Archive for the ‘Journalism’ Category

Big money in politics keeps forever wars going

September 2, 2021

After his appearance on Breaking Points, Matt Taibbi commented:

A lot of people want to look at the bright side with this withdrawal, and they should, up to a point.  However much he may have botched the planning, Joe Biden deserves credit for sticking to his timeline.  It is good news that the United States can eventually recognize that a war has stopped serving any purpose, and actually decide to leave a country ten years after the last theoretical reason for staying has expired.

However, the fact that both the government and the national commentariat remain essentially captured by contractor money remains as big a problem as ever, as this episode shows.  We haven’t even reached the stage of being able to identify the financial connections of the people occupying center stage on the national televised debate over military policy.  It’s a terrible look that the people willing to point things like this out mostly all work for independent media outlets, while the New York Times and Washington Post have to be harassed to do the ethical minimum on that score.

If we properly identified the sponsors of the people with the biggest voices in media and politics, a lot more of what America does at home and around the world would make sense.  We need more of that, and thanks to Krystal and Saagar for bringing the topic up.

On Afghanistan, the Revolving Door and Media Failure to Disclose Contracting Ties of Guests by Matt Taibbi for TK News.

Truthteller Craig Murray goes to jail

August 4, 2021

We live in a world in which is you are more likely to be punished for exposing certain kinds of crimes than for committing those crimes.

LINKS

Keeping Freedom Alive by Craig Murray.

Craig Murray’s jailing is the latest move to snuff out independent journalism by Jonathan Cook.

(more…)

Why Trump supporters think 2020 was rigged

July 13, 2021

Last Friday a Twitter user named Darryl Cooper wrote a 35-tweet thread explaining the mindset of Trump supporters who think the 2020 election was rigged.

The thread was read verbatim on the Tucker Carlson show, and Cooper’s Twitter account went almost overnight from about 7,000 followers to about 70,000.

Glenn Greenwald invited him to write a summary of the thread for his Other Voices Substack account.  Although he did not agree 100 percent with Cooper, he thought Cooper’s viewpoint is important to understand. So do I.

Cooper said that for many years, most conservative Republicans, although they disagreed with the direction the country was moving, long had a basic confidence in the country’s institutions – the military, police and judiciary, the large corporations and even the press, which might be biased

This changed with the run-up to the 2016 elections and the victory Trump administration.  Intelligence agencies, Democratic politicians and the Washington press endorsed a conspiracy theory of Russian collusion which, it turned out, was based on opposition research conducted for the Hillary Clinton campaign.  Each of the claims were debunked one by one.

I happen to think Donald Trump was a terrible President.  But he was almost never attacked for the things he actually did wrong (nor was Hillary Clinton, for that matter).  Trump was attacked for his erratic statements, which didn’t matter, and for things he didn’t really do.

Cooper wrote:

Trump supporters know – I think everyone knows – that Donald Trump would have been impeached and probably indicted if Robert Mueller had proven that he’d paid a foreign spy to gather damaging information on Hillary Clinton from sources connected to Russian intelligence and disseminate that information in the press. Many of Trump’s own supporters wouldn’t have objected to his removal if that had happened.  [snip]

Trump supporters had gone from worrying the collusion might be real, to suspecting it might be fake, to seeing proof that it was all a scam. Then they watched as every institution – government agencies, the press, Congressional committees, academia – blew right past it and gas-lit them for another year.  [snip]

This is where people whose political identities have for decades been largely defined by a naive belief in what they learned in civics class began to see the outline of a Regime that crossed not only partisan, but all institutional boundaries. They’d been taught that America didn’t have Regimes, but what else was this thing they’d seen step out from the shadows to unite against their interloper president?

In the run-up to the 2020 campaign, the establishment press abandoned all pretense of neutrality, and, with the help of social media companies, imposed a news blackout on information that would help Donald Trump or hurt Joe Biden.

Is it any wonder, Cooper asked, that Trump supporters do not believe assurances from the Washington press corps and the Biden administration that the election was on the up-and-up?

(more…)

The news blackout on Julian Assange

July 8, 2021

Julian Assange is in prison, and may spend the rest of his life there, for the crime of telling the truth about U.S. government atrocities and blunders. 

What’s at stake in the Assange case is whether the U.S. government has unlimited power of secrecy, which pretty much the same thing as unlimited power.

If a government can commit crimes in secret, and make it a crime to reveal its crimes, then there is no limit to its power.  How can the citizens judge or vote on what they are forbidden to know about?

The video above gives background on legal issues in his case.  The articles linked below tell of recent developments, which have been ignored by most of the press.

LINKS

Julian Assange and the Collapse of the Rule of Law by Chris Hedges for Scheerpost.

The Assange Case Isn’t About National Security, It’s About Narrative Control by Caitlin Johnstone [Added 7/9/2021]

Assange’s Persecution Highlights U.S. and U.K. Hypocrisy by the Courage Foundation.

Key witness in Assange case admits to lies in indictment by Bjartmar Oddur Peyr Alexandrsson and Gunnar Hrafin Jónsson for Studin, an Icelandic magazine.  These reporters broke an important news story that hasn’t been picked up by the mainstream press.

The Weird, Creepy Media Blackout on Recent Assange Revelations by Caitlin Johnstone.

