for the most straightforward communication between attorney and defendant as possible.

Representing Radicals arrives as a crucial resource in a time marked by increasing political conflict and repression. With an introduction from Lauren Regan, a helpful glossary, and a substantial number of short contributions throughout the book from various attorneys sharing their experiences, the book is a must-read for anyone currently involved in legal organizing, as well as anyone who anticipates ending up on the wrong side of the law—which, in 2022, could easily be any one of us.

a13 – Waste your Recycling

By Robin

Recycling has for decades been a cornerstone of the environmental movement. As it got popular, businesses and municipalities began to embrace the concept in the 1980s as new clean air and water regulations forced closure of old, leaky dumps. Recycling in the US created over 1.5 million jobs, through 60,000 companies and 40,000 government programs with the impact of $300 billion in sales for the industry.

First it was local…

To recall what small-scale, local recycling used to be not that long ago, Urban Ore, the feisty Berkeley reuse company, reminds us, “the small businesses and non-profit enterprises that previously handled “end-of-life” for electronic equipment did more than simply repair, refurbish or recycle it. They also provided employment and training to workers from disadvantaged communities, encouraging young people to learn skills and computer literacy. They sold low cost machines to schools, community organizations and families, enabling volunteers to provide thousands of hours annually for training youth and under-employed residents.” Now ever-larger companies benefit from poorly-planned electronic scrap laws favoring large businesses, capitalizing on the rapid obsolescence of digital products. 

What is it with the war on jobs poor people depend on? Increasingly there’s no place in our communities for folks wanting to make money by collecting & redeeming deposits on bottles and cans. CalRecycle, the state recycling agency, in January admitted that it now has a $529 million surplus because so many Californians live in “recycling deserts” with no convenient options for eco-friendly folks to get their nickel & dime deposits back on beverage containers, so they just send them out with other recyclables on trash pickup day. Beverage recycling rates have declined for 8 years as many recycling centers have closed statewide due to market woes and climbing land prices. The system seems nearly broken but at least State Senator Wieckowski (Fremont) is investigating CalRecycle and its dubious accounting practices. 

Recycling scales up (and out)

With landfill space increasingly scarce and pricey, and with tighter domestic clean air rules for incinerators, corporate and government officials promoted recycling in the 1980s as a way to reduce the waste stream and even earn money. As China’s economy was starting to boom it began to take discards, especially paper and plastics, from more industrialized countries and turn them into new products and packaging for its home and export markets. By 2017, China was buying over half the world’s mixed paper waste, with the U.S. shipping 15 million tons of mixed paper there per year. 

But in early 2018 China banned 24 grades of waste materials, including mixed paper and post-consumer plastics, and insisted on far less contaminants in other materials they did import. SE Asian countries briefly opened imports, but now these U.S. waste products have no value and just pile up. At least the disruption of export markets speeded regulation of plastic waste: 186 countries agreed to place restrictions on the international movement of plastic waste in 2019, and clearly the trade is unsavory. News of the Pacific Ocean “plastic gyre” of floating plastics (70% eventually sinks) also helped focus attention on the problems of plastics. 

• Maybe we should all have to live with the products and trash we produce, the detritus of our consumer society’s throwaways, instead of sending everything “away”?

If countries increasingly have to deal with their own waste, corporate players are stepping up to sell solutions. “Extended Producer Responsibility” (EPR), a classicgreenwashing name, is modeled on Scandinavian laws but has been Americanized to benefit beverage producers and the big-business trash industries chasing the most valuable recyclables and squeezing out smaller, established community recyclers. Urban Ore has been central in outing this dangerous trend.

Big trash hauling companies make much more from their monopoly contracts with town & cities by discarding, rather than recycling, and also kick back some of their fees to cities, which can use the money. They do all they can to make traditional recycling appear uneconomical and shaky, so that EPR contracts appear to be better deals, ushering in privatization. The tempting sales pitch for EPRs is that “producers” will be held responsible for dealing with products & packaging after consumers are done with items, and thus have an incentive to design higher quality, more recyclable products using less resources and packaging. Recycling costs would be built into prices, pleasing taxpayers, garbage ratepayers and local governments. 

