Category Archives: Fake News

National Security State Censoring of Anti-Imperialist Voices

The US rulers use many tools to disrupt and disorganize the anti-war and anti-imperialist left. Three discussed here include: (1) corporate control of the news media gives them free reign to spread disinformation and fake news against foreign and domestic targets; (2) they use government and corporate foundation resources to fund and promote a compatible left to counter the anti-imperialist left; and (3) the rulers use their control of social media and internet to censor those voices.

Since 2016 their censorship of websites, Facebook pages, Twitter, and Paypal accounts has escalated alarmingly. They target those who counter the narratives the government and big business media feed us, whether it be US intervention and attempted overthrow of other governments, Covid, or stories of Russian interference.

With the Ukraine war, the US government and corporate media immense propaganda power has been directed against Russia and intensified on an overwhelming scale.

As the US empire began the Cold War soon after the end of World War II, with the rise of McCarthyism (which predated Joe McCarthy), news manipulation and suppression often fell under the control of the CIA’s Operation Mockingbird. The corporate media followed CIA directions in representing the interests of the US rulers. The CIA secretly funded and managed a wide range of front groups and individuals to counter what the US rulers considered its enemies. It encouraged those on the left who opposed actually existing socialism, seeking to foster splits in the left to undermine the communist and build the non-communist left.

Significant liberal and left figures who worked with the CIA included Gloria Steinem, key feminist leader, Herbert Marcuse, considered a Marxist intellectual, Walter Reuther, president of the United Auto Workers Union (1946-1970), David Dubinsky, president of the International Ladies Garment Workers Union (1932-1966). The CIA collaborated with Baynard Rustin, Socialist Party leader and close associate of Martin Luther King, with Norman Thomas and Michael Harrington, who became the fathers of the third campist (“neither Washington nor Moscow”) Democratic Socialists of America (DSA). Likewise, Carl Gershman, a founder of Social Democrats, USA, and later founding director (1983-2021) of the CIA front National Endowment for Democracy (NED).

Through  the Congress for Cultural Freedom, the CIA underwrote the publishing of leftist critics, such as Leszek Kolakowski and Milovan Djilas’ book The New Class. The CIA aided the “Western Marxism” of the Frankfurt School, which included Theodore Adorno and Max Horkheimer, former director of New School of Social Research, also subsidized by the Rockefeller Foundation.

Corporate foundations, such as the Rockefeller, Ford, Open Society, and Tides foundations, among many others, funneled CIA money to progressive causes. The Cultural Cold War (pp. 134-5) noted that from 1963-66, nearly half the grants by 164 foundations in the field of international activities involved CIA money. The Ford Foundation continues as one of the main financers of progressive groups in the US; for instance, both Open Society and Ford foundations have heavily funded Black Lives Matter.

The CIA is regarded as a ruthless organization overthrowing democratic governments that US corporations considered a threat to their profits. While true, overlooked is “gentler” CIA work: underwriting and encouraging a compatible left, one which looks to forces in the Democratic Party for political leadership. This third camp left provides an alternative to an anti-imperialist or a communist left, and yet appears progressive enough to lure radicalizing youth, activists and intelligentsia. This cunning CIA strategy has fostered confusion, dissension, and divisions among these sections of the population.

These secret US government and CIA operations have been detailed in The Mighty Wurlitzer: How the CIA Played America, Finks: How the C.I.A. Tricked the World’s Best Writers, The Cultural Cold War, and AFL-CIO’s Secret War against Developing Country Workers: Solidarity or Sabotage?

In 1977 Carl Bernstein revealed CIA interconnections with the big business media. More than 400 journalists collaborated with the CIA, with the consent of their media bosses. Working in a propaganda alliance with the CIA included: CBS, ABC, NBC, Time, Newsweek, New York Times, Associated Press, Reuters, United Press International, Miami Herald, Saturday Evening Post and New York Herald Tribune. The New York Times still sends stories to US government for pre-publication approval, while CNN and others now employ national security state figures as “analysts.”

Reuters, BBC, and Bellingcat operate similarly, participating in covert British government funded disinformation programs to “weaken” Russia. This involves collaboration with the Counter Disinformation & Media Development section of the British Foreign Office.

The CIA pays journalists in Germany, France, Britain, Australia and New Zealand to plant fake news. Udo Ulfkotte, a former editor at Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, one of the largest German newspapers, showed how the CIA controls German media in Presstitutes: Embedded in the Pay of the CIA. Ulfkotte said the CIA had him plant fake stories in his paper, such as Libyan President Gaddafi building poison gas factories in 2011.

The CIA was closely involved with the long defunct National Students Association and with the trade union leadership. The AFL-CIO’s American Institute of Free Labor Development, received funding from USAID, the State Department, and NED to undermine militant union movements overseas and help foment murderous coups, as against President Allende of Chile (1973) and Brazil (1964), as well as defended the rule of their masters at home. This continues with the AFL-CIO Solidarity Center, which receives $30 million a year from NED.

The CIA created publishing houses, such as Praeger Press, and used other companies such as John Wiley Publishing Company, Scribner’s, Ballantine Books, and Putnam to publish its books. It set up several political and literary journals such as Partisan Review. This CIA publishing amounted to over one thousand books, mostly geared to a liberal-left audience, seeking to bolster a third camp left, and undermine solidarity with the once powerful world communist movement.

That mission largely accomplished years ago, today the national security state works to undermine the anti-imperialist left and build up a left inclined towards the “lesser evil” Democratic Party.

Recent US Government and Media Thought Control Measures

CIA use of corporate media to undermine perceived threats to the national security state escalated with Obama signing NDAA 2017, which lifted formalistic restrictions on security state agencies feeding fake news directly to the US population. The Countering Disinformation and Propaganda Act in the NDAA, which went into effect in the early stages of Russiagate, created a central government propaganda organ:

to counter active measures by the Russian Federation to exert covert influence over peoples and governments (with the role of the Russian Federation hidden or not acknowledged publicly) through front groups, covert broadcasting, media manipulation, disinformation or forgeries, funding agents of influence, incitement, offensive counterintelligence, assassinations, or terrorist acts. The committee shall expose falsehoods, agents of influence, corruption, human rights abuses, terrorism, and assassinations carried out by the security services or political elites of the Russian Federation or their proxies.

Glen Ford observed:

Every category listed [above], except assassinations and terror, is actually a code word for political speech that can, and will, be used to target those engaged in ‘undermining faith in American democracy’ — such as Black Agenda Report and other left publications defamed as ‘fake news’ outlets by the Washington Post [article on PropOrNot].

This Disinformation and Propaganda Act created the innocuously named Global Engagement Center, operated by the State Department, Pentagon, USAID, the Broadcasting Board of Governors [renamed US Agency for Global Media], the Director of National Intelligence, and other spy agencies. This Center oversees production of fake news supporting US imperial interests, focused primarily against Russia and China (such as Uyghur genocide and Russiagate), but also against Nicaragua, Venezuela, Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Syria, and others. Verifiable reports exposing US regime change operations and disinformation are often outright censored or labeled pro-Russian or pro-Chinese propaganda.

The Global Engagement Center finances journalists, NGOs, think tanks, and media outlets on board with campaigns to vilify non-corporate media reporting as spreaders of foreign government disinformation. This may shed light on the origins of smears that opponents of the US regime change against Syria or in Ukraine are Putinists, Assadists, tankies, Stalinists, part of a red-brown alliance.

National security state propaganda against Russia surged after it aided Syria in thwarting the US-Saudi war against the Assad government. It reached levels of hysteria with the fabricated Russiagate stories designed to sabotage the 2016 Trump presidential campaign. Seymour Hersh disclosed that the widely covered news of Russian hacking of DNC computers in 2016 was CIA disinformation. Hersh confirmed from FBI sources that Hillary Clinton’s emails were taken by Seth Rich and offered to Wikileaks for money, and that the fake news story of Russian hacking was initiated by CIA head John Brennan. However, exposures of the Clinton-neocon-national security state Russiagate fake news were themselves written off as disinformation concocted by pro-Russian operators.

An example of Global Engagement Center work may be a recent smear against anti-imperialists as agents of Russia appeared in The Daily Beast. It targets Lee Camp, Max Blumenthal, Ben Norton, and others: “propaganda peddlers rake in cash and followers at the expense of the truth and oppressed people in Ukraine, Xinjiang, and Syria” because of their accurate reporting that goes against the US propaganda line.

Other articles may indicate this government Disinformation Center use of the third camp left in the tradition of Operation Mongoose. George Monbiot’s article in The Guardian fit the billing:

We must confront Russian propaganda – even when it comes from those we respect – The grim truth is that for years, a small part of the ‘anti-imperialist’ left has been recycling Vladimir Putin’s falsehoods.

Louis Proyect crusaded for Syria regime change, and against those opposing the US war on the country as being part of a “red-brown alliance.” Proyect often relied on British Foreign Office funded Bellingcat for his articles, writing, “The Bellingcat website is perhaps the only place where you can find fact-based reporting on chemical attacks in Syria.” Proyect defended “Syrian revolution” “socialist” Anand Gopal, of the International Security Program at the New America Foundation, funded by the State Department and corporate foundations, and run by Anne-Marie Slaughter, former State Department official.

Democracy Now, which also repeatedly relied on Anand Gopal as a news source, has long received foundation money, and we see the self-censoring effect this has on its former excellent anti-war journalism degenerating into compatible leftism.

Another product of this government-corporate aid for this Democratic Party “lesser evil” left may be NACLA’s articles smearing the Nicaraguan government. NACLA Board Chair Program Director is Thomas Kruse of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund. In 2018, NACLA, New York DSA, and Haymarket Books hosted anti-Sandinista youth activists while on a tour paid for by right-wing Freedom House.

In These Times, which receives hundreds of thousands in foundation money, ran similar articles smearing socialist Cuba. It claimed Cuba was “the Western Hemisphere’s most undemocratic government” – not Bolsonaro’s Brazil, Chile with its police who blinded pro-democracy protesters, not Colombia’s death squad supporting government, nor Honduras’ former coup regime, or Haiti’s hated rulers.

Haymarket Books, which produces many third camp left books, receives Democratic Party aligned think tank and nonprofit money via the pass through Center for Economic Research and Social Change. The Grayzone reported that the DSA, Jacobin Magazine, and Haymarket sponsored Socialism conference featured NED and State Department funded regime-change activists.

Jacobin editor Bhaskar Sunkara is former vice-chair of the Democratic Party’s reform oriented DSA. In 2017 the Jacobin Foundation received a $100,000 grant from the Annenberg Foundation, set up by billionaire publisher and Nixon administration U.S. Ambassador to Great Britain Walter Annenberg.

This milieu includes New York’s Left Forum, and the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation, underwritten by the German government.

Bob Feldman revealed corporate financing for the Institute of Policy Studies, The Nation, In These Times, NACLA, Middle East Research & Information Project (MERIP), Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting (FAIR), Progressive, Mother Jones, AlterNet, Institute for Public Accuracy, among others.

The US Chamber of Commerce discovered that foundations gave $106 million to workers centers between 2013-2016, and concluded that the worker center movement was “a creature of the progressive foundations that encouraged and supported it.”

These are but a few examples of US ruling class financing of anti anti-imperialist leftists, an effective means to channel and organize the left milieu into an opposition that poses no real threat to their control.

An essential characteristic of this milieu is looking to the Democratic Party as a lesser evil ally.

Alexander Cockburn  pointed out the dangers of this financing back in 2010:

The financial clout of the “non-profit” foundations, tax-exempt bodies formed by rich people to dispense their wealth according to political taste… Much of the “progressive sector” in America owes its financial survival – salaries, office accommodation etc — to the annual disbursements of these foundations which cease abruptly at the first manifestation of radical heterodoxy. In the other words, most of the progressive sector is an extrusion of the dominant corporate world, just as are the academies, similarly dependent on corporate endowments.”

Right after Trump’s surprise 2016 election win, the Washington Post cranked up the anti-Russia McCarthyism by introducing PropOrNot. ProporNot’s catalog of supposed Putin-controlled outlets sought to resurrect the witchhunts of the Red Scare era,  when 6.6 million people were investigated just between 1947-1952. The PropOrNot blacklist includes some of the most alternative and anti-war news sites on the web, including Anti-war.com, Black Agenda Report, Truthdig, Naked Capitalism, Consortium News, Truthout, Lew Rockwell.com, Global Research, Unz.com, Zero Hedge, and many others.

PropOrNot asserted 200 websites were “Russian propaganda outlets.” No evidence was offered. PropOrNot refused to reveal who they were or their funding. Alan Mcleod recently uncovered: “A scan of PropOrNot’s website showed that it was controlled by The Interpreter, a magazine of which [Michael] Weiss is editor-in-chief…[a] senior fellow of NATO think tank The Atlantic Council.” The Atlantic Council itself is financed by the US government and Middle Eastern dictatorships, weapons manufacturers Raytheon, Northrop Grumman and Lockheed Martin, Wall Street banks such as Goldman Sachs; and petrochemical giants like BP and Chevron. Mcleod concluded, “Thus, claims of a huge [foreign] state propaganda campaign were themselves state propaganda.”

Soon after PropOrNot, the German Marshall Fund, largely financed by the US government, concocted Hamilton 68: A New Tool to Track Russian Disinformation on Twitter. This identifies supposed “accounts that are involved in promoting Russian influence and disinformation goals.” Daniel McAdams of Ron Paul Liberty Report noted, “They are using US and other government money in an effort to eliminate any news organization or individual who deviates from the official neocon foreign policy line on Russia, Syria, Ukraine, etc.”

This year, the Department of Homeland Security presented a new censorship and disinformation organ, allegedly to combat pro-Russian fake news, the Disinformation Governance Board. As the Countering Disinformation and Propaganda Act and PropOrNot showed, what challenges US national security state narratives is often labeled Russian disinformation. Glenn Greenwald forewarned, “The purpose of empowering the Department of Homeland Security to decree what is and is not “disinformation” is to bestow all government assertions with a pretense of authoritative expertise and official sanction and, conversely, to officially decree dissent from government claims to be false and deceitful.”

The national security state, which lied about Russiagate, lied about National Security Agency’s 24/7 spying on the US population, lied about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, plans to decide what is true and false, and enforce that on big business and alternative media outlets.

Thus, the CIA’s secret Operation Mongoose, devoted to encouraging hostility to actually existing socialism among the left, has morphed into official, public US government McCarthyite agencies directed at shutting down or smearing outlets and activism opposing the US empire and its wars.

What Corporate Social Media instruments are targeting which anti-war outlets?

This joint US government corporate media censorship has become an increasingly open attack. Paypal has allied itself with the Zionist Anti-Defamation League to “fight extremism and hate through the financial industry and across at-risk communities… with policymakers and law enforcement.”

Twitter has shut down many political accounts, even possessed the power to suppress the President of the United States’ account. In 2020, Twitter deleted 170,000 accounts “spreading geopolitical narratives favorable to the Communist Party of China,” and in 2021, it deleted hundreds of accounts for “undermining faith in the NATO alliance and its stability.” The company has hired a number of FBI officers for this censorship work. Twitter executive for Middle East is British Army ‘psyops’ soldier Gordon MacMillan of the 77th Brigade, which uses social media platforms such as Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook to conduct “information warfare.”

Google and Youtube executives team up with government spy agencies to censor anti-imperialist voices. Google’s “Project Owl,” designed to eradicate “fake news,” employed “algorithmic updates to surface more authoritative [compatible] content” and downgrade “offensive” [anti-imperialist] material. As a result, traffic dropped off to websites such as Mint Press News, Alternet, Global Research, Consortium News, liberal-left Common Dreams and Truthout.

Wikipedia censors articles on its website, as Ben Norton notes:

The CIA, FBI, New York Police Department, Vatican, and fossil fuel colossus BP, to name just a few, have all been caught directly editing Wikipedia articles.

A minor player,  NewsGuard, “partners” with the State Department and Pentagon to tag websites that deviate from the establishment line.

Facebook relies on PropOrNot’s Atlantic Council to combat reporting contrary to the US government line. Facebook later announced it would further fight “fake news” by partnering with two propaganda organizations sponsored by the US government: the National Democratic Institute (NDI) and the International Republican Institute (IRI). The NDI was chaired by former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, while Senator John McCain was the longtime IRI chair.

