• $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • other
  • use Paypal

CALLING ALL COUNTERPUNCHERS! CounterPunch’s website is one of the last common spaces on the Internet. We are supported almost entirely by the subscribers to the print edition of our magazine and by one-out-of-every-1000 readers of the site. We aren’t on the receiving end of six-figure grants from big foundations. George Soros doesn’t have us on retainer. We don’t sell tickets on cruise liners to the “new” Cuba. We don’t clog our site with deceptive corporate ads or click bait. Unlike many other indy media sites, we don’t shake you down for money every month … or even every quarter. We ask only once a year. But when we ask, we mean it. So over the next few weeks we are requesting your financial support. Keep CounterPunch free, fierce and independent by donating today by credit card through our secure online server, via PayPal or by calling 1(800) 840-3683. Note: This annoying box will disappear once we reach our fund drive goal. Thank you for your support!


Self-Mutilation As Art


NEWS REPORT (from The Guardian, November 11, 2013): Red Square has seen a lot over the centuries, from public executions to giant military parades, but a performance artist broke new ground on Sunday when he nailed his scrotum to cobblestones in a painful act of protest.

Once we got over the initial shock of seeing the photograph, which was plastered all over the Internet, there were several ways to respond to this. An objective observer might say the young man (Pyotr Pavlensky) had an over-developed social conscience. Another observer might accuse him of having an inflated sense of self-importance.

Another might suggest that he was no more than your garden-variety masochist, a man who rejoiced in hurting himself publicly. And still another might say that this startling act (to protest Russia’s perceived descent into tyranny) was pure genius because it resulted in getting precisely the international attention he was seeking.

Personally, I would say the man was “nuts,” but that would be going for the obvious joke—appealing to a crude play on words—which, unfortunately, is not beneath me.

In truth, my first thought was: Did Pyotr Pavlensky tell anyone in advance—his family or friends—what his intentions were? Did he run the idea by, say, his friend Vladimir? “Hey, Vlad, remember when I told you I was thinking of doing something dramatic to protest Russia becoming a police state? Well, I’ve decided to head over to Red Square and nail my ball sac to the road.”

That’s the problem with extreme protests (e.g. purposely harming yourself, destroying public property, taking hostages, etc.). They tend to alienate the very constituency you’re seeking to attract. Sort of like that story of Van Gogh cutting off his ear and mailing it to a woman he wished to court. Instead of winning her heart, he scared the hell out of her.

Maybe the fault lies with us. Maybe the average citizen is simply too squeamish or ignorant or apathetic to buy into such radical gestures, no matter how “valid” they are. In any event, when it comes to protests, we’re more comfortable with the standard stuff: sit-down strikes, marching with placards, picket lines, boycotts, letter-writing campaigns, etc. Blood-letting or macabre street theater is only going to gross us out.

I know a man whom I’ll call “Fred.” He’s a great guy, a very generous, compassionate individual. Back in the day, Fred was a member of the notorious Weather Underground, the radical, anti-war group that went around bombing unoccupied buildings to protest American imperialism. He and his fellow cadre members were hunted down by the FBI.

Given the dual perspective of middle-age and elapsed time, Fred has come to view those activities for what they were. Despite having “right” on their side (which they absolutely did), and being caught up in a self-righteous moral frenzy, their tactics were unsound. Fred said he now realizes that the majority of the country—even those who opposed the Vietnam war—saw them as either “criminals or insane people.”

This Pyotr fellow may face something similar. Instead of people saying, “Wow, things must really be bad in Russia if this guy is willing to puncture his own scrotum,” they’re going to say, “That dude is one sick puppy.” Burning your draft card is one thing. Self-mutilation is a whole other deal.

David Macaray is a Los Angeles playwright and author (“It’s Never Been Easy:  Essays on Modern Labor”).  He can be reached at dmacaray@earthlink.net

David Macaray is a playwright and author. His newest book is “Nightshift: 270 Factory Stories.” He can be reached at dmacaray@gmail.com

October 13, 2015
Dave Lindorff
US Dispatched a Murderous AC-130 Airborne Gunship to Attack a Hospital
Steve Martinot
The Politics of Prisons and Prisoners
Heidi Morrison
A Portrait of an Immigrant Named Millie, Drawn From Her Funeral
Andre Vltchek
Horrid Carcass of Indonesia – 50 Years After the Coup
Jeremy Malcolm
All Rights Reserved: Now We Know the Final TTP is Everything We Feared
Omar Kassem
Do You Want to See Turkey Falling Apart as Well?
Paul Craig Roberts
Recognizing Neocon Failure: Has Obama Finally Come to His Senses?
Theodoros Papadopoulos
The EU Has Lost the Plot in Ukraine
Roger Annis
Ukraine Threatened by Government Negligence Over Polio
Matthew Stanton
The Vapid Vote
Mel Gurtov
Manipulating Reality: Facebook is Listening to You
Louisa Willcox
Tracking the Grizzly’s Number One Killer
Binoy Kampmark
Assange and the Village Gossipers
Robert Koehler
Why Bombing a Hospital Is a War Crime
Jon Flanders
Railroad Workers Fight Proposed Job Consolidation
Mark Hand
Passion and Pain: Photographer Trains Human Trafficking Survivors
October 12, 2015
Ralph Nader
Imperial Failure: Lessons From Afghanistan and Iraq
Ishmael Reed
Want a Renewal? Rid Your City of Blacks
Thomas S. Harrington
US Caught Faking It in Syria
Victor Grossman
Scenes From a Wonderful Parade Against the TPP
Luciana Bohne
Where Are You When We Need You, Jean-Paul Sartre?
Kevin Zeese - Margaret Flowers
The US Way of War: From Columbus to Kunduz
Paul Craig Roberts
A Decisive Shift in the Balance of Power
Justus Links
Turkey’s Tiananmen in Context
Ray McGovern
Faux Neutrality: How CNN Shapes Political Debate
William Manson
Things R Us: How Venture Capitalists Feed the Fetishism of Technology
Norman Pollack
The “Apologies”: A Note On Usage
Steve Horn
Cops Called on Reporter Who Asked About Climate at Oil & Gas Convention
Javan Briggs
The Browning of California: the Water is Ours!
Dave Randle
The BBC and the Licence Fee
Andrew Stewart
Elvis Has Left the Building: a Reply to Slavoj Žižek
Nicolás Cabrera
Resisting Columbus: the Movement to Change October 12th Holiday is Rooted in History
Weekend Edition
October 9-11, 2015
David Price – Roberto J. González
The Use and Abuse of Culture (and Children): The Human Terrain System’s Rationalization of Pedophilia in Afghanistan
Mike Whitney
Putin’s “Endgame” in Syria
Jason Hribal
The Tilikum Effect and the Downfall of SeaWorld
Gary Leupp
The Six Most Disastrous Interventions of the 21st Century
Andrew Levine
In Syria, Obama is Playing a Losing Game
Louis Proyect
The End of Academic Freedom in America: the Case of Steven Salaita
Rob Urie
Democrats, Neoliberalism and the TPP
Ismael Hossein-Zadeh
The Bully Recalibrates: U.S. Signals Policy Shift in Syria
Brian Cloughley
Hospital Slaughter and the US/NATO Propaganda Machine
Paul Street
Hope in Abandonment: Cuba, Detroit, and Earth-Scientific Socialism
John Walsh
For Vietnam: Artemisinin From China, Agent Orange From America
Hadi Kobaysi
How The US Uses (Takfiri) Extremists
John Wight
No Moral High Ground for the West on Syria