FBI Fabrication Against Assange Falls Apart by Craig Murray.

Desperate to Get Assange, U.S. Promises Prison Time in Australia, not in U.S. Supermax  by Joe Lauria for Consortium News.

UK High Court grants US government right to appeal on Assange extradition by Laura Tiernan for the World Socialist Web Site.

Glenn Greenwald in Brazil

May 19, 2021

SECURING DEMOCRACY: My fight for Press Freedom and Justice in Bolsonaro’s Brazil by Glenn Greenwald (2021)

Glenn Greenwald’s new book tells the story of his latest exploit, the publication in 2019 of leaked information exposing corruption and abuse of power in Brazil, his adopted country.

His reporting on leaked information about abuses of power by President Jair Bolsonro and Justice Minister Sérgio Moro threatens their political power.

The risks he faces—prison and death—are possibly greater than in 2013, when he helped publish Edward Snowden’s leaked information about abuses of power by the NSA, CIA and Britain’s GCHQ.

I’ve long been an admirer of Greenwald, and Securing Democracy is doubly interesting to me because it tells something of his back story.

I started reading his blog, Unclaimed Territory, in the mid-2000s.  Its theme was the Bush administration’s abuse of power.

When Barack Obama succeeded George W. Bush, Greenwald held Obama to the same strict standard that he applied to Bush.  This won him a following across the political spectrum.

Greenwald was, and is, very lawyer-like.  His writing focused on the relevant law and facts, without any evident personal bias.  His judgments were without fear or favor.

In fact, I don’t know Greenwald’s political beliefs, beyond a general belief in democracy, freedom of speech and equal justice under law.

I followed Greenwald as his blog was picked up by Salon, then as he became a columnist for The Guardian.

I didn’t know at the time that he was (1) gay and (2) living in Brazil.

In the book, he told how, after quitting his job in a New York law firm in 2005, at age, he went to Rio de Janeiro to unwind on its famous Ipanema beach. 

A volleyball knocked over his drink, and a handsome 20-year-old man named David Miranda came up to apologize.

It was love at first sight, and they’ve been together ever since.  It is like an ideal love relationship out of Plato’s Socratic dialogues—a mature older man loving and mentoring a handsome and noble younger man.

Miranda grew up in a favela, one of the squatter shantytowns that have grown up around Brazil’s big cities. 

Favela residents typically live in shacks build of scrap wood, bricks and other scavenged materials.  They usually lack electricity, a public water supply or sewerage, although residents sometimes tap into the electrical grid illegally.

Drug gangs have more power in the favelas that the legal government does, Greenwald wrote.  They also are sometimes invaded by private militias financed by wealthy right-wing Brazilians.

Miranda was born in a favela to a poor woman who worked as a prostitute.  He never knew his father.  His mother died when he was five, and he was raised by an aunt, until he left home at age 13.

At first he slept in the street, but, by means of hard work, talent and charm, he had worked his way up to a stable job in offices at the time he met Greenwald.

After they met, Miranda got through junior high and high school, then got a degree in marketing from a top Brazilian university.

Miranda’s ambition was to design and promote video games.  Greenwald was unimpressed by that ambition, until Edward Snowden told him that he got his first ideas of duty, morality and purpose by playing video games as a child.

(more…)

The prevalence of fake news

May 4, 2021

I don’t watch network news very often.  I don’t even have a  functioning TV set.  So I needed this Trevor Noah skit as a reminder of just how goofy and irresponsible Fox News can be.

Joe Biden was going to take away Americans’ meat.  Kamala Harris had her children’s book distributed to unauthorized migrant children at the border.  Joe Biden wore a mask as he sat alone in a ZOOM call with world leaders.  Except none of these things was true.

There are plenty of valid criticisms you could make of Biden, and not just from a conservative point of view.  But if you think of yourself as a liberal and you think of Fox News or right wing talk radio as “the other side,” you are not going to be swayed in your view.

You have the same thing with the “mainstream media.”  A Capitol Police officer was beaten to death with a fire extinguished by maddened Trump supporters.  Rudy Giuliani was warned by the FBI against going to Kiev to dig up material to help Trump’s campaign.  Except none of these things were true, either.

I think it’s possible to get a relatively accurate idea of what’s really going on in the world, but you have to have more leisure time than most people have, and even then, it’s hard. 

LINKS

Corporate News Outlets “Confirm” the Same False Story, While Many Refuse to Correct It by Glenn Greenwald.

The Media Lied Repeatedly About Officer Brian Sicknick’s Death, And They Just Got Caught by Glenn Greenwald.

The passing scene: March 22, 2021

March 22, 2021

Here are some articles I think are interesting.  Maybe you will, too.

Steve Donziger Ecuador Case: Q&A With Human Rights Lawyer Under House Arrest by Jack Holmes for Esquire.  This lawyer won a lawsuit against Texaco (since acquired by Chevron), which lasted from 1993 to 2011, on behalf of farmers and indigenous people who lived in the Amazon rain forest, who accused the company of dumping cancer-causing toxic waste where they lived.  THey won a $9.8 billion award.  Chevron refused to pay and counter-sued their lawyer. Awaiting a verdict, he has been under house arrest for more than 580 days for refusing to hand over his computer and phone with confidential lawyer-client information on them.  Incredible!