Just as The Mighty Wurlitzer, The Cultural Cold War, and Bernstein’s The CIA and the Media showed with the big business print media, we are witnessing an integration of social media companies into the national security state.

Who have been censored by this corporate media and social media integration with the national security state? 

Like with any censored book list, national security state targets provide a Who’s Who of what we should be reading and watching: The Grayzone, TeleSur,  Venezuelanalysis, Lee Camp, By Any Means Necessary, Caleb Maupin, Syria Solidarity Movement, Consortium News, Mint Press News, Abby Martin, Chris Hedges, CGTN and other Chinese media, George Galloway, Pepe Escobar, Scott Ritter, ASB Military News, RT America, Strategic Culture Foundation, One World Press, SouthFront, Gonzalo Lira, Oriental Review, Revolutionary Black Network, Sputnik News, Ron Paul’s Liberty Report.  Youtube warns us of watching Oliver Stone’s Ukraine on Fire. Journalists who have collaborated with a Russian media outlet are now dubbed “affiliated with the Russian government.”

The FBI directly shut down American Herald Tribune and Iran’s Press TV. RT and Sputnik are already shut down in Europe. PropOrNot listing of 200 media sites catalogs for us what the national security state doesn’t want us to read, listen to, know, or think.

Since the beginning of the first Cold War, there has been a continuous CIA-national security state operation to neutralize, marginalize, and create disunity among its opponents, often with the collaboration of the left that consider the Democratic Party a lesser evil. This strategy includes extensive foundation financing of leftist outlets and NGOs in order to tame them.

Therefore, it is mistaken to fault the US left for its weakness. The CIA and the foundations have been key players in covertly manipulating opposition to US imperial rule, in part by strengthening the left soft on the Democrats to undermine any working class or anti-US empire challenge. To date, this national security state mission has also shown considerable success.

The problems of building a working class left-wing partly results from the US rulers’ decades long campaign to disrupt the movement. This involves not just imprisoning and killing activists, such as Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, or the Black Panthers, but also big business media marketing disinformation as news, their funding of a compatible left, and the present social media and internet censorship of anti-imperialist voices. Rebuilding an anti-war and working class left wing requires us to directly address and navigate through this maze ruling class sabotage has created.

The post National Security State Censoring of Anti-Imperialist Voices first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Fabricating Putin Quotes and Banning Paraplegic Athletes to Undermine Russia

Mobilizing a population to vilify and hate a targeted enemy is a tactic that leaders have used since before the dawn of human history, and it is being used to demonize Russia and Vladimir Putin in the current conflict. If we want to join the march to war, we can join the hate fest.  But if we want a more objective and honest assessment of events, we must rely upon facts that our government and its cheer-leading mainstream media are not anxious for us to view.

In the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine,  all things Russian are being punished. Russian athletes, including paraplegics, are barred from international sports competition. Century old Russian writers and musicians such as Tolstoy and Tchaikovsky are being removed from book shelves and concerts. Even Russian bred cats are not exempt.

If such actions are justified, why was there no such banning of US athletes, musicians or writers after the US invasion of Iraq?  Moreover, why are so few people outraged by the bombing and killing of 370,000 Yemeni people?  Why are so few people outraged as thousands of Afghans starve because the United States is seizing Afghanistan’s national assets which were in western banks?

Why Ukraine?

There has been massive and widespread publicity about Ukraine. It is a simple Hollywood script:  Ukraine is the angel, Russia is the devil, Zelensky is the hero and all good people will wear blue and yellow ribbons.

Maintaining this image requires propaganda to promote it, and censorship to prevent challengers debunking it.

This has required trashing some long held western traditions. By banning all Russian athletes from international competition, the International Olympic Committee and different athletic federations have violated the Olympic Charter which prohibits discrimination on the basis of nationality.

Censorship

The West prides itself on free speech yet censorship of alternative viewpoints is now widespread in Europe and North America.  Russia Today and other Russian media outlets are being blocked on the internet as well as cable TV.  Ironically,  numerous programs on RT were hosted by Americans, for example journalist Chris Hedges and comedian Lee Camp.  The US is silencing its own citizens.

Censorship or shadow banning is widespread on social media. On April 6, one of the best informed military analysts, Scott Ritter @realScottRitter, was suspended from Twitter. Why?  Because he  suggested that the victims of Bucha may have been murdered not by Russians, but rather by Ukrainian ultra-nationalists and the US and UK may also be culpable.

The 2015 Netflix documentary titled “Winter on Fire: Ukraine’s Fight for Freedom” deals with the Maidan (Kiev central square) uprising of 2013-2014.  It ignores the most essential elements of the events: the management provided by the US  and the muscle provided by ultra-nationalists of the Right Sector and Azov Battalion. The attacks and killing of Ukrainian police are whitewashed away.

By contrast, the 2016 documentary “Ukraine on Fire provides the background and essential elements of the conflict.  It is not available on Netflix and was banned from distribution on YouTube for some time.

Most people in the West are unaware of the US involvement in the 2014 Kiev coup, subsequent US funding and training of ultra-nationalist and Neo Nazi battalions, and the eight year war in eastern Ukraine resulting in fourteen thousand deaths.

Sensational Accusations

Backed by US and UK intelligence agencies, Ukraine knows the importance of the information war. They make sensational accusations that receive uncritical media coverage. When the truth eventually comes out, it is ignored or buried on the back pages. Here are a few examples:

– In 2014,  eleven civilians were killed in eastern Ukraine when an apartment was hit in rebel held territory.  Ukraine tried to blame Russia even though no bombs were coming from Russia and the population is ethnically Russian.

– At the beginning of the current conflict, Ukrainian President Zelensky claimed that soldiers on Snake Island died heroically rather than surrender. Actually, all the soldiers surrendered.

– Ukraine and western media claim a maternity hospital in Mariupol was bombed by Russia. Evidence shows the hospital was taken over by Ukrainian military forces on March 7, two days before the bombing on March 9.

– The latest sensational accusations are regarding dead civilians in Bucha,  north of Kiev. Again, there is much contrary evidence. The Russian soldiers left Bucha on March 31, the mayor of Bucha announced the town liberated with no mention of atrocities on March 31, the Azov battalion entered Bucha on April 1,  the Ukrainian Defense Ministry published video of  “Russian” atrocities on April 3.

In most cases, western media does not probe the accusations or use simple logic to ask if they make sense.  However, in the case of Bucha story, the NY Times had to acknowledge they were “unable to independently verify the assertions by Ukraine’s Defense Ministry.”

Self Censorship

In addition to actual censorship, there is widespread self-censorship. Instead of reading what the Russians are saying, western political “analysts” engage in outlandish amateur psychology and speculation. With no factual basis, they speculate about what Putin wants and his mental state.

This is convenient if one does not want to deal with the real issues and arguments.

Most western analysts and journalists are afraid or unwilling to read or listen to what the Russian leaders say. That is unfortunate because those speeches are more clear and direct than those from western politicians who rely on public relations, spin and platitudes.

Fabricating quotes

Ignorance of Russian foreign policy is such that Truthout online magazine recently published an article which contains a sensational but completely invented quote from Putin. It says,

Putin here is clear enough: “Ukraine has no national rights that Russians are bound to respect. Prepare for reunification, reabsorption, or some other euphemism for subaltern status with Mother Russia.”

Putin said no such thing and any moderately knowledgeable person would recognize this to be fake.

When I emailed the co-author, Carl Davidson, asking where the quotation came from, he admitted inventing it. This is significant because the statement goes to the core of what the conflict is about. Is Russia trying to absorb all of Ukraine? Do they intend to occupy Ukraine?  Anyone who reads the speeches of Putin and Lavrov, such as here, here and here,  knows they do not. Davidson’s fabricated quote suggests he has not read the speeches himself.

Ukraine in the Global Context

The article with the made-up quote contends that “Putin is part of a global right-wing authoritarian movements that seeks to ‘overthrow’ the 20th Century.” This analysis is close to that of the US Democratic Party, which sees the major global division being between “authoritarianism” vs “democracy”.

It is highly US-centered and partisan, with Putin somehow lumped with Trump. It  is also self-serving, with US Democrats as the embodiment of “democracy”.  It is completely contrary to a class analysis.

This faulty analysis has major contradictions. It is well known that Biden is unpopular. Biden’s latest approval rating is under 42%. It is less well known in the West that Putin is popular in Russia. Since the intervention in Ukraine his approval rating has increased to over 80%.

Also largely unknown in the West, most of the world does NOT support the Western analysis of the Ukraine conflict.  Countries representing 59% of the global population abstained or voted against the condemnation of Russia at the UN General Assembly. These countries tend to see US exceptionalism and economic-military domination as a key problem. They do not think it helpful to demonize Russia and they urge negotiations and quick resolution to the Ukraine war.

Cuba said:

History will hold the United States accountable for the consequences of an increasingly offensive military doctrine beyond NATO’s borders which threatens international peace, security and stability…. Russia has the right to defend itself.

South African President Ramaphosa blamed NATO saying:

The war could have been avoided if NATO had heeded warnings from amongst its own leaders and officials over the years that its eastward expansion would lead to greater, not less, instability in the region.

The Chinese representative said:

The final settlement of the Ukraine crisis requires abandoning the Cold War mentality, abandoning the logic of ensuring one’s own security at the expense of others’ security, and abandoning the approach of seeking regional security by expanding military bloc.

Many western anti-war movements are critical of Russia’s invasion. Others, such as the US Peace Council, see the US and NATO as largely responsible. However, they all see the necessity of pressing to stop the war before it gets worse.

In contrast, the western military-industrial-media complex is fueling the war with propaganda, censorship, banning, demonization and more weapons. It appears they do not want a resolution to the conflict. Just as they supported NATO pushing up against Russia, knowing that it risked provoking Russia to the point of retaliation, they seem to be pushing for a protracted bloody conflict in Ukraine, knowing that it risks global conflagration.  Yet they persist, while crying crocodile tears.

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What Does Health Care For All Look Like in Nicaragua?

Since the Sandinistas returned to power in January 2007, child malnutrition has dropped by 45% for children under five and by 66% for children ages 6-12.

I’d like you to imagine for a moment that you are the parent of a child with asthma, living in Ciudad Sandino, just outside the capital of Nicaragua, in a barrio called Nueva Vida, which was recently founded after your family – along with 1,200 other families – was flooded out of your home along the lakeshore in Managua during Hurricane Mitch. The year is 2001, and although your family now has a concrete house and the bus runs regularly down your street in the daytime, nights are filled with rival gangs throwing rocks and bottles, and regular work has been nearly impossible to find. These days, you travel into the market in Managua before dawn to wash potatoes for a vegetable seller; with what you earn, you can usually bring home a little food for your family’s lunch.

Although you have five children, it’s your middle child, the seven year-old, who worries you the most. She suffers from asthma, and you haven’t been able to save up to buy the expensive inhalers she needs to stop her persistent wheezing. Tonight, while your family is trying to sleep, smoke from burning trash in the nearby dump is heavy in your home, and your daughter can’t breathe. In the half-light you can see her eyes wide, struggling with an asthma attack. All you can think is that you have to help her. You don’t have a motorcycle, let alone a car, and the buses don’t run at this hour. You load your daughter onto the crossbar of your bicycle and ride through darkened streets – going around the long way to avoid the gangs – until you arrive at the Hospitalito. Although it’s called the little hospital, it’s really just a clinic. The doctor on duty is distressed when you arrive, he listens to your daughter’s lungs and sadly tells you that he has no medicine, no inhaler, no nebulizer, no tools to help you. Your daughter must go to a larger hospital in Managua, but there is no ambulance to take her. So you set her, weak and wheezing, on the curb, and begin to beg passersby for bus fare as light dawns over the useless hospital.

Life under the neoliberal governments in Nicaragua – 1990-2006 – was exceptionally hard. In those years, the poor got poorer and the rich got richer and Nicaragua became one of the most unequal countries in the world. Lack of access to basic health care was one of the ways in which everyday people suffered.

Health Care 1999

Under the Somoza dictatorship in 1978, there were a total of 209 health units in the country – that is hospitals, health centers and health posts combined. After the Triumph of the Revolution in 1979, the new Sandinista government made health care free, and even in the midst of an economic embargo and fighting the Contra War during the 1980s, they managed to increase health units five-fold; by 1990 there were 1,056 units. But during 16 years, the neoliberal governments only managed to build 35 more health units, the majority of which were in rural areas and sat empty due to lack of personnel and materials.

One of these units was our “Hospitalito,” in Ciudad Sandino. At that time, the public budget for medicines and materials was minimal: when the doctors who were working at our clinic during the day took the night shift at the Hospitalito, they had to turn sick people away because they didn’t even have gloves to examine patients or basic medicines. Even when patients managed to be seen by a doctor, they were given prescriptions for medicines they couldn’t afford. Imports of drugs were in the hands of foreign companies and production of generic drugs was restricted. Patients unfortunate enough to need surgery had to bring their own alcohol, gauze, sutures and sheets – oh, and also family members who could donate the blood they would need. Laboratory tests, specialized treatments, and surgeries were so expensive that poor families effectively could not access the service. During these years, patients literally died on the street outside hospitals for lack of basic medical care.

Since the return of the Sandinista government in 2007, the difference in medical care is stark. Today, the Hospitalito is a fully equipped hospital with emergency care and admitted patient beds. There is outpatient care – general medicine, pediatrics, gynecology, psychology, natural medicine, a rehabilitation center, and a maternal wait home.

Maternity Care

Ciudad Sandino is just one city – public health care has been revolutionized all over the country, the entire structure and indeed culture of the health system has changed. Today, it is a more holistic system focused on families becoming active participants in their own health, and relying heavily on a small army of community workers doing everything from mosquito elimination door-to-door vaccination to health promotion and education.

Since 2007, the largest public health infrastructure in Central America has been built, now with a total of 1,565 health units. In 14 years, Nicaragua has built 21 new hospitals and remodeled 46 more. It has built or remodeled 1,259 medical posts, 192 health centers and 178 maternity homes. In an effort to see patients who don’t normally go to health centers, MINSA also has 66 fully-equipped mobile health clinics. These are made from semi trucks that have been confiscated in drug busts, and converted into clinics; in 2020 these mobile clinics provided nearly 1.9 million consults. In the midst of the pandemic, MINSA rolled out the My Hospital in My Community program which sees patients at neighborhood health fairs with orthopedists, cardiologists, gynecologists and urologists and includes screening for prostate, breast and cervical cancers. Patients are then referred to a specialist at a hospital for follow up.

Healthy Baby

Access to specialized care has drastically changed – services such as chemotherapy and radiotherapy that were once only offered in the capital are now offered at regional hospitals. Prior to 2007, many surgeries were only performed by international brigades; last year 120 child heart surgeries and 4 kidney transplants were performed, all by local doctors. This year, Nicaraguan doctors became the first team in Central America to perform in-utero surgery, on a fetus with spina bifida.

The list of improved health services is comprehensive by any standards: 260,000 cataract surgeries, care of 358,000 older adults and people with disabilities, three prosthetics and orthotics workshops, 91 centers for people with special needs, 265 free daycare centers, and 188 natural medicine clinics, 72 pain clinics, 34 mental health clinics integrated into existing public health centers.

Nicaragua has made a long term financial investment in public health: in 2020, 40 cents of every dollar the government spent was for health care and education. Nicaragua now spends 476% more on health than previous governments, investing 5.2% of its GDP in the sector annually.

In 14 years, total number of health care workers employed in the public sector is up by 66%, doctors up by 123%, free medical consultations are up by 329%, All this, combined with the school lunch program which guarantees a hot meal of beans and rice to 1 ½ million primary school children daily, has resulted in a 46% reduction in chronic malnutrition in children under five and a 66% reduction in chronic malnutrition in children six to 12 years old.

School Lunch

Investment leads to results: a 385% increase in pap tests plus equipping clinics with colposcopy and cryotherapy machines has led to a 25% decrease in cervical cancer mortality, previously one of the biggest killers of Nicaraguan women of child-bearing age.

Both infant and maternal mortality have markedly dropped in the 14 years since the Sandinistas returned to power.

A 212% increase in maternal wait homes has led to an 87% decrease in home births, followed by a 70% decrease in maternal mortality over the more than 1.5 million births attended since 2007, and a 61% reduction in infant mortality.

