Archive for the ‘Journalism’ Category

A brief history of objectivity in American news

June 16, 2020

[This is a replacement for my half-baked, deleted comment on the previous post.]

We talk about objective news reporting as if it were an age-old professional standard that everybody had always accepted.  In fact, it is a fairly recent development, very much related to economic considerations.

Most people in the 19th century USA would have been surprised to be told that journalists should not be opinionated.  Newspapers typically were organs of political parties and got their revenue from government printing contracts when their party was in power.

Other newspapers were organs of the local business community, or of churches, or of political reformers.  Others made money from being sensational or entertaining.

That doesn’t mean that all journalism of that era was of a low quality.  The Federalist Papers were first published as newspaper articles.  The Lincoln-Douglas debates were published in full in newspapers.  Mark Twain got his start as a newspaper reporter.  The muckrakers of the early 20th century exposed corruption in government and politics, and provided ammunition for the progressive reform movement.

Adolph Ochs’ New York Times made a point of separating news and opinion.  He saw his mission as providing accurate information that people in business could use as a basis for making decisions.

So did the Associated Press.  The AP served a consortium of newspapers.  Its mission was to provide news that could be run in any newspaper verbatim, no matter what the newspaper’s political slant.  This meant (1) a high standard of accuracy and (2) no opinions that differed from the consensus view.

I started working on newspapers in late 1958 when this was the standard of professionalism. Ideally, nobody reading an article would know what the reporter’s opinion was.

Getting a byline over a news article was rare because, in theory, good reporters would all report the news in the same neutral.  The byword was, “You report what you know, you don’t report what you think.”

Opinion belonged on the the editorial page, not the front page (although many readers didn’t know the difference).

This was good discipline for reporters starting out.  I bent over backwards to be fair to views I thought were clearly wrong and later, when I learned more about the topic, I was very glad I did.

(more…)

‘The American press is destroying itself’

June 14, 2020

Correction: Lee Fang was not fired from his job at The Intercept.  I misread Matt Taibbi’s article.

Yes, it is.  Matt Taibbi wrote a great article about how editors and publishers at the top levels of American journalism are giving up professional standards of accuracy and fairness in order to advance goals such as unseating Donald Trump and ending racial prejudice.

He tells, for example, of the investigative reporter Lee Fang, who was fired from his job at The Intercept, who was forced to apologize in a humiliating way for quoting a black man who said he was concerned about crime as well as police abuse, and for pointing out that the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. opposed violence.

All this, it was decided, represented a degree of racism that was unacceptable, and that canceled out all the good reporting on he had done.

Taibbi pointed out similar episodes concerning the New York Times, the Philadelphia Inquirer and Variety, but the case of The Intercept was especially ironic because it was founded as an outlet for news stories about corporate and governmental abuse that the NYT and the like feared to discuss.

All this, as Taibbi pointed out, is counter-productive, even on its own terms.  The American people are losing confidence in the press.  Becoming openly propagandistic is going to destroy what little credibility they have.

Taibbi himself was in line to become an editor of The Intercept when it was formed, but he reconsidered and kept his job at Rolling Stone.  More recently he quit that job and went into business as one-line subscription service called Reporting by Matt Taibbi.

He made such a name for himself that he can write and publish without submitting his work to a gatekeeper.   But that’s not possible for the mass of journalists in fear of losing their jobs.

LINKS

The American Press Is Destroying Itself by Matt Taibbi.  Indeed it is.  And It’s not just the press.

Has the American Left Lost Its Mind? by Nathan J. Robinson for Current Affairs [Added 6/16/2020]  A rebuttal.

(more…)

The rising tide of censorship

June 10, 2020

Michael Moore was interviewed on Rolling Stone’s Useful Idiots podcast about the campaign to suppress the film, “Planet of the Humans,” a critique of the environmental movement.

It actually was taken down from YouTube for a few days because of a bogus concern about copyright.  Moore is a successful celebrity and was in a position to fight back.  As he pointed out, a younger filmmaker, in the same position as Moore when he made “Roger and Me,” wouldn’t have been able to do so.

Taibbi pointed out on his web log that this is part of a growing pattern of censorship.

The significance of the Moore incident is that it shows that a long-developing pattern of deletions and removals is expanding. The early purges were mainly of small/fringe voices on either the far right or far left, or infamously fact-challenged personalities like Alex Jones.

The removal of a film by Moore – a heavily-credentialed figure long revered by the liberal mainstream – takes place amid a dramatic acceleration of such speech-suppression incidents, many connected to the coronavirus disaster.

A pair of California doctors were taken off YouTube for declaring stay-at-home measures unnecessary; right-wing British broadcaster and trumpeter of shape-shifting reptile theories David Icke was taken off YouTube; a video by Rockefeller University epidemiologist Knut Wittknowski was taken down, apparently for advocating a “herd immunity” approach to combating the virus.

