Not the final frontier

Space: the final frontier.
These are the voyages of the starship Enterprise. Its five-year mission: to explore strange new worlds; to seek out new life and new civilisations; to boldly go where no man has gone before.[1]

I’m a Star Trek fan. Even as I am disturbed by the militaristic organization; the series’ frequent reliance, especially in Deep Space 9 and Voyager on battle as something a lot more than just a plot device; and its authoritarian, earth-centric, human-centric, seemingly based on the U.S., approach to galactic political organization, well, I’m hooked. Continue reading “Not the final frontier”

  1. [1]quoted by Clive Banks in his Star Trek introduction page, n.d.

Radicalism and pragmatism

To be a radical is to look at the world about you, and to see it not through the lenses of what you have been told it should be, but rather to attempt to see it as it actually is.

We are told a bunch of things, like we have a democracy, when in fact it is—importantly different—a republic.[1] We are taught the “American Dream,” when in fact the ladder of social mobility is really quite steep for an allegedly affluent “democracy.”[2] We imagine that people get what they deserve, that merit is rewarded,[3] when in fact so-called meritocracy amounts to the powerful protecting their own positions and for the benefit of their own children.[4] The list goes on but ultimately, the only improvement these beliefs can offer over magical thinking is that they carry moral force. To believe them, however, simply because they are how things ought to be, is to commit the naturalistic fallacy.[5] Continue reading “Radicalism and pragmatism”

  1. [1]James Madison, “Federalist No. 10,” in Kelly Kyuzawa with Robert Brammer, eds., “The Federalist Papers,” Congress, May 3, 2016,
  2. [2]Claude S. Fischer, Michael Hout, Martin Sanchez Jankowski, Samuel R. Lucas, Ann Swidler, and Kim Voss, “Why Inequality?” in Great Divides: Readings in Social Inequality in the United States, ed. Thomas M. Shapiro, 3rd ed. (New York: McGraw Hill, 2005).
  3. [3]Thomas M. Shapiro, “Introduction,” in Great Divides: Readings
    in Social Inequality in the United States
    , ed. Thomas M. Shapiro, 3rd ed. (New York: McGraw Hill, 2005).
  4. [4]Christopher Hayes, Twilight of the Elites: America After Meritocracy (New York: Crown, 2012).
  5. [5]Kwame Anthony Appiah, Cosmopolitanism: Ethics in A World of Strangers (New York: W. W. Norton, 2006).

A retraction: I now support impeachment

Gee, this didn’t take very long at all.

On the very night that the House of Representatives failed to pass an impeachment resolution[1] that would have been a substantive response[2] to his racist tweets,[3]

Goaded on by the president, a crowd at a Donald Trump rally on Wednesday night chanted “send her back! send her back!” in reference to Ilhan Omar, a US congresswoman who arrived almost 30 years ago as a child refugee in the United States.[4]

Credit the neoliberal party for this. Moving forward with impeachment might not have been the smart strategy—indeed, I have argued just that in entries I am now retracting[5]—but sometimes you just gotta move.[6] Because now we’re right there with Adolf Hitler and his rallies in Nazi Germany.[7]

And don’t make me defend that comparison. Because I know I can.[8]

As for Nancy Pelosi (oh, yes, I’ve seen her house in Pacific Heights in San Francisco) and her neoliberal ilk, send them back to their comfortable fucking mansions and build high concrete walls around them with concrete domes over them so they are never heard from again. They are every bit as toxic as Chernobyl and every bit as stupid. Let them starve in the darkness with all their love of power and all their love of fucking money.