Moving forward, Nicaragua plans to continue expansion – finishing five more new hospitals before the end of the year, building 12 more new by 2026 and continuing hospital remodeling as well.

It is in this context of more than a decade of these revolutionary changes to the health care system that Nicaragua faced the coronavirus. When COVID-19 was declared a pandemic, Nicaragua was already prepared by having a healthier population with access to the best public healthcare in the region.

Kids with Masks

To date, it has seen fewer cases and fewer deaths than any country in the region; in fact, it compares favorably to the most developed countries in the world. Nicaragua has achieved this by refusing to carbon copy the approach of the developed world like the rest of the region has done – with lockdowns, strictly enforced curfews, and school closures – but rather choosing to fight the pandemic on its own terms, with a strategy devised for Nicaraguan reality. The government recognized that in a country where most people depend on daily earnings to survive, lockdown would result in hunger; that with children depending on their free school lunch for vital nutrition, school closures would result in hunger; and that with the economy already suffering from the failed coup attempt in 2018 (damages are estimated to be equivalent to that of 52 hurricanes like Eta and Iota which hit Nicaragua in 2020), forced economic shut down would cripple the nation. Instead, the government strategy to fight the pandemic played to Nicaragua’s strengths: its well-organized community health system and resilient population.

From late March 2020 when the first coronavirus case in the country was confirmed, through mid-May when the first wave began to peak, lay health promoters carried out 5 million home visits to the country’s 1.3 million homes to share information on the virus, go through symptom checklists and identify possible cases. The public was encouraged early on to learn to live with the virus by going about their business safely, something the international scientific community is now also promoting as the world begins to recognize it is moving from pandemic to endemic COVID-19.

Nicaragua’s adaptation has been agile and widespread: schools, markets, shops, taxis and bus cooperatives came up with creative hand-washing ideas right away. [Author’s note: This was when doctors still thought the virus could be passed through touching surfaces.] The population adapted to wearing masks in crowded areas early on, and we did not see a politicized mask debate. Unlike in countries where the government has made decisions for people what is safe and what is not, Nicaraguans have learned to judge for themselves what is safe, and life has continued.

Cataract Surgery

Nicaragua’s softer approach has resulted in fewer COVID cases than any country in the region, and its economy is in better shape. Nicaragua was forecast to have a 14% loss of its GDP in 2020, but managed only a 2% loss and was the only country in Central America to increase its exports in 2020. Even when adjusting for “excess” deaths – those above the expected death rate – Nicaragua has not only fared better in the pandemic than any other country in the region, but also larger countries like the U.S. and U.K.

Unlike the developing world, the Nicaraguan response has never relied on testing – due to cost and lack of reagents, testing has been necessarily limited; but we also know that testing is also slow and unreliable. Although COVID tests are available – mostly for those who require it for traveling outside the country, at a cost of $150 per test – the current public health protocol calls for only testing at-risk patients: pregnant women, the elderly and healthcare workers. Rather than waiting for a test-confirmed diagnosis, any patient presenting even one symptom is treated as a suspected case. Recently, a member of our community got COVID, so we saw up close what happens when a patient is sick. When she first got a fever and aches, she called the free hotline to ask what to do. The doctors told her to go to the Hospitalito. She was examined and, like all patients with suspected COVID, was given two specific medications, plus others as needed in accordance with her own medical history. She was told to isolate at home for 14 days and come back if she presented more symptoms. Patients are also asked who they have been in contact with, and those contacts are then visited by health care workers, given a round of prophylactic medicines and told to come to see a doctor if they present more symptoms.

Community Health Promoter

In the area of prevention, Nicaragua is vaccinating against COVID-19, but the rollout has been slower than hoped for due to a lack of vaccines. This is especially frustrating because Nicaragua knows how to vaccinate: this country created the internationally used model for how to vaccinate in war zones when it eradicated polio and other childhood diseases with its vaccination campaign during the Contra war in the 1980s. Since 2007, Nicaragua has maintained a nearly universal vaccination rate, and public health workers participate in annual vaccination campaigns door to door throughout the country. Even in the first months of the pandemic, 2 million people were vaccinated against influenza and pneumonia with vaccines made at a lab in Nicaragua.

But, as we have seen around the world, the COVID vaccine rollout is not equal and has been politicized with what is being called “vaccine diplomacy.” The United States – where to date 15 million unused vaccines have been thrown out, enough to vaccinate every Nicaraguan twice – has donated vaccines to every other Central American county except Nicaragua.

Since March, Nicaragua has been vaccinating for free, starting with oldest population – those over 30 are currently eligible. So far, more than half a million people have been vaccinated, with the goal of doubling that by October 9th. Although there was initially some vaccine hesitancy in the older population, as COVID cases have risen in recent weeks, demand for the vaccine has also risen. Fortunately, the health care system’s organization is up to the task of dealing with long lines: I recently went to one of the five hospitals in Managua offering the vaccine. Although I was daunted by the snaking line outside the hospital, once I joined, it moved quickly. Despite the wait, there was a jubilant mood among us all and within two hours we were jabbed and done. We estimated 10,000 people got their vaccine at that hospital that day.

Laboratory

In Nicaragua we are currently experiencing a second wave – which is remarkable since other countries are already on their fourth wave. With this second wave, we are also fighting what Nicaraguan Vice President Rosario Murillo calls “health terrorism,” meaning disinformation about the pandemic situation, which has been widespread during both waves. Around the world, the pandemic has been politicized, and that is especially true in Nicaragua. The USAID “regime change” plan for Nicaragua, Responsive Assistance in Nicaragua, or RAIN, which was leaked in July 2020, specifically mentions exploiting the COVID-19 pandemic into a “humanitarian emergency” through what it calls Nicaragua’s “weak healthcare system.” Even before there were reported cases in Nicaragua, we saw this playing out through manipulation of international media, scare tactics via WhatsApp messages and Facebook, and even the creation of a parallel “authority,” the Citizens Observatory for COVID-19 in Nicaragua, an organization of anonymous “interdisciplinary volunteers” with a slick website. Throughout the pandemic they have reported exaggerated “parallel” numbers; and despite the fact that they admit one of their sources is “rumors,” international media have quoted Observatory counts as if they were official numbers.

I personally have been told that hospitals have “collapsed,” there are bodies stacked in corridors, and patients being turned away, only to speak with someone who had been in that hospital or go myself and find out that simply wasn’t true. Unfortunately, this health terrorism has deadly consequences. The constant disinformation scares people, and understandably so – especially older people who remember the neoliberal years when patients did die for lack of care outside of hospitals. So instead of seeking medical care, patients are self-medicating at home, and too often go to the hospital too late and wind up much sicker or even die. To combat it, this week health care workers have again been deployed to go door-to-door checking on people, giving information, and convincing those who are sick to seek medical care.

Nueva Vida 2000

What does the future hold? Nicaragua will keep caring for its people, plugging away to reduce inequities in health and to eradicate poverty. As President Ortega said recently:

The most terrible virus that exists on the planet is the one that causes poverty, because it is in the genes of those who dominate the world economy under capitalism. It is based on the principle of survival of the fittest, no matter how many dead it leaves in its wake.… That is savage capitalism, the most terrible disease on the planet.

Sources: 1

  1. Gobierno de Reconciliación y Unidad Nacional: Plan Nacional de la Lucha Contra La Pobreza Para el Desarrollo Humano 2022-2026 ; Interview with Ivan Acosta, Nicaraguan Minister for Housing and Public Credit; Ministry of Citizen Power for Health Nicaragua: Advances in Health From 2007 to 2020.
The post What Does Health Care For All Look Like in Nicaragua? first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Vaccines, Variants, and Vilification

I tried listening to some podcasts the other day, but every one of them — regardless of their general theme — chose to focus on “vaccine hesitancy.” None of them offered any new evidence to back up their jab fetish. However, that did not stop them from creating a straw man army to gleefully mock what they called “anti-vaxxers.” All this as the CDC warns about a “pandemic of the unvaccinated” — once again, without any compelling evidence to back up this blatant pandering. Instead, the vilification of those who have rejected an experimental gene therapy continues to be ramped up.

So, once again, I’ll explain: 

Meanwhile, the “delta” variant is also dominating the headlines despite — yet again — no compelling evidence. I’ll offer one case in point. In my hometown, it’s wall-to-wall stories about the scourge of the “delta” variant. From the NYC Health Department, we learn that “variants can be detected through genomic sequencing, a process that involves analyzing the virus’s genetic material.” Scroll down just a little further in that same report and discover this: Since February 2021, the city’s Pandemic Response Laboratory (PRL) has been “sequencing randomly selected specimens that meet certain technical criteria.” But, only a “small proportion of all confirmed COVID-19 cases are now being sequenced citywide. As such, all findings related to variant data are based on a small subset of all confirmed COVID-19 cases” and these include “samples from NYC Health & Hospitals emergency departments, the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, and other sources, which may bias data toward more severe cases.”

Repeat: “All findings related to variant data are based on a small subset of all confirmed COVID-19 cases … which may bias data toward more severe cases.” 

You wouldn’t know this from perusing local news [sic] outlets. They’re busy whipping my neighbors into a frenzy with headlines like: “Delta Replacing All Other NYC COVID Strains as New Case Average Soars 32%.” None of these news [sic] reports mention that “All findings related to variant data are based on a small subset of all confirmed COVID-19 cases … which may bias data toward more severe cases.” #TrustTheScience 

Think about it:

  • A politician promises that the donations they get from the super-rich do not affect how they vote. Logically, you don’t believe them.
  • During Pride or Black History or Women’s History month, massive multi-national corporations claim to care about diversity. Logically, you don’t believe them.
  • The military swears that their drone strikes only hit “bad” guys. Logically, you don’t believe them.
  • Police forces across the country declare that they do fair and transparent investigations whenever one of their own is accused of a crime. Logically, you don’t believe them.
  • Famous male predators put out statements that the dozens of women accusing them of sexual assault are just out to get them. Logically, you don’t believe them.

The list goes on and on… so why then do you suddenly trust a government-corporate cabal when they tell you to hide in your homes for years and submit to an untested drug that’s never before been used on humans and for which they have zero liability? Why do you allow these nefarious professional criminals to convince you to turn on your neighbors, friends, and family if any of them dares to question the approved narrative? 

What happened? When and why did you surrender your intellectual autonomy to the will of those who gain the most from your submission? Pro tip: It’s not too late to step away from the programming and propaganda and begin thinking for yourself. In fact, this is our daily, hourly project. There is no finish line so embrace the process and spread the word. 

The post Vaccines, Variants, and Vilification first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Out to Lunch: The Atrophying of Western Minds

— Voltaire’s Philosophical Dictionary

This is what real education looks like — Evo Organizes Anti-Imperialist Day School For Youth

Iris Varela spoke about the history of the Bolivarian Revolution and explained in detail how the economic blockade in her country works. The PSUV lawmaker concluded with an invitation for participants to visit Venezuela for the inauguration of a similar project in Caracas; “we’re opening a university to teach people reporting and social media skills, we’re cordially inviting the youth of the union federations in Chapare to come and coordinate an exchange with the Juventud PSUV, maybe in August a group can come here, and a group from here can go there. Our Bolivian brothers will always be welcome to the country of father liberator, Simon Bolivar. We need to strengthen education and build cadres who can defend revolutionary processes.”

Nieves Colque, one of the young members at the school today said of the classes, “This school of ideology and anti-imperialism helps us to grow, it’s nourishing. The economics session was especially important, learning and analyzing the principles of Bolivia’s social communitarian economic model so we can work in this new term to recover the country’s GDP”.

Go to any of the corporate Un-News outlets, like Bing, and this is what fascism looks like —

Chief of staff Helge Braun told the newspaper Bild am Sonntag that he doesn’t expect another coronavirus-related lockdown in Germany. But Braun said that unvaccinated people may be barred from entering venues like restaurants, movie theaters or sports stadiums “because the residual risk is too high.”

Braun said getting vaccinated is important to protect against severe disease and because “vaccinated people will definitely have more freedoms than unvaccinated people.” He said such policies would be legal because “the state has the responsibility to protect the health of its citizens.”

More of the same dirty White Western Culture (sic), AKA, White Civilization (Sic) —Report: UK military failing to protect women from abuse

British soldiers evaluate coordinates at the Tapa Training Grounds, Estonia.

Around two-thirds of female veterans in the British armed forces have experienced bullying, harassment or discrimination in their careers, a parliamentary report said Sunday.

The report also said that women who reported serious sexual offences are “denied justice” by an inadequate military court system and complaints process.

And, the pigs trained and outfitted in “Israel,” for the most part, treating citizens like Palestinians — 9 arrested in violent clashes between Paris police, anti-vaccine protesters

a group of people wearing military uniforms: 9 arrested in violent clashes between Paris police, anti-vaccine protesters

Ah, the Aussies too, having their pig moments — Anti-lockdown protest: two men charged with allegedly striking police horse in Sydney

A police strike force has been established after an anti-lockdown rally on Saturday.

Ahh, islands on fire, Sardinia — Fires ravage Italian island of Sardinia, forcing evacuations

Cars are parked by the road as fires have been raging through the countryside in Cuglieri, near Oristano, Sardinia, Italy, early Sunday, July 25, 2021. Hundreds of people were evacuated from their homes in many small towns in the province of Oristano

Then, of course, water, fire, flood, death by a million safety net cuts, and then the Olympians are the networks, getting — how many billions does NBCV get for these absurdities, the Olympics, by 2023? $7.7 BILLION!

What we’re witnessing right now play out in Tokyo is unparalleled in the political history of the Olympics. And you’re pointing the finger in the right direction, when we think about the International Olympic Committee. The saga in Tokyo has exposed an International Olympic Committee that openly disrespects the will of locals, that brushes off inconvenient facts from experts, like medical experts, who have long been saying these games are a terrible idea. And the IOC tends to prioritize its profits over all else.

Meanwhile, the Olympics tend to kneecap democracy, undercut democracy, in ways that you describe, with the very prime minister essentially reduced to a contractual supplicant to the International Olympic Committee, with no power to decide whether to cancel or not. And you’re seeing also that everything is very vulnerable to things like COVID-19 and also, I think, climate change. So, when the International Olympic Committee arrives in the host city, it’s this parastate-type organization. But what we’ve seen time and time again, and now in Technicolor in Tokyo, is that it’s also a parasite on the host city.

There is a lot of money sloshing through the Olympic system. It just tends to slosh upwards into pockets that are already filled. NBC gives about 40% of the International Olympic Committee’s revenues. And overall, in terms of the Olympics, 73% of the revenues for the International Olympic Committee come from broadcaster fees. And I think that helps explain why they’re perfectly content to have a made-for-TV event without all those people in the stands. Of course, they’d prefer to have them in the stands, but even if they don’t, the money continues to flow into their coffers. NBC has announced that even though these games are hit with the pandemic and people won’t be in the seats, this could well be the most profitable Olympics ever for NBC because of ad sales and other measures.

The corporate sponsors provide another 18% of the revenues for the International Olympic Committee. And I think we’re seeing a really interesting divide between the corporate sponsors right now. On one hand, the sort of long-term, worldwide partners that fork over these nine-figure fees to be associated with the five rings, they’re basically playing the long game, with the exception of Toyota, which of course has strong base in Japan. The local sponsors, domestic sponsors — by which, by the way, they raised more than $3 billion from local corporate sponsors in Japan, more than ever before — they’re in a much trickier position. And I think that’s why you’re seeing Toyota basically say out loud that the Olympics have become a toxic property inside of Japan.

So, there’s plenty of money to be had. It just tends to shuffle to the International Olympic Committee, to broadcasters, to the corporate partners, as well as to real estate interests in the Olympic city. — Jules Boykoff

 

PHOTO: Water levels at Great Salt Lake are shown at its record in 1986, average in 2000 and new record low this weekend. (Utah Department of Natural Resources)

Oh, the great dysfunctional USA, Capitalism, etc. Think: Nazi Merkel and others in her cabinet blame the deaths of hundreds in Germany as a result of recent flooding on, oh well, “climate change and climate unpredictability . . . .”

