Category Archives: Journalism

Mask Wearing: Compelled and Unquestioning Obedience to the Chair

Mask-wearing mandates are now easing in many jurisdictions. Seeing the plethora of unmasked visages speaks to the preference for unrestricted access to air.

Yet, writer Max Fawcett asks, “Why were so many people so opposed to wearing face masks?”

There are plenty of reasons. How about that masks interfere with normal breathing; that speech is muffled, making conversation difficult; that the masks are uncomfortable; that the masks might even be harmful to the wearer? Saliently: other than causing a stir among the fearful people who don masks in public, why should one wear a mask if there is no hard scientific evidence that they are preventative against contracting respiratory viral infections?

A more important question the writer ought to have broached is: given the absence of rigorous scientific data in support, why were so many people compelled to wear masks and why was it that so few people uttered a peep against it? They merely complied. This is true throughout society. In education circles, teachers masked up. Granted, if they wanted to work and get along, they had little choice. A stated goal of education is developing critical-thinking skills. Health care workers masked up. Medicine is a field, like education, supposedly driven by evidence-based results, upon which one can apply critical thinking skills.

There is a crucial omission in the opinion piece by Fawcett. Was there any evidence presented in the article as to the effectiveness of mask-wearing prophylaxis? Indeed, Fawcett even admitted, “There’s also the impact that masking had on last year’s flu season, which was about as non-existent as it’s ever been.” Thus, he purports that mask wearing had a negligible effect on preventing infection with COVID-19. Fawcett deserves credit for pointing this out, especially since few had ostensibly noticed that despite all the mask wearing and social distancing enforced, COVID-19 cases continued seemingly unabated. So did mask wearing and social distancing work? Did these measures diminish the proliferation of COVID-19?

Despite acknowledging the non-existent impact of mask wearing, Fawcett takes aim at people resistant to mask wearing:

For those who fetishize freedom and worship at the altar of liberty, the removal of mask restrictions is probably worth celebrating. But for the rest of us, it marks the beginning of an uncomfortable experiment — one that will test the resilience of a dangerous and deadly pandemic and our willingness to put the well-being of others above our own temporary discomfort.

There are plenty of take-aways from this statement. Fawcett calls this the “beginning of an uncomfortable experiment.” If this is an experiment, then members of the public are the unwitting subjects (others might say “guinea pigs”) in the experiment, subjects who have not knowingly consented to partake in this experiment — usually considered a flagrant breach of ethics. And, since this is a beginning experiment, obviously the evidence is not all in.

Moreover, the writer disparages those opposed to mask wearing as fetishizers of freedom and lumps them into one homogeneous class: pro-freedom, anti-mask. Fawcett apparently did not contemplate that there are people who have researched the science and came to oppose mask wearing based on the conclusion that the masks don’t work. These people looked at the evidence and critically appraised the mandates/recommendations put forward by governments. Had they found evidence that supported mask wearing, they would have willingly worn masks.

Randomized control trials are the gold standard of science. Yet, no RCT indicates a statistically significant difference between the mask-wearing and the control groups; this refutes the hypothesis that protection is conferred by mask wearing — including cloth masks, surgical masks, even N95 respirators.

How about common sense? Is the mesh density of the masks tiny enough to prevent the SARS-CoV-2 virion from entering? No. Even if the mesh were dense enough to prevent entry through the mask, is the mask sealed around the face of the wearer? No. In other words the virions can enter the respiratory orifices of a mask wearer.

Next, the writer criticizes the people opposed to mask wearing — the fetishizers of freedom — of being selfish and insouciant to their fellow citizens. He opines,

But it’s that second test — the one that will reveal just how much we actually care about our fellow citizens — that should worry us most here. Wearing a face mask into a mall, grocery store or other shared public space isn’t exactly a hardship — and our relatives who had to deal with actual hardships in the past would probably laugh at us for making so much of it.

For people with claustrophobia or compromised health circumstances, mask wearing can be exactly that: a hardship. Even worse, it can pose a health risk. Again, Fawcett has not considered that there might be a dissenting group, people who otherwise would agree with and support mask wearing given hard scientific evidence for protecting against viral infection.

Finally, Fawcett concludes,

Canada is the country of “peace, order and good government,” and we don’t see acts of caring for each other, whether through our publicly funded health-care system or any number of other supports and services, as the kind of creeping socialism many Americans seem to fear. We’d all do well to remember that the next time we think about whether or not we want to put on a mask in public — and what it really says about us.

First, who are “we”? Are Canadians a monolith as alluded to by Fawcett’s “we”? Second, what does it mean to assert that Canada is a country of “peace, order and good government,” especially so soon after a thousand bodies of Indigenous children in unmarked graves have, so far, been revealed by ground-penetrating radar? It is an undeniable fact of public record that Canadian history is blighted by the abduction of Indigenous children from their families through the connivance of government, churches, and the RCMP. Nevertheless, of course, there are “acts of caring for each other” that happen in Canada. But past and current history reveals Indigenous peoples to be the Other, the Other less or uncared for by much of settler society. This is clearly evidenced by, among others, the numerous unsolved cases of disappeared and murdered Indigenous women in Canada, the disproportionate incarceration of First peoples relative to settler Canadians, the higher rates of poverty and the long-term lack of clean drinking water in Indigenous communities, and the lack of respect for First people’s input about how to steward the environment. Third, what does Fawcett mean by “creeping socialism”? Is socialism to be likened to an icky insect? Fourth, do Americans still “fear” socialism? Favorable views toward socialism seem to be ascendant in the United States, with capitalism on the decline. Fifth, the majority of Americans in recent years have indicated support for medicare for all. Ergo, Fawcett’s conclusion appears to be fallacious.

To conclude, whether one wants to wear a mask or not is inconsequential. People’s attitudes toward wearing a mask ought to be analyzed beyond superficial prejudices. Opposition to mask wearing may well indicate critical thinkers who are conversant with the scientific evidence. One might better ask what unquestioning obedience to mask-wearing dictates from authorities, in the absence of proffered evidence, really says about such people. The dangers of unquestioning obedience are real. Perhaps the most horrific examples are the willingness of soldiers to follow orders and commit atrocities against fellow humans.

Mandates for mask wearing and orders to kill are exceedingly different animals. Nonetheless, epistemology demands that people free themselves from uncritically bending to directives from authority figures. Every thinking person should consider the morality and the evidence that underlie directives.

Image credit: Chip Bok’s Editorial Cartoons

The post Mask Wearing: Compelled and Unquestioning Obedience to the Chair 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.

Thomas Friedman’s last gasp

Thomas Friedman’s recent column in the New York Times reflecting on Israel’s 11-day destruction of Gaza is a showcase for the delusions of liberal Zionism: a constellation of thought that has never looked so threadbare. It seems that every liberal newspaper needs a Thomas Friedman – the UK’s Guardian has Jonathan Freedland – whose role is to keep readers from considering realistic strategies for Israel-Palestine, however often and catastrophically the established ones have failed. In this case, Friedman’s plea for Joe Biden to preserve the ‘potential of a two-state solution’ barely conceals his real goal: resuscitating the discourse of an illusory ‘peace process’ from which everyone except liberal Zionists has moved on. His fear is that the debate is quietly shifting outside this framework – towards the recognition that Israel is a belligerent apartheid regime, and the conclusion that one democratic state for Palestinians and Jews is now the only viable solution.

For more than five decades, the two-state solution – of a large, ultra-militarized state for Israel, and a much smaller, demilitarized one for Palestinians – has been the sole paradigm of the Western political and media class. During these years, a Palestinian state failed to materialize despite (or more likely because of) various US-backed ‘peace processes’. While Americans and Europeans have consoled themselves with such fantasies, Israel has only paid them lip-service, enforcing a de facto one-state solution premised on Jewish supremacy over Palestinians, and consolidating its control over the entire territory.

But in recent years, Israel’s naked settler-colonial actions have imperiled that Western paradigm. It has become increasingly evident that Israel is incapable of making peace with the Palestinians because its state ideology – Zionism – is based on their removal or eradication. What history has taught us is that the only just and lasting way to end a ‘conflict’ between a native population and a settler-colonial movement is decolonization, plus the establishment of a single, shared, democratic state. Otherwise, the settlers continue to pursue their replacement strategies – which invariably include ethnic cleansing, communal segregation and genocide. These were precisely the tactics adopted by European colonists in the Americas, Africa, Australia and New Zealand. Friedman’s function in the Western media – conscious or not – is to obfuscate these historical lessons, tapping into a long legacy of unthinking colonial racism.

One of the central pillars of that legacy is an abiding fear of the native and his supposedly natural savagery. This has always been the unspoken assumption behind the interminable two-state ‘peace process’. A civilized and civilizing West tries to broker a ‘peace deal’ to protect Israel from the Palestinian hordes next door. But the Palestinians continuously ‘reject’ these peace overtures because of their savage nature – which is in turn presented as the reason why Israel must ethnically cleanse them and herd them into reservations, or Bantustans, away from Jewish settlers. Occasionally, Israel is forced to ‘retaliate’ – or defend itself from this savagery – in what becomes an endless ‘cycle of violence’. The West supports Israel with military aid and preferential trade, while watching with exasperation as the Palestinian leadership fails to discipline its people.

Friedman is an expert at exploiting this colonial mentality. He often avoids taking direct responsibility for his racist assumptions, attributing them to ‘centrist Democrats’ or other right-minded observers. Coded language is his stock in trade, serving to heighten the unease felt by western audiences as the natives try to regain a measure of control over their future. In some cases the prejudicial framing is overt, as with his concern about the threat of an ascendant Hamas to women’s and LGBTQ rights, couched in an identity politics he knows will resonate with NYT readers. But more often his framing is insidious, with terms like ‘decimate’ and ‘blow up’ deployed to cast Palestinians’ desire for self-determination as violent and menacing.

Friedman’s promotion of the two-state model offers a three-layered deception. First, he writes that the two-state solution would bring ‘peace’, without acknowledging that the condition for that peace is the Palestinians’ permanent ghettoization and subjugation. Second, he blames the Palestinians for rejecting just such ‘peace plans’, even though they have never been seriously offered by Israel. And finally, he has the chutzpah to imply that it was the Palestinians’ failure to negotiate a two-state solution that ‘decimated’ the Israeli ‘peace camp’.

Such arguments are not only based on Friedman’s dehumanizing view of Arabs. They are also tied to his domestic political concerns. He fears that if Joe Biden were to acknowledge the reality that Israel has sabotaged the two-state solution, then the President might disengage once and for all from the ‘peace process’. Of course, most Palestinians would welcome such an end to US interference: the billions of dollars funnelled annually to the Israeli military, the US diplomatic cover for Israel, and the arm-twisting of other states to silently accept its atrocities. But, Friedman argues, this withdrawal would carry a heavy price at home, setting off a civil war within Biden’s own party and within Jewish organizations across the US. God forbid, it might ‘even lead to bans on arms sales’ to Israel.

Friedman reminds us of Israeli businessman Gidi Grinstein’s warning that in the absence of a ‘potential’ two-state solution, US support for Israel could morph ‘from a bipartisan issue to a wedge issue’. The columnist writes that preserving the two-state ‘peace process’, however endless and hopeless, is ‘about our national security interests in the Middle East’. How does Friedman define these interests? They are reducible, he says, to ‘the political future of the centrist faction of the Democratic Party.’ A ‘peace process’ once designed to salve the consciences of Americans while enabling the dispossession of Palestinians has now been redefined as a vital US national security issue – because, for Friedman, its survival is necessary to preserve the dominance of foreign policy hawks in the Democratic machine. The argument echoes Biden’s extraordinarily frank admission made back in 1986 that ‘were there not an Israel the United States of America would have to invent an Israel to protect her interests in the region’.

Friedman then concludes his article with a set of proposals that unwittingly expose the true consequences of a two-state settlement. He insists that Biden build on his predecessor’s much ridiculed ‘peace plan’, which gave US blessing to Israel’s illegal settlements on vast swaths of the occupied West Bank, penning Palestinians into their Bantustans indefinitely. Trump’s plan also sought to entrench Israel’s control over occupied East Jerusalem, remake Gaza as a permanent battlefield on which rivalries between Fatah and Hamas would intensify, and turn the wealth of the theocratic Gulf states into a weapon, fully integrating Israel into the region’s economy while making the Palestinians even more dependent on foreign aid. Polite NYT opinionators now want Biden to sell these measures as a re-engagement with the ‘peace process’.

The US, writes Friedman, should follow Trump in stripping the Palestinians of a capital in East Jerusalem – the economic, religious and historic heart of Palestine. Arab states should reinforce this dispossession by moving their embassies from Tel Aviv to West Jerusalem. Neighbouring countries are encouraged to pressure the Palestinian Authority, via aid payments, to accede even more cravenly to Israel’s demands. (Of course, Friedman does not think it worth mentioning that Palestine is aid-dependent because Israel has either stolen or seized control of all its major resources.)

Once this subordinate position is guaranteed, divisions within the Palestinian national movement can be inflamed by making Hamas – plus the two million Palestinians in Gaza – dependent on the PA’s patronage. Friedman wants the Fatah-led PA to decide whether to send aid to the Gaza Strip or join Israel in besieging the enclave to weaken Hamas. For good measure, he also urges the Gulf states to cut off support to the United Nations aid agencies, like UNRWA, which have kept millions of Palestinian refugees fed and cared for since 1948. The international community’s already feeble commitment to the rights of Palestinian refugees will thus be broken, and the diaspora will be forcibly absorbed into their host countries.

Such proposals are the last gasp of a discredited liberal Zionism. Friedman visibly flounders as he tries to put the emperor’s clothes back on a two-state solution which stands before us in all its ugliness. The Western model of ‘peace-making’ was always about preserving Jewish supremacy. Now, at least, the illusions are gone.

• First published in New Left Review

The post Thomas Friedman’s last gasp first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Taking a Trip Through the Magical Mania Tour

Current State of Modern Biotechnological-Based Aeromonas hydrophila Vaccines for Aquaculture: A Systematic Review

Oh, the time I have, putting in application after application, for a job. A job, that’s a double-edged word. What is that job without a jab. Now, one year-plus, perfectly accepted that the restaurant or retail outlet or any manner of “job” can require you to submit to the jab. Make that jabs. This is the continuing criminality of a rigged system.

Unfortunately, the entire globe has sucked that mRNA potion. That mRNA cleanser was only possible after how many years? The atomic bomb, splitting of the atom, orbital flight. It hasn’t been long, civilization wise, but so long evolution wise, since that lovely scientific lovely was born. Make no bones about it — science was bad before that, but the atomic era heralded in the complete prostration to the “experts,” or to the “MD,” or “engineer.” With all that education, all those cohorts, the amazing jet-jetting of these virologists and hard rock geologists, the entire crew, popping off into orbit, space station and undersea world station, it doesn’t matter.

The PhD’s and post docs (along with drop-outs like Gates) have it.

GLOFISH

Regulatory agencies not keeping pace

Scientists and companies keep tweaking our plants and animals and even our pets but our regulatory agencies are not keeping pace. We don’t have adequate rules about how to release genetically engineered plants and animals into the environment. Businesses still introduce new plants, seeds and animals without making adequate information available to the public about what they are or where they are. And no single federal agency has responsibility for assuring the safety of genetically engineered plants and animals.

The glowing fish are shedding some light on an important problem. We don’t have sufficient oversight in place to make sure that the new animals and plants that result from genetic engineering are really safe for us and the environment. We need Congress to assign clear responsibility for genetically engineered plants and animals to one federal agency. And that agency needs to make sure that the rules for release and standards of safety glow brightly for both business and the public.

Arthur Caplan is director of the Center for Bioethics at the University of Pennsylvania.