These moves all came after the popular libertarian site Zero Hedge was banned from Twitter, ostensibly for suggesting a Chinese scientist in Wuhan was responsible for coronavirus.

In late April, the World Socialist Web Site – which has been one of the few consistent critics of Internet censorship and algorithmic manipulation – was removed by Reddit from the r/coronavirus subreddit on the grounds that it was not “reliable.” The site was also removed from the whitelist for r/politics, the primary driver of traffic from Reddit to the site.

Then in early May, at least 52 Palestinian activists and journalists were removed from Facebook for “not following community standards,” part of a years-long pattern of removals made in cooperation with the Israeli government.

On May 13, human rights activist Jennifer Zeng noted that YouTube was automatically deleting Chinese-language references to terms insulting to the Chinese government, like gongfei, or “communist bandit.” Congressional candidate Shahid Buttar complained an interview with Walker Bragman about Democrats supporting surveillance powers was removed by YouTube.

Evan Greer of the speech advocacy group Fight for the Future had a post flagged by Facebook’s “independent fact checkers”—in this case, that noted pillar of factuality, USA Today – dinging him for a “partly false” claim that the Senate had voted to allow warrantless searches of browsing history.

(more…)

The lives that don’t matter

May 24, 2020

In our time, political speech and writing are largely the defense of the indefensible.  (George Orwell, 1946)

The War Nerd: How Many Dead Yemeni Nobodies Does It Take to Equal One Washington Post Contributor?

Joe Biden and the limits of NYRB liberalism

May 13, 2020

I get e-mails from a long-time friend in south Texas in which he shares his thoughts about politics and the passing scene.  With his permission, here is one of them.  I’ve added a couple of illustrations and a link.

The New York Review of Books was launched in 1963, during a newspaper strike (remember unions?) that temporarily shut down the anodyne New York Times Book Review, a feature of the Sunday Times.  

In high school, I read the electrifying first issue of the NYRB in my hometown public library.  It featured in-your-face, hyper-literate take-no-prisoners review-essays two or three thousand words long, written by the best writers in New York.  

One early review of a biography of Patton used the word “fuckings-up.”  A letter to the editor in the next issue pointed out that the correct plural is “fuck-ups.”  I was hooked.

It’s now more than half a century later, and I’m still reading the NYRB—after a lot of twists and turns, on their part, and on mine.

Their NYRB editor before this one, Ian Buruma—who got bumped after a couple of issues for printing something by some Canadian guy with #MeToo trouble—promised “a wider range” of authors.  I took this to mean: more conservative authors, more often—and I think I was right.

But the word “conservative” here needs a gloss.  NYRB authors are never hard-shell conservatives—like some of the reviewers (e.g., Edward Luttwak) who turn up occasionally in the Times Literary Supplement to give readers a bracing glimpse of how things look from the other side.

No, NYRB essayists are conservative only in the sense of wanting to get back (in the WayBack Machine?) to where we were on the Monday afternoon before Election Day 2016.  Let me explain:

The current issue, for instance, features an article on “rebranding” the Democratic Party by one Joseph O’Neill, a novelist who teaches at Bard College, an upstate-New-York haven for rich hippie-kids. (Bard art majors are provided with their own studios.)

O’Neill’s thesis is that the Republicans and Democrats are like Coke and Pepsi, or Bud Lite and Miller Lite–which makes sense to me.  But O’Neill DOESN’T MEAN, as I would, that they’re two essentially identical products.  (Have you actually looked at the stuff Joe Biden has supported—and opposed—during his long career?)

No, O’Neill means instead that Pepsi can gain market share only by getting Coke drinkers to switch, and vice versa.  So, according to O’Neill, what the Democrats need to do is REBRAND themselves (he quotes legendary Mad Man David Ogilvy from the 50s, a candid, entertaining writer) so as to pull over low-info, “ideologically squishy” swing voters. It’s all a question of PR.

O’Neill goes into the tall grass here, talking in considerable detail about how the Democrats need to devalue the GOP “brand,” with its connotations of strength and patriotism, rather than just attacking Trump.  

(more…)

How the 2020 election is already being rigged

April 28, 2020

Greg Palast is an outstanding investigative reporter.  For the past few years, he’s been working on voter suppression and election rigging.  He says the 2020 election is already being rigged in favor of the Republicans.

Because of the coronavirus pandemic, a lot of us Americans will vote by mail instead of risking in-person voting.  But under present rules, Palast noted, mail voting is easy to tamper with.

Historically, 22 percent of mail ballots are thrown away and never counted.  This doesn’t happen at random, Palast said.  The ballots that are thrown away are disproportionately black and Hispanic voters.

Mail ballots are not secret.  The person counting your ballot knows who you are and how you voted.  If he or she says the ballot isn’t filled out correctly, they are not going to be questioned.

