War and Speech

A girl throwing a javelin
Issue 9 shows what independent publishing can do in a climate of political repression

By The Editors

The last few months have brought relentless grief, with the October attack by Hamas and Israel’s ongoing eliminationist response. The United States, where most of us are based, greenlit Israel’s unfolding genocide in Gaza and Palestine. The war lays bare a truth difficult for many: that the horrors of twentieth century colonialism continue in this one.

The scale of horror — as we write, over 17,000 people have died in the assault on Gaza — and the lack of any international body that can or will prevent the violence, means that for those of us far from the bombs, working towards justice in Palestine requires grassroots effort. We have seen hundreds of thousands of people march all over the globe, including in countries where public protest comes with a high risk of arrest. Dock workers in ports from Barcelona to Belgium have refused to handle military supplies bound for Israel, and activists have blocked shipments from Oakland. Jewish Voices for Peace has led sit-ins, with almost 400 people arrested for occupying Grand Central Station, to call for a ceasefire. Open letters, far riskier than usual in this McCarthyist climate, have circulated widely. Writers Against the War on Gaza has organized journalists to speak honestly about what is happening in the face of great pressure to be silent, echoing a similar effort during Vietnam. Many people who have chosen to work inside the political, legal, or academic establishments are questioning whether this measured approach is tolerable — State Department and UN staff have resigned. 

Those actions have been met with incredible repression. Media organizations like the Associated Press, the BBC, and the Times have fired journalists and editors, taken them off air, or pushed them to sign dubious ethics codes discouraging even freelancers from expressing their opinions in public. Four universities have suspended Students for Justice in Palestine on campus. Art collectors have blacklisted artists and Artforum fired its editor-in-chief (staff resigned in protest). “I have never lived through a more chilling period,” said Nan Goldin. “People are being blacklisted. People are losing their jobs.” This repression shows how vulnerable we are, especially in the States, to economic discipline from corporate employers, media institutions, and universities. Few of us enjoy any labor protections, and that means that our free speech stops at the door to our workplace. Notably, the bad-faith free speech advocates — those accustomed to mocking students as snowflakes — have led the charge to get both teens and school administrators in trouble for speech. The New York Post, for example, is now practically a protest-to-firing pipeline for those decrying the war. 

This issue of Lux features some of those who’ve refused to be silent on Palestine, as well as other writers and journalists doing their jobs in extremis, from Carla Simmons reporting on her own experience with health care in prison and its larger corporate context, to tenant organizers taking on landlords from New York to Chicago. And as ever, there is space in this issue of Lux for more private contemplation: on class and therapy, on performing girlishness for clicks, on playing one’s identity for cred with book publishers, on seeing one’s children start life anew while civilization feels on the brink. 

All around us this season, large media, arts, and educational institutions have been trying to silence the ethical voices of the people who work for them. We stand with everyone who is speaking up. And we are proud today to be an independent publication, able to speak.

Photo by Tanya Habjouqa