Please note that this Caplan is a capitalist, one of those dangerous scientists, all-knowing types, and this site, is anything but ethics and pushback. This place pushes mandatory vaccine passports, pushes these jabs for children, pushes the idea that youth 15 or older do not need parental consent to get jabbed.

These are the masters, the controllers — another site of madness dressed up as science and open-discourse —

by Brian M Cummings M.D. and John J. Paris S.J.

Vaccine passports are likely to become a necessary part of our lives until we achieve herd immunity and no longer need worry about contracting a potentially life-threatening virus from strangers. Such ‘passports’ might not be the first item on our wish list. But the arguments for their use are basic and compelling. As Gostin and colleagues’ recent article notes, vaccine passports encourage people to be vaccinated and allow a reopening of the economy. For those who want—as much as possible– to recover life as it was prior to the pandemic, they will become a necessity.

Vaccination is not a risk-free action; it involves an assessment of both risks and benefits. Individuals whose position does not significantly impact public safety are free to decline to be vaccinated. With the adoption of a vaccine passport requirement, such declinations may cost people opportunities for social interaction and economic engagement. Such is their choice. The benefit calculation of vaccination increases the prospect going to a restaurant, sporting events and to other unrestricted activities. Vaccine passports simultaneously encourage vaccination and provide a quick way to assure a public concerned about Covid they can safely enter public venues. (source)

They control the narrative frames, the entire mix of thought. They are the shamans, the arbiters of good sense, future knowledge, and interpretations of human and non-human kind, throughout the ages.

There is no debate, really around how dictatorial and patronizing the entire project is in Capitalism, from book writing/publishing, to how you get your prostate analyzed, to how you are supposed to take those classes and lift off with a degree. Until we have reached, 2021, the massive unethical, illogical, and propagandistic level of forced jabs.

It is amazing, really, that we have let this happen — no choice, no pushback (real pushback). Those who are putting their lives at risk, who have fought the jab, have submitted. You can’t get a cappuccino or rental car without the jab passport. This is the most amazing time for the flagging masses. Even communist Cuba is into this Genetic Engineered jab. Imagine that, dark age thinking with high-tech manipulation.

So, the body can’t fight this off, or, well, 92 percent can, without major issues, or, well, we mostly can fight it off to the point of no hospitalization, incubation, but in the end, we are living caldrons for this SARS-2 to set off on variant after variant, attacking heart, lungs, liver, more, until we might be permanently damaged by the virus.

A novel virus, indeed. Those novels I have piled up as manuscripts were inventions of my own, time honored hard work, crafting, editing, cutting, and adding. Building characters, detailing settings, regulating pitch in language. All that hard work of imagination put to crafting.

Here, bio(unethical) — their Covid page:

Source They call it a toolkit, and yep, no contrarian, no pushback.

Bioethics.net and the American Journal of Bioethics have assembled a bioethics toolkit for people dealing with COVID-19.

We have a collection of important blogs from around the internet that you can find here. We also highly recommending our growing catalog of our original blog posts by leading scholars writing on bioethics in pandemics.

Other compendium resources

  • The Hastings Center has assembled a number of reports and resources.Thomas Cunningham at Kaiser-Permanent has put together a comprehensive resource of academic articles, government plans, and allocation frameworks.AMA COVID-19 Ethics Resource Center

  • For the best scientific information:

  • For policies, protocols, and practices:

  • For ethical guidelines on vaccines & allocation:

  • For ethical guidelines for responding to crisis:

  • For plans on triage:

  • For clinical algorithms for making allocation decisions

  • For CPR/DNR with COVID protocols

  • For communicating with patients and others

  • VitalTalk: Communication skills and sample scripts

  • Communicating in a crisis

  • Special journal issues/articles

The coronavirus particle has a crown of spikes on its surface.

Oh those scientists, working on gain of function, tweaking viruses, super-charging them, creating chimeric madness, testing a bat virus by bulking it up and putting it to the test on humanized mice. Working the spiked proteins and the messenger genes to go for the heart, lungs, vital organs.

For Christ’s sake, we get ad nauseum articles on research into coffee — too much bad for you, or a few cups a day, amazing? Cures for cancer, or cancer causing? We have every manner of deep research into whether dairy is good or bad, whether sugar is good or bad. Yet, this sticky wicket, well, we can’t even dare ask the questions around how/why/who/when/what/where have these experiments been conducted. Instant open records for the background on all the military involvement with virus research, all the 13,000 USA researchers on gain of function, all those other countries’ researchers and facilities. And, what are the effects of the mRNA and recombinant DNA molecules mucking about. Imagine, these recombinant DNA molecules are formed by laboratory methods of genetic recombination that bring together genetic material from multiple sources, creating sequences that would not otherwise be found in the genome.

Not found in nature, that is.

There are no questions, no challenges, and so we get forced jabs, globally, and no other forms of dealing with, a, this zoonotic jump of a bat virus to human (there are not bats found yet to have this SARS-2 virus; or, b, that this is man-lab made, hands down, and all of that crafting of novelty has created an out-of-control genetically engineers virus that does double, triple and quadruple duty to various humans.

To the point that St. Fauci isn’t sure about a booster, or when, but the three big Pharma Boys, already have their boosters manufactured and at the ready, in a few months.

This is not questioned — how it was anticipated, that SARS-CoV2 is now in need of double or yearly boosters.

In all manner of thinking this through, we have no agency, no collective group of people to count on who might question the narrative. We just get plowed over by history and move forward — no questions asked, or too many questions to ask.

Recombinant DNA and Biotechnology

Ahh, try finding articles and debates within mainstream journals, etc., on anyone questioning mandatory vaccine passports, and the very idea of it being wrong for this philosophy (sic) of “no jab, no job.” It is utterly disgusting how the internet has shaped up. Good luck looking for deep discussion on why mandatory vaccination programs are wrong in this day and age, and exactly, what sort of vaccine (sic) is being mandated, that is never a question in the mainstream. Of course, we have other sources that question the entire narrative, the entire issue of this novel virus, and, alas, what the chemicals they are delivering through the needle really are and what they really do. But again, passports are digital, a multi-billion-dollar boondoggle for the master race — the rich, the elite, the (point).zero-zero-zero-One percent. Oh, the war criminal, Tony Blair. This mumbo-jumbo is doublespeak, marketing emptiness, and a huge campaign for a deeper and darker agenda:

Meanwhile the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change – headed up by former UK Prime Minister Blair, a strong proponent of passport tech – lays out a five point plan for how to design an equitable scheme, arguing they need to be:

Equitable. Health passes should be available to all citizens, including people who have not been vaccinated – for reasons of not being eligible yet, for medical reasons or through personal conviction – and not forgetting the needs of non smartphone-users.

Adaptable. A pass should be able to be updated as understanding of the virus changes and as wider circumstances alter.

Seamless. It needs to be easy and quick to use to encourage adoption and be as frictionless as possible in terms of the administrative burdens on businesses or health organizations.

Transparent. Data collection and retention policies and parameters need to be strictly defined and completely open to users.

Reliable. Passports must be designed with security and privacy at their core. (Source)

These are monsters, and yet, in capitalism, in this totalitarian, or inverted totalitarian state, this is it —

Salesforce’s long game –The pandemic response has also seen cross-industry alliances between tech firms and this is continuing around the concept of health credentials. Salesforce, for example, has committed to integrating the IBM Digital Health Pass into its work.com safe return to the workplace platform offering. The cloud leader is also a founding member of the Vaccination Credential Initiative (VCI), alongside arch-rival Oracle and a host of healthcare organizations. The VCI aims to develop a standard model for organizations administering COVID-19 vaccines to make the immunization data available in an accessible, interoperable, digital format.

For its own part, Salesforce’s internal Office of Ethical and Humane Use of Technology has been heavily involved in the specifics of work.com and in considering the wider complexities of Vaccine Passports, although this last is a term that Yoav Schlesinger, Principal of Ethical AI Practice, doesn’t use, preferring to talk about the broader idea of digital health credentials:

“From our perspective, one of the most critical elements of this safe return back to ‘normal’ is that digital health credentials incorporate much more than just vaccine status. Digital health credentials need, from an equity standpoint, to allow people to demonstrate their health status through a negative COVID test, through proof of recovery and antibody tests etc, so there needs to be multiple ways to present that information, so that we can all be assured of a safe return to whatever locale and location we’re talking about, whether for travel or returning to work or attending a concert, etc.”

He adds that proof of vaccination is not the only way to establish that a workplace is safe:

“Relying exclusively on proof of vaccination status may or may not be the strategy that an employer wants to employ. I think it’s critical that employees, and anyone else, are able to also establish that we can return to work through a negative COVID test or proof of recovery as well. There will certainly be circumstances and situations where people can’t be vaccinated, because of health conditions or because of a religious conviction. We want to ensure for the sake of equity that people are able to present their health credentials and their health status in multiple formats and through multiple avenues.”

tonyprophet
[Chief Equality Officer Tony Prophet and April Oliver, Associate General Counsel, Office of Ethics & Integrity at Salesforce]

Human scum. Whitney Webb reported about the plans for expansive data collection through Vaccine Passports. Webb wrote about the Vaccine Credential Initiative’s SMART Health Cards, which were developed by governments working alongside Microsoft, Oracle and MITRE. According to Webb the developer of the cards, Josh C. Mandel, listed ‘Name, gender, birth date, mobile phone number, and email address in addition to vaccination information’, specifically as a ‘Starting point.’ (Source)

Here, the January 2021 article 

“Silicon Valley and WEF-Backed Foundation Announce Global Initiative for COVID-19 Vaccine Records” — Silicon Valley’s most influential companies, alongside healthcare companies, US intelligence contractors and the Commons Project Foundation, recently launched the Vaccination Credential Initiative. The initiative’s ambitions reach far beyond vaccines and will have major implications for civil liberties. BY WHITNEY WEBB

We can’t have these ethical discussions with philosophers, gurus, all those groups spewing “we are medical and biological ethicists.” This is contradictory, and they are in no way acting as oversight folk, or ombudsmen. They are part of the colonized, and any discourse outside their frame is labeled, mostly, unworthy, uninformed, out of place, radical for radical sakes, contrarian, reckless, dangerous, and to be ignored. “We have toolkits for stopping this mindset. We have our ways. We know how to extract and inject.”

The agenda is not hidden, in the shadows, but for most in the world, they have no bandwidth or willingness to question.

The effort to manufacture consent for an all-encompassing digital identification system is notable given that its main selling point thus far has been coercion. We have been told that without such a system we will never be able to return to work or school, never be able to travel, or never be allowed to participate normally in the economy. While this system is being introduced in this way, it is essential to point out that coercion is a built-in part of this infrastructure and, if implemented, will be used to modify human behavior to great effect, reaching far beyond just the issue of COVID-19 vaccines. — Whitney Webb

What got me onto the computer was reading Max Forte’s blog piece, ‘Race,’ ‘Diversity,’ and the University‘. He’s writing, Zero Anthropology.

Through a continual succession of fear campaigns, Canadian universities are being intellectually sanitized to suppress, marginalize, and ideally to banish contrary thought. It is all done under the banner of familiar “good intentions”. In 2018, the panic was about “rape culture”. In 2019, it was about the “climate emergency”. In 2020, it was of course about “the pandemic”. In 2021, it is about “systemic racism”. What will it be next year? An outbreak of neo-fascist cannibalism?

At least in a formal way, since 2007 (when ZA was launched as “Open Anthropology”) I have been studying the history and political-economy of academic knowledge production. When turning to the Canadian university, one learns of the “Canadianization” movement that gathered steam and strength in the 1970s and 1980s, which emphasized Canadian content in research and teaching, and Canadian hiring. At that time, Canadians were very aware of the country’s status as a dependent appendage of the US. It is a dependency that is enforced, from the top down, and where the dependency turns into cultural and political forms it can be most acutely observed in Anglophone Canada. That dependency has in fact increased: the law requiring that qualified Canadian applicants should get first preference, is routinely skirted by university departments and administrations. Our content is directly imported from the US: we are mere retail sales staff; we are spectators to knowledge production; we are, essentially, just an audience. To be deemed a serious and respectable academic in Canada, one must show advanced imitation skills in knowing how to synthesize and combine pieces of work produced by this or that prominent American/British/French scholar. Preparing a “literature review” is our favourite sport. We excel as consumers—much like regular Starbucks customers who invent complex and convoluted demands for how their “coffee” (i.e., liquid dessert) should be mixed. Our “signature” contribution involves the creative mixing of elements we had no hand in creating in the first place.

Living in an officially approved “Monkey See, Monkey Do” culture, I would inevitably become attuned to patterns of importation and imitation sweeping “Canadian academia”. It is a determined mimesis; just as it banishes integrity and originality, it now silences dissent…where what one would expect academics to do as part of their job (doubt, question, debate) is what now constitutes “dissent”. We are meant to act as bobbleheads, perpetually nodding to uphold this virtual reality of uniformity, to pretend unanimity lest the spectre of “disagreement” should rear its ugly head.

He’s spot on in so many ways, but in the end, he is parsing about diversity programs/training/ brainwashing. Absolutely, much of the diversity training is infantilized, and retrograde. I think in many ways, though, Max misses the point of academia — or the way it is set up, and has been. It is a training camp, mostly, for the colonized, the believes in Western Civilization, in discourse and knowledge in a most empirical way, and also, it is a place of disgusting hierarchies, and lock-step. Yes, the new in thing, the new normal, is diversity training, and LGBTQAI+ work. This stuff is fluff, window dressing, and alas, the corporation, THE CORPORATION(s) have colonized higher education, and K12 is a boot camp for compliance, follow the crowd, believe in authority, go the way, not against any grain.

I’ve been on many mandatory diversity trainings, and yes, some content is childish, touchy feely, pop psychology, and, to be honest, yes, we need to tear down the entire system, and having LGBTQAI+ and BIPOC in the chambers of power, that is it, no, the Black Misleadership Class, as Glen Ford calls this reality.

By 1970, the Black Radical Tradition lay mostly in the graveyard, and the way was clear for the Black Misleadership Class to monopolize Black politics on behalf of their corporate overseers. The first act of the first big city Black mayor, Cleveland’s Carl Stokes, was to put the police under the command of a Black retired general, whose first act was to issue the cops flesh- and bone-destroying hollow point bullets.

The rise of the almost entirely Democrat-allied Black Misleadership Class is perfectly coterminous with construction of the Black Mass Incarceration State. The “New Jim Crow” was a bipartisan project, initiated under Democrat Lyndon Johnson’s Law Enforcement Assistance Administration, which vastly increased the manpower and funding for local police departments, and was put on hyper-drive by Republican President Richard Nixon’s “War on Drugs”–a War on Blacks that never ended but was re-declared by Republican President Reagan and reinforced by Democrat President Bill Clinton. At the local level, the exponential growth of the Mass Black Incarceration regime was administered by increasingly Black city governments, which oversaw and processed the deportation of millions of Black men, women and children to the Prison Gulag. Virtually all of these Black operatives of race and class oppression are Democrats. And all of them are celebrating their own political ascension as the wondrous outcome of Dr. King’s “dream.”

By 2014, 80 percent of the Congressional Black Caucus was voting to continue the Pentagon 1033 program that funnels billions of dollars in military weapons and gear to local police departments. Four years later, 75 percent of the Black Caucus voted to make police a “protected class” and assault on cops a federal crime. (See BAR, “Black Caucus Sells Out Its Constituents Again–to the Cops.”)