As Urban Ore reveals, it’s all a shell game: “Actually EPR producers want monopoly control of the recovery system. Then they hire smaller ‘Stewardship’ organizations to get the job done cheaply… No existing EPR regulations require redesign. Stupid products like plastic straws can continue to be made. Thus in EPR ‘responsibility’ becomes permission to pollute.” This has played out previously in British Columbia in scary fashion: “The results: a hostile takeover of the recycling industry… Fully developed EPR can be a way for manufacturers to keep making unrecyclable products, and to avoid oversight.” 

EPR seems like a classic case of modern “disruption” capitalism, since consumers do the feel-good chores of recycling beverage containers, forfeiting most of the deposits they’ve paid, while ever-larger companies — with minimal investment, labor or materials costs — scoop up the most profitable recyclables in a market already reeling from huge changes in the overseas markets. 

As fossil fuel companies watch (and fight) the rise of regulation, hybrids & all-electric vehicles, they also seek to hedge their bets and use “their” oil & gas to pivot and become petrochemicals companies. As recycling pioneer Gretchen Brewer of San Diego warned, “Remember that the plastics industry is the petroleum industry, is the chemical industry, is the pharmaceutical industry, is the weapons industry, is the military-industrial complex.”

Every day is trash day

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle – of course! Be careful about what you buy, buy what you can reuse and repair, buy what you can recycle. Get back to buying in bulk and reusing bags & containers. Cut way down on single-use plastics you bring home. On the national level let’s fix the misleading number coding on containers, consumer plastics and packaging which implies that these are recyclable when very few really are. Be aware: more & more plastic creeps into the waste stream all the time, ending up in landfills, rivers & oceans — plastic labels on aluminum cans, plus plastic-aluminum foil hybrids that contaminate a valuable recyclable metal; the flood of plastics we’ve used & tossed in the Covid era, plastic bags, containers & other products… 

Stay tuned & do what you can.



• epa.gov/recycle


• plasticoceans.org

• upstreamsolutions.org

• urbanore.com




a12 – Grounded in the physical – Radical spaces

Compiled by Jesse D. Palmer

We cannot build a new world virtually, over zoom, on-line — our grassroots movement for liberation, tolerance and cooperation have to be be in-person, physical and grounded in free spaces. It is easy to feel isolated and hopeless because it seems like things keep getting worse and no one can stop it — but while each of us is small, people all over the world are organizing with those around them for something better. You can find your crew out there somewhere. It is in this spirit that Slingshot compiles the radical contact list published in each year’s organizer and on-line at slingshotcollective.org.

Here’s some new spaces as well as updates to the contact list. You’ll find other deviants at these places organizing their lives around things that matter more than computers, money and the rat race — creativity, experience, adventure, dirt and passion. If you visit a space, support them with your energy, money and life force. 

The BBC – Tucson, AZ

A community center hosting autonomous projects including a radical library, prison uprising tracking project, mutual aid project, Anarchist Black Cross prison project, Jewish zine archive, collective print studio, needle exchange and community garden. “Through the guiding principles of consent, collaboration, harm reduction, and autonomy we hope to build our capacities to support individual and collective needs for health, stability, comfort, joy and knowledge.” 101 E. Ventura, Tucson, AZ 85705 bbctucson.org

Midnight Books – Los Angeles, CA

A new bookstore / community space in uptown Whittier that hosts events. “We strive to offer revolutionary literature as well as work to provide aid for those in need.” 7201 Greenleaf Avenue, Suite D, Whittier, CA, 90602 midnightbooksla.com

PO Box Collective – Chicago, IL

Creative collective and intergenerational social practice center featuring radical art making, mutual aid and events. “We embrace a horizontal organization model that centers marginalized voices, confronts systems of oppression while fostering mutual growth & healing.” 6900 N Glenwood Ave, Chicago, IL 60626 poboxcollective.us

