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Neoliberal war on reality bulleing, 2015

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[Dec 21, 2015] Journalists are really mouthpieces for political factions within their own government power structure but the best journalists choose faction that actually embraces reality

"... Regarding Patrick Lang, I noticed that he posted a quite vehement attack against conspiracy theorists postings on his blog who were – if I recall correctly – claiming that the military were involved in the subterfuge to arm extremists in Syria. (Probably cocked up the details but too tired to check.) It struck me as noteworthy as it suggested an internecine intra-Washington struggle between Military / CIA who was going to "own" the debacle in Syria at the very least. It is utterly reminiscent of the struggle between Dulles / CIA power structure (think: institutional group think) and the incoming JFK administration / New Frontiersman during and after the Cuban Missile Crisis. ..."
"... Of course it's worth noting that Hersh had to revert to publishing this "intimate" conversation between American power structures in a foreign publication. What does that tell you about the "freedom index"? Samizdat here we come! ..."
marknesop.wordpress.com

Tim Owen, December 20, 2015 at 1:53 pm

Sy Hersh's latest via M of A:

http://www.lrb.co.uk/v38/n01/seymour-m-hersh/military-to-military

marknesop, December 20, 2015 at 7:58 pm
Washington does not care who assumes power in Syria – whether it be feuding warlords or an Islamic mullah or Assad's cat. Washington knows that Islamic State needs money to survive and keep power, as does any individual or group who will rule, and that to remain in power, it will sell oil. Good enough, as far as Washington is concerned. If the place remains a seething cauldron of destabilizing hatreds, so much the better.
Tim Owen, December 20, 2015 at 8:50 pm
I read this carefully earlier today and wish I had made some notes.

It's an interesting article just in what it says about the politics of American journalism at this point in time almost regardless of the subject matter in a kind of Kremlinology vein. It almost reads like a ransom note. My impression is that Hersh is pulling punches at some key points in order not to overplay his hand.

My suggestion: don't get bogged down in the details. From my recollection of the piece from earlier today Hersh is basically championing a few figures and – most importantly – their perspectives here:

It's worth remembering that Hersh's articles on the Ghoutta attack immediately predated the great stand-down by Obama from all out air-war to destroy Syria.

Given that it's axiomatic that journalists are really mouthpieces for political factions within their own government power structure and that the BEST journalists – like Hersh – actually embrace this reality, what does the appearance of this article augur?

I especially like the sign off:

"The Joint Chiefs and the DIA were constantly telling Washington's leadership of the jihadist threat in Syria, and of Turkey's support for it. The message was never listened to. Why not?"

That sounds kind of threatening. In a good way.

* Regarding Patrick Lang, I noticed that he posted a quite vehement attack against conspiracy theorists postings on his blog who were – if I recall correctly – claiming that the military were involved in the subterfuge to arm extremists in Syria. (Probably cocked up the details but too tired to check.) It struck me as noteworthy as it suggested an internecine intra-Washington struggle between Military / CIA who was going to "own" the debacle in Syria at the very least. It is utterly reminiscent of the struggle between Dulles / CIA power structure (think: institutional group think) and the incoming JFK administration / New Frontiersman during and after the Cuban Missile Crisis.

In other words: we, the west, have basically made no progress fighting for reform of our leadership and political structures. Meanwhile the Russians seem to have gone "right round the horn" – as the dinosaur in Toy Story might put it.

Tim Owen, December 20, 2015 at 9:08 pm
Of course it's worth noting that Hersh had to revert to publishing this "intimate" conversation between American power structures in a foreign publication. What does that tell you about the "freedom index"? Samizdat here we come!

[Jun 09, 2015] The Attack on Truth By Lee McIntyre

Jun 09, 2015 | The Chronicle of Higher Education

To see how we treat the concept of truth these days, one might think we just don't care anymore. Politicians pronounce that global warming is a hoax. An alarming number of middle-class parents have stopped giving their children routine vaccinations, on the basis of discredited research. Meanwhile many commentators in the media - and even some in our universities - have all but abandoned their responsibility to set the record straight. (It doesn't help when scientists occasionally have to retract their own work.)

You Have Your History, I Have Mine
Good riddance to a scripted past populated by heroic stick figures in iffy moralistic parables. But is there nothing we can agree on?


Humans have always held some wrongheaded beliefs that were later subject to correction by reason and evidence. But we have reached a watershed moment, when the enterprise of basing our beliefs on fact rather than intuition is truly in peril.

It's not just garden-variety ignorance that periodically appears in public-opinion polls that makes us cringe or laugh. A 2009 survey by the California Academy of Sciences found that only 53 percent of American adults knew how long it takes for Earth to revolve around the sun. Only 59 percent knew that the earliest humans did not live at the same time as the dinosaurs.

As egregious as that sort of thing is, it is not the kind of ignorance that should most concern us. There is simple ignorance and there is willful ignorance, which is simple ignorance coupled with the decision to remain ignorant. Normally that occurs when someone has a firm commitment to an ideology that proclaims it has all the answers - even if it counters empirical matters that have been well covered by scientific investigation. More than mere scientific illiteracy, this sort of obstinacy reflects a dangerous contempt for the methods that customarily lead to recognition of the truth. And once we are on that road, it is a short hop to disrespecting truth.

It is sad that the modern attack on truth started in the academy - in the humanities, where the stakes may have initially seemed low in holding that there are multiple ways to read a text or that one cannot understand a book without taking account of the political beliefs of its author.

That disrespect, however, has metastasized into outrageous claims about the natural sciences.

The strategy is to say, "I refuse to believe this," and then filibuster in the court of public opinion.

Anyone who has been paying attention to the fault lines of academic debate for the past 20 years already knows that the "science wars" were fought by natural scientists (and their defenders in the philosophy of science) on the one side and literary critics and cultural-studies folks on the other. The latter argued that even in the natural realm, truth is relative, and there is no such thing as objectivity. The skirmishes blew up in the well-known "Sokal affair" in 1996, in which a prominent physicist created a scientifically absurd postmodernist paper and was able to get it published in a leading cultural-studies journal. The ridicule that followed may have seemed to settle the matter once and for all.

But then a funny thing happened: While many natural scientists declared the battle won and headed back to their labs, some left-wing postmodernist criticisms of truth began to be picked up by right-wing ideologues who were looking for respectable cover for their denial of climate change, evolution, and other scientifically accepted conclusions. Alan Sokal said he had hoped to shake up academic progressives, but suddenly one found hard-right conservatives sounding like Continental intellectuals. And that caused discombobulation on the left.

"Was I wrong to participate in the invention of this field known as science studies?," Bruno Latour, one of the founders of the field that contextualizes science, famously asked. "Is it enough to say that we did not really mean what we said? Why does it burn my tongue to say that global warming is a fact whether you like it or not? Why can't I simply say that the argument is closed for good?"

"But now the climate-change deniers and the young-Earth creationists are coming after the natural scientists," the literary critic Michael Bérubé noted, "… and they're using some of the very arguments developed by an academic left that thought it was speaking only to people of like mind."

That is the price one pays for playing with ideas as if doing so has no consequences, imagining that they will be used only for the political purposes one intended. Instead, the entire edifice of science is now under attack. And it's the poor and disenfranchised, to whom the left pays homage, who will probably bear the brunt of disbelief in climate change.

Of course, some folks were hard at work trying to dispute inconvenient scientific facts long before conservatives began to borrow postmodernist rhetoric. In Merchants of Doubt (Bloomsbury Press, 2010), two historians, Naomi Oreskes and Erik M. Conway, have shown how the strategy of denying climate change and evolution can be traced all the way back to big tobacco companies, who recognized early on that even the most well-documented scientific claims (for instance, that smoking causes cancer) could be eroded by skillful government lobbying, bullying the news media, and pursuing a public-relations campaign. Sadly, that strategy has largely worked, and we today find it employed by the Discovery Institute, the Seattle organization advocating that "intelligent-design theory" be taught in the public schools as balance for the "holes" in evolutionary theory, and the Heartland Institute, which bills itself as "the world's most prominent think tank promoting skepticism about man-made climate change."

What do such academically suspect centers have to offer by way of peer-reviewed, scientifically reputable evidence? Almost nothing. But that is not the point. The strategy of willful ignorance is not to fight theory with theory and statistic with statistic. It is instead to say, "I refuse to believe this," and then filibuster in the court of public opinion. It is not crackpot theories that are doing us in. It is the spread of the tactics of those who disrespect truth.


Remember the great dialogue Euthyphro, in which Socrates, soon facing trial for impiety and corrupting youth, admonishes a callow young fellow for professing to know what "righteousness" is? Socrates demonstrates again and again that Euthyphro has no idea what he is talking about when he argues that it would be righteous for him to prosecute his own father for murder on the basis of some pretty shoddy evidence - and shows that Euthyphro cannot even define the meaning of the word. Socrates is adept at questioning and at verbal humiliation - his standard method throughout the dialogues - but not because he knows the answers. When challenged, Socrates always demurs. He has no wisdom, he says, but is only a kind of "midwife" who can help others to seek it. Even though the goal of philosophy is to find the truth, Socrates customarily professes ignorance.

Plato here teaches a central lesson about the philosopher's search for knowledge, which has ramifications for any quest for true belief. The real enemy is not ignorance, doubt, or even disbelief. It is false knowledge. When we profess to know something even in the face of absent or contradicting evidence, that is when we stop looking for the truth. If we are ignorant, perhaps we will be motivated to learn. If we are skeptical, we can continue to search for answers. If we disbelieve, maybe others can convince us. And perhaps even if we are honestly wrong, and put forward a proposition that is open to refutation, we may learn something when our earlier belief is overthrown.

But when we choose to insulate ourselves from new ideas or evidence because we think that we already know what is true, that is when we are most likely to believe a falsehood. It is not mere disbelief that explains why truth is so often disrespected. It is one's attitude.

In a recent paper, "Why Do Humans Reason?," Hugo Mercier and Dan Sperber, both of them philosophers and cognitive scientists, argue that the point of human reason is not and never has been to lead to truth, but is rather to win arguments. If that is correct, the discovery of truth is only a byproduct.

The fact that humans do reason poorly is beyond dispute. The psychological literature is replete with examples of mistakes like "confirmation bias" (seeking out only information that confirms our preconceptions) and "hindsight bias" (relying on current knowledge to assume that something was predictable all along). The work goes back to the 1970s and '80s, with Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky's groundbreaking research on irrationality in how people weigh risks and losses, which helped establish the field of behavioral economics and undermine the reigning idea in economics of rational choice. Kahneman, a psychologist who won the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Science, updated his work in Thinking, Fast and Slow (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2011).

The fundamental question that motivates Mercier and Sperber's analysis is this: Why would being a persuasive speaker be valuable to humans as they evolved? Here the authors tell a story about the importance of argumentation to the evolution of communication. In a group setting, where people were not already inclined to trust one another, they would need some way of evaluating claims. That's where arguments come in. Just to make an assertion does not rise to the level of overcoming what Mercier and Sperber and colleagues have called the "epistemic vigilance" against being deceived or manipulated. If you present other people with the reasons for your belief, however, you have now given them the means to evaluate the truth of your claim and also, if you are right, presumably extend more trust to you in the future. Thus, according to Mercier and Sperber, providing arguments for our beliefs improves the quality and reliability of information that is shared in human communication.

The philosopher Andy Norman and others have criticized this theory by pointing out that it relies far too heavily on the idea that rhetorical skills are valuable within an evolutionary context, irrespective of the truth of the beliefs being advocated. What if the reasons for your beliefs are not true? In a response to Mercier and Sperber, the psychologist Robert J. Sternberg pointed out that while reason and argument are closely related, "persuasive reasoning that is not veridical can be fatal to the individual and to the propagation of his or her genes, as well as to the human species as a whole."


W
e are faced with the prospect of a significant change in the temperature of our planet if we continue to harvest and use all of the fossil fuels at our disposal. Suddenly the stakes for a longtime problem of human irrationality seem enormous. But if the seeds of disrespecting truth were planted so long ago, why are they now growing with such force?

One likely candidate is the Internet. It facilitates not only the spread of truth but also the proliferation of crackpots, ideologues, and those with an ax to grind. With the removal of editorial gatekeepers who can vet information, outright lies can survive on the Internet. Worse, those who embrace willful ignorance are now much more likely to find an electronic home where their marginal views are embraced.

An obvious solution might be to turn to journalists, who are supposed to embrace a standard of objectivity and source-checking that would be more likely to support true beliefs. Yet, at least in part as a result of the competition that has been enabled by the Internet, we now find that even some mainstream journalists and news media are dangerously complicit in the follies of those who seek to disrespect truth. There have always been accusations of bias in the media, but today we have Fox News on the right and MSNBC on the left (along with a smattering of partisan radio talk-show hosts like Rush Limbaugh), who engage in overt advocacy for their ideological views.

Yet those are not the kinds of journalists we should be so worried about, for they are known to be biased. Another tendency is perhaps even more damaging to the idea that journalism is meant to safeguard truth. Call it "objectivity bias." Sensitive to criticism that they, too, are partisan, many news sites try to demonstrate that they are fair and balanced by presenting "both" sides of any issue deemed "controversial" - even when there really aren't two credible sides. That isn't objectivity. And the consequence is public confusion over whether an issue - in the case of climate change or childhood vaccination, a scientific issue - has actually been settled.

To fight back, we should remember the basic principles of evidence-based belief and true skepticism that got us out of the Dark Ages. Although behavioral economists, among other scholars, have amply shown that human reason is not perfect, that is no excuse for lazy thinking. Even if our brains are not wired to search for truth, we can still pursue a path that might lead to better answers than those supplied by Kahneman's "fast" part of our brain. Truth may not be automatic, but it is still an option. Socrates taught us as much long before we knew anything about cognitive science: Good reasoning is a skill that can be learned.

We are no more a slave to nature in reasoning than we are in morality. Few people would argue that we are genetically programmed to be moral. We may be hard-wired to do things that increase the survival value of our genes, like killing our rivals when no one is looking, but we do not do them, because they are unethical. If we can make such a choice in morals, why not also with reason?

The choosing is what makes us human. It's not our imperfect brains, but the power to decide for ourselves how we will live our lives, that should give us hope. Respecting truth is a choice.

Lee McIntyre is a research fellow at the Center for Philosophy and History of Science at Boston University. His book Respecting Truth: Willful Ignorance in the Internet Age will be published this month by Routledge.

[May 17, 2015] Andre Vltchek How to Fight Western Propaganda Information Clearing House - ICH By Andre Vltchek

May 15, 2015 "Information Clearing House"

- First they manufacture monstrous lies, and then they tell us that we should be objective!

Is love objective; is it passion? Are dreams defendable, logically and philosophically?

When a house is attacked by brigands, when a village is overran by gangsters, when smoke, fire and cries for help are coming from every corner, should we award ourselves with the luxury of time to calculate, analyze and aim at complete logical, ethical, holistic and objective solutions?

I strongly believe no! We are obliged to fight those who are burning our dwellings, to hit with full force those who are attempting to rape our women, and to confront fire with fire when innocent beings are slaughtered.

When the most powerful and the most destructive force on earth employs all its persuasive might, utilizing everything from the mainstream media to educational facilities, in order to justify its crimes, when it spreads its poisonous propaganda and lies in order to oppress the world and suppress hope, do we step back and begin endless and detailed work on precise and objective narratives? Or do we confront lies and propaganda with our own narrative, supported by our intuition, passion and dreams for a better world?

***

The Empire lies continuously. It lies in the morning, during the day, in the evening, even at night, when most of the people are sound asleep. It has been doing it for decades and centuries. For grand deceits it relies on countless numbers of propagandists who pose as academics, teaches, journalists and "public intellectuals". Perfection in the art of disinformation has been reached. Western advertising (so much admired and used by the German Nazis) has some common roots with propaganda, although propaganda is much older and "complete".

It appears that even some leaders of the Empire now believe in most of their fabrications, and most of the citizens certainly do. Otherwise, how could they sleep at night?

The western propaganda apparatus is enormously efficient and effective. It is also brilliant in how it ensures that its inventions get channeled, distributed, and accepted in all corners of the world. The system through which disinformation spreads, is incredibly complex. Servile local media and academia on all continents work hard to guarantee that only one narrative is allowed to penetrate the brains of billions.

The results are: intellectual cowardice and ignorance, all over the world, but especially in the West and in its client states.

***

What are we, who oppose the regime, supposed to do?

First of all, things are not as hopeless as they used to be.

This is not the morbid unipolar world that we experienced in the early 90's. Now Venezuela, Russia, China, and Iran support large media outlets that are opposed to the Empire. Powerful television stations emerged: RT, Press TV, TeleSUR and CCTV. Huge English language Internet-based magazines and sites in the United States, Canada and Russia are also exposing the lies of the official Western propagandists: Counterpunch, Information Clearing House, Global Research, Veterans News, Strategic Culture, New Eastern Outlook quickly come to mind. And there are hundreds of important sites doing the same in Spanish, Chinese, Russian, Portuguese and French languages.

The fight is on: the fight for an intellectually multi-polar world. It is a tough, mortal fight! It is a crucial battle, simply because the metastases of the Western propaganda cancer have spread everywhere, contaminated all continents, and even some of the most courageous countries and brains that are earnestly fighting against the Western imperialism and fascism! No one is immune. To be frank, all of us are contaminated.

Unless we win this battle, by first clearly identifying and proving "their narrative" as fraudulent, and later by offering humanist and compassionate perceptions, we cannot even dream about the revolution, or about any significant changes in arrangement of the world.

***

How do we achieve victory? How do we convince the masses, those billions of people? How do we open their eyes and make them see that the Western regime is dishonest, toxic, poisonous and destructive? Most of humanity is hooked on the Empire's propaganda; that propaganda which is not only spread by mainstream media outlets, but also by pop music, soap operas, social media, advertisement, consumerism, 'fashion trends' and by many other covert means; cultural, religious and media junk that leads to total emotional and intellectual stupor and is administered like some highly addictive narcotic, regularly and persistently.

Do we counter the tactics and strategy of the destructive and ruthless Empire with our honesty, with research, with telling and writing meticulously investigated facts?

The Empire perverts facts. It repeats lies through its loudspeakers and tubes. It shouts them thousands and thousands of times, until they sink into the sub conscious of people, penetrate the skin, spread all through their brains.

Good will, naive honesty, "speaking truth to power", could this change the world and the power itself? I highly doubt it.

The Empire and its power are illegitimate, and they are criminal. Is there any point of speaking truth to a gangster? Hardly! Truth should be spoken to people, to masses, not to those who are terrorizing the world.

By talking to villains, by begging them to stop torturing others, we are legitimizing their crimes, and we are acknowledging their power. By trying to appease gangsters, people are putting themselves at their mercy.

I absolutely refuse to be in such position!

***

To win over billions of people, we have to inspire them, to fire them up. We have to outrage them, embrace them, shame them, make them laugh and make them cry. We have to make sure that they get goose bumps when they see our films, read our books and essays, listen to our speeches.

We have to detox them, make them feel again, wake up natural instincts in them.

Simple truth as a detox agent will not work. The poison of our adversaries has sunk too deeply. Most of the people are too lethargic and too immune to simple, quietly stated truths!

We have tried, and others have tried as well. My acquaintance (but definitely not my comrade) John Perkins, former US apparatchik educated by the State Department, wrote a detailed account of his horrid deeds in Ecuador, Indonesia and elsewhere – "Confession of An Economic Hitman". It is a meticulous, detailed account of how the West destabilizes poor countries, using corruption, money, alcohol, and sex. The book sold millions of copies, worldwide. And yet, nothing changed! It did not trigger a popular revolution in the United States. There were no protests, no demands for regime change in Washington.

In the recent past, I wrote and published two academic, or at least semi-academic books, packed with great details, quotes and tons of footnotes: one on Indonesia, a country used by the West as a model horror scenario for the rest of the world, after the 1965-US-sponsored military coup. The coup killed 2-3 million people, murdered all intellectualism, and lobotomized the 4th most populous country on earth. The book is called "Indonesia – Archipelago of Fear". The second book, unique because it covers an enormous part of the world – Polynesia, Melanesia and Micronesia ("Oceania – Neocolonialism, Nukes and Bones"), showed how the US, UK, Australia, New Zealand and France, literally divided and destroyed the great South Pacific island cultures and the people. Now classes are being taught using my books, but only a very limited number of people are influenced by the facts exposed in them. The elites in both Indonesia and Oceania made sure that the books are not widely read by the people.

I have spent years and years compiling facts, researching, investigating. The revolutionary effectiveness of my academic work is – I have to admit – nearly zero.

It is easy to see the contrast: when I write an essay, a powerfully crafted, emotional essay, demanding justice, accusing the Empire of murder and theft, I get millions of readers on all continents, as well as translations to dozens of languages!

Why do I write this; why do I share this with my readers? Because we should all be realistic. We have to see, to understand, what people want – what they demand. The people are unhappy and scared. Most of them don't know why. They hate the system, they are lonely, frustrated, they know that they are lied to and exploited. But they cannot define those lies. And academic books, exposing the lies are too complex for them to read since the masses have no time to read thousands of indigestible pages or the necessary education to allow them to understand what they are reading.

It is our duty to address those people, the majority, otherwise what kind of revolutionaries are we? After all, we are supposed to create for our brothers and sisters, not for a few researchers at the universities, especially when we realize that most of the universities are serving the Empire by regurgitating official nomenclature and supporting demagogues.

***

The Empire speaks, writes and then repeats some outrageous lies, about its benevolence, and exceptionality of its rule, or about the "evils" of the Soviet Union, China, Iran, Venezuela, North Korea or Cuba. This is done daily. In fact it is designed so that almost every human being gets his or her dose of the toxin at least several times a day.

We feel we have to react – we begin spending years of our lives, meticulously proving, step by step, that the Empire's propaganda is either one big fat lie, or exaggeration, or both. After we compile our arguments, we publish the results in some small publishing house, most likely in the form of a slender book, but almost nobody reads it because of its tiny circulation, and because the findings are usually too complex, too hard to digest, and simply because the facts do not shock anybody, anymore. One million more innocent people were murdered somewhere in Africa, in the Middle East, in Asia; what else is new?

Researching and trying to tell the truth, fully and honestly, we feel that we are doing great, professional, scientific work. All the while the propagandists of the Empire are dying of laughter watching us! We are representing little danger to them. They are winning effortlessly!

Why is that? Doesn't the detailed truth matter?

It does – from the point of higher principles it matters. Ethically it matters. Morally it matters. Philosophically it matters.

But strategically, when one is engaged in an ideological war, it does not matter that much! The truth yes, always; the truth matters! But simplified, digestible truth, presented powerfully and emotionally!

When immorality is ravishing the world, when it is charging mercilessly, when innocent millions are dying, what matters is to stop the slaughter, first by identifying the murderous force, then by containing it.

Language has to be strong, emotions raw.

When facing murderous hordes, poetry, emotionally charged songs, and patriotic odes have always been more effective than deep academic studies. And so were political novels and films, passionate documentaries, even explicit cartoons and posters.

Some would ask: "Just because they are lying, should we lie as well?" No! We should try to be as truthful as we can. But our message should be often "abridged", so the billions, not just those selected few, could understand it.

It does not mean that the quality of our work should suffer. Simplicity is often more difficult to achieve than encyclopedic works with thousands of footnotes.

Sun Tzu's "Art of War" is short, just a pamphlet, straight to the point. And so is the "Communist Manifesto", and 'J'accuse!"

Our revolutionary work does not have to be necessarily brief, but it has to be presented in a way that could be understood by many. I am constantly experimenting with the form, while never compromising on substance. My recent book, "Exposing Lies of the Empire" has more than 800 pages, but I made sure that it is packed with fascinating stories, with testimonies of people from all corners of the globe, with colorful description of both victims and tyrants. I don't want my books to collect dust in university libraries. I want them to mobilize people.

***

I truly believe that there is not much time for "objectivity" in any battle, including those ideological ones, especially when these are battles for the survival of humanity!

The lies of the enemy have to be confronted. They are toxic, monstrous lies!

Once the destruction stops, millions of innocent men, women and children will cease being sacrificed, and we can return to our complex philosophical concepts, to details and to nuances.

But before we win our final battles against imperialism, nihilism, fascism, exceptionalism, selfishness and greed, we have to fully and effectively utilize our most powerful weapons: our visions of a better world, our love for humanity, our passion for justice. Our determination and our beliefs have to be presented in a loud, potent, even "dogmatic" manner, our voice should be creative, artistic, powerful!

The house is on fire, comrades! The entire town is turning to ashes. The entire planet is plundered, devastated, lobotomized.

We cannot confront bigots with nukes and battleships. But our talents, our muses, and our hearts are here, with us, ready to join the battle.

Let us outsmart our enemies; let us make sure that the world begins laughing at them! Have you seen them, those pathetic losers, the buffoons – the CEO's? Have you listened to those Prime Ministers and Presidents, those servants of the "market"? Let us convince the masses that their tyrants –the imperialists, the neo-colonialists and all their dogmatic preachers – are nothing more than pitiful, greedy, poisonous fools! Let us discredit them! Let us ridicule them.

They are robbing and murdering millions. Let us begin by at least pissing on them!

Let us fight Western propaganda by first exposing those who are really behind it. Let's get personal.

Let's turn this revolution into something creative, hilarious, truly fun!

Andre Vltchek is a philosopher, novelist, filmmaker and investigative journalist. He covered wars and conflicts in dozens of countries. His latest books are: "Exposing Lies Of The Empire" and "Fighting Against Western Imperialism".Discussion with Noam Chomsky: On Western Terrorism. Point of No Return is his critically acclaimed political novel. Oceania – a book on Western imperialism in the South Pacific. His provocative book about Indonesia: "Indonesia – The Archipelago of Fear". Andre is making films for teleSUR and Press TV. After living for many years in Latin America and Oceania, Vltchek presently resides and works in East Asia and the Middle East. He can be reached through his website or his Twitter.

Par K · 1 day ago

I have been reading Andre Vltchek's essays and commentaries for a longtime. His honesty,integrity, depth of thought, and articulation id beyond any doubt. Courageous and bold writing like this one need to reach as many people as possible - more exposure - that is what is needed:

- A compiler of 'Independent News and Editorials:
The News Scouter: http://newsscouter.com/

What we need is to bring awareness to masses. We need to promote the truth - the knowledge - let the Information reach the maximum number of people. It is all about knowing the facts.

The key to bringing in the change - the real change, is to remain informed - well informed. To make the right decision we need all the relevant information, news, and analysis. Be it the economy & finance, politics, or wars, information is the key. But, as we all know, searching out for the needed information is a time consuming task.

Now, more than ever, in this fast changing world, we need "information" - Fast & Quick - at a single point.

Here is a source that we have stumbled upon - A new comer that is already gaining momentum and recognition among both the readers and writers alike at a lightening speed:
The News Scouter.

"All the 'Must-Read' News Stories, Information and Editorials from around the world - Everything from Global Affairs & Finance to Science & Technology - Updated Regularly - Sorted and Categorized - All in one place."

Here is the Link to The News Scouter: http://newsscouter.com/


maninhavana · 1 day ago

The only decent journalists working in the media today are working for Telesur, RT and those mentioned in the article or as independents who get carried by this indispensible website ICH. The rest are just presstitutes .

Sarah Rainsford of the BBC is a supreme example and John Simpson one time head of the BBC world service admits to admiring John Pilger and Martha Gelhorn who would most likely despise his lickspittle sellout journalistic efforts. If you read this article and havent sent a donation to ICH what are you thinking?


Andy Perry · 1 day ago

If Vltchek wants to build an oppositioin to the self-styled 'West' he should avoid making major concessions to his opponent right from the start.

What is the term 'West' supposed to mean?
It is relative, abstract and meaningless and it is intended to be so.

The 'West' is a BRAND NAME. Its purpose is to control the way you perceive the BRAND.
If you strip the packaging and the marketing away, the 'West' is the Anglo Saxon Axis- a collection of Germanic countries (under NATO) led by Anglo Saxon America.

You should consider the fact that Vltchek hasn't been smart enough to figure this simple truth out before you listen to anything further he has to say on the matter...

Cultural Constituencies: The Anglo Saxon Maidan. https://unitedstatesofeverywhere.wordpress.com/


RubyRenae · 19 hours ago

What is this author Vltchek trying to do? Mobilize the people of the Police States of AmeriKKKa? To...overthrow the regime? How, when the populace is acculturated with God, Guns, and Grocery Stores with fully-stocked shelves? Those facts will beat any kind of moral suasion in this wretched nation. The Police State propagandists themselves present the answer: the AmeriKKKans must be defeated in a war to bring peace to the world. AmeriKKKa must be forced into recognition that the Police States has lost legitimacy by a more powerful state (or states). This is all that can be done, if you read their literature on the British Empire.


Dick · 10 hours ago

The seven Principles of Propaganda P{art 1 as follows:

Avoid abstract ideas - appeal to the emotions.