Imagine that, the mayor of the town said:

We have had floods in this area for centuries. We have asked for help to mitigate the floods. We have had governments not responsive to the needs of people. Blaming climate change on incompetent and heartless neoliberal governments, on the excessive hording of money, the waste and corruption of trillions, stolen, given to billionaires, to the military complex, and other Corporate and Financial Complexes, then stating these German lives could not be saved because ‘climate change is so unpredictable, and just get used to it” serves the people the words from which to raise pitchforks, juice up the Molotov cocktails, grease the shotguns, tie the ropes and sharpen the guillotines for hanging and beheading deservedly so against the elite and their bed-fellows, the Eichmann Mentality, and the fascist leanings of Capitalism. This is the response of these people who go to climate change talks, who shuttling around the world in jets for Davos and World Economic Forums, for the bootlicking foisted upon us all to the murderers, the BlackRocks’s and Blackstone’s and World Bank and Goldman Sachs. You dictate those who did not get the chemical jab of Corona Capitalism will have lesser value in society, and then those smug ones who have succumbed to the pressure for yearly or twice-yearly boosters, they too will allow the rich and fascistic governments to make excuse after excuse as governments and towns go bankrupt, and all life saving services and community rights, vanish.

Well, he didn’t say that, of course, because I made it up and politicians do not speak about capitalism as the ultimate evil. However, one German mayor was in tears about the loss of life, and said it could have been prevented with a government and localities working together to mitigate floods. Whether once in a hundred years, or otherwise.

a person that is on fire

Dixie Fire rips through Sierra communities, with ‘extreme’ conditions likely to worsen

Hochwasser Dresden

Then, more of the 80-year-olds drilling down on destroying the young, the unborn, the middle aged — Some Americans could need COVID-19 vaccine booster – Fauci

a group of people walking down the street: People wear masks around Times Square, as cases of the infectious coronavirus Delta variant continue to rise in New York City, New York

So, we follow the way of “Israel” — We have given up as people, this unending multi-billions in profits, mercenary, war profiteering profits these companies are stealing from the taxpayers. Like the Military industrial complex, the Big Pharma and Private Medicine industrial complexes are eating our souls. And the rot-gut corporate media and those that echo the prevailing narratives, well, they too eat our souls.

“It’s a dynamic situation. It’s a work in progress, it evolves like in so many other areas of the pandemic,” said Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. “You’ve got to look at the data.”

Last week, Israel’s health ministry reported a decrease in the effectiveness of the Pfizer vaccine in preventing infections and symptomatic illness. But it added that the two-dose COVID-19 vaccine developed by Pfizer with partner BioNTech still remained highly effective in preventing severe illness.

The decline in efficacy coincided with the spread of the Delta variant, now the dominant strain in Israel.

Israel is administering third doses of the vaccine to immunocompromised people, including those who have had heart, lung, kidney or liver transplants and cancer patients receiving chemotherapy.

Pfizer and BioNTech said on Friday that the United States had purchased 200 million more doses of their vaccine to help with pediatric vaccination as well as possible booster shots.

No deep stories on that, uh? How and why so much money is being thrown at companies with histories of felonies? Here, this headline, censored everywhere — CDC “Panel Signals Support for Booster Shots, as Reports of Injuries, Deaths After COVID Vaccines Near 500,000

Oh, they salute the money makers, and we are a society going down down down because of the rich, the millionaires, the billionaires, and these fascists, saluting what?

FILE PHOTO: Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee hearing on federal government coronavirus disease (COVID-19) response in Washington

Here a local older woman, trying to make sense of the lock-step pro-lockdown, pro-mask, pro-anticivil liberties mentality of Oregonians, and their editorial boards:

Copy of my Letter to the Editor of the Eugene Register-Guard; it has been received but not published — I usually get pleasure from wordsmith Don Kahle’s clever articles. However, in his July 16 column he encouraged incentives to get more citizens injected with an unlicensed, unapproved experimental gene procedure to lessen symptoms from a viral disease with a better than 99% recovery rate for most age groups.

A review of history is needed. In 1986, Congress passed a law that allowed pharmaceutical companies ZERO liability from damages from their vaccine products. The PREP act is the latest iteration which gives drug companies immunity from damages caused by their vaccines.

The Vaccine Adverse Effects Reporting System was established in 1990 by the CDC and FDA to monitor damages and deaths caused by vaccines. Although the system is voluntary and underreported, as of this writing, VAERS data showed a total of 463,457 adverse events from all age groups following COVID vaccines, including 10,991 deaths and 48,385 serious injuries since Dec. 14, 2020. Serious injuries include myocarditis, pericarditis, paralysis, neurological disorders, blood clots, irregular menstrual bleeding, and more.

Drug companies are poised to earn billions of dollars from vaccine sales, mostly paid for by our taxes. “Safe and effective” is a marketing slogan and is inaccurate. Mr. Kahle, I urge you to do investigative journalism regarding germ theory vs. terrain theory. Rather than promoting pills and injections, it makes sense that public health funds should be spent on improved sanitation, hygiene, nutrition and exercise guidance for individuals and communities and to promote decentralized, regenerative, organic agriculture on a global scale.

It’s easy to say to this person that this opinion letter to the editor will not be published since the newspaper (sic) will deem the information as faux, false, and dangerous. This is the way of the present, and no matter how “alternative” or “left” the rag, those old hippies are indeed fascists, one and all, in many cases, in this case, with the Corona Capitalism. Sick stuff, capitalism crunched all up in Big Media, Big Lies, Big Propaganda:

Fireworks explode during the opening ceremony in the Olympic Stadium at the 2020 Summer Olympics, Friday, July 23, 2021, in Tokyo, Japan. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
[The opening ceremony is being held in Tokyo’s National Stadium, but the 80,000-seat arena, built for this purpose, is largely empty. Fewer than 1,000 VIP guests have been invited to attend. Spectators have also been barred from sporting events throughout the games. The 2020 Olympic Games were originally scheduled to take place a year ago but were postponed due to the pandemic.]

Ahh, we can go on and on about how we got here, 2021, but a great thing is we saw it in the history books.

[The blacklisted mathematics instructor Chandler Davis, after serving six months in the Danbury federal penitentiary for refusing to cooperate with the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC), warned the universities that ousted him and thousands of other professors that the purges would decimate the country’s intellectual life.]

Chandler Davis — 1995 talk!

“Shooting Rats in a Barrel”: Did the Red-hunt Win?

These years, 1947-1950, established the ground rules that remained in force for the decade that followed. Most institutions, from the government through the unions and universities to the American Civil Liberties Union (yes, I said the American Civil Liberties Union), declared Communists unwelcome. Among the means used to exclude them were loyalty oaths, often including the phrase “I am not a member of the Communist Party or any other organization which…” It became glaringly obvious, that employers, in particular universities, would shy away from hiring anyone who might be attacked as a Communist; a reputation as a student radical was thus enough to make one a bad bet for an academic job; so student radicals became (in a few short years) very scarce. University administrators would occasionally say, if asked, that there were no Communists on the staff; but they hoped they wouldn’t be asked. The FBI and the Red Squads of state and some local police forces kept files on thousands. They had a reputation for exceeding legal restraints in interrogation and for keeping very dubious material in their files; later research bears this out. They cooperated (when it suited their own agenda) with employers who were cleansing their staffs. This put them in an ambivalent relation to the federal government in particular. The FBI’s J. Edgar Hoover, while nominally responsible to the Attorney General, sometimes cooperated covertly with Congressional exposés of government agencies.

Most universities wouldn’t even let left-wingers speak on campus under auspices of a student group! Paul Robeson, Howard Fast, and Dirk J. Struik are among those banned by administrations in the early 50s. By the late 50s, the invitations had dried up.

It was further established that one could be imprisoned for Communist Party activity itself, at least if one were a leader: the Supreme Court upheld in 1951 the conspiracy convictions against the CP officers under the Smith Act. The government maintained concentration camps in which it could incarcerate thousands of dangerous people if it declared a national emergency to exist, and everyone knew whom they considered dangerous. (These camps were invented by the “liberal” senators in 1952 in an attempt to show voters that they were just as security-conscious as the Right. But though they originated as a mere tactic, they were not merely on paper, they existed physically. I was told this in casual conversation in 1955 by an acquaintance who was employed at a federal prison — a prison, it happens, where I became an inmate five years later. The story would be better if the guard had looked me up and said hello to me then, but — sorry — we were no longer in touch.)

These words from Davis to Chris Hedges are just the same today, for MANY of us, who have been marginalized, Google Searched into the Poor House:

Though you see the remnants of the former academic left still, though some of us were never fired, though I return to the United States from my exile frequently, we are gone,” he said. “We did not survive as we were. Some of us saved our skins without betraying others or ourselves. But almost all of the targets either did crumble or were fired and blacklisted. David Bohm and Moses Finley and Jules Dassin and many less celebrated people were forced into exile. Most of the rest had to leave the academic world. A few suffered suicide or other premature death. There weren’t the sort of wholesale casualties you saw in Argentina or El Salvador, but the Red-hunt did succeed in axing a lot of those it went after, and cowing most of the rest. We were out, and we were kept out. — “The Origin of America’s Intellectual Vacuum”

See the source image
See the source image

Finally, read David Rovics’ blog, and he is now in Denmark playing live crowds. I feel badly for him, he being accused of antisemitism, and he is being doxxed, and his Wikipedia has been changed but “crowd-souring” folk.

Blog —

Confessions of an Ecumenical Leftist

It seems a ridiculous thing to have to say, but I think intellectual discourse is generally a very good thing, rather than something to be stopped at all costs.

I’m realizing that most people who come across something I wrote don’t seem to have read anything else I’ve ever written, and haven’t listened to my music.  This post is going to be especially personal, so it’s important that you have some idea who I am first.

I’m 54 years old, and I’ve been some kind of an activist since I was 12.  I learn a little more with each passing year on Earth, but lately the pace has accelerated, along with everything else.  I was raised by musicians, and I became one myself early on.  When I started writing songs about different social movement activities and notable moments in history from around the US and the world, I started meeting more and more people from everywhere, and touring everywhere, too.  As a songwriter and performer I’ve been able to participate in social movements on an ongoing basis in a dozen or so countries, spending most of my adult life on the road, doing that.

Although the campaigners may be few, I have seen these campaigns work again and again.  You spread enough rumors, they dominate the narrative.  There are already people updating my Wikipedia entry to inform people that accusations of my alleged antisemitism are “in the news.”  Of course, they’re “in the news” because there have been news stories written about the campaign against me — not because any serious person has ever accused me of antisemitism, with any basis for their claim, aside from failing to find the anti-Semitic bits in a book, and wanting to talk to people with disparate viewpoints who may have deep insight into how we might prevent a fascist future in America, regardless of anything else.

Of course, Wikipedia and Google and the rest are propaganda and government run and ZIonist outfits, for sure:

Indeed, already in 2007, researchers found that CIA and FBI employees were editing Wikipedia articles on controversial topics including the Iraq war and the Guantanamo military prison.

Also in 2007, researchers found that one of the most active and influential English Wikipedia administrators, called “Slim Virgin”, was in fact a former British intelligence informer.

More recently, another highly prolific Wikipedia editor going by the false name of “Philip Cross” turned out to be linked to UK intelligence as well as several mainstream media journalists.

In Germany, one of the most aggressive Wikipedia editors was exposed, after a two-year legal battle, as a political operative formerly serving in the Israeli army as a foreign volunteer.

Even in Switzerland, unidentified government employees were caught whitewashing Wikipedia entries about the Swiss secret service just prior to a public referendum about the agency.

Many of these Wikipedia personae are editing articles almost all day and every day, indicating that they are either highly dedicated individuals, or in fact, operated by a group of people.

In addition, articles edited by these personae cannot easily be revised, since the above-mentioned administrators can always revert changes or simply block disagreeing users altogether. (Source)

There you have it, on a Sunday, just cruising through the shit-storm news of the shit-hole Mass Murdering Media!

See the source image
The post Out to Lunch: The Atrophying of Western Minds first appeared on Dissident Voice.

ALL News is Fake News

On July 20, 2021, the Milwaukee Bucks won the National Basketball Association (NBA) championship. Their MVP was Giannis Antetokounmpo, a.k.a. “The Greek Freak.” His performance in the deciding game was stellar and this sent the sports media world in a predictable series of paroxysms. Antetokounmpo was virtually inducted into the Hall of Fame overnight by traffic-hungry sports reporters who succumbed to recency bias. There are far too many examples to list but here’s the title of one such article: “Giannis is achieving greatness faster than Jordan or LeBron.”

Reality check: NO ONE logs onto a sports website or tunes into a sports show to hear a reasoned take. They do not want to hear: “Giannis played extremely well but it’s a little early to crown him. Let’s appreciate his accomplishments for now and then see what next year brings.” They very much want to hear something like: “Giannis now owns this league. He is undoubtedly the best player in the game if not of all time!”

Follow any business website for a week and you’ll see the same dynamic in action. Every Dow Jones dip is a sign of a recession. Each slight increase heralds the beginning of full economic recovery. Also, of course, this is the absolute norm when it comes to coverage of political or social topics. After the January 6 storming of the Capitol, no reporter on earth would risk a prudent approach. It was either an armed insurrection or just another ploy to damage Trump. No one cautioned: “Let’s give this a few days until we can sort out the facts and craft an informed opinion.” Then you have the pandemic with its non-stop barrage of fear-inducing clickbait headlines designed to rattle our brains and secure our full attention. If you’re not hiding from variants while genuflecting at the altar of Big Pharma, you’re an outcast.

After a few days, of course, the NBA and Wall Street and Washington and Fauci are usually singing a different tune. But, it’s too late. The seeds have been planted and a well-programmed public has already moved on to ingesting overreactions about today’s “news.” In such an environment, ALL news is fake news and that’s precisely what the powers-that-be love. It makes their shareholders and advertisers happy while keeping the target audience drooling and begging for more — ready to give their lives in the name of defending their newly implanted opinions. 

There comes a point where consuming mainstream news — from any network — is tantamount to complicity. You are willingly and knowingly subjecting yourself to insidious and faulty programming. Breaking news: You don’t have to spend all day watching TV and/or scrolling your news feed. In fact, avoiding both of these things is the only way to maintain your faculties for critical thought.

The post ALL News is Fake News first appeared on Dissident Voice.

A Remarkable Silence: Media Blackout After Key Witness Against Assange Admits Lying

As we have pointed out since Media Lens began in 2001, a fundamental feature of corporate media is propaganda by omission. Over the past week, a stunning example has highlighted this core property once again.

A major witness in the US case against Julian Assange has just admitted fabricat­ing key accusati­ons in the indictment against the Wikileaks founder. These dramatic revelations emerged in an extensive article published on 26 June in Stundin, an Icelandic newspaper. The paper interviewed the witness, Sigurdur Ingi Thordarson, a former WikiLeaks volunteer, who admitted that he had made false allegations against Assange after being recruited by US authorities. Thordarson, who has several convictions for sexual abuse of minors and financial fraud, began working with the US Department of Justice and the FBI after receiving a promise of immunity from prosecution. He even admitted to continuing his crime spree while working with the US authorities.

Last summer, US officials had presented an updated version of their indictment against Assange to Magistrate Court Judge Vanessa Baraitser at the Old Bailey in London. Key to this update was the assertion that Assange had instructed Thordarson to commit computer intrusions or hacking in Iceland.

As the Stundin article reported:

‘The aim of this addition to the indictment was apparently to shore up and support the conspiracy charge against Assange in relation to his interactions with Chelsea Manning. Those occurred around the same time he resided in Iceland and the authors of the indictment felt they could strengthen their case by alleging he was involved in illegal activity there as well. This activity was said to include attempts to hack into the computers of members of [the Icelandic] parliament and record their conversations.

‘In fact, Thordarson now admits to Stundin that Assange never asked him to hack or access phone recordings of MPs.’

Judge Baraitser’s ruling on 4 January, 2021 was against extradition to the US. But she did so purely on humanitarian grounds concerning Assange’s health, suicide risk and the extreme conditions he would face in confinement in US prisons.

The Stundin article continued:

‘With regards to the actual accusations made in the indictment Baraitser sided with the arguments of the American legal team, including citing the specific samples from Iceland which are now seriously called into question.

‘Other misleading elements can be found in the indictment, and later reflected in the Magistrate’s judgement, based on Thordarson’s now admitted lies.’