The Black misleaders are as silly as they are shameless, but they are not ineffectual. No white man could eviscerate Dr. King’s radical legacy, or make Malcolm X appear harmless to the imperial order–that’s a job for the Black Misleadershsip Class. While Dr. King rejected an alliance with the “triple evils,” Black Democratic misleaders describe their deal with the Devil as smart, “strategic” politics. They whip up war fever against small, non-white nations that seek only the right to govern themselves, behaving no differently on the world scene–and sometimes worse–than Donald Trump.

They shame and weaken Black America, and have joined the enemies of life on Earth. King would shake his head, mournfully. Malcolm would keep his tight smile, doggedly. Then both would organize to expose and depose the Black Misleadership Class.

MLK and the Black Misleadership Class

Interesting, how one guy’s blog precipitates this loose ends response. There are corollaries, to the Forced Jab, the Forced Digital Gulag, the Forced Surveillance State up our asses, to what happened to MLK and Malcolm X. They were outliers in this country, but not worldwide, not surprisingly. Not sure what the Canadian Max Forte has to say, but in the end, I believe the white race, even those believing in good intentions, are flawed, to the max. Now, white race means European whites, Catholic Church white, Jewish white, so-so many (most all) billionaire white, millionaire white.

The Life and Times of Hubert Harrison: A Forgotten Synthesis of African-American Socialism and Black Nationalism, Review of Hubert Harrison: The Voice of Harlem Radicalism, 1883-1918 by Jeffrey B. Perry (Columbia University Press, 2009). In the first quarter of the 20th century, the major, competing trends of Black American political thought were already in vivid evidence: Black nationalist and socialist tendencies vied with corporate-backed accommodation. In Harlem, an extraordinary St. Croix-born activist-thinker named Hubert Harrison emerged on the scene, described as “more race conscious than [A. Philip] Randolph and more class conscious than [Marcus] Garvey.”

In the following presidential election year of 1912, Perry explores the evolving political thought of Harrison in a discussion of a new set of articles by Harrison which appeared in the Chicago based International Socialist Review amid a growing, but not fully manifest tension between Harrison and the Socialist Party, which masked his simmering disillusionment with the party. In an article taking off on Rudyard Kipling’s 1899 poem, “The White Man’s Burden,” Harrison’s “Black Man’s Burden” depicted the suffering of African-Americans under white over-lordship. Over eight million African-Americans were disfranchised in sixteen Southern states by fraud and force, lacking political rights to protect their economic rights (i.e. property and jobs). Part two of the “Black Man’s Burden” demonstrated how the southern state school segregation laws contributed to the underfunding, creation of industrial education or “labor-caste schools” and miseducation of African-Americans. In these two articles, Harrison aimed a devastating critique at the accommodationist philosophy of Booker T. Washington, which publicly eschewed voting rights and a liberal arts college/​university education. Washington’s lieutenants had successfully conspired to obtain the removal of Harrison from his $1,000 a year job at the post office for two anti-Washington articles in the New York Sun newspaper, thus causing great economic hardship to Harrison’s family. Harrison’s final article in the International Socialist Review, “Socialism and the Negro,” was based on an earlier pro-IWW speech, in which he asserted African-Americans rather than constituting a reactionary hindrance to socialism, as some socialist theorists like Algie Simmons and Charles Vail claimed, were indeed the key component in the struggle by the American proletariat without which socialism in America stood little chance. (Source)

Hubert Harrison

I have a deep suspicion that we dissenters, dissidents, oppositional types, questioners, doubters of the official histories/narratives/sciences, and those of us who have a compunction to not trust the bloody intercourse of brute capitalism-militarism-government, that we are in one way or another, in the process of being exterminated. We are the brutes to heads of those Fortune 5000 Corp./LLC/Wall Street devils. We represent everything wrong with free-thought.

[Still from Exterminate All the Brutes, 2021. (HBO)]

Raoul Peck’s HBO docuseries Exterminate All the Brutes isn’t easy to watch — but it’s important popular education on the 600-year development of the concept and system of white supremacy associated with colonialism, slavery, and genocide.

Within the film, Peck addresses the complexity of his own project, including its rhetorical implications for an intended audience, in a risky but interesting way. After providing a four-hour alternative history — alternative to the traditional mainstream education provided in America, at least — Peck concludes that it’s not really education that’s needed:

“The educated general public has always largely known what atrocities have been committed and are being committed in the name of progress, civilization, socialism, democracy, and the market.”

Mike Hale of the New York Times found this conclusion maddening:

“He closes with a reproving phrase that echoes through the film: “It’s not knowledge we lack.” But he declines to say what it is we lack — compassion? Willpower? If there is something we possess that could have made history different, either he doesn’t know or he’s not telling.”

But Peck’s conclusion is the most interesting aspect of the film. The implication seems clear: the majority knows the history, but doesn’t care, at least not enough. Peck’s jarring effects, in keeping with the groundwork laid by liberation cinema, seem designed to make us feel so sick of the history we’re part of and the system we’re in, we’ll actually lash out and try to destroy it.

One docuseries isn’t nearly enough, obviously. It’s going to take a lot of furious filmmaking, and organizing, and speechmaking, and protesting, and marching, and fighting, to get a revolt going. Peck’s doing his part. (Source)

That is the maddening aspect of today, that for most, they do not know the history of the USA and the White Race and Civilization and what they have all done to imprison, poison, indenture, shackle, co-opt, colonize, erase, flood with fear our own ability to see through the madness. This culture and capitalism have always been a punishing thing, and a giant psychological operation, way before Edward Bernays or PT Barnum . . . way back to the plagiarists and fabulists of those Abrahamic religions.

Between 2011 and 2020, Amazon, Facebook, Alphabet (the owner of Google), Netflix, Apple, and Microsoft — known as the “Silicon Six” — paid roughly $219 billion in income taxes, which amounts to just 3.6% of their more than $6 trillion in total revenue, according to the Fair Tax Foundation. Income tax is paid on profits, not total revenue, and researchers said these tech giants are adept at reducing their tax liabilities by shifting profits to offshore tax havens.  (Source)
 Oh, those tax dodgers — We know how they roll!
Show us the Benjamins — 
Big Pharma model is serious obstacle to wiping out Covid-19, new report suggests - Global Justice Now Global Justice Now
It all come downs to war, baby, war!
The U.S. war industry sells to capitalist regimes around the world through direct commercial sales and foreign military sales (FMS). FMS tend to deal with big-ticket items or goods and services of a sensitive nature. Through FMS, the U.S. government procures and transfers industry goods and services to allied governments and international organizations.
So, customers of the U.S. war industry typically affirm that they’re using the goods and services in self-defense, and the U.S. government doesn’t press them on the matter. After all, there is a lot of cash at stake. In fiscal year 2020 alone, the war industry sold $50.8 billion through FMS and $124.3 billion through direct commercial sales.  (Source)
The post Taking a Trip Through the Magical Mania Tour first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Time for a New Toolbox

Though his story has been widely disseminated by now, before Edward Snowden fled to Hong Kong he sent a box of classified documents by snail mail from Hawaii (marked mysteriously “from B. Manning”) to a writer in New York, which made its way, unopened, from person to person until it reached journalists Laura Poitras and Glen Greenwald, who went on to meet with Snowden and tell his story of global panoptic surveillance affecting just about everybody online.

The story, Snowden’s ToolBox: Trust in the Age of Surveillance, by Jessica Bruder and Dale Maharidge, is, as the authors emphasize, a story of trust in an age of paranoia and suspicion. They’re keen to tell us, tag-team style, how the world has changed since the events of 9/11, with the militarization of the Internet, and the rise of surveillance capitalism, leading to a pervasive sense that privacy is no longer viable. We’ve succumbed to the sad notion that if we have ‘nothing to hide’ then we needn’t worry about Big Brother watching over us.

Many readers will be familiar with Jessica Bruder’s work through the adaptation of her travel memoir, Nomadland, which recently won the Oscar for best film, and for which she worked with the director Chloé Zhao to create a screenplay. Her road travels, living the life of a nomad for months, and talking Studs Terkel-like to American wanderers, travelling from job to job as a lifestyle, jibes quite nicely with co-author Dale Maharidge’s background. Maharidge won the Pulitzer Prize in 1990 for And Their Children After Them, his follow-on to the James Agee study of Alabama sharecroppers, Let Us Now Praise Famous Men. They’re People people, and so are the cadre of journalists and independent filmmakers they hook up with in telling this side story.

The first half of the book retells the now-familiar story of how and why Edward Snowden stole highly classified documents from NSA contractor Booz Allen Hamilton and handed them over to Poitras and Greenwald, who went on to make a film, Citizenfour, and detail his revelations in the Guardian. The co-authors quote Snowden judiciously; in an interview shortly after he outs himself on TV, Snowden tells us that the surveillance state he’s seen represents “an existential threat to democracy…I don’t want to live in a world where there’s no privacy and therefore no room for intellectual exploration and creativity.”

Bruder explains that Snowden had wanted to have his revelations run in the New York Times, the nation’s preeminent paper of record, but was seriously bummed out when they quashed an October 2004 article by James Risen and Eric Lichtblau that exposed Stellar Wind, the government’s illegal dragnet of American electronic communications. The Bush administration had denied such activity.

Bruder writes, “Approaching the New York Times…was out of the question. Snowden didn’t have confidence that the newspaper would have the guts to break the story… The scoop was scheduled to run right before the 2004 elections, but Executive Editor Bill Keller deferred to Bush administration officials, who claimed the revelations would damage national security.” When the story finally broke, more than a year later, it caused a political furor and popular outcry.

A more intriguing section in Snowden’s Toolbox comes when Bruder talks about how Poitras and Greenwald got together after the Snowden revelations began running in the Guardian and were invited by Ebay billionaire Pierre Omidyar to start up a new publication — The Intercept. It was meant to be a solid alternative to the corporatized MSM and a trustworthy reporting platform for whistleblowers. The publication garnered and poached some of the best journalistic talent from NYT and WaPo and elsewhere and seemed, at first, like the Travelling Wilburys of journalism.

But there was trouble from the start. The Terms of Service (TOS) made it clear that readers could be expected to have their presence at the site logged and their comments scanned by Google Adsense and Amazon’s algorithms. Such surveillance was troublesome, if for no other reason than that the Intercept’s readership were probably the types the State would want to gather details about.

It recalled the deal that Greenwald had signed with Amazon to promote his Pulitzer Prize-winning post-Snowden account of the surveillance state, No Place to Hide. Viewers of the site were offered an opportunity to receive Greenwald’s book for free, if they applied and were successfully approved for an Amazon credit card. The application details would be processed by Chase, who Greenwald had once excoriated for their corrupt practices. But more importantly, by accepting the deal from Amazon, Greenwald was effectively promoting the forwarding of private information to a corporation that would collect and store that data – from exactly the kind of readers the State would be eager to parse.

We learn that Laura Poitras, co-founder of The Intercept, was turned down when she wanted to continue working with the Snowden trove of documents, which First Look Media, owner of The Intercept, told her “the company would own all rights to any publication that resulted from our writing about the Snowden archive.” And that, she continues, “Notes we took at the archive would be confiscated for review — and possible redaction — by the Intercept.” And she added: “I laughed. The experience felt like something out of Kafka. And it gave me a sense of déjà vu, echoing how the NSA and the FBI had shut down our request to see our files.” The Intercept has since stopped writing altogether about the Snowden archive.

It gets worse when the reader learns that Laura Poitras was stiffed by The Intercept in her compensation package. Bruder writes, “Laura had been facing challenges of her own at the company, including the startling realization that her compensation was far below that of her male colleagues Greenwald and (Jeremy) Scahill.” Unbeknownst to her, Scahill and Greenwald had renegotiated their contracts, and the resulting pay disparity was “in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.”

Toward the end of the book, Bruder and Maharidge, the leit motif is repeated. Trust — at the interpersonal level, work environment and social contract with the State — is key. They write, “Trust is the basis of all cooperative action in a free society. It’s the feeling of fellowship that allows people to take risks and grow. It’s also the underpinning of democracy. And it’s fragile, easy to undermine.”

Succinct, true, and well put.

All in all, Snowden’s Toolbox is a good read, with humor, intelligence, and a welcome sense of journalistic collegiality. An Appendix offers a “toolbox” of stuff journalists and readers can do to maintain their privacy and the documents of their whistleblowing sources.

The post Time for a New Toolbox first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Try as You May to Deny, but Evil is in Our DNA

What’s gotten in the way of education in the United States is a theory of social engineering that says there is ONE RIGHT WAY to proceed with growing up.
― John Taylor Gatto, Dumbing Us Down: The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling

Exploring Coffee's Past To Rescue Its Future : The Salt : NPR

We used to research the cup of coffee. School. Mostly community colleges, but at two universities — UT-El Paso and Gonzaga. A lot of evening classes I taught. Even on military compounds, and in prisons, and in the bowels of twin plants in Juarez.

In the old days, sleeves rolled up, adults and young people in classrooms, computers, paper and white boards at our ready, would get comfortable and uncomfortable. It was not an easy class, those Composition 101 and 102 mandatory (sometimes ONLY) writing classes for college students (I am so for mandatory 12 classes on writing, thinking, media, rhetoric, propaganda, etc.). Food and drinks, music during essay writing, and face to face consternation and confrontation. Cooperation.

That cup of coffee from the earliest look at where that bean came from originally intrigued the students. Who would have known (we talked about the Colombian exchange, the Doctrine of Discovery, food, animals, other things that came to the Imperialists). Think of the spice islands on steroids:

The original domesticated coffee plant is said to have been from Harar, and the native population is thought to be derived from Ethiopia with distinct nearby populations in Sudan and Kenya. Coffee was primarily consumed in the Islamic world where it originated and was directly related to religious practices.

Fun stuff, this sort of research and writing, and deep dive. We turned these assignments into poetry, poster illustrations, research papers on the diseases of coffee, on the power of coffee like so many thousands of other foods and products, crossing oceans. Many a product of empire and racism, and the coffee paper also turned into “Is There Slavery in Your Chocolate?” essays.

In recent years, a handful of organizations and journalists have exposed the widespread use of child labor, and in some cases slavery, on cocoa farms in Western Africa. Since then, the industry has become increasingly secretive, making it difficult for reporters to not only access farms where human rights violations still occur, but to then disseminate this information to the public. In 2004, the Ivorian First Lady’s entourage allegedly kidnapped and killed a journalist reporting on government corruption in its profitable cocoa industry. In 2010, Ivorian government authorities detained three newspaper journalists after they published an article exposing government corruption in the cocoa sector. The farms of Western Africa supply cocoa to international giants such as Hershey’s, Mars, and Nestlé—revealing the industry’s direct connection to the worst forms of child labor, human trafficking, and slavery. (Source)

Hear no Evil, See no Evil, Speak no Evil by Gavin Mayhew
Your Chocolate Pleasure Supports Child Slavery - YouTube

So much has happened since I first hit the streets as a newspaper journalist in 1977, and so much has changed since I started teaching college classes in research writing and writing and journalism (1983). The “see, speak, hear no evil” paradigm is the destiny of capitalists. It is the way of who we are every waking nanosecond of our lives. Boycott Divest Sanction my ass. This is where I also pretzel myself into contradiction after contradiction. I should be on an island, or just on 20 acres I have near Mount Adams. Eating mushrooms and stitching moss and bark clothing.

Do ostriches really bury their head in the sand? - BBC Science Focus  Magazine

Capitalism is the cancer, virus, prion, the tapeworm, the carrot and the stick. It is the blood sucker of all concepts. Slavery is Capitalism. We talked about this, in so many ways, not always me railing overtly with my anti-Capitalist thesis. I would bring to class small business owners, restaurant owners, ex-military, nonprofit directors, friends who were homeless, living in garages, artists, and dissidents of many kinds. Another thing that is DEAD in the water.