When we think emotionally, we are more prone to be irrational and less critical in our thinking. I can remember several instances where this has been employed by the US to prepare the public with a justification of their actions. Here are three examples:

The Invasion of Grenada during the Reagan administration was said to be necessary to rescue American students being held hostage by Grenadian authorities after a coup that overthrew the government and return the previous government. I had a friend in the 82nd airborne division that participated in the rescue. He told me the students said they were hiding in the school to avoid the fighting by the US military, and had never been threatened by any Grenadian authority. Film of the actual rescue broadcast on the mainstream media was faked; the students were never in danger.

The invasion of Panama in the late 80's was supposedly to capture the dictator Manual Noriega for international crimes related to drugs and weapons. I remember a headline covered by all the media where a Navy lieutenant and his wife were detained by the police. His wife was sexually assaulted while in custody, according to the story. Unfortunately, it never happened. It was intended to get the public emotionally involved to support the action.

The invasion of Iraq in the early 90's was preceded by a speech in congress by a girl describing the Iraqi army throwing babies out of incubators so the equipment could be transferred to Iraq. It turns out the girl was the daughter of one of the Kuwait's ruling sheiks and the event never occurred. However, it served its purpose by getting the American public involved emotionally supporting the war. It is the most blatant use of propaganda, since it used the US congress to present the story as true. Whom do we trust?

The greatest emotion in us is fear and fear is used extensively to make us think irrationally. I remember growing up during the cold war having the fear of nuclear war or 'The Russians are coming!' After the cold war without an obvious enemy, it was Al Qaeda even before 911, so we had 'Al Qaeda is coming!' Now we have 'ISIS is coming!' with media blasting us with terrorist fears. Whenever I hear a government promoting an emotional issue or fear mongering, I ignore them knowing there is a hidden Truth behind the issue.

Constantly repeat just a few ideas. Use stereotyped phrases.

This could be stated more plainly as 'Keep it simple, stupid!' The most notorious use of this technique recently was the Bush administration. Everyone can remember 'We must fight them over there rather than over here' or my favourite 'They hate us for our freedoms'. Neither of these phrases made any rational sense despite 911. The last thing Muslims in the Middle East care about is American's freedoms, maybe it was all the bombs the US was dropping on them.

Give only one side of the argument and obscure history.

Watching mainstream media in the US, you can see all the news is biased to the American view as an example. This is prevalent within Australian commercial media and newspapers giving only a western view, but fortunately, we have the SBS and the ABC that are very good, certainly not perfect, at providing both sides of a story. In addition, any historical perspective is ignored keeping the citizenry focused on the here and now. Can any of you remember any news organisation giving an in depth history of Ukraine or Palestine? I cannot.

Demonize the enemy or pick out one special "enemy" for special vilification.

This is obvious in politics where politicians continuously criticise their opponents. Of course, demonization is more productively applied to international figures or nations such as Saddam Hussein, Osama bin Laden, Gaddafi in Libya, Assad in Syria, the Taliban and just recently Vladimir Putin over the Ukraine and Crimea. It establishes a negative emotional view of either a nation (i.e. Iran) or a known figure making us again think emotionally, thus irrationally. Certainly some of these groups or individuals were less than benign, but not necessarily demons as depicted in the west.

Appear humanitarian in work and motivations.

The US has used this technique often to validate foreign interventions or ongoing conflicts where the term 'Right to Protect' is used for justification. Everyone should remember the many stories about the abuse of women in Afghanistan or Saddam Hussein's supposed brutality to his people. One thing that always amazes me is when the US sends humanitarian aid to a country it is accompanied by the US military. In Haiti some years back the US sent troops with no other country doing so. The recent Ebola outbreak in Africa saw US troops sent to the area. How are troops going to fight a medical outbreak? No doubt, they are there for other reasons.

Obscure one's economic interests.

Who among you believes the invasion of Iraq was for weapons of mass destruction? Or the constant threats against Iran are for their nuclear program? Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction and no one has presented firm evidence Iran intends to produce nuclear weapons. The West has been interfering in the Middle East since the British in the late 19th century. It is all about oil and the control over the resources. In fact, if one researches the cause of wars over the last hundred years, you will always find economics was a major component driving the rush to war for most of them.

Monopolize the flow of information.

This mainly entails setting the narrative by which all subsequent events can be based upon or interpreted in such a way as to reinforce the narrative. The narrative does not need to be true; in fact, it can be anything that suits the monopoliser as long as it is based loosely on some event. It is critical to have at least majority control of media and the ability to control the message so the flow of information is consistent with the narrative. In the last few months, I have seen this played out on mainstream media concerning the Ukrainian conflict. One of the most interesting examples of this principle was in the lead up to the Iraqi war in 2003. John Howard, Prime Minister at the time, gave a speech in the Australian parliament justifying the intervention in Iraq on March 18, 2003. Two days later on March 20 Stephen Harper, Prime Minister of Canada, gave the same speech word for word to the Canadian parliament. Either Harper is lazy or there was an attempt to control the message in countries supporting the war. What I would like to know is who wrote the speech in the first place. I cannot see two Prime Ministers giving an identical speech to their respective parliaments as a coincidence.

Jim

Who have ever been in a war don't wish to go back to such. US media always shows the bombing in the distance. If the American people could see up close the carnage, they would kill every congressman who have voted for any war.

Again that is the reason to have massive poverty so the poor provide the soldiers with a promise of a free college education as long as you are able to go to school in the evening after duty, but if you are at a relentless illegal war forget about your free education.

[May 14, 2015] War-Crazed Western Propaganda Machine Rages at Its Growing Insignificance

Atlantic Alliance media apparatus lashing out like a dying demon at the reality of being successfully confronted by the truth

This article originally appeared at CounterPunch

In mid-April, hundreds of U.S. paratroopers from the 173rd Airborne Brigade arrived in western Ukraine to provide training for government troops. The UK had already started its troop-training mission there, sending 75 troops to Kiev in March. [1] On April 14, the Canadian government announced that Canada will send 200 soldiers to Kiev, contributing to a military build-up on Russia's doorstep while a fragile truce is in place in eastern Ukraine.

The Russian Embassy in Ottawa called the decision "counterproductive and deplorable," stating that the foreign ministers of France, Germany, Russia and Ukraine have "called for enhanced intra-Ukrainian political dialogue," as agreed upon in the Minsk-2 accords in February, and that it would be "much more reasonable to concentrate on diplomacy…" [2]

That viewpoint is shared by many, especially in Europe where few are eager for a "hot" war in the region. Nor are most people enamoured of the fact that more billions are being spent on a new arms-race, while "austerity" is preached by the 1 Per Cent.

But in the Anglo-American corridors of power (also called the Atlantic Alliance), such views are seen to be the result of diabolical propaganda spread through the Internet by Russia's "secret army." On April 15, the U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee, chaired by Ed Royce (R-Calif.), held a hearing entitled "Confronting Russia's Weaponization of Information," with Royce claiming that Russian propaganda threatens "to destabilize NATO members, impacting our security commitments." [3]

The Committee heard from three witnesses: Elizabeth Wahl, former anchor for the news agency Russia Today (RT) who gained her moment of fame by resigning on camera in March 2014; Peter Pomerantsev, Senior Fellow at the Legatum Institute (a right-wing UK think-tank); and Helle C. Dale, Senior Fellow for Public Diplomacy at The Heritage Foundation, a right-wing U.S. think-tank. [4] The Foreign Affairs Committee website contains video clips of the first two witnesses – well worth watching if you enjoy Orwellian rhetoric passionately delivered.

The day before the hearing, in an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal, Royce wrote, "Vladimir Putin has a secret army. It's an army of thousands of 'trolls,' TV anchors and others who work day and night spreading anti-American propaganda on the Internet, airwaves and newspapers throughout Russia and the world. Mr. Putin uses these misinformation warriors to destabilize his neighbors and control parts of Ukraine. This force may be more dangerous than any military, because no artillery can stop their lies from spreading and undermining U.S. security interests in Europe." [5]

In her formal (printed) submission, Ms. Wahl referred to the Internet's "population of paranoid skeptics" and wrote: "The paranoia extends to believing that Western media is not only complicit, but instrumental in ensuring Western dominance."

Helle C. Dale warned of "a new kind of propaganda, aimed at sowing doubt about anything having to do with the U.S. and the West, and in a number of countries, unsophisticated audiences are eating it up."

Peter Pomerantsev claimed that Russia's goal is "to trash the information space with so much disinformation so that a conversation based on actual facts would become impossible." He added, "Throughout Europe conspiracy theories are on the rise and in the US trust in the media has declined. The Kremlin may not always have initiated these phenomena, but it is fanning them…Democracies are singularly ill equipped to deal with this type of warfare. For all of its military might, NATO cannot fight an information war. The openness of democracies, the very quality that is meant to make them more competitive than authoritarian models, becomes a vulnerability."

Chairman Royce called for "clarifying" the mission of the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG), the U.S. federal agency whose networks include Voice of America, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, the Middle East Broadcasting Networks (Alhurra TV and Radio Sawa), Radio Free Asia, and the Office of Cuba Broadcasting (Radio and TV Marti). [6]

The BBG is apparently in disarray. According to Helle Dale's submission, on March 4, 2015, Andrew Lack, the newly hired CEO of BBG's International Broadcasting, left the position after only six weeks on the job. On April 7, the Director of Voice of America, David Ensor, announced that he was leaving.

Andrew Lack was formerly the president of NBC News. As Paul Craig Roberts has recently noted, Lack's first official statement as CEO of the BBG "compared RT, Russia Today, the Russian-based news agency, with the Islamic State and Boko Haram. In other words, Mr. Lack brands RT as a terrorist organization. The purpose of Andrew Lack's absurd comparison is to strike fear at RT that the news organization will be expelled from US media markets. Andrew Lack's message to RT is: 'lie for us or we are going to expel you from our air waves.' The British already did this to Iran's Press TV. In the United States the attack on Internet independent media is proceeding on several fronts." [7]

Ironically, however, it's likely that one of the biggest threats (especially in Europe) to Anglo-American media credibility about Ukraine and other issues is coming from a very old-fashioned medium – a book.
Udo Ulfkotte's bestseller Bought Journalists has been a sensation in Germany since its publication last autumn. The journalist and former editor of one of Germany's largest newspapers, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, revealed that he was for years secretly on the payroll of the CIA and was spinning the news to favour U.S. interests. Moreover he alleges that some major media are nothing more than propaganda outlets for international think-tanks, intelligence agencies, and corporate high-finance. "We're talking about puppets on a string," he says, "journalists who write or say whatever their masters tell them to say or write. If you see how the mainstream media is reporting about the Ukraine conflict and if you know what's really going on, you get the picture. The masters in the background are pushing for war with Russia and western journalists are putting on their helmets." [8]

In another interview, Ulfkotte said: "The German and American media tries to bring war to the people in Europe, to bring war to Russia. This is a point of no return, and I am going to stand up and say…it is not right what I have done in the past, to manipulate people, to make propaganda against Russia, and it is not right what my colleagues do, and have done in the past, because they are bribed to betray the people not only in Germany, all over Europe." [9]

With the credibility of the corporate media tanking, Eric Zuesse recently wrote, "Since Germany is central to the Western Alliance – and especially to the American aristocracy's control over the European Union, over the IMF, over the World Bank, and over NATO – such a turn away from the American Government [narrative] threatens the dominance of America's aristocrats (who control our Government). A breakup of America's [Atlantic] 'Alliance' might be in the offing, if Germans continue to turn away from being just America's richest 'banana republic'." [10]

No wonder the House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing on April 15 had such urgent rhetoric, especially from Peter Pomerantsev, Senior Fellow at the Legatum Institute – a London-based international think-tank whose motto is "Prosperity Through Revitalizing Capitalism and Democracy" and whose stated mission is "promoting prosperity through individual liberty, free enterprise and entrepreneurship, character and values."

At the end of March, Conservative London mayor Boris Johnson (named as a potential successor to David Cameron) helped launch the Legatum Institute's "Vision of Capitalism" speakers' series, whose rallying cry is "It's time for friends of capitalism to fight back." [11] The sponsor of the event was the British Private Equity & Venture Capital Association (BVCA), whose membership comprises "more than 500 influential firms, including over 230 private equity and venture capital houses, as well as institutional investors, professional advisers, service providers and international associations." It is not clear whether the BVCA is also sponsoring the Legatum Institute's "Vision of Capitalism" series.

The Legatum Institute was founded by billionaire Christopher Chandler's Legatum Ltd. – a private investment firm headquartered in Dubai. According to The Legatum Institute's website, its executives and fellows write for an impressive number of major media outlets, including the Washington Post, Slate, the New York Review of Books, Foreign Policy, New Republic, the Daily Telegraph, The Times, the London Review of Books, the Atlantic, and the Financial Times.

Nonetheless, the Legatum Institute's Peter Pomeranzev told the U.S. House Committee on Foreign Affairs that "Russia has launched an information war against the West – and we are losing."
Chairperson Ed Royce noted during the hearing that if certain things are repeated over and over, a "conspiracy theory" takes on momentum and a life of its own.

Pomeranzev said the Kremlin is "pushing out more conspiracy" and he explained, "What is conspiracy – sort of a linguistic sabotage on the infrastructure of reason. I mean you can't have a reality-based discussion when everything becomes conspiracy. In Russia, the whole discourse is conspiracy. Everything is conspiracy." He added, "Our global order is based on reality-based politics. If that reality base is destroyed, then you can't have international institutions, international dialogue." Lying, he said, "makes a reality-based politics impossible" and he called it "a very insidious trend."

Apparently, Pomeranzev has forgotten that important October 2004 article by Ron Suskind published in the New York Times Magazine during the second war in Iraq (which, like the first, was based on a widely disseminated lie). Suskind quoted one of George W. Bush's aides (probably Karl Rove): "The aide said that guys like me [journalists, writers, historians] were 'in what we call the reality-based community,' which he defined as people who 'believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality…That's not the way the world really works anymore,' he continued. 'We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you're studying that reality – judiciously, as you will – we'll act again, creating other new realities which you can study too, and that's how things will sort out. We're history's actors…and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do'." [12]

It's a rather succinct description of Orwellian spin and secrecy in a media-saturated Empire, where discerning the truth becomes ever more difficult.

That is why people believe someone like Udo Ulfkotte, who is physically ill, says he has only a few years left to live, and told an interviewer, "I am very fearful of a new war in Europe, and I don't like to have this situation again, because war is never coming from itself, there is always people who push for war, and this is not only politicians, it is journalists too…We have betrayed our readers, just to push for war…I don't want this anymore, I'm fed up with this propaganda. We live in a banana republic and not in a democratic country where we have press freedom…" [13]

Recently, as Mike Whitney has pointed out in CounterPunch (March 10), Germany's newsmagazine Der Spiegel dared to challenge the fabrications of NATO's top commander in Europe, General Philip Breedlove, for spreading "dangerous propaganda" that is misleading the public about Russian "troop advances" and making "flat-out inaccurate statements" about Russian aggression.

Whitney asks, "Why this sudden willingness to share the truth? It's because they no longer support Washington's policy, that's why. No one in Europe wants the US to arm and train the Ukrainian army. No wants them to deploy 600 paratroopers to Kiev and increase U.S. logistical support. No one wants further escalation, because no wants a war with Russia. It's that simple." [14] Whitney argued that "the real purpose of the Spiegel piece is to warn Washington that EU leaders will not support a policy of military confrontation with Moscow."

So now we know the reason for the timing of the April 15 U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing, "Confronting Russia's Weaponization of Information." Literally while U.S. paratroopers were en route to Kiev, the hawks in Washington (and London) knew it was time to crank up the rhetoric. The three witnesses were most eager to oblige.

[May 01, 2015] Anatol Lieven reviews 'The New American Militarism' by Andrew Bacevich

Amazingly insightful review !!!
LRB 20 October 2005

The New American Militarism: How Americans Are Seduced by War by Andrew Bacevich
Oxford, 270 pp, £16.99, August 2005, ISBN 0 19 517338 4

A key justification of the Bush administration's purported strategy of 'democratising' the Middle East is the argument that democracies are pacific, and that Muslim democracies will therefore eventually settle down peacefully under the benign hegemony of the US. Yet, as Andrew Bacevich points out in one of the most acute analyses of America to have appeared in recent years, the United States itself is in many ways a militaristic country, and becoming more so:

at the end of the Cold War, Americans said yes to military power. The scepticism about arms and armies that informed the original Wilsonian vision, indeed, that pervaded the American experiment from its founding, vanished. Political leaders, liberals and conservatives alike, became enamoured with military might.

The ensuing affair had, and continues to have, a heedless, Gatsby-like aspect, a passion pursued in utter disregard of any consequences that might ensue.

The president's title of 'commander-in-chief' is used by administration propagandists to suggest, in a way reminiscent of German militarists before 1914 attempting to defend their half-witted kaiser, that any criticism of his record in external affairs comes close to a betrayal of the military and the country. Compared to German and other past militarisms, however, the contemporary American variant is extremely complex, and the forces that have generated it have very diverse origins and widely differing motives:

The new American militarism is the handiwork of several disparate groups that shared little in common apart from being intent on undoing the purportedly nefarious effects of the 1960s. Military officers intent on rehabilitating their profession; intellectuals fearing that the loss of confidence at home was paving the way for the triumph of totalitarianism abroad; religious leaders dismayed by the collapse of traditional moral standards; strategists wrestling with the implications of a humiliating defeat that had undermined their credibility; politicians on the make; purveyors of pop culture looking to make a buck: as early as 1980, each saw military power as the apparent answer to any number of problems.

Two other factors have also been critical: the dependence on imported oil is seen as requiring American hegemony over the Middle East; and the Israel lobby has worked assiduously and with extraordinary success to make sure that Israel's enemies are seen by Americans as also being those of the US. And let's not forget the role played by the entrenched interests of the military itself and what Dwight Eisenhower once denounced as the 'military-industrial-academic complex'.

The security elites are obviously interested in the maintenance and expansion of US global military power, if only because their own jobs and profits depend on it. Jobs and patronage also ensure the support of much of the Congress, which often authorises defence spending on weapons systems the Pentagon doesn't want and hasn't asked for, in order to help some group of senators and congressmen in whose home states these systems are manufactured. To achieve wider support in the media and among the public, it is also necessary to keep up the illusion that certain foreign nations constitute a threat to the US, and to maintain a permanent level of international tension.

That's not the same, however, as having an actual desire for war, least of all for a major conflict which might ruin the international economy. US ground forces have bitter memories of Vietnam, and no wish to wage an aggressive war: Rumsfeld and his political appointees had to override the objections of the senior generals, in particular those of the army chief of staff, General Eric Shinseki, before the attack on Iraq. The navy and air force do not have to fight insurgents in hell-holes like Fallujah, and so naturally have a more relaxed attitude.

To understand how the Bush administration was able to manipulate the public into supporting the Iraq war one has to look for deeper explanations. They would include the element of messianism embodied in American civic nationalism, with its quasi-religious belief in the universal and timeless validity of its own democratic system, and in its right and duty to spread that system to the rest of the world. This leads to a genuine belief that American soldiers can do no real wrong because they are spreading 'freedom'. Also of great importance – at least until the Iraqi insurgency rubbed American noses in the horrors of war – has been the development of an aesthetic that sees war as waged by the US as technological, clean and antiseptic; and thanks to its supremacy in weaponry, painlessly victorious. Victory over the Iraqi army in 2003 led to a new flowering of megalomania in militarist quarters. The amazing Max Boot of the Wall Street Journal – an armchair commentator, not a frontline journalist – declared that the US victory had made 'fabled generals such as Erwin Rommel and Heinz Guderian seem positively incompetent by comparison'. Nor was this kind of talk restricted to Republicans. More than two years into the Iraq quagmire, strategic thinkers from the Democratic establishment were still declaring that 'American military power in today's world is practically unlimited.'

Important sections of contemporary US popular culture are suffused with the language of militarism. Take Bacevich on the popular novelist Tom Clancy:

In any Clancy novel, the international order is a dangerous and threatening place, awash with heavily armed and implacably determined enemies who threaten the United States. That Americans have managed to avoid Armageddon is attributable to a single fact: the men and women of America's uniformed military and its intelligence services have thus far managed to avert those threats. The typical Clancy novel is an unabashed tribute to the skill, honour, extraordinary technological aptitude and sheer decency of the nation's defenders. To read Red Storm Rising is to enter a world of 'virtuous men and perfect weapons', as one reviewer noted. 'All the Americans are paragons of courage, endurance and devotion to service and country. Their officers are uniformly competent and occasionally inspired. Men of all ranks are faithful husbands and devoted fathers.' Indeed, in the contract that he signed for the filming of Red October, Clancy stipulated that nothing in the film show the navy in a bad light.

Such attitudes go beyond simply glorying in violence, military might and technological prowess. They reflect a belief – genuine or assumed – in what the Germans used to call Soldatentum: the pre-eminent value of the military virtues of courage, discipline and sacrifice, and explicitly or implicitly the superiority of these virtues to those of a hedonistic, contemptible and untrustworthy civilian society and political class. In the words of Thomas Friedman, the ostensibly liberal foreign affairs commentator of the ostensibly liberal New York Times, 'we do not deserve these people. They are so much better than the country … they are fighting for.' Such sentiments have a sinister pedigree in modern history.

In the run-up to the last election, even a general as undistinguished as Wesley Clark could see his past generalship alone as qualifying him for the presidency – and gain the support of leading liberal intellectuals. Not that this was new: the first president was a general and throughout the 19th and 20th centuries both generals and more junior officers ran for the presidency on the strength of their military records. And yet, as Bacevich points out, this does not mean that the uniformed military have real power over policy-making, even in matters of war. General Tommy Franks may have regarded Douglas Feith, the undersecretary of defense, as 'the stupidest fucking guy on the planet', but he took Feith's orders, and those of the civilians standing behind him: Wolfowitz, Cheney, Rumsfeld and the president himself. Their combination of militarism and contempt for military advice recalls Clemenceau and Churchill – or Hitler and Stalin.

Indeed, a portrait of US militarism today could be built around a set of such apparently glaring contradictions: the contradiction, for example, between the military coercion of other nations and the belief in the spreading of 'freedom' and 'democracy'. Among most non-Americans, and among many American realists and progressives, the collocation seems inherently ludicrous. But, as Bacevich brings out, it has deep roots in American history. Indeed, the combination is historically coterminous with Western imperialism. Historians of the future will perhaps see preaching 'freedom' at the point of an American rifle as no less morally and intellectually absurd than 'voluntary' conversion to Christianity at the point of a Spanish arquebus.

Its symbols may be often childish and its methods brutish, but American belief in 'freedom' is a real and living force. This cuts two ways. On the one hand, the adherence of many leading intellectuals in the Democratic Party to a belief in muscular democratisation has had a disastrous effect on the party's ability to put up a strong resistance to the policies of the administration. Bush's messianic language of 'freedom' – supported by the specifically Israeli agenda of Natan Sharansky and his allies in the US – has been all too successful in winning over much of the opposition. On the other hand, the fact that a belief in freedom and democracy lies at the heart of civic nationalism places certain limits on American imperialism – weak no doubt, but nonetheless real. It is not possible for the US, unlike previous empires, to pursue a strategy of absolutely unconstrained Machtpolitik. This has been demonstrated recently in the breach between the Bush administration and the Karimov tyranny in Uzbekistan.

The most important contradiction, however, is between the near worship of the military in much of American culture and the equally widespread unwillingness of most Americans – elites and masses alike – to serve in the armed forces. If people like Friedman accompanied their stated admiration for the military with a real desire to abandon their contemptible civilian lives and join the armed services, then American power in the world really might be practically unlimited. But as Bacevich notes,

having thus made plain his personal disdain for crass vulgarity and support for moral rectitude, Friedman in the course of a single paragraph drops the military and moves on to other pursuits. His many readers, meanwhile, having availed themselves of the opportunity to indulge, ever so briefly, in self-loathing, put down their newspapers and themselves move on to other things. Nothing has changed, but columnist and readers alike feel better for the cathartic effect of this oblique, reassuring encounter with an alien world.

Today, having dissolved any connection between claims to citizenship and obligation to serve, Americans entrust their security to a class of military professionals who see themselves in many respects as culturally and politically set apart from the rest of society.

This combination of a theoretical adulation with a profound desire not to serve is not of course new. It characterised most of British society in the 19th century, when, just as with the US today, the overwhelming rejection of conscription – until 1916 – meant that, appearances to the contrary, British power was far from unlimited. The British Empire could use its technological superiority, small numbers of professional troops and local auxiliaries to conquer backward and impoverished countries in Asia and Africa, but it would not have dreamed of intervening unilaterally in Europe or North America.

Despite spending more on the military than the rest of the world combined, and despite enjoying overwhelming technological superiority, American military power is actually quite limited. As Iraq – and to a lesser extent Afghanistan – has demonstrated, the US can knock over states, but it cannot suppress the resulting insurgencies, even one based in such a comparatively small population as the Sunni Arabs of Iraq. As for invading and occupying a country the size of Iran, this is coming to seem as unlikely as an invasion of mainland China.

In other words, when it comes to actually applying military power the US is pretty much where it has been for several decades. Another war of occupation like Iraq would necessitate the restoration of conscription: an idea which, with Vietnam in mind, the military detests, and which politicians are well aware would probably make them unelectable. It is just possible that another terrorist attack on the scale of 9/11 might lead to a new draft, but that would bring the end of the US military empire several steps closer. Recognising this, the army is beginning to imitate ancient Rome in offering citizenship to foreign mercenaries in return for military service – something that the amazing Boot approves, on the grounds that while it helped destroy the Roman Empire, it took four hundred years to do so.

Facing these dangers squarely, Bacevich proposes refocusing American strategy away from empire and towards genuine national security. It is a measure of the degree to which imperial thinking now dominates US politics that these moderate and commonsensical proposals would seem nothing short of revolutionary to the average member of the Washington establishment.

They include a renunciation of messianic dreams of improving the world through military force, except where a solid international consensus exists in support of US action; a recovery by Congress of its power over peace and war, as laid down in the constitution but shamefully surrendered in recent years; the adoption of a strategic doctrine explicitly making war a matter of last resort; and a decision that the military should focus on the defence of the nation, not the projection of US power. As a means of keeping military expenditure in some relationship to actual needs, Bacevich suggests pegging it to the combined annual expenditure of the next ten countries, just as in the 19th century the size of the British navy was pegged to that of the next two largest fleets – it is an index of the budgetary elephantiasis of recent years that this would lead to very considerable spending reductions.

This book is important not only for the acuteness of its perceptions, but also for the identity of its author. Colonel Bacevich's views on the military, on US strategy and on world affairs were profoundly shaped by his service in Vietnam. His year there 'fell in the conflict's bleak latter stages … long after an odour of failure had begun to envelop the entire enterprise'. The book is dedicated to his brother-in-law, 'a casualty of a misbegotten war'.

Just as Vietnam shaped his view of how the US and the US military should not intervene in the outside world, so the Cold War in Europe helped define his beliefs about the proper role of the military. For Bacevich and his fellow officers in Europe in the 1970s and 1980s, defending the West from possible Soviet aggression, 'not conquest, regime change, preventive war or imperial policing', was 'the American soldier's true and honourable calling'.

In terms of cultural and political background, this former soldier remains a self-described Catholic conservative, and intensely patriotic. During the 1990s Bacevich wrote for right-wing journals, and still situates himself culturally on the right:

As long as we shared in the common cause of denouncing the foolishness and hypocrisies of the Clinton years, my relationship with modern American conservatism remained a mutually agreeable one … But my disenchantment with what passes for mainstream conservatism, embodied in the Bush administration and its groupies, is just about absolute. Fiscal irresponsibility, a buccaneering foreign policy, a disregard for the constitution, the barest lip service as a response to profound moral controversies: these do not qualify as authentically conservative values.

On this score my views have come to coincide with the critique long offered by the radical left: it is the mainstream itself, the professional liberals as well as the professional conservatives, who define the problem … The Republican and Democratic Parties may not be identical, but they produce nearly identical results.

Bacevich, in other words, is sceptical of the naive belief that replacing the present administration with a Democrat one would lead to serious changes in the US approach to the world. Formal party allegiances are becoming increasingly irrelevant as far as thinking about foreign and security policy is concerned.

Bacevich also makes plain the private anger of much of the US uniformed military at the way in which it has been sacrificed, and its institutions damaged, by chickenhawk civilian chauvinists who have taken good care never to see action themselves; and the deep private concern of senior officers that they might be ordered into further wars that would wreck the army altogether. Now, as never before, American progressives have the chance to overcome the knee-jerk hostility to the uniformed military that has characterised the left since Vietnam, and to reach out not only to the soldiers in uniform but also to the social, cultural and regional worlds from which they are drawn. For if the American left is once again to become an effective political force, it must return to some of its own military traditions, founded on the distinguished service of men like George McGovern, on the old idea of the citizen soldier, and on a real identification with that soldier's interests and values. With this in mind, Bacevich calls for moves to bind the military more closely into American society, including compulsory education for all officers at a civilian university, not only at the start of their careers but at intervals throughout them.