The Stundin article further details Thordarson’s lies and deceptions, including mispresenting himself as an official representative of WikiLeaks while a volunteer in 2010-2011, even impersonating Assange, and embezzling more than $50,000 from the organisation.

By August 2011, Thordarson was being pursued by WikiLeaks staff trying to locate the missing funds. In fact, Thordarson had arranged for the money to be sent to his private bank account by forging an email in Assange’s name. That month, Thordarson sought a way out by contacting the US Embassy in Iceland, offering to be an informant in the case against Assange.

Stundin noted:

‘within 48 hrs a private jet landed in Reykjavik with around eight [US] agents who quickly set up meetings with Thordarson and with people from the Icelandic State Prosecutors office and the State Police Commissioner.’

But it turned out that the US officers did not have permission from the Icelandic government to operate in the country and Ögmundur Jónasson, then Iceland’s minister of interior, ordered them to leave. Meanwhile, the FBI were allegedly complicit in DDoS (distributed denial-of-service) attacks on the websites of several Iceland government institutions. The FBI had then approached Icelandic authorities, promising to assist them in preventing any future such attacks. In reality, the approach was a ruse to fool Iceland into cooperation in an attempt to entrap Assange.

Jónasson said that the Americans:

‘were trying to use things here [in Iceland] and use people in our country to spin a web, a cobweb that would catch Julian Assange.’

The US officials left Iceland, flying to Denmark, but taking with them their new informant and ‘star witness’, Thordarson.

Stundin reported:

The meeting in Denmark was the first of a few where the FBI enthusiastically embraced the idea of co-operation with Thordarson. He says they wanted to know everything about WikiLeaks, including physical security of staff. They took material he had gathered, including data he had stolen from WikiLeaks employees and even planned to send him to England with a wire. Thordarson claimed in interviews he had refused that particular request. It was probably because he was not welcomed anymore as he knew WikiLeaks people had found out, or were about to firmly establish, that he had embezzled funds from the organization.’

However:

‘After months of collaboration the FBI seem to have lost interest. At about the same time charges were piling up against Thordarson with the Icelandic authorities for massive fraud, forgeries and theft on the one hand and for sexual violations against underage boys he had tricked or forced into sexual acts on the other.

‘After long investigations Thordarson was sentenced in 2013 and 2014 and received relatively lenient sentences as the judge took into account that he changed his plea at court and pleaded guilty to all counts.’

The article continued:

‘Incarceration did not seem to have an intended effect of stopping Thordarson from continuing his life of crime. It actually took off and expanded in extent and scope in 2019 when the Trump-era DoJ [Department of Justice] decided to revisit him, giving him a formal status as witness in the prosecution against Julian Assange and granting him immunity in return from any prosecution.’

A ‘Sociopath’ Who ‘Lied To Get Immunity’

Under President Obama, the US Department of Justice had decided against indicting Assange, despite devoting huge resources to building a case against him. The stumbling block was ‘The New York Times Problem’: the difficulty in distinguishing between WikiLeaks publications and NYT publications of the same material. In other words, prosecuting WikiLeaks would pose grave First Amendment risks for even ‘respectable’ media such as the NYT.

But this changed after Trump took office. Stundin explained:

‘President Donald Trump’s appointed Attorney general William Barr did not share these concerns, and neither did his Trump-appointed deputy Kellen S. Dwyer. Barr, who faced severe criticism for politicizing the DoJ on behalf of the president, got the ball rolling on the Assange case once again. Their argument was that if they could prove he was a criminal rather than a journalist the charges would stick, and that was where Thordarson’s testimony would be key.

‘In May 2019 Thordarson was offered an immunity deal, signed by Dwyer, that granted him immunity from prosecution based on any information on wrong doing they had on him. The deal, seen in writing by Stundin, also guarantees that the DoJ would not share any such information to other prosecutorial or law enforcement agencies. That would include Icelandic ones, meaning that the Americans will not share information on crimes he might have committed threatening Icelandic security interests – and the Americans apparently had plenty of those but had over the years failed to share them with their Icelandic counterparts.’

Thordarson’s offer of an immunity deal came the month following Assange’s forced removal from the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, most likely with US connivance, and subsequent incarceration in the high-security Belmarsh prison.

It is not clear from the Stundin article why Thordarson has now decided to come clean. But the Stundin journalists noted that a psychiatric assessment that had been submitted to an Icelandic court before he was sentenced diagnosed him as a sociopath:

‘incapable of remorse but still criminally culpable for his actions. He was assessed to be able to understand the basic difference between right and wrong. He just did not seem to care.’

In a new blog piece discussing these revelations, Craig Murray, who had reported from the Old Bailey during the Assange extradition hearing, referred back to the final day of proceedings. Magistrate Baraitser had refused to accept an affidavit from Assange’s solicitor Gareth Peirce addressing the updated indictment on the grounds it was out of time:

‘The affidavit explained that the defence had been unable to respond to the new accusations in the United States government’s second superseding indictment, because these wholly new matters had been sprung on them just six weeks before the hearing resumed on 8 September 2020.

‘The defence had not only to gather evidence from Iceland, but had virtually no access to Assange to take his evidence and instructions, as he was effectively in solitary confinement in Belmarsh. The defence had requested an adjournment to give them time to address the new accusations, but this adjournment had been refused by Baraitser.

‘She now refused to accept Gareth Peirce’s affidavit setting out these facts.’

Even before the Stundin article was published five days ago, Thordarson’s testimony should have already been recognised as suspect, to say the least. As WikiLeaks noted last year:

‘The “Star Witness” of the new superseding indictment is a diagnosed sociopath/ convicted conman/ child abuser/ FBI informant who was found guilty in Iceland of impersonating #Assange

The recent Stundin revelations that the updated US indictment against Assange rests on now-admitted lies means that the FBI case is demonstrably a travesty.

US policy analyst Gareth Porter noted:

‘It’s now clearer than ever before that the U.S. indictment of #Assange is based on fraud. A key accuser admits he lied to the help set up Assange. How much evidence does the Justice Department need stop this criminal abuse of power?’

As the famous US whistleblower Edward Snowden tweeted:

‘This is the end of the case against Julian Assange.’

Or, as journalist Glenn Greenwald followed up, more realistically:

‘It should be.’

Jennifer Robinson, a human rights attorney who has been advising Assange and WikiLeaks since 2010, told Democracy Now:

‘The factual basis for this case has completely fallen apart.’

Robinson pointed out:

‘the evidence from Thordarson that was given to the United States and formed the basis of the second, superseding indictment, including allegations of hacking, has now been, on his own admission, demonstrated to have been fabricated [our emphasis]. Not only did he misrepresent his access to Julian Assange and to WikiLeaks and his association with Julian Assange, he has now admitted that he made up and falsely misrepresented to the United States that there was any association with WikiLeaks and any association with hacking.

‘So, this is just the latest revelation to demonstrate why the U.S. case should be dropped.’

Robinson expanded:

‘it’s significant that the initial indictment for Julian Assange related only to the publications back in 2010, 2011, the Chelsea Manning publications. It was a second, superseding indictment, introduced by the Trump administration, which was based upon Thordarson’s evidence [our emphasis]. Now, any lawyer and even any layperson would be looking at evidence from a convicted felon, who had been convicted of forgery, fraud and sexual abuse allegations associated with minors. That is a problematic source. Now we have him admitting that he lied to the FBI about that evidence. This raises serious concerns about the integrity of this investigation and the integrity of this criminal prosecution, and serious questions ought to be being asked within the Department of Justice about this prosecution and the fact that it is continuing at all.’

The headline of the article accompanying Robinson’s interview put it succinctly:

‘U.S. Case Against Julian Assange Falls Apart, as Key Witness Says He Lied to Get Immunity’

Tumbleweed In The ‘MSM’

But all of this is seemingly of no interest to the ‘mainstream’ media. We have not found a single report by any ‘serious’ UK broadcaster or newspaper. Journalist Matt Kennard, head of investigations at Declassified UK, observed fully two days after the story broke:

‘I don’t think one US or UK newspaper has reported this. The free press is incredible.’

Several days on, the ‘mainstream’ media silence is truly remarkable. As we remarked via Twitter:

‘The discipline, or blindness, to ignore awkward facts is a reliable feature of corporate “journalism”’

Of course, it is possible that we have missed something, somewhere in the ‘MSM’; perhaps a brief item at 3am on the BBC World Service. But in a sane world, Stundin’s revelations about a key Assange witness – that Thordarson lied in exchange for immunity from prosecution – would have been headline news everywhere, with extensive media coverage on BBC News at Six and Ten, ITV News, Channel 4 News, front-page stories in the Times, Telegraph, the Guardian and more. The silence is quite extraordinary; and disturbing. Caitlin Johnstone described it as a ‘weird, creepy media blackout’:

‘not one major western media outlet outside of Iceland has reported on this massive and entirely legitimate news story. A search brings up coverage by Icelandic media, by Russian media, and by smaller western outlets like Democracy NowWorld Socialist WebsiteConsortium NewsZero Hedge and some others, but as of this writing this story has been completely ignored by all major outlets who are ostensibly responsible for informing the public in the western world.’

Johnstone continued:

‘It’s not that those outlets have been ignoring Assange altogether these last few days either. Reuters recently published an interview with Assange’s fiance Stella Moris. Evening Standard has a recent article out on Assange’s plans to marry Moris in Belmarsh, as does Deutsche Welle. It’s just this one story in particular that they’ve been blacking out completely.’

She offered an explanation for the silence across the media:

‘they’re all generally following the lead of just a handful of top-tier publications like The New York TimesThe Washington PostThe Wall Street Journal and The Guardian. If just those few outlets decide to ignore a major news story that’s inconvenient for the powerful (either by persuasion, infiltration or by their own initiative), then no one else will either. As far as the media-consuming public is concerned, it’s like the major news story never happened at all.’

More fundamentally:

‘Western mass media outlets are propaganda. They are owned and controlled by wealthy people in coordination with the secretive government agencies tasked with preserving the world order upon which the media-owning plutocrats have built their kingdoms, and their purpose is to manipulate the way the mainstream public thinks, acts and votes into alignment with the agendas of the ruling class.

‘You see this propaganda in the way things are reported, but you also see it in the way things are not reported. Entire news stories can be completely redacted from mainstream attention if they are sufficiently inconvenient for the mechanisms of empire, or only allowed in via platforms like Tucker Carlson Tonight and thereby tainted and spun as ridiculous right-wing conspiracy theories.’

Our polite challenges to Paul Royall, editor of BBC News at Six and Ten, and Katharine Viner, editor of the Guardian, went unanswered, despite multiple retweets and follow-up queries by other Twitter users. Of course, this is the standard non-response of even the ‘best’ state-corporate media to uncomfortable questions.

As we have often observed, the establishment media relentlessly warn of the insidious nature of ‘fake news’: a claim that does have a seed of validity. But it is the state-corporate media themselves who are the primary purveyors of fake news. As Tim Coles, author of ‘Real Fake News’, commented:

‘Whenever people in power tell you that fake news is undermining democracy, they really mean that alternative sources of information are challenging their grip on power.’

In fact, the most dangerous component of ‘MSM’ fake news is arguably propaganda by omission. In ostensible ‘democracies’, the public cannot make informed decisions, and take appropriate action, when the crimes of ruling elites are kept hidden by a complicit media.

The post A Remarkable Silence: Media Blackout After Key Witness Against Assange Admits Lying first appeared on Dissident Voice.

What happened to Glenn Greenwald? Trump happened and put the left’s priorities to the test

There’s been a new public fracturing of the intellectual left, typified by an essay last week from Nathan J Robinson, editor of the small, independent, socialist magazine Current Affairs, accusing Glenn Greenwald and Matt Taibbi of bolstering the right’s arguments. He is the more reasonable face of what seems to be a new industry arguing that Greenwald is a wolf in sheep’s clothing, setting the right’s agenda for it.

Under the title “How to end up serving the right”, Robinson claims that Greenwald and Taibbi, once his intellectual heroes, are – inadvertently or otherwise – shoring up the right’s positions and weakening the left. He accuses them of reckless indifference to the consequences of criticising a “liberal” establishment and making common cause with the right’s similar agenda. Both writers, argues Robinson, have ignored the fact that the right wields the greatest power in our societies.

This appears to be a continuation of a fight Robinson picked last year with Krystal Ball, the leftwing, former co-host of a popular online politics show called The Rising. Robinson attacked her for sharing her platform with the conservative pundit Saagar Enjeti. Ball and Enjeti have since struck out on their own, recently launching a show called Breaking Points.

Notably, Greenwald invited Robinson on to his own YouTube channel to discuss these criticisms of Ball when Robinson first made them. In my opinion, Robinson emerged from that exchange looking more than a little bruised.

As with his clash with Ball, there are problems with Robinson’s fuzzy political definitions.

Somewhat ludicrously in his earlier tussle, he lumped together Enjeti, a thoughtful right wing populist, with figures like Donald Trump and Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro, both of them narcissists and authoritarians (of varying degrees of competence) that have donned the garb of populism, as authoritarians tend to do.

Similarly, Robinson’s current disagreements with Greenwald and Taibbi stem in part from a vague formulation – one he seems partially to concede – of what constitutes the “left”. Greenwald has always struck me more as a progressive libertarian than a clearcut socialist like Robinson. Differences of political emphasis and priorities are inevitable. They are also healthy.

And much of Robinson’s essay is dedicated to cherrypicking a handful of tweets from Greenwald and Taibbi to make his case. Greenwald, in particular, is a prolific tweeter. And given the combative and polarising arena of Twitter, it would be quite astonishing had he not occasionally advanced his arguments without the nuance demanded by Robinson.

Overall, Robinson’s case against both Greenwald and Taibbi is far less persuasive than he appears to imagine.

Stifling coverage

But the reason I think it worth examining his essay is because it demonstrates a more fundamental split on what – for the sake of convenience – I shall treat as a broader intellectual left that includes Robinson, Greenwald and Taibbi.

Robinson tries to prop up his argument that Greenwald, in particular, is betraying the left and legitimising the right with an argument from authority, citing some of the left’s biggest icons.

Two, Naomi Klein and Jeremy Scahill, are former journalist colleagues of Greenwald’s at the Intercept, the billionaire-financed online news publication that he co-founded and eventually split from after it broke an editorial promise not to censor his articles.

Greenwald fell out with the editors in spectacularly public fashion late last year after they stifled his attempts to write about the way Silicon Valley and liberal corporate media outlets – not unlike the Intercept – were colluding to stifle negative coverage of Joe Biden in the run-up to the presidential election, in a desperate bid to ensure he beat Trump.

Greenwald’s public statements about his reasons for leaving the Intercept exposed what were effectively institutional failings there – and implicated those like Scahill and Klein who had actively or passively colluded in the editorial censorship of its co-founder. Klein and Scahill are hardly dispassionate commentators on Greenwald when they accuse him of “losing the plot” and “promoting smears”. They have skin in the game.

But Robinson may think his trump (sic) card is an even bigger left icon, Noam Chomsky, who is quoted saying of Greenwald: “He’s a friend, has done wonderful things, I don’t understand what is happening now… I hope it will pass.”

The problem with this way of presenting Greenwald is that the tables can be easily turned. Over the past few years, my feeds – and I am sure others’ – have been filled with followers asking versions of “What happened to Chomsky?” or “What happened to Amy Goodman and Democracy Now?”

The answer to these very reductive questions – what happened to Greenwald and what happened to Chomsky – is the same. Trump happened. And their different responses are illustrative of the way the left polarised during the Trump presidency and how it continues to divide in the post-Trump era.

Authoritarian thinking

Robinson treats the Trump factor – what we might term Post-Traumatic Trump Disorder – as though it is irrelevant to his analysis of Greenwald and Taibbi. And yet it lies at the heart of the current tensions on the left. In its simplest terms, the split boils down to the question of how dangerous Trump really was and is, and what that means for the left in terms of its political responses.

Unlike Robinson, I don’t think it is helpful to personalise this. Instead, we should try to understand what has happened to left politics more generally in the Trump and post-Trump era.

Parts of the left joined liberals in becoming fixated on Trump as a uniquely evil and dangerous presence in US politics. Robinson notes that Trump posed an especial and immediate threat to our species’ survival through his denial of climate change, and on these grounds alone every effort had to be made to remove him.