Etc. – Greensboro, NC

Community center and art collective that hosts music and events. 1333 Grove St. Greensboro, NC 27403. etc.gso

Vortex Souvenir – Wichita, KS

An independent art gift shop with zines. Inspired by the Wichita Vortex which was a collective of radical artists, poets, writers. See also poem by Allen Ginsberg. 607 W Douglas Ave, Wichita, KS 67213 vortexsouvenir.com

Bridge Community Cafe – Ypsilanti, MI

A cafe featuring art that hosts events. They aim to be a safe space for community by breaking down borders and building bridges around the world.  217 W. Michigan Ave. Ypsilanti, MI 48197 bridgecommunity.cafe

Controversial Coffee – Seaside, OR

A cafe in a small town that is “is a safe space for all LGBTQIA+”. 111 Broadway Seaside, OR 97138 503-739-0158

Librairie du Tiers Monde – Algiers, Algeria

A bookstore with radical books and author events. “Lots of third world literature like editions of Fanon that I’ve never seen before.” 08 Place Émir Abdelkader, Alger Ctre 16000 213-021-71-57-72 m.librairie-du-tiers-monde.webnode.fr

Affinity Collective – Dowra, Ireland

An 8-acre rural anarchist social space / housing co-op with an event space, library, free store and open lab. Dowra, County Cavan, Ireland N11 ND89 affinitycollective.info

Three new spots in South Korea

• Seendosi 4F and 5F, 31, Eulji-ro 11-gil, Jung-gu, Seoul

• Cafe Yeorm 53-3 Gajaeul-ro 6-gil, Seodaemun-gu, Seoul

• Space Bisugi 137beon-gil 7 Maljil-ro Seogwipo-si, Jeju

Corrections to the 2022 Organizer

• The flyover Social Center / Carbondale, IL Tool Library got evicted.

• The Birmingham Alabama Free Store has permanently closed.

• Brewing Grounds for Change in Milwaukee, WI has closed.

• Riverwest Public House Coop in Milwaukee, WI has closed. 

• We left Impetus Records at Delaware Ave. Claymont, DE 19703 off the list by mistake. 

• Spartacus Books moved to a better location. They are now at 1983 Commercial Drive, Vancouver, BC V5N 4A8.

• We got mail returned from That Social Centre in Ireland. Not sure if it closed. 

• A reader wrote in to say there is something fishy / sectarian about the people’s Forum in NYC and we shouldn’t include them in the organizer.

• Window Cafe Byeol Kkol at Seoul Innovation Park, 1F Miraechung, 684, Tongil-ro, Nokbeong-dong, Eunpyeong-gu, Seoul, South Korea still exists — it closed only briefly but reopened.

• Anarchistische Bibliothek / Archiv / Institut für Anarchismusforschung has a new location – 

Sanettystraße 1/3 1080 Vienna, Austria.

• Cafe Trans in Seoul, S. Korea has closed.

a11 – Less doom scrolling, more living

By Jesse D. Palmer

There are always paths open for making life better for ourselves, those around us and the planet if we can keep our hearts open, value the right goals and seize opportunities. It is easy to feel lost and powerless in the face of seemingly constant crisis — climate catastrophe, poverty, racism, homelessness, war. The system keeps us overwhelmed at jobs that destroy the environment to make a few oligarchs even wealthier.  Life shouldn’t be like this.

We need to detach from the machine and refuse to go with the program.  The constant rat race makes it hard to find time to envision, dream and discuss where we want to go and how we can get there.  Let’s put down the phone and stop running around to the next thing — instead maybe light a candle, breathe, meditate, hold hands and think for a moment.

Alternative values are essential. The system reduces life to chasing money and organizes everything around competition, efficiency, and isolated individualism. People end up like machines serving machines. But we are not machines — we’re animals, we are nature — sweaty, earthy, passionate. 