Oh, and be sure to remind me of this if I ever again make the mistake of placing any faith whatsoever in a fucking neoliberal.[9]

  1. [1]Rachael Bade and Mike DeBonis, “House votes to kill impeachment resolution against Trump, avoiding a direct vote on whether to oust the president,” Washington Post, July 17, 2019,
  2. [2]Rachael Bade, “Rep. Green files articles of impeachment against Trump despite pushback from Democratic leaders,” Washington Post, July 16, 2019,; Eric Cortellessa, “Liberal US Jews say Trump is weaponizing Israel to defend his racist tweets,” Times of Israel, July 16, 2019,
  3. [3]Jeremy Herb and Manu Raju, “Democrat says House likely to vote on impeachment resolution Wednesday,” CNN, July 17, 2019,; Michael Luo, “Trump’s Racist Tweets, and the Question of Who Belongs in America,” New Yorker, July 15, 2019,; Adam Serwer, “Trump Tells America What Kind of Nationalist He Is,” Atlantic, July 15, 2019,
  4. [4]Tom McCarthy, “Trump rally crowd chants ‘send her back’ after president attacks Ilhan Omar,” Guardian, July 17, 2019,
  5. [5]David Benfell, “It might actually be a good thing that Nancy Pelosi is Speaker of the House right now,” Not Housebroken, January 12, 2019,; David Benfell, “Why Nancy Pelosi is right about impeachment,” Not Housebroken, May 22, 2019,; David Benfell, “Calls for impeachment are the latest displays of the naturalistic fallacy and system justification,” Not Housebroken, May 23, 2019,
  6. [6]The evolution of my thought here has been rapid. It can be traced in previous entries: David Benfell, “Shunning as the human condition,” Irregular Bullshit, July 16, 2019,; David Benfell, “Accreditors going wild,” Irregular Bullshit, July 17, 2019,
  7. [7]Indeed, this is an example of why we cannot exclude structural violence in a definition of fascism. David Benfell, “A simple definition of fascism,” Not Housebroken, July 6, 2019,
  8. [8]To begin (only the barest of beginnings): David Benfell, “It’s time to be clear: Migrant children are being held in concentration camps and the Trump administration is fascist,” Not Housebroken, June 24, 2019,; Christopher Brauchli, “Trump and Hitler: A Juxtaposition,” Common Dreams, June 29, 2019,
  9. [9]David Benfell, “It might actually be a good thing that Nancy Pelosi is Speaker of the House right now,” Not Housebroken, January 12, 2019,

The conundrum of higher education accreditation

A few decades ago, Paulo Freire proposed a radical approach to education[1] which is integral in critical theory, where inquiry (research) is intentionally conflated with instruction,[2] and was a forerunner to the action research and participatory action research methodologies.
Continue reading “The conundrum of higher education accreditation”

  1. [1]Paulo Freire, Pedagogy of the Oppressed, 30th Anniversary Edition (New York: Continuum, 2006).
  2. [2]Raymond A. Morrow with David D. Brown, Critical Theory and Methodology (Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 1994); Norman K. Denzin, Yvonna S. Lincoln, and Linda Tuhiwai Smith, eds., Handbook of Critical and Indigenous Methodologies (Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 2008).

Difference and legitimacy

Adam Serwer, writing in the Atlantic, argues that Donald Trump and his followers at some level, whether explicit or implicit, believe that whiteness is a necessary condition for U.S. citizenship.[1] Michael Luo, editor of the New Yorker‘s web site, asks whether he and his twin brother, born in this country, but of Asian descent, will ever be accepted in this country.[2] Continue reading “Difference and legitimacy”

  1. [1]Adam Serwer, “Trump Tells America What Kind of Nationalist He Is,” Atlantic, July 15, 2019,
  2. [2]Michael Luo, “Trump’s Racist Tweets, and the Question of Who Belongs in America,” New Yorker, July 15, 2019,


It seems like xenophobia can never be defeated for long. Certainly not quickly or easily: When I reflect on the persistence of authoritarian populism—it has existed for a millenium[1]—I fear for the ‘other.’ And not just here in the U.S.[2] It’s a common impulse found throughout the world and not always with the same expression. Continue reading “Xenophobia”