Others on the left recoil from this approach. They warn that, by fixating on Trump, elements of the left have drifted into worryingly authoritarian ways of thinking – sometimes openly, more often implicitly – as a bulwark against the return of Trump or anyone like him.

The apotheosis of such tendencies was the obsession, shared alike by liberals and some on the left, with Russiagate. This supposed scandal highlighted in stark fashion the extreme dangers of focusing on a single figure, in Trump, rather than addressing the wider, corrupt political structures that produced him.

It was not just the massive waste of time and energy that went into trying to prove the unprovable claims of Trump’s collusion with the Kremlin – resources that would have been far better invested in addressing Trump’s real crimes, which were being committed out in the open.

It was that the politically tribal Trump-Russia narrative engulfed and subverted a meaningful politics of resistance. It snared those like Wikileaks founder Julian Assange who had been trying to break open the black box of western politics. It fortified the US security services after they had been exposed by Edward Snowden’s revelations as secretly and illegally conducting mass spying on the public’s communications. It breathed a dangerous credibility into the corrupt Democratic party machine after its embarrassment over engineering Hillary Clinton’s presidential candidacy. And it revived the fortunes of an increasingly discredited liberal media that quickly won large ratings by promoting fabulists like Rachel Maddow.

Those on the left who tried to challenge Russiagate in order to focus on real political issues were stigmatised as Putin’s puppets, their arguments were labelled “fake news”, and they were gradually algorithmed into social media purdah.

Under the Russiagate banner, parts of the left were soon rallying, however reluctantly, behind corporate champions of the planet-destroying status quo.

But it was even worse than that. The fixation on the obviously hollow Russiagate narrative by the Democratic Party, the corporate media, Silicon Valley, and the US intelligence agencies served to prove to wide swaths of conservative America that Trump was right when he berated a “liberal” establishment for being invested only in its own self-preservation and not caring about ordinary Americans.

Russiagate did not just divide the left, it dramatically strengthened the right.

Free speech dangers

Robinson knows all this, at least intellectually, but perhaps because Trump looms so large in his thinking he does not weigh the significance in the same terms as Greenwald and Taibbi.

The problem with characterising Trump as a supremely evil figure is that all sorts of authoritarian political conclusions flow from that characterisation – precisely the political conclusions we have seen parts of the left adopting. Robinson may not expressly share these conclusions but, unlike Greenwald and Taibbi, he has largely ignored or downplayed the threat they present.

If Trump poses a unique danger to democracy, then to avoid any recurrence:

  • We are obligated to rally uncritically, or at least very much less critically, behind whoever was selected to be his opponent. Following Trump’s defeat, we are dutybound to restrain our criticisms of the winner, Joe Biden, however poor his performance, in case it opens the door to Trump, or someone like Trump, standing for the presidency in four years’ time.
  • We must curb free speech and limit the free-for-all of social media in case it contributed to the original surge of support for Trump, or created the more febrile political environment in which Trump flourished.
  • We must eradicate all signs of populism, whether on the right or the left, because we cannot be sure that in a battle of populisms the left will defeat the right, or that left wing populism cannot be easily flipped into right wing populism.
  • And most importantly, we must learn to distrust “the masses” – those who elected Trump – because they have demonstrated that they are too easily swayed by emotion, prejudice and charisma. Instead, we must think in more traditional liberal terms, of rule by technocrats and “experts” who can be trusted to run our societies largely in secret but provide a stability that should keep any Trumps out of power.

Greenwald and Taibbi have been focusing precisely on this kind of political fallout from the Trump presidency. And it looks suspiciously like this, as much as anything else, is what is antagonising Robinson and others.

Greenwald’s own experiences at the Intercept underline his concerns. It was not just that Greenwald was forced out over his efforts late last year to talk about the documents found on Hunter Biden’s laptop and the questions they raised about his father, the man who was about to become US president. It was that the Intercept stopped Greenwald from talking about how the entire liberal corporate media and all of Silicon Valley were actively conspiring to crush any attempt to talk about those documents and their significance – and not on the basis of whether they were genuine or not.

Greenwald walked away from what amounted to a very well-paid sinecure at the Intercept to highlight this all-out assault on democratic discourse and the election process – an assault whose purpose was not the search for truth but to prevent any danger of Trump being re-elected. By contrast, in a tweet thread that has not aged well, Robinson along with many others quibbled about the specifics of Greenwald’s case and whether it amounted to censorship, very much ignoring the wood for the trees.

Greenwald and Taibbi talk so much about the role of the traditional media and Silicon Valley because they understand that the media’s professed liberalism – claims to be protecting the rights of women, ethnic minorities and the trans community – is a very effective way of prettifying corporate authoritarianism, an authoritarianism the left claims to be fighting but has readily endorsed once it has been given a liberal makeover.

It is not that the “liberal” establishment – the corporate media, Silicon Valley, the intelligence services – is actually liberal. It is that liberals have come increasingly to identify with that establishment as sharing their values.

For this reason, Robinson obscures the real nature of the divide on the left when he discusses the power of the Supreme Court. He criticises Greenwald and Taibbi for ignoring the fact that the right exercises absolute power through its packing of the court with rightwing judges. He accuses them of instead unfairly emphasising the power exercised by this “liberal” establishment.

But despite Robinson’s claims, the Supreme Court very obviously doesn’t wield “all the power”, even with its veto over legislation and actions of the administration. Because an even greater power is invested in those institutions that can control the public’s ability to access and interpret information; to find out what is being done in the shadows; and to make choices based on that information, including about who should represent them.

Information control and narrative management are the deepest forms of power because they shape our ability to think critically, to resist propaganda, to engage in dialogue and to forge alliances that might turn the tide against a profoundly corrupt establishment that includes both the Supreme Court and Silicon Valley. Robinson ignores this point in his essay, even though it is fundamental to assessing “What happened to Greenwald and Taibbi?”. A commitment to keeping channels of information open and ensuring dialogue continues, even in the post-Trump era, is what happened to them.

Hard drives smashed

The crux of Robinson’s argument is that Greenwald and Taibbi have made a pact with the devil, gradually chaining their more progressive credentials to a Trumpian rightwing populism to defeat the “liberal” establishment. That, Robinson suggests, will only strengthen and embolden the right, and ensure the return of a Trump.

The evidence Robinson and others adduce for Greenwald’s betrayal, in particular, are his now regular appearances on Tucker Carlson’s Fox News show, where Greenwald and Carlson often find common ground against the authoritarian excesses of that same “liberal” establishment.

That should not surprise us. Carlson and the right have an interest in the break-up of Silicon Valley’s tech monopolies that favour a Democratic Party authoritarianism over their own Republican Party authoritarianism. Greenwald has an interest in the break-up of Silicon Valley’s tech monopolies too but for a very different reason: because he is against monopolies designed to keep the public propagandised and manipulated.

Opposing them both is an authoritarian “liberal” establishment – the Democratic Party, traditional corporate media, Silicon Valley, the intelligence services – that have every interest in perpetuating their control over the tech monopolies.

Robinson contrasts Greenwald’s behaviour to his own clean hands as the editor of the small socialist magazine, Current Affairs.

But we should note that Robinson has compromised himself far more than he cares to admit. For several years he used the liberal corporate outlet of the Guardian as a platform from which to present a watered-down version of his own socialist politics. To do so, he had to ignore the paper’s appalling record of warmongering abroad and of subverting socialists like Jeremy Corbyn at home.

Robinson finally came unstuck when a Guardian editor effectively fired him for writing a satirical tweet about the huge sums of aid given by the US to Israel each year to kill and maim Palestinians under occupation and destroy their infrastructure.

One can debate whether it is wise for the left to use essentially hostile corporate platforms – liberal or conservative – to advance its arguments. But that is not the debate Robinson is trying to provoke. And for obvious reasons: because in piggybacking on the Guardian, Robinson did what Greenwald has done in piggybacking on Tucker Carlson. Both have used the reach of a larger corporate outlet to build their audience and expand the number of people exposed to their more progressive ideas.

There is an apparent difference, though. In Robinson’s case, he has admitted with impressive frankness that he would have been willing to self-censor on Israel had he been told by the Guardian beforehand that speaking out was likely to cost him his job. That sets his own position apart from Greenwald, who decided to walk from the Intercept rather than allow his work to be censored.

Nonetheless, it is far from clear, as Robinson assumes, that liberal corporate outlets are a safer bet for the left to ally with than rightwing corporate outlets.

Greenwald, remember, was eased out of the “liberal” Guardian many years before Robinson’s sacking after he brought the paper the glory associated with the Snowden revelations while also incurring the intelligence services’ wrath. Those revelations exposed the dark underbelly of the US national security state under the “liberal” presidency of Barack Obama, not Trump. And years later, Greenwald was again pushed out, this time from the supposedly even more “liberal” Intercept as part of its efforts to protect Biden, Obama’s Democratic party successor.

Greenwald wasn’t dispatched from these publications for being too righ-twing. Tensions escalated at the Guardian over the security service backlash to Greenwald’s unwavering commitment to free speech and transparency – just as the Guardian earlier fell out with Assange faced with the security services’ retaliation for Wikileaks’ exposure of western war crimes.

The Guardian’s own commitment to transparency was surrendered with its agreement to carry out the UK security services’ demand that it smash hard drives packed with Snowden’s secrets. The destruction of those files may have been largely symbolic (there were copies in the possession of the New York Times) but the message it sent to the left and to the UK intelligence agencies was clear enough: from now on, the Guardian was resolutely going to be a team player.

What these experiences with the Guardian and the Intercept doubtless demonstrated to Greenwald was that his most fundamental political principles were essentially incompatible with those of the “liberal” media – and all the more so in the Trump era. The priority for liberal publications was not truth-telling or hosting all sides of the debate but frantically shoring up the authority of a “moderate” technocratic elite, one that would ensure a stable neoliberal environment in which it could continue its wealth extraction and accumulation.

Robinson implies that Greenwald has been embittered by these experiences, and is petulantly hitting back against the “liberal” establishment without regard to the consequences. But a fairer reading would be that Greenwald is fighting against kneejerk, authoritarian instincts wherever they are found in our societies – on the right, the centre and the left.

The irony is that he appears to be getting a better hearing on Tucker Carlson than he does at the Guardian or the Intercept. Contrary to Robinson’s claim, that says more about the Guardian and the so-called liberal media than it does about Greenwald.

Captured by wokeness

Robinson also misrepresents what Greenwald and Taibbi are trying to do when they appear on rightwing media.

First, he gives every impression of arguing that, by appearing on the Tucker Carlson show, Greenwald naively hopes to persuade Carlson to switch allegiance from a right wing to left wing populism. But Greenwald doesn’t go on the Tucker Carlson show to turn its host into a leftist. He appears on the show to reach and influence Carlson’s millions of viewers, who do not have the same investment in neoliberalism’s continuing success as the multi-millionaire Carlson does.

Is Greenwald’s calculation any more unreasonable than Robinson’s belief while writing for the Guardian that he might succeed in turning the Guardian’s liberal readers into socialists? Is Robinson right to assume that liberals are any less committed to their selfish political worldview than the right? Or that – when their side is losing – liberal readers of the Guardian are any less susceptible to authoritarianism than rightwing viewers of Fox News?

Robinson also wrongly accuses Greenwald and Taibbi of suggesting that the CIA and major corporations have, in Robinson’s words, “become captured by culturally left ‘woke’ ideology”. But neither writer appears to believe that Black Lives Matter or #MeToo is dictating policy to the establishment. The pair are arguing instead that the CIA and the corporations are exploiting and manipulating “woke” ideology to advance their own authoritarian agendas.

Their point is not that the establishment is liberal but rather that it can more credibly market itself as liberal or progressive when a Trump is in power or when it is feared that a Trump might return to power. And that perception weakens truly progressive politics. By donning the garb of liberalism, elites are able to twist the values and objectives of social movements in ways designed to damage them and foster greater social divisions.

A feminism that celebrates women taking all the top jobs at the big arms manufacturers – the corporations whose business is the murder of men, women and children – is not really feminism. It is a perversion of feminism. Similarly, establishment claims to “wokeness” provide cover as western elites internally divide their own societies and dominate or destroy foreign ones.

“Woke authoritarianism”, as Robinson mockingly terms it, is not an attribute of wokeness. It is a description of one specific incarnation of authoritarianism that is currently favoured by an establishment that, in the post-Trump era, has managed more successfully to cast itself as liberal.

Mask turn-off

The central issue here – the one Robinson raises but avoids discussing – is what political conditions are most likely to foster authoritarianism in the US and other western states, and what can be done to reverse those conditions.

For Robinson, the answer is reassuringly straightforward. Trump and his rightwing populism pose the biggest threat, and the Democratic party – however dismal its leaders – is the only available vehicle for countering that menace. Therefore, left journalists have a duty to steer clear of arguments or associations that might confer legitimacy on the right.

For Greenwald and Taibbi, the picture looks far more complicated, treacherous and potentially bleak.

Trump fundamentally divided the US. For a significant section of the public, he answered their deep-seated and intensifying disenchantment with a political system that appears to be rigged against their interests after its wholesale takeover by corporate elites decades ago. He offered hope, however false.

For others, Trump threatened to topple the liberal facade the corporate elites had erected to sanctify their rule. He dispensed with the liberal pieties that had so effectively served to conceal US imperialism abroad and to maintain the fiction of democracy at home. His election tore the mask off everything that was already deeply ugly about the US political system.

Did that glimpse into the abyss fuel the sense of urgency among liberals and parts of the left to be rid of Trump at all costs – and the current desperation to prevent him or someone like him from returning to the Oval Office, even if it means further trashing free speech and transparency?

In essence, the dilemma the left now faces is this:

To work with the Democrats, with liberals, who are desperate to put the mask back on the system, to shore up its deceptions, so that political stability can be restored – a stability that is waging war around the globe, that is escalating the threat of super-power tensions and nuclear annihilation, and that is destroying the planet.

Or to keep the mask off, and work with those elements of the populist left and right that share a commitment to free speech and transparency, in the hope that through open debate we can expose the current rule by an unaccountable, authoritarian technocratic class and its corporate patrons masquerading as “liberals”.

The truth is we may be caught between a rock and hard place. Even as the warning signs mount, liberals may stick with the comfort blanket of rule by self-professed experts to the bitter end, to the point of economic and ecological collapse. And conservatives may, at the end of the day, prove that their commitment to free speech and disdain for corporate elites is far weaker than their susceptibility to narcissist strongmen.

Robinson no more has a crystal ball to see the future than Greenwald. Both are making decisions in the dark. For that reason, Robinson and his allies on the left would be better advised to stop claiming they hold the moral high ground.

The post What happened to Glenn Greenwald? Trump happened and put the left’s priorities to the test first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Ruling Class Fears of The Day of Reckoning: Historical Causes for the Biases Against Crowds

Image from Imgur @i.imgur.com

Orientation

As I was looking at images to place at the beginning of this article, I was struck by how many images and quotes there were of Le Bon. It is pretty amazing for someone whose first work was published in 1895 and whose last works are still around 100 years old. It is especially strange given how unscientific his methods were and how recent empirical studies of crowds like David Miller’s Introduction to Collective Behavior and Collective Action contradicts virtually everything Le Bon claimed. Why is Le Bon’s work still circulating despite lack of scientific rigor? Why have the last fifty years of research on crowds that have a solid scientific basis been ignored?

Purpose of this article

The purpose of this article is to:

  • Expose the propagandist roots and branches of our biases against crowds while showing some of the scientific evidence that supports the actual behavior of crowds.
  • To outline what historical events occurred that supported the prejudice against crowds.
  • Propose that it is ruling-class fears of crowds that fuels the perpetuation of unscientific theories about crowds.
  • Propose that ruling class fears that working-class people mobilized into crowds will seize their resources, destroy their property and enslave them.

Crowds vs Masses

Crowds are large collections of people who meet at the same place at the same time and are large enough that it is difficult to have a central conversation. A loudspeaker, microphone or some external device is necessary to have a single central discussion.  There are different kinds of crowds. There are casual crowds like those that meet by chance at the scene of an accident or a fire. They may congregate to watch a building go up or be torn down. A second kind of crowd are long lines that form to buy tickets to ball games or musical concerts.