How about we focus on human goals: freedom, adventure, beauty, pleasure, taste, smell, sound and touch. Sharing and cooperating with those we love. Wandering and trying new things — just to experience them ourselves. Keeping close to the earth and getting our hands dirty gardening, building stuff, fixing bikes and turning the compost. 

In a culture that worships sterility, obedience and conformism, I prefer to be with freaks and people living life off the beaten track. Sometimes when I’m feeling discouraged with world news, I wonder what can I possibly do? I want to try to share and export the day-to-day experience of living in the East Bay where so many people aren’t worrying about socially approved goals but instead are doing their own thing making art, free piles, music, labyrinths, bike parties.

It doesn’t help to wallow in doom. We’re all human — we’re all in this together. The sharpest things that appear to divide us like borders and politics are just made up. Everyone wants the same things — self-determination, self-actualization, safety and enough to get by. I am so exhausted how the worst humans qualities — greed, violence and hate — dominate our lives. These qualities are actually rare and the exception — most people are decent and most interactions we have with others go just fine. This is not the impression you get if you look at mass media. If aliens visited earth, they would be be most struck by our inventiveness, diversity, curiosity and the way we naturally tend to help each other. The pandemic has pushed a lot of interactions on-line which is not healthy for social relations. How can grassroots radicals organize more opportunities for face-to-face interaction?

One of the biggest dangers flows from dehumanizing other people. When someone is an other, you can treat them carelessly like an object — something to make a profit from or harm.  When you see each person as like yourself — part of a we — the question becomes how to build community. Rather than concentrating on ourdisagreements, what do we have in common?  Those in power want to emphasize social divisions — rural/urban, red state/blue state, black/white — to turn ordinary people against each other so we don’t unite against this unjust system. 

The struggle for a better world isn’t just about endless activist meetings — but only seeking personal satisfaction also gets boring. We’re social creatures — we yearn for a connection to something larger than ourselves. Maybe some people can ignore the pain of the world, but most people notice and it harms us to see so much plastic, droughts, floods and strangers suffering. 

Fighting back to create something new requires overcoming our fears — of sticking out, discomfort and risk, or even just spending time that doesn’t end up making any difference. The pay-off is that bravery in the face of domination and destruction can make our lives meaningful when we’re confused and drifting. Enough feeling scared and stuck and frustrated. It’s time to move in a positive direction. 

a11 – Plug into the 2023 Slingshot Organizer

If you want to draw for the 2023 Slingshot Organizer, please email us by April 20.  Slingshot includes art from dozens of people and artists do not have to be local. Also, please send suggestions of new radical contact list spaces and corrections by May 27.

If you are in the Bay area, join Slingshot for two art party weekends to put the organizer together by hand May 28-29 and June 4 at 3124 Shattuck Avenue, Berkeley. You can drop by for an hour or stay all day. 

Selling the organizer enables Slingshot to print and distribute this newspaper for free. If you know of a store in your area that might be able to carry the organizer let us know. 

Slingshot is thinking about making a third type of organizer for 2023. Up until now we’ve had a pocket sized organizer with a paperback binding, and a spiral bound desk calendar that is twice as big. For 2023, we’re thinking about spiral binding some of the pocket sized organizers. Spiral binding is considerably more expensive than paperback book binding, so a spiral bound pocket organizer will probably retail for $12. Let us know if you think it’s a good idea.

And also – PRODUCT RECALL – the August Month-at-glance in the 2022 organizer the numbers are wrong – please tell your friends and fix it by hand. We’re sorry for the error. 

a10 – Skip this Ad – data and privacy in the age of surveillance advertising

By Sparrow

At the ad agency where I work, the owner brags to clients that we could serve ads to their intern’s mom. It’s not an exaggeration. The vast swathes of user data collected by social media platforms, websites, apps, and the smart devices that colonize our homes grant modern advertisers a staggering ability to target ads to hyper-specific audiences. 