Or to put it another way, the left must fight imperialism in the name of patriotism. Barring a revolutionary and highly unlikely transformation of American mass culture, any political party that wishes to win majority support will have to demonstrate its commitment to the defence of the country. The Bush administration has used the accusation of weakness in security policy to undermine its opponents, and then used this advantage to pursue reckless strategies that have themselves drastically weakened the US. The left needs to heed Bacevich and draw up a tough, realistic and convincing alternative. It will also have to demonstrate its identification with the respectable aspects of military culture. The Bush administration and the US establishment in general may have grossly mismanaged the threats facing us, but the threats are real, and some at least may well need at some stage to be addressed by military force. And any effective military force also requires the backing of a distinctive military ethic embracing loyalty, discipline and a capacity for both sacrifice and ruthlessness.

In the terrible story of the Bush administration and the Iraq war, one of the most morally disgusting moments took place at a Senate Committee hearing on 29 April 2004, when Paul Wolfowitz – another warmonger who has never served himself – mistook, by a margin of hundreds, how many US soldiers had died in a war for which he was largely responsible. If an official in a Democratic administration had made a public mistake like that, the Republican opposition would have exploited it ruthlessly, unceasingly, to win the next election. The fact that the Democrats completely failed to do this says a great deal about their lack of political will, leadership and capacity to employ a focused strategy.

Because they are the ones who pay the price for reckless warmongering and geopolitical megalomania, soldiers and veterans of the army and marine corps could become valuable allies in the struggle to curb American imperialism, and return America's relationship with its military to the old limited, rational form. For this to happen, however, the soldiers have to believe that campaigns against the Iraq war, and against current US strategy, are anti-militarist, but not anti-military. We have needed the military desperately on occasions in the past; we will definitely need them again.


Vol. 27 No. 20 · 20 October 2005 " Anatol Lieven " We do not deserve these people
pages 11-12 | 3337 words

[Apr 14, 2015] Freedom of speech as three card monte

Freedom of speech is the political right to communicate one's opinions and ideas. Governments restrict speech with varying limitations, the most important of which is the real freedom of speech belongs only to owners of the press. Common limitations on speech are related to activities of three-letter agencies (buying journalists), libel, slander, obscenity, pornography, sedition, hate speech, incitement, fighting words, classified information, copyright violation, trade secrets, non-disclosure agreements, right to privacy, right to be forgotten, public security, public order, public nuisance, campaign finance reform and oppression. The term freedom of expression is sometimes used synonymously, but includes any act of seeking, receiving and imparting information or ideas, regardless of the medium used.
But in reality interpretation of freedom of speech interpretation is very country dependent. For example definitions of what libel constitute are different between the USA and GB. And in the USA, the relevant case law is a pretty complex with many exceptions for those who have money.
There are also common sense restrictions on freedom of speech (To incite actions that would harm others -- like crying fire in overcrowded theater), some are not.
But again the key issue is that the freedom of speech like freedom of press is mostly limited to those who own the press. That means that freedom of speech is also never awarded to skeptics or outright opponents of the existing regime. They need to fight for it.

What Does Free Speech Mean

Among other cherished values, the First Amendment protects freedom of speech. The U.S. Supreme Court often has struggled to determine what exactly constitutes protected speech. The following are examples of speech, both direct (words) and symbolic (actions), that the Court has decided are either entitled to First Amendment protections, or not.

The First Amendment states, in relevant part, that:

"Congress shall make no law...abridging freedom of speech."

Quiz: Test your First Amendment knowledge (usatoday.com)


Freedom of speech includes the right:

Freedom of speech does not include the right:

[Mar 15, 2015] Empire of Illusion The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle by Chris Hedges

Amazon.com Books
William Timothy Lukeman VINE VOICE on July 16, 2009

An anguished, angry cry of outraged reason

Chris Hedges' newest book may be a screed, but it's an uncomfortably accurate one, delving into the addictive, corrupting hold of comforting & distracting illusion over too many Americans. From the even vaster wasteland of TV, brought to us by endless channels, to the drug of sensation at its lowest common denominator from the porn industry, to the "think happy thoughts" snake oil of both New Age & fundamentalist belief systems --

But you have to stop & catch your breath, or else be swept away by the torrent of mediocrity & cheerfully willful ignorance that passes for contemporary culture & thought. Once you're aware of how thoroughly blanderized & infantilized our culture has become, it's all too easy to succumb to despair or cynicism. And with good cause!

Hedges wisely selects just a few specific examples as indicators of something far more pervasive & widespread. Particularly disturbing is the chapter on the so-called "adult" entertainment industry, which is anything but adult. The graphic description of the ways in which women are used & discarded as commodities is sickening, yet we're clearly just getting the tip of a very slimy iceberg.

And Hedges connects this aspect of dehumanization to the horrors of Abu Ghraib, showing how sexuality & torture intertwine. Most disturbing of all is how accepted & mainstream this sort of "entertainment" has become -- we're not talking about erotica or old-fashioned porn, which at least portrayed sex as mutually enjoyable for men & women; what we see now is humiliation, suffering, pain, almost all of it inflicted on women for the pleasure of emotionally stunted men.

More than that, though, Hedges explores the ways in which reason & literacy -- the humanities -- are shunted to the margins in favor of a utilitarian mindset, one that boils down to, "What's in it for me, right now, and how can I get the most of it as quickly as possible?" And that "most" is wealth, status, power, and the illusion of importance -- a humanity measured in things, rather than in being.

From that point, we're shown how these personal illusions contribute to & help sustain a national, even global, illusion of power, self-righteousness, corruption & control. It's bread & circuses for the masses, with digital soma mainlined at every waking moment. Meanwhile, the real elites, the corporate masters of our world, do whatever their insatiable appetites demand. This invariably requires bloodshed & suffering inflicted upon those least able to resist it. .

Is Hedges overwrought? Is he exaggerating the crisis at hand? If so, it's not by very much. As a war correspondent of some 20 years, he's seen the brutal results of illusionary thinking first-hand. This book is born of bitter experience, as Hedges bears witness to the ongoing destruction of the human soul, which is lost in a world of glittering superficiality which can't conceal its innate cruelty, ugliness & emptiness.

Not a reassuring book by any means, but certainly an eye-opening one -- most highly recommended!

Chris on July 20, 2009

Interesting if gloomy reflections by a former New York Times reporter

Hedges describes how corporate entertainment encourages people to desire to be rich and famous, devote themselves to material things, reckless self-gratification and reckless consumer spending. It encourages people to care much more about news relating to celebrities than genuinely important news. Hedges analyzes episodes of WWE wrestling, Survivor, The Swan and Jerry Springer to back up his arguments about pop culture.

Chapter 2 is about porn. Porn actresses are portrayed by porn mediums as nothing more than wild beasts whose only desire is to satisfy the sadistic fantasies of men. Most porn actresses are heavy drinkers and drug addicts as a result of the mental pain and serious physical damage to their private areas, front and back, caused by their line of work. Most of them appear to work in escort services on the side. Hedges give an account of one porn movie featuring an actress who engages in the very unhealthy activity of engaging in sex acts with 65 different men over the six hour shoot of the film. Porn is one of the biggest industries in this nation; a great many of our male citizens appear to take pleasure in the degrading and brutal version of sex found in modern porn.

The last chapter is a sort of general overview of the dismal state of this country. Hedges writes that our financial crisis is rooted in the destruction of American manufacturing since the 1970's. An example of the decline of American manufacturing ability, he observes, occurred when the city of New York in 2003 offered a several billion dollar contract for a company to build subway cars. No American company took the offer, which was eventually given to Canadian and Japanese companies. Since the 1970's our economy has rested on the accumulation of un-unsustainable amounts of corporate and house-hold debt, used to a large extent not for productive investment but for participation in speculative bubbles and consumption to support luxurious living. Our economy is kept afloat by the willingness of foreigners to buy up this debt. As government social services are continuously slashed, the bailouts of 2008/2009 have only strengthened the stranglehold of corporate America on our economy and government resources.

While the annual compensation packages of CEOs soar well into the tens of millions of dollars, the median American family income has declined in inflation adjusted terms since the early 70's. We call ourselves a free market economy but a leading pillar of our economy is the taxpayer funded military-industrial complex, powering companies like Lockheed Martin. Hedges notes the example of the US government's annual provision of 3 billion dollars of taxpayer funds to the dictatorship in Egypt, 1.3 billion dollars of which (taxpayer dollars) is required to be used for purchasing weapons from private American defense companies. The US uses half of its annual discretionary spending on the military and spends more on its military than all the other countries in the world combined.

While trillions of dollars are spent on weapons and foreign occupations, our health care costs spiral out of control. Hedges writes that our private health care system is nearly twice as expensive as the national health services "in countries like Switzerland."Hedges notes how the percentage of budget devoted to overhead and administrative costs in our for profit health system is so vastly greater than the same costs in traditional government run Medicare. According to the Institute of Medicine, 18,000 people die every year because they can't afford health care. 46 million Americans have no health insurance and 25 million more are under-insured. Half of all bankruptcies in the US are due to health care costs overwhelming family budgets. Americans pay 40 percent more than Canadians for prescription drugs. Our politicians, Obama included, do everything they can to accommodate the for profit health care companies. In his overview of health care problems, I wish Hedges would have included some comparisons of a few health indicators between the US and some of the countries that have the most efficient socialized medicine systems.

Meanwhile, our politicians have covered up our unraveling. According to Hedges, the Consumer Price Index is constructed to under-estimate the real rate of inflation. Ronald Reagan lowered his unemployment rate by including members of the military in the employment count. Bill Clinton lowered the official unemployment rate of his reign by excluding from the employment count people who had stopped looking for work and also by counting low wage under-employed workers as employed. American jobs have gone to the low wage third world. Hedges notes that, contrary to Clinton's prediction in 1993, NAFTA has thrown 2 million Mexican farmers off the land and many of them have ended up in the US. Even more illegal immigrants have come from Mexico as northern Mexican factories have closed down and relocated to the even lower wage and even lesser regulated paradise of China.

Hedges gives a great deal of space to quoting various scholars and philosophers in order to back up his sociological observations. Other topics he discusses include positive psychology, the destruction of higher education and the willingness of corporate media hacks to take at face value the words of the powerful.

Hedges suggests possible future scenarios where most Americans are virtual corporate slaves, controlled and monitored by the ever expanding power of law enforcement. He fears that the biggest contrast in this country will be between a marginalized literate minority on the one hand and on the other a barely functionally literate or functionally illiterate majority enchanted by corporate entertainment and the vacuous PR spectacles and slogans of politicians. He fears that as social conditions worsen, right wing demagogues will make great headway. He is very worried about future environmental catastrophes. However he ends his book with the hope that decent human values can be utilized to confront our growing corporate tyranny.

Anastasia Beaverhausen VINE VOICE on July 3, 2009

Entertainment is a Force That Gives Us Meaning

Chris Hedges, the Pulitzer-Prize winning author of "War is a Force That Gives Us Meaning" and "I Don't Believe in Atheists", is back with another diatribe about our morally-bankrupt society. Whether you agree with all of his assertions or not, "Empire of Illusion" is a necessary, thought-provoking work on the role of entertainment in American culture.

Particularly fascinating is Hedges's take on professional wrestling. Whenever an academic brings up wrestling, it is usually as an example of low-brow culture. Hedges doesn't snub his nose, however: He merely observes and reports.

His thesis that wrestling storylines have "evolved to fit the new era...by focusing on the family dysfunction that comes with social breakdown" is on the money: Gone are the simple bouts of good vs. evil. "Morality is irrelevant," he writes. "Wrestlers can be good one week and evil the next. All that matters is their own advancement." The "illusion" here isn't that wrestling is fake. The "illusion" is that the wrestlers are idealized versions of what we want to become. He asserts that this mirrors a fundamental change in society.

Hedges traces this change through other American institutions (reality television, celebrity culture, the adult industry, universities, psychologists), arguing that we are "unable to distinguish between illusion and reality". We forgo morals for an elusive and unattainable happiness. He states that we "will either wake from our state of induced childishness...or continue our headlong retreat into fantasy".

The subtitle--"The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle"--is somewhat of a misnomer. Even with the alarming illiteracy rate in this country, it's a stretch to say that literacy has literally come to an end. "The Triumph of Spectacle" is a more accurate description of the book's contents.

"Empire of Illusion" is a snapshot of America, circa 2009 AD. Some of the precepts that it touches on--such as universities churning out morally-dubious graduates--are already coming under populist fire due to the banking crisis. WWE, wrestling's most popular promotion, has toned down the sex and violence in recent years. The once-popular Jerry Springer Show limps along on basic cable, its cultural relevancy having long since expired.

Hedges believes that the financial crisis "will lead to a period of profound political turmoil and change." In a recent Truthdig article, he wrote that "Those who care about the plight of the working class and the poor must begin to mobilize quickly or we will lose our last opportunity to save our embattled democracy." "Empire of Illusion" makes a strong case to be the much-needed cry for arms.

Amazon Customer (Edwardsville, IL) - See all my reviews

A Stunning Piece of Journalism, June 5, 2010

This review is from: Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle (Hardcover)

This is a stunning piece of journalism at its very best and a book that any responsible citizen has to read. I absolutely loved this book (except Chapter 2, which seemed like it was taken from a completely different book and can be resumed as "Pornography bad, Dworkin good, sex scary, intimacy comforting.") I suggest that this chapter be skipped altogether in favor of the brilliant political analysis of the rest of the book.

Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle is an angry book. Hedges, one of the very few remaining journalists in the US who do actual journalism instead of regurgitating washed out mantras handed to them by their keepers, is not afraid of hurting the public's tender sensibilities by the truth. He realizes the gravity of our current situation and is unafraid of telling the readers that our economic and political future looks bleak. The way our government tries to address the collapse of the economy, which it coyly terms "a recession", by throwing taxpayers' money at the problem is wrong and self-destructive.

None of these so-called measures are working. Endless bailouts and stimulus packages that have indebted us in an unheard of way have failed to jumpstart the economy and move the country out of this crisis. Still, nobody is proposing any alternatives to this failed system. The economy of the US operates in exactly the same manner as the unsustainable Soviet economy. Nobody, however, is willing to recognize it. People believe that if you call this perversion "capitalism" and "free market economy" often enough, it will actually turn into capitalism and free market economy. Reality has been substituted by illusion in so many areas of life, Hedges observes, that people often refuse to see and identify what is right in front of their faces. This rejection of reality in favor of illusion haunts all spheres of our lives.

The reason for this resistance to acknowledging the reality that lies right in front of us is that the very few of us possess the intellectual, psycholigical, emotional, and linguistic tools needed to perform this task. Rather than decipher the incomprehensible, confusing, and often painful reality around them, people prefer to escape into the world of cliches and make-belief. Who wants to dedicate their lives to addressing complex, important issues, if you can happily escape into the world of triviality?

One would expect, of course, our system of higher education to help students acquire the intellectual and linguistic tools needed to analyze the failings of our poitical and economic systems. This, however, does not happen. As anybody working in the higher education system knows all too well, our universities have been undergoing the process of transforming themselves into robot-churning factories. Hedges's understanding of the way the higer education system has been appropriated by the military-industrial complex is profound.

Our universities have become nothing but "high-priced occupational training centers." Graduates are incapable of approaching their reality in a critical way. All they are trained to do is to service the system as efficiently as possible. Now that the system itself is in dire need of a rehaul, there are very few people around who would be at least capable of recognizing this fact, let alone do something about it.

J. Grattan (Lawrenceville, GA USA) -

The domination of pseudo-reality (3.5*s), February 17, 2010

Despite this book being disjointed, uneven, repetitious, and perhaps overstated in places, it is hard to disagree with its main sentiment that American society is living a lie; fantasy, illusion, and escapism infuse our society, economy, and political system with severe consequences. The most pernicious illusion is that corporate capitalism, including the shift to a dominating financial sector, if left unregulated and allowed to expand at will across the globe, will produce undreamed of benefits for all. For the last one hundred and fifty years, the massive, periodic meltdowns of the economy, including the recent financial crisis triggered by the irresponsibility of Wall St. executives, have not impacted this fiction. In spite of that willful obliviousness, the social costs to tens of millions of people, due to the machinations of corporations solely concerned with profits, buttressed by government enablers, have become so significant that the author is alarmed that not only is our society dying a slow death, but along the way is likely to descend into fascism or totalitarianism.

How can the United States have gotten to this deleterious situation with an open, democratic society and political system? A democracy requires knowledgeable citizens and hopefully altruistic elites. Sadly, huge portions of our society are in thrall or susceptible to mind-controlling diversions and propaganda that effectively conceal the true nature of our society and economy. The author notes the inordinate hours devoted to corporate-produced entertainment, spectacles, pseudo-events, and non-stop images, many of them inviting celebrity worship, but none remotely concerned with reality. Ironically, some of those distractions, such as rancorous wrestling shows or xxx-rated images, provide an inconsequential outlet for frustrations without confronting the real source of hardships. And then there is the pseudo-academic community that promotes the power of positive thinking, as though one can simply will away, or even reverse, the devastation of being unemployed with no health insurance. Supposedly bastions of reason and free thought, universities have become corporate research arms and training grounds for future corporate employees who have no interest in upsetting that order. Both students and professors interested in social inquiry are marginalized. Journalists and elected representatives, who in theory dig beneath the superficial and do what is best for the citizenry, have become mere "courtiers" for the power elite. The author is adamant that democracy and corporate capitalism cannot co-exist - powerful elites will always overwhelm the less powerful, directly or indirectly.

In addressing the potential for individuals looking at structural reality in any realistic sense, he alludes to those in Plato's cave allegory who are content with shadows on the wall. Removal from the cave is viewed as highly stressful: sunlight, that is, reality, is too much to take. Likewise in the US, illiteracy dooms tens of millions to visuals of pseudo-reality. The author suggests that perhaps a majority of Americans, though not illiterate, would not have the language skills to follow the exchanges of the Lincoln-Douglas debates. In the face of this living in the shadows of reality, perhaps even preferring to, where is the hope for American society turning around the corporate agenda? Some place their hopes in the Obama administration. However, virtually all of his high-level appointees are former members of the very corporations that have caused so much destruction. There is no possibility of them advocating needed structural changes. Obama undoubtedly has as much ability as any president in history, yet his elitist ties, both educational and professional, preclude his attempting to take on the monumental project of revamping the economy.

The author brings to bear relevant insights from any number of individuals: C. Wright Mills, Sheldon Wolin, Ralph Nader, Karl Polanyi, Jared Diamond, and the like. In an interesting exchange, the author replicates an interview conducted by Bill Moyers of Tim Russert, the moderator of Meet the Press, in his interview of Dick Cheney concerning the justification for going to war with Iraq. Russert, in complete abdication of journalistic credibility, allows Cheney to refer to a story that he planted in the NY Times as evidence that Hussein was engaged in pursuing nuclear material - a perfect example of the sycophancy of those entrusted to keep the public informed.

The author notes that Jared Diamond, in his book "Collapse," claims that the collapse of civilizations invariably comes down to elites who fiercely hold onto the status quo if there is any chance that their status could be undermined by tackling a crisis at hand, even one with catastrophic implications. In addition, the author speaks to the kind of reactions that could be spawned if personal and economic despair do not abate. He suggests that corporate elites will "seek to make alliance with the radical Christian Right and other extremists, will use fear, chaos, the hatred for ruling elites, and the specter of left-wing dissent and terrorism to impose draconian controls to extinguish our democracy. And while they do it, they will be waving the American flag, chanting patriotic slogans, promising law and order, and clutching the Christian cross." (189) Given trends over the last thirty years, that scenario is not as far-fetched as may seem at first glance.

As stated, the book has some unevenness. For one, the author wants to believe that America once had some sort of golden era, referring to the calm, prosperous 1950s. He should know that era was an anomaly in our history. He had it right when he notes the incompatibility of democracy and capitalism. Furthermore, in the end, he clings to a belief that love will prevail, even if "darkness has swallowed us all." And that is comforting? Basically the book is entirely pessimistic; spectacle has triumphed. The author presents some interesting bits. There is always a new outrage.

But it would seem that he is preaching to the choir. Those who would appreciate this book don't need convincing. Others are likely to see the book as little more than a tirade against the deserving.

Loyd E. Eskildson "Pragmatist" (Phoenix, AZ.)

Outstanding Insights, and Timely Too!, October 10, 2009

This review is from: Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle (Hardcover)

Chris Hedges is a senior fellow at The Nation Institute, spent fifteen years at the New York Times, has been awarded a Pulitzer prize, and has written several prior books. His newest, "Empire of Illusion," tells us that America is engulfed in illusion and fantasy, and if we don't change we'll inevitably turn to demagogues (eg. religious Right) to entertain and reassure us as we're led towards despotism. Embracing illusion has brought us a free market system taken hostage by corporations en route to casino capitalism, exploding debts, the dismantling of our manufacturing base and working class, and the decay of our infrastructure.

Hedges begins building his case while describing scenes at World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) where spectators happily pay to suspend reality watching 'momentous' staged battle scripts between fierce opponents, with divas added to fuel sexual fantasies. Similarly, Hedges sees celebrity worship arising from our dreams of likewise succeeding; then there's 'America's Next Top Model,' Survivor,' 'American Idol' and other respites from reality (eg. cosmetic surgery). We're also transfixed by its inverse - humiliation and debasement such as featured on 'The Jerry Springer' and 'Howard Stern' shows.

Momentarily diverging, Hedges tells us that functional illiteracy is epidemic in America - seven million total illiterates, another 27 million unable to read well enough to complete a job application, and still another 50 million who read at a 4th-5th-grade level. In total, nearly one-third of us are illiterate or barely literate. Further, a third of high-school graduates never read another book for the rest of their lives, and neither do 42% of college graduates. In 2007, 80% of U.S. families did not buy or read a single book. Instead, the average American watches 4+ hours/day of TV, live WWE or other sports, movies, and porn films.

There are some 13,000 porn films made every year. Hedges sees this industry as supplying the illusion of love. Worldwide revenues top $100 billion. A large proportion of female stars ($1,000/movie) are said to work as prostitutes making as much as $2,000/hour ($30,000/week). Males receive about one-third the income of females, and often require drug injections to perform. All performers are tested for STDs once/month (whether they need it or not). There are an estimated 4.2 million porn web sites, about 12% of the total; these sites are the target of about one-quarter of all search engine requests.

Hedges believes that the most essential 'skill' for political leaders in this age of illusion is a personal narrative with emotional appeal. Hopefully that leader also comforts us with inspirational (illusional) messages that tell us we can be whoever we seek to be, that we live in the greatest country on earth, that we are endowed with superior moral and spiritual qualities, and that we are blessed by God. Reality is boring.

If the preceding doesn't provide enough solace, personal consumption offers another outlet - anyone can buy his or her way into fantasy, and emancipation from responsibility.

Unfortunately, we're paying a heavy price for living in a fantasy-land. Hedges tells us that when opinions cannot readily be distinguished from facts (eg. in today's world of biased 'think tanks,' government repression of science, the religious right promulgating 'creationism') there's no way to determine truth in law, science, or reporting, and the world becomes a place where lies become truth. It's also led to the physical degradation of the planet, the cruelty of global capitalism (eg. extreme inequality of wealth), the looming oil crisis, the collapse of our financial markets, and these important issues rarely poking through our bubble-world of illusions.

Who's responsible for this state of affairs? Hedges lays responsibility for the multiple failures that beset our nation at the door of institutions that produce our educated elite - Harvard, Yale, Stanford, etc. He says they do only a mediocre job teaching students to question and think. Instead, they dice disciplines, faculty, students, and experts into tiny, specialized fragmented areas, neglecting the most pressing and important overall political, and economic questions. These educated experts cannot fix our economic system, only patch and repair it for more of the same - it's all they know. (We should fire our economists and hire China's.)

We have been steadily impoverished by our power elites - legally, economically, and politically. Our health care system, if unchanged, is expected to consume one-fifth our GNP by 2017 (despite a Harvard Medical School study estimating a single-payer system would save $350 billion/year), rampant militarism (761 military bases around the globe; spending 10X that of #2, China), and an education system costing 2X that of other developed nations are draining our lifeblood. We are headed for a long period of social and political instability.

When did this decline begin? Hedges believes our decline began when we shifted from production to consumption during the Vietnam War. Making capital by producing became outdated - money could now be made out of money. Result - of 100 products offered in the 2003 L.L. Bean catalog, 92 were imported; when New York City asked for bids on new subway cars in 2003 no U.S. companies responded. ($3-4 billion contract, 32,000 jobs.) NAFTA was supposed to help both the U.S. and Mexico. Hedges contends it has helped neither - at least 2 million Mexican farmers have been driven out of business by subsidized U.S. farming corporations, and the Mexican border-factories are closing down as production has shifted to China.

Lenin said that the best way to destroy the capitalist system was to debauch its currency. When money becomes worthless, so does government. Remember pre-WWII Germany? America's rapidly rising debts may take us there too.

Bottom-Line: Hedges' "Empire of Illusion" takes a dark view of the future, is sometimes hard to follow, sometimes a bit exaggerated, and often a bit incomplete. Regardless, it merits careful, objective consideration by Americans.

[Mar 15, 2015] CHRIS HEDGES Empire of Illusion The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle

CHRIS HEDGES Empire of Illusion The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle.mp4

Published on Mar 19, 2012

Chris Hedges delivers one of the best book lectures ever on his book 'Empire of Illusion'. Simply one of the best lectures I've ever seen. If you're not familiar with Hedges work you need to get up to speed fast. Whether you're right or left you'll identify with some of Hedges observations. A remarkable person with the sort of insight that our present situation needs to examine and put into practice.

Peter S. López via Google+

1 year ago

CHRIS HEDGES Empire of Illusion The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle: http://youtu.be/Yma13PXjGUY ~Published Mar 19, 2012

LetterToVoltaire2 years ago

@theoriginalprisonerX Thank you so much, I think Mr. Hedges is one of the most well versed and brilliant speakers of this decade, his ability to address the imperial nature of the 21st Century American Empire is priceless in that it defines clearly the context in which a humanist can no longer support a corrupt political process. I find his analysis on our culture to be spot on, sobering and humbling as every sentence is read. Thanks again, long live humanist principles.

[Jan 30, 2015] There Is No Reality Anymore...

01/29/2015 | Zero Hedge

Submitted by Thad Beversdorf via First Rebuttal blog,

"I'd Like to Change the World, but I Don't Know How So I'll Leave it Up to You"

What a great lyric that is from the late 60′s, early 70′s English band '10 Years After'. I believe this describes that uneasy feeling of discontent that sits deep in the stomach, beneath the day to day exteriors, of so many people today. The world is like a black hole in that it seems to be getting smaller and smaller as the years go by but also heavier and heavier with each passing day.

When I was a teenager and my friends and I were taking reality obscuring substances, one of my buddies (this means you Nichol) would stop us at certain points throughout the night for a reality check. This was just a few moments where we'd all gather our senses to make sure the world was still right and then we'd venture back into obscurity. I feel that reality is an old world term. There is no reality anymore. With advances in technology came unending possibilities of if you can dream it 'they' can make it so. The ubiquitous flow of information ensures that the truth is always available but never known with certainty. It means there is no such thing as a reality check. It's like that dream inside a dream inside a dream. Which reality is real anymore? How deep does the rabbit hole go?

We are raised with pretty standard ideals of what the world is meant to be but these ideals seem to take place only in the movies. It must be incredibly difficult for our young people to reconcile the two worlds, I know it is for me. That which they learn as a child and that which they find has replaced it as a young adult. Our 'leaders' our despicable arrogant and egotistical fools who pretend we elect them because we don't see them for what they are. But we elect them because we feel we have no choice. We know what we want the world to be. We know what it should look and feel like. And we know it is not the world in which we live today. "I know I'd like to change the world but I don't know how and so I'll leave it up to you". And so we continue to move forward down this path each step uneasy as though something ungood is lurking just around the next corner.

We are able to put that feeling out of our minds for the most part but our subconscious is always aware that things are off. We have all kinds of self help books and new – new age theories that attempt to make sense of it all and explain why we just aren't happy the way we envision happy should be. Perhaps the only reality is the reality that the world isn't what we had hoped it would be and we don't know how to make that right. I'd love to say that if we just stand up and do the right thing, act from our hearts and have good intentions that it could change the world. But quite honestly there are ill-ententioned people that are constructing this new world in which we sub-exist. It is 'them' and us but they'd never say it that way. Certainly though their intention is not for us to co-exist along side them.

But so we carry on and we, move forward, to the best of our abilities. We accept the good with the bad and acknowledge that everything is a trade off. We believe that if we go to college we stand a better chance in life and so we borrow our first 10 years of post college wages to get an edge over the next guy who is doing the same. When we get out of school we know that it is time to buckle down and get serious. We put our 'lives' on hold in order to focus on the future with the idea that one day we will be sitting on the porch with the person we love, the one we put on hold for all those years and we will then enjoy our life's work then.