How the West Lost COVID by David Wallace-West for New York magazine.  “How did so many rich countries get it so wrong?  How did others get it so right?”  This is the best article I’ve read on this particular topic.

Your Face Is Not Your Own by Kashmir Hill for the New York Times. “When a secretive start-up scraped the Internet to build a facial-recognition tool, it tested a legal and ethical limit—and blew the future of privacy in America wide open.”  (Hat tip to O.)

Nina Turner: “Good ideas are not enough.  We need to marry our ideas to power”, an interview for Jacobin magazine.  (Hat tip to Bill Harvey)

New study shows microplastics turn into ‘hubs’ for pathogens, antibiotic-resistant bacteria by Jesse Jenkins of New Jersey Institute of Technology.

The Crow Whisperer by Lauren Markham for Harper’s magazine.  “What happens when we talk to animals?” 

Biden says he told Putin he doesn’t have a soul

March 19, 2021

There are a number of disturbing things about President Biden’s interview on ABC News last Wednesday.  One is that he plans to retaliate against Russia over something that has not been defined and for which there is no evidence.

Another is his lack of discipline in his speech, and how easily he was led to say things that have important diplomatic repercussions.  He talked to George Sephanopoulos as if he were talking to a good friend in private over drinks, not to a reporter on public record.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Director of National Intelligence came out with a report today saying that Vladimir Putin authorized operations during the election to under — denigrate you, support President Trump, undermine our elections, divide our society. What price must he pay?

PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: He will pay a price. I, we had a long talk, he and I, when we — I know him relatively well. And I– the conversation started off, I said, “I know you and you know me.  If I establish this occurred, then be prepared.”

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: You said you know he doesn’t have a soul.

PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: I did say that to him, yes. And — and his response was, “We understand one another.”  It was– I wasn’t being a wise guy.  I was alone with him in his office.  And that — that’s how it came about. It was when President Bush had said, “I looked in his eyes and saw his soul.”  I said, “Looked in your eyes and I don’t think you have a soul.”  And looked back and he said, “We understand each other.”  Look, most important thing dealing with foreign leaders in my experience, and I’ve dealt with an awful lot of ’em over my career, is just know the other guy. Don’t expect somethin’ that you’re– that — don’t expect him to– or her to– voluntarily appear in the second editions of Profiles in Courage.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: So you know Vladimir Putin. You think he’s a killer?

PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: Uh-huh. I do.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: So what price must he pay?

PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: The price he’s gonna pay we’ll– you’ll see shortly.  I’m not gonna– there’s– by the way, we oughta be able that ol’ — that trite expression “walk and chew gum at the same time,” there’re places where it’s in our mutual interest to work together.  That’s why I renewed the START agreement with him.  That occurred while he’s doin’ this. But that’s overwhelmingly in the interest of humanity, that we diminish the prospect of a nuclear exchange.  But that and SolarWinds as well.  He’s been — they’ve done some mischievous things, to say the least.  And so we’re gonna have — I’m not gonna announce what I’m doing, but he’s gonna understand that —

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: How about Mohammad —

PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: — it’s not free.

Source: ABC News

What’s all this about looking Vladimir Putin in the eye?  Is there a ZOOM connection between the White House and the Kremlin?

What’s all this about being alone with Putin?  Was he able to speak to Putin without an interpreter?

What gives an American President standing to accuse any other foreign leader of being a “killer”?  Doesn’t he remember that the U.S. has been waging war by means of assassination since the George W. Bush administration?  Doesn’t he remember that President Obama boasted of being “pretty good at killing people”?

Did he really tell Putin that he doesn’t have a soul?  How does that help where “there are places where it’s in our mutual interest to work together?”

This is much like the kind of interview Ronald Reagan might have given in his declining years.

If President Biden goes along with ramping up a new cold war with Russia and China, while continuing to wage other big and little wars all over the world, then his other announced goals won’t be achieved and probably won’t matter.

It’s early days yet, so Biden’s course is not set.  It is encouraging that he is at least willing to renew the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START), which President Trump refused to do.  One can hope.

(more…)

Matt Taibbi on the one-party press, etc.

March 12, 2021

The Sovietization of the American Press by Matt Taibbi on TK News.  “The transformation from phony ‘objectivity’ to open one-party orthodoxy hasn’t been an improvement.”

HBO’s docuseries Allen v. Farrow: A shameful, vicious, McCarthyite attack on filmmaker Woody Allen by Joanne Laurier for the World Socialist Web Site.

Louis DeJoy Is Killing It by Casey Taylor for New York magazine.  “While Biden dithers, Trump’s minion wrecks the postal service.”

“Deaths of Despair” Are Rising – It’s Time to Define Despair by Bruce Bower for Science News.  “Scientists investigate whether despair is distinct from mental disorders.”

The emerging campaign against Substack

March 11, 2021

In Defense of Substack by Matt Taibbi on TK News.  “UCLA Professor Sarah T. Roberts mourns the good old days of gatekeeping and credential worship.”