In the past several months, tech companies have come under public scrutiny with a series of scandals—from the whistleblower leaks in October 2021, which exposed (among other things) Facebook’s inconsistent policy enforcement, to the revelation in January 2022 that Apple was skirting its own privacy policies to allow certain companies to continue to collect data from people who had opted out of tracking. Yet while these scandals have brought questions of user privacy and safety to the forefront, popular discourse proceeds from the perspective of the user or tech companies. The ad industry—the financial engine of this system and the ultimate purchaser of user data—remains an inscrutable behemoth. 

When we approach questions of user privacy without a strong understanding of how modern advertising works, how advertisers access data, and how they exploit it in the service of capital, our proposed solutions address only data collection and security, without addressing that data’s ultimate use and abuse. I hope that by using my vantage point from within the ad industry to explore these questions, I can add valuable context to the conversation around privacy and surveillance advertising. 

From Mad Men to the Metaverse

Historically, advertisers had a limited ability to target ads to specific audiences. If my agency wanted to reach the intern’s mom in 1985, we might have bought ad space in Better Homes and Gardens magazine or on a billboard near her house or on NBC during an episode of Cheers. But a whole new ad frontier emerged with the birth of the internet and digital advertising. 

Modern digital advertising functions on a system of real-time ad buying, wherein algorithms hold near-instantaneous auctions each time a user is eligible to be served an ad. While traditional advertising methods rely on buying ad space in a context where interested customers are expected but not guaranteed to see the ad, digital ad exchanges allow advertisers to buy ads on a case-by-case basis, dependent on whether the consumer is likely to be interested or receptive to the ad in the first place.

This subtle difference is critical: If a jewelry company buys an ad in a print magazine, they pay a flat fee for that ad space and everyone who reads the magazine will see the ad, regardless of whether they’re interested in jewelry. If the same company buys a targeted ad on Facebook, they pay for each time someone sees the ad, but instead of the ad being seen by everyone on Facebook, they can select targeting parameters and exploit Facebook’s user data to show the ad only to people who are interested in jewelry (or whatever other criteria they choose). 

User data forms the backbone of this system. The more an advertiser refines their ability to target receptive users, the less money they “waste” on people who don’t make purchases, and the higher the return on investment for the brand when people do make purchases.

In 2022, in addition to all the strategies my agency could have used in 1985, we could also reach the intern’s mom by targeting members of a Facebook group for parents of the intern’s university. Or we could set up a page on the client’s website showing off intern projects and then serve ads to the people who have visited the page. Or we could use social media to target first degree connections of the client’s employees. Ultimately, advertisers’ ability to create extremely specific targeting parameters is as limitless as the data they have access to.

In modern advertising, advertisers and the mega-corporations at the center of the privacy debate are locked in an incestuous relationship. Tech companies control advertisers’ access to digital ad space. Together with Amazon, Meta (née Facebook) and Alphabet (Google’s parent company) hold a triopoly on digital ads—GroupM estimates the three companies facilitate 80-90% of all digital advertising in 2021. By the same token, advertisers provide tech companies’ main source of cash flow, with advertising sales bringing in 81% of Alphabet’s 2021 annual revenue. For Meta, that number jumps to a whopping 97%.

The algorithms of all three platforms further reinforce the value of user data by favoring ads that are more relevant to users, making well-targeted ads literally cheaper to buy. Not coincidentally, all three platforms also happen to directly offer advertisers access to a dazzling hoard of user data. 

Thus, the parasites feed each other. The relentless pursuit of profit incentivizes advertisers to constantly refine their audience targeting capabilities and incentivizes the platforms to continue to collect user data and sell advertisers ever-increasingly precise mechanisms of exploiting that data.

Data Points

So, what data are we talking about exactly? At the risk of sounding alarmist, pretty much anything, since in theory any device with an internet connection can collect data on people. Broadly speaking however, there are two overarching categories: first and third party data.

