Column: Musings on Propaganda in the Age of Authoritarianism

Quotations are useful in periods of ignorance or obscurantist beliefs. – Guy Debord
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One of the first things I noticed upon arriving in France last summer is that battles were being waged on multiple fronts. There was the most obvious battle, the one that the media was covering, a nationwide uproar over a set of controversial labor reforms that were widely viewed as a betrayal of the working class on the part of a supposedly left-wing government. There was a secondary battle that was playing out alongside that uproar, a guerrilla battle against capitalism and international finance that was being waged by leftists and anarchists in the form of smashed bank windows and repeated violent confrontations with police. And then there was the battle for the imagination, the battle of dueling narratives that leftists and fascists alike were waging on every blank surface imaginable, from street poles to mailboxes to the walls of boarded-up buildings.

Column: Death, Fortune, and Adventure

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“An inconvenience is only an adventure wrongly considered; an adventure is an inconvenience rightly considered.” G. K. Chesterton
I left the hotel on foot and headed towards the zócalo, unable to ignore the irresistible pull of the town square any longer. It was my third day in Toluca and my first morning off, and I deliberately woke up early just itching to explore, knowing that I would want as much time as possible to myself before I was needed at the university around noon.

Column: On Passages, Biases, and the Reliability of Oral Histories

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Column: The Mothers and the Mounds

It was the end of my time in Europe, as I was set to fly out of Cologne in a few days. I had just traveled from Strasbourg, France to a friend’s house just outside of Mannheim, Germany, and I was trying to figure out the best way to Cologne from there. “If you take the train from Mainz, I can show you the Isis temple in the basement of the mini-mall,” she said to me. I was sure that I hadn’t heard her right. “Wait, what?” I asked.

Column: On Collisions, and the Footsteps of Heresy and Fate

“One day earlier Benjamin would have got through without any trouble; one day later the people in Marseille would have known that for the time being it was impossible to pass through Spain. Only on that particular day was the catastrophe possible.” – Hannah Arendt

The ‘catastrophe’ that Arendt refers to was the tragic and somewhat mysterious death of Walter Benjamin on the night of September 25, 1940, only hours after crossing the border into Spain in an attempt to escape the Nazis. Although there is some question as to how he actually died, the most accepted version of his death is that he committed suicide by overdosing on morphine in his room at the Francia Hotel in Portbou. At the time of his alleged suicide, Benjamin and his two companions were under police surveillance along with another group of refugees from France. They had arrived in Portbou earlier that evening after hiking over the Pyrenées from occupied France, only to learn that they were being denied entrance into Spain.