  1. [1]David Benfell, “Barack Obama asks, ‘Why is it that the folks that won the last election are so mad all the time?’” Not Housebroken, November 4, 2018,
  2. [2]Current events in the United States render this fear far from abstract: Priscilla Alvarez, “Lawmakers, including Ocasio-Cortez, lash out over conditions following border facility tours,” CNN, July 2, 2019,; Josh Dawsey and Colby Itkowitz, “‘This is tough stuff’: At Texas detention facility, Pence sees hundreds of migrants crammed with no beds,” Washington Post, July 12, 2019,; Caitlin Dickerson, “‘There Is a Stench’: No Soap and Overcrowding in Detention Centers for Migrant Children,” New York Times, June 21, 2019,; Adam Harris, “An Astonishing Government Report on Conditions at the Border,” Atlantic, July 3, 2019,; Miriam Jordan, “Judge Orders Swift Action to Improve Conditions for Migrant Children in Texas,” New York Times, June 29, 2019,; Alejandro Lazo and Jacob Gershman, “Lawsuit Alleges Government Mistreatment of Migrant Children,” Wall Street Journal, June 27, 2019,; Sam Levin, “‘Happy hunting!’ Immigration agents swapped cheery messages about raids, records reveal,” Guardian, July 3, 2019,; Katie Mettler, Mike DeBonis, and Reis Thebault, “Border agents confiscated lawmakers’ phones. Joaquin Castro captured photo and video anyway,” Washington Post, July 2, 2019,; Geneva Sands and Nick Valencia, “2nd Customs and Border Protection-connected secret Facebook group shows mocking images,” CNN, July 5, 2019,; Jacob Soboroff and Julia Ainsley, “Migrant kids in overcrowded Arizona border station allege sex assault, retaliation from U.S. agents,” NBC News, July 9, 2019,

A simple definition of fascism

Note, July 6, 2019: This article was originally published in my research journal on February 14, 2017, on, a site that is now and will, for the foreseeable future, remain off-line. Unfortunately, it contains citations that reference that site. I will update these as I can.

One of the topics I avoided in my dissertation work is fascism. There are two main reasons for this. First, the term is so ill-defined that at times, especially in the run-up to the election last year, I’ve even gone so far as to suggest the term should not be used. Sara Robinson notes that “[t]he word has been bandied about by so many people so wrongly for so long that, as [Robert] Paxton points out, ‘Everybody is somebody else’s fascist.'”[1] She relies on Paxton’s definition, writing that she

always like[s] to start these conversations by revisiting Paxton’s essential definition of the term:

“Fascism is a system of political authority and social order intended to reinforce the unity, energy, and purity of communities in which liberal democracy stands accused of producing division and decline.”

Continue reading “A simple definition of fascism”

  1. [1]Sara Robinson, “Is the U.S. on the Brink of Fascism?” Alternet, August 6, 2009,

Colin Kaepernick is right

Colin Kaepernick is right.[1]

It would be one thing if the U.S. had ever given up its slavery habit and if reparations had been made.[2] Then we might look upon the association between the Betsy Ross flag and slavery[3] as quaint. But it hasn’t. Continue reading “Colin Kaepernick is right”

  1. [1]Eli Rosenberg and Michael Brice-Saddler, “A GOP governor wants to cancel a Nike contract after flag-shoe flap, but the city it’s headed for isn’t backing down,” Washington Post, July 3, 2019,
  2. [2]Ta-Nehisi Coates, “The Case for Reparations,” Atlantic, June 2014,; see also David Benfell, “The trouble with reparations isn’t what you think it is,” Not Housebroken, June 11, 2019,
  3. [3]Eli Rosenberg and Michael Brice-Saddler, “A GOP governor wants to cancel a Nike contract after flag-shoe flap, but the city it’s headed for isn’t backing down,” Washington Post, July 3, 2019,

Violence is the illegitimate authority that begets all other illegitimate authority

So it’s amazing I have to explain this. It should be self-evident. I guess it isn’t, at least not on Twitter:

Violence is the illegitimate authority that begets all other illegitimate authority.

Rulers rely on violence of both the structural and physical kinds, both threatened and actualized, both implicit and explicit. But perhaps some folks hadn’t noticed the police. I guess some folks hadn’t noticed militaries. I guess some folks hadn’t noticed the uneven distribution of resources, a structural form of violence. I guess some folks hadn’t noticed the various forms of scapegoating to be found in nearly all—if not all—societies, another structural form of violence.
Continue reading “Violence is the illegitimate authority that begets all other illegitimate authority”