First party data refers to data that a company or brand collects about their own customers, such as email addresses or phone numbers. Most loyalty programs exist to populate these lists, by getting high value customers—that is, customers likely to make valuable purchases—to share their personal information in exchange for discounts or access to special deals. Another example of first party data is when companies track website visitors, like with the site we set up earlier to find the intern’s mom. Via a piece of code installed on their website, brands can pipe a log of visitors directly into an advertising audience. 

Third party data on the other hand is collected by outside actors—including apps and smart devices, the ad platforms themselves, and a whole sub-industry of companies dedicated to compiling data specifically for advertisers. The most common categories include demographic data, like age or gender; behavioral data, such as the amount of time someone spends on a given social media site; interest data, ranging from broad categories like “beauty” or “cosmetics” down to specific parameters like “pink lipstick”; and geographic data, which encompasses not only where a person is at the moment the ad is served to them, but also the places that they have traveled within a given time period.

It’s a common misconception that companies like Meta and Google sell user data to advertisers. While companies that sell data certainly exist, Meta and Google are not technically among them (I reference Meta and Google here specifically, but this also applies to most social media and major tech companies in general). What these companies actually sell is access to user data, meaning that an advertiser can use Meta’s data, for example, to target ads bought through the Facebook ad platform, but they cannot at any point view the data directly or use it on another ad platform. But this distinction, while important for the sake of understanding the relationship between tech companies and advertisers, is ultimately semantic. Whether a company sells user data directly or “just” access to it, the end result is the same.

If my agency targets the intern’s mom by serving social media ads to the first-degree connections of the people who worked at our client’s company, we rely exclusively on data that advertisers can access via a social media sites’ ad platform, without ever owning the data ourselves. Moreover, it’s data that users voluntarily supply to the social media site when they list their job in their profile and connect with their acquaintances.

When used for something like my boss showing off to a client, it seems fairly innocuous. But just imagine how easily it could instead be used more nefariously: for example, to serve union-busting ads to the friends and family of workers trying to unionize. Regardless of whether the advertiser or tech company has access to the raw data, and regardless of people’s ostensible consent to their data’s collection, the very use of this data represents a massive and predatory privacy invasion.

To an Ad Free Future

Advertising is one of capital’s most ubiquitous instruments of control. It influences where we spend our money, the food we eat, how we pass our time, the people we vote for, even the values we hold. When we trust the ad industry with user data and the ability to target highly specific audiences, they will always use it to manipulate us and to profit off us. Granting advertisers access to any form of user data inherently invites abuse.

Unfortunately, it’s unlikely that the advertising industry will abandon targeted advertising any time soon. Although a bill introduced to the US Congress in January 2022 would ban surveillance advertising, its chances of being enacted are slim—at least in part thanks to how heavily political campaigns rely on serving targeted ads to constituents.

There are basic steps everyone should take to protect their privacy against advertisers. All social media sites have privacy settings of some sort which you should check regularly, although the level of control they actually provide the user is often quite vague. A good ad blocker will block not only ads but the tags that track you across the internet. Likewise, switching to a privacy conscious, open-source browser like Firefox grants inbuilt customizable tracking protection. A VPN adds extra security, preventing companies from accessing your location, which is sometime used to serve ads even when users have opted out of tracking. Furthermore, autonomous tech collectives offer alternatives to tech companies’ monopoly on the internet, with non-ad funded options for secure email, collaboration, and document sharing, just to name a few. 

But what makes this problem so critical is its inescapability: completely avoiding surveillance advertising in its modern iteration requires either a high level of tech literacy or an abstinence from tech altogether. Furthermore, individual solutions don’t address the root of the problem or combat surveillance advertising as a system.

On a cultural level, we should reduce our consumption habits across the board. Advertisers and tech companies are incentivized as agents of capitalism to convince us to over-consume—everything from food to clothing to “content.” Consciously reducing our consumption undermines the power that advertisers exert over us, limits their ability to steal our data and profit from its exploitation, and frees us to build and immerse ourselves in alternate systems.