An audience is a more formal crowd with a more deliberate focus. Examples are attending a musical concert or a sporting event. Lasty, there are unconventional crowds which can lead to riots, lynchings, protests and demonstrations. Mass behavior involves large numbers of people who are spatially dispersed but participate in common activities like fads or fashions.  Mass behavior involves the use of radio (Orson Wells, War of the Worlds) television, movies which often lead to rumors or urban legends.

Questionnaire on Crowds

In order to understand the purposes of this article, I ask that you spend about 25 to 30 minutes answering the following true-false questions. For the answer to be true, it simply means most of the time, not all the time.  For the answer to be false, it just means it rarely happens, not never happens. Follow your answer with a one sentence justification. Feel free to draw from your experience as well as what you’ve read. It is important to answer quickly and spontaneously and not dwell on the answers. One purpose of the questionnaire is to see if you think there are any significant differences between how people in crowds behave (collective behavior) as opposed to how small groups or individuals behave.

Here are the True – False questions:

  • Most crowds consist of strangers, rather than family, friends or acquaintances.
  • The percentage of violent behavior is higher in crowds than in small groups such as a musical band or a baseball team.
  • The behavior of crowds is more likely to be unanimous than the behavior of small groups.
  • Crowds of people are more likely to engage in unusual or extraordinary behaviors than either groups or individuals.
  • The behavior of individuals and small groups is more likely to be rational than the behavior of a crowd, which is more likely to be irrational.
  • There are certain kinds of personalities that are drawn to crowds that you could predict would join a crowd if you knew enough about their personalities.
  • There is a disproportionately higher number of working-class people in crowds compared to other social classes.
  • Compared to people without legal convictions, there is a higher percentage of criminals in crowds.
  • Individuals and small groups that are more likely to deliberate and plan their actions are less likely to be spontaneous.
  • You could predict that most individuals are more likely to lose their personal identity in a crowd rather than alone or in small groups.
  • Emotions are more likely to spread by contagions in a crowd rather than in a small group.
  • Groups are easier to disperse than crowds because people in crowds want to linger longer.
  • There has been more research done on crowds than on groups because the behavior in crowds has greater social impact.
  • People conform less to norms in crowds than they do in groups or as individuals.
  • Most violence in crowds is caused by the participants in the crowd rather than the police.
  • There is a higher degree of unpredictability of behavior in crowds than there is in small groups or within an individual.
  • The goals of a crowd are more extreme and unconventional than the goals of groups or individuals.
  • Riots are equally likely to happen regardless of the season of the year.
  • The most typical reaction to a natural disaster or emotional shock is panic – that is, uncontrolled individualistic flight as opposed to a rational, deliberate response.
  • There is a correlation between which people will engage in a protest and their political beliefs before the protests.
  • The most likely group to join a movement is the group who has absolute deprivation of resources as opposed to relative deprivation or no deprivation.

 The last three questions are about mass behavior, not crowd behavior:

  • Fads are less predictable than fashions.
  • Rumors begin mostly because people lose their ability to investigate before coming to a conclusion.
  • Fashions exist in all societies, tribal as well as industrial.

Myths vs Facts About Crowds

In their book, Social Psychology, Delamater Myers and Collett, citing the research of Carl Couch, Clark McPhail, David Schweingruber and Ronald Wohlstein argued that there are seven basic myths about crowds. They are:

  • Irrationality
  • Emotionality
  • Suggestibility – mindless behavior
  • Destructiveness
  • Spontaneity
  • Anonymity
  • Unanimity of purpose

Through these seven myths we are likely to see why all the answers in relation to crowds to the True-False questions are false. The only true answers are the first two questions about masses. Rather than explaining why every single question on crowds is false, I will speak generally and then answer a few questions specifically.

Are crowds wholes that are less than the sum of their parts?

One of the great underlying beliefs about crowds is that terrible things happen in a crowd that somehow would not happen in a small group and especially at an individual level.  Individuals are seen as rational, non-violent and prudent, but once the individual is surrounded by enough other individuals, things turn sour. The belief is that while individuals and groups may have differences with each other, those differences melt away in a crowd as individual members turn into a group hive. In fact, differences between individuals and small groups are maintained in crowds. To cite one example, in riots, crowds rarely act in unison. Some throw rocks and break windows. Others climb telephone poles and smash statues. Others disapprove and try to talk the others out of armed conflict. Still others are altruistic and help protesters who have been injured by cops.

Who is orderly and disorderly in crowds?

Speaking of cops, research on mass psychology has shown that most of the time, contrary to Le Bon, riots are started by the police, not the crowd. Furthermore, crowds assemble and disassemble at ballgames and concerts without any police necessary. Once gathered crowds do not stick together like honey. They easily disperse and really do not need the police to do so. I have been to many a Yankee and Knicks game in which the crowd, anywhere from 15 thousand to 30 thousand people leave the game, peacefully get on the train and talk about the ballgame. There is no need for police because nothing controversial happens. For conservatives like Le Bon, they cannot imagine that crowds regulate themselves. For them crowds are filled with animalistic, hedonistic barbarians who need the police to whip them into order.

Are working-class people more likely to be disorderly?

There is some truth to the fact that a higher percentage of working-class people will be in crowds. This has more to do with the reality that middle-class or upper-middle class people can afford to take a taxi to a ball game or a concert instead of taking the train. But this has little to do with the behavior of working-class crowds. Furthermore, plenty of protests are filled with upper-middle class anarchists who torch police cars and topple monuments. There is no clear relationship between social class and crowd violence.

How unpredictable are crowds?

Another one of Le Bon’s mistaken generalizations about crowds is that people in crowds act without rhyme or reason. This demonstrates, as an upper middle-class doctor, Le Bon has no understanding of all the deliberation and planning that goes into protests on the part of the organizers. This planning goes on weeks before the event. It is true that unpredictable things happen in protects, but they are exceptions to the rule. Furthermore, individuals act in unpredictable ways, as in the case of mass shootings. Individuals get caught up in cults and act in unpredictable and astonishing ways. Cults are large groups, not crowds.

Are emotions in crowds contagious?

People are every bit as emotional in small groups as they are in crowds. There is nothing contagious about emotions in crowds. People maintain emotional judgement while in the crowd. In fact, the leaders of protests harangue people to sing and chant as a way to unify the group. Just being in a crowd does not automatically unify the individuals. It takes work to do so. When faced with members of a crowd who become hysterical, rather than mindlessly joining in, other members of the crowd will distance themselves and exercise the same prudence that individuals or people in small groups will.

Is the crowd to social life what Freud’s id is to individual life?

Le Bon, Freud, Bion and the rest of the crowd psychologists we will soon meet think that at the social level the crowd is like the id, lurking on the margins of society waiting for a chance to jump out and wreak havoc. This is exemplified in the movie Lord of the Flies, by William Golding. In natural disasters these crowd psychologists imagine that the socialized ego is swarmed by the individualistic dictum, “every person for himself”. They imagine the results are pillaging and raping. The trouble is that research on behavior in natural disasters shows that people are consistently heroic and cooperative.

One hundred years of neglect of scientific research on crowds

Lastly, unlike individual psychology and group psychology the scientific study of crowds and masses lags way behind. It wasn’t until the late 1960s that the first research was done. Why is this? On the one hand, studying crowds is far more difficult because crowds are so large and their life-times short. But something else was going on. Why were Le Bon’s, Tarde’s and Sighele’s, speculations allowed to stand unchallenged and repeated mindlessly in social psychology textbooks for almost 100 years? In large part it was because their theories served the interests of the ruling class.

Historical Reasons for the Biases Against Crowds

Growth of cities

One of major changes in European history and geography was the gradual reversal of numbers of people living in cities compared to those of people living on farms.  People move to cities in part because there is more work, but also, as the saying goes, “city air makes you free”.  Some people felt trapped by the nosiness and stifling customs of rural life. Non-conformists to religious traditions, artists and hustlers with big dreams were drawn to cities for a chance to start fresh. Living on a farm, the general expectations was that you would engage in the same occupation as your parents. Moving to the city broke that tradition and it raised expectations. Especially those living in coastal cities who were exposed not only to people coming from different cities within Yankeedom, but people from other countries were also looking for work. Different languages, different religions, and different political traditions converged.

There are rarely, if ever, crowds in rural areas. While farmers may get together on holidays, everyone knows everyone else and rarely are strangers invited.  Even when farmers would go to town to get supplies, the overwhelming number of people knew each other and greeted each other. There were no stadiums or concert halls in which large numbers of people could congregate to watch professional sports or music. Long before the Industrial Revolution, crowds in cities would gather to hear political speeches. So, what we have in pre-industrial cities are relatively rootless people with raised expectations, surrounded by strangers from different cultures for whom being in a crowd is becoming normal.

The Great French revolutions

As most of you know, the French Revolution of 1789 overthrew both the king and the aristocrats as the merchants rose to power on the backs of artisans and peasants. The revolution was also anti-clerical. Churches and chateaux were burned to the ground. The aristocrats never forgot this. As if your memory needed any jogging, there were more revolutions in Paris in 1830 and 1848. In all these revolutions, crowds are violent and know where the upper classes live. Doesn’t it start to make sense that the study of crowds would never be objective so long as the upper classes were threatened by them and therefore controlled the research on crowds? In this case they made sure no research was done.

Industrialization

At the end of the 18th century and throughout the 19th century, cities became industrialized.  People were forced off the middle of streets to make way for wheeled vehicles accompanied by horses and later, trolley cars. Grid systems of streets were built which sped up transportation and the circulation of goods. Industrial capitalists built factories in cities as opposed to artisan shops in the countryside (the putting out system). The emergence of factories had enormous revolutionary potential because it brought large numbers of people working under horrible conditions together. For 12-15 hours a day, at least six days a week, people have a common experience while all in the same place and the same time.

Formation of unions

It is no accident that unions first formed in factories. When common experience is concentrated at the same place and same time, people are likely to compare experiences and accumulate grievances. Some workers begin to recognize that they have collective power if they can organize themselves. They can strike for better working conditions and better wages. Unions made crowds more dangerous because crowds can, in an extremely chilling way, stop and start the work process itself. This is like cutting off the blood supply for vampiric capitalists.

Emergence of socialism

The first socialists were theoretical. William Godwin was the first theoretical anarchist, writing Enquiry Concerning Political Justice. In the early 19th century, there were utopian communities set up by Robert Owen, Charles Fourier and others but none of these communities were connected to unions or workers movements. It wasn’t until the writings of Marx and Engels that socialism was really connected to worker’s struggles. The socialism of Marx and Engels or the anarchism of Bakunin both said to workers, “it is not enough to have tiny little pieces of pie. You create all the wealth; you deserve the whole pie.”

In order to gain the whole pie, workers in crowds had to move in a mass, take over factories and run them for themselves, while confiscating the private property of the upper classes. For the upper classes, socialism and the prospects of crowds burning down their houses, and peasants taking over their land was their worst nightmare. The Paris Commune of 1871 was the first revolutionary situation that was inspired by socialism as a movement.

Stock Market instabilities

Crowd instabilities also came from the capitalist side, between 1873 to 1896 when the stock market was very unstable creating panics and depressions. This meant stock market traders were wheeling and dealing on the floor of the stock market at the same time that people who had money in banks were worried about their savings and, in some cases, making runs on the bank.

Crowd Psychologists

Origins of Crowd Theory

Crowd theorists were social Darwinists whose ideas of a liberal society were of individuals who took care of only themselves. Beginning about 1870, crowd psychologists claimed that Darwinian evolution demonstrated that progress was a slow process, and any sudden changes based on violence were throwbacks to premodern times. Crowds were looked upon as akin to Herbert Spencer’s undifferentiated matter.

According to H. Stuart Hughes, (Consciousness and Society), beginning in the 1890s intellectuals became obsessed with the prospect that unconscious, primitive, and emotional forces were driving things. Crowd psychologists were united in rejecting sociological theorists such as Durkheim and Marx because they ignored emotions and unconscious motivation. What was really driving crowds, they thought, was below the level of consciousness. For crowd psychologists, individuals were both more than and less than the sum of their parts. The four major crowd theorists were Hippolyte Taine, Scipio Sighele, Gabriel Tarde, and Gustave Le Bon.

Crowd Theorists

Taine

Taine’s Origins of Contemporary France (written between 1876 and 1894) was a conservative attack on the Enlightenment. Taine blamed the Enlightenment ideas, including Rousseau’s, for what he considered the bloodbath of the French Revolution. Taine believed that the line between normal cognition and hallucinations, dreams and delusions, was closer than we might suspect. He cited evidence from research on organic lesions of the brain, hypnotism, and split personalities. He determined that the dramatic transformation of humans into savages is caused by what he called “the laws of mental contagion.” With the exception of the hypnosis model, Taine’s book embodies all the rudiments of French crowd psychology. For Taine, all leaders were the crazed dregs of society.

According to Taine, the Enlightenment failed to factor in the amount of time it took for humans to develop from barbarity to civility. Enlighteners weren’t interested in how people really were, but only as they could be measured by an abstract, ideal humanity. Taine thought the French Revolution was a relapse into primitive barbarism. Like Hume, Taine thought that reason was the passive servant of the passions. Bodily needs, animal instinct, prejudices which Taine thought were hereditary, were really driving people.

Criminalization of crowds (Sighele) 

Theories of hypnosis were split in two directions. Followers of Charcot claimed that being suggestible was a sign of psychopathology and only certain types of people could be hypnotized. The Nancy school of Bergheim argued that anyone could be hypnotized. The criminal school of Sighele sided with Charcot, arguing that crowds were composed of criminal individuals who were naturally suggestible. He followed the work of Lombroso who was a medical scholar of deviants in the military. Lombroso measured the skulls and anatomical characteristics of 3,000 soldiers.

According to Serge Moscovici (The Age of the Crowd), mass psychology was treated simply as part of criminal anthropology. Crowds were seen as mobs, scum, and made up of men who were out of control and would destroy anything in their path. Sighele claimed that hypnotism can explain the process by which individual minds become susceptible to outside forces, leading to actions that are carried out automatically, unconsciously, and then spread to others by contagion. The conservative hand Sighele played was transparent in his labeling of social revolutionaries such as socialists, anarchists, or even striking workers as part of the criminal crowd. The hysteria of stock market traders was never seen as criminal.

Tarde

More than Taine or Sighele, Gabriel Tarde placed the crowd on a broader social spectrum. All social life, according to Tarde, is based on imitation, and the process of crowd formation and reproduction simply comes from the laws of imitation sped up. He described the crowd as the first stage of association—rudimentary, fleeting, and undifferentiated. From this foundation, more stable and ongoing groups form, including corporations, political parties, and religious bodies such as churches or monasteries. Unlike other crowd psychologists, Tarde thought that literacy, newspapers, and mass communication would replace the crowd with what he called “the public.”

Tarde also thought that the extremes of behavior demonstrated in crowds are unique to cities. Unlike his right-wing crowd theorists, Tarde thought the madness of crowds is a product of civilization. He argued that crowd madness was uncommon in rural areas and among pre-state societies. Both Tarde and Le Bon supported the Nancy school, which suggested that there were social-psychological processes that any individual could fall prey to, if exposed to them. They believed that the solitary individual was superior to the group in all ways.

Le Bon

Le Bon concocted a mix of anthropological, social Darwinist, and psychological theories, which were in the same family as Taine and the racist Joseph Gobineau. He thought that cranial size could be used as an accurate measure of intelligence and he believed that people in primitive societies had small skulls. Le Bon thought the European race was superior, and only Caucasian males could transcend the constraints of biology.

Like Sighele and Tarde, Le Bon thought that what happens to an individual when in a crowd was analogous to what happens in hypnosis. All crowd theorists up to Le Bon agreed that the crowd was no more than what was already inside the psychology of individuals. They also believed that whatever destructive behavior transpired in a crowd was due to the lower-class origins of its members. Le Bon was the first to say that all personalities, regardless of class and intelligence, are susceptible to the pull of the crowd.

According to Serge Moscovici, Le Bon directly challenged Locke’s theory of the mind. As was par for the course in the Enlightenment, Locke believed that as the mind of humanity was gradually ridding itself of religious terrors, there would be fewer and fewer secrets. Le Bon, in contrast, said that revolutions shake the mind from its perch, sending it tumbling and howling into the abyss of the primitive world, which is driven by heredity, instinct, custom, and race. For Locke, visions and dreams were overridden by simple and complex reasoning. For Le Bon, crowds could not follow reason but instead learned by association, just as individuals do in dreams.