But then we get further in debt because we need a sleeker car and we need a bigger house but it's ok because we can just work a little more. And then the kids come and as far as we got to know them they are great, I think. But it's ok because they just finished college and now they've moved back in as the job market is tough out there and so we're paying off their student loans. Eventually they get away and begin their life's journey and they take their debt with them. And then we realize, god I'm almost 60. But it feels great because that means soon I'll be there on the porch getting to know the one I love again and life will be grand at that point.

But then we turn 65 and we realize all those policies that were implemented by all those 'well-intentioned' decisions makers have actually left us with very little. And we say it's ok because we'd be bored anyway just sitting on the porch. And so we take a job waving at people in Walmart but feel like OMG how did I get here. But the shift ends and we go home anxious to spend time with the one we love because although it's a terrible thought we are aware we're both getting long in the tooth. And so we arrive home only to realize the one we love is now sick and that it's too late for our days sitting on the porch getting to know each other again. We do everything we can but we cannot afford to help that person who stood quietly behind us all those years as healthcare costs are unrealistically out of touch with 'reality'. And then it hits us that despite taking all the 'right' steps to ensure we have a great life we failed to ever really be happy, to really love and to really accept love. And then it really hits us, this world provides but one shot.

Well then that feeling of uneasy discontent that shadowed us when we were young is now an intense pain in our heart. And we look out at the world and we ask ourselves how could this have happened? I did everything 'they' told me I was supposed to do, I did everything 'right'! And it becomes clear that life was a chance to change the world, but we didn't know how and so we left it up to….

[Jan 30, 2015] Ukraine Through the Fog of the Presstitutes by PAUL CRAIG ROBERTS

March 06, 2014 | CounterPunch

Gerald Celente calls the Western media "presstitutes," an ingenuous term that I often use. Presstitutes sell themselves to Washington for access and government sources and to keep their jobs. Ever since the corrupt Clinton regime permitted the concentration of the US media, there has been no journalistic independence in the United States except for some Internet sites.

Glenn Greenwald points out the independence that RT, a Russian media organization, permits Abby Martin who denounced Russia's alleged invasion of Ukraine, compared to the fates of Phil Donahue (MSNBC) and Peter Arnett (NBC), both of whom were fired for expressing opposition to the Bush regime's illegal attack on Iraq. The fact that Donahue had NBC's highest rated program did not give him journalistic independence. Anyone who speaks the truth in the American print or TV media or on NPR is immediately fired.

Russia's RT seems actually to believe and observe the values that Americans profess but do not honor.

I agree with Greenwald. You can read his article here. Greenwald is entirely admirable. He has intelligence, integrity, and courage. He is one of the brave to whom my just published book, How America Was Lost, is dedicated. As for RT's Abby Martin, I admire her and have been a guest on her program a number of times.

My criticism of Greenwald and Martin has nothing to do with their integrity or their character. I doubt the claims that Abby Martin grandstanded on "Russia's invasion of Ukraine" in order to boost her chances of moving into the more lucrative "mainstream media." My point is quite different. Even Abby Martin and Greenwald, both of whom bring us much light, cannot fully escape Western propaganda.

For example, Martin's denunciation of Russia for "invading" Ukraine is based on Western propaganda that Russia sent 16,000 troops to occupy Crimea. The fact of the matter is that those 16,000 Russian troops have been in Crimea since the 1990s. Under the Russian-Ukrainian agreement, Russia has the right to base 25,000 troops in Crimea.

Apparently, neither Abby Martin nor Glenn Greenwald, two intelligent and aware people, knew this fact. Washington's propaganda is so pervasive that two of our best reporters were victimized by it.

As I have written several times in my columns, Washington organized the coup in Ukraine in order to promote its world hegemony by capturing Ukraine for NATO and putting US missile bases on Russia's border in order to degrade Russia's nuclear deterrent and force Russia to accept Washington's hegemony.

Russia has done nothing but respond in a very low-key way to a major strategic threat orchestrated by Washington.

It is not only Martin and Greenwald who have fallen under Washington's propaganda.

They are joined by Patrick J. Buchanan. Pat's column calling on readers to "resist the war party on Crimea" opens with Washington's propagandistic claim: "With Vladimir Putin's dispatch of Russian Troops into Crimea."

No such dispatch has occurred. Putin has been granted authority by the Russian Duma to send troops to Ukraine, but Putin has stated publicly that sending troops would be a last resort to protect Crimean Russians from invasions by the ultra-nationalist neo-nazis who stole Washington's coup and established themselves as the power in Kiev and western Ukraine.

So, here we have three of the smartest and most independent journalists of our time, and all three are under the impression created by Western propaganda that Russia has invaded Ukraine.

It appears that the power of Washington's propaganda is so great that not even the best and most independent journalists can escape its influence.

What chance does truth have when Abby Martin gets kudos from Glenn Greenwald for denouncing Russia for an alleged "invasion" that has not taken place, and when independent Pat Buchanan opens his column dissenting from the blame-Russia-crowd by accepting that an invasion has taken place?

The entire story that the presstitutes have told about the Ukraine is a propaganda production. The presstitutes told us that the deposed president, Viktor Yanukovych, ordered snipers to shoot protesters. On the basis of these false reports, Washington's stooges, who comprise the existing non-government in Kiev, have issued arrest orders for Yanukovych and intend for him to be tried in an international court. In an intercepted telephone call between EU foreign affairs minister Catherine Ashton and Etonian foreign affairs minister Urmas Paet who had just returned from Kiev, Paet reports: "There is now stronger and stronger understanding that behind the snipers, it was not Yanukovych, but it was somebody from the new coalition." Paet goes on to report that "all the evidence shows that the people who were killed by snipers from both sides, among policemen and then people from the streets, that they were the same snipers killing people from both sides . . . and it's really disturbing that now the new coalition, that they don't want to investigate what exactly happened." Ashton, absorbed with EU plans to guide reforms in Ukraine and to prepare the way for the IMF to gain control over economic policy, was not particularly pleased to hear Paet's report that the killings were an orchestrated provocation. You can listen to the conversation between Paet and Ashton here: http://rt.com/news/ashton-maidan-snipers-estonia-946/

What has happened in Ukraine is that Washington plotted against and overthrew an elected legitimate government and then lost control to neo-nazis who are threatening the large Russian population in southern and eastern Ukraine, provinces that formerly were part of Russia. These threatened Russians have appealed for Russia's help, and just like the Russians in South Ossetia, they will receive Russia's help.

The Obama regime and its presstitutes will continue to lie about everything.

Paul Craig Roberts is a former Assistant Secretary of the US Treasury and Associate Editor of the Wall Street Journal. His latest book The Failure of Laissez-Faire Capitalism. Roberts' How the Economy Was Lost is now available from CounterPunch in electronic format.

[Jan 29, 2015] America's Greatest Affliction The Presstitute Media

June 2, 2013 | PaulCraigRoberts.org

When Gerald Celente branded the American media "presstitutes," he got it right. The US print and TV media (and NPR) whore for Washington and the corporations. Reporting the real news is their last concern. The presstitutes are a Ministry of Propaganda and Coverup. This is true of the entire Western media, a collection of bought-and-paid-for whores.

It seems that every day I witness a dozen or more examples. Take May 31 for example.
The presstitutes report that US Secretary of State John Kerry and his German counterpart are working on Russia to convince that country to be a "party to peace" in Syria by not supplying the Syrian government, whose country has been invaded, with arms. Kerry and the Israelis especially do not want Russia to deliver the S-300 anti-aircraft missile system to Syria.

This was the extent of the presstitutes' report. The presstitutes made no mention of the fact that the invasion of Syria by al-Qaeda affiliated radical Muslims was organized and equipped by Washington via its proxies in the region, such as Saudia Arabia and the oil emirates. Americans sufficiently stupid to rely on the presstitute media do not know that it is not Syrians who want to overthrow their government, but Washington, Israel, and radical Islamists who object to Syria's secular non-confrontational government.

One might think that the US media would wonder why Washington prefers to have al-Qaeda governing Syria than a non-confrontational secular government. But such a question is off-limits for the US media.

Israel, unlike Washington which so far hides behind proxies, has actually openly committed war crimes as defined by the Nuremberg trials of Nazis by initiating unprovoked aggression against Syria by militarily attacking the country.

In reporting Kerry's pressure on Putin, presstitutes made no mention that the Washington-backed attempted overthrow of the Syrian government has run into difficulty, causing president obama to ask the Pentagon to come up with a no-fly plan, which means according to the Libya precedent NATO or US air attacks on Syrian government forces. As the S-300 missiles are a defensive weapon, obama's plan to send in Western or Israeli air forces to attack the Syrian army is why Kerry is pressuring Russia not to honor its contract to deliver to Syria the S-300 missiles, which can knock US, NATO, and Israeli aircraft out of the sky.

Those who believed that Kerry could have made a difference as president must be disillusioned to see what a warmongering whore he is. In america marketing is everything; truth is nothing.

The real news story is that Washington is trying to convince Putin to acquiesce to
Washington's overthrow of the Syrian government so that Russia can be evicted from its only naval base in the Mediterranean Sea, thus making it Washington's sea, Washington's Mare Nostrum. The american pressitutes put all the onus on the Russian government for not helping Washington to overthrow the Syrian government in order that Washington has another victory over Russia and can start next on Iran.

William Hague, who serves, with Washington's approval, as British foreign secretary to the shame of a once proud nation, made this clear when he declared: "We want a solution without Assad. We do not accept the stay of Assad." This is amazing hypocrisy, because the Syrian government is more respectful of human rights than Washington and London.

While Kerry was trying to con Putin, White House spokesman Josh Earnest said that the obama administration's immediate priority was removing Assad from power.

http://thehill.com/blogs/global-affairs/middle-east-north-africa/302773-white-house-no-role-for-assad-in-transitional-government

So for the US and UK, "peace" means the overthrow of the Syrian government by force.

Why isn't the United Nations protesting? The answer is that the countries and their UN representatives have been purchased by Washington. Money talks. Integrity and justice don't. Integrity and justice are poverty-inflicted. The UN belongs to the evil empire. Washington owns it. The american Empire has the money. It pays for the headlines and for the budget that lets the UN delegates enjoy New York City,

In the world today, integrity is worthless, but money is valuable, and Washington has the money because, as the dollar is the world reserve currency, it can be printed in sufficient quantities to purchase every country's government, including our own. One year out of office and Tony Blair was worth $35 million. Look at the amazing Clinton riches. According to news report, $3.2 million was spent on Chelsea's wedding. http://www.goingwedding.com/news_detail.asp?newsid=67

Hague said that the UK and France "seek to end the ban on arming Syrian rebels." Hague did not explain how the invasion force was armed if there is a ban against arming it. But Hague did tell us who the invading force is: "the Syrian National Coalition," which consists of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Egypt (still the American puppet), the United States, Britain, France, Turkey, Germany and Italy. Obviously, the talk about a "Syrian rebellion" is pure BS. Syria is confronted with an attempted overthrow of its government by the US and its puppet states. Kerry is trying to convince Putin to let Washington overthrow Syria.

As if this wasn't enough, also on May 31, I listened to e.j. dionne and david brooks on National Public Radio discuss the state of the obama presidency. Both were protective of "our president." Neither would dare say: "the military-security complex's president," "Wall Street's president," "the Israel Lobby's president," "Monsanto's president," "the mining and fracking president." obama is "our president."

Both brooks and dionne agreed that the media had got rid of the Benghazi issue and that the IRS persecution of Tea Party members was under the media's control and was not a threat to obama. david brooks did acknowledge that there were economic problems ignored and no new ideas. However, the blatant fact that under obama the US is in a constitutional crisis, well described by Dr. Francis Boyle, professor of international law at the University of Illinois, http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article35134.htm was not mentioned by NPR's pundits, who define correct thoughts for the NPR audience, people too busy to pay attention.

In america today, the executive branch in explicit violation of the US Constitution detains indefinitely or murders any US citizen alleged without proof by an unaccountable member of the executive branch to be in any way associated with the broad but undefined term, "terrorism," even innocently as a donor to hungry or ill Palestinian children. The executive branch clearly violates the US Constitution and US statutory laws against torture and spying on citizens without warrants. Congress does not impeach the president for his obvious crimes, and the Federal Judiciary enables them.

President Nixon was driven from office because he lied about when he learned of a burglary for which he was not responsible. President Clinton was impeached by the House of Representatives for lying about a sexual affair with a White House intern, Monica Lewinsky.

President george w. bush took america to wars based on obvious lies, and so did president obama. Both administrations are guilty of war crimes and almost every possible infraction of constitutional and international law. Yet, no presstitute member of the media would dare mention impeachment, and the House would never bring the charge.

There is no doubt whatsoever that in the 21st century presidents, their lawyers, Justice (sic) Department officials, and CIA and black-op operatives have broken law after law, and there is no accountability. For the presstitutes, this is a non-issue. "Rule of law, Constitution? We don't need no stinking rule of law or Constitution."

For the presstitutes, the bought-and-paid for-whores for evil, the issues are obama's stable poll numbers; teenage girls arrested for fighting at a kindergarten graduation ceremony; "Microsoft's Bill Gates extended his lead over Mexico's Carlos Slim as the world's richest person," "the $14 million-dollar girl: Beyonce rakes it in."

Constitutional crisis? What is that? I mean, really, look at Beyonce's legs. Didn't you hear, the dollar rose today?

The presstitutes have not investigated any important issue. Not 9/11. Not the accumulation of unaccountable power in the executive branch. Not the demise of the Bill of Rights. Not the Boston Marathon bombing. Not the endless and unexplained wars against Muslims who have not attacked the US.

The Boston Marathon saga reached new levels of absurdity with the FBI's murder of Ibragim Todashev, who was being pressured to admit to various associated crimes. The presstitutes first reported that Todashev was armed. It was a gun, then a knife, then after the presstitutes duly reported the false information planted on them, which for the insouciance american public was sufficient to explain Toashev's murder, the FBI admitted that the victim was unarmed.

Nevertheless, he was shot seven times, one to the back of the head. His father wants to know why the FBI assassinated his son, but the presstitutes could not care less. Don't expect any answer from the american press and TV media or from NPR, an organization that pretends to be a "listener station" but is financed by corporate contributions.

How's Todashev's murder for Gestapo justice? Where is the difference? A bullet in the back of the head. And america is the shining light on the hill, the font of freedom and democracy brought to the world courtesy of the military/security complex out of the barrel of guns and hellfire missiles from drones. And relentless propaganda in the schools, universities, and media.

Washington certainly learned from Mao and Pol Pot. You kill them into submission.

But you will never hear about it from the presstitutes.

[Jan 26, 2015] Syriza Wins and the NYT and WSJ Coverage Competes for Mendacity By William K. Black

Previously you can expect MSM to provide some basic facts about foreign events correctly. Now everything is distorted, facts. opinions, places and events... It's like a world in some computer game that has only superficial connection to reality.
January 25, 2015 | neweconomicperspectives.org

The Wall Street Journal and the New York Time's eurozone reporters, who share the same unshakable devotion to TINA and austerity as the Murdochized WSJ news staff have been thrown into a panic by Syriza's electoral successes in Greece.

Both papers are freaked out, as are the Germans, about the potential for Greece to spark a wave of rejections of the troika's infliction of austerity in a manner similar to how the infliction of self-destructive austerity programs pursuant to the Washington Consensus' demands led to the "lost decade" and the democratic election of what is now over a dozen Latin American candidates running on anti-austerity platforms. The Washington Consensus was drafted and named by an economist at Pete Peterson's International Institute. Peterson is a Wall Street billionaire whose mission is causing debt and deficit hysteria and plugging the joys of austerity and unraveling the safety nets. His greatest goal is privatizing Social Security – producing hundreds of billions in additional fees for Wall Street.

The NYT predicted that:

"A Syriza victory would lift the hopes of euroskeptic parties elsewhere in Europe, especially in Spain, where the left-leaning, anti-austerity Podemos party, not yet a year old, is already drawing 20 percent support in national opinion polls. The leader of Podemos, Pablo Iglesias, joined Mr. Tsipras this week during Syriza's final campaign rally."

The WSJ makes a similar point to explain the significance of Syriza's electoral success.

"A Syriza victory would also be closely watched by other antiausterity parties in Europe-on the left and the right-that have been gaining ground in the past year. In Europe-wide parliamentary elections last spring, voters fed up with years of cutbacks, rising unemployment and a shrinking social state, strongly backed new and fringe antiestablishment parties such as France's National Front and Spain's newly created Podemos party in a reaction to Europe's old guard."

Pete Peterson Brings Latin America's Lost Decade to Europe

The NYT responded by citing quoting as its one non-partisan economic commentator on Syriza's win – a Peterson institute economist! Yes, the people that crafted the Washington Consensus and claimed U.S. fiscal stimulus would produce hyper-inflation and who praised Germany's austerity policies were presented by the NYT as the impartial experts on austerity – with no explanation of any of this history.

"'[Alexis Tsipras, Syriza's leader] is campaigning on change and the end of austerity,' said Jacob Funk Kirkegaard, a senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics in Washington, who argues that Mr. Tsipras must move toward a more centrist stance if he hopes to revive the economy and keep Greece solvent.

'If he can pull that off, that will be the best possible outcome for Greece and for Europe, because it would show that these protest movements ultimately recognize reality, which is that they are in the euro, and they have to play by the rules,' he added."

The NYT did not bother to explain what the Peterson economist meant by the phrase "they have to play by the rules." He means that Greece must continue to follow draconian austerity under the eurozone's oxymoronic "Stability and Growth Pact" that has caused massive instability and crippled growth because it requires the economic malpractice of responding to a Great Recession by forcing Greece, Spain, and Italy into Great Depressions. As I have explained many times, Greece's current Great Depression is more severe and long-lasting than its Great Depression 80 years ago. Under the plan the troika successfully extorted prior Greek leaders to adopt he will be forced to further tighten the austerity screws for at least another five years. When the Peterson economist says that he hopes Tsipras "move[s] toward a more centrist stance" he means he hopes Tsirpras betrays all of his campaign promises and adopts austerity.

The NYT Thinks its Redemptive for Poor Greeks to Suffer

But it gets better, for Peterson's economist says that if Syriza betrays the promises it made to the people of Greece and instead embraces austerity it will "revive the economy and keep Greece solvent." Austerity has forced Greece into a Great Depression – the opposite of "reviv[ing] the economy." A sovereign government is not a corporation and doesn't (and can't) use GAAP accounting. It is not "insolvent" because it has debts. It that is the definition, then austerity has not and will not make Greece "solvent."

The Peterson economist then ends on an even worse note. He implicitly defines "reality" as requiring brutal austerity. He excludes fiscal stimulus, even though – as Paul Krugman (and many folks like us have tried to explain for many years – the great majority of economists think responding to a Great Recession with austerity constitutes economic malpractice.

The NYT also throws in its near constant meme that the Greeks aren't mature and ready to "sacrifice" enough to get better. They still believe in the medical myth that you need to bleed a patient to help him recover. Embracing austerity constitutes pointless masochism that delays rather than speeds recovery from a Great Recession – suffering inflicted primarily on the poor and the sick, but the NYT loves to blame poor Greeks.

"Continuing economic weakness has stirred a populist backlash as more voters grow fed up with policies that demand sacrifice."

Opposing austerity is not immoral, weak, or "populist." It is good economics and humane – a win-win.

The WSJ Claims Austerity Helped the Greeks Economy (by ignoring the Great Depression)

The WSJ doesn't need one of Peterson's economists to match the NYT's mendacity. In the midst of a purported news story (not an opinion piece) the WSJ states the following as if it were undisputed fact.

Since first seeking a bailout in 2010, Greece has undertaken a broad sweep of economic overhauls and cutbacks that have helped mend its public finances and nudged the economy back to growth following six years of deep recession. Those cutbacks have come at a cost: Some 25% of Greeks remain jobless, while a quarter of households live close to the poverty line.

It is a clumsy attempt at mendacity given that the facts in the second sentence render risible the fiction foisted in the first sentence. Austerity has not "nudged the economy back to growth following six years of deep recession." Austerity threw an economy in a deep recession into a gratuitous Great Depression. But for austerity, Greece could have begun a robust recovery four years ago.

There are at the time I write this two WSJ articles about the Greek election and the second one also has a clunker that is unintentionally hilarious.

And if Syriza refuses to meet those terms: Will Merkel blink?

No. German leaders fear that funding a Greece that refuses to reform would be the death knell of the eurozone. Other debtor countries could conclude that they could blackmail Berlin, refuse to cut their deficits or overhaul their economies, and still get German taxpayers' money.

Where to start?

[Jan 20, 2015] Charlie Hebdo and Fredou Who's awake, who's still in bed

So much so interesting. Almost as interesting is the lack of interest in the Western media at this added tragedy in the Charlie Hebdo "affair", a lack of interest one reporter summed up as a "mainstream news blackout" - and so the ready focus of another conspiracy theory.
Asia Times

On Thursday, January 8, France 3, the second-largest French public TV channel, reported the death that morning of a police commissioner who had been investigating the January 7 attack on the French weekly satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo.

The commissioner, Helric Fredou, 45, was found dead in his office in Limoges, the administrative capital of the Limousin region in west-central France, at about 1 a.m., having apparently taken his own life with his service gun. He reportedly met earlier with the family of a victim of the Charlie Hebdo attack and died before completing a report that he had been compiling.

So much so interesting. Almost as interesting is the lack of interest in the Western media at this added tragedy in the Charlie Hebdo "affair", a lack of interest one reporter summed up as a "mainstream news blackout" - and so the ready focus of another conspiracy theory.

The counterpoint in those early reports that did surface was that he had suffered from depression and experienced burn-out. His death so soon after taking on a role in investigating the French equivalent of "9/11" was, apparently just coincidence, or the consequence of an added heavy burden that was just too much to take. Even so, the delay in, or near absence of, English-language media coverage is curious at best.

So a news blackout? Or just lazy journalism? And where best, then, to get breaking news - the West's leading news outlets (CNN, Fox, New York Times, the Guardian etc etc etc), or obscure outlets elsewhere that at least are awake, and not still in bed -- literally or metaphorically? Here's a timeline to help you decide.

By then, questions were being asked about this absence of big-media reporting on what might be an important story of great public interest - or might not be, but with next-to-no mainstream reporting, who could tell? Global Research was asking on January 11.

If some people want to argue that these are small sites given to sometimes questionable stories, in this case there was little reason to question their source - France 3 - or the key facts.

Yet it was not until January 12, that the British press started to wake up, the Mirror reporting just after midday, followed 3 hours later by the Daily Mail.

Dragging its feet, also on Monday (7:37 p.m.), the UK's Daily Telegraph gave its account of an event now more than 4 days old that took place only a few hours train ride away from the Telegraph's London office, and considerably less than that from the newspaper's Paris office.

(Journalists will love the ambiguous urgency in the Telegraph's opening use of "it has emerged" - "A high-ranking judicial police chief in Limoges committed suicide last Wednesday hours after being asked to file a report on the Charlie Hebdo killings, it has emerged." In other words, we were asleep (or worse) - but hey, we're getting there.)

It was not until Tuesday, January 13, that the US press woke up, in the shape of the Washington Times - and by now it had absolutely no doubt about what line to take in its headline - "Helric Fredou, French police chief, kills himself amid pressure of Paris terror".

Writing this on January 15, there are now numerous stories in the non-English language press, but search on Google and it appears there is absolutely no coverage of this, if not strange then certainly worth a second look, death: not on CNN, not on the New York Times, not in the Washington Post, not in the Guardian, etc etc etc. (An article published by the Ron Paul Institute on January 14 that includes a reference to the police commissioner's death has attracted some criticism for raising similar and more wide-reaching questions.)

We do not need a conspiracy theory (a confirmed autopsy report would be a start though). But we could do with some reporting. After all, a large part of the reaction to the Charlie Hebdo massacre concerned press freedom - and press freedom requires reporting in the first place.

The absence of reporting on the death of a senior police officer, Helric Fredou, involved in some way in the investigation of the Charlie Hebdo massacre that took place barely 24 hours earlier, can too easily mean the absence of freedom - or in this case, raise the question of who is awake to important events, and who is in bed, and if in bed, then with whom.

(Copyright 2015 Asia Times Online (Holdings) Ltd. All rights reserved. Please contact us about sales, syndication and republishing.)

[Jan 07, 2015] 4 in 10 Americans erroneously believe US found active WMDs in Iraq – survey

Looks like pretty toxic mixture of propaganda conformism and groupthink exists in the USA...
Jan 07, 2015 | RT USA

A new survey has found that 42 percent of respondents believe that US forces found active weapons of mass destruction in Iraq after the 2003 invasion, when, in fact, no such WMDs – the major rationale in the push for war – were recovered.

The national survey, conducted by Fairleigh Dickinson University's PublicMind, indicated that Republicans were far more likely to believe WMDs were found following the American invasion of Iraq in 2003, justification for which was fostered by claims made by the George W. Bush administration that Saddam Hussein posed an imminent nuclear threat.

Fifty-one percent of Republicans said it was "probably" or "definitely" true that an active WMD program was revealed following the US invasion, while 32 percent of surveyed Democrats said the same.

PublicMind noted that the discovery of degraded chemical weapons in Iraq – likely leftover materials from a program that ended in the early 1990s – might explain some confusion. The presence of these weapons was first reported in October 2014.

"People who think we did the right thing in invading Iraq seem to be revising their memories to retroactively justify the invasion," said Dan Cassino, director of experimental research for the poll. "This sort of motivated reasoning is pretty common: when people want to believe something, they'll twist the facts to fit it."

The respondents' chosen news sources also seemed to indicate whether they believed WMDs were found.

Fifty-two percent of individuals who said they get their news from Fox said the discovery of WMDs in Iraq was "probably" or "definitely" true. MSNBC watchers were least likely to believe this, with 14 percent agreeing.

The survey also probed respondents' belief in President Barack Obama's US citizenship. Nineteen percent of respondents said it is "definitely" or "probably" true that Obama is not a legal citizen of the US, while 34 percent of Republicans and 30 percent of Fox News adherents believed the same.

The survey found that higher levels of political knowledge translated to a less likelihood that respondents would hold false beliefs about WMDs or Obama's citizenship.

Respondents were asked three questions to determine this knowledge: Which party currently controls the House of Representatives? What are the three branches of government? Name the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.

PubicMind reported that one-third of respondents answered none of the questions correctly, while 26 percent got one right, 27 percent got two right, and 13 percent got all three right.

Higher levels of political knowledge, based on the answers to those questions, corresponded with lower levels of belief in WMDs in Iraq or Obama's non-citizenship.

Twenty-one percent of those who got none of the three questions correct believed Obama is "definitely" or "probably" not a US citizen, and 46 percent of them said that active WMDs were found in Iraq. Among those who got all three questions correct, the percentages were 13 and 20 percent, respectively.

"It's tempting to believe that people have these beliefs because they just don't know better," said Cassino. "But statements like these are about what people want to believe, and no amount of education is going to trump that."

The poll included 964 respondents contacted by both landline telephones and cell phones from December 8 through December 15, 2014. The survey has a margin of error of +/- three percentage points.

>[Dec 30, 2014] The Victory of 'Perception Management' by Robert Parry
Dec 30, 2014 | ronpaulinstitute.org

To understand how the American people find themselves trapped in today's Orwellian dystopia of endless warfare against an ever-shifting collection of "evil" enemies, you have to think back to the Vietnam War and the shock to the ruling elite caused by an unprecedented popular uprising against that war.

While on the surface Official Washington pretended that the mass protests didn't change policy, a panicky reality existed behind the scenes, a recognition that a major investment in domestic propaganda would be needed to ensure that future imperial adventures would have the public's eager support or at least its confused acquiescence.

This commitment to what the insiders called "perception management" began in earnest with the Reagan administration in the 1980s but it would come to be the accepted practice of all subsequent administrations, including the present one of President Barack Obama.

In that sense, propaganda in pursuit of foreign policy goals would trump the democratic ideal of an informed electorate. The point would be not to honestly inform the American people about events around the world but to manage their perceptions by ramping up fear in some cases and defusing outrage in others – depending on the US government's needs.

Thus, you have the current hysteria over Russia's supposed "aggression" in Ukraine when the crisis was actually provoked by the West, including by US neocons who helped create today's humanitarian crisis in eastern Ukraine that they now cynically blame on Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Yet, many of these same US foreign policy operatives – outraged over Russia's limited intervention to protect ethic Russians in eastern Ukraine – are demanding that President Obama launch an air war against the Syrian military as a "humanitarian" intervention there.

In other words, if the Russians act to shield ethnic Russians on their border who are being bombarded by a coup regime in Kiev that was installed with US support, the Russians are the villains blamed for the thousands of civilian deaths, even though the vast majority of the casualties have been inflicted by the Kiev regime from indiscriminate bombing and from dispatching neo-Nazi militias to do the street fighting.