Beyond this, we need to become more comfortable with inconvenience. A lot of people like personal ads because they’re incredibly convenient: companies can serve you an ad for the exact thing that you’re looking for at the exact time that you’re looking for it. Likewise, tech companies also use the data they collect to customize the content you see, save your settings, and personalize your overall experience with the brand. 

But it’s these very “benefits” that ultimately reveal themselves as self-serving scams. Companies only care about things like your convenience or “brand experience” insofar as that brand experience leads to a return on investment for the brand.

Take for example the ever-mysterious social media algorithms, supposedly designed to enhance user experience by prioritizing relevant content. The most widely publicized of the 2021 whistleblower leaks revealed that Facebook’s own data had indicated for years that Instagram’s algorithm was psychologically addictive and harmful to users’ mental health, particularly among tween and teen girls. But as recently as March 2021, Mark Zuckerberg had publicly denied the accusations that their platforms had negative impacts on mental health.

Similarly, among the slightly less well publicized leaks was the revelation that in 2018, Zuckerberg had personally rejected proposed measures to fix the Facebook algorithm’s proclivity to promote outrage. He cited concerns that the fixes might cause users to interact with the platform less.

In both cases, the apparent “bugs” were ignored or suppressed because they directly serve the explicit purpose of the algorithm: to keep people on the platform as long as possible, because the longer someone is on a given platform, the more opportunities the platform has collect their data and serve them ads.

We must reject experiences that are constantly curated to our convenience, mediated by algorithms and advertisements, and designed to extract maximum profit. We can’t divorce discussions about social media and algorithms from tech companies’ relationships with advertisers. The very real harm inflicted by Meta, Google, and their ilk, allegedly in order to bring us a maximum level of convenience, is incentivized by advertisers at every turn. We must strive, both individually and in our communities, to reclaim our attention and our privacy.

Fundamentally, the most integral part of the advertising “ecosystem” is not the platforms, as advertising leaps from medium to medium, nor the advertisers, who spend and manipulate while never producing anything tangible, but the people they call “consumers.” Advertisers may provide the financial capital, but value is derived from the users themselves—giving users a surprising degree of power. Advertisers know this and ad industry publications have spent much time and energy over the past year fretting about the shift to privacy as a fundamental threat to modern advertising. Without so-called “consumers,” the advertiser-tech partnership becomes nothing but an insatiable ouroboros, eating its own tail.

2 – Book review: Social Contagion

Book Review: Social Contagion, By Chuang (Charles H. Kerr Publishing Co, 2021)

Review By Carob Chip

Social Contagion is a new book focusing on the COVID pandemic in China, written by a collective of anti-state Chinese communists. Their blogs and journals have highlighted struggles of workers across China against the government and factory bosses.

The book is named after its main essay, “Social Contagion,” which went viral online before getting revised and published here. In it, Chuang trace how the development of capitalism in China (and elsewhere) has created the conditions for a pandemic like COVID by exploiting labor and land.

In addition to their essays, there’s a casual interview with their friends in Wuhan about the lockdown, and a helpful English translation of a blog post from a mainland left group.

Social Contagion makes several provocative arguments which can richly inform our thinking and action. Based on their interviews and first-hand accounts, Chuangargue that the COVID virus was not contained in China primarily through authoritarian state measures, but mostly through largely voluntary mass mobilization of people to achieve the state’s goal of suppressing it. While Chinese media claims this globally as a triumph of state machinery, Chuang paint a different picture where the state’s power is far more distributed – reliant on village/building committees and private security guards with few ties to the Communist Party.

In the West, we are flooded with narratives of China as a draconian, all-knowing state, sometimes inflected with anti-Asian xenophobia. There’s also an emerging tankie boosterism which views China as the torchbearer of international socialism. (Twitter main characters Qiao Collective are the most prominent promoters of the latter line.) What all these perspectives lack is an analysis of China’s state-building from the perspective of the workers on whose backs it is built.