Now, you have to get people vetted and approved to come to a classroom. This is the sickness of our lefty culture. The rightwing has already played this card, too. “Why the hell are you bringing a person from Planned Parenthood to your class? Illegal. Stop. I’m calling the president.”

U.S. Coffee Facts Infographic by Kellen Lester, via Behance This infographic touches coffee consumption stat… | Coffee facts, Coffee facts infographic, Coffee uses

That coffee, now, looking at a cup, the ecological footprint, the energy used to get a cup of coffee to say, my Spokane students. Because Spokane loves its coffee. The amount of water used to grow a cup of coffee. We’d look at the coffee in Central America, or Colombia. Where that plant is grown. What was bulldozed to bring that plantation there. Who works the finca? Which indigenous group of non-Spanish speakers in Guatemala work these plantation, tends the bushes, picks and dries the cherries. Species lost, pesticides used. Water diverted. And, food crops denied.

Again, young and older adults, blown away in my classes, since I was teaching them to look deeper at any number of topics, and develop critical thinking and discourse skills, in whatever watered down version I’d get with many students who were coming to college ill-prepared to really write “essays.” Variations on a theme. Just the cup of liquid, first grown and processed in poor countries, takes about 38 gallons of water to grow.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is It-takes-37-gallons-of-water-to-produce-one-cup-of-coffee.jpg

We’d try and research more and more on the life-cycle of a ceramic cup or Starbucks thermos, and the life cycle and life span of a coffee maker. Embedded energy, waste, mining, slave warehouses, metals, all that fossil fuel to move those metals, cook them, mill them, ship them around the world. Sure, we could look at at sack of dried but not roasted coffee cherries coming from the Guatemala Highlands, and then where it gets shipped by boat, and then moved by truck, and then the actual cleaning and roasting of the coffee. Packaging, and then, that journey is crossing back and forth, over land, in the air, over seas.

The assignment blows many students’ minds, as it should. In the classroom, and I’d bring in a coffee person, with coffee and snacks, and she’d talk about farms in Mexico and Africa she’s visited. Talk about the flavor, the various types of coffees.

We’d look at Fair Trade, Beyond Fair Trade, Shade Grown and the like. Socially responsible coffee. I’d talk about how Vietnam — where I had gone and worked — was cutting more and more forests down to grow coffee. Coffee pests and diseases, and soil enhancements with fertilizers. The entire life cycle analysis of as many things we could extract from the coffee history and production, well, it blows students’ minds, and it only works in person. Don’t fool yourself with the fucking mouse, keyboard and Zoom camera/mic.

We need to talk about the environmental and human and ecological costs of plantation, mountain-razing coffee:

2.2 A Bitter Brew- Coffee Production, Deforestation, Soil Erosion and Water Contamination | Environmental Biology

This pathetic Zoom and remote learning (sic) formula is the deadening of the brain. Recall, Americans already have three quarters of their brains (or more) colonized by lies, propaganda, hate, myth, plain stupidity, largely from terrible K12 (prison with smiling teachers) and all the marketing, and a government whose job is to fleece the masses for the company men, and fleecing includes culling thinking and deep analysis.

All this work, for coffee? Nope, because the students then do some of their own research on any manner of things. Cause and effect, solutions, pro-con, classification, expository, digital rhetoric, and deeper position papers. Research, and while we share sources and do all sorts of things at home, in groups, the big thing is getting the classroom energized, talking, arguing. Debate every minute. We even meet out of class in a, well, coffee shop, and coffee roaster.

Thinking about origins and perspectives. This is a full-time job as an instructor, in the class with all sorts of human beings there taking in and reacting to the work, the talks, the learning and the discourse. This Zoom shit is the death of humanity as I knew it. Radical Pedagogy, 2003 article!

Why Online Education Can Never Replace the Real Thing 1

Always with food, something in the class, mostly evening classes.

In 1960, the University of Missouri published a short “Guide for Television Teachers.” Across the country, over 100 different colleges offered nearly 500 televised courses to a half a million students. So professors needed pointers about the best way to teach in this burgeoning new medium.

“Relax,” the Missouri guide underlined. “Try to be yourself.” Male professors should wear “conservative” ties, the guide added, while women should avoid necklines or hemlines that might “cause discomfort or embarrassment” if they leaned over a counter or sat in a low chair. Once they were properly attired, they could loosen up and let their real character shine through. “Remember that the TV camera projects your natural personality best,” the guide urged, “and the more relaxed and natural that you are, the better you will reach your viewers.”

Slavery: The Original Bitter In Your Chocolate | Chocolate Class

Who are these children forced to work the cocoa plantations of the Ivory Coast?

Ask more of your chocolate – Alter Eco

Shit, those were the days. And here I am, suffering at age 64. I am feeling the burn, the beat-down burn, of more and more people around me stupid, mean, see-speak-hear not evil when it comes to this fucked up Empire, This War Machine. Those were the good old days? Is that my new mindset and refrain?

See no evil, Hear no evil, Speak no evil by Simulacrumble on DeviantArt

It is the contradiction to be an American totally — North American, Canadian or citizen of the USA. Every waking and sleeping minute we are covering the world in blood, exploitation, penury, death. Pain and misery is the way of the land. The hollow media, the celebrities in music and film, oh even more viral than the politicians. They are the elite, or the elite’s house boys or house girls.

“So what can we do but go with the flow? Just let it go. They have all the power, so just live your life as best you can. It’s not that bad. If we don’t bomb the world, steal the minerals, colonize space with weapons, then someone else will. What about China, Russia? I want a family, a job, and just a chance to live on weekends and kayak and smell the moose dung.”

I am down — really depressed — because of what that cup of coffee assignment represents: I am old. I am no good as a teacher because it is a digital and PC and cancel culture study body. I am down because most of the people I would have worked with years ago on political issues, as artists, well, they are either dead, or brains deadened by the struggle and the losing. I am depressed because that cup of coffee assignment is not lauded. The entire Western Civilization or Western Culture is in various forms of mental illness. That illness grouping includes a million wrong ways to medicate or mediate the illnesses of the minds.

Mental health: 'Spike in self-harm, suicide ideation amid Covid-19  pandemic' - Times of India

I am not that, but I am alone, it seems. Now, the coffee, and where it comes from. Do I invest in Folgers Coffee (a division of J.M Smucker Company)? This is what’s depressing me now — my spouse and I are moving some money saved into some investments. Now I have to decide how to put some of it away, or as they say, to invest it. Because there are no interest rates, the average person can’t go to a state bank or any institution and put money into a municipal bond to do some good for society and make a few percentage points above zero. What’s wrong with 4 percent or 5 percent interest? That is the crime, zero or negative interest rates. Criminal. Imagine, there is not one thing on planet Earth, planet Wall Street, planet Retirement Fund which is not heavily tainted with DDDD: death, disease, destruction and destitution. We have been relooking at Socially Responsible Mutual Funds, or ESG’s, and the picture was never pretty:

ESG Ratings: How can a business' environmental and social impact be measured?

Oh, you can say, “Broker, find me a fund that isn’t into war, weapons, mining, prisons, guns, germs, exploitation, banks, insurance companies.” It is virtually impossible. You might not want Walmart stock in the mutual fund, but then Amazon and Facebook and Kraft Foods might be in it. Microsoft, Boeing. Any amount of honor or commitment to NOT engaging in investing that gives money to the murderers, the exploiters, the ocean-soil-jungle-forest-wetland-river killers, it is all lost because they all are wrapped up into one big fat thievery corporation — BlackRock and Blackstone and the top 100 banks, hedge funds, and so many other “if-you-can-make-6-or-12-percent-on-yearly-return” investment products are so embedded in the master slavers in Fortune 1000 circles, and even within the 10,000 largest corporations.

Housing Is A Human Right Stephen Schwarzman Proposition 21 Blackstone

[Modern-Day Robber Baron: The Sins of Blackstone CEO Stephen Schwarzman]

The system is rigged for brokers to use brokerage houses, big ones, and those fees — buy, sell, trade, manage — more money and profits made for NOT producing one potato or bicycle. Yet, MBAs and the others in this crew believe that they don’t want their precious children to work the slave fields of Ivory Coast, or to be soccer ball stitchers, or to be at the wrong end of a toxic waste discharge hose. But invest in Hershey’s, or Nike, or Smithfield, well, out of sight, out of mind. Yep, they would not want their precious families bombed with the amazing number of components tied to an amazing number of businesses wrapped up in one missile. Screws, wires, capacitors, metal shrouding, telemetry, paint, seals, nuts and bolts, precision metal parts, tubes and coils and electronic guidance systems and batteries and, well, you get the picture. But goddamn, you can make bank on investing in defense (sic) companies because there is an endless demand by governments to have that shit in stock. We the taxpayer pay for those Hellfire’s:

Lockheed Martin, Boeing (previous second source), and Northrop Grumman (seeker only for AGM-114L Longbow Hellfire) Unit cost US$150,000 (FY 2021)!

The Military-Industrial Complex | Hoover Institution

It’s much more than just those three companies making bank for these missiles. There is an entire contingent (armies) of companies and service economies tied to this murder weapon:

AGM-114 Hellfire II Missile, United States of America

Pretty simple looking murder weapon: those companies making tons of money, and the death makes more money for them, in resupplying.

3d hellfire ii missle missile model

In the past, I have studied mutual funds I have invested in, to squirrel away some savings, and the picture is pretty ugly. There are no SRI’s that are nothing more than just market washing. Socially Responsible Investing, NOT:

21 Best Mutual Funds for Investment in 2021-22

Top Holdings — Axis Bluechip

Company Sector P/E 3Y High 3Y Low % Assets
up Infosys Technology 29.50 10.06 1.48 9.36
equal Bajaj Finance Financial 76.34 10.38 4.36 8.98
up HDFC Bank Financial 24.82 10.94 6.06 8.97
up Tata Consultancy Services Technology 34.90 9.05 2.30 7.32
up Kotak Mahindra Bank Financial 33.90 9.46 4.74 7.12
up ICICI Bank Financial 23.28 8.05 0.00 7.07
up Avenue Supermarts Services 178.26 7.41 2.45 5.55
equal HDFC Financial 23.54 6.82 1.28 5.01
up Reliance Industries Energy 27.33 8.33 0.89 4.30
up Divi’s Laboratories Healthcare 57.37 3.15 0.00 3.15
equal Hindustan Unilever FMCG 68.89 5.27 1.49 2.58
up Ultratech Cement Construction 34.72 2.36 0.00 2.24
up Asian Paints Chemicals 85.41 4.24 1.32 2.17
equal Nestle India FMCG 77.15 4.59 0.00 2.14
up Motherson Sumi Systems Automobile 147.57 2.08 0.00 2.08
down Maruti Suzuki India Automobile 46.37 5.83 0.00 1.89
equal Pidilite Industries Chemicals 86.93 2.55 0.60 1.82
up Bharti Airtel Communication 5.50 0.00 1.79
equal Cipla Healthcare 31.01 2.36 0.00 1.62
up Wipro Technology 25.80 1.83 0.00 1.55
down Shree Cement Construction 49.08 1.59 0.00 1.32
new Tata Steel Metals 17.76 1.21 0.00 1.21
equal Titan Company Cons Durable 139.72 3.45 0.78 0.98
equal Dr. Reddy’s Lab Healthcare 44.62 3.21 0.00 0.94
equal HDFC Life Insurance Financial 99.18 1.82 0.00 0.89

This is the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s Fund holdings, in general:

The Gates Foundation's Hypocritical Investments – Mother Jones

Top Warren Buffett Stocks By Size

Here are the top 10 Warren Buffett stocks by number of shares, as of March 31:

  • Bank of America (BAC), 1.01 billion
  • Apple (AAPL), 887.1 million
  • Coca-Cola (KO), 400 million
  • Kraft Heinz (KHC), 325.6 million
  • Verizon (VZ), 158.8 million
  • American Express (AXP), 151.6 million
  • U.S. Bancorp (USB), 129.7 million
  • Bank of New York Mellon (BK), 72.4 million
  • General Motors (GM), 67 million
  • Kroger (KR), 51.1 million

Look at what Warren Buffett owns as part of Berkshire Hathaway. Products — Diversified investments, property and casualty insurance, Utilities, Restaurants, Food processing, Aerospace, Media, Toys, Automotive, Sporting goods, Consumer products, Internet, Real estate, Railroad

How Does the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Invest Its Money?

So the average Joe and Jane, if they get a mutual fund or two for some long-term investment, this is the reality — you might be a social justice warrior, an anti-racist campaigner, an anti-war proponent, an environmentalist, community crusader, a socialist, an anti-capitalist, but if you stick your toe just a bit into the pond for minimal investments, just to protect a few thousand dollars here and there, this is what you get — money into the pockets of madmen: school to prison pipeline experts, war lords, surveillance capitalists, drug pushers, bad loan chieftains, medical fraudsters, real estate thugs, polluters, mountaintop removers, river toxifiers, land thieves, propaganda priests.

I am so serious about this now — where does the money go, and which company is being supported by stockholders shoveling money into their companies? Look at the union busters, at the price gougers, at the political lobbying arms, all these giant corporations and their networks of bunkos!

You can turn blue in the face decrying Monsanto (Bayer) for its pesticide poisons or Exxon for climate change propaganda or Sackler/Purdue Pharmacy for opioid addictions, but if you have a mutual fund, there is a chance that somehow those companies are entwined somewhere in the formula of a “strong mutual fund.”

The corporate giants are also demanding that Congress allow the repatriation of about $2.5 trillion stashed abroad without paying more than 5% tax. They say the money would be used to grow the economy and create jobs. Last time CEOs promised this result in 2004, Congress approved, and then was double-crossed. The companies spent the bulk on stock buybacks, their own pay raises and some dividend increases.

There are more shenanigans. With low interest rates that are deductible, companies actually borrow money to finance their stock buybacks. If the stock market tanks, these companies will have a self-created debt load to handle. A former Citigroup executive, Richard Parsons, has expressed worry about a “massively manipulated” stock market which “scares the crap” out of him.

Banks that pay you near zero interest on your savings announced on June 28, 2017 the biggest single buyback in history – a $92.8 billion extraction. Drug companies who say their sky-high drug prices are needed to fund R&D. But between 2006 and 2017, 18 drug company CEOs spent a combined staggering $516 billion on buybacks and dividends – more than their inflated claims of spending for R&D. — Nader

We all are sinners in capitalism — just paying our tax bill: death and destruction raining down on Palestinians, for example:

“Seven deadly sins: Wealth without work, Pleasure without conscience, Science without humanity, Knowledge without character, Politics without principle, Commerce without morality, Worship without sacrifice.” – Mahatma Gandhi

America's Last Snake-handling Cults

Oh, we all think we have found the formula for living in this insane and murderous country. Oh, we have to put nose to the grindstone. Follow the leaders. Get the jab. Do as you are told. You home is not your castle. There are no 40 acres and a mule. No handouts. Pull yourself up by your own bootstraps. Pinch your nose, cover your eyes, plug your ears, muffle your mouth!

What is capitalism for dummies, currency rate of exchange in mexico

So, you end up throwing in the towel — no purity test, no selective boycotting of this or that product or service. No true anti-Imperialist leaning, when tax filing time comes. Nothing free in this un-Democratic land of thieves, murderers and thugs. Almost every step you take in America is full of landmines, cow pies, toxic puddles and electrified fences. The horizon is one theater of the absurd after another. The amount of nonsense and self-congratulatory verbiage from all manner of people who think they are enlightened or vaunted or above the dirty, scab-sucking, ripoff fray of capitalism, well, that is the self-delusion, the big lie.