Voters don’t automatically get mail-in ballots.  In many states, the state sends postcards—postcards that look like junk mail—asking if you want a mail-in ballot.  Not every citizen gets one.  If some states, if you haven’t voted in the last few elections, you’re considered “inactive” and are stricken from the mailing list.

Then there are technical requirements for filling out the ballot correctly.  In some states, voters have to include copies of their photo IDs.  Try doing that if you don’t have a copier at home.  Kinkos and other copying companies are closed during the pandemic.

Eight states, including Wisconsin, Minnesota and North Carolina, require mail-in votes to be signed by a witness, Palast wrote. Three states, including Missouri, require the signature on the mail-in ballot to be notarized, he said.  Alabama requires a notary and two other witnesses.

All but six states, he wrote, check your signature on the mail-in ballot against your signature on the voter registration rolls.  Whether or not it matches is a subjective decision by a possibly partisan election official.

I’m not saying Democratic leaders are not inherently more honest than Republicans.  The Democratic Party has a long history of voter suppression and election rigging, especially to disenfranchise black voters in the South.

But at this moment in history, it is the Republicans whose power depends on manipulating the election process.

(more…)

Fox News changes its mind about the virus

March 18, 2020

I don’t know the reason for the sudden about-face by Fox News personalities on the coronavirus crisis.  Maybe a member of the Murdoch family, which owns the Fox network, laid down the law.   Or maybe they all changed when President Trump changed the party line.

I have to say that Tucker Carlson has been the honorable exception to this, as he has on other things, such as the Mideast war.

Whatever the reason, I’m glad of the change.  Fox News has been a major source of misinformation and a major impediment to dealing with the pandemic.

LINKS

Fox News Moves Closer to the Truth as COVID-19 Crisis Deepens by Jason Kottke for kottke.org.

‘Dishonesty Is Always an Indicator of Weakness’: Tucker Carlson on How He Brought the Coronavirus Message to Mar-a-Lago in Vanity Fair.

‘We have a responsibility’: Fox News declares a crisis in abrupt U-turn by Adam Gabbatt for The Guardian.

Fox News Is Taking Coronavirus More Seriously, But Is Still Unserious by Jamil Smith for Rolling Stone.

The Sanders-Warren woman electability flap

January 16, 2020

It’s not believable that Bernie Sanders ever said that a woman couldn’t be elected President.  The only explanations for Elizabeth Warren saying otherwise are (1) she misunderstood what he said, (2) she misremembered what he said or (3) she is lying.

LINKS

The Credibility Gap: It’s difficult to believe Elizabeth Warren’s claim that Bernie Sanders thinks a woman can’t win by Nathan J. Robinson.

CNN Debate Performance Was Villainous and Shameful by Matt Taibbi for Rolling Stone.

Thoughts on Warren, Sanders and the Convention by Thomas Neuberger for Down With Tyranny! [Added 1/21/2020]

Taibbi on how the news divides and misleads us

November 13, 2019

Last week I I read Matt Taibbi’s HATE INC.: Why Today’s Media Makes Us Despise One Another.  Of all the books I’ve read during the past 12 months or expect to read in the near future, this is the one I’d most recommend to anybody who wants to understand what’s going on in the USA..

It is about how and why the business model for the American press changed from the seeking of a broad, noncontroversial consensus to the promotion of conflict.  It also is about why the conflict so seldom involves fundamental issues.

Noam Chomsky famously said that the way to preserve the illusion of freedom of the press is to allow vigorous debate, but only within certain prescribed bounds.

There is extreme polarization for and against Donald Trump.  Some say we’re on the verge of a new civil war.   But the debate remains within limits, and is focused on personalities.

We the public are encouraged to think that there is a deep and permanent conflict of ideas between Democratic liberals such as Rachel Maddow and Republican conservatives such as Sean Hannity, but also that there are no ideas worth considering beyond the limits of what they say.

Neither side questions ever-increasing military budgets, everlasting wars, ever-expanding surveillance, ever-growing bailouts of tax breaks for and and handouts to the most powerful corporations.

The current $716 billion military appropriations bill for the coming fiscal year contained a $165 billion increase—in itself more than the entire military budget of Russia or China, and more than the entire cost of the Iraq war in 2003 or 2004.   Large majorities of both parties in both houses of Congress supported it.

The press coverage of the bill focused not on its contents, but on whether President Trump was disrespectful of Senator John McCain, the sponsor, by not mentioning his name during the signing ceremony.

In the old days, the CBS anchorman Walter Cronkite sought to appeal to a broad, bland consensus.  The feeling he tried to project was reassurance—that all was right with the world.  Other broadcasters were the same way.

They also were limited by the government’s Fairness Doctrine.  If they broadcast anything controversial, they had to provide free air time for the other side.