In Ukraine, the exigent circumstances don't matter, including the violent overthrow of the constitutionally elected president last February. It's all about white hats for the current Kiev regime and black hats for the ethnic Russians and especially for Putin.

But an entirely different set of standards has applied to Syria where a US-backed rebellion, which included violent Sunni jihadists from the start, wore the white hats and the relatively secular Syrian government, which has responded with excessive violence of its own, wears the black hats. But a problem to that neat dichotomy arose when one of the major Sunni rebel forces, the Islamic State, started seizing Iraqi territory and beheading Westerners.

Faced with those grisly scenes, President Obama authorized bombing the Islamic State forces in both Iraq and Syria, but neocons and other US hardliners have been hectoring Obama to go after their preferred target, Syria's President Bashar al-Assad, despite the risk that destroying the Syrian military could open the gates of Damascus to the Islamic State or al-Qaeda's Nusra Front.

Lost on the Dark Side

You might think that the American public would begin to rebel against these messy entangling alliances with the 1984-like demonizing of one new "enemy" after another. Not only have these endless wars drained trillions of dollars from the US taxpayers, they have led to the deaths of thousands of US troops and to the tarnishing of America's image from the attendant evils of war, including a lengthy detour into the "dark side" of torture, assassinations and "collateral" killings of children and other innocents.

But that is where the history of "perception management" comes in, the need to keep the American people compliant and confused. In the 1980s, the Reagan administration was determined to "kick the Vietnam Syndrome," the revulsion that many Americans felt for warfare after all those years in the blood-soaked jungles of Vietnam and all the lies that clumsily justified the war.

So, the challenge for the US government became: how to present the actions of "enemies" always in the darkest light while bathing the behavior of the US "side" in a rosy glow. You also had to stage this propaganda theater in an ostensibly "free country" with a supposedly "independent press."

From documents declassified or leaked over the past several decades, including an unpublished draft chapter of the congressional Iran-Contra investigation, we now know a great deal about how this remarkable project was undertaken and who the key players were.

Perhaps not surprisingly much of the initiative came from the Central Intelligence Agency, which housed the expertise for manipulating target populations through propaganda and disinformation. The only difference this time would be that the American people would be the target population.

For this project, Ronald Reagan's CIA Director William J. Casey sent his top propaganda specialist Walter Raymond Jr. to the National Security Council staff to manage the inter-agency task forces that would brainstorm and coordinate this "public diplomacy" strategy.

Many of the old intelligence operatives, including Casey and Raymond, are now dead, but other influential Washington figures who were deeply involved by these strategies remain, such as neocon stalwart Robert Kagan, whose first major job in Washington was as chief of Reagan's State Department Office of Public Diplomacy for Latin America.

Now a fellow at the Brookings Institution and a columnist at the Washington Post, Kagan remains an expert in presenting foreign policy initiatives within the "good guy/bad guy" frames that he learned in the 1980s. He is also the husband of Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs Victoria Nuland, who oversaw the overthrow of Ukraine's elected President Viktor Yanukovych last February amid a very effective US propaganda strategy.

During the Reagan years, Kagan worked closely on propaganda schemes with Elliott Abrams, then the Assistant Secretary of State for Latin America. After getting convicted and then pardoned in the Iran-Contra scandal, Abrams reemerged on President George W. Bush's National Security Council handling Middle East issues, including the Iraq War, and later "global democracy strategy." Abrams is now a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations.

These and other neocons were among the most diligent students learning the art of "perception management" from the likes of Raymond and Casey, but those propaganda skills have spread much more widely as "public diplomacy" and "information warfare" have now become an integral part of every US foreign policy initiative.

A Propaganda Bureaucracy

Declassified documents now reveal how extensive Reagan's propaganda project became with inter-agency task forces assigned to develop "themes" that would push American "hot buttons." Scores of documents came out during the Iran-Contra scandal in 1987 and hundreds more are now available at the Reagan presidential library in Simi Valley, California.

What the documents reveal is that at the start of the Reagan administration, CIA Director Casey faced a daunting challenge in trying to rally public opinion behind aggressive US interventions, especially in Central America. Bitter memories of the Vietnam War were still fresh and many Americans were horrified at the brutality of right-wing regimes in Guatemala and El Salvador, where Salvadoran soldiers raped and murdered four American churchwomen in December 1980.

The new leftist Sandinista government in Nicaragua also was not viewed with much alarm. After all, Nicaragua was an impoverished country of only about three million people who had just cast off the brutal dictatorship of Anastasio Somoza.

So, Reagan's initial strategy of bolstering the Salvadoran and Guatemalan armies required defusing the negative publicity about them and somehow rallying the American people into supporting a covert CIA intervention inside Nicaragua via a counterrevolutionary force known as the Contras led by Somoza's ex-National Guard officers.

Reagan's task was made tougher by the fact that the Cold War's anti-communist arguments had so recently been discredited in Vietnam. As deputy assistant secretary to the Air Force, J. Michael Kelly, put it, "the most critical special operations mission we have … is to persuade the American people that the communists are out to get us."

At the same time, the White House worked to weed out American reporters who uncovered facts that undercut the desired public images. As part of that effort, the administration attacked New York Times correspondent Raymond Bonner for disclosing the Salvadoran regime's massacre of about 800 men, women and children in the village of El Mozote in northeast El Salvador in December 1981. Accuracy in Media and conservative news organizations, such as The Wall Street Journal's editorial page, joined in pummeling Bonner, who was soon ousted from his job.

But these were largely ad hoc efforts. A more comprehensive "public diplomacy" operation took shape beginning in 1982 when Raymond, a 30-year veteran of CIA clandestine services, was transferred to the NSC.

A slight, soft-spoken New Yorker who reminded some of a character from a John le Carré spy novel, Raymond was an intelligence officer who "easily fades into the woodwork," according to one acquaintance. But Raymond would become the sparkplug for this high-powered propaganda network, according to a draft chapter of the Iran-Contra report.

Though the draft chapter didn't use Raymond's name in its opening pages, apparently because some of the information came from classified depositions, Raymond's name was used later in the chapter and the earlier citations matched Raymond's known role. According to the draft report, the CIA officer who was recruited for the NSC job had served as Director of the Covert Action Staff at the CIA from 1978 to 1982 and was a "specialist in propaganda and disinformation."

"The CIA official [Raymond] discussed the transfer with [CIA Director] Casey and NSC Advisor William Clark that he be assigned to the NSC as [Donald] Gregg's successor [as coordinator of intelligence operations in June 1982] and received approval for his involvement in setting up the public diplomacy program along with his intelligence responsibilities," the chapter said.

"In the early part of 1983, documents obtained by the Select [Iran-Contra] Committees indicate that the Director of the Intelligence Staff of the NSC [Raymond] successfully recommended the establishment of an inter-governmental network to promote and manage a public diplomacy plan designed to create support for Reagan Administration policies at home and abroad."

During his Iran-Contra deposition, Raymond explained the need for this propaganda structure, saying: "We were not configured effectively to deal with the war of ideas."

One reason for this shortcoming was that federal law forbade taxpayers' money from being spent on domestic propaganda or grassroots lobbying to pressure congressional representatives. Of course, every president and his team had vast resources to make their case in public, but by tradition and law, they were restricted to speeches, testimony and one-on-one persuasion of lawmakers.

But things were about to change. In a Jan. 13, 1983, memo, NSC Advisor Clark foresaw the need for non-governmental money to advance this cause. "We will develop a scenario for obtaining private funding," Clark wrote. (Just five days later, President Reagan personally welcomed media magnate Rupert Murdoch into the Oval Office for a private meeting, according to records on file at the Reagan library.)

As administration officials reached out to wealthy supporters, lines against domestic propaganda soon were crossed as the operation took aim not only at foreign audiences but at US public opinion, the press and congressional Democrats who opposed funding the Nicaraguan Contras.

At the time, the Contras were earning a gruesome reputation as human rights violators and terrorists. To change this negative perception of the Contras as well as of the US-backed regimes in El Salvador and Guatemala, the Reagan administration created a full-blown, clandestine propaganda network.

In January 1983, President Reagan took the first formal step to create this unprecedented peacetime propaganda bureaucracy by signing National Security Decision Directive 77, entitled "Management of Public Diplomacy Relative to National Security." Reagan deemed it "necessary to strengthen the organization, planning and coordination of the various aspects of public diplomacy of the United States Government."

Reagan ordered the creation of a special planning group within the National Security Council to direct these "public diplomacy" campaigns. The planning group would be headed by the CIA's Walter Raymond Jr. and one of its principal arms would be a new Office of Public Diplomacy for Latin America, housed at the State Department but under the control of the NSC.

CIA Taint

Worried about the legal prohibition barring the CIA from engaging in domestic propaganda, Raymond formally resigned from the CIA in April 1983, so, he said, "there would be no question whatsoever of any contamination of this." But Raymond continued to act toward the US public much like a CIA officer would in directing a propaganda operation in a hostile foreign country.

Raymond fretted, too, about the legality of Casey's ongoing involvement. Raymond confided in one memo that it was important "to get [Casey] out of the loop," but Casey never backed off and Raymond continued to send progress reports to his old boss well into 1986. It was "the kind of thing which [Casey] had a broad catholic interest in," Raymond shrugged during his Iran-Contra deposition. He then offered the excuse that Casey undertook this apparently illegal interference in domestic politics "not so much in his CIA hat, but in his adviser to the president hat."

As a result of Reagan's decision directive, "an elaborate system of inter-agency committees was eventually formed and charged with the task of working closely with private groups and individuals involved in fundraising, lobbying campaigns and propagandistic activities aimed at influencing public opinion and governmental action," the draft Iran-Contra chapter said. "This effort resulted in the creation of the Office of Public Diplomacy for Latin America and the Caribbean in the Department of State (S/LPD), headed by Otto Reich," a right-wing Cuban exile from Miami.

Though Secretary of State George Shultz wanted the office under his control, President Reagan insisted that Reich "report directly to the NSC," where Raymond oversaw the operations as a special assistant to the President and the NSC's director of international communications, the chapter said.

"Reich relied heavily on Raymond to secure personnel transfers from other government agencies to beef up the limited resources made available to S/LPD by the Department of State," the chapter said. "Personnel made available to the new office included intelligence specialists from the US Air Force and the US Army. On one occasion, five intelligence experts from the Army's 4th Psychological Operations Group at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, were assigned to work with Reich's fast-growing operation."

A "public diplomacy strategy paper," dated May 5, 1983, summed up the administration's problem. "As far as our Central American policy is concerned, the press perceives that: the USG [US government] is placing too much emphasis on a military solution, as well as being allied with inept, right-wing governments and groups. …The focus on Nicaragua [is] on the alleged US-backed 'covert' war against the Sandinistas. Moreover, the opposition … is widely perceived as being led by former Somozistas."

The administration's difficulty with most of these press perceptions was that they were correct. But the strategy paper recommended ways to influence various groups of Americans to "correct" the impressions anyway, removing what another planning document called "perceptional obstacles."

"Themes will obviously have to be tailored to the target audience," the strategy paper said.

Casey's Hand

As the Reagan administration struggled to manage public perceptions, CIA Director Casey kept his personal hand in the effort. On one muggy day in August 1983, Casey convened a meeting of Reagan administration officials and five leading ad executives at the Old Executive Office Building next to the White House to come up with ideas for selling Reagan's Central American policies to the American people.

Earlier that day, a national security aide had warmed the P.R. men to their task with dire predictions that leftist governments would send waves of refugees into the United States and cynically flood America with drugs. The P.R. executives jotted down some thoughts over lunch and then pitched their ideas to the CIA director in the afternoon as he sat hunched behind a desk taking notes.

"Casey was kind of spearheading a recommendation" for better public relations for Reagan's Central America policies, recalled William I. Greener Jr., one of the ad men. Two top proposals arising from the meeting were for a high-powered communications operation inside the White House and private money for an outreach program to build support for US intervention.

The results from the discussions were summed up in an Aug. 9, 1983, memo written by Raymond who described Casey's participation in the meeting to brainstorm how "to sell a 'new product' – Central America – by generating interest across-the-spectrum."

In the memo to then-US Information Agency director Charles Wick, Raymond also noted that "via Murdock [sic] may be able to draw down added funds" to support pro-Reagan initiatives. Raymond's reference to Rupert Murdoch possibly drawing down "added funds" suggests that the right-wing media mogul had been recruited to be part of the covert propaganda operation. During this period, Wick arranged at least two face-to-face meetings between Murdoch and Reagan.

In line with the clandestine nature of the operation, Raymond also suggested routing the "funding via Freedom House or some other structure that has credibility in the political center." (Freedom House would later emerge as a principal beneficiary of funding from the National Endowment for Democracy, which was also created under the umbrella of Raymond's operation.)

As the Reagan administration pushed the envelope on domestic propaganda, Raymond continued to worry about Casey's involvement. In an Aug. 29, 1983, memo, Raymond recounted a call from Casey pushing his P.R. ideas. Alarmed at a CIA director participating so brazenly in domestic propaganda, Raymond wrote that "I philosophized a bit with Bill Casey (in an effort to get him out of the loop)" but with little success.

Meanwhile, Reich's Office of Public Diplomacy for Latin America (S/LPD) proved extremely effective in selecting "hot buttons" that would anger Americans about the Sandinistas. He also browbeat news correspondents who produced stories that conflicted with the administration's "themes." Reich's basic M.O. was to dispatch his propaganda teams to lobby news executives to remove or punish out-of-step reporters – with a disturbing degree of success. Reich once bragged that his office "did not give the critics of the policy any quarter in the debate."

Another part of the office's job was to plant "white propaganda" in the news media through op-eds secretly financed by the government. In one memo, Jonathan Miller, a senior public diplomacy official, informed White House aide Patrick Buchanan about success placing an anti-Sandinista piece in The Wall Street Journal's friendly pages. "Officially, this office had no role in its preparation," Miller wrote.

Other times, the administration put out "black propaganda," outright falsehoods. In 1983, one such theme was designed to anger American Jews by portraying the Sandinistas as anti-Semitic because much of Nicaragua's small Jewish community fled after the revolution in 1979.

However, the US embassy in Managua investigated the charges and "found no verifiable ground on which to accuse the GRN [the Sandinista government] of anti-Semitism," according to a July 28, 1983, cable. But the administration kept the cable secret and pushed the "hot button" anyway.

Black Hats/White Hats

Repeatedly, Raymond lectured his subordinates on the chief goal of the operation: "in the specific case of Nica[ragua], concentrate on gluing black hats on the Sandinistas and white hats on UNO [the Contras' United Nicaraguan Opposition]." So Reagan's speechwriters dutifully penned descriptions of Sandinista-ruled Nicaragua as a "totalitarian dungeon" and the Contras as the "moral equivalent of the Founding Fathers."

As one NSC official told me, the campaign was modeled after CIA covert operations abroad where a political goal is more important than the truth. "They were trying to manipulate [US] public opinion … using the tools of Walt Raymond's trade craft which he learned from his career in the CIA covert operation shop," the official admitted.

Another administration official gave a similar description to The Miami Herald's Alfonso Chardy. "If you look at it as a whole, the Office of Public Diplomacy was carrying out a huge psychological operation, the kind the military conduct to influence the population in denied or enemy territory," that official explained. [For more details, see Parry's Lost History.]

Another important figure in the pro-Contra propaganda was NSC staffer Oliver North, who spent a great deal of his time on the Nicaraguan public diplomacy operation even though he is better known for arranging secret arms shipments to the Contras and to Iran's radical Islamic government, leading to the Iran-Contra scandal.

The draft Iran-Contra chapter depicted a Byzantine network of contract and private operatives who handled details of the domestic propaganda while concealing the hand of the White House and the CIA. "Richard R. Miller, former head of public affairs at AID, and Francis D. Gomez, former public affairs specialist at the State Department and USIA, were hired by S/LPD through sole-source, no-bid contracts to carry out a variety of activities on behalf of the Reagan administration policies in Central America," the chapter said.

"Supported by the State Department and White House, Miller and Gomez became the outside managers of [North operative] Spitz Channel's fundraising and lobbying activities. They also served as the managers of Central American political figures, defectors, Nicaraguan opposition leaders and Sandinista atrocity victims who were made available to the press, the Congress and private groups, to tell the story of the Contra cause."

Miller and Gomez facilitated transfers of money to Swiss and offshore banks at North's direction, as they "became the key link between the State Department and the Reagan White House with the private groups and individuals engaged in a myriad of endeavors aimed at influencing the Congress, the media and public opinion," the chapter said.

The Iran-Contra draft chapter also cited a March 10, 1985, memo from North describing his assistance to CIA Director Casey in timing disclosures of pro-Contra news "aimed at securing Congressional approval for renewed support to the Nicaraguan Resistance Forces."

The chapter added: "Casey's involvement in the public diplomacy effort apparently continued throughout the period under investigation by the Committees," including a 1985 role in pressuring Congress to renew Contra aid and a 1986 hand in further shielding the Office of Public Diplomacy for Latin America from the oversight of Secretary Shultz.

A Raymond-authored memo to Casey in August 1986 described the shift of the S/LPD office – where Robert Kagan had replaced Reich – to the control of the Bureau of Inter-American Affairs, which was headed by Assistant Secretary of State Elliott Abrams, who had tapped Kagan for the public diplomacy job.

Even after the Iran-Contra scandal unraveled in 1986-87 and Casey died of brain cancer on May 6, 1987, the Republicans fought to keep secret the remarkable story of the public diplomacy apparatus. As part of a deal to get three moderate Republican senators to join Democrats in signing the Iran-Contra majority report, Democratic leaders agreed to drop the draft chapter detailing the CIA's domestic propaganda role (although a few references were included in the executive summary). But other Republicans, including Rep. Dick Cheney, still issued a minority report defending broad presidential powers in foreign affairs.

Thus, the American people were spared the chapter's troubling conclusion: that a secret propaganda apparatus had existed, run by "one of the CIA's most senior specialists, sent to the NSC by Bill Casey, to create and coordinate an inter-agency public-diplomacy mechanism [which] did what a covert CIA operation in a foreign country might do. [It] attempted to manipulate the media, the Congress and public opinion to support the Reagan administration's policies."

Kicking the Vietnam Syndrome

The ultimate success of Reagan's propaganda strategy was affirmed during the tenure of his successor, George H.W. Bush, when Bush ordered a 100-hour ground war on Feb. 23, 1991, to oust Iraqi troops from Kuwait, which had been invaded the previous August.

Though Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein had long been signaling a readiness to withdraw – and Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev had negotiated a withdrawal arrangement that even had the blessings of top US commanders in the field – President Bush insisted on pressing ahead with the ground attack.

Bush's chief reason was that he – and his Defense Secretary Dick Cheney – saw the assault against Iraq's already decimated forces as an easy victory, one that would demonstrate America's new military capacity for high-tech warfare and would cap the process begun a decade earlier to erase the Vietnam Syndrome from the minds of average Americans.

Those strategic aspects of Bush's grand plan for a "new world order" began to emerge after the US-led coalition started pummeling Iraq with air strikes in mid-January 1991. The bombings inflicted severe damage on Iraq's military and civilian infrastructure and slaughtered a large number of non-combatants, including the incineration of some 400 women and children in a Baghdad bomb shelter on Feb. 13. [For details, see Consortiumnews.com's "Recalling the Slaughter of Innocents."]

The air war's damage was so severe that some world leaders looked for a way to end the carnage and arrange Iraq's departure from Kuwait. Even senior US military field commanders, such as Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf, looked favorably on proposals for sparing lives.

But Bush was fixated on a ground war. Though secret from the American people at that time, Bush had long determined that a peaceful Iraqi withdrawal from Kuwait would not be allowed. Indeed, Bush was privately fearful that the Iraqis might capitulate before the United States could attack.

At the time, conservative columnists Rowland Evans and Robert Novak were among the few outsiders who described Bush's obsession with exorcising the Vietnam Syndrome. On Feb. 25, 1991, they wrote that the Gorbachev initiative brokering Iraq's surrender of Kuwait "stirred fears" among Bush's advisers that the Vietnam Syndrome might survive the Gulf War.

"There was considerable relief, therefore, when the President … made clear he was having nothing to do with the deal that would enable Saddam Hussein to bring his troops out of Kuwait with flags flying," Evans and Novak wrote. "Fear of a peace deal at the Bush White House had less to do with oil, Israel or Iraqi expansionism than with the bitter legacy of a lost war. 'This is the chance to get rid of the Vietnam Syndrome,' one senior aide told us."

In the 1999 book, Shadow, author Bob Woodward confirmed that Bush was adamant about fighting a war, even as the White House pretended it would be satisfied with an unconditional Iraqi withdrawal. "We have to have a war," Bush told his inner circle of Secretary of State James Baker, national security adviser Brent Scowcroft and Gen. Colin Powell, according to Woodward.

"Scowcroft was aware that this understanding could never be stated publicly or be permitted to leak out. An American president who declared the necessity of war would probably be thrown out of office. Americans were peacemakers, not warmongers," Woodward wrote.

The Ground War

However, the "fear of a peace deal" resurfaced in the wake of the US-led bombing campaign. Soviet diplomats met with Iraqi leaders who let it be known that they were prepared to withdraw their troops from Kuwait unconditionally.

Learning of Gorbachev's proposed settlement, Schwarzkopf also saw little reason for US soldiers to die if the Iraqis were prepared to withdraw and leave their heavy weapons behind. There was also the prospect of chemical warfare that the Iraqis might use against advancing American troops. Schwarzkopf saw the possibility of heavy US casualties.

But Gorbachev's plan was running into trouble with President Bush and his political subordinates who wanted a ground war to crown the US victory. Schwarzkopf reached out to Gen. Powell, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to make the case for peace with the President.

On Feb. 21, 1991, the two generals hammered out a cease-fire proposal for presentation to the NSC. The peace deal would give Iraqi forces one week to march out of Kuwait while leaving their armor and heavy equipment behind. Schwarzkopf thought he had Powell's commitment to pitch the plan at the White House.

But Powell found himself caught in the middle. He wanted to please Bush while still representing the concerns of the field commanders. When Powell arrived at the White House late on the evening of Feb. 21, he found Bush angry about the Soviet peace initiative. Still, according to Woodward's Shadow, Powell reiterated that he and Schwarzkopf "would rather see the Iraqis walk out than be driven out."

In My American Journey, Powell expressed sympathy for Bush's predicament. "The President's problem was how to say no to Gorbachev without appearing to throw away a chance for peace," Powell wrote. "I could hear the President's growing distress in his voice. 'I don't want to take this deal,' he said. 'But I don't want to stiff Gorbachev, not after he's come this far with us. We've got to find a way out'."

Powell sought Bush's attention. "I raised a finger," Powell wrote. "The President turned to me. 'Got something, Colin?'," Bush asked. But Powell did not outline Schwarzkopf's one-week cease-fire plan. Instead, Powell offered a different idea intended to make the ground offensive inevitable.

"We don't stiff Gorbachev," Powell explained. "Let's put a deadline on Gorby's proposal. We say, great idea, as long as they're completely on their way out by, say, noon Saturday," Feb. 23, less than two days away.

Powell understood that the two-day deadline would not give the Iraqis enough time to act, especially with their command-and-control systems severely damaged by the air war. The plan was a public-relations strategy to guarantee that the White House got its ground war. "If, as I suspect, they don't move, then the flogging begins," Powell told a gratified president.

The next day, at 10:30 a.m., a Friday, Bush announced his ultimatum. There would be a Saturday noon deadline for the Iraqi withdrawal, as Powell had recommended. Schwarzkopf and his field commanders in Saudi Arabia watched Bush on television and immediately grasped its meaning.

"We all knew by then which it would be," Schwarzkopf wrote. "We were marching toward a Sunday morning attack."

When the Iraqis predictably missed the deadline, American and allied forces launched the ground offensive at 0400 on Feb. 24, Persian Gulf time.

Though Iraqi forces were soon in full retreat, the allies pursued and slaughtered tens of thousands of Iraqi soldiers in the 100-hour war. US casualties were light, 147 killed in combat and another 236 killed in accidents or from other causes. "Small losses as military statistics go," wrote Powell, "but a tragedy for each family."

On Feb. 28, the day the war ended, Bush celebrated the victory. "By God, we've kicked the Vietnam Syndrome once and for all," the President exulted, speaking to a group at the White House. [For more details, see Robert Parry's Secrecy & Privilege.]

So as not to put a damper on the post-war happy feelings, the US news media decided not to show many of the grisliest photos, such as charred Iraqi soldiers ghoulishly still seated in their burned-out trucks where they had been incinerated while trying to flee. By that point, US journalists knew it wasn't smart for their careers to present a reality that didn't make the war look good.

Enduring Legacy

Though Reagan's creation of a domestic propaganda bureaucracy began more than three decades ago – and Bush's vanquishing of the Vietnam Syndrome was more than two decades ago – the legacy of those actions continue to reverberate today in how the perceptions of the American people are now routinely managed. That was true during last decade's Iraq War and this decade's conflicts in Libya, Syria and Ukraine as well as the economic sanctions against Iran and Russia.

Indeed, while the older generation that pioneered these domestic propaganda techniques has passed from the scene, many of their protégés are still around along with some of the same organizations. The National Endowment for Democracy, which was formed in 1983 at the urgingof CIA Director Casey and under the supervision of Walter Raymond's NSC operation, is still run by the same neocon, Carl Gershman, and has an even bigger budget, now exceeding $100 million a year.

Gershman and his NED played important behind-the-scenes roles in instigating the Ukraine crisis by financing activists, journalists and other operatives who supported the coup against elected President Yanukovych. The NED-backed Freedom House also beat the propaganda drums. [See Consortiumnews.com's "A Shadow Foreign Policy."]

Two other Reagan-era veterans, Elliott Abrams and Robert Kagan, have both provided important intellectual support for continuing US interventionism around the world. Earlier this year, Kagan's article for The New Republic, entitled "Superpowers Don't Get to Retire," touched such a raw nerve with President Obama that he hosted Kagan at a White House lunch and crafted the presidential commencement speech at West Point to deflect some of Kagan's criticism of Obama's hesitancy to use military force.

A New York Times article about Kagan's influence over Obama reported that Kagan's wife, Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland, apparently had a hand in crafting the attack on her ostensible boss, President Obama.

According to the Times article, the husband-and-wife team share both a common world view and professional ambitions, Nuland editing Kagan's articles and Kagan "not permitted to use any official information he overhears or picks up around the house" – a suggestion that Kagan's thinking at least may be informed by foreign policy secrets passed on by his wife.

Though Nuland wouldn't comment specifically on Kagan's attack on President Obama, she indicated that she holds similar views. "But suffice to say," Nuland said, "that nothing goes out of the house that I don't think is worthy of his talents. Let's put it that way."

Misguided Media

In the three decades since Reagan's propaganda machine was launched, the American press corps also has fallen more and more into line with an aggressive US government's foreign policy strategies. Those of us in the mainstream media who resisted the propaganda pressures mostly saw our careers suffer while those who played along moved steadily up the ranks into positions of more money and more status.

Even after the Iraq War debacle when nearly the entire mainstream media went with the pro-invasion flow, there was almost no accountability for that historic journalistic failure. Indeed, the neocon influence at major newspapers, such as the Washington Post and the New York Times, only has solidified since.

Today's coverage of the Syrian civil war or the Ukraine crisis is so firmly in line with the State Department's propaganda "themes" that it would put smiles on the faces of William Casey and Walter Raymond if they were around today to see how seamlessly the "perception management" now works. There's no need any more to send out "public diplomacy" teams to bully editors and news executives. Everyone is already onboard.

Rupert Murdoch's media empire is bigger than ever, but his neocon messaging barely stands out as distinctive, given how the neocons also have gained control of the editorial and foreign-reporting sections of the Washington Post, the New York Times and virtually every other major news outlet. For instance, the demonizing of Russian President Putin is now so total that no honest person could look at those articles and see anything approaching objective or evenhanded journalism. Yet, no one loses a job over this lack of professionalism.

The Reagan administration's dreams of harnessing private foundations and non-governmental organizations have also come true. The Orwellian circle has been completed with many American "anti-war" groups advocating for "humanitarian" wars in Syria and other countries targeted by US propaganda. [See Consortiumnews.com's "Selling 'Peace Groups' on US-Led Wars."]

Much as Reagan's "public diplomacy" apparatus once sent around "defectors" to lambaste Nicaragua's Sandinistas by citing hyped-up human rights violations now the work is done by NGOs with barely perceptible threads back to the US government. Just as Freedom House had "credibility" in the 1980s because of its earlier reputation as a human rights group, now other groups carrying the "human rights" tag, such as Human Rights Watch, are in the forefront of urging US military interventions based on murky or propagandistic claims. [See Consortiumnews.com's "The Collapsing Syria-Sarin Case."]