You have a military industrial complex : LateStageCapitalism

So, the role of k12, and of higher education? One of the key foundations for a society — good education, robust, and deep learning, deep thinking, and systems thinking growing. Under capitalism and consumerism and conformist ideology that is US of Amnesia, there are so many broken things about face to face education, and I have written tons on this. Taking it to Zoom, to televised classes, remote learning, well, all the bad gets funneled into this new normal-abnormal.

In addition to education, colleges and universities provide indoctrination in the values and shared beliefs that our society deems important. These commonly shared values and tenets must be instilled, importantly beginning in grade school and before (the Jesuit boast, variously stated, is “Give me the first seven years and you can have all the rest”), and continued and reinforced through high school and college.

It is at the university where young men and women of indoctrinated conviction are most typically apt and able to respond to what is going on in the world around them, perhaps even take to the streets. Indoctrination can be overt or subtle. — George Heitmann

Allentown's Muhlenberg College allowed a limited number of students to live on campus this fall semester.

The post Try as You May to Deny, but Evil is in Our DNA first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Jewish groups that aid Israel’s war crimes can’t deny all responsibility for those crimes

Here is something that can be said with great confidence. It is racist – antisemitic, if you prefer – to hold Jews, individually or collectively, accountable for Israel’s crimes. Jews are not responsible for Israel’s war crimes, even if the Israeli state presumes to implicate Jews in its crimes by falsely declaring it represents all Jews in the world.

Very obviously, it is not the fault of Jews that Israel commits war crimes, or that Israel uses Jews collectively as a political shield, exploiting sensitivities about the historical suffering of Jews at the hands of non-Jews to immunise itself from international opprobrium.

But here is something that can be said with equal certainty. Israel’s apologists – whether Jews or non-Jews – cannot deny all responsibility for Israel’s war crimes when they actively aid and abet Israel in committing those crimes, or when they seek to demonise and silence Israel’s critics so that those war crimes can be pursued in a more favourable political climate.

Such apologists – which sadly seems to include many of the community organisations in Britain claiming to represent Jews – want to have their cake and eat it.

They cannot defend Israel uncritically as it commits war crimes or seek legislative changes to assist Israel in committing those war crimes – whether it be Israel’s latest pummelling of civilians in Gaza, or its executions of unarmed Palestinians protesting 15 years of Israel’s blockade of the coastal enclave – and accuse anyone who criticises them for doing so of being an antisemite.

But this is exactly what has been going on. And it is only getting worse.

Upsurge in antisemitism?

As a ceasefire was implemented yesterday, bringing a temporary let-up in the bombing of Gaza by Israel, pro-Israel Jewish groups in the UK were once again warning of an upsurge of antisemitism they related to a rapid growth in the number of protests against Israel.

These groups have the usual powerful allies echoing their claims. British prime minister Boris Johnson met community leaders in Downing Street on Thursday pledging, as Jewish News reported, “to continue to support the community in the face of rising antisemitism attacks”.

Those Jewish leaders included Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis, a supporter of Johnson who played a part in helping him win the 2019 election by renewing the evidence-free antisemitism smears against the Labour party days before voting. It also included the Campaign Against Antisemitism, which was founded specifically to whitewash Israel’s crimes during its 2014 bombardment of Gaza and has ever since been vilifying all Palestinian solidarity activism as antisemitism.

In attendance too was the Jewish Leadership Council, an umbrella organisation for Britain’s main Jewish community groups. In an article in Israel’s Haaretz newspaper on this supposed rise in antisemitism in the UK, the JLC’s vice-president, Daniel Korski, set out the ridiculous, self-serving narrative these community groups are trying to peddle, with seemingly ever greater success among the political and media elite.

Popular outrage over Gaza

Korski expressed grave concern about the proliferation of demonstrations in the UK designed to halt Israel’s bombardment of Gaza. During 11 days of attacks, more than 230 Palestinians were killed, including 65 children. Israel’s precision air strikes targeted more than a dozen hospitals, including the only Covid clinic in Gaza, dozens of schools, several media centres, and left tens of thousands of Palestinians homeless.

The sense of popular outrage at the Israeli onslaught was only heightened by the fact that Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, had clearly engineered a confrontation with Hamas at the outset to serve his immediate personal interests: preventing Israeli opposition parties from uniting to oust him from power.

In his naked personal calculations, Palestinian civilians were sacrificed to help Netanyahu hold on to power and improve his chances of evading jail as he stands trial on corruption charges.

But for Korski and the other community leaders attending the meeting with Johnson, the passionate demonstrations in solidarity with Palestinians are their main evidence for a rise in antisemitism.

‘Free Palestine’ chants

These community organisations cite a few incidents that undoubtedly qualify as antisemitism – some serious, some less so. They include shouting “Free Palestine” at individuals because they are identifiable as Jews, something presumably happening mostly to the religious ultra-Orthodox.

But these Jewish leaders’ chief concern, they make clear, is the growing public support for Palestinians in the face of intensifying Israeli aggression.

Quoting David Rich, of the Community Security Trust, another Jewish organisation hosted by Johnson, the Haaretz newspaper reports that “what has really shaken the Jewish community … ‘is that demos are being held all over the country every day about this issue’ [Israel’s bombardment of Gaza].”

Revealingly, it seems that when Jewish community leaders watch TV screens showing demonstrators chant “Free Palestine”, they feel it as a personal attack – as though they themselves are being accosted in the street.

One doesn’t need to be a Freudian analyst to wonder whether this reveals something troubling about their inner emotional life: they identify so completely with Israel that even when someone calls for Palestinians to have equal rights with Israelis they perceive as a collective attack on Jews, as antisemitism.

Exception for Israel

Then Korski gets to the crux of the argument: “As Jews we are proud of our heritage and at the same time in no way responsible for the actions of a government thousands of miles away, no matter our feelings or connection to it.”

But the logic of that position is simply untenable. You cannot tie your identity intimately to a state that systematically commits war crimes, you cannot classify demonstrations against those war crimes as antisemitism, you cannot use your position as a “Jewish community leader” to make such allegations more credible, and you cannot exploit your influence with world leaders to try to silence protests against Israel and then say you are “in no way responsible” for the actions of that government.

If you use your position to prevent Israel from being subjected to scrutiny over allegations of war crimes, if you seek to manipulate the public discourse with claims of antisemitism to create a more favourable environment in which those war crimes can be committed, then some of the blame for those war crimes rubs off on you.

That is how responsibility works in every other sphere of life. What Israel’s apologists are demanding is an exception for Israel and for themselves.

Lobby with the UK’s ear

In another revealing observation seeking to justify claims of an upsurge in antisemitism, Korski adds: “We don’t see the same kind of outpouring of emotion when it comes to the Rohingya or the Uighurs or Syria, and it makes a lot of Jews feel this is about them [as Jews].”

But there are many reasons why there aren’t equally large demonstrations in the UK against the suffering of the Rohingya and the Uighurs – reasons that have absolutely nothing to do with antisemitism.

The oppressors of the Rohingya and the Uighurs, unlike Israel, are not being generously armed by the British government or given diplomatic cover by Britain or being given preferential trade agreements by Britain.

But equally importantly, the states oppressing the Rohingya and Uighurs – unlike Israel – don’t have active, well-funded lobbies in the UK, with the ear of the prime minister. China and Myanmar – unlike Israel – don’t have UK lobbies successfully labelling criticism of them as racism. Unlike Israel, they don’t have lobbies that openly seek to influence elections to protect them from criticism. Unlike Israel, they don’t have lobbies that work with Britain to introduce measures to assist them in carrying out their oppression.

The president of the Board of Deputies, Marie van der Zyl, for example, pressed Johnson at the meeting this week to classify all branches of Hamas, not just its military wing, as a terrorist organisation. That is Israel’s wet dream. Such a decision would make it even less likely that Britain would be in a position to officially distance itself from Israel’s war crimes in Gaza, where Hamas runs the government, and even more likely it would join Israel in declaring Gaza’s schools, hospitals and government departments all legitimate targets for Israeli air strikes.

Pure projection

If you are lobbying to get special favours for Israel, particularly favours to help it commit war crimes, you don’t also get to wash your hands of those war crimes. You are directly implicated in them.

David Hirsch, an academic at the University of London who has been closely connected to efforts to weaponise antisemitism against critics of Israel, especially in the Labour party under its previous leader Jeremy Corbyn, also tries to play this trick.

He tells Haaretz that antisemitism is supposedly “getting worse” because Palestinian solidarity activists have been giving up on a two-state solution. “There used to be a struggle in Palestine solidarity between a politics of peace – two states living side by side – and a politics of denouncing one side as essentially evil and hoping for its total defeat.”

But what Hirsch is doing is pure projection: he is suggesting Palestinian solidarity activists are “antisemites” – his idea of evil – because they have been forced by Israel to abandon their long-favoured cause of a two-state solution. That is only because successive Israeli governments have refused to negotiate any kind of peace deal with the most moderate Palestinian leadership imaginable under Mahmoud Abbas – one that has eagerly telegraphed its desire to collaborate with Israel, even calling “security coordination” with the Israeli army “sacred”.

A two-state solution is dead because Israel made it dead not because Palestinian solidarity activists are more extreme or more antisemitic.

In calling to “Free Palestine”, activists are not demanding Israel’s “total defeat” – unless Hirsch and Jewish community organisations themselves believe that Palestinians can never be free from Israeli oppression and occupation until Israel suffers such a “total defeat”. Hirsch’s claim tells us nothing about Palestinian solidarity activists, but it does tell us a lot about what is really motivating these Jewish community organisations.

It is these pro-Israel lobbyists, it seems, more than Palestinian solidarity activists, who cannot imagine Palestinians living in dignity under Israeli rule. Is that because they understand only too well what Israel and its political ideology of Zionism truly represent, and that what is required of Palestinians for “peace” is absolute and permanent submission?

Better informed

Similarly, Rich, of the Community Security Trust, says of Palestinian solidarity activists: “Even the moderates have become extremists.” What does this extremism – again presented by Jewish groups as antisemitism – consist of? “Now the movement [in solidarity with Palestinians] is dominated by the view that Israel is an apartheid, genocidal, settler-colonialist state.”

Or in other words, these pro-Israel Jewish groups claim there has been a surge in antisemitism because Palestinian solidarity activists are being influenced and educated by human rights organisations, like Human Rights Watch and Israel’s B’Tselem. Both recently wrote reports classifying Israel as an apartheid state, in the occupied territories and inside Israel’s recognised borders. Activists are not becoming more extreme, they are becoming better informed.

And in making the case for a supposed surge in antisemitism, Rich offers another inadvertently revealing insight. He says Jewish children are suffering from online “abuse” – antisemitism – because they find it increasingly hard to participate on social media.

“Teenagers are much quicker to join social movements; we’ve just had Black Lives Matter, Extinction Rebellion, #MeToo – now Jewish kids find all their friends are joining this [Palestinian solidarity] movement where they don’t feel welcome or they are singled out because they’re Jewish.”

Fancifully, Rich is arguing that Jewish children raised in Zionist families and communities that have taught them either explicitly or implicitly that Jews in Israel have superior rights to Palestinians are being discriminated against because their unexamined ideas of Jewish supremacy do not fit with a pro-Palestinian movement predicated on equality.

This is as preposterous as it would have been, during the Jim Crow era, for white supremacist Americans to have complained of racism because their children were being made to feel out of place in civil rights forums.

Such assertions would be laughable were they not so dangerous.

Demonised as antisemites

Zionist supporters of Israel are trying to turn logic and the world upside down. They are inverting reality. They are projecting their own racist, zero-sum assumptions about Israel on to Palestinian solidarity activists, those who support equal rights for Jews and Palestinians in the Middle East.

As they did with the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s definition, these Jewish groups are twisting the meaning of antisemitism, skewing it from a fear or hatred of Jews to any criticism of Israel that makes pro-Israel Jews feel uncomfortable.

As we watch these arguments being amplified uncritically by leading politicians and journalists, remember too that it was the only major politician to demurred from this nonsensical narrative, Jeremy Corbyn, who became the main target – and victim – of these antisemitism smears.

Now these pro-Israel Jewish groups want to treat us all like Corbyn, demonising us as antisemites unless we fall silent even as Israel once again brutalises Palestinians.

The post Jewish groups that aid Israel’s war crimes can’t deny all responsibility for those crimes first appeared on Dissident Voice.

We can defeat the corporate media’s war to snuff out independent journalism

My talk at the International Festival of Whistleblowing, Dissent and Accountability on May 8. Transcript below.

I wanted to use this opportunity to talk about my experiences over the past two decades working with new technology as an independent freelance journalist, one who abandoned – or maybe more accurately, was abandoned by – what we usually call the “mainstream” media.

Looking back over that period, I have come to appreciate that I was among the first generation of journalists to break free of the corporate media – in my case, the Guardian – and ride this wave of new technology. In doing so, we liberated ourselves from the narrow editorial restrictions such media imposes on us as journalists and were still able to find an audience, even if a diminished one.

More and more journalists are following a similar path today – a few out of choice, and more out of necessity as corporate media becomes increasingly unprofitable. But as journalists seek to liberate themselves from the strictures of the old corporate media, that same corporate media is working very hard to characterise the new technology as a threat to media freedoms.

This self-serving argument should be treated with a great deal of scepticism. I want to use my own experiences to suggest that quite the reverse is true. And that the real danger is allowing the corporate media to reassert its monopoly over narrating the world to us.

‘Mainstream’ consensus

I left my job at the Guardian newspaper group in 2001. Had I tried to become an independent journalist 10 years earlier than I did, it would have been professional suicide. In fact, it would have been a complete non-starter. I certainly would not be here telling you what it was like to have spent 20 years challenging the “mainstream” western consensus on Israel-Palestine.

Before the Noughties, without a platform provided by a corporate media outlet, journalists had no way to reach an audience, let alone create one. We were entirely beholden to our editors, and they in turn were dependent on billionaire owners – or in a few cases like the BBC’s, the  government – and on advertisers.

When I arrived in Nazareth as a freelance journalist, though one with continuing connections to the Guardian, I quickly found myself faced with a stark choice.

Newspapers would accept relatively superficial articles from me, ones that accorded with a decades-old, western, colonial mindset about Israel-Palestine. Had I contributed such pieces for long enough, I would probably have managed to reassure one of the papers that I was an obliging and safe pair of hands. Eventually, when a position fell vacant, I might have landed myself a well-paid correspondent’s job.

Instead I preferred to write authentically – for myself, reporting what I had observed on the ground, rather than what was expected of me by my editors. That meant antagonising and gradually burning bridges with the western media.

Even in a digital era of new journalistic possibilities, there were few places to publish. I had to rely on a couple of what were then newly emerging websites that were prepared to publish very different narratives on Israel-Palestine from the western corporate media’s.

Level playing field

The most prominent at the time, which became the first proper home for my journalism, was Al-Ahram Weekly, an English-language sister publication of the famous Cairo daily newspaper. Few probably remember or read Al-Ahram Weekly today, because it was soon overshadowed by other websites. But at the time it was a rare online refuge for dissident voices, and included a regular column from the great public intellectual Edward Said.

It is worth pausing to think about how foreign correspondents operated in the pre-digital world. They not only enjoyed a widely read, if tightly controlled, platform in an establishment media outlet, but they had behind them a vitally important support structure.

Their newspaper provided an archive and library service so that they could easily research historical and newsworthy events in their region. There were local staff who could help with locating sources and offering translations. They had photographers who contributed visuals to their pieces. And they had satellite phones to file breaking news from remote locations.

None of this came cheap. A freelance journalist could never have afforded any of this kind of support.

All that changed with the new technology, which rapidly levelled the playing field. A Google search soon became more comprehensive than even the best newspaper library. Mobile phones made it easy to track down and speak to people who were potential sources for stories. Digital cameras, and then the same mobile phones, meant it was possible to visually record events without needing a photographer alongside you. And email meant it was easy to file copy from anywhere in the world, to anywhere, virtually free.