Newspapers followed a similar path.  Most had local monopolies.  All had secure revenue streams based on classified advertising (job listings, legal notices) and as the main source of information for stock prices and the like.

I got started in journalism at the end of the old era.  The ideal in reporting in that era was objectivity and impersonality.  Reporters strove to write in a way that nobody could guess their personal opinions.  Routine newspaper articles lacked bylines because it shouldn’t matter who wrote them.

Then the Reagan administration repealed the Fairness Doctrine.  Opinion no longer had to be balanced.  CNN introduced the 24-hour news cycle.  The easiest way to fill time was with commentary and opinion.

The Internet, especially Facebook and Twitter, provided a way to segment the readership individually.  No longer did a newspaper or TV broadcast have to appeal to the whole family.  Each person could have their own news, tailored algorithmically to their own desires and viewpoint.

Fox News, and also talk radio hosts such as Rush Limbaugh, took advantage of the new business model.  They realized they didn’t have to have universal appeal to make money.  All they needed to do was to target a segment of the viewers or listeners and tailor things to their interests.

(more…)

Update of the famous ‘they came for’ quote

October 31, 2019

There’s a famous quote attributed to a German pastor about the failure of respectable people to resist the Nazis.

  • First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out— because I was not a socialist.
  • Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out— because I was not a trade unionist.
  • Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out— because I was not a Jew.
  • Then they came for me— and there was no one left to speak for me.

Caitlin Johnstone, noting the silence of the mainstream press about the arrest of left-wing reporter Max Blumenthal, updated the quote for our time.

  • First they came for Assange, and I did not speak out, because I was a mainstream western journalist with no intention of ever upsetting the powerful.
  • Then they came for Blumenthal, and I did not speak out, because I was a mainstream western journalist with no intention of ever upsetting the powerful.
  • Then they came for all the other dissident journalists, and I did not speak out, because I will never be a dissident journalist.
  • They never came for me, because I have chosen to serve power.

LINK

Mainstream Journalists Who Refuse To Defend Dissident Journalists Are Worshippers Of Power by Caitlin Johnstone.

Max Blumenthal Arrest Exposes Hypocrisy of Western Media and Human Rights NGOs by Joe Emensberger for Fairness and Accuracy in Media (FAIR)  [Added 11/1/2019]

Reporter shackled, caged, denied a phone call

October 30, 2019

This is disturbing.

Max Blumenthal, the editor of the news site The Gray Zone, was arrested on the morning of October 25 on a fabricated charge related to the siege of the Venezuelan embassy in Washington, DC that took place between April and May.

A team of DC police officers appeared at Blumenthal’s door at just after 9 AM, demanding entry and threatening to break his door down.  A number of officers had taken positions on the side of his home as though they were prepared for a SWAT-style raid.

Max Blumenthal

Blumenthal was hauled into a police van and ultimately taken to DC central jail, where he was held for two days in various cells and cages.  He was shackled by his hands and ankles for over five hours in one such cage along with other inmates.  His request for a phone call was denied by DC police and corrections officers, effectively denying him access to the outside world.

Blumenthal was informed that he was accused of simple assault by a Venezuelan opposition member. He declared the charge completely baseless.

“This charge is a 100 percent false, fabricated, bogus, untrue, and malicious lie,” Blumenthal declared. “It is clearly part of a campaign of political persecution designed to silence me and the The Gray Zone for our factual journalism exposing the deceptions, corruption and violence of the far-right Venezuelan opposition.”

The arrest warrant was five months old.  According to an individual familiar with the case, the warrant for Blumenthal’s arrest was initially rejected.  Strangely, this false charge was revived months later without the defendant’s knowledge.

“If the government had at least told me I had a warrant I could have voluntarily surrendered and appeared at my own arraignment. I have nothing to fear because I’m completely innocent of this bogus charge,” Blumenthal stated. “Instead, the federal government essentially enlisted the DC police to SWAT me, ensuring that I would be subjected to an early morning raid and then languish in prison for days without even the ability to call an attorney.”

Source: The Gray Zone

(more…)

Edward Snowden on the Joe Rogan podcast

October 30, 2019

Edward Snowden was interviewed on the Joe Rogan podcast a week ago, but I only got around to viewing it the whole way through last night.

It’s an unusually long interview – 2 hours, 49 minutes – but I found it interesting throughout.  However, you can get an idea of Snowden’s core message if you start at 1 hour 30 minutes and watch for 15 or 30 minutes.

Snowden is a great hero of our time, along with Julian Assange and Chelsea Manning.  They’ve all been charged with violating the Espionage Act for revealing wrongdoing by the U.S.government.

Assange is in prison in Britain facing extradition to the USA.  Manning served a prison term, and is in prison again for refusing to testify against Assange.  Snowden is in exile in Russia, but he said he’ll return to the USA if he can get a fair trial.