At this advanced stage of America's quiet surrender to "perception management," it is even hard to envision how one could retrace the many steps that would lead back to the concept of a democratic Republic based on an informed electorate. Many on the American Right remain entranced by the old propaganda theme about the "liberal media" and still embrace Reagan as their beloved icon. Meanwhile, many liberals can't break away from their own wistful trust in the New York Times and their empty hope that the media really is "liberal."

To confront the hard truth is not easy. Indeed, in this case, it can cause despair because there are so few voices to trust and they are easily drowned out by floods of disinformation that can come from any angle – right, left or center. Yet, for the American democratic Republic to reset its goal toward an informed electorate, there is no option other than to build institutions that are determinedly committed to the truth.

Reprinted with permission from ConsortiumNews.com.

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[Aug 21, 2014] THE POWER OF WORDS CONTROLLING THE NARRATIVE by Dana Casey.

Conservative Teachers of America

This is a guest post by Dana Casey.

George Orwell warns against the use of unclear language in his essay Politics and the English Language and in his powerful novel 1984, where the manipulation of language to control thought, known as newspeak, is an important weapon in the Party's arsenal attacking free thought.

Political correctness is an overt example that has fully infiltrated society already controlling language and thought. It started with the Civil Rights movement when Negro became colored and colored became black and black became Afro-American, then African-American. Lord help you if you use the wrong epithet.

It continued with the feminist movement. No longer can you say "chairman" or "chairwoman", you must say "chairperson". A mailman becomes a mail carrier. The use of "his" as the dominant neutral pronoun is no longer allowed; therefore, the awkward "his/hers" is now demanded, though who knows how that will change with the new gender-fluid trends being pushed even at an elementary school level.

Thought affects language and language affects thought. Orwell understood this and so do those who are trying to control the thinking of Americans today. Although such manipulation of language and thought is pervasive, it is not always obvious. Sometimes it is so simple that its impact will be completely ignored or dismissed.

One ubiquitous example of this manipulation is the use of phrases such as paying it back. I have heard this phrase being used more and more lately and it is generally being used incorrectly. Often it is used when what is meant is charity or gift giving. The difference between paying it back and charity is extremely important.

Paying it back has specific and misused meaning. This is revealed in a story making national news recently about the man behind the Hidden Cash phenomenon, Jason Buzi, a real estate investor who made millions from flipping houses. Buzi who came from a middle-class background used his entrepreneurial skills to make himself a wealthy man starting with buying cookies for $1 and selling them for$3 and ending with a $500,000 return on a house flipping investment. Buzi started hiding money in envelopes containing $25 to $200 leaving Twitter clues as to their location.

Though he kept his identity hidden for a period of time, once he was identified, he provided interviews to news networks. When he was asked in one interview why he chose to give away thousands, he said that he had been fortunate and he wanted to pay it back. Implicit in the use of pay is that one service or thing is being paid for, an equal exchange taking place. I give you a sandwich; you pay me $5. Buzi did not exchange one thing for another.

The other key word is back as in "to give or do (something equivalent) in return for a favor, insult, loan, etc." Implicit in the use of back is something being returned, but Buzi did not take something that needed to be returned. He did not borrow money from the people to whom he was giving money. He did not use the people to whom he is giving money to create his wealth; therefore, he owed nothing back.

He did something different than paying it back, something that is far more important; he was charitable, but charity has become a dirty word. Underlying the differences between paying it back and being charitable as they are used today is the difference between feeling guilty and being generous. It is also the difference between being completely equal to everyone else or being above or below someone, which cannot be allowed in today's PC world.

Guilt is a politically correct attitude that is currently widely encouraged. If you are wealthy, you are guilty. It does not matter if you earned that wealth through honest and good measure. If you are intelligent, you are guilty. How dare you make someone feel less intelligent by your existence. If you are white, you are guilty. It does not matter that being white is a chance of birth just as is being black or Hispanic, short or tall, or any other physical trait over which no one has control. If you are male, you are guilty. Well, just because you are male, especially if you are a white male, unless you are gay, than you have no guilt.

If you must pay it back than you must owe something, you are guilty of a debt. This guilt pulls down those who have accomplished something to below the level of everyone else who doesn't owe anything and therefore has no guilt. If you are guilty then repayment should be compulsory, because you owe it. You must pay it back like any other debt. This guilt must be encouraged so that no one ever feels superior or inferior to anyone else no matter what they may or may not have accomplished. "Harrison Bergeron", a satirical and dystopian science-fiction short story written by Kurt Vonnegut, warns of just such a leveling of people in a society. The only way to accomplish such a thing is to drag everyone down to the bottom level. It is not a world that America should choose.

If you are charitable, an attitude of being above another in some way is implied and there can be no superiority allowed. Your superiority may only be that you have made more money because you worked really hard, but that is not considered. Charity is not encouraged because charity is voluntary and cannot be made compulsory; however, the trend in this country is the compulsory taking from one and giving to another. Within that framework, paying it back works and being charitable does not. Those being given these gifts are, by implication, being given what is somehow owed them. They are only taking what is rightfully theirs as is shown in the following Maya Angelou poem:

Momma Welfare Roll

Her arms semaphore fat triangles,
Pudgy hands bunched on layered hips
Where bones idle under years of fatback
And lima beans.
Her jowls shiver in accusation
Of crimes clichéd by
Repetition. Her children, strangers
To childhood's toys, play
Best the games of darkened doorways,
Rooftop tag, and know the slick feel of
Other people's property.

Too fat to whore,
Too mad to work,
Searches her dreams for the
Lucky sign and walks bare-handed
Into a den of bureaucrats for
Her portion.
'They don't give me welfare.
I take it.'
[emphasis mine]

"Her portion" and "I take it" implies that welfare is a thing this mother has a right to. She is owed welfare; therefore, it is not charity, but her due. If it were charity, she might have to be humble, she might feel the sting of humility and maybe even a little gratitude to a society, whose citizens' pay keeps her children from starving, but then she would no longer be equal to those from whom she receives. Instead, she takes it making her almost superior to those from whom she takes.

The whole concept of social injustice works on this premise and it is a zero-sum-gain premise. If I have money and you don't, then I somehow got it from you unjustly and therefore owe you. Even the Catholic Church preaches social justice rather than charity these days, which is why my husband and I no longer tithe to the church but give to charitable organizations that we voluntarily choose. Demanding that social justice become compulsory through taxation is not what Jesus taught. Jesus said to give your money to the poor. He never said reach into your neighbor's pocket and give his (/her) money to the poor, nor did he say you have a right to your neighbor's pocket if his pocket has more in it than yours.

The money Jason Buzi gave is an undeserved, unearned charitable gift. He paid back no one. He earned his money honestly. He owes no one. Buzi was a smarter businessman than others, he worked harder, he strategized better, and if he wants to be charitable with that money, that is his business, not his debt.

These shifts in language are subtle and take place over such a long period of time that they are unnoticed, but they lead to a change in our perceptions and our thinking so that what was once a very good thing, like charity, becomes an evil thing, like undeserved, unearned superiority. Orwell predicted this when in his novel 1984 The Ministry of War becomes The Ministry of Peace and The Ministry of Love is a place of horrific torture. Words matter-IMMENSLY. The stories we tell, the phrases we choose, shape our understanding of ourselves and of the world. Instead of paying back we need to pay attention.

Dana R. Casey is a veteran high school English teacher of more than two decades in an East-coast urban system. She is a life-long student of theology, philosophy, and politics, dedicated to the true Liberalism of the Enlightenment, as defined by our Founders and enshrined in our Declaration of Independence, Constitution and Bill of Rights.

The importance of 'controlling the narrative' by Michael Wolff

December 29, 2013 | usatoday.com

In rolling out the story of his daughter's drug problems, the forces of New York's mayor-elect underscore how message control is changing in the video age.

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In rolling out the story of his daughter's drug problems, the forces of New York's mayor-elect underscore how message control is changing in the video age.

Among the most prevalent and up-to-date phrases in business, politics and savvy American life is "controlling the narrative."

That is, telling it your way, before someone else gets to tell it - and possibly tell it better - their way. And getting the public to relate to you on a more intimate level: In a social-media world, being impersonal is being out of it.

A good part of the White House budget and resources is spent on controlling the narrative - arguably, to poor effect. The problem with the Affordable Care Act, many Democrats feel, is not its procedures but the White House's failure to tell a positive and compelling story about it. (Even the website breakdown might have been an opportunity, properly handled, to connect with many technophobic Americans.)

In every significant corporation in the nation, controlling the narrative has become one of those feely-feely things that unemotive CEOs and CFOs, with a growing amount of anxiety, understand they really don't comprehend and about which they need outside consultants to hold their hands.

Last week, in a breakthrough example of this new communications form, Bill de Blasio, New York's mayor-elect, released a video of his daughter explaining how and why she became a drug addict, and how sorry she was about it. This was an example of "getting out ahead of the story" (another term in the art of modern communication), as well as controlling it. The de Blasio camp both owned up to this potentially negative revelation and, with their video treatment, owned it.

This was also, if you read between the lines, a cover-up. The de Blasio camp obviously felt this was a newsworthy situation. Yet, it waited until the moment when the disclosure could have the least effect - after the campaign was finished and on Christmas Eve, to boot - to release it. On the other hand, looking into the face of a 19-year-old girl achingly explaining her private adolescent pain, it would take the coldest cynic to be anything but generous, especially at Christmas. "Her Brave Face," was the day-after front page headline in the New York Daily News.

So, a big win for controlling the narrative.

Controlling the narrative is, of course, a basic public relations skill. But the de Blasio video highlights both new levels of artistry in the form, and how much the narrative has become technologically driven.

In the past, this kind of difficult news would have been released by a press spokesperson. In this instance, it was from the protagonist herself.

Chiara de Blasio didn't read a statement. She spoke, as though spontaneously, without a script, in natural teenage language. This is an adaptation of the techniques of reality television. (The de Blasio campaign, with its emphasis on individual family characters, has had no small amount of "unscripted television" inspiration.)

The Chiara de Blasio video was created, it appears, by having someone question and coach her in a way that would have slowly elicited the story, indeed, several versions of the story - with her looking dead on into the camera as she gave her answers. Then, using simple editing software, versions of her answers would have been assembled for maximum-impact story telling. This produces a strangely intimate and personal communication of the kind that makes the most successful YouTube presentation. It's not meant for a wide television audience, but as a one-to-one communication with someone looking deeply into a computer screen as the person on camera looks back at them. You can hardly get more confessional and theatrical.

This advance in controlling the narrative takes advantage of not just new video techniques and economics, but of the new distribution framework. Where before, wide video access had many barriers and middlemen, now, it has none. Everyone can speak directly to everyone else.

The Chiara de Blasio video is a succinct demonstration of all that's changing in the world of marketing, advertising and media - that complex of industries that once had formal control of the narrative.

Because right now, while the highest imperative is to control the narrative, it's quite unclear who actually has control, or who knows how to control it best.

It's become accepted corporate wisdom that traditional advertising and marketing are no longer adequately doing this job, that this requires some new geniuses. This is partly a social-media effect. "Get someone young" is something you hear with regard to recruiting narrative advisers. People who are experts in selfies and Instagram are, in other words, the better prepared narrative experts today.

The up-to-date marketing view is that brands must become publishers, or storytellers, themselves - the most important thing they're selling is, in fact, narrative. It's another step on a road that we've been on for a long time. Functionality, actual products and division of labor give way to a much more disembodied sense of reality, wherein we create and sell an effective fiction. Storytelling is now the highest form of commerce.

This process, occurring at the intersection of technology, pop culture and millennial behavior, is ever more complicated and fast-changing, and consumes more and more time and resources, involving a wide-ranging search for talent. It's a new business without a precise name yet.

Many people who are now Chiara de Blasio's age will surely find their futures in it.

Fred Johnson

This is correct. Politics is all about sound bites and controlling what the issues discussed are. Nothing to do with substance.

Jeff Swystun · President/CMO at Swystun Communications

My comments are divorced from the specific political example and focus more on the notion of narrative marketing. People buy stories not products or services as consumers enjoy inserting themselves into the narrative.

For years, companies have drafted "Brand Stories" to help stand out. It is a tale they can control. The new thinking says the "Brand Narrative" is what people take away from the story and this is where companies have little control. The fact is, a brand is no longer what we tell the consumer it is - it is what the consumers tell each other it is.

Marketing has always been about storytelling. Today, brand stories must communicate mutual benefit with consumers. The best portray a connection of values, excite with possibility, and reinforce a brand or company's authentic identity and character. It is not about hype or manipulation, it is about solving a problem in an entertaining and relevant way.

The goal of business is to create a customer so the purpose of marketing is to get customers to know, like and trust you. Stories make this happen and great stories can create true advantage, as writer John Cheever said, "A page of good prose remains invincible."

What Orwell Didn't Know Propaganda and the New Face of American Politics

Andras Szanto, Orville Schell 9781586485603 Amazon

Dennis Littrell HALL OF FAME TOP 500 REVIEWER VINE™ VOICE

A profound look at political propaganda and manipulation November 2, 2007

This book is published to coincide with a one-day conference on "Orwell and the American society" to be held at the New York Public Library November 7, 2007 sponsored by the Open Society Institute and the graduate schools of journalism at UC Berkeley, Columbia, and the Annenberg School at USC. This year is chosen because it is near the 60th anniversary of the publication of George Orwell's famous essay, "Politics and the English Language" (1946).

But what this book is really about is the perversion of truth by the Bush administration and the concomitant failure of the American mass media to do anything about it or to even comprehend what is going on. Editor Andras Szanto writes in his "Editor's Note," "the deans of five prominent journalism schools...were worried about what was happening to political language, which seemed to be divorcing itself from reality at an alarming rate." (p. ix) This book with essays by 18 heavyweight political thinkers, cognitive scientists, psychologists, journalists and others is an attempt to address that worry.

Aside from the many Ministry of Truth sort of lies cynically concocted by the Bush administration, there is the striking and very scary fact that Bush is acting out the Orwellian nightmare in that he has put the United States on what appears to be a permanent "war" footing just as was the case with Oceania in Orwell's novel, 1984, and for pretty much the same reasons. As several of the contributors have noted, George W. Bush has invented an endless and fraudulent "war on terror" as a means to keep the populace in fear and to control both the Congress and the media in order to enhance his own power as chief executive.

But there is much more. As Drew Westen notes in his essay, "The New Frontier: The Instruments of Emotion," there is the example of "Polluters" drafting "a bill which became law," which was "named, as if in cynical tribute to Orwell, the 'Clear Skies Initiative.'" (pp. 75-76) Of course it was, and is, anything but. Westen goes on to make the salient point that "What Orwell could not have foretold is...Orwellian language can be as effective in a democracy as in a dictatorship." (p. 79) These are points that George Soros also makes in his essay, "What I Didn't Know: Open Society Reconsidered."

What strikes me is how corporate control of the media in all its aspects, including especially advertising and news reporting, can insure that only politicians sympathetic to corporate interests can possibly be elected, and once elected can work with their corporate sponsors to bring about something close to dictatorial control. Congresspersons and reporters in fear of losing their seats or their jobs are as easily controlled as citizens terrified of secret police and brown shirts. What Bush, Cheney, Karl Rove and the minions working for them have done--and this is the thrust of the book--is beyond what Orwell could possibly have foreseen. As George Lakoff explains in his essay, "What Orwell Didn't Know About the Brain, the Mind, and Language," we think metaphorically, and the many metaphors of life are charged with emotions that can be activated by certain political words or phrases, "War on Terror, tax relief, illegal immigration...abortion on demand...cut and run, flip-flop...," etc. These words "can activate large portions of the brain." (p. 70) He further notes, "every time such words and phrases are repeated, all the frames and metaphors and worldview structures are activated again and strengthened--because recurring activation strengthens neural connections." (p. 71)

Lakoff recalls how the word "liberal" was destroyed by conservatives through incessant repetition of such phrases as "tax and spend liberal, liberal elite, liberal media, limousine liberal," and so on. This is brainwashing postmodern style. Orville Schell in his introductory essay sees this sort of thing as "penetrating 'the inner heart' of individuals." (p. xx)

Nicholas Lemann in his essay "The Limits of Language" makes the point that the corruption of language, which is what Orwell was writing about in "Politics and the English Language," is one thing, but "an even more frightening political prospect" is "the corruption of information." (p. 15) Bush invaded Iraq under the auspices, as it were, of such a corruption of information. Lemann laments that "there often is no corrective mechanism at hand" when "the facts of a situation have been intentionally corrupted by people in power." (p. 15) Personally I am concerned about the truth hiding in plain sight, in news stories, in articles, in books, on the Internet, while remaining largely unrecognized and unappreciated amidst the massive information and misinformation overload that is burying all of us.

Mark Danner takes this quote from Orwell as the wellspring for his essay, "Words in a Time of War: On Rhetoric, Truth, and Power": "From the totalitarian point of view history is something to be created rather than learned." He goes on to show how this perfectly fits the mentality of Karl Rove, AKA "Bush's Brain." Quoting Ron Suskind, he reveals that Rove disdains what he calls "the reality-based community," opining that "We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you're studying that reality...we'll act again, creating other new realities...." (p. 23)

I wish I had the space to say something about the other excellent essays in this collection, but I am up against Amazon's 1,000-word limit, so just let me say this is an outstanding book, wonderfully conceived, eminently topical and profound. I suspect it is going to appear on college reading lists all over America in the next few years, and hopefully it will help a new generation of Americans resist the kind of political propaganda and fact manipulation ubiquitous in recent years.

By the way, Orwell's famous essay appears as an appendix.

Kathryn A Hickman

Riveting Must Read for all - especially now January 8, 2008

A book of galvanic essays written by noted journalists, authors, reporters, professors, and psychologists - What Orwell Didn't Know is truly a "must read" - especially before voting in the 2008 election. Prompted by the dismal state of "political discourse," today, five revered schools of journalism joined forces to create this anthology. Its 20 essays provide a vital resource to help readers and reporters alike to "disenthrall public debate from bias, hyperbole, bombast and lies."

Along the way, it enlightens readers about everything from brain research and the psychology of emotion to the devastating impact of the "Orwellian" Postal Reogranization Act of 1970 on small, independent opinion journals and magazines; the tragic and ironic consequences of the administration's "subservience of truth to power" in Iraq and in the US; the "carnivalesque media economy," the threat of corporate power, and our own willingness to look the other way when the Emporer has no clothes.

While I found a few of the 20 essays in the book somewhat less engaging, most were powerful, alarming, challenging and enlightening. And though Americans are more savvy today about the ways in which language can be manipulated and distorted for political ends, we can still be taken in....and we do ourselves, and our democaracy, a dangerous disservice if we do not question rigorously the medium, the message, the messenger the motives behind all we hear and read. "What Orwell Didn't Know" offers chilling evidence of our need for vigilance and action...I can't recommend it highly enough.

Malvin VINE™ VOICE

Against the corporate control of public consciousness February 19, 2008

"What Orwell Didn't Know" is an eye-opening compendium of pieces about the insidious use of propaganda in our time. Editor Andras Szanto presents outstanding works by eighteen intellectuals who compare Orwell's classic 1946 paper on propaganda, 'Politics and the English Language' (reprinted in its entirety) with the propaganda industry of today. Convincingly demonstrating how the science of propaganda has in fact metastisized into a very real threat to the Enlightenment ideal of progress, the authors implore us to sharpen our critical thinking skills as we seek to immunize ourselves to manipulation and struggle to keep our democracy alive.

Part One: Language and Politics includes six essays about how deceptive language serves political ends. Orwell believed that clarity in writing was essential to reasoned discourse and understood that fear is the gateway to despotism. The authors connect these concepts to the Bush administration's well-documented misrepresentations that have led the U.S. into its perpetual war on terror. Among many insights, we learn how the deceptive use of language has allowed the corporate-controlled state to deepen its control over the public consciousness and impose a far right-wing political agenda.

Part Two: Symbols and Battlegrounds contains six articles that explore how culturally-charged symbols are routinely exploited for political advantage. The authors discuss how post-Orwellian discoveries in cognitive sciences have demonstrated that reason is not just rational but emotional, complicating the task of disputation against the skilled propagandist. For example, the authors cite President Reagan's Star Wars proposal as an emotionally-appealing but unattainable solution to the overblown Communist menace that has distracted us from the real problem of nuclear proliferation. Similarly, the authors discuss how liberal causes such as women's rights and the environment have been revoiced in born-again Christian terms to the detriment of human progress and nature. Fortunately, the authors detect a growing challenge to the Christian Right by socially-conscious religious organizations and individuals such as Al Gore, whose cinematic jeremiad 'An Incovenient Truth' has succeeded in bringing attention to global warming by reframing the problem as a moral issue.

Part Three: Media and Message consists of five compositions on the dangers of concentrated media ownership plus an Epilogue by George Soros. Writing before television came into maturity, Orwell's concerns about the printed word seems almost quaint when compared with the ubiquitously persuasive powers of television on the public mind. The authors are appalled with the rise of the postmodern infotainment industry and the media's stakeholder role in promoting the spectacle of disaster; others voice their concerns about the lack of diverse perspectives and self-censorship practices which makes it more and more difficult to reach broad consensus on critical issues. And in an astute closing chapter, Mr. Soros concludes that the role of the media watchdog is more important than ever if we hope to curb dishonest reporting and reconnect the masses with reality.

I highly recommend this timely, thought-provoking and important book to everyone.

Marty Kaplan on the Weapons of Mass Distraction

July 12, 2013 | BillMoyers.com

Across the world - Greece, Spain, Brazil, Egypt - citizens are turning angrily to their governments to demand economic fair play and equality. But here in America, with few exceptions, the streets and airwaves remain relatively silent. In a country as rich and powerful as America, why is there so little outcry about the ever-increasing, deliberate divide between the very wealthy and everyone else?

Media scholar Marty Kaplan points to a number of forces keeping these issues and affected citizens in the dark - especially our well-fed appetite for media distraction.

"We have unemployment and hunger and crumbling infrastructure and a tax system out of whack and a corrupt political system - why are we not taking to the streets?" Kaplan asks Bill. "I suspect among your viewers, there are people who are outraged and want to be at the barricades. The problem is that we have been taught to be helpless and jaded rather than to feel that we are empowered and can make a difference."

An award-winning columnist and head of the Norman Lear Center at the University of Southern California, Kaplan also talks about the appropriate role of journalists as advocates for truth.

Interview Producer: Gina Kim. Editor: Rob Kuhns.
Intro Producer: Robert Booth. Intro Editor: Paul Henry Desjarlais.

BILL MOYERS: Welcome. Time again to talk with MARTY KAPLAN. Loyal members of Moyers and Company know him as one of the keenest and most sensible observers of politics, the press, and culture. He runs the Norman Lear Center at the University of Southern California, an independent promontory from which he lets his mind range wherever his insatiable curiosity takes him. Most recently, Brazil.

For several weeks, the largest country in Latin America has been shaken by a massive citizen uprising protesting political corruption, economic injustice, poor health care, inadequate schools, lousy mass transit, a crumbling infrastructure, and, get this, billions blown on sports. That's right, vast numbers of citizens in this soccer crazy nation are outraged that their government is spending billions of dollars to host the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Summer Olympics. This, in the land of Pelé.

They're even up in arms over the $74 million deal signed by the young soccer star Neymar da Silva. Crowds have been shouting, "Brazil, wake up. A teacher is worth more than Neymar!" Being no one's fool, Neymar has sided with the protesters and written on Facebook that their mobilization inspires him on the playing field.

Surveying this tumult, MARTY KAPLAN recently expressed wonder at this people's uprising and challenged us, his fellow Americans, "Let's Be Brazil." That's when I called and ask him to join me on the show. By the way, his work has just won two awards from the Los Angeles Press Club, including best columnist.

MARTY KAPLAN, welcome.

MARTY KAPLAN: Thanks very much.

BILL MOYERS: And congratulations on those awards.

MARTY KAPLAN: Thank you.

BILL MOYERS: You recently confessed to "outrage envy." What's that about?

MARTY KAPLAN: It's my feeling that what happened in Brazil, which is so encouraging about citizens taking their destiny in their own hands, is not happening here. We have unemployment and hunger and crumbling infrastructure and a tax system out of whack and a corrupt political system. Why are we not also taking to the streets is the question. And I want us to.

BILL MOYERS: You wrote "If you're not outraged…you're not paying attention." So are we not paying attention?

MARTY KAPLAN: We are paying attention to the wrong things. We are paying attention to infotainment, which is being spoon-fed to us and sadly, frankly, we are enabling because we love the stuff.

BILL MOYERS: "The infotainment narrative of life in America," you call.

MARTY KAPLAN: Yes. The tragedy of journalism now is that it is demand driven. And when you ask people what they want, we're like one of those rats that have a lever to push and cocaine comes out. And once that happens one time, they'll stay there till they die, until more of the drug appears. We can't help loving lurid stories and suspense and the kind of sex and violence which the news is now made up of.

BILL MOYERS: But you go on beyond the infotainment story. You say, "Our spirits have been sickened by the toxins baked into our political system." Powerful sentence. "Our spirits have been sickened by the toxins baked into our political system."

MARTY KAPLAN: The control of our democracy by money is shocking and deserves the same kind of response to corruption that it got in Brazil. And instead, we have become used to it. We don't see a way around it. There are voices, there are people like Larry Lessig that are trying to change the campaign finance system, the way media plays into that. But they are voices in the wilderness.

And we, the public, have wised up and decided either not to pay attention at all, or the media have decided not to force us to pay attention. And if we do pay attention, you can't live with the knowledge that our democracy is now so corrupt that it is unchangeable.

BILL MOYERS: So, if it is true as you say, that, "Our tax code is the least progressive in the industrial world," that we've witnessed "The most massive transfer of wealth in history," which is "Destroying our middle class," that "Tuition is increasingly unaffordable, and retirement increasingly unavailable," that "The banks that sold trillions of dollars of Americans' worth have not only gone unpunished; they're still at it," why are we not at the barricades?

MARTY KAPLAN: I suspect among your viewers, there were people who are outraged and want to be at the barricades. The problem is that we have been taught to be helpless and jaded rather than to feel that we are empowered and can make a difference--

BILL MOYERS: Taught by whom? By those of us who report the news of bad things happening?

MARTY KAPLAN: Well, the stuff that is being reported on the news tends not to be the kind of stuff that we need to know about in order to be outraged. Climate change is one of the great tests of journalism.

There was "The New York Times" headline about the first time that carbon dioxide in the atmosphere reached 400 parts per million. Which "The Times" said that carbon dioxide had reached a level not seen in "millions of years."

BILL MOYERS: Yeah.

MARTY KAPLAN: My jaw fell. You would think that that would cause a worldwide stir. And instead, it was a one-day story, onto the next thing.

BILL MOYERS: As you know, President Obama recently made a major speech in which he announced a new plan to tackle climate change. All three cable networks turned to the president's speech, but then they cut away from it well before it was intended to end. Fox News cut away saying the remarks could be streamed online, and then they turned to a guest critical of the president.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: The planet is warming, and human activity is contributing to it.

MEGYN KELLY on Fox News: But that is not the full story. We're going to stream the remainder of the President's remarks live on foxnews.com and in the meantime we'll be, we're joined now with some reaction. Chris Horner is the senior fellow and the Center for Energy and Environment at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, and the author of the book, "Red Hot Lies."

BILL MOYERS: Fox's host, Megyn Kelly wondered aloud about whether the country even needed to tackle the problem. And CNN's Wolf Blitzer cut in soon after--

WOLF BLITZER on CNN Newsroom: Alright, so the president making a major, major address on climate change. I want to bring in Jim Acosta, and the president has got some important news he's about to release--

BILL MOYERS: --and then Wolf continued to talk over the president's remarks. What do you make of that?

MARTY KAPLAN: The meta message is more interesting to journalism than the message itself. People--

BILL MOYERS: Meta message?

MARTY KAPLAN: The meta message is, here's grist for combat between different factions. How is it going to play out? Rather than the message, which is, here's what's happening to our climate, here's what we have to do to prevent it. That stuff risks being boring. But combat is never boring. What they don't know how to do is to talk about, well, what are our options here, America? How do we mitigate the effects of climate change?

Instead, they're refighting all these old battles. And that kind of combat is what they can do. The Sunday talk shows did something else, which is to completely ignore it. I mean, they probably had John McCain and Lindsey Graham on for the 27th time each, instead of dealing with what was the most important speech about climate change ever given by a sitting president.

BILL MOYERS: And ThinkProgress, the progressive website published an info-graphic, which pointed out that, as you say, Sunday's news shows ignored Obama's climate plan, late-night comedy shows picked up the slack. "The Daily Show" gave three minutes and 29 seconds to the president, "The Late Show" gave one minute, 33 seconds, "The Tonight Show" gave one minute and two seconds. "Meet the Press?" Zero seconds. Fox News? Zero seconds. ABC "This Week"? Zero seconds. "Face the Nation?" Zero seconds. "State of the Union" on CNN, zero seconds.