Criticizing Public FIgures, Including Influential Journalists, Is Not Harassment or Abuse by Glenn Greenwald.  “As social media empowers uncredentialed people to be heard, society’s most powerful actors seek to cast themselves as victims and delegitimize all critiques.”

Journalists Start Demanding Substack Censor Its Writers: to Bar Critiques of Journalists by Glenn Greenwald.  “This new political battle does not break down along left v. right lines.  This is an information war waged by corporate media to silence any competition or dissent.”

Conspiracy theories and official lies

March 9, 2021

.

G.K. Chesterton remarked that when people stop believing in Christianity, they don’t believe in nothing.  Rather they become willing to believe in anything.

I think the same thing is true of belief in the credibility of the government or the mainstream news organizations. 

When people stop believing in the official version of events, a lot of them don’t adopt a position of skepticism.  They look for something else to uncritically believe in.

Public opinion polls indicate that barely half the American people believe that Joe Biden was legitimately elected President of the United States.

One in five think protesters were justified to storm the Capitol to prevent Biden’s victory from being certified.  Forty-five percent of registered Republicans believe this.

Why would people doubt that Biden was legitimately elected? 

Donald Trump, the previous President of the United States, says he wasn’t, and a certain number of Republicans and conservative writers and broadcasters back him up.

On the other hand, the Democratic Party, a certain number of Republicans and the overwhelming majority of broadcasters and journalists say he was.

Why would anybody automatically believe the second group over the first group?  They don’t have a great track record. 

In the runup to the election, there was a clampdown on reporting about the relationship of Hunter Biden, Joe Biden’s son, with corrupt a corrupt Ukrainian oligarch.

After the election, I read article after article in my local newspaper stating that Trump had “falsely” claimed that the election was rigged, without any details about what he claimed or why his claim was false.  This information is available, but you have to know how to look for it.

As soon as Biden was sworn in, Trump was banned from Twitter and other social media.  Parler, a new platform for web sites, was shut down; it had attracted a lot of right-wingers and Trump supporters who’d been banned from other sites.

Silencing people is not a good way to convince them they are wrong.  What it does is make them think that you are afraid to let people hear what they have to say.

If I was told by a President of the United States whom I’d voted for and whom I trusted that the election was being stolen, I think I’d believe him.  I wouldn’t trust his discredited enemies.  I might even go to Washington to protest. 

In fact, as I recall, a lot of self-described liberals and progressives went to Washington to protest the election of Donald Trump.  They regarded his election as illegitimate.  Some talked of having members of the Electoral College violate their pledges in order to block Trump.

I wouldn’t have taken part in any storming of the Capitol, but I might be inclined to make excuses for it, just as some people make excuses for the vandalism and looting that has accompanied some of the Black Lives Matter protests.

(more…)

House Democrats threaten right-wing cable news

February 24, 2021

House Democrats, Targeting Right-Wing Cable Outlets, Are Assaulting Press Freedoms by Glenn Greenwald.  “Democrats’ justification for silencing their adversaries online and in media — ‘they are spreading fake news and inciting extremism’ — is what despots everywhere say.”

Fake news and the storming of the Capitol

February 17, 2021

It is not true that Officer Brian Sicknick was beaten to death by a pro-Trump mob during the storming of the Capitol, Glenn Greenwald reported last night. 

This raises big questions about the credibility of reporting of the event and the justification for a “domestic war on terror.”

The report in the New York Times on Jan. 8, based on quotes from two anonymous law enforcement officials, and in a follow-up article.  It was cited as fact in the articles of impeachment against ex-President Donald Trump.

But on the same day, ProPublica published an article quoting Sicknick’s brother as having received a text from SIcknick after the riot saying he was okay, in spite of having been pepper-sprayed.  But then later they got word he had a blot clot and was on a ventilator.  He died that night.

Nobody has produced video evidence of the alleged beating of Sicknick.  Many of the rioters have been charged, but nobody has yet been charged with Sicknick’s murder. 

On Feb. 2, CNN published an article, noting in passing that the medical examiner’s report on Sicknick’s death has not been released, but quoting one investigator that there were no signs of head injuries and investigators no longer believe the fire extinguisher story.

I am not making excuses for Donald Trump or for the rioters.  It is clear to me that Trump intended the mob to storm the Capitol in order to intimidate Vice President Pence and the Senate into refusing to certify Joe Biden’s electoral victory.  This was wrong.  It was a symbolic and real attack on the democratic process.

Neither am I trying to trivialize the tragedy of Officer Sicknick’s death or deny that it was duty-related.

However, nothing is gained by false reporting or by believing false reporting.  You only weaken your cause.

I don’t fault the reporters of the initial NYT article.  When you’re reporting on deadline, you go with the information you’ve got.  But I do fault the NYT and the rest of the Washington press corps for not trying to check or verify the facts the next day. 

The great temptation for any reporter, as I know from my own experience, is to come across information that seems to confirm your biases and assumptions, and look no further.  This is the great fault of the so-called mainstream press in the Trump era.

The New York Times over many decades built a reputation as a reliable source of information by taking great care to be fair and accurate.  But it is much more easy to lose a good reputation than to gain one, and that is what is happening now.

Self-described liberals mock President Trump for talking about fake news.  They can’t understand why so many people believe things like the Q-Anon conspiracy.  But if respected institutions such as the NYT can’t be troubled to get things right, its editors and reporters shouldn’t be surprised if some people turn to disreputable sources.