By “fair trial,” he means the right to tell a jury the reason why he did what he did,  Someone on trial for murder would have this right, but an accused whistleblower does not.

Snowden worked for the Central Intelligence Agency and the National Security Agency and learned that they monitor and store virtually every electronic communication by every citizen.

Everyone has done something in their lives that is shameful or can be made to look shameful.  If the FBI, CIA and NSA can know everything about you and me, and their activities are invisible to us, that comes close to having absolute power.

One interesting sidelight is that Snowden, who has a deep understanding both of the technology and of the political, legal and moral issues at stake, is a college dropout.  Educational credentials are not a measure of the intellect, let alone character.

Joe Rogan also lacks credentials.  He is a stand-up comedian with a love of the martial arts.  But his podcasts are more illuminating than most network news shows because of his open-mindedness, intellectual curiosity and willingness to let his guests have their say.  A lot of them are with guests or about topics I don’t care about, but so what?

The deeper problem concerning Julian Assange

October 25, 2019

Julian Assange, who faces extradition from the UK to the USA on charges based on his publication of American government secrets, is being denied the right to a fair hearing.  He is being abused and tormented.

But the deeper problem is that even if his legal rights were respected, he might well be convicted under existing U.S. law.

And this would establish the precedent that the U.S. government can commit crimes, classify those crimes as secret and imprison anyone who makes these crimes known.

This would break the uneasy truce between the government and the U.S. press, in which whistleblowers reveal secrets at their peril, but the press is allowed to publish them with impunity.

Such a distinction does not make logical or legal sense.  In the law of libel, for example, the writer and the publisher are both liable for damages.  But in practice, it has allowed some abuses of power to come to light that otherwise would have been hidden.

The U.S. government has already claimed the legal right to wage undeclared wars, to commit assassinations, to engage in warrantless arrests and warrantless surveillance and to torture people to get information—all in the name of national security.

The most important remaining restriction on abuse of these powers is the force of public opinion.  But the public can’t have an opinion on what it isn’t allowed to know.

Among the Presidential candidates, the prosecution of Assange is opposed by Democrats Pete Buttigieg, Tulsi Gabbard,, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and Marianne Williamson and Republican Joe Walsh.

Sanders said that, if elected President, he would not prosecute whistleblowers.  I believe Sanders, but I remember President Obama also promised that, and Obama prosecuted more whistleblowers than any previous President.

Even if Sanders or one of the other candidates is elected, and even if they follow through on their promises, this would be just a matter of policy that could be reversed  by the next administration.

What’s needed is a law that allows people charged with revealing classified information to rebut the charge by showing they acted in the public interest by revealing crimes, wrongdoing or mismanagement and that the national interest was not harmed.

The same purpose could be achieved by judicial decision—that the use of the Espionage Act to protect the guilty or the incompetent is unconstitutional.

(more…)

U.S. treats Assange as Soviets treated dissidents

October 23, 2019

Americans and Britons have historically prided ourselves on the rule of law—the no-one is above being subject to the law and no-one is below being protected by the law.

Col. Rudolph Abel, the Soviet master spy who was apprehended in 1957, was defended in his trial by a top lawyer, James Donovan.  The accused Nazi war criminals tried at Nuremberg were given the opportunity to defend themselves and some actually got off.  All of them were treated humanely while awaiting trial.

The dissident publisher Julian Assange, who is accused of publishing secret information about U.S. war crimes, is being treated worse than any accused Nazi.  He has been kept in solitary confinement, denied needed medical care and restricted in the ability to conduct his own defense.

He appeared in Westminster Magistrate’s Court on Tuesday in a proceeding to schedule the hearing on whether he should be extradited from Britain to the United States on charges of spying.

Spectators saw that his physical and mental health is broken.  Of course it will be highly convenient to the U.S. national security establishment if he is unable to speak in his own defense and better still if he dies in prison.

He was barely able to understand what was going on.  He was like some Soviet dissident of the 1970s and 1980s who’d been subjected to psychiatric, or rather anti-psychiatric, drugs.

Here is what his friend Craig Murray, former British ambassador to Uzbekistan, saw:

I was badly shocked by just how much weight my friend has lost, by the speed his hair has receded and by the appearance of premature and vastly accelerated ageing. He has a pronounced limp I have never seen before. Since his arrest he has lost over 15 kg in weight.

But his physical appearance was not as shocking as his mental deterioration. When asked to give his name and date of birth, he struggled visibly over several seconds to recall both.  [snip]

[H]aving attended the trials in Uzbekistan of several victims of extreme torture, and having worked with survivors from Sierra Leone and elsewhere, I can tell you that … … Julian exhibited exactly the symptoms of a torture victim brought blinking into the light, particularly in terms of disorientation, confusion, and the real struggle to assert free will through the fog of learned helplessness. [snip]

Everybody in that court yesterday saw that one of the greatest journalists and most important dissidents of our times is being tortured to death by the state, before our eyes. To see my friend, the most articulate man, the fastest thinker, I have ever known, reduced to that shambling and incoherent wreck, was unbearable.

