Category Archives: Fake News

What Does Health Care For All Look Like in Nicaragua?

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

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

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

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

Health Care 1999

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

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

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

Maternity Care

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

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

Healthy Baby

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

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

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

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

School Lunch

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

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

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

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

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

Kids with Masks

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

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

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

Cataract Surgery

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

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

Community Health Promoter

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

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

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

Laboratory

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

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

Nueva Vida 2000

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

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

Sources: 1

  1. Gobierno de Reconciliación y Unidad Nacional: Plan Nacional de la Lucha Contra La Pobreza Para el Desarrollo Humano 2022-2026 ; Interview with Ivan Acosta, Nicaraguan Minister for Housing and Public Credit; Ministry of Citizen Power for Health Nicaragua: Advances in Health From 2007 to 2020.
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Vaccines, Variants, and Vilification

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

So, once again, I’ll explain: 

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

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

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

Think about it:

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

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

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

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

Out to Lunch: The Atrophying of Western Minds

— Voltaire’s Philosophical Dictionary

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

Imagine that, the mayor of the town said:

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

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

a person that is on fire

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

Hochwasser Dresden

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chandler Davis — 1995 talk!

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

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

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

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

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

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

See the source image
See the source image

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

Blog —

Confessions of an Ecumenical Leftist

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ALL News is Fake News

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

As the Stundin article reported:

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

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

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

The Stundin article continued:

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

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

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

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

Stundin noted:

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

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

Jónasson said that the Americans:

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

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

Stundin reported:

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

However:

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

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

The article continued:

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

A ‘Sociopath’ Who ‘Lied To Get Immunity’

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

But this changed after Trump took office. Stundin explained:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

US policy analyst Gareth Porter noted:

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

As the famous US whistleblower Edward Snowden tweeted:

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

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

‘It should be.’

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

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

Robinson pointed out:

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

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

Robinson expanded:

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

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

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

Tumbleweed In The ‘MSM’

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

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

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

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

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

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

Johnstone continued:

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

She offered an explanation for the silence across the media:

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

More fundamentally:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stifling coverage

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Authoritarian thinking

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Free speech dangers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hard drives smashed

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Captured by wokeness

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mask turn-off

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Image from Imgur @i.imgur.com

Orientation

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

Purpose of this article

The purpose of this article is to:

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

Crowds vs Masses

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

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

Questionnaire on Crowds

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

Here are the True – False questions:

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

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

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

Myths vs Facts About Crowds

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

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

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

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

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

Who is orderly and disorderly in crowds?

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

Are working-class people more likely to be disorderly?

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

How unpredictable are crowds?

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

Are emotions in crowds contagious?

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

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

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

One hundred years of neglect of scientific research on crowds

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

Historical Reasons for the Biases Against Crowds

Growth of cities

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

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

The Great French revolutions

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

Industrialization

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

Formation of unions

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

Emergence of socialism

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

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

Stock Market instabilities

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

Crowd Psychologists

Origins of Crowd Theory

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

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

Crowd Theorists

Taine

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

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

Criminalization of crowds (Sighele) 

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

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

Tarde

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

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

Le Bon

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

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

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

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

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

Distorting the work of Alfred Espinas

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

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

Crowd Psychologist Distortions

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

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

The Legacy of the 20th Century

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

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

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

• First published at Socialist Planning Beyond Capitalism

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

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

Life is full of slips.

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

Slips are double-edged.

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

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

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

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

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

Our totalitarianism begins with our teleology.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The post The Etymological Animal Must Slip Out of the Cage of Habit to Grasp Truth first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Second Stage Terror Wars

We’ll know our disinformation program is complete when everything the American public believes is false.

– William Casey, CIA Director, February. 1981

It is well known that the endless U.S. war on terror was overtly launched following the mass murders of September 11, 2001 and the linked anthrax attacks.   The invasion of Afghanistan and the Patriot Act were immediately justified by those insider murders, and subsequently the wars against Iraq, Libya, Syria, etc.  So too the terrorizing of the American people with constant fear-mongering about imminent Islamic terrorist attacks from abroad that never came.

It is less well known that the executive director of the U.S. cover story – the fictional 9/11 Commission Report – was Philip Zelikow, who controlled and shaped the report from start to finish.

It is even less well known that Zelikow, a professor at the University of Virginia, was closely associated with Condoleezza Rice, George W. Bush, Dickey Cheney, Paul Wolfowitz, Brent Scowcroft, et al. and had served in various key intelligence positions in both the George H. W. Bush and George W. Bush administrations. In 2011 President Obama named him to his President’s Intelligence Advisory Board as befits bi-partisan elite rule and coverup compensation across political parties.