LINKS

The False and Exaggerated Claims Being Spread About the Capitol Riot by Glenn Greenwald.  “Insisting on factual accuracy does not make one an apologist for the protestors.  False reporting is never justified, especially to inflate threat and fear levels.”

“This Political Climate Got My Brother Killed”: Officer Brian Sicknick Died Defending the Capitol; His Family Waits for Answers by J. David McSwane for ProPublica.

Investigators struggle to build murder case in death of US Capitol Police Officer Brian SIcknick by Evan Perez, David Shortell and Whitney Wild for CNN.

MAGA Blood Libel: Why Are They Hiding the Medical Report? on Revolver News  [Added 2/18/2021]

Mom of US Capitol police officer Brian Sickwick believes he died of a stroke by Laura Collins for The Daily Mail.  [Added 2/24/2021]

What we know about Capitol Police officer Brian Sickwick’s death by Bill McCarthy for PolitiFact.  [Added 2/24/2021]

Slate Star Codex vs. the New York Times

February 14, 2021

Last spring a New York Times reporter named Cade Metz interviewed a San Francisco-based psychiatrist who called himself Scott Alexander about his influential Slate Star Codex blog.

Alexander requested that the NYT article not reveal his real name, and the reporter said that was against NYT policy.  Alexander responded by taking down his blog.

A huge controversy ensued, involving journalistic ethics, Internet anonymity, “toxic ideas,” free speech, the culture of Silicon Valley, the clash between self-described rationalists and self-described progressives and much else.

Since then Alexander has started a new blog under his real name, Scott Siskind.

I find the whole debate highly interesting, but don’t have any particular wisdom of my own to add, except to say that I think Scott Siskind is in the right. 

Instead I have gathered links for anybody who’s interested in delving into it.

LINKS

Slate Star Codex and Silicon Valley’s War Against the Media by Gideon Lewis-Kraus for The New Yorker.  A reasonably impartial overview.

NYT Is Threatening My Safety by Revealing My Real Name, So I Am Deleting This Blog by “Scott Alexander” for Slate Star Codex.

Still Alive by Scott Siskind for Astral Codex Ten.

Silicon Valley’s Safe Space by Cade Metz for The New York Times.

Statement on the New York Times article by Scott Siskind for Astral Codex Ten.

(more…)

Journalists who are enemies of free speech

February 8, 2021

The Journalistic Tattletale and Censorship Industry Suffers Several Well-Deserved Blows by Glenn Greenwald on Substack.  “The NYT’s Taylor Lorenz falsely accuses a tech investor of using a slur after spending several months trying to infiltrate and monitor a new app that allows free conversation.”

The freedom of speech dilemma

January 29, 2021

The new documentary movie, “The Social Dilemma,” is about social media companies whose business plan is addiction.   We discussed it in the drop-in discussion group of First Universalist Church of Rochester, N.Y., last Tuesday.

This is a real problem I’ve written about myself, and little of what was presented is new to me.

The Internet itself has inherent addictive aspects, to begin with.  Social media companies use artificial intelligence and behavioral psychology to make their offerings more addictive. 

They combine AI and psychological expertise with surveillance technology to target individuals who are susceptible to certain types of advertising and propaganda.

Since their aim is “engagement,” it is more profitable to generate fear and anger than contentment because the negative emotions have more impact.  For the same reason, it often is more profitable to steer people to sensational fake news than dull but accurate news.

All this is generally understood[Update 1/30/2021. Then again, the movie itself may be an example of what it complains of.]

So why are there so many calls for the social media companies to take on the role of Internet censors?  If Facebook and Google are the sources of the problem, what qualifies their employees to decide which news sites I should see and which I shouldn’t?

It is not as if they have given up on a business model in which profits are made by enabling propaganda by exploiting surveillance and addiction.

What the social media companies seem to be doing is cracking down on everybody—right, left or off the spectrum—who dissents from the official view.

Experts quoted in the film say that, because of the social media companies, there is no agreement on what is true and what isn’t, and they also say the very concept of objective truth is disappearing. 

But these are two very different things.  It is not only possible, but very common, to have agreement based on lies or false beliefs. 

There was an official consensus in 2002, supported by, among others, the New York Times, that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. 

As a result of those lies, thousands of Americans and hundreds of thousands of people in the Middle East lost their lives; millions became homeless refugees. 

Popular journalists who questioned the WMD lies, such as Phil Donahue, were canceled.  They have never been rehabilitated. 

Those who went along with the lies flourished.  They have paid no penalty, even in reputation.

The consequences of the WMD lie were many times greater than the Pizzagate conspiracy theory lie.  Spreading the Pizzagate story endangered innocent lives, I’m not trying to justify it, but, in fact, nobody died as a result.

More recently the so-called mainstream media spread baseless claims that Donald Trump is a secret agent of Vladimir Putin.  Trump is many bad things, but that charge was absurd.  The media also spread baseless claims to smear Julian Assange.

Maybe you doubt the Russiagate and Assange claims were fake news.  Fair enough.  But how can you be sure if you don’t have access to the arguments on the other side?