Yet the agents of the state, particularly the callous magistrate Vanessa Baraitser, were not just prepared but eager to be a part of this bloodsport. She actually told him that if he were incapable of following proceedings, then his lawyers could explain what had happened to him later.

The question of why a man who, by the very charges against him, was acknowledged to be highly intelligent and competent, had been reduced by the state to somebody incapable of following court proceedings, gave her not a millisecond of concern.  [snip]

(more…)

The Pentagon declares war on ‘fake news’

September 5, 2019

The Pentagon has taken on a mission of safeguarding Americans from propaganda and fake news on the Internet.

Talk about setting a fox to guard a henhouse!

LINKS

The Pentagon Wants to Use DARPA to Police Internet News by Matt Taibbi for Rolling Stone.

WaPo Warns USA Needs More Narrative Control As Pentagon Ramps Up Narrative Control by Caitlin Johnstone.

When is it okay to beat up journalists?

July 8, 2019

Civilization is not so stable that it cannot be broken up; and a condition of lawless violence is not one out of which any good thing is likely to emerge.  For this reason, if for no other, revolutionary violence in a democracy is infinitely dangerous.

==Bertrand Russell in 1920

Andy Ngo is a photojournalist in Portland, Oregon, who tries to document the claim that the “anti-fa” left engages in unprovoked violence.

The “anti-fa” movement had responded to his charges by breaking his equipment and beating him up, the last time seriously enough to send him a hospital emergency room.

The background is political demonstrations organized by two far-right groups, the Proud Boys and Patriot Prayer, known for engaging in street fighting and trying to provoke retaliation by leftists.  The response by liberals and progressives in the Portland area was to organize much larger counter-demonstrations in reply, which is an effective response.

Andy Ngo after beating

The “anti-fa” movement goes further.  They say it is necessary to meet street violence with violence.  They also say that any fascist – they get to decide who is a fascist – is a legitimate target.

A certain number of self-identified liberals and progressives have written excuses and justifications for “anti-fa” and Ngo’s beating, which is what moves me to write about it.  Otherwise I might have thought of all this as an isolated incident.

Here are some of the arguments:

  • Andy Ngo was looking for trouble and wanted to portray himself as a victim of violence.  If that is so, why give him what he wanted?
  • The reports of Ngo’s beating diverts attention from the real issue, which is that right-wing violence is a worse threat than left-wing violence.  Why can’t you be against both?
  • The “anti-fa” movement hasn’t actually murdered anyone yet.  Good thing Andy Ngo didn’t die of his injuries, then.  The “anti-fa” movement might have been justly criticized.
  • Nobody knows for sure who beat up Andy Ngo.  Supposedly it could have been anyone.  Would that argument be made if some left-wing photojournalist was beaten up after filming right-wing street fighters?

In an earlier era, there were street fighters who called themselves the “black bloc” who’d join peaceful demonstrations and then start breaking windows, overturning cars and so. Like the “anti-fa’ fighters, they wore black clothing and black hooded masks.

They called this as “diversity of tactics.”  The idea is that you do your thing (peaceful protest) and they’ll do their thing (vandalism and street fighting).  The problem with that is that if there is a political demonstration in which the vast majority are peaceful and law-abiding and a few break window or throw bricks at police, it is the window-breakers and brick-throwers that will be remembered, not the majority.

This is very different from the miners’ strikes in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, where gun-carrying union members fought virtual wars with corporate mercenaries, National Guard troops and sometimes federal troops.  The right to self-defense is a fundamental right.

The “anti-fa” fighters could provide a valuable service if they acted as a security service for peaceful leftists, as they did during the Unite the Right protests in  Charlottesville., Va., in 2017.

That’s different from denying that there are certain rights, such as freedom of speech, that apply equally to all—the basic principles of liberalism.

If the self-identified left fights the self-identified right with physical force and violence, it will lose.  In the United States today, it is the self-identified right that is better armed, is more willing and able to use lethal force and has more sympathizers in the police and military.

(more…)

The Mueller Report is full of holes

July 6, 2019

Robert Mueller

Aaron Maté pointed out yesterday that the Mueller Report doesn’t actually present evidence that the Russian government hacked the Democratic National Committee’s e-mails or that it furnished them to WikiLeaks.

He is a journalist who has done some of the best reporting on the Russiagate investigation, simply by reading all the material and separating what’s been proved from what’s merely been alleged.