Perhaps it’s unknown or just forgotten that The Family Steering Committee for the 9/11 Commission repeatedly called for Zelikow’s removal, claiming that his appointment made a farce of the claim that the Commission was independent.

Zelikow said that for the Commission to consider alternative theories to the government’s claims about Osama bin Laden was akin to whacking moles.  This is the man, who at the request of his colleague Condoleezza Rice, became the primary author of (NSS 2002) The National Security Strategy of the United States of America, that declared that the U.S. would no longer abide by international law but was adopting a policy of preemptive war, as declared by George W. Bush at West Point in June 2002.  This was used as justification for the attack on Iraq in 2003 and was a rejection of the charter of the United Nations.

So, based on Zelikow’s work creating a magic mountain of deception while disregarding so-called molehills, we have had twenty years of American terror wars around the world in which U.S. forces have murdered millions of innocent people.  Wars that will be continuing for years to come despite rhetoric to the contrary.  The rhetoric is simply propaganda to cover up the increasingly technological and space-based nature of these wars and the use of mercenaries and special forces.

Simultaneously, in a quasi-volte-face, the Biden administration has directed its resources inward toward domestic “terrorists”: that is, anyone who disagrees with its policies.  This is especially aimed at those who question the COVID-19 story.

Now Zelikow has been named to head a COVID Commission Planning Group based at the University of Virginia that is said to prepare the way for a National COVID Commission.  The group is funded by the Schmidt Futures, the Skoll Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation and Stand Together, with more expected to join in.  Zelikow, a member of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s Global Development Program Advisory Panel, will lead the group that will work in conjunction with the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security at the Bloomberg School of Public Health.  Stand together indeed: Charles Koch, Bill Gates, Eric Schmidt, the Rockefellers, et al. funders of disinterested truth.

So once again the fox is in the hen house.

If you wistfully think the corona crisis will soon come to an end, I suggest you alter your perspective.  Zelikow’s involvement, among other things, suggests we are in the second phase of a long war of terror waged with two weapons – military and medical – whose propaganda messaging is carried out by the corporate mainstream media in the pursuit of the World Economic Forum’s Great Reset. Part one has so far lasted twenty years; part two may last longer. You can be certain it won’t end soon and that the new terrorists are domestic dissidents.

Did anyone think the freedoms lost with The Patriot Act were coming back some day?  Does anyone think the freedoms lost with the corona virus propaganda are coming back?  Many people probably have no idea what freedoms they lost with the Patriot Act, and many don’t even care.

And today?  Lockdowns, mandatory mask wearing, travel restrictions, requirements to be guinea pigs for vaccines that are not vaccines, etc.?

Who remembers the Nuremberg Codes?

And they thought they were free, as Milton Mayer wrote about the Germans under Hitler.  Like frogs in a pot of cold water, we need to feel the temperature rising before it’s too late.  The dial is turned to high heat now.

But that was so long ago and far away, right?  Don’t exaggerate, you say.  Hitler and all that crap.

Are you thankful now that government spokespeople are blatantly saying that they will so kindly give us back some freedoms if we only do what they’re told and get “vaccinated” with an experimental biological agent, wear our masks, etc.? Hoi polloi are supposed to be grateful to their masters, who will grant some summer fun until they slam the door shut again.

Pfizer raked in $3.5 billion from vaccine sales in the first quarter of 2021, the first three months of the vaccine rollouts, and the company projects $26 billion for the year.  That’s one vaccine manufacturer.  Chump change?  Only a chump would not realize that Pfizer is the company that paid $2.3 billion in Federal criminal fines in 2009 – the largest ever paid by a drug company – for being a repeat offender in the marketing of 13 different drugs.

Meanwhile, the commission justifying the government’s claims about COVID-19 and injections (aka “vaccines”) will be hard at work writing their fictive report that will justify ex post facto the terrible damage that has occurred and that will continue to occur for many years.  Censorship and threats against dissidents will increase.  The disinformation that dominates the corporate mainstream media will of course continue, but this will be supplemented by alternative media that are already buckling under the pressure to conform.

The fact that there has been massive censorship of dissenting voices by Google/ YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Wikipedia, etc., and equally massive disinformation by commission and omission across media platforms, should make everyone ask why.  Why repress dissent?  The answer should be obvious but is not.

The fact that so many refuse to see the significance of this censorship clearly shows the hypnotic effects of a massive mind control operation.

Name calling and censorship are sufficient.  Perfectly healthy people have now become a danger to others.  So mask up, get your experimental shot, and shut up!