What most critics of the social media companies, including the producers of the movie, don’t get is that there is one thing worse than producing competing versions of reality that nobody can agree on.

The worse thing is the social media companies working hand-in-hand with government to produce a common propaganda version of reality based on official lies.  This is what is going on right now.

If liberals or progressives think a government and corporate crackdown on “fake news” is going to be limited to actual white supremacists or neo-Nazis, they are very naive.

(more…)

Militarism, censorship in the name of freedom

January 27, 2021

It does not make sense to destroy freedom and democracy in order to defend it.

Reflecting the Authoritarian Climate, Washington Will Remain Militarized Until At Least March by Glenn Greenwald.  “The idea of troops in U.S. streets for an extended period of time—an extreme measure even when temporary—has now become close to a sacred consensus.”

Meet the Censored: Status Coup by Matt Taibbi for TK News.  “Silicon Valley Is shutting down speech loopholes.  The latest target: live content.”

Assange’s martyrdom for truth continues

January 7, 2021

I should have seen this coming.

After ruling against extraditing Julian Assange to the United States to be tried for espionage and computer hacking, British Judge Vanessa Baraitser has ruled that he must stay in prison.

One technique of the old Soviet Union for tormenting imprisoned political dissidents was to give them hope that they would be released by a certain date and then, when the date came due, tell them their sentences would be extended.

This is what has happened to Assange.

Julian Assange faces an array of charges in the United States, mostly related to his publication of secret U.S. documents that reveal war crimes. He accepted political asylum in the Ecuadorian embassy in London in 2012 to avoid possible extradition to the United states.

In 2019, Ecuador withdrew its protection and Assange was confined to Belmarsh prison, which is reserved for the most dangerous and violent criminals. He has been in solitary confinement 23 hours a day, and cut off from contact with family, friends and lawyers. A United States expert on torture has said that his conditions amount to torture.

Judge Baraitser ruled that the United States has a legal right to extradite Assange, but denied the extradition request on the grounds that his mental and physical health would be threatened if he were sentenced, as would likely happen, to the supermax prison in Florence, Colorado. But conditions are nearly as bad, or maybe just as bad, in Belmarsh.

She possibly had a point when she declared Assange a flight risk. He did skip bail in 2012 when he took refuge in the embassy.

But there is no need or justification for subjecting him to the conditions in which he is being confined in Belmarsh. He could be confined without solitary confinement, lack of exercise, and lack of contact with visitors.

It was unrealistic to expect Judge Baraitser to refuse to extradite Assange on freedom of the press grounds. The British Official Secrets Act is even more far reaching than the U.S. Espionage Act of 1917.

There has been an informal policy in the United States of prosecuting whistleblowers, while refraining from prosecuting journalists and news organizations that publish the secrets the whistleblowers reveal. But this, too, has little foundation in logic or law.

The basic issue is that if a government can commit crimes in secret, and punish those who reveal the crimes, there is no limit to its tyrannical power.

The only way to address this issue for once and for all is to pay laws limiting secrecy. One way to do this would be allow accused whistle-blowers and journalists to go free if they can convince a judge or jury that the information they revealed was kept secret only to conceal crime, wrongdoing or incompetence.

LINK

British Judge Keeps Assange in Prison, Despite Ruling Against Extradition by Kevin Gotsztola for Shadowproof.

Wednesday’s Other Story: On the case of Julian Assange, and fearing empire more than Trump by Matt Taibbi on TX News. [Added 1/8/2021]

For Julian Assange, truth really is a weapon

January 5, 2021

The U.S. government spent 10 years trying to capture Julian Assange, exerting pressure on the governments of Britain, Sweden, Ecuador and other countries in humiliating ways.

A British judge’s decision Monday, denying a U.S. request for extradition, may be the beginning of the end of Assange’s ordeal.  Let’s hope so.

What made Julian Assange such a theat?

It was his insight that truth can literally be a weapon, and a dangerous one.  He explained his philosophy in a blog post in 2007, shortly he and friends launched Wikileaks.

His insight was that conspiracies—whether criminal, terrorist, corporate or governmental—require the ability to communicate in secret.  A conspiracy, in his definition, is any action that requires secrecy in order to succeed.

The more secretive or unjust an organization is, the more leaks induce fear and paranoia in its leadership and planning coterie.  This must result in minimization of efficient internal communications mechanisms (an increase in cognitive “secrecy tax”) and consequent system-wide cognitive decline resulting in decreased ability to hold onto power as the environment demands adaption.

Hence in a world where leaking is easy, secretive or unjust systems are nonlinearly hit relative to open, just systems.  Since unjust systems, by their nature induce opponents, and in many places barely have the upper hand, mass leaking leaves them exquisitely vulnerable to those who seek to replace them with more open forms of governance.

Only revealed injustice can be answered; for man to do anything intelligent he has to know what’s actually going on.

Source: IQ.ORG.

Criminal and terrorist conspiracies fall apart when conspirators fear that anyone they talk to may be an informer.  Corporate and governmental conspiracies fall apart when conspirators fear that anyone they talk to may be a whistle-blower.

The result of fear of leaks is that the conspirators either stop doing anything they fear being made public (unlikely) or that they become so concerned with not incriminating themselves that they stop communicating effectively.