Furthermore, crowd theorists claimed that people in crowds do not deliberate, but are mesmerized by leaders through the power of hypnotic suggestion. When Locke argued that the truth can be seen with open eyes, he neglected to note that crowds are driven by unconscious primitive animalism, which takes over and spreads by what Le Bon called “contagion.” This contagion does not lead to prudent, rational judgment but instead can lead to cruelty or heroism. These extreme reactions are amplified by the feeling of anonymity that grips individuals, allowing a sense of individual responsibility to evaporate.

Le Bon belonged to a liberal middle-class tradition that argued against both revolution and the weakness of liberal parliamentary systems. Despite his argument’s mediocre quality, rhetorically flattering the reader and lacking depth, Le Bon must have struck a nerve. According to Moscovici, no French thinker other than Georges Sorel and Alexander de Tocqueville has had an influence as great as Le Bon. Le Bon published The Crowd in 1890 and it was a best seller. Why was this? He mixed the disciplines of politics and psychology in an age of growing disciplinary specialization. Le Bon probably tapped into the fears that the middle and upper class and upper classes had about what would happen eventually if the new “democracy” was to expand.

Distorting the work of Alfred Espinas

It is worth noting that crowd psychologists distorted the work of Alfred Espinas on wasps and hornets to create an analogy between human crowds and insect societies. Espinas argued that societies were more than an aggregate of individuals and pointed out that alarm and danger were transmitted by visual contagion. Far from viewing this intensely social life of insects as a liability, he saw it as a strength in building bonds through cooperation.

Crowd psychologists seized on his discussion of the invisible communication of wasps and hornets when confronted with an enemy to draw an analogy to crowds. Just as insects communicate collectively when faced with danger, so crowd behavior becomes contagious among spectators in a theater or when aroused by a great orator. Unlike Espinas, they saw very little, if anything, constructive in this. Crowd psychologists thought the communicability of emotions beyond the individual was proof of the primitive mentality of the crowd.

Crowd Psychologist Distortions

Here are Susanna Barrows’ (Distorting Mirrors) damning conclusions about crowd-psychologist theories:

  • Taine, Sighele and Le Bon did not do any empirical research (Tarde was a possible exception).
  • Taine’s work contains grave errors in the scientific method. The idea of empirical investigation was wholly alien to him.
  • What evidence they collected was extremely selective to support their case (again, with the possible exception of Tarde).
  • Statistics indicate that women committed many fewer crimes than men, yet women were blamed for a disproportionate amount of the violence that occurred.
  • Le Bon indiscriminately lumped together socialists and anarchists with common criminals.
  • Crowd psychologists distorted the work of Espinas on wasps and hornets to make an analogy between human crowds and insect societies.

The Legacy of the 20th Century

The events of the 20th century hardly provided a break for poor conservatives hoping for a return to religion, God, kings and aristocrats. The Russian revolution, the stock market crash in 1929, Fascism in Germany and Italy and Spain, the Spanish revolution, the Chinese Revolution and the Cuban Revolution vanquished those hopes. This does not even count the Zoot Suit race riots in 1943, Watts in 1967 or the Rodney King riots in 1992.

Mass Media Propaganda Towards Crowds and Riots Carries Forward Obsolete Crowd Psychology

Check any newspaper or TV news program in Yankeedom and watch how the crowd and the rioters are treated when they describe a protest or a natural disaster. If it is a riot, does the paper ever show the variety of responses that go on during the riot? No, they focus only on the rioters and assume everyone in the crowd was complicit. When they describe the origin of the riot, do they consider the research which says the police are usually the perpetuators of the riot? Not on your life! The police are depicted as restoring order rather than as being the perpetuators of disorder. Lastly, in a natural disaster do the newscasters show the overwhelming instances of cooperation, compared to natural disaster participants helping themselves in supermarkets and sporting goods stores? No, they don’t. Rather the echo chamber of capitalist media blares out “looting, looting, looting” just like they declared “weapons of mass destruction” in the lead-up to the attack on Iraq twenty years ago.

Conclusion

I began this article with a questionnaire designed to expose your prejudices against crowds. I contrasted these biases against what research on mass psychology actually shows about crowd behavior. The heart of my article is to show why these biases continue in spite of scientific research to the contrary. I identified the growth of cities, the revolutions in France in the 19th century, the process of industrialization, the formation of unions, the rise of socialism and stock market instabilities in the 19th century. What do these events have to do with biases against crowds?

The answer can be found in the theories of mostly right-wing crowd theorists who wrote in the 2nd half of the 19th century. These theorists and their ruling class masters were terrified that crowds of working-class people would take their land, confiscate their resources and burn their chateaux to the ground. There was a great deal at stake for them. To call the people in crowds enraged, childish, criminal, beastly, stampeding, savage, irrational, impulsive, uncivilized, primitive, bloodthirsty, cruel and fickle is to dismiss, embarrass and mock anyone who participates. It is also a warning to future workers to stay away from crowds.

We socialists have been the victims of a 150-year propaganda campaign that was started by crowd psychologists in the 1860s and has been perpetuated by all sources of media throughout the 20th century. Amazingly, social psychologists who pride themselves on filling their textbooks with empirical evidence, have given this discredited crowd theory a pass. There is so much money for research on what sells products and little or no money is available to study what moves crowds and masses. It is vitally important for the ruling classes to forestall the great day of reckoning by scaring people away from joining crowds that will be one of many vehicles for overthrowing them.

• First published at Socialist Planning Beyond Capitalism

The post Ruling Class Fears of The Day of Reckoning: Historical Causes for the Biases Against Crowds first appeared on Dissident Voice.

The Etymological Animal Must Slip Out of the Cage of Habit to Grasp Truth

Life is full of slips.

Words slip out of our mouths to surprise us.  Thoughts slip into our minds to shock us.  Dreams slip into our nights to sometimes slip into our waking thoughts to startle us.  And, as the wonderful singer/songwriter Paul Simon, sings, we are always “slip sliding away,” a reminder that can be a spur to courage and freedom or an inducement to fear and shut-upness.

Slips are double-edged.

It is obvious that since September 11, 2001, and more so since the corona virus lockdowns and the World Economic Forum’s push for a Fourth Industrial Revolution that will lead to the marriage of artificial intelligence, cyborgs, digital technology, and biology, that the USA and other countries have been slipping into a new form of fascist control.  Or at least it should be obvious, especially since this push has been accompanied by massive censorship by technology companies of dissenting voices and government crackdowns on what they term “domestic terrorists.”  Dissent has become unpatriotic and worse – treasonous.

Unless people wake up and rebel in greater numbers, the gates of this electronic iron cage will quietly be shut.

In the name of teleological efficiency and reason, as Max Weber noted more than a century ago in The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, capitalist elites, operating from within the shadows of bureaucratic castles such as The World Economic Forum (WEF), the World Health Organization WHO), the International Monetary Fund (IMF), The World Bank (WBG), The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Google, Facebook, the National Security Agency (NSA), the CIA, etc., – run by people whose faces are always well hidden – have been using digital technology to exert increasing control over the thoughts and actions of people worldwide.  They have been doing this not only by diktats but by manufacturing social habits – customary usages – through which they exert their social power over populations.  This linguistic and ideational propaganda is continually slipped into the daily “news” by their mainstream media partners in crime. They become social habits that occupy people’s minds and lead to certain forms of behavior.  Ideas have consequences but also histories because humans are etymological animals – that is, their ideas, beliefs, and behaviors have histories.  It is not just words that have etymologies.

When Weber said “a polar night of icy darkness” was coming in the future, he was referring to what is happening today.  Fascism usually comes on slowly as history has shown.  It slips in when people are asleep.

John Berger, commenting on the ghostly life of our received ideas whose etymology is so often lost on us, aptly said:

Our totalitarianism begins with our teleology.

And the teleology in use today is digital technology controlled by wealthy elites and governments for social control.  For years they have been creating certain dispositions in the general public, as Jacques Ellul has said, “by working spells upon them and exercising a kind of fascination” that makes the public receptive to the digital life.  This is accomplished slowly in increments, as permanent dispositions are established by slipping in regular reminders of how wonderful the new technology is and how its magical possibilities will make life so free and easy. Efficient. Happiness machines.  A close study of the past twenty-five years would no doubt reveal the specifics of this campaign.  In The Technological Society, Ellul writes:

… the use of certain propaganda techniques is not meant to entail immediate and definite adhesion to a given formula, but rather to bring about a long-range vacuity of the individual.  The individual, his soul massaged, emptied of his natural tendencies, and thoroughly assimilated to the group, is ready for anything.  Propaganda’s chief requirement is not so much to be rational, well-grounded, and powerful as it is to produce individuals especially open to suggestion who can easily be set into motion.

Once this softening up has made people “available,” the stage is set to get them to act impulsively.  Ellul again:

It operates by simple pressure and is often contradictory (since contradictory mass movements are sometimes necessary).  Of course, this dissociation can be effective only after the propaganda technique has been fused with the popular mores and has become indispensable to the population. This stage may be reached quickly, as, for example, in Germany in 1942, after only ten years of psychic manipulation.

The end result, he argues, is the establishment of an abstract universe, in which reality is completely recreated in people’s minds.  This fake reality is truer than reality as the news is faked and people are formed rather than informed.

In today’s computer driven world, one thing that people have been told for decades is to be vigilant that their computers do not become infected with viruses.  This meme was slipped regularly into popular consciousness.  To avoid infection, everyone was advised to make sure to have virus protection by downloading protection or using that provided by their operating systems, despite all the back doors built in which most have been unaware of.

Now that other incredible “machine” – the human body – can get virus “protection” by getting what the vaccine maker Moderna says is its messenger RNA (mRNA) non-vaccine “vaccine” that functions “like an operating system on a computer.”  First people must be softened up and made available and then “set in motion” to accept the solution to the fearful problem built in from the start by the same people creating the problem.  A slippery slope indeed.

But slipping is also good, especially when repetition and conventional thought rules people’s lives as it does today in a digital screen life world where algorithms often prevent creative breakthroughs, and the checking of hourly weather reports from cells is a commonplace fix to ease the anxiety of being trapped in a seemingly uncontrollable nightmare.  It seems you now do need computer generated weather reports to know which way the wind blows.

In our culture of the copy, new thoughts are difficult and so the problems that plague society persist and get rehashed ad infinitum.  I think most people realize at some level of feeling if not articulation that they are caught in a repetitive cycle of social stasis that is akin to addiction, one that has been imposed on them by elite forces they sense but don’t fully comprehend since they have bought into this circular trap that they love and hate simultaneously.  The cell phone is its symbol and the world-wide lockdowns its reality.  Even right now as the authorities grant a tactical reprieve from their cruel lockdowns if you obey and get experimentally shot with a non-vaccine vaccine, there is an anxious sense that another shoe will drop when we least expect it.  And it will.  But don’t say this out loud.

So repetition and constant change, seemingly opposites, suffuse society these days. The sagacious John Steppling captures this brilliantly in a recent article:

So ubiquitous are the metaphors and myths of AI, post humanism, transhumanism, et al. that they infuse daily discourse and pass barely noticed. And there is a quality of incoherence in a lot of this post humanist discourse, a kind of default setting for obfuscation….The techno and cyber vocabulary now meets the language of World Banking. Bourgeois economics provides the structural underpinning for enormous amounts of political rhetoric, and increasingly of cultural expression….This new incoherence is both intentional, and unintentional. The so called ‘Great Reset’ is operationally effective, and it is happening before our eyes, and yet it is also a testament to just how far basic logic has been eroded….Advanced social atomization and a radical absence of social change. Today, I might argue, at least in the U.S. (and likely much of Europe) there is a profound sense of repetitiveness to daily life. No matter one’s occupation, and quite possibly no matter one’s class. Certainly the repetitiveness of the high-net-worth one percent is of a different quality than that of an Uber driver. And yet, the experience of life is an experience of repetition.

A kind of flaccid grimness accompanies this sensibility.  Humor is absent, and the only kind of laughter allowed is the mocking kind that hides a nihilistic spirit of resignation – a sense of inevitability that mocks the spirit of rebellion.  Everything is solipsistic and even jokes are taken as revelations of one’s personal life.

The other day I was going grocery shopping.  My wife had written on the list: “heavy cream or whipping cream.”  Not knowing if there were a difference, I asked her which she preferred.  “I prefer whipping,” she said.

I replied, “But I don’t have a whip nor do they sell them at the supermarket.”

We both laughed, although I found it funnier than she.  She slipped, and I found humor in that.  Because it was an innocent slip of the tongue with no significance and she had done the slipping, there was also a slippage between our senses of humor.

But when I told this to a few people, they hesitated to laugh as if I might be revealing some sado-masochistic personal reality, and they didn’t know whether to laugh or not.

It’s harder to laugh at yourself because we get uptight and are afraid to say the “wrong” things.  Many people come to the end of their lives hearing the tolling for their tongues that never spoke freely because of the pale cast of thought that has infected them.  Not their own thoughts, but thoughts that have been placed into their minds by their controllers in the mass media.

Freud famously wrote about slips of the tongue and tried to pin them down.  In this he was a bit similar to a lepidopterist who pins butterflies.  We are left with the eponymous Freudian slips that sometimes do and sometimes don’t signify some revelation that the speaker does not consciously intend to utter.

It seems to me that in order to understand anything about ourselves and our present historical condition – which no doubt seems very confusing to many people as propagandists and liars spew out disinformation daily – we need to develop a way to cut through the enervating miasma of fear that grips so many.  A fear created by elites to cower regular people into submission, as another doctor named Anthony Fauci has said: “Now is the time to just do what you are told.”

But obviously words do matter, but what they matter is open to interpretation and sometimes debate.  To be told to shut up and do what you’re told, to censor differences of opinion, to impose authoritarian restrictions on free speech as is happening now, speech that can involve slips of the tongue, is a slippery slope in an allegedly democratic society.  Jim Garrison of JFK fame said that we live in a doll’s house of propaganda where the population is treated as children and fantasies have replaced reality. He was right.

So how can we break out of this deeply imbedded impasse?

This is the hard part, for digital addiction has penetrated deep into our lives.

I believe we need to disrupt our routines, break free from our habits, in order to clearly see what is happening today.

We need to slip away for a while. Leave our cells.  Let their doors clang shut behind. Abandon television.  Close the computer.  Step out without any mask, not just the paper kind but the ones used to hide from others.  Disburden our minds of its old rubbish. Become another as you go walking away.  Find a park or some natural enclave where the hum and buzz quiets down and you can breathe.  Recall that in Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four the only place Winston Smith can escape the prying eyes and spies of Big Brother, the only place he can grasp the truth, was not in analyzing Doublethink or Crimestop, but “in a natural clearing, a tiny grass knoll surrounded by tall saplings that shut it in completely” and bluebells bloomed and a thrush sang madly.  Here he meets his lover and they affirm their humanity and feel free and alive for a brief respite.  Here in the green wood, the green chaos, new thoughts have a chance to grow.  It is an old story and old remedy, transitory of course, but as vital as breathing.  In his profound meditation on this phenomenon, The Tree, John Fowles, another Englishman, writes:

It is not necessarily too little knowledge that causes ignorance; possessing too much, or wanting to gain too much, can produce the same thing.

I am not proposing that such a retreat is a permanent answer to the propaganda that engulfs us.  But without it we are lost.  Without it, we cannot break free from received opinions and the constant mental noise the digital media have substituted for thought.  Without it, we cannot distinguish our own thoughts from those slyly suggested to us to make us “available.”  Without it, we will always feel ourselves lost, “shipwrecked upon things,” in the words of the Spanish philosopher Ortega Y Gasset.  If we are to take a stand against the endless lies and a world-wide war waged against regular people by the world’s elites, we must first take “a stand within the self, ensimismamiento,” by slipping away into contemplation.  Only then, once we have clarified what we really believe and don’t believe, can we take meaningful action.

There’s an old saying about falling or slipping between the cracks.  It’s meant to be a bad thing and to refer to a place where no one is taking care of you. The saying doesn’t make sense. For if you end up between the cracks, you are on the same ground where habits hold you in learned helplessness.  Better to slip into the cracks where, as Leonard Cohen sings, “the light gets in.”

It may feel like you are slipping away, but you may be exploring your roots.

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