Your body is no longer inviolable.  You must submit to medical procedures on your body whether you want them or not.  Do not object or question. If you do, you will be punished and will become a pariah.  The authorities will call you crazy, deviant, selfish. They will take away your rights to travel and engage in normal activities, such as attend college, etc.

Please do not recall The Nuremberg Code.  Especially number 7: “Proper preparations should be made and adequate facilities provided to protect the experimental subject against even remote possibilities of injury, disability or death.” (my emphasis)

“Now is the time to just do what you are told,” as Anthony Fauci so benevolently declared.

I am not making a prediction.  The authorities have told us what’s coming. Pay attention.  Don’t be fooled.  It’s a game they have devised.  Keep people guessing.  On edge.  Relieved.  Tense.  Relaxed.  Shocked.  Confused.  That’s the game.  One day this, the next that.  You’re on, you’re off.  You’re in, you’re out.  We are allowing you this freedom, but be good children or we will have to retract it.  If you misbehave, you will get a time out.  Time to contemplate your sins.

If you once thought that COVID-19 would be a thing of the past by now, or ever, think again.  On May 3, 2021 The New York Times reported that the virus is here to stay.  This was again reported on May 10.  Hopes Fade for Global Herd Immunity.  You may recall that we were told such immunity would be achieved once enough people got the “vaccine” or enough people contracted the virus and developed antibodies.

On May 9, on ABC News, Dr. Fauci, when asked about indoor mask requirements being relaxed, said, “I think so, and I think you’re going to probably be seeing that as we go along, and as more people get vaccinated.”  Then he added: “We do need to start being more liberal, as we get more people vaccinated.”

But then, in what CNN reported as a Mother’s Day prediction, he pushed the date for “normality” out another year, saying, “I hope that [by] next Mother’s Day, we’re going to see a dramatic difference than what we’re seeing right now. I believe that we will be about as close to back to normal as we can.  We’ve got to make sure that we get the overwhelming proportion of the population vaccinated. When that happens, the virus doesn’t really have any place to go. You’re not going to see a surge. You’re not going to see the kinds of numbers we see now.”

He said this with a straight face even though the experimental “vaccines,” by their makers own admissions, do not prevent the vaccinated from getting the virus or passing it on.  They allege it only mitigates the severity of the virus if you contract it.

Notice the language and the vaccination meme repeated three times: “We get more people vaccinated.” (my emphasis) Not that more people choose to get vaccinated, but “we get” them vaccinated.  Thank you, Big Daddy. And now we have another year to go until “we will be about as close to back to normal as we can.”  Interesting phrase: as we can.  It other words: we will never return to normality but will have to settle for the new normal that will involve fewer freedoms.  Life will be reset, a great reset.  Great for the few and terrible for the many.

Once two vaccines were enough; then, no, maybe one is sufficient; no, you will need annual or semi-annual booster shots to counteract the new strains that they say are coming.  It’s a never-ending story with never-ending new strains in a massive never-ending medical experiment.  The virus is changing so quickly and herd immunity is now a mystical idea, we are told, that it will never be achieved.  We will have to be eternally vigilant.

But wait.  Don’t despair.  It looks like restrictions are easing up for the coming summer in the northern hemisphere. Lockdowns will be loosened.  If you felt like a prisoner for the past year plus, now you will be paroled for a while. But don’t dispose of those masks just yet.  Fauci says that wearing masks could become seasonal following the pandemic because people have become accustomed to wearing them and that’s why the flu has disappeared. The masks didn’t prevent COVID-19 but eliminated the flu.  Are you laughing yet?

Censorship and lockdowns and masks and mandatory injections are like padded cells in a madhouse and hospital world where free-association doesn’t lead to repressed truths because free association isn’t allowed, neither in word nor deed.  Speaking freely and associating with others are too democratic. Yes, we thought we were free.  False consciousness is pandemic.  Exploitation is seen as benevolence. Silence reigns.  And the veiled glances signify the ongoing terror that has spread like a virus.

We are now in a long war with two faces.  As with the one justified by the mass murders of September 11, 2001, this viral one isn’t going away.

The question is: Do we have to wait twenty years to grasp the obvious and fight for our freedoms?

We can be assured that Zelikow and his many associates at Covid Collaborative, including General Stanley McChrystal, Robert Gates, Arnie Duncan, Deval Patrick, Tom Ridge, et al. – a whole host of Republicans and Democrats backed by great wealth and institutional support, will not be “whacking moles” in their search for truth.  Their agenda is quite different.

But then again, you may recall where they stood on the mass murders of September 11, 2001 and the endless wars that have followed.

The post Second Stage Terror Wars 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.