MARTY KAPLAN: Yeah, but I bet they kept us informed about the phony IRS scandal. They have stuff which they think pushes the buttons that makes people emotional and angry. And they just find climate change as snooze. They find guns a snooze. Look at what happened with Sandy Hook. Look at what happened with Hurricane Sandy and climate change. We are capable of turning away because we get bored with one thing and need the next.

BILL MOYERS: At the time of the Sandy Hook shootings, you wrote about the learned helplessness that seemed to permeate that situation. Talk about that a moment.

MARTY KAPLAN: We have had the unfortunate experience of being outraged, being Brazilians, trying to get something done, and watching as the dysfunctional system that we are forced to live under destroys momentum and creates stasis, or adds power to the already powerful, rather than enabling reform. We have, for example, on Capitol Hill, a system which is built on the need to create ads, narratives, phony reality about members who are running for office.

And they need to finance that because our television stations make a killing on that. Especially in the swing states. And so the only way they can finance it is by doing quid pro quo deals with special interests. So when the Newtown tragedy happened, my instinct was, yes, I know Obama's going to make a great speech and the polls are going to be 99 percent, but it's going to be business as usual. Our hearts will be broken, because the system is simply unresponsive and incapable of reform.

You watch that happen enough times, and you decide, why bother? You have to be someone who just fell off the turnip truck to think that popular outrage can make a difference. The truth is that we can make a difference. We can change the way campaigns are financed. We can change the electoral college. You name it, we can do things. But because we have been taught that we will be ineffective and fail, it seems like the gesture of a rube to be hopeful.

BILL MOYERS: But this takes us back to the Brazilians. Because as you know, the Brazilians were protesting, millions of them were protesting against the $31, $33 billion they're going be spending on the World Cup and the Summer Olympics. They were carrying signs about that 21-year-old soccer star who's just signed a deal for $74 million. And they were saying, a good teacher is worth more than this soccer star. Now somehow, their learned helplessness was overwhelmed, or overcome, or penetrated by some other consciousness.

MARTY KAPLAN: Well, but I think the key difference is that their democracy is new. They still believe in holding it accountable. They want to have a system that works. And as long as their promise is out there of making a difference, they want to hold the politicians' feet to the fire. In our case, we have an old democracy, which has ossified.

The narrative should be, the system is broken, let's fix it. The founders were not Moses or God and what they put in the Constitution, the Declaration of Independence, was not written in stone. It is meant to deal with things they could never imagine.

They could not imagine swing states and the amount of money you have to spend and what you have to do with special interests in order to get elected. There is a pathology in our system that we, as a country, refuse to acknowledge because it's a way of saying that we're not heaven's blessed child. We are humans.

BILL MOYERS: What intrigued me was that the Brazilians first sparked over an increase in the bus fare in São Paulo, and then it just spread. The bus fare. Yet when recently the Metropolitan Transit Authority here in New York raised the transit fare, it just, that wasn't even a ripple on the surface.

MARTY KAPLAN: Because the class that produces news has the kind of incomes that can absorb those kinds of changes. The news industry is now part of the privileged elite. They are not the scrappy adversaries that one would hope they would be fighting for the little guy. They are the man. And if public transportation costs a little more, the studio's going to send a car for them anyway. The problem is that corporate self-interest plays itself out in the content of news.

BILL MOYERS: As you know, there's a debate going on over journalism in America. The Pew Research Center recently wrote bleakly about the future of journalism.

The other side of it, Marty, is that some people are saying these are the "glory days" of journalism, because there's so much information out there online, if you have access. And you yourself recently wrote, and I'm quoting, "the best journalism in the world, from plenty of sources, is available online, often for no cents a day, and we can access it in video and audio as well, and from anywhere at any time." So where do you come down?

MARTY KAPLAN: And as long as you are a critical thinker. As long as you could sort the stuff that's reliable from the crud. As long as you understand that people who propagate information have interests. And so you could understand that, you know, this incredibly popular website is also the mouthpiece for this party. To be able to do that requires exposure to enough quality journalism so that you learn to tell the difference between the stuff that's being hawked in the bazaar that is intriguing and probably only partly accurate, between that and stuff which, where the facts are verified. We have had instance after instance in the last several months of stories in which it's the pressure to be first, to say something before anyone else has completely overridden the pressure to check is it accurate and valid.

And this is happening to the prestige outlets. They are not taking the time, because they have this bizarre notion that being first in the world of journalism, when microseconds count, it's like being a micro trader on Wall Street, that you're going to make or lose zillions by having those bragging rights. And in fact, the next day, they buy full-page ads in "The New York Times" saying, we were first to get this. They don't buy an ad when they say, we were first and wrong.

BILL MOYERS: Come back to cable for a moment. Because as you know, the three major cable outlets, MSNBC, Fox News, and CNN have been giving a lot of attention to the Trayvon Martin story--

NEWS ANCHOR #1: Yesterday, huge day in the George Zimmerman trial--

NEWS ANCHOR #2: Coming up, a crucial day in the George Zimmerman trial--

NEWS ANCHOR #3: George Zimmerman trial is eating up a lot of time on cable television--

NEWS ANCHOR #4: The trial that has got America entranced--

NEWS ANCHOR #5: We are watching with great interest--

NEWS ANCHOR #6: The jury is not yet seated. As soon as this trial begins in earnest we will take you there--

BILL MOYERS: It's a good story, by the way. Would they be doing this if people weren't watching?

MARTY KAPLAN: No. They are both creating and responding to demand. But what they're not doing is exercising journalism. What they're doing is they're part of the entertainment industry. They're providing content. Journalism, in principle, is set apart because it has a notion of what's important, not just interesting. And in a dream world, journalists would make important stuff interesting. That they would use the same kind of techniques they use in covering the Trayvon Martin case to make stuff like climate change just as compelling.

BILL MOYERS: You've been following the debate between Glenn Greenwald who broke the Edward Snowden story and NBC's David Gregory, who asked, well, let's listen to what David Gregory asked Glenn Greenwald on "Meet the Press."

DAVID GREGORY on Meet the Press: To the extent that you have aided and abetted Snowden, even in his current movements, why shouldn't you, Mr. Greenwald, be charged with a crime?

GLENN GREENWALD on Meet the Press: I think it's pretty extraordinary that anybody who would call themself a journalist would publicly muse about whether or not other journalists should be charged with felonies. The assumption in your question, David, is completely without evidence, the idea I've aided and abetted him in any way.

The scandal that arose in Washington before our stories began was about the fact that the Obama administration is trying to criminalize investigative journalism by going through the emails and phone records of AP reporters, accusing a Fox News journalist of the theory you just embraced, being a co-conspirator with felonies, in felonies for working with sources.

If you want to embrace that theory, it means every investigative journalist in the United States who works with their sources, who receives classified information is a criminal. And it's precisely those theories and precisely that climate that has become so menacing in the United States. It's why "The New Yorker's" Jane Mayer said investigative reporting has come to a "standstill," her word, as a result of the theories that you just referenced.

DAVID GREGORY on Meet the Press: Well, the question of who's a journalist may be up to a debate with regard to what you're doing. And of course anybody who's watching this understands I was asking a question, that question has been raised by lawmakers as well. I'm not embracing anything. But, obviously I take your point.

MARTY KAPLAN: The assumption of the question is that there is some dictionary somewhere that says what journalism is. The truth is that journalism, like a number of other things, is socially constructed. We enter into a contract through history and based on class and evidence of what journalism is or is not. Things get ruled in or ruled out all the time.

And the reasons they're ruled in or out is not because some school of journalism, some professor, says, well, here's the yardstick and it is or it isn't. The way in which things get ruled in or not is practice. What actually happens? So if David Gregory can ask a question and justify it by say, some in Congress are asking that question, that rules out nothing.

Some in Congress are morons. And those people will say anything. And as long as you can have the ability to do the "some say" game and call yourself a journalist and be in a mainstream marquee platform, then you are tugging at what the definition of journalism is. And I think it's entirely appropriate for Glenn Greenwald or anyone else to tug right back and say, no. What you have done changes the terms of the debate. Here's where I stand. And let's fight it out. Let's not let the imprimatur of some corporate trademark say that this defines what journalism is.

BILL MOYERS: So when Glenn Greenwald says, "Top officials are lying to our faces about government spying," is that journalism or is it prosecution? Is he a journalist or is he an activist?

MARTY KAPLAN: I think there is a credible case that journalism is activism. That if you, as a journalist covered climate change by saying, well, some say this and some say that, you're not being a journalist. You're being a tool of the people who want to intimidate journalism from covering evidence and the truth. So when Glenn Greenwald says that lying is going on, I don't think you can rule that out because of the activist nature of journalism. It either is true or not true. Let's settle it on those merits, not on the question of, does he have the credential to be able to do that?

BILL MOYERS: It does seem to me that the First Amendment guarantees us the right to draw a conclusion on the evidence, from the evidence that we have gathered.

MARTY KAPLAN: Yeah, and unfortunately, the, especially the right has learned to game the system and to say, no, no, journalism is not that. Journalism is, "We report, you decide." The phony slogan of Fox News. So giving people alleged evidence and letting them draw alleged conclusions is in the interest of people who want to throw sand in your face and work the ref so that they are softened up and afraid to say, here is the conclusion.

BILL MOYERS: So your point about the Trayvon Martin trial, about Paula Deen, whom we haven't even discussed about what you call the race, crime, and porn axis in tabloid news, cable news, your point is that it distracts us from and drives out attention to the problems that will take us down if we don't tackle them?

MARTY KAPLAN: Watch the birdie over here, not the corruption over there. That's what circuses are about, is to distract us and make us happy while we're being distracted. The challenge is not only to give us the information that we should be paying attention to and to do it in a way which keeps our attention, the challenge is also what do we as citizens do with that. And I think there is an aspect of journalism which is afraid of taking that extra step and empowering citizens or covering the citizens who have empowered themselves to try to make a difference.

BILL MOYERS: So when we do that, Marty, we run into what you wrote about recently, "Informed Citizen Disorder," ICD. Now for the benefit of my viewers who haven't read this, tell me what you mean by "Informed Citizen Disorder."

MARTY KAPLAN: Ever since I was in junior high school, I was taught that to be a good citizen meant you needed to know what was going on in your country and in your world. You should read the paper, you should pay attention to the news, that's part of your responsibility of being an American.

And the problem, especially in recent years, is the more informed I am, the more despondent I am, because day after day, there is news which drives me crazy and I want to see the public rise up in outrage and say, no, you can't do that, banks. You can't do that, corporations. You can't do that polluters, you have to stop and pay attention to the laws, or we're going to change the laws.

That every time that doesn't happen, and I keep learning each day the same thing, something bad happened and nothing was done about it, that's the news. The more that that's the case, the sadder one is when you consume all that news. So it, the, all the incentives are perverse. The way to be happy, to avoid this despondency is to be oblivious to it all, to live in Aldous Huxley's "Brave New World."

BILL MOYERS: So, given all that we've talked about and all you're writing about, where do you come out? Are you an optimist or a pessimist about what's happening to us?

MARTY KAPLAN: I have children. I have to be an optimist. The globe has children. We have to be optimists. There is no choice. What is the alternative? If you are a pessimist, well, the most you can do, I suppose, is medicate yourself with the latest blockbuster and some sugar, salt, and fat that's being marketed to you. The only responsible thing that you can do is say that individuals can make a difference and I will try, we will try, to make that.

BILL MOYERS: Don't they have to do it collectively. I mean, right now in North Carolina, there's a growing demonstration against the coup by the right wing that's been taken. But don't we have to do that collectively as they did in Brazil?

MARTY KAPLAN: Well, yes, we do. But moral Monday's in North Carolina is a great example. What happened in Wisconsin was a great example. When people see one another, they join one another. If the TV is covering these demonstrations, it draws other people into it. The internet has been, in principle, a way in which people can gauge the growth of a community of discontent.

It is not as important so far as actually physically getting off your duff and going into the street. And I'm under no illusion that I can ignite some national wave of protest. But as more and more cities become more and more unhappy with what their corrupt government is doing, maybe a critical mass builds.

BILL MOYERS: MARTY KAPLAN, thank you again for joining me.

MARTY KAPLAN: Thank you.

Bill

Bill and Marty. I completely agree with everything you both are saying. I want to voice my disagreement. As near as I can tell, the only "place" I can go is the internet and join like-minded people in our "collective disorder." But, where on the internet do I go? When you say: "go out on the street," what street? Mine? 5th avenue? I have called and emailed my Congressional representatives, but, as far as I can tell, it all ends up in a black hole. We need someone or some powerful entity to lead the charge. And, the only vehicle for getting our collective message across is the internet.

Robert McGovern

Marty is more like a lost and found department. If you realize that you've lost something,then go see Marty. If we can face up to the fact that we consume to satisfy our addictions, then help is on the way.

There is still time to turn off addictive media and turn on to nourishing media. After all, ratings and the ability to generate ad revenue respond quickly to lack of interest. If we commit to looking at real problems and real solutions, then the phony news will suffer. If we find places that help us to improve the quality of our life, then the interests that oppose it will falter.

At the moment, I'm most influenced by Marty's journalistic advice, which I translate as "Say what you mean" and "Tell it straight". I'm already doing less of "people say" or "you might think", etc. There are limits to how well I can pass on the wisdom of others. I'm looking for fewer limits on the expression of my own.

I'm committing to think first and click maybe, based on whether or not I want to improve the rating for wherever that click will take me. Ditto for cable and books. I'll make some exceptions. I accept the idea that people see reality the same way as their media inputs present it. If a lot of people are getting their input from a particular source, then that source is subject to inspection.

anonymous

Answer this fundamental question:

Why do Americans allow their election system to controlled by money with the result being corruption by special interests?

This is corporate America's and the Federal Reserves biggest trick.

I just don't get it.

Avatar

Kaplan was too kind because the news manipulation is sinister to say the least. We have corporate America controlling what we see and hear from its media and it is very effective in controlling the masses. The Zimmerman trial to other misdirected media spot lights is what we get to hear.

Even PBS is controlled by right winged corporate media now.

When everyone is starving for lack of a job from bogus 'free trade agreements', to lost retirement funds from fraudulent Wall Street practices, to Federal Reserve misleading the public, to politically slanted Supreme Court decisions, and to Global Climate change, JUST maybe people will then take to the streets.

God help us all.

Avatar

One of the distractions according to Mr Kaplan is .. his words: "the phony IRS scandal". Rather the the adjective phony I would use "Corrupt" The list of things that frustrate us are" banks; corporations and/or polluters.".No the greatest frustration comes from government & all is agencies; lying & corrupt politicians. Govt takes our earned income & taxes the heck out it & then spends it wastefully to buy votes. Congress has an approval of under 10% I believe & Obama's is around 42%. If Kaplan has any suggestions how govt could improve & win the hearts & minds of the folks it would be helpful..His views on capitalism was voiced on previous interviews which follows why he lists corporations & banks as big frustrations to him. If govt provides proper oversight over them his frustrations could be elleviated.but politicians accept graftor they extort money so.. there in lies the problem

Avatar

It would help if people would have an ecclesiatical epiphany, "All is vanity".

GZM

We had a chance with the "Occupy" movement, but it was essentially leaderless and has fallen off the radar. If we had a leader with the charisma, intelligence, public speaking power and total dedication of a Martin Luther King, we could pack the central districts of all of our major cities with enough outraged citizens to put fear and disbelief of the greedy, supercilious, puppets that supposedly lead our failing democracy.

ShouGuo

These are some encouraging words from Dr. Ben Carson: (p. 38, America the Beautiful)

As long as we have a courageous populace, and a courageous and unbiased media, we are likely to be able to correct significant societal problems as they arise, which is a part of the greatness of America. Unfortunately, political correctness threatens the integrity of the media, and we must all be vigilant in our attempt to continue the great experiment that is America.

Spiritgirl

So what are We supposed to do when not enough citizens are informed of the issues, the politicians have sold US out and the Oligarchy is plundering our treasury?!? Intrinsically I do think people know deep down that our system is broken, but there is also a division over FAUX distrctive non-sense to distract from the real issues! how do we get the truth to the low information people so that they understand what's really going on?

Freespeaking

We need a middle class TV station that does not represent the right or the left, but the normal every-day person working two jobs, feeding their kids and living from pay-check to pay-check. This station would cover simply issues that economically effect the middle class, not stories that right or left use to emotionally sway our views.

JW

This is amazingly relevant. As a 35 year old I suffer from this affliction. I am angry, informed, and have let apathy sink in. It is often looked down upon to be negative about the state of affairs in this country, and is seen as uncool. Though it must be granted that we, and myself, since coming out of college have been subject to a tech bubble bursting, the 9/11 downturn, and the continuing great recession. With this pressure more young people are forced to keep their mouths closed to protect their reputations and jobs. We are outnumbered by Boomers with great power and influence. What REAL steps are we to take to be active citizens while not being arrested, "ruining" our reputations, or losing our jobs?

cuyahogacat

it's not the Boomers, it's the corporate 1%. Most Boomers are behind the same eight- ball that is aimed toward the younger generation.

Nothing will happen until the majority of the people are backed into a corner with no other way out. Then like the animals we really are we will finally fight.

maku520

I haven't been able to watch the video yet, but wanted to say that I think a big part of why Americans are un-efficacious is because we lack a leadership that inspires us, a political program that stands for democracy and peace, and doesn't sugar coat the difficulty of the struggle we have before us. We need to build that leadership in the various movements for social and economic justice and be able to connect them all to challenge the institutions we oppose.

Ms_Phillips

12 comments? Are there only a dozen people out there making an attempt to be informed? Jeez.

Mike Davis

Brilliant and dead-on view of our perverse media system. While I'm no activist, Kaplan helps me understand the challenges in becoming one in America. Great piece!

zaltor

Thank you Bill Moyers and Co for your tireless pursuit and reporting of the truth.

leopardkitty8

The powers that be, i.e. wealthy heads of large corporations, find a way to keep America's citizens ignorant and entertained. That sums up what happens to the majority. The rest of us are just trying to skate by and stay afloat.

Ms_Phillips > leopardkitty8

Major factor: attack on FREE, public education that began w Reagan & the Republican push to spend tax-payer money on vouchers.

robort1138

Here's what's up in the new U.S.A... WE DON'T CARE. Some of us do, but take a closer look... we're diverse to a fault. Most people I know don't watch world news and have no interest in politics (beyond understanding we have no political representation anyway). Others that care are further fragmented into groups of their own deep special interests that concern them but not you. Here's a short list: Conservatives; Liberals; Upper Class Wage Earners; Lower Class Wage Earners; Pro Union; Anti Union; Black Power; White Power; Latino Power; Gay Rights; Yes On No; No On Yes; religions that tell you who to like, where to go; what to do and when to do it. We face more divisions than you can shake a stick at, especially here in the United States. This is the perfect climate for Corporatists and Politicians to take the money and run. Our form of government doesn't seem to work anymore, although it apparently works ok for them because, after all, they've spent years now grooming it to what it has become (it's no accident).

We've all heard that the larger corporations - and those at the top - are pulling down record profits these days, and that most politicians are retiring as millionaires. Politicians complain too much of their time is required chasing campaign funds, yet no crusaders emerge to instigate reform. They say they don't have time to actually read most of these bills they vote for or against. Their lobbyists keep them informed as to what needs to be done, the dollar amount their vote is worth and who's signing their check for it. We're too divided. You've heard "united we stand (remember WWII) and divided we fall.

Well guess what: WE DON'T CARE.

Those born here used to care, but faces have changed and now we don't. Government keeps just enough of us comfortable such that they know we aren't willing to take it to the streets, wind up in jail, when we could be at home drinking beer, watching baseball players that spit in a manly way (America's favorite pastime). I have a large flat screen Color TV, a cell phone and temperature controlled leather seats. WHY SHOULD I CARE WHAT TOMORROW BRINGS? I already know a bit of Russian, could learn Chinese, or what ever it takes.

marvin steiner > robort1138

We have a lot of information, some knowledge, but very little understanding.

SK

I'd like to see BM ask Kaplan if he has joined any activist protests...or if he's another white collar type journo who just reports on the news, but doesn't do any "carnal" activism

prettymeadow

In part, I suspect it is because peaceful protests have become an arresting offence even though our constitution guarantees peaceful assembly. This was started under GW Bush when protesters would be held in pens away from the president when they would wear a t-shirt or hold a sign that was against him. The Occupy movement has experienced the same brutality by officers who were sworn to uphold the constitution and laws of this country. We have become a lawless nation at the highest levels of government, so why are we surprised when no one wants to be arrested as it will also hurt possible job prospects in the future.

marvin steiner > prettymeadow

Police clearing and arresting protesters at the recent session of the Texas legislature.

Daniel Brenek > prettymeadow

Yes, there is a right to LAWFULLY assemble. That doesn't mean occupy private property for days, weeks or months.

kitstealey

The architects of this great divide, beginning with Reagan and his cronies in 1981, have done a masterful job at setting us against one another in a desperate fight for the few crumbs they were willing to throw us.

They've convinced us that the "other" is to blame - generally those directly below us on the ladder. As years have gone on, and we've witnessed our opportunities diminish and our resources vanish, in our panic we've allowed ourselves to be turned against one another. It's diabolically clever - we never think to look up, where all the wealth has gone, and where it will stay.

Those hardy souls among us who have tried to direct our attention to the systematic plundering of our Nation have been savaged, not only by the mainstream media, but by their fellow citizens. Those daring to question the concentration of the Nation's wealth in the hands of one percent of its population are called socialists, lazy moochers, losers, and worse. We've bought into this myth that if we aren't making it, we are lazy or stupid or somehow un-American, when the simple fact is: the fix is in.

I don't believe all of us are jaded or feel helpless. I believe many of us have been bullied into silence and obeisance by this fear (especially since 9/11) of being branded as traitors if we speak out against the powerful few. I believe many feel that speaking out, or joining together in protest, will result in retribution. Evidence of this is the way unions have been under attack since 1981. Where I live, "union" is synonomous with "commie." Even as it becomes increasingly clear that unless we stand as one against this tyranny of wealth, we will never again prosper.

susanpub

The more informed I am, the more despondent I am, Marty Kaplan says. No kidding.

Tom Welsh

Wonderful segment....

HOWEVER!

I am stunned that no mention, much less analysis, was made of the Occupy movement...how could this be?

spw > Tom Welsh

I found this very puzzling as well. I kept waiting to hear more about both Occupy and the apparently very different attitude to media in Brazil, but both were lacking.

marvin steiner > spw

The constraints of time. choice of content, and context. If that segment had not been so well managed it could have become a lecture.

cgmcle

Bill Moyers: "So, if it is true as you say, that, 'Our tax code is the least progressive in the industrial world,' that we've witnessed 'The most massive transfer of wealth in history,' which is 'Destroying our middle class,' ... why are we not at the barricades?"

Many Americans were at the barricades two years ago protesting the vast economic injustices that have become rigidly institutionalized in the U.S. What was most notable about their efforts was the way the majority of americans reacted, belittling them, insulting them, calling them unpatriotic, and defending the small minority in this country who neither need nor deserve to be defended. (Indeed, many should be prosecuted.)

The blind patriotism in the U.S. will either decline or continue to aid, abet, and accelerate the nation's decline. The unfettered faith that "We're no 1!" not only betrays ignorance but leads the ignorant to believe that we've scaled the summit, that we've achieved the ultimate in our quest to "form a more perfect union."

The plutocrats of this country have been effectively bribing politicians for decades. Fortunately for the plutocrats, a majority of the citizens come much cheaper, deceived by the simple misdirection tricks of a malevolent magician.

Ms_Phillips > cgmcle

I don't think the majority of Americans reacted as reported to the Occupy Movement. The "reporting" was bogus.

Joyce Berger

"Weapons of Mass Distraction" was disturbing if for no other reason than the personal frustration of being unable to do anything about the massive problems. Seems to me that popular mobilization will only come in the wake of a catastrophic event such as the civil rights turmoil of the 60's when most of the U.S. began to internalize the magnitude of the injustice against a significant part of our population. I don't know another person who identifies that our national problems are part of the power structure. The people I know aren't persuaded that the U.S. economic situation is anything other than a personal failing (never mind that it afflicts millions). I've come to believe voting is not the solution nor are any of the other time-honored tactics such as futile attempts to communicate with state and national legislators. Only mass action will begin a solution and I don't see that on the immediate horizon.

Check out freebarrettbrown dot org for more information

[Jun 15, 2013] The Real War on Reality

A great article that has made effective use of history ("what has happened") to guide policy ("what should happen")
June 15, 2013 | NYTimes.com

If there is one thing we can take away from the news of recent weeks it is this: the modern American surveillance state is not really the stuff of paranoid fantasies; it has arrived.

The revelations about the National Security Agency's PRISM data collection program have raised awareness - and understandably, concern and fears - among American and those abroad, about the reach and power of secret intelligence gatherers operating behind the facades of government and business.

Surveillance and deception are not just fodder for the next "Matrix" movie, but a real sort of epistemic warfare.

But those revelations, captivating as they are, have been partial -they primarily focus on one government agency and on the surveillance end of intelligence work, purportedly done in the interest of national security. What has received less attention is the fact that most intelligence work today is not carried out by government agencies but by private intelligence firms and that much of that work involves another common aspect of intelligence work: deception. That is, it is involved not just with the concealment of reality, but with the manufacture of it.

The realm of secrecy and deception among shadowy yet powerful forces may sound like the province of investigative reporters, thriller novelists and Hollywood moviemakers - and it is - but it is also a matter for philosophers. More accurately, understanding deception and and how it can be exposed has been a principle project of philosophy for the last 2500 years. And it is a place where the work of journalists, philosophers and other truth-seekers can meet.

In one of the most referenced allegories in the Western intellectual tradition, Plato describes a group of individuals shackled inside a cave with a fire behind them. They are able to see only shadows cast upon a wall by the people walking behind them. They mistake shadows for reality. To see things as they truly are, they need to be unshackled and make their way outside the cave. Reporting on the world as it truly is outside the cave is one of the foundational duties of philosophers.

In a more contemporary sense, we should also think of the efforts to operate in total secrecy and engage in the creation of false impressions and realities as a problem area in epistemology - the branch of philosophy concerned with the nature of knowledge. And philosophers interested in optimizing our knowledge should consider such surveillance and deception not just fodder for the next "Matrix" movie, but as real sort of epistemic warfare.

To get some perspective on the manipulative role that private intelligence agencies play in our society, it is worth examining information that has been revealed by some significant hacks in the past few years of previously secret data.

Important insight into the world these companies came from a 2010 hack by a group best known as LulzSec (at the time the group was called Internet Feds), which targeted the private intelligence firm HBGary Federal. That hack yielded 75,000 e-mails. It revealed, for example, that Bank of America approached the Department of Justice over concerns about information that WikiLeaks had about it. The Department of Justice in turn referred Bank of America to the lobbying firm Hunton and Willliams, which in turn connected the bank with a group of information security firms collectively known as Team Themis.

Team Themis (a group that included HBGary and the private intelligence and security firms Palantir Technologies, Berico Technologies and Endgame Systems) was effectively brought in to find a way to undermine the credibility of WikiLeaks and the journalist Glenn Greenwald (who recently broke the story of Edward Snowden's leak of the N.S.A.'s Prism program), because of Greenwald's support for WikiLeaks. Specifically, the plan called for actions to "sabotage or discredit the opposing organization" including a plan to submit fake documents and then call out the error. As for Greenwald, it was argued that he would cave "if pushed" because he would "choose professional preservation over cause." That evidently wasn't the case.

Team Themis also developed a proposal for the Chamber of Commerce to undermine the credibility of one of its critics, a group called Chamber Watch. The proposal called for first creating a "false document, perhaps highlighting periodical financial information," giving it to a progressive group opposing the Chamber, and then subsequently exposing the document as a fake to "prove that U.S. Chamber Watch cannot be trusted with information and/or tell the truth."

(A photocopy of the proposal can be found here.)

In addition, the group proposed creating a "fake insider persona" to infiltrate Chamber Watch. They would "create two fake insider personas, using one as leverage to discredit the other while confirming the legitimacy of the second."

Psyops need not be conducted by nation states; they can be undertaken by anyone with the capabilities and the incentive to conduct them.

The hack also revealed evidence that Team Themis was developing a "persona management" system - a program, developed at the specific request of the United States Air Force, that allowed one user to control multiple online identities ("sock puppets") for commenting in social media spaces, thus giving the appearance of grass roots support. The contract was eventually awarded to another private intelligence firm.

This may sound like nothing so much as a "Matrix"-like fantasy, but it is distinctly real, and resembles in some ways the employment of "Psyops" (psychological operations), which as most students of recent American history know, have been part of the nation's military strategy for decades. The military's "Unconventional Warfare Training Manual" defines Psyops as

"planned operations to convey selected information and indicators to foreign audiences to influence their emotions, motives, objective reasoning, and ultimately the behavior of foreign governments, organizations, groups, and individuals."