Documentary evidence

The independent journalism I and others were developing in the early Noughties was assisted by a new kind of political activist who was using similarly novel digital tools.

After I arrived in Nazareth, I had little use for the traditional “access journalism” my corporate colleagues chiefly relied on. Israeli politicians and military generals dissembled to protect Israel’s image. Far more interesting to me were the young western activists who had begun embedding – before that term got corrupted by the behaviour of corporate journalists – in Palestinian communities.

Today we remember names like Rachel Corrie, Tom Hurndall, Brian Avery, Vittorio Arrigoni and many others for the fact that in the early Noughties they were either killed or wounded by Israeli soldiers. But they were part of a new movement of political activists and citizen journalists – many of them with the International Solidarity Movement – who were offering a different kind of access.

They used digital cameras to record and protest the Israeli army’s abuses and war crimes from up close inside Palestinian communities – crimes that had previously had gone unrecorded for western audiences. They then sent their documentary evidence and their eye-witness accounts to journalists by email or published them on “alternative” websites. For independent journalists like me, their work was gold-dust. We could challenge Israel’s implausible accounts with clear-cut evidence.

Sadly most corporate journalists paid little attention to the work of these activists. In any case, their role was quickly snuffed out. That was partly because Israel learnt that shooting a few of them served as a very effective deterrent, warning others to keep away.

But it was also because as technology became cheaper and more accessible – eventually ending up in mobile phones that everyone was expected to have – Palestinians could record their own suffering more immediately and without any mediation.

Israel’s dismissal of the early, grainy images of the abuse of Palestinians by soldiers and settlers – as “Pallywood” (Palestinian Hollywood) – became ever less plausible, even to its own supporters. Soon Palestinians were recording their mistreatment in high definition and posting it directly to YouTube.

Unreliable allies

There was a parallel evolution in journalism. For the first eight years in Nazareth, I struggled to make any kind of living by publishing online. Egyptian wages were far too low to support me in Israel, and most alternative websites lacked the budget to pay. For the first years I lived a spartan life and dug into my savings from my former, well-paid job at the Guardian. During this period I also wrote a series of books because it was so difficult to find places to publish my news reporting.

It was in the late Noughties that Arab media in English, led by Al-Jazeera, really took off, with Arab states making the most of the new favourable conditions provided by the internet. These outlets flourished for a time by feeding the appetite among sections of the western public for more critical coverage of Israel-Palestine and of western foreign policy more generally. At the same time, Arab states exploited the revelations provided by dissident journalists to gain more leverage in Washington policymaking circles.

My time with Al-Ahram came to an abrupt end after a few years, as the paper grew less keen on running hard-hitting pieces that showed Israel as an apartheid state or that explained the nature of its settler colonial ideology. Rumours reached me that the Americans were leaning on the Egyptian government and its media to tone down the bad news about Israel.

It would be the first of several exits I had to make from these English-language Arab media outlets. As their western readership and visibility grew, they invariably attracted hostile attention from western governments and sooner or later capitulated. They were never more than fickle, unreliable allies to western dissidents.

Editors as sheepdogs

Again, I would have been forced to abandon journalism had it not been for another technological innovation – the rise of social media. Facebook and Twitter soon rivalled the corporate media as platforms for news dissemination.

For the first time, it was possible for journalists to grow their own audiences independently of an outlet. In a few cases, that dramatically changed the power relations in favour of those journalists. Glenn Greenwald is probably the most prominent example of this trend. He was chased after first by the Guardian and then by the billionaire Pierre Omidyar, to set up the Intercept. Now he’s on his own, using the editorially hands-off online platform Substack.

In a news environment driven chiefly by shares, journalists with their own large and loyal followings were initially prized.

But they were also an implicit threat. The role of corporate media is to serve as a figurative sheep-dog, herding journalists each day into an ideological pen – the publication they write for. There are minor differences of opinion and emphasis between conservative publications and liberal ones, but they all ultimately serve the same corporate, business-friendly, colonial, war-mongering agenda.

It is the publication’s job, not the journalists’, to shape the values and worldview of its readers, over time limiting the range of possible thoughts they are likely to entertain.

Readers to the rescue

In the new environment of social media that has begun to change. Not only have some journalists become more influential than the papers they write for, but others have abandoned the employee-servant model completely. They have reached the conclusion that they no longer need a corporate outlet to secure an audience. They can publish themselves, build their own readership, and generate their own income – freeing themselves from corporate servitude.

In the last few years, this is a path I have pursued myself – becoming mostly reader-financed. For most of us, it is a precarious option. But it is liberating too – in a way that no previous generation of journalists could ever have imagined possible.

We are subject to no editorial oversight or control, apart from our own self-imposed sense of what is right and fair, or in some cases what we think our readers are ready to hear. We have no bosses or advertisers to please or appease. Our owner is the readerhip, and with an owner that diverse and diffuse, we have been freed of the tyranny of billionaires and corporations.

This new model of journalism is revolutionary. It is genuinely pluralistic media. It allows a much wider spectrum of thought to reach the mainstream than ever before. And perhaps even more importantly, it allows independent journalists to examine, critique and expose the corporate media in real time, showing how little pluralism they allow and how often they resort to blatant falsehood and propaganda techniques.

The fact that a few journalists and activists can so convincingly and easily tear apart the coverage of corporate media outlets reveals how little relationship that coverage often bears to reality.

Reporters for hire

Corporate media took none of this lying down, of course, even if it was slow to properly gauge the dangers.

Dissident journalists are a problem not only because they have broken free of the controls of the billionaire class and are often doing a better job of building audiences than their corporate counterparts. Worse, dissident journalists are also educating readers so that they are better equipped to understand what corporate journalism is: that it is ideological prostitution. It is a reporting and commentary for hire, by an establishment class.

The backlash from the corporate media to this threat was not long coming. Criticism – narratively managed by corporate outlets – has sought to character-assassinate dissident journalists and browbeat the social media platforms that host them. Reality has been inverted. Too often it is the critical thinking of dissident journalists that is maligned as “fake news”, and it is the genuine pluralism social media corporations have inadvertently allowed that is repudiated as the erosion of democratic values.

Social media platforms have put up only the most feeble resistance to the traditional corporate media-led campaign demanding they crack down on the dissidents they host. They are, after all, media corporations too, and have little interest in promoting free speech, critical thinking or pluralism.

Manipulated algorithms

What resistance they did muster, for a short time, largely reflected the fact that their early business model was to replace top-down traditional media with a new bottom-up media that was essentially led by readers. But as social media has gradually been merged or incorporated into the traditional media establishment, it has preferred to join in with the censorship and to marginalise dissident journalists.

Some of this is done out in the open, with the banning of individuals or alternative sites. But more often it is done covertly, through the manipulation of algorithms making dissident journalists all but impossible to find. We have seen our page views and shares plummet over the past few years, as we lose the online battle against the same, supposedly “authoritative sources” – the establishment media – we have been exposing as fraudsters.

The perverse, self-serving discourse from establishment media about the new media is currently hard to miss in the relentless attacks on Substack. This open platform hosts journalists and writers who wish to build their own audiences and fund themselves from reader donations. Substack is the logical conclusion of a path I and other have been on for two decades. It not only gets rid of the media’s sheepdog-editors, it dispenses with the ideological pens into which journalists are supposed to be herded.

Sordid history

James Ball, whose sordid history includes acting as the Guardian’s hatchet man on Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, was a predictable choice as the Guardian Group tried this month to discredit Substack. Here is Ball ridiculously fretting about how greater freedom for journalists might damage western society by stoking so-called “culture wars”:

Concerns are emerging about what Substack is now, exactly. Is it a platform for hosting newsletters and helping people discover them? Or is it a new type of publication, one that relies on stoking the culture wars to help divisive writers build devoted followings? …

Being on Substack has for some become a tacit sign of being a partisan in the culture wars, not least because it’s a lot easier to build a devoted and paying following by stressing that you’re giving readers something the mainstream won’t.

Ball is the kind of second-rate stenographer who would have had no journalistic career at all were he not a hired gun for a corporate publication like the Guardian. Buried in his piece is the real reason for his – and the Guardian’s – concern about Substack:

Such is Substack’s recent notoriety that people are now worrying that it might be the latest thing that might kill traditional media.

Notice the heavy-lifting that word “people” is doing in the quoted sentence. Not you or I. “People” refers to James Ball and the Guardian.

Severe price

But the gravest danger to media freedom lies beyond any supposed “culture wars”. As the battle for narrative control intensifies, there is much more at stake than name-calling and even skewed algorithms.

In a sign of how far the political and media establishment are willing to go to stop dissident journalism – a journalism that seeks to expose corrupt power and hold it to account – they have been making examples of the most significant journalists of the new era by prosecuting them.

Wikileaks founder Julian Assange has been out of sight for a decade – first as a political asylum seeker, then as an inmate of a British prison – subjected to endlessly shifting pretexts for his incarceration. First, it was a rape investigation that no one wanted to pursue. Then, it was for a minor bail infraction. And more recently – as the other pretexts have passed their sellby date – it has been for exposing US war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan. Assange could languish in jail for years to come.

Former UK ambassador Craig Murray, a chronicler through his blog of the legal abuses Assange has suffered, has faced his own retribution from the establishment. He has been prosecuted and found guilty in a patently nonsensical “jigsaw identification” case relating to the Alex Salmond trial.

My talk has been recorded too early to know the outcome of Murray’s sentencing hearing, which was due to take place the day before this festival [and was later postponed to Tuesday May 11]. But the treatment of Assange and Murray has sent a clear message to any journalist inspired by their courage and their commitment to hold establishment power to account: “You will pay a severe price. You will lose years of your life and mountains of money fighting to defend yourself. And ultimately we can and will lock you away.”

Peek behind the curtain

The west’s elites will not give up the corrupt institutions that uphold their power without a fight. We would be foolish to think otherwise. But new technology has offered us new tools in our struggle and it has redrawn the battleground in ways that no one could have predicted even a decade ago.

The establishment are being forced into a game of whack-a-mole with us. Each time they bully or dismantle a platform we use, another one – like Substack – springs up to replace it. That is because there will always be journalists determined to find a way to peek behind the curtain to tell us what they found. And there will always be audiences who want to learn what is behind the curtain. Supply and demand are on our side.

The constant acts of intimidation and violence by political and media elites to crush media pluralism in the name of “democratic values” will serve only to further expose the hypocrisy and bad faith of the corporate media and its hired hands.

We must keep struggling because the struggle itself is a form of victory.twitter sharing buttonThank you for listening and I hope you enjoy today’s festival. sharethis sharing button

The post We can defeat the corporate media’s war to snuff out independent journalism first appeared on Dissident Voice.

BBC, Free Media, and Julian Assange

A video in which Azerbaijani president Ilham Aliyev is interviewed by Orla Guerin has resurfaced; the interview took place in November 2020. (The BBC version.)

Revealing is what is not seen in the BBC version. When Aliyev held up the mirror to Guerin’s “accusation” that there was no free media in Azerbaijan, the BBC responded by censoring Aliyev’s reference to Assange.

Tossing rocks from a glasshouse is a dangerous tactic, as BBC’s Guerin discovers first hand when she charges that there is no free media in Azerbaijan. Aliyev denies the “accusation” by Guerin and turns the table:

How do you assess what happened to Mr. Assange? Isn’t it the reflection of free media in your country?

Aliyev knows that the BBC reporter has been put on the defensive. Guerin is either ignorant of media censorship in her home country or hoping that Aliyev would be ignorant of such facts. Aliyev is not ignorant; he takes the UK and BBC to task for its participation in the grotesque violation of Julian Assange.

For the journalistic activity [of Assange], you kept that person hostage actually killing him morally and physically. You did it, not us. And now he is in prison. So you have no moral right to talk about free media when you do these things.

The egregious miscarriage of justice meted out to WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange by the UK, US, Australian, and Swedish establishments, and the rest of the western establishments that refuse to stand up for human rights and oppose the torture of a publisher (and his source, Chelsea Manning who was also imprisoned and tortured) shouts in the loudest voice imaginable. Human rights, freedom of the media, and the moral right to lecture others are painfully in abeyance.

The video “Collateral Murder” released by WikiLeaks bears watching, rewatching, and making known to others. The criminals in the helicopter who gleefully gun down civilians in the Baghdadi street escaped any punishment, and the country that sent its killers to Iraq has eluded the hand of justice.

Despite the UK court denying the extradition of Assange to the United States, citing concerns over his mental health and risk of suicide, British authorities returned Assange to the maximum security facility of Belmarsh prison. This is rather astounding and logic defying given the court’s professed concern for Assange’s mental health in a US prison.

Despite being found guilty of no crime (except seeking asylum, being in fear of state persecution, amply proven by subsequent events), the man who brought to wider public knowledge the commission of war crimes by their governments has been in some form of incarceration since 2010.

What is abundantly clear from the case of Julian Assange is that to gain credibility and attain legitimacy, western states and their media must come clean on their own perfidy and repent before tossing rocks from the western glasshouse.

The post BBC, Free Media, and Julian Assange first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Socialist Rhetorical and Dialectical Communication: Overcoming Brainwashing, Propaganda, Entertainment

Orientation

How effective is the socialist left at winning over people in public meetings who are not already socialists? I would think that being socialists would make the people practicing socialism very good at being social. How true is this? There are two purposes in this article. One is to identify the similarities and differences between six forms of information control. The second part is to assess how good leftists are in using the two forms of control called “rhetoric” and “dialectic” at making their points. My claim is that the socialist left knows or cares little for these argumentation forms. This is one of many reasons why it is difficult to persuade or convince the public to become socialists or support socialist programs. These attempts could be in public gatherings such as rallies, city council meetings or in the workplace.

Six forms of information control

In my last article, I contrasted seven theories of propaganda, highlighting the work of sociologist Jacques Ellul. But as it turns out, propaganda is one of six forms of information control. Moving from right to left, from most to the least authoritarian we have:

  • Brainwashing
  • Propaganda
  • Mass entertainment
  • Public entertainment
  • Rhetoric
  • Dialectic

Brainwashing is the most conservative form of information control because it uses force to change minds. Propaganda, as we have seen in my last article, can be used by both conservatives and liberals. Both forms of entertainment are really politically apathetic, as they try to distract and provide escape from political and economic realities. Rhetoric is the essence of liberal viewpoints dating all the way back to debate among the classical Greeks. Dialectic was also used among the Greeks. It was used for conservative purposes by Plato and later by Hegel while Marx used dialectic to understand capitalism along with human history.

As in my article on propaganda, this article will cover information control that existed before the world-wide web and the rest of interactive media was created. Interactive media introduces a whole new level of interaction, which I am not experienced to comment on.

Origins of the terms

Of all the forms of information control, “brainwashing” is the most recent on the scene. It was coined by a CIA agent, William Hunter, in the early 1950s to describe the interrogation methods of Chinese Communists on American soldiers during the Korean War. The first use of the term “propaganda” was in early modern Europe by the Catholic Church to characterize the Protestant methods of conversion through print media.  The term “entertainment” was first used in the 17th century to describe activities in Europe that were considered to be amusement. Both rhetoric and dialectic have their beginnings in ancient Greece in the context of either developing an argument through one-on-one exchange (dialectic) or in persuading a public audience (rhetoric). Rhetoric settings were law courts. Aristotle and the Sophists were early theoreticians. Dialectic was originally associated with the dialogues connected to Plato and Socrates.