Later on, in an interview, he presented a more hopeful view.  He said the fact that governments and powerful institutions persecute whistle-blowers is an indication that they are reform-able or at least vulnerable.  If they weren’t reform-able or vulnerable, they wouldn’t care what the public knows or thinks.

I have said before that censorship is always an opportunity. The signal that censorship sends off reveals the fear of reform, and therefore the possibility of reform. In this case, what we see is a clear signal that those structures are not merely hypocritical, but rather that they are threatened in a way that they have not been previously.

From this, we can see, on one hand, extraordinary hypocrisy from the entire White House with regard to the importance of the freedom of speech, and, on the other hand, a betrayal of those statements—an awful betrayal of the values of the US Revolution.

In spite of this, when such a quantity of quality information is released, we have the opportunity to rattle this structure enough that we have a chance of achieving some significant reforms. Some of those, perhaps, are just being felt, while others will take a while, because of the cascade of cause and effect.

Source: In Conversation with Julian Assange Part II

The third aim of Wikileaks was to create a unofficial historical record so journalists and historians would not have to rely on official sources.

Orwell’s dictum, “He who controls the present controls the past, and he who controls the past controls the future,” was never truer than it is now. With digital archives, with these digital repositories of our intellectual record, control over the present allows one to perform an absolutely untraceable removal of the past.

Source: In Conversation with Julian Assange Part I

When people like U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo designate Wikileaks as a “hostile non-state intelligence service,” there’s something to it.  Assange and his friends really did try to disrupt the existing power structure, alone.  What was distinctive is that Wikileaks was facilitating spying not for a government or a political movement, but for we the people.

(more…)

A reminder: What we owe to Wikileaks

January 3, 2021

On Monday, a British court will decide whether or not Julian Assange will be extradited to the US, to face charges of espionage and cybercrimes.

Assange has been in jail since his arrest by the London Metropolitan Police on April 11, 2019 and as of today, has spent nearly a decade in confinement in one form or the other.

On Monday, Judge Vanessa Baraitser will decide whether Assange is to be extradited to the US to stand trial. Julian Assange faces 18 charges under the Espionage Act and the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. If extradited and convicted in the United States, he could face a jail term of up to 175 years.

If extradited, Assange would almost certainly be tried in northern Virginia, where 85 percent of the population is employed by the Central Intelligence Agency, the National Security Agency, the Defense Department and the State Department.  Espionage cases are tried behind closed doors and on the basis of secret evidence.  Conviction is virtually certain.

Assange would almost certainly wind up in the United States Penitentiary Administrative Maximum Facility in Florence, Colorado.   He would be in permanent solitary confinement in a concrete box cell with a window four inches wide, with six bed checks a day and one hour of exercise in an outdoor cage.

Probably Judge Baraitser’s decision will be appealed, which means that Assange could remain where he is, in Belmarsh Prison.  Known as “Britain’s Guantanamo Bay,” Belmarsh is normally reserved for the most violent and dangerous offenders and is no better than the Colorado supermax prison.

Assange had been confined to his cell for 23 hours a day.  Since an outbreak of the coronavirus in his wing of the prison, he has been kept in his cell 24 hours a day.  He is in poor health, and has been denied requested medical care.

His supporters say his life is in danger.  Nils Melzer, the United Nations special rapporteur on torture, has said Assange’s treatment amounts to torture and asked for an end to his “arbitrary detention.”

The charges against Assange have to do with his work with whistleblower Chelsea Manning in exposing US war crimes and other atrocities in Iraq and Afghanistan.  But, as Suzie Dawson reminds us in the video above (from 2018), Assange has done much, much more for the world than this.

The basic issue is clear.  Does the U.S. government, or any other government, have the legal authority to commit crimes and punish people for revealing those crimes?  If it does have such authority, then what is our supposed democracy worth?

LINKS

Verdict in Julian Assange’s extradition case to be delivered on Monday by the People’s Dispatch.

The Kafkaesque Imprisonment of Julian Assange Exposes U.S. Myths About Freedom and Tyranny by Glenn Greenwald on Substack.

Crown Prosecutors Submit Final Argument for Assange Extradition by Kevin Gosztola for ShadowProof.

Assange Legal Team Submits Closing Argument Against Extradition to the United States by Kevin Gosztola for The Dissenter.

For Years, journalists cheered Assange’s abuse – now they’ve paved his way to a U.S. gulag by Jonathan Cook on his blog.

The passing scene: Links 12/6/2020

December 6, 2020

Make them cry: Tear-gasms now a matter for American boasting by Thomas Frank for Le Monde diplomatique.

After the Deep State Sabotaged His Presidential Bid, Bernie Sanders Mocks Those Who Believe It Exists by Glenn Greenwald on Substack.

Julian Assange and journalistic hypocrisy

November 25, 2020

Dem war coalition prepares to assume power

November 19, 2020

The New Ruling Coalition Opposition to Afghanistan Withdrawal Shows Its Key Factions by Glenn Greenwald. “An unholy union of the national security state and the neocon-backed and corporate-funded Democratic Party are about to assume power with media-supported Internet censorship a key weapon.”

Attempt to censor Greenwald is a big deal

October 31, 2020

.

.