Democrats are making a mistake if they count on Russiagate as the key to victory in 2020.  It’s likely to blow up in their faces if they do

Maté noted that:

  • The report uses qualified and vague language to describe key events, indicating that Mueller and his investigators do not actually know for certain whether Russian intelligence officers stole Democratic Party emails, or how those emails were transferred to WikiLeaks.
  • The report’s timeline of events appears to defy logic.  According to its narrative, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange announced the publication of Democratic Party emails not only before he received the documents but before he even communicated with the source that [supposedly] provided them.
  • There is strong reason to doubt Mueller’s suggestion that an alleged Russian cutout called Guccifer 2.0 supplied the stolen emails to Assange.  Mueller’s decision not to interview Assange – a central figure who claims Russia was not behind the hack – suggests an unwillingness to explore avenues of evidence on fundamental questions.
  • U.S. intelligence officials cannot make definitive conclusions about the hacking of the Democratic National Committee computer servers because they did not analyze those servers themselves. Instead, they relied on the forensics of CrowdStrike, a private contractor for the DNC that was not a neutral party, much as “Russian dossier” compiler Christopher Steele, also a DNC contractor, was not a neutral party.  
  • This puts two Democrat-hired contractors squarely behind underlying allegations in the affair – a key circumstance that Mueller ignores.
  • Further, the government allowed CrowdStrike and the Democratic Party’s legal counsel to submit redacted records, meaning CrowdStrike and not the government decided what could be revealed or not regarding evidence of hacking. Mueller’s report conspicuously does not allege that the Russian government carried out the social media campaign. Instead it blames, as Mueller said in his closing remarks, “a private Russian entity” known as the Internet Research Agency (IRA).
  • Mueller also falls far short of proving that the Russian social campaign was sophisticated, or even more than minimally related to the 2016 election.  As with the collusion and Russian hacking allegations, Democratic officials had a central and overlooked hand in generating the alarm about Russian social media activity.
  • John Brennan, then director of the CIA, played a seminal and overlooked role in all facets of what became Mueller’s investigation: the suspicions that triggered the initial collusion probe; the allegations of Russian interference; and the intelligence assessment that purported to validate the interference allegations that Brennan himself helped generate.  Yet Brennan has since revealed himself to be, like CrowdStrike and Steele, hardly a neutral party — in fact a partisan with a deep animus toward Trump.

(more…)

Donald Trump wins the spotlight

June 4, 2019

Click to enlarge.  Source: Ash Ngu on Twitter.

Why would you believe John Brennan or the CIA?

May 31, 2019

The intelligence community – after two solid decades of PR disasters, from 9/11 to Iraq to Abu Ghriab to Gitmo – has rebounded in the public’s eye since 2016, cleverly re-packaging itself as serving on the front lines of the anti-Trump resistance.

It’s even managed to turn the invention of the term “deep state” to its advantage, having media pals use it to make any accusation of investigatory overreach, leaking, and/or meddling in domestic politics sound like Trumpian conspiracy theory.

But these people are not saviors of democracy. They’re the same scoundrels we rightfully learned to despise in the Bush and Obama years for lying about everything from torture to rendition to drone assassination to warrantless surveillance.

LINK

The intelligence community needs a house-cleaning by Matt Taibbi for Untitledgate.

New jeopardy for Assange and press freedom

May 24, 2019

The U.S. Department of Justice has indicated Julian Assange on new charges—violation of the Espionage Act of 1917—which carry a maximum penalty of 175 years in prison.

What he is accused of is publishing confidential information disclosing American war crimes in Iraq in 2010.

The previous indictment accused him only of aiding and abetting unauthorized access to computer files, which would have meant a maximum penalty of five years.

Violations of some sections of the Espionage Act carry a maximum penalty of death, but these involve giving military secrets to an enemy in time of war, which Assange is not accused of.

He would most likely wind up in the Supermax prison in Florence, Colorado, and conceivably could spend the rest of his life in solitary confinement.

If he can be sent to prison for that, it means that the U.S. government has the power to commit crimes, up to and including murder, classify the evidence of those crimes as secret and send anybody who discloses those crimes to prison.

If he is sent to prison for that, it means that such freedom of the press as exists in the United States exists at the whim of whoever is in charge of the government.

So far as I know, the only prominent politician who has come to the defense of Julian Assange is Tulsi Gabbard.

In other news, Chelsea Manning is back in prison for refusing to testify against Assange.

And the Senate Foreign Relations Committee has rejected a resolution demanding that the President ask permission from Congress before attacking Iran.

(more…)

The revelations of Wikileaks

May 10, 2019

Consortium News is publishing a series called “The Revelations of Wikileaks,” a reminder of the the vital Wikileaks disclosures.  They’re valuable reading both for their content and as a reminder of the world’s debt to Julian Assange.

This post consists of links to these articles.  I will add links to additional articles as they are published.

No. 1.  The Video That Put Assange in US Crosshairs.