Overcoming bad reputations

Interestingly enough, all forms of information control except entertainment have bad reputations and are mostly used for political purposes by the Yankee state. For example, the word “brainwashing” was imagined as a product of seedy conspiracies of communist governments and practiced on dissidents. The movie The Manchurian Candidate most obviously depicts the fantasies of what the US state imagined the communists were doing. As can be seen by Robert J. Lifton’s book Thought Reform and the Psychology of Totalism, this had little resemblance to what the Chinese were really up to. As I said in my article on propaganda, the stereotype of propaganda, at least in Yankeedom, is the picture painted of it by reactionary conservatives. They say propaganda is solely political and it is engaged in by foreign, usually “authoritarian” governments. This stereotype also implies that there is no propaganda engaged in by the Yankee state. Of course, there are six other schools of propaganda, but the stereotype that is most powerful is the reactionary conservative one.

The last form of information control used by Yankeedom for political purposes is the stereotype of “dialectic”. Here, dialectic is associated with Hegel’s concept of the state being rational and self-justifying. Reactionary ideologists imagine that Hegel was anticipating the authoritarian states of Russia, China or Cuba. In history, the dialectical process was imagined by them to be a rigid description of a spiral of stages of human society being driven by conflict and taking the same of thesis-antithesis and synthesis. There was no room for individual freedom.

The stereotype of the term “rhetoric” usually means “empty words”, which usually are contrasted with taking action. Rhetoric is also contrasted with content, being form with no content, being superficial, or shallow. Rhetoric is usually associated with deception, exaggeration or the use of emotions, prejudices or sex. Plato has had a heavy hand in giving rhetoric a bad name.

Entertainment is the only form of information control that does not have a bad reputation to overcome. Its definition is to hold attention and divert it to something that is pleasing. It could be at a public event such as puppet shows, musical concerts, sporting events, theme parks, amusement parks, casinos, or circuses. In the case of mass media, there is amusement through movies, radio or television. Public and mass entertainment are created for the purpose of making money through delivering an experience or selling a product or a service.

Defining Brainwashing Propaganda, Rhetoric and Dialectical 

Paraphrasing Kathleen Taylor’s book Brainwashing: The Science of Thought Control, brainwashing is a physiological attempt to do three things:

  • Erase existing thoughts, memories and cognitive content
  • Replant in the brain new content
  • Control the person’s actions remotely so they will obey without the presence of the persecutor

In a case of the pot calling the kettle black, some of the most extensive attempts at actually brainwashing people did not come from communist countries. It came from a Canadian psychiatrist Ewen Cameron in the 1950’s (see Adam Curtis’ Documentary, Century of Self II) who was eventually on the CIA payroll. The tale of Cameron is also documented in the book Brainwash by Dominic Streatfeild and in Journey into Madness: the True Story of CIA Mind Control and Medical Abuse, by Gordon Thomas. The CIA conduced its own experiments in Brainwashing as did the British physiologist, William Sargant in his book Battle for the Mind. Typically, brainwashing in its most severe forms takes place in hospitals, prisons, and the military in the form of torture. It also occurred at the hands of Catholic or Protestant religious institutions in early modern Europe. Its victims were heretics or witches.

The bad news for these terrorist spy organizations and the psychiatrists who worked with them is that they have been unsuccessful. The techniques of brainwashing described in the books have been successful in turning people into vegetables, making them dysfunctional. But they haven’t been successful in erasing, replanting and controlling people remotely.

Paraphrasing the Jowett and O’Donnell book Propaganda and Persuasion, propaganda is the deliberate, systematic and often covert attempt by institutional elites to control:

  • Perceptions
  • Cognitions
  • Emotions
  • Behavior

Who are they controlling?  Masses of people through mass media, while censoring, hiding, restricting, distorting or exaggerating the claims and evidence of their opposition. Propaganda can be white, gray, or black. (See Jowett and O’Donnell’s book for more information, along with my previous article). Propaganda can be easily found during political election campaigns, inaugural speeches, religious recruiting, news reporting, film and, some say, sports.

Rhetoric is the systematic and overt study by an individual speaker of the strategies and techniques for how to convince (change the mind) or persuade (take action) a public audience on a controversial issue.  This is done through the use of Aristotle’s “rhetorical triangle” of argument which consists of logos (the evidence, facts) ethos (having credible sources) and pathos (the appeal to emotions and imagination). It is practiced in courts of law, political debates, scientific conferences and at public community meetings such as city councils.

Dialectic is most clearly present in educational institutions while at their best between teachers and students. Dialectic is the co-creative process by which educators and sometimes debaters:

  • Encourage and bring out the experiences of individual students for public discussion
  • Encourage students’ self-reflection on the relationship between cultural information and their personal experience
  • Face honestly the contradictions which may arise between their personal experience and cultural institutions
  • Feed-forward (plan) and integrate the work experience school has trained them to do into the cultural pool of knowledge and expertise for the next generation

The heart of an active dialectic process is that through constructive creative conflict between teacher, student, a cultural body of knowledge and work experience, a synthetic body of knowledge arises with is more than either educators (as the transmitters of cultural information), students or a public audience had when they first started.

Setting, Intention of the Influencer and Dynamics of Information Flow 

Settings

It is important to understand who is interacting with who; i.e., whether the sender and receiver of information are elites, individuals, the public or a mass. In the case of brainwashing, it is an elite interrogator interacting with an isolated individual. In the case of propaganda and entertainment elites attempt to influence either masses of people or publics. In the case of both rhetoric or dialectic a single speaker appeals to the public or another individual.

Intentions of the Influencer

In brainwashing, the purpose of the psychiatrist or interrogator is to change people by force in the hopes of changing their mind and their actions. In the case of propaganda, the propagandist wants to narrow the focus of the mind or their actions so there are only two choices. Propagandists want to control people by setting up parameters, not to force them to do one thing. The creators of both mass and public entertainment are not interested in changing minds, but they are interested in persuading people to act. In the case of mass entertainment, they hope that the associations between the celebrity and the product they are trying to sell will stick in the minds of the audience. In public entertainment, the hope is to have the audience swept away either by a very competitive ball game or the daring-do of a circus performer. Rhetoric’s emphasis is to open minds and change behavior. Dialectic more than any other source of information control wants to open minds as a way of life.

Dynamics of information flow

In terms of the dynamics of the information flow, the most asymmetrical exchange is in brainwashing where elites have all the power, and the victim is in some kind of forced restraint. In the case of both propaganda and mass entertainment, the relationship between elites and masses is asymmetric but the masses do give some feedback in terms of statistics such as votes received, tickets sold, or products bought. Public entertainment and rhetoric are still asymmetrical but less so because both the performer (music) or public speaker (rhetoric) does receive feedback in terms of audience responses, whether booing, silence, cheering and in the body language of the audience. When teachers are committed to having participatory classroom, dialectic is the least asymmetrical because part of education is to bring out the past experience and current work history of the individual into the public discussion.

Mediums

In terms of mediums used, brainwashing and public entertainment have a lot in common. They both hope to disorient the public. In casinos, clocks are removed, exits are difficult to find, loud music blares, free drinks are offered by sexually provocative wait staff, extra oxygen is pumped into the building to cause lightheadedness, and there are faked sounds of customers winning filling the air.

In brainwashing spatial and temporal disorganization are key. Both propaganda and mass entertainment use movies, radio, television and billboards. Public propaganda is more likely to use billboards. Public entertainment is more likely to use images and various theatrical tricks such as lighting, stage sets in addition to electronic billboards. Both rhetoric and dialectic are critical of the use of mass media because it tends to draw attention away from the relationship between speaker and public and the individual. The medium for rhetoric is the words of a speaker with no more technology used than a microphone. Dialectic uses writing exercises, small group work along with debates.

Quality, timing of Evidence, Alternative Views

Brainwashing is the least likely to provide real evidence. Because of the compromising position they have their victim in, they can engage in character assassination, manufacturing false evidence, distorting or omitting evidence. There is literally no opportunity for the victim to weigh or integrate the information. The torturer is likely to withhold information or time the deliverance of information in a predetermined way. In brainwashing, there is no alternative source of information provided. What alternatives are available are in the memory of the victim before they were captured.

As I discussed in my previous article on propaganda, propaganda can be based on facts or lies (black propaganda). It too can also distort or omit evidence. Like brainwashing, in propaganda evidence does not flow in a spontaneous manner. Information is withheld or released at the most opportune time. For example, declarations of war are rarely timed just before an election. Because propagandists cannot completely control their masses, alternative sources of information are available, but the propagandists will do everything they can to censor, minimize, exaggerate, distort or vilify their opposition. Capitalism’s treatment of socialism and communism are some of the clearest examples.

With mass entertainment, the only evidence presented is what fits with the stereotypes people have of how celebrities are supposed to act. So, in the 3rd Hunger Games episode, Katniss has to have a baby because the producers of the movie have no confidence that the audience can tolerate a female heroine without children. All mass entertainment has to be sensitive to current fads and fashions, in the case of movies, or the existing consumer patterns in the advertisements that are linked to the radio or television programs. Unlike either brainwashing or propaganda, mass entertainment has to compete with other forms of mass entertainment so they cannot transmit a single message to their audience. Public entertainment also must conform to stereotypes of the audience as well, but there is more room for unconventionality because public entertainment is not quite as heavily scripted. In addition, public entertainment has to be more sensitive of the collective emotions of the audience that go with the seasons and the holidays. In public entertainment the information flow to the public is more focused since at a musical concert or a circus, you cannot change the channel.

Both rhetoric and dialectic are far more rigorous in their expectations about evidence. In good rhetoric, it is expected that the evidence follows Aristotle’s rhetorical triangle, and that the presentation of the evidence considers the time, place and circumstance. The idea is to maximize the chances of being convincing and persuasive. Rhetoric at its best will not rest itself on representing one other viewpoint.  It may include other viewpoints before attempting to refute them. Lastly, dialectic will most actively cultivate many viewpoints. For example, in the fields of sociology, psychology and philosophy there are generally 4-6 schools within a field. In an educational setting, the teacher should be able to present all the schools and compare them to each other. The quality of the research in dialectic educational setting should come out of the research in textbooks which are cross-culturally and historically sensitive. Dialectic is less sensitive than rhetoric in consideration of time, place and circumstance because the goal is to change minds, not behaviors, so it wants to cultivate self-reflection, rather than getting the audience to do something.

Appeal to Audience, How the Audience is Treated, Outcome Expected

Psychological hopes for the audience

What does the controller of information hope to do to their audience psychologically? In brainwashing the purpose is to create fear, desperation and ultimately dependency, as in the Stockholm syndrome. The victim has no privacy. The propagandist appeals to the lowest common denominator in people, demagoguery related to racism, nationalism and religious fanaticism. People have some privacy and they have some power to distance if they need to. But usually not for long. If the political propagandist wants to get people to feel a narrow range of emotions deeply, both mass and public entertainment appeals to the surface of emotions: what is insipid, petty, and needy. They both pander to unrealistic desires and vicarious living in the audience, all grounded in immediate gratification. In both mass and public entertainment, the audience can gain privacy by either turning off the radio or TV or to leave the entertainment site. Both rhetoric and dialectic at their best appeal to what is good for people in the long-run and each respects the privacy of the audience’s thoughts.

How is the audience characterized?

In brainwashing, the victim is treated as a pawn in a much larger game. They are demonized and treated as less than human. In propaganda, the audience is treated as a target, as a means to a larger end. In mass and public entertainment, the audience is considered passive, naive, gullible, stupid (Bernays) and lacking in long-term judgement. In rhetoric, the public audience is treated respectfully and capable of participating in decision-making. In dialectics, the audience is treated the best, as ends in themselves.

What is the audience expected to do?

The hopes of CIA brainwashing attempts were to find a drug that could erase the memories of the retired spies to reduce the chances of then turning against their masters and spilling the beans. Generally, the ultimate hope of religious brainwashers is to get the heretic to give up previous beliefs and be converted to new beliefs. Once that happens, they want the converted to stay passive and frightened so they can be controlled, even when there are no authorities around. In political propaganda the expectation is either to vote a certain way, go to war or to support the overthrow of another state. For mass entertainment, if the program is ongoing, the intention is to leave the audience partly satisfied but still wanting more. In the case of public entertainment, the entertainers want the audience to be fully satisfied, and hopefully talk to others about the event in the hopes of expanding the audience for the next public event. In the case of rhetoric at its best, the speaker hopes the audience will seriously consider mentally what was expected and then act accordingly. Lastly, in the case of dialectic, the hope of the teacher is that the student will become more curious, wonderous, critical and creative in their outlook towards the world and themselves.

Brain Routes, Minds and Impact on Thinking

In cognitive psychology there are two brain routes. The central brain route and the peripheral brain route. When people receive new information, they have to decide how seriously to take it. When people are experienced in a subject, they have a great stake in the outcome. They have some training in the subject and the problem may be complex but comprehensible. They are likely to use their full deliberation and critical thinking processes (central brain route). However, when people don’t have experience or training in a subject, they have little personal stake in the outcome and the problem seems convoluted. They are then likely to use what is called the peripheral brain route. This is also called using mental shortcuts.

Suppose I take my friend’s car to a mechanic. The engine light is on and I ask the mechanic to take a look at it. I know next to nothing about cars and neither does my friend. Two hours later the mechanic calls me back with a very technical description of what is wrong, along with the cost of fixing the problem. The problem seems convoluted to me and I don’t have a much of a personal stake in it. What I will likely do is use the peripheral brain route. What this means is I will move from using my own mind, to go to another source. I will contact other car mechanics, get a second opinion and find out what they would charge to fix it. There is nothing wrong with using the peripheral brain route under these conditions.However, there are five other conditions under which people will use the peripheral brain-route that are counterproductive, and these conditions are what propagandists and entertainers will promote to get people to by-pass the central brain route. They are:

  • If there is time pressure (in sales, “time is running out”)
  • Volume scarcity (in sales, “get the commodity now, while they last”)
  • Sensory overload (as described in my casino example earlier)
  • Emotional appeal is superficial (titillation, sentimentality, infantile fantasies)
  • If the person is fatigued

The job of the propagandist and the entertainer is to create the five conditions above that will increase the chances of using the peripheral brain route rather than the central brain route where critical thinking takes place. The ultimate hope of the brainwasher is to restructure the brain itself by using drugs and sleep deprivation. If they cannot do that, they will also hope to keep the victim using the peripheral brain route constantly. Rhetoric at its best, as well as dialectic, will strive to build the self-confidence of the audience or the student so that they always use the central brain route as much as possible.

Ideology, Mythology

All forms of information control are either directly or indirectly connected to liberal conservative, socialist or fascist ideology and some of them also contain mythology. If we look at the practice of ideology, political attempts to brainwash are mostly related to fighting communism. Brainwashing experiments in prison, including experiments with LSD, were connected to the conservative belief that blacks were inferior so using them as guinea pigs was acceptable. Political propaganda is used by all four political tendencies to start and sustain wars, to influence voting or overthrow regimes.

Neither mass nor public entertainment have a political ideology to support them, but both forms of entertainment have mythologies designed to sweep people away. For example, the Lord of the Rings stories and characters, Harry Potter and Star Wars not only sweeps people away during the movie, but they set up future episodes with suspenseful endings. In public entertainment we have sports teams with stirring stories played out in pennant races stretching the drama out over seven months. Sports figures of the past and present are treated as modern day gods and goddesses by their fans.

Rhetoric is clearly identified with the liberal ideology of truth being found from debating different points of view, where controversies are the norm, and no single authority has all the answers. Rhetoric is a monologue where the speaker, at least initially, argues two or three points of view before determining their effect on the audience. The Sophists and Aristotle represented this rhetorical tradition while Plato stood for the conservative authority who does have all the answers.