According to Chuang, “the Chinese Communist Party functions as a vanguard for the global capitalist class.” As the class war against workers and the rural poor intensifies, and the bill for decades of environmental plunder comes due, the Chinese government is building new tools to stay in power. Social Contagion expands our knowledge of what these tools might be and what (admittedly meager) flickers of resistance are happening in mainland China. Workers everywhere must build upon this hope to abolish global capitalism once and for all, before a pandemic abolishes us!

2 – Book review: How to blow up a pipeline

Book Review: How to Blow up a Pipeline

Book Review: How to Blow up a Pipeline, By Andreas Malm (Verso Books, 2021)

Review By Ninetails

Have you ever sat down to read a book that you swear you read decades ago, only to sit down to reread it and discover it was just published a few weeks ago? I had that experience with this book — I swear I read a book by the same name, with the same author, in the late 1980s, however, it seems I have fallen into an alternate reality in which this book didn’t get published until 2021, and in which emissions have continued to accelerate — with over 60% of all CO2 emissions occurring after 1995! Compared to the version of this book I clearly remember reading in the late 1980s (which doesn’t exist in this reality, apparently), How to Blow Up a Pipeline(2021) goes well beyond being a mere instruction manual interlaced with cheesy melodrama, and rather offers a new philosophy for living. Malm rejects the lie that has been peddled by our oppressors that nonviolence is the only path forward, and he lays out a pretty compelling argument that the time for pacifism is over; the oil companies are committing mass murder every day they continue to enforce a supply chain that accelerates the burning of carbon. There is no safe level of emissions. A very tough choice is upon us. I mean, back in my universe, we nipped this all in the bud back in the early 1990s, when a radical flank at the Battle of Rio put pressure on the UN to enforce a global ban on investor-ownership in the energy sector — which worked surprisingly well — with the whole sector being rapidly converted to small, locally-owned co-ops, allowing us to easily achieve net-zero emissions by Year 2000 (it’s wild how easy the transition to renewables is when you don’t have corporate profit imperatives enforcing accelerated fuel burning… It is so messed up that you all still allow fossil fuel investments…). You should probably try to find a copy of this book before it gets banned by the authorities.

2 – Book Review: Building the Population Bomb

Book Review: Building the Population Bomb, By Emily Merchant (Oxford University, 2021)

By Big Yew

The myth of “the population bomb,” or the belief that population in and of itself drives ecological destruction remains pervasive. Yet, there is little evidence that more people inherently generate more emissions, or that reducing the number of people on the planet would reduce emissions. 

In Building the Population Bomb (2021, Oxford University Press), Emily Merchant offers a well-researched history of the concept of the “population bomb,” showing how this concept was invented by eugenicists in the middle of the twentieth century, and then the concept was promoted by American businessmen as a means of forestalling environmental regulation. 

Likewise, as Merchant explores, the myth of overpopulation has been used to harm reproductive rights, especially for people of color. One example of how this has played out has been the genocide in the U.S. colony of Puerto Rico, where racist doctors used the myth of “overpopulation” as an excuse to justify sterilizing roughly 25% of Puerto Rico’s population from 1930-1980. The myth of overpopulation has largely been leveraged to rob people of color of their reproductive rights and cannot be untangled from its role as a white supremacist organizing tool. 

Ultimately, the idea that “reducing population” will solve climate change is nonsense invented by corporations to keep us at each other’s throats. The corporate imperative to make more money next quarter than they did last quarter guarantees that these corporate actors will continue to accelerate emissions even if the population goes down.

Reductive equations that link population and emissions distract us from publicly addressing the activities that directly fuel emissions, while obscuring tactics that actually need to happen to get us to a net-zero society.

Time to focus directly on the pragmatic changes that are needed to get to a fully net-zero emissions society. Attention needs to be directly on the corporations that are fighting every day to lock fossil fuel consumption in place.

Time to yeet the Nazi-derived rhetoric of “excess population” from the climate movement. Time to put an end to investor-ownership in the energy sector. We need to yeet the capitalists, not each other’s reproductive rights.