Postmodern philosopher Judith Butler repeatedly donated to ‘top cop’ Kamala Harris
Renowned philosopher Judith Butler repeatedly donated to political campaigns of self-declared “top cop” Kamala Harris, a center-right neoliberal who imprisoned poor people of color for minor offenses
Renowned postmodern philosopher Judith Butler repeatedly donated to the political campaigns of proud self-declared “top cop” Kamala Harris, a center-right neoliberal who made her name as a notoriously harsh prosecutor who locked up large numbers of poor people of color for minor offenses.
In all, Butler gave at least $1,050 in contributions to Harris’ Senate and presidential campaigns between March 2018 and February 2019:
In March 2018, Butler donated $100 to Harris’s Senate campaign.
In May 2018, Butler donated $150 to Harris’ Senate campaign.
In August 2018, Butler donated $500 Harris’ Senate campaign.
In February 2019, Butler donated $300 to Harris’ presidential campaign.
When Butler’s $300 contribution to Harris’ presidential campaign first began circulating on social media, skeptics insisted the donations must have come from a different person named Judith Butler.
But I looked up the FEC filings, and see what employer is listed on the campaign contribution: UC Berkeley, where Butler is a professor of comparative literature and critical theory. Indisputable proof that these donations are coming from the celebrated postmodern philosopher.
Keep in mind Kamala Harris is someone who bent over backward to put poor people in jail. The New York Times affectionately described her in a puff piece as “ a ‘Top Cop’ in the Era of Black Lives Matter.”
Harris publicly made fun of criminal justice reform activists who want to “build more schools, less jails.” When protesters say, “‘Put money into education not prisons.’ There’s a fundamental problem with that approach,” she insisted.
“There should be a broad consensus that there should be serious, and severe, and swift consequence to crime,” the “progressive prosecutor” maintained.
During Harris’ reign as attorney general, from 2011 to 2016, California sent 1,974 people to prison for marijuana-related convictions.
The Los Angeles Times reports that she sponsored “a 2010 law to make it a misdemeanor for parents whose young children miss more than 10% of school days a year without a valid excuse. Parents could be punished with a maximum $2,000 fine, up to a year in county jail or both.” ( Harris then laughed when discussing this proposal to jail parents over truancy.)
The only other contribution from Judith Butler registered by the FEC is a June 2019 donation of $100 to the presidential campaign of Elizabeth Warren, who endorsed Trump’s economic war on Venezuela and boldly declared that she is “capitalist to her bones.”
‘Leftist’ academics for US imperialism in Syria
And that’s not all: Judith Butler also signed an open letter in 2018 in the New York Review of Books, alongside some prominent leftist academics, calling for the United States to continue its military intervention in northeast Syria.
The missive publicly requested that Washington “continue military support for the SDF” ( Syrian Democratic Forces, who were created in a rebranding demanded by the US, to better wage war on the central government in Damascus).
Joining Butler as signatories on the pro-intervention letter were Debbie Bookchin, the daughter of pro-imperialist anarchist hero Murray Bookchin (although unlike Bookchin, Butler does at least deserve credit for challenging the racist colonialist Zionist movement); along with fellow anarchist luminaries Noam Chomsky and David Graeber; erstwhile Obama aficionado Bill Fletcher; imperialism-denying scholars Michael Hardt and David Harvey; Iraq War-supporting social democrat Michael Walzer; and last but certainly not least, eminent feminist icon Gloria Steinem — a former CIA agent.
Postmodernism as an anti-Marxist substitute
Speaking of the CIA, Capitalism’s Invisible Army has promoted the growth of postmodernism for decades.
Postmodernism has long served as a right-wing bludgeon to supplant Marxism in academia. Non- or anti-Marxist forms of “left-wing” ideology, as advocated by philosophers like Judith Butler (whose academic writing is legendary for its proletarian comprehensibility and crystalline clarity of thought), have been supported by powerful, and reactionary, institutions.
And together they succeeded in replacing Marxism, which has been almost entirely eradicated in the gilded halls of neoliberal academe.
For more on this history, read the research of scholar Gabriel Rockhill, who shows in articles like “ The CIA Reads French Theory: On the Intellectual Labor of Dismantling the Cultural Left “ how the CIA quite liked postmodern philosophers — Michel Foucault being another favorite of the spooks — because they were anti-communist, soft on imperialism, and fighting against Marxists.
The intelligence agency understands culture and theory to be crucial weapons in the overall arsenal it deploys to perpetuate US interests around the world. The recently released [CIA] research paper from 1985, entitled “ France: Defection of the Leftist Intellectuals,” examines-undoubtedly in order to manipulate-the French intelligentsia and its fundamental role in shaping the trends that generate political policy. Suggesting that there has been a relative ideological balance between the left and the right in the history of the French intellectual world, the report highlights the monopoly of the left in the immediate postwar era-to which, we know, the Agency was rabidly opposed-due to the Communists’ key role in resisting fascism and ultimately winning the war against it. Although the right had been massively discredited because of its direct contribution to the Nazi death camps, as well as its overall xenophobic, anti-egalitarian and fascist agenda (according to the CIA’s own description), the unnamed secret agents who drafted the study outline with palpable delight the return of the right since approximately the early 1970s.
More specifically, the undercover cultural warriors applaud what they see as a double movement that has contributed to the intelligentsia shifting its critical focus away from the US and toward the USSR. On the left, there was a gradual intellectual disaffection with Stalinism and Marxism, a progressive withdrawal of radical intellectuals from public debate, and a theoretical move away from socialism and the socialist party. Further to the right, the ideological opportunists referred to as the New Philosophers and the New Right intellectuals launched a high-profile media smear campaign against Marxism.
While other tentacles of the worldwide spy organization were involved in overthrowing democratically elected leaders, providing intelligence and funding to fascist dictators, and supporting right-wing death squads, the Parisian central intelligentsia squadron was collecting data on how the theoretical world’s drift to the right directly benefitted US foreign policy. The left-leaning intellectuals of the immediate postwar era had been openly critical of US imperialism. Jean-Paul Sartre’s media clout as an outspoken Marxist critic, and his notable role-as the founder of Libération-in blowing the cover of the CIA station officer in Paris and dozens of undercover operatives, was closely monitored by the Agency and considered a very serious problem.
In contrast, the anti-Soviet and anti-Marxist atmosphere of the emerging neoliberal era diverted public scrutiny and provided excellent cover for the CIA’s dirty wars by making it “very difficult for anyone to mobilize significant opposition among intellectual elites to US policies in Central America, for example.”
Originally published at https://bennorton.com on 18 December 2019.