Dialectic begins conservatively where learning the truth is not the result of the interacting of viewpoints, but as already contained in the authority of Socrates. The heart of dialectic is dialogue back and forth between two people. Later in history, dialectic becomes more liberal with the back-and forth no longer necessarily involving one authority figure. In the hands of pragmatic dialecticians, dialectic is not only connected to content but to process. Dialectic involves rules of conversation. Whereas in rhetoric, logical fallacies are more connected with the qualities of reasoning or tricks played on an audience, in dialectic fallacies are detected in the violations of the rules of dialogue. More on this later.

Symbiotic and Sensual Orchestration

Sensual orchestration

Sensory orchestration is the manner in which the senses are controlled to create altered states of consciousness. The two extremes are sensory deprivation with all the senses but one turned off, or sensory saturation where all the senses are used and they are intensified. Brainwashing involves sensory deprivation with gagging, being blindfolded, and living in solitary confinement. Religious propaganda can be used to saturate the senses. Examples of this are the Catholic Church with its stained-glass windows, incense, church music, holy communion, rich wood and fabrics all being part of the atmosphere of the Mass.

Mass entertainment is often designed to create sensory overload with special effects and multiple sounds coming at the audience in a disorganized way to create astonishment and a diffused attention-span. This encourages using the peripheral brain route when being sold commodities during the show. Public entertainment is more guided, at least in terms of musical concerts and sporting events with the hope of providing vicarious satisfaction, inspiration or awe. Both rhetoric and dialectic look down upon the manipulation of the senses as taking the audience away from using their reasoning processes. They are content with the moderate use of the five senses to experience the world as it really is rather than through what they consider to be “smoke and mirrors”.

Symbolic orchestration

Religious and political symbols are very powerful in motivating people to fight and die for their political beliefs or religion. The crucifix, the American flag, the bible or the Quran exert a great hold over the emotions of an audience, a target or a victim. That’s why in brainwashing torture situations, the victim’s religious books will be torn or flushed down the toilet and their flags will be burned, defecated upon or used as rags. In propaganda, these same flags and books will be used to mobilize people to action.

Mass entertainment will include corporate logos which are stolen from political and religious symbols which have already built up a collective association in people’s minds. For example, look at the colors of the Bank of America or a Chevron credit card. In public entertainment, sports contain the heaviest dose of symbolic orchestration. Think of the baseball caps and jerseys the players wear as part of every major league team. This is part of the major league pantheon that fans participate in when they go to sporting goods stores and buy these hats and jackets, put bumper stickers on their cars and live and die with every win and loss if their team is lucky enough to compete for the pennant. Both rhetoric and dialectic steer clear of all symbols because they appeal to unreasonable elements that will distract from critical reasoning.

Use of Space, Architecture, Monuments

With the exception of mass entertainment, forms of information control are rooted in space and architecture and these containers can accentuate or dampen the form of information control. For brainwashing, the most effective spatial arrangement is solitary confinement before interrogation begins. Rooms have no windows and are poorly ventilated. A space that has windows reminds the victim there is life beyond the prison or hospital. Religious propaganda is most successful in cathedrals which overwhelm the devotees with their scale and high ceilings. Religious propaganda in cozy churches with modest decoration are likely to be less successful. Political propaganda is most effective near patriotic scenes—Bunker Hill, Lincoln Memorial or Mount Rushmore. In addition, Ellul’s sociological propaganda is at work when streets are named after presidents and monuments are made of them.

Public entertainment is made more powerful when held in stadiums which can accommodate thousands. Much of public entertainment is not just this particular concert or this particular ballgame. Rather it is a reflection of the history of the field. This includes the Cooperstown Baseball Hall of Fame, The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, or the Country Music Hall of Fame. In movies, the reflective day of reckoning is at the Academy Awards.

Rhetoric outdoors is a special challenge because there are not the indoor spatial acoustics to contain the voice even with a microphone or a loudspeaker. Since the heart of dialectic is small groups or one-on-one and held indoors, in educational settings the spatial concerns should be a quiet room with a horseshoe-shaped seating.  This allows for dialectical crosstalk between members, rather than only a one-to-one relationship between the student and the educator.  

Theoreticians 

There are many theorists for all six forms of information control. I will limit myself to the most famous and theorists and practitioners of late 19th and 20th century. For brainwashing, the Canadian psychiatrist Ewen Cameron and the British psychiatrist William Sargant are probably the best representatives. For propaganda, there are Edward Bernays, Herbert Lasswell and Jacques Ellul. For mass entertainment, there are Ivy Lee, Ernest Dichter, Bernays along with by Paul Lazarsfeld. Two of the masters of public entertainment were P.T. Barnum and Walt Disney. Rhetoric has a long and interesting history of theories, but the most famous theorists in the 20th century would be Kenneth Burke, Chaim Perelman and Stephen Toulmin. The realm of dialectic has been recently given a shot in the arm by two prolific schools. One comes out of Amsterdam and headed by Frans van Eemeren and Rob Grootendorst. The other school in Canada was founded by Douglas Walton.

How Good are Socialists at Convincing and persuading the Public at Rallies, City Council Meetings and Workplaces?

In everything that follows I will be speaking only from my personal experience watching and participating in rallies, organizing meetings, city council meetings and workplaces on and off for fifty years in the United States. 

Rhetoric for Radicals

Starting on time and welcoming

As I said earlier, rhetoric comes out of a liberal tradition and there is a great deal of research about how to convince and persuade an audience (Billig, Arguing and Thinking, Mccroskey Introduction to Rhetorical Communication). Do socialist organizers know about this research or pay any attention to it? Unfortunately, the answer is “no”. In political organizing meetings run by radicals, they ignore the protocols of good speech-making. One is starting on time. The anarchists especially make it a badge of honor and a sign they are not “uptight” or “hierarchical” by not starting the meeting on time. Secondly there is little or no welcoming of strangers. Religious organizations such as the Unitarians, know better. There are greeters who welcome people as they come in, help them find seating and ask them if they had been there before. What do these socialists who claim to be social do? There is usually no greeter. Newcomers have to find their own way. Socialists already there talk to each other and ignore new people. This is true of anarchists and all the various kinds of Leninists groups I have experienced. I have to say that the Social Democrats are better about these formalities and generally have better social graces.

Five canons of rhetoric

Now let us look at the structure of the speaker’s talk. In addition to a political meeting run by radicals, let us add imagining the socialist speaker is addressing a city council meeting. In rhetoric there are five canons of classical rhetoric:

  • Invention (deciding on a claim and marshalling evidence)
  • Arrangement (deciding the order of placement of the evidence based on the audience)
  • Style (choice of language and expressive devices)
  • Delivery (the speaker’s clothing, use of voice and body movement on the stage)
  • Memory (the use of mimetic devices to help the person remember their speech so they don’t have to read it)

How do socialists do with these canons? Not very well, I’m afraid. While the intention is usually good, socialists usually have no knowledge of the research on the primacy effect or the recent effect in deciding where to place their pieces of evidence. They usually have no justification for the sequencing of their evidence in particular places. The style of socialists is usually insensitive to the choice of words. The language remains pretty much the same regardless of the audience and socialists very often know nothing about expressive devices. Most socialists have bad delivery styles. They don’t dress for the occasion, imaging that such preoccupations are “bourgeois”. They mostly don’t have command of the stage and their movements are awkward. Most socialists I have watched do not commit their speech to memory and simply read it off a paper, breaking consistent eye contact with their audience.

Setting the right atmosphere

Radicals inadvertently carry over Plato’s hostility to rhetoric. Plato saw Truth as independent of time, place and circumstance. Like Plato, too many socialists are convinced they have the truth and do not want to waste time spoon-feeding it to people or finding out what the masses think. Good form, stage presence, flowers, inspiring decorations are seen as superficial and not to be taken seriously. So, it is no problem that chairs are broken-down or uncomfortable, podiums are made out of plywood, there is bad lighting and acoustics. These things are not seen as having any relevance to the content of the message.  The talks are often not well-organized and go on too long. Breaks are not built into the meetings.

Importance of charisma

Most socialists do not understand that there is a rational basis for charisma. Charisma is not just linked to spiritual possession, speaking in tongues and inviting people to fall apart. As I remember it, something like 90% of the presidents who won elections were the taller of the candidates. Why is this? Because there is unconscious evolutionary psychology at work. People judge taller people as having better genes. The same is true with body shape – wide shoulders, narrow waist for men and large breasts and wide hips for women. Facial symmetry, hair sheen are all factors that make someone politically appealing as a speaker. Any leftist political candidates who ignore physical appearances may congratulate themselves in being politically correct, but they are working against the unconscious preferences of the overwhelming majority of humanity. Whatever we think of Obama politically, he had charisma and all the trappings of a good rhetoricians. How many socialists can match this? Richard Wolff, Cornell West – not many more.

Sympathetic, neutral and hostile audiences

Rhetoric theorists divide audiences into sympathetic, neutral and hostile. At rallies I’ve seen socialist speakers give the same speech assuming the audience is sympathetic and make no effort to reach liberals in the crowd who are neutral. City council meetings are the most demanding for a socialist speaker because both the public audience, as well as the city council members, are not socialists, and some will be conservative. Will the socialist have something to offer a conservative, hostile audience? The answer, I think, is they will have nothing.

Grabbing and holding attention

In rhetoric it is normal to expect that when people first come into the room, their attention is elsewhere, and the speaker has to earn the attention of the audience. About the worst offender of this is Noam Chomsky, who regardless of time, place and circumstance starts droning on as if the audience was already captured. Only a tenured academic with a captive audience of students could get away with this anti-rhetoric. In a large group of people, especially strangers, some kind of icebreaker, joke, or inspirational quote needs to be given to get the audience warmed up and focused.

Defining key terms

One of the major steps in making an argument is to define key terms. In argumentation theory, a person’s claim usually has a word or two that needs definition because the word has many meanings and can easily be misunderstood. So, in any presentation about, say, pornography, the word must be carefully defined before an argument proceeds. Most of the time socialists do not do this. They just assume words like “imperialism”, “neoliberal” and “working class” are self-evident.

The rhetorical triangle

In terms of the rhetorical triangle we discussed earlier, socialists are not well-rounded in covering all three parts. Often the pathos part of the argument – the appeal to emotions and imagination – are ignored, as mass psychologist Wilhelm Reich pointed out in the 1930s. The Nazis were far smarter than the socialists in understanding that audiences can be moved by the worst kind of emotions – racism, blind loyalty to the state and infantile wishes of superiority. All the facts and the right sources are not enough.

Appealing to the short-term self-interest in the audience

Those on the left mostly do not appeal to the short-term self-interest of the audience because they think that would be selfish.  Everyone is assumed to be an altruist. There is an absence of understanding that the audience attended to get something tangible from the meeting before leaving. The appeal is often to far-away places and middle or long-term time frames. This leaves most audiences cold and unlikely to return.

Making predictions

Leftists do not attempt to treat the argument they are making as subject to any expectations approaching the scientific method. For example, there is no promised follow- up to see whether what one is proposing was successful or not. Just like bourgeois politicians, there is little attempt to put parameters around the claim, like the exceptional circumstances in the present that might come up that would make the speaker withdraw the claim. There is little quality control in leftist arguments, at least the public ones.  Neither does the leftist make a prediction of falsifiability. Falsifiability means, if the claim was put into practice what are the conditions under which you can be proven wrong?

Having transition plans

The final part of a good rhetorical argument is to have a plan: a step-by-step procedure for how to get from where we are now to where we want to be. This includes a three to five step process for putting the claim into practice, including a timeline. The plan would need to include the costs of all the steps, a feasibility analysis and the benefits to the audience. All this is essential strategy if leftists want to appeal to anyone who is not already convinced. Leftists are very weak in presenting the methods of how to realize the goal with given a set of procedures. The Trotskyists’ call for a transition program is one step in this direction but it lacks the concreteness of my description. The weaknesses of radicals in relation to rhetoric has come to the attention of Jason Delgado, who has written a book about it, Rhetoric for Radicals.

Dialectical Dialogue for Radicals

Marxists claim the word dialectic as their own and imagine that if they have read Hegel and Marx, they know everything there is to know. Typically, dialectics refer to a way of thinking about how capitalism works, or it refers to a stage theory of history. But what the overwhelming number of Marxists don’t know is there is a history of dialectics that has an entire field of speech communication. That means how people talk to each other interpersonally.

Presenting the maximum number of viewpoints

As mentioned earlier, in educational settings dialectics will present between 4-6 points of view because in many human sciences from psychology to sociology to economics to politics, there are usually 4-6 theoretical schools. Do socialists in any setting present four to six schools in addition to their own? No, they don’t. They merely present a capitalist opposition, and then present their own theory. Leftists cannot even bring themselves to treat fairly the positions of contending socialists, let alone liberals and conservatives.

Supporting individual self-development

Referring back to our definition of dialectics earlier, do socialists attempt to bring out the experiences of individuals in public in order to give them an opportunity to self-reflect on their own life? No, they don’t. They may use the life of a single individual preselected in the audience to make a point. Everyone else remains passive. Rarely are individuals invited into the sweep of history. They may refer to history, but the present audience is rarely invited in.

Questions from the audience and cooperative argumentation

The heart of dialectics is question, answer, deeper questions, deeper answers and so on. Most radicals do not invite questions from the audience, in some cases because they think they already have the answers (many Leninists) or because they are afraid of losing control of the audience. In some sense, this is understandable because at city council meetings or at rallies the audience does not know how to ask open-ended questions. They want to make speeches themselves. But in what is called “cooperative argumentation” by argumentation theorists, the conflict between speaker and audience leads to synthetic knowledge which is new and more than what either the speaker or the audience possessed before the discussion began.

Types of dialogue

In his book The New Dialectic, Douglas Walton identifies seven types of dialogue: pedagogical (teaching), deliberative (politics), debate (law), inquiry (science), information seeking (interview or advice), negotiation (business transactions like making deals) and persuasive dialogue (advertising). All these types of dialogue have their own set of rules, customs and violations. Do socialist organizers know about the seven types of dialogue? They may know something about dialectical deliberation, but I would be very surprised if they knew about any of the others, let alone knowing how using the other types selectively may improve their own deliberative dialogue.

Understanding fallacies as mistakes in the process of conversations

Most socialist organizers have probably taken a class in college in critical thinking and/ or public speaking and have learned the various kinds of thinking fallacies. Others have gone on to be lawyers and have training in debate. But virtually no one has learned that the fallacies can be organized according to violations in conversation rules. In their book Argumentation, Communication and Fallacies Frans van Eemeren and Rob Grootendorst identified ten rules for critical discussion. Instead of thinking of fallacies as intrapersonal thinking mistakes, the founders of the pragma-dialectical perspective organize all the fallacies as violations of the ten rules of critical discussion. These fallacies are linked to include unauthorized changes in the situation and roles; changes in topics; changes in the physical setting; changes in goals; changes in methods; and changes in rules.

Do socialist organizers know anything about either of the two dialectical schools of speech communication, their principles and methods? I have never met or seen a socialist organizer who knew about this.

Conclusion

In the first two thirds of this article, I compared the similarities and differences of six schools of information control. In the last third of my article, I examined how knowledgeable socialists are about the two forms of information control which are the most anti-authoritarian: rhetoric and dialectic. Sadly, what I’ve found is that most socialists, even socialist organizers, have not systematically used nor continue to use research on rhetoric and dialectic in their work, whether it be rallies, city council meetings or community or labor organizing. I find this very sad and ridiculous considering that socialist claim to be social while ignoring knowing little about research in two of the most prominent fields in speech communication, rhetoric and dialectic. 

• First published in Socialist Planning Beyond Capitalism

The post Socialist Rhetorical and Dialectical Communication: Overcoming Brainwashing, Propaganda, Entertainment first appeared on Dissident Voice.