No. 2.  The Leak That ‘Exposed the True Afghan War’,

No. 3.  The Most Extensive Classified Leak in History.

No. 4.  The Haunting Case of a Belgian Child Killer and How WikiLeaks Helped Crack It.  [Added 7/12/2019]

No. 5.  Busting the Myth that WikiLeaks Never Published Damaging Material on Russia.  [Added 9/25/2019]

No. 6.  US Diplomatic Cables Spark ‘Arab Spring,’ Expose Spying at UN & Elsewhere.  [Added 1/16/2020]

(more…)

Ten things the world knows due to Wikileaks

May 1, 2019

Click on any of the images to enlarge them..

.

.

(more…)

The ultimate threat to Wikileaks

April 25, 2019

The ultimate threat to Wikileaks is not that Julian Assange may be executed or imprisoned for life.  The ultimate threat is that the NSA, GCHQ, FSB or some other intelligence agency will crack the Wikileaks code.

If a government can commit crimes in secret, and can make it a crime to reveal that secret, there is no barrier to dictatorship and tyranny.

The greatness of Julian Assange was to create a program whereby whistleblowers could divulge secrets without revealing their identity, even to Wikileaks itself.

Assange is the founder and public face of Wikileaks, but there are other members who help keep it up and running, and who will continue even if Assange is put away.  If Wikileaks is shut down, the architecture of the system is available to anyone who wants to use it.  Most important news organizations have a Wikileaks-like system for receiving confidential information.

But this is not an achievement that will stand for once and for all.

I have no doubt that governments and corporations are working night and day to find ways to hack the Wikileaks system, and unmask the leakers and truth-tellers.  If and when they do, they will not announce it.

In 2010, Pvt Chelsea (then Bradley) Manning was caught sending unauthorized information to Wikileaks because she unwisely talked to an informer.  But now prosecutors have actual transcripts showing Manning conversed with Assange.

I wonder whether the authorities had these transcripts all along, or whether Assange and Manning used a secure communication system that the government only recently was able to crack.

I hope that the people who believe in disclosure are working just as hard to strengthen and protect the system as the government is to crack it.  This is a race that will not end until either all dissent is crushed or the veil of secrecy is removed from the crimes of governments—I say “governments” plural because it is not just the U.S. government that Wikileaks threatens.

LINKS

WIKILEAKS.

WIKILEAKS DEFENSE FUND

Debunking all the Assange smears

April 20, 2019

The Defense Department’s Cyber Counterintelligence Assessment Branch in 2008 called on the U.S. government to build a campaign to destroy Assange’s reputation and eradicate the feeling of trust the public had in Wikileaks.  It’s safe to say that his reputation now is not what it was then.

Caitlin Johnstone and her followers have compiled a comprehensive rebuttal to all the accusations against Julian Assange that have been spread over the past seven years.

Click on Debunking the Assange Smears to read it.

I recommend reading the article if you believe any of the following.

  1. He’s not a journalist.”
  2. “He’s a rapist.”
  3. “He was hiding from rape charges in the embassy.”
  4. He’s a Russian agent.”
  5. “He’s being prosecuted for hacking crimes, not journalism.”
  6. “He should just go to America and face the music. If he’s innocent he’s got nothing to fear.”
  7. “Well he jumped bail! Of course the UK had to arrest him.”
  8. “He’s a narcissist/megalomaniac/jerk.”
  9. “He’s a horrible awful monster for reasons X, Y and Z… but I don’t think he should be extradited.”
  10. Trump is going to rescue him and they’ll work together to end the Deep State. Relax and wait and see.”
  11. “He put poop on the walls. Poop poop poopie.”
  12. “He’s stinky.”
  13. “He was a bad houseguest.”
  14. “He conspired with Don Jr.”
  15. “He only publishes leaks about America.”
  16. “He’s an antisemite.”
  17. “He’s a fascist.”
  18. “He was a Trump supporter.”
  19. “I used to like him until he ruined the 2016 election” / “I used to hate him until he saved the 2016 election.”
  20. “He’s got blood on his hands.”
  21. “He published the details of millions of Turkish women voters.”
  22. “He supported right-wing political parties in Australia.”
  23. “He endangered the lives of gay Saudis.”
  24. “He’s a CIA agent/limited hangout.”
  25. “He mistreated his cat.”
  26. “He’s a pedophile.”
  27. “He lied about Seth Rich.”

Source: Debunking All The Assange Smears – Caitlin Johnstone

If you care about Assange, truth-telling or freedom of the press, I recommend you bookmark her article so you’ll have it for reference.  You ought to be able to use a search function to go directly to the item you want to see refuted.

(more…)

How to intelligently follow breaking news

April 17, 2019

For details, read the Breaking News Consumers Handbook from the On the Media blog.

(more…)