The Intercept’s attempted censorship of Glenn Greenwald is a symptom of the state of freedom of the press in the USA.

Greenwald wrote an article about how major broadcasters and publications refused to acknowledge new information about Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden’s ties to a corrupt businessman in Ukraine.  His editors at The Intercept refused to publish it unless he deleted information derogatory to Joe Biden.

This is a big deal because Greenwald joined The Intercept, a news web site bankrolled by a billionaire named Pierre Omidyar, because it promised him freedom from censorship. 

Greenwald originally was a civil liberties lawyer with a blog.  It became so popular that he was invited to join Salon and then The Guardian. to which he agreed only on condition of complete freedom to express his opinion, within the limits of libel law.  Omidyar’s FIrst Look Media promised him the same freedom.

His critics say it is wrong of him to criticize Joe Biden in the run-up to the election because it is all-important to defeat Donald Trump.  It is “not helpful to the left,” as one of his editors wrote.

Actually the New York Post article about Hunter Biden’s computer was not all that important in itself.  It only added circumstantial evidence to what was already known.  If not for the effort to suppress the article, it probably would be forgotten by now.

∞∞

Greenwald originally gained favor with self-described leftists because of his writing about the George W. Bush administration’s attack on civil liberties.  He lost favor when he held the Barack Obama administration to the same standard.  He remains in disfavor because of his skepticism about the Russiagate conspiracy theory, even though he has been vindicated by the facts.

Other independent reporters also were marginalized.  Seymour Hersh was a top investigative reporter for the New York Times and then for the New Yorker magazine.  His Russiagate skepticism cost him that position.  His writings appeared in The Guardian for a time.  The last article of his that I read was in the English-language edition of a German newspaper.

Matt Taibbi is another Russiagate skeptic.  He backed out of an invitation to join The Intercept when it was first organized.  He recently started a new blog on the Substack platform, which Greenwald also has joined.

I don’t see Greenwald, Hersh or Taibbi as part of “the left,” whatever that may be.  I’ve never seen any indication that any of them has any particular ideology, except intolerance of tyranny, atrocities and high-level corruption and a keen nose for BS.

I’m not sure what “left” or “right” mean any more, beyond adherence to one of two political factions.  Evidently the current “right” position is that business monopolies such as Facebook and Twitter should not have the power to stifle opinions their executives don’t approve of, while the “left” position is that freedom of speech only applies to freedom from government censorship.

(more…)

Glenn Greenwald resigns from The Intercept

October 29, 2020

Glenn Greenwald

Glenn Greenwald has resigned from The Intercept, a news organization he co-founded in 2014, because of its refusal to publish an article he wrote about Hunter and Joe Biden.

Ironically, the original idea behind The Intercept was that journalists would be able to write without editorial censorship of content.

I’ve long admired Greenwald and have read his writings since he was just a lawyer with his own WordPress blog.  He is going back to being an individual blogger.  Here are the first three posts on his new blog, plus The Intercept’s response.

LINKS

My Resignation From The Intercept by Glenn Greenwald.

Article on Joe and Hunter Biden Censored by The Intercept by Glenn Greenwald.

Emails With Intercept Editors Showing Censorship of My Joe Biden Article by Glenn Greenwald.

Glenn Greenwald Resigns From The Intercept by The Intercept.

∞∞

Glenn Greenwald On His Resignation From the Intercept by Matt Taibbi.  [Added 10/30/2020]  Taibbi, like Greenwald, has gone back to being an individual blogger, also using the Substack platform.

Glenn Greenwald Leaving The Intercept, Claiming He Was Censored by Katie Robertson for The New York Times [Added 10/30/2020]

The Extraordinary Pierre Omidyar by Mark Ames and Yasha Levine for MSFW Corp. [Added 10/30/2020]  A 2013 article about the billionaire who bankrolled Greenwald and The Intercept.

The Aftermath of My Move Back to Independent Journalism by Glenn Greenwald.  [Added 10/31/2020]  Greenwald already is among the top 10 Substack bloggers in terms of number of subscribers.  He took a big risk.  His former employer not only paid him a six-figure salary, but provided security to protect him from kidnapping and assassination attempts—a real danger for him because he lives in Brazil and has fearlessly criticized its authoritarian government.

Greenwald’s Intercept Resignation Exposes the Rot in All Mass Media by Caitlin Johnstone. [Added 10/31/2020]

The Media Has Not Ignored the Hunter Biden Story by Kevin Drum for Mother Jones.  [Added 10/31/2020]

Hunter Biden’s easy access laptop was national security nightmare by Caroline Graham and Ian Gallagher for The Daily Mail in London.  [Added 11/1/2020]  Version on RedState.

Ebay Founder Pierre Omidyar Is Funding a Global Media Information War by Alexander Rubenstein and Max Blumenthal for Mint Press News.  [Added 11/1/2020]  A 2019 article about The Intercept’s owner.  This is bad stuff, but I doubt if Greenwald would have kept his independence if he had remained with The Guardian.

Glenn Greenwald Sparks Snowden Deja-Vu by Jack Hunter for The American Conservative.  [Added 11/1/2020]

Inside Glenn Greenwald’s Blowup With The Intercept by Peter Sterne for New York magazine.  [Added 11/1/2020]