In other words, it is sometimes more effective to deceive a population into a false reality than it is to impose its will with force or conventional weapons. Of course this could also apply to one's own population if you chose to view it as an "enemy" whose "motives, reasoning, and behavior" needed to be controlled.

Psyops need not be conducted by nation states; they can be undertaken by anyone with the capabilities and the incentive to conduct them, and in the case of private intelligence contractors, there are both incentives (billions of dollars in contracts) and capabilities.

Several months after the hack of HBGary, a Chicago area activist and hacker named Jeremy Hammond successfully hacked into another private intelligence firm - Strategic Forcasting Inc., or Stratfor), and released approximately five million e-mails. This hack provided a remarkable insight into how the private security and intelligence companies view themselves vis a vis government security agencies like the C.I.A. In a 2004 e-mail to Stratfor employees, the firm's founder and chairman George Friedman was downright dismissive of the C.I.A.'s capabilities relative to their own: "Everyone in Langley [the C.I.A.] knows that we do things they have never been able to do with a small fraction of their resources. They have always asked how we did it. We can now show them and maybe they can learn."

The Stratfor e-mails provided us just one more narrow glimpse into the world of the private security firms, but the view was frightening. The leaked e-mails revealed surveillance activities to monitor protestors in Occupy Austin as well as Occupy's relation to the environmental group Deep Green Resistance. Staffers discussed how one of their own men went undercover ("U/C") and inquired about an Occupy Austin General Assembly meeting to gain insight into how the group operates.

Stratfor was also involved in monitoring activists who were seeking reparations for victims of a chemical plant disaster in Bhopal, India, including a group called Bophal Medical Appeal. But the targets also included The Yes Men, a satirical group that had humiliated Dow Chemical with a fake news conference announcing reparations for the victims. Stratfor regularly copied several Dow officers on the minutia of activities by the two members of the Yes Men.

One intriguing e-mail revealed that the Coca-Cola company was asking Stratfor for intelligence on PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) with Stratfor vice president for Intelligence claiming that "The F.B.I. has a classified investigation on PETA operatives. I'll see what I can uncover." From this one could get the impression that the F.B.I. was in effect working as a private detective Stratfor and its corporate clients.

Stratfor also had a broad-ranging public relations campaign. The e-mails revealed numerous media companies on its payroll. While one motivation for the partnerships was presumably to have sources of intelligence, Stratfor worked hard to have soap boxes from which to project its interests. In one 2007 e-mail, it seemed that Stratfor was close to securing a regular show on NPR: "[the producer] agreed that she wants to not just get George or Stratfor on one time on NPR but help us figure the right way to have a relationship between 'Morning Edition' and Stratfor."

On May 28 Jeremy Hammond pled guilty to the Stratfor hack, noting that even if he could successfully defend himself against the charges he was facing, the Department of Justice promised him that he would face the same charges in eight different districts and he would be shipped to all of them in turn. He would become a defendant for life. He had no choice but to plea to a deal in which he may be sentenced to 10 years in prison. But even as he made the plea he issued a statement, saying "I did this because I believe people have a right to know what governments and corporations are doing behind closed doors. I did what I believe is right." (In a video interview conducted by Glenn Greenwald with Edward Snowden in Hong Kong this week, Snowden expressed a similar ethical stance regarding his actions.)

Given the scope and content of what Hammond's hacks exposed, his supporters agree that what he did was right. In their view, the private intelligence industry is effectively engaged in Psyops against American public., engaging in "planned operations to convey selected information to [us] to influence [our] emotions, motives, objective reasoning and, ultimately, [our] behavior"? Or as the philosopher might put it, they are engaged in epistemic warfare.

The Greek word deployed by Plato in "The Cave" - aletheia - is typically translated as truth, but is more aptly translated as "disclosure" or "uncovering" - literally, "the state of not being hidden." Martin Heidegger, in an essay on the allegory of the cave, suggested that the process of uncovering was actually a precondition for having truth. It would then follow that the goal of the truth-seeker is to help people in this disclosure - it is to defeat the illusory representations that prevent us from seeing the world the way it is. There is no propositional truth to be had until this first task is complete.

This is the key to understanding why hackers like Jeremy Hammond are held in such high regard by their supporters. They aren't just fellow activists or fellow hackers - they are defending us from epistemic attack. Their actions help lift the hood that is periodically pulled over our eyes to blind us from the truth.

Peter Ludlow is a professor of philosophy at Northwestern University and is currently co-producing (with Vivien Weisman) a documentary on Hacktivist actions against private intelligence firms and the surveillance state.

Edward Butterworth Victoria BC

I totally agree but you do not go half far enough. It is philosophy's job to reveal the truth but also, in my opinion, to speculate how we might resolve problems that are revealed rather than be resigned to endless decline. The future is the realm of possibilities which can be a creative, evolutionary response to an unprecedented crisis (climate change). In my view it will take nothing less than a paradigm shift, the breaking of the hegemony of the US elite and their clones around the world. Recent leaks are undermining the credibility of the established order which is the basis of their power. If Bradley Manning is jailed for years will he be forgotten or will he be a martyr for a growing movement who see him as a prisoner of conscience, joined by Hammond, Snowden and maybe Assange? Each one of them undermines the vitality of the planet-destroying system which we have made and now need to unmake

theduke California

Mr. Butterworth: And after you break "the hegemony of the US elite and their clones around the world," just who do you suppose will fill that vacuum? Hint: it could very well be something that is incalculably worse for the planet, its people and Western democratic, humanitarian values

There is no "planet-destroying system." There are only large players who are occasionally discovered to be doing things, often unintentionally, that are not environmentally or socially sound. There are smaller players guilty of the same thing. The idea that there is some over-arching conspiracy to destroy the planet is ludicrous, as is the idea that the system as designed is leading us to Doomsday. It is in no one's interest for that to happen. If the players in the world- national-, or local economies are actually doing harm, they need to be regulated by government. Government is arguably doing its job in that regard, although I could easily argue it's overdoing it and violating the rights of people under our Constitution and others around the world

Who is regulating government? If the AP, Fox News, IRS and now the Prism and other surveillance scandals are any indication, the answer is, "No One."

Mark Vermont

Great article. The dark arts and dirty tricks of shaping public opinion and influencing media is not new, but it's refreshing to see reporting on specific incidents to educate people on the degree to which the effort is made and the shape and style in which these tasks are performed. Goebbels is rightfully vilified in history, but US lobbying and p.r. groups seem to be able to freely plagiarize his playbook with impunity. Great to see a national press organization shine the light on it. If only that light could shine a bit brighter while it's happening instead of after the fact. As for Morning Edition...it's been whoring as an echo chamber for these types for years

EDJ Canaan, NY

Americans are being reduced to low information serfs in a neo-feudal society. Ruled by a plutocratic elite who own not only most of our country's wealth, but who are able through their lobbyists to control the actions of all three branches of government, and in concert with international businesses, propagandistic think takes, ownership of news media, and significant control of corporate academe, these new Lords can now reconstitute realty to serve whatever interests suit their pleasure

In a word, Americans have lost sovereignty over our rights as citizens, our claims to an equitable share of America's wealth, and now are losing control over access to fundamental knowledge about what constitutes social realty. Friendly fascism not only allows for a material monopoly over property, jobs, laws, civil rights, and all the other various constructs that make possible the integrity of our human selves, but through mass technology and the corporate intelligence industry that manipulates our consumption of knowledge, we are at risk of losing the ability to understand what is being done to us and who is doing it

a2 annarbor

Re Danny P

We had the War, and the draft, and Nixon, all real and defined clearly on TV every day

The power of our government, the press and the Chamber of Commerce ended Occupy. A2

omega shetland islands

They didn't end Occupy. The Chamber of Commerce, much like a virus, tried to attack the integrity and health of Occupy, but only succeeded in helping to distribute the idea on an exponentially more widespread basis

Grand Pianos in every park in America. Expect us

Roger Michigan

Whatever the arguments about the legality of the actions under Prism, it is not sufficient for justice to be done; it must be seen to be done. Much of the furor over the issue is that not only are the details kept secret, so is the process itself (or at least it was until Mr Snowden went public)

Diana Moses Arlington, MA

There seems to me to be a big strand in all this of people doing whatever so long as they can get away with it, an absence of the ability to police the self in the presence of a temptation. Maybe we need to bring back the honor code in all kinds on contexts, including in education, and train people how to use it so they get in the habit. As it is, I think a lot of these people in public life behave as if they need supervision, someone to say to them, "What were you thinking? No, that's not okay; it may be clever and you may have a spiffy rationale for it, but no, it's not okay." I would sum up the issue as "poor judgment." How do we form an apparatus to make wise judgments? Not through STEM education, I would argue. One of the tried and true methods is to teach a person skills and then put them in such a difficult situation that they are forced to see the world differently from the way they did before. Think of rites of passage or The Fall. That gives the participant a basis for humility, for a recognition of a need for pluralism, and for compassion for others, I think

Danny P Warrensburg

I've always found recognition of a need for pluralism to be the opposite of an honor-code-personal-responsibility-wise-choices ethic. Seeking out broad agreement or many different viewpoints inevitably moves one away from the top-shelf mentalities and towards a lowest common denominator style of thinking. Pluralism, to me at least, is middling more than anything else. Entitlement or false belief in superiority may lead one well down a wrong path much farther, to a place far below average, but I'd prefer people gamble on being above average than settling for just average. I think there's a reason why the word "peerless" was once considered a compliment but has fallen out of usage these days

Diana Moses Arlington, MA

Danny P,

I think the source for so much guidance is being able to walk a mile in others' moccasins -- that kind of pluralism I don't think is at odds with behaving in a way that serves regardless of who is watching, I think the two go hand in hand. Maybe I shouldn't have used the word "pluralism"?

Chris Minneapolis

Surprising that Mr. Ludlow makes no mention of so-called Think Tank industry, particularly the hundreds that have sprung on the right over the past years. Most are little more than propaganda mills subsidized by wealthy private and corporate interests and whose activity encompasses both public and private issues - provided a line can actually be drawn between these spheres any longer. In fact, think tanks seem to be in the business of confusing just such matters given the often parade themselves as serving the public interest while in truth operating with a private agenda, But sowing confusion and working to dis-inform the electorate are par for the course with outfits like these. So one has to wonder how the private psyops firms Mr. Ludlow details really differ from think tanks industry on fundamental strategy. Is it scope of the issues? The scale of the operation? How they are funded? What's the real difference, if any?

Bill Gilwood San Dimas, CA

While we're at it, which of the big stories and social movements during my lifetime (mid 50's onward) were influenced by psyops and how and by who?

C Wolfe Bloomington, IN

I'm shocked by the high percentage of Americans who are untroubled by surveillance issues-mainly, it seems, because they are confident they're doing nothing wrong. But that depends on who's defining "wrong"

When the POTUS comes to town, it's become conventional to set aside so-called "free speech" zones, and only there are you allowed to display protest placards. I can't believe people have acquiesced to this severe violation of their right to free assembly and speech. If you demonstrate outside this zone, that would give cause to treat you as a criminal, and all the data collected on you could be arranged to show who-knows-what. You could have the wrong associates and get branded a potential terrorist: maybe you have a friend in PETA or go out for a drink with somebody you work with who (perhaps unbeknownst to you) belongs to an organization that engages in direct-action anit-abortion or environmentalist protests, or sends money to a Palestinian aid group. These days, that's enough to arrest a citizen-and if enough mistaken inferences are drawn, to "disappear" you without access to an attorney, or make you the target of a drone

So while I have nothing to hide, how do I know some critical mass of associations I'm not even aware of won't trigger an alert? I'm four times more like to be struck by lightning than to be the victim of a terrorist attack. The odds of some private-contractor bozo making an error and trampling on my rights seems much higher, and increasing

Bill Gilwood San Dimas, CA

Psyops is used in our elections

CS MN

What role does technological change play in this? I am of two (or maybe more) minds on this

First, maybe things aren't really worse than they used to be. Maybe this type of thing has been going on for a long time. Or perhaps, it has increased but primarily due to changes in the culture that are not related to technology

But maybe technology really does play an important role here. Are we discovering technologically-enabled changes in the ease of disseminating falsehoods as a large-scale and well-organized enterprise?

On the other hand, 50 years ago, without an insider turning informant, the only way such activities would come to light would have been through a physical (as opposed to a virtual) break-in, which seems close to impossible to pull off

Is there actually more disinformation because of technology, or are we just hearing about it more because more of it coming to light due to technology?

Sal Anthony Queens, NY

In keeping with your perspective, if we juxtapose the increasing sphere of freedom and human action, I'd wager that disinformation and deception are not keeping pace. That is, consider how circumscribed in every possible way the lives of our predecessors were compared to ours. From that point of view, all these "assaults on our reality" are piddling compared with how varied and rich that reality now is

Using a concrete example, think about how many physical places and websites you've visited and how many calls and emails and texts and twitters you've made and how many electronic devices and video games and books you've used, just, say, in the past month. All of your transactions and travels and online connections, all of the arduous labor you're not engaging in because of automobiles and washing machines and airplanes and smart phones, and so on

Simply put, deception is what put Socrates to death, and it has been pulling the wool over the eyes of humanity since time began. However, with eyes that now see deep into the quantum realm and far to the outer galaxies, it will take more wool than all the sheep in England for the deceivers to do the kind of deceiving they've been doing since Eve made Adam eat the apple

Optimistically, S.A. Traina

June 15, 2013 at 4:39 p.m. Recommended2

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theduke California

The professor seems to believe that the groups that are hacking and are being monitored by private intelligence companies are themselves conveying a certain indisputable truth, presumably because they are well-intentioned. That is, philosophically, an unsupportable position. Does everyone believe that PETA is truthful in all their communications. Or Occupy Austin? Has it not occurred to the professor that this really is not about epistemology, but about trying to combat what those companies who hire private intelligence contractors believe to be misinformation? That they are combating propaganda meant to damage them and their ability to conduct business because of the inherent biases of those who espouse a radical left-wing agenda?

The actions of hackers do not necessarily "lift the hood that is periodically pulled over our eyes to blind us from the truth." They occasionally tell us something we may not know, but I think most hackers are self-promoting, narcissistic individuals who ignore how important corporations are to comfort and well-being of all people who use their products and services. The anti-corporate mentality that assumes that all corporations are bad and are working to the detriment of society is a mark of immature thinking. The grandiosity of the people (usually young and cynical) who hack and think they are saving society is evident every time they attempt to justify their illegal actions. They should not be celebrated by philosophy or society

elementaryschoolvolunteer, Bradenton, FL

Organize Flash Mob boycotts on-line: People agree to boycott a corporation for a week or a month. If enough people join in that sales significantly decrease for that period, consumers/citizens might gain some control over corporations. Those behind advertising and political spin might have to rethink how they try to control us

June 15, 2013 at 3:43 p.m. Recommended9

Beluga Barb Seattle, WA

It's terrifying but true: law enforcement just like anyone else is going to fry the fish it can most easily. So the already impotent citizen gets the shaft, while major corporations and bed boys of the security-technology complex operate a high tech, powerful, criminal gang

This article is highly disturbing

It's a favorite of law enforcement everywhere to incarcerate and otherwise attack citizens with marginal, vague charges like harassment and disorderly conduct. And yet here we have large scale, malicious, defamatory activities specifically designed not to just harass but effectively destroy citizen causes. Even if the FBI is not serving as the personal investigator for these companies, this type of behavior from these corporations - de facto domestic "non-violent" terrorists - needs to be criminally prosecuted.

June 15, 2013 at 3:25 p.m. Recommended14

michael birmingham, alabama

In a society that has raised millions of people who are walled-off from the real world and plugged into "virtual reality," e-friends, and video simulations, and a strong sense of entitlement, I can only think that this problem will get much, much worse--if only because governmental and private intel agencies will have their pick of employees among an increasing pool of moral relativists and social misfits

Scorpio69er Hawaii

Thousands of technology, finance and manufacturing companies are working closely with U.S. national security agencies, providing sensitive information and in return receiving benefits that include access to classified intelligence, four people familiar with the process said

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-06-14/u-s-agencies-said-to-swap-data-..

June 15, 2013 at 2:56 p.m. Recommended4

Daniel12 Wash. D.C

If American society--and the people of the world as well--are really serious about creating a humanity which is "not taken in by deceptive practices"--and by "really serious" I mean with no playing of political games of either left or right and foisting paranoid views on society--what we need is a total psychological project by the whole of society to determine characteristics of people "who are taken in easily, fooled easily in life" as well as determine those "who are not taken in easily in life".--And perhaps genetically create "non-fools in life"

The fact is it seems the norm that people are "easily taken in, fooled in life". We do not need to make great efforts to deceive people. This proposition can be easily tested on oneself by observing how easily one sinks into the enjoyment of a film or how easily one is taken in by a piece of sleight of hand in a game of cards. Most of us humans seem quite biologically formed for being deceived in life. To speak in "Matrix terms", if we quite easily lose ourselves while watching a film, enter the "reality of the film"--a two hour event--imagine the effect on a person of being born into "a deceptive event" which persists over a lifetime, such as fascist or communist or religious propaganda. In fact all of reality could be a deception

But we might get best results for our species by trusting the views of those people who have demonstrated greatest natural ability not to be fooled, not be taken in by ANY event in life..

June 15, 2013 at 2:37 p.m. Recommended3

Hypatia Santa Monica CA

It's even worse than I thought. Thank you, Peter Ludlow (I guess)for chilling my blood with these detailed revelations

As a college student decades ago, I couldn't sleep for a week after reading "1984". Not surprising that after revelations of government wrong-doing, the book is flying off the shelves, as a new generations discovers how our democracy is being systematically undermined via the unholy alliiance between government and private , for-profit "Big Brothers"

John T NY

"When this was exposed during the Iran-Contra hearings, one top administration official described the activities of the Office of Public Diplomacy as one of their really great achievements. It was, he said, a spectacular success. He described it as the kind of operation that you carry out in enemy territory. And that's quite an appropriate phrase. I think the phrase expresses exactly the way in which the public is viewed by people with power: it's an enemy, it's a domestic enemy." - Noam Chomsky

I have found this quote of Chomsky increasingly relevant these days

As Chomsky points out, the only thing the power elite in this country are really afraid of is the American domestic population. That is because the domestic population is the only threat to their power. For the power elite, the domestic population is and always has been the primary enemy and the primary thing which must be controlled

sdavidc9 Cornwall Bridge, Connecticut

The easiest way to stand up to psychops from the enemy is to inhabit a bubble and ignore anything that tries to puncture or discredit the bubble, by seeing it as a psychop of the enemy. And anything within one's own bubble is either not a psychop because your side does not do such things or a clever Machiavellian move against the enemy, allowed and encouraged because the enemy is out to get you

Communists and Fascists battled in the streets of Germany, France, and Italy before World War II, and in Russia until the Communists won. This was a battle between two bubbles. But the most dangerous threat to these bubbles, as always, was the existence of people and groups who wished to avoid and escape from rather than live in bubbles. Communists and Fascists often joined in destroying these groups, which had to be done to make way for their final battle

In the former Yugoslavia the greatest threat to Serbs and Croatians was not each other but rather those, known as cosmopolitans, who intermarried and fraternized with the enemy and did not get their primary identity from their ethnicity and religion. Similarly, in Iraq and Syria the mixed neighborhoods had to be destroyed

Many of us are dubious about the institutions that defend and protect our interests. Keeping these doubts to ourselves builds our particular bubble

boson777 palo alto CA

With Snowden's report, cameras on every corner, and a host of other Orwellian realities emerging, articles like this of mister Ludlow naturally follow. But when, we should ask our selves, exactly was the golden dawn when disinformation wasn't so prevalent? I grew up in the 1950s, when happiness was defined by washing machines, vacuums, TV, amphetamines, and lynchings of people with different skin tones. The father of marketing in the US, and now the globe, was Sigmund Freud's nephew Edward Bernays. The father of advertising was behaviorist J. B. Watson. Before internet computing we had J. Edgar Hoover and the tape recording machine. Really, was there ever a time Business didn't lie to the public to get at their money, or that government didn't sneak around and kill their enemies in dark corners? I think the difference between then and now is that now such activity gets leaked more often, whereas our predecessors simply lived in the fantasy world created for them by the oligarchy and their henchmen, the government

June 15, 2013 at 12:07 p.m. Recommended28

Josh Hill New London

Don't you think, though, that the balance of power has shifted? Those forces were always present and powerful, to be sure, but we had a powerful reform movement in the United States -- TR, Wilson, FDR, Truman, JFK, Johnson. And during that golden period, there was a justified sense that the people were making progress, that government, despite abuses like those that occurred during the McCarthy era, was basically on the public's side

Now, the best we can hope for is a centrist Democrat like Clinton or Obama who is able to prevent the radical right from imposing complete insanity, but not stem the erosion of our civil liberties, our democratic institutions, and the American Dream

James Mathieu Jackson, Wyoming

The allegory of Plato's cave endures and is certainly apt in this overview of public/private espionage/hacking/hacktivism. There is a critical difference though ..

Plato contended that those who seek and then discover the source of the light would return to the cave and become "philosopher/kings". These "Philosopher Kings" were better qualified to rule than the politicians (who also happened to cause Athens to fall to Sparta). Jeremy Hammond and Edward Snowdon would be Plato's candidates to return to the cave and to dispell the shaodws on the wall

George Friedman would be the historical equivalent of an Athenian politician who is, therefore, untrustworthy and manipulative. I agree with the writer from Utah, Mr. Mabbutt, because Goldman Sachs and Monsanto would have created the cave in the first place, but they would forever deny there was a different source of light. Of course the Philosopher Kings would disagree, but their brave proof would not allign with the "national interest"

Robert Naperville, IL

The effort to manipulate others by conveying to them selected information is known also as campaigning and advertising. The private security agencies described are operating like marketing companies or churches, doing what they can to promote a product even if that involves trashing the product's competitors. "Epistemic attack" is a typical human behavior. I agree with your conclusion: we tend to admire individuals like Hammond and Snowden unless they are revealing deceptions that tend to support our interests. Then, of course, they're traitors or criminals

Uziel Nogueira Florianopolis - SC - Brasil

The use of deception and surveillance by private companies in the cyberspace is not the problem. Wall Street has been doing that for decades. The only difference is the new medium (cyberspace) in which deception takes place

The problem is state cyber espionage aimed at population control and power. I am not afraid of travel companies sending sales people to harass me at home

However, I'm very much afraid of having the man in black coming to my house, detaining and interrogating me and my family because an exchange of emails I had with someone considered a terrorist by the Brazilian state

June 15, 2013 at 11:27 a.m. Recommended17

Dan Mabbutt Utah

A great article that has made effective use of history ("what has happened") to guide policy ("what should happen")

One of my favorites is the life of George Orwell (pen name of Eric Arthur Blair) who spent the years of WWII as a propagandist and then wrote "Animal Farm" and "1984" about the inevitable result of propaganda and social control

As we contemplate this war for mind share, we should not forget the real wars that often accompany them. The demonstrated willingness of Assad and his followers to destroy all of Syria -- and indeed, all of the Middle East or even the world -- to preserve their own power should make us appreciate the difficulty of dislodging, for example, Goldman Sachs or Monsanto from their positions of power and privilege

June 15, 2013 at 10:20 a.m. Recommended38

Ethan New York, NY

The parallel of physical, ground wars to the ones in cyberspace, and the methods of deception they both share is indeed an excellent point. One should also remember that the government employs contractors on the ground same as they do in cyberspace, as described in this article. Blackwater, anyone? http://bit.ly/a41K8J

June 15, 2013 at 1:04 p.m. Recommended5

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Alex p It

Good examples, though out of momentum. In fact, then internet surveillance is focused on tangling "different" metadata to figure out a comprehensive profile of a person. Your suggestion, otherwise, involves a man(organization)- in- a- box. Out of that he(it) simply doesn't exist.

Following the Plato's cave mith, when people in finally destroy their chains and get out o the cave, they see a big tall wall with idols upon it. Then they simply substitute the shadows they sought, with the newly images imposed at superior heights.

So, substituting self-made images with self-evident ones isn't helpful, in-a-box, or out-of-a-box, until elaboration don't get started, we actually say thinking about truth. By the way, in Plato the search of truth pushed some people to jump over the wall. But this is another story, i suppose

A Reader Ohio

Thanks for these interesting glimpses of "epistemic warfare."

I would like to see more philosophical discussion of the epistemological and ethical dimensions of these facts. This particular essay has little philosophy in it.

For instance, the Heideggerian point about "uncovering" could be developed in a couple of directions. Heidegger would point out that

  1. (1) even the most outrageous delusions already involve some type of uncovering -- but the phenomena have been misinterpreted, and
  2. (2) no unconcealment is total, and we never simply see "the world the way it is" -- aletheia is necessarily accompanied by lethe.

Apart from Heidegger, one could debate whether maximum disclosure is good, or under which circumstances.

I am a bit disappointed in the Times' proofreading: "a principle project" should be "a principal project."

June 15, 2013 at 9:28 a.m. Recommended2

Steve Bolger New York City

I suppose philosophy is another pursuit that attracts people who like to argue endlessly over what smarter dead people were really thinking when they had some insight that can only be recaptured today by necromancy

Sal Anthony Queens, NY

For Steve,

Wonderful wordplay. And yet, it is indeed the grandest and the most practical of all pursuits, seeking to distill the eternal from the lesser disciplines of art and science, seeking to inform aspiring artists, scientists and struggling thinkers, and forming the metaphysical sphere within which consciousness itself operates.

As for the dead being smarter and wiser than their successors, yes and no - talent and tenacity in studying those who came before lead many a great thinker to leapfrog his predecessors, just as torpitude and incapacity lead a great many more to fall short

Regards

Marilyn Delson Troy, NY

One of the most thoughtful, intriguing, and frightening excerpts I've read in a long time. The evaporation of the Occupy Movement was such a disappointment for progressives.

I'm sure there's a blockbuster story behind its demise for an enterprising investigative journalist, assuming they still exist anywhere

mancuroc Rochester, NY

There's no mystery about why the Occupy movement evaporated

First, the media fell over themselves to give it the minimum and least favorable coverage

Second, but more important - and I write as one in total sympathy with Occupy's cause - it contributed to its own demise by not adopting even a rudimentary leadership. and by refusing to get involved in electoral politics. If you want to get anywhere when the dice are already loaded against you, you need one or two people out front as spokespersons. Occupy turned its back on any idea of working even with sympathetic individual Democratic politicians. Granted, the Tea Party was a well-backed and not entirely grass-roots affair, but look at the hold it has over the GOP

It's painful to say so, but there's no blockbuster investigation needed. Occupy blew its chance, big time

That said, I don't doubt that if Occupy had chosen more bite to go along with its bark, the establishment would have aimed all its overt and covert weapons against it

Phillip Wynn Cincinnati

Sorry, mancuroc, but there's already evidence easily available that DHS & prob. other federal agencies coordinated a suppression response to Occupy with big city mayors across the country. More than one journalist has long since pointed out that the Occupy movement didn't fade out: it was deliberately squashed, accompanied by much illegality and police violence

What we need to know is the extent to which info derived from gvt surveillance was directly employed or shared with other entities re the Occupy movement, and while we're at it the Tea Party, and any other individuals or groups which are regarded as dissenters. Based on human nature as revealed by even recent history, we can all be confident that such abuse of power has occurred. We just don't know the extent of it

mancuroc Rochester, NY

@Phillip Wynn - you seem better informed than I am on the response to the Occupy movement so I'll concede there is something to it. However, I stand by my contention that the movement contributed to its own demise through sheer incompetence

Democratic leaders have bought into much of the pro-corporate conservative dogma, but there are plenty of grass roots Dems, including the progressive caucus in Congress, that haven't. Occupy collectively felt itself too superior to descend to party politics, so it surrendered leverage and drove away sympathetic Democrats. Bad move

Dean Charles Marshall California

Here's what I find most troubling, embedded amongst us are fellow Americans, like the folks at Stratfor and their ilk, displaying a rather deceitful and perverse take on "truth, justice and the American way" and seemingly getting well paid to do it. Not only is this incredibly scandalous, but treasonous as well. More proof that our democracy has been hijacked by a cabal of "racketeering" special interests willing to use any and all means of subterfuge and psyops to circumvent our Constitution in the name of inverted totalitarianism. Sure begs the question, was the USA Patriots Act really about catching foreign terrorists or was it the precursor for enslaving American citizens?

Lenny Pittsfield, MA

The way I see it, we all are strongly drawn to be in the cave and to stay in the cave facing the wall of illusions. And, when we we make our own attempts to draw us out of the cave into the actual world, or when others make efforts to bring us outside, we resist. I am very much concerned about this latest age of communication we are in; concerned because the evidence from outside of the cave is that so many of us are on our computers, are using our hand held devices, are on our cell phones in and out of our cars, have ear buds in our ears, are immersed in computer games, prefer video reporting to written articles, mistakenly value on-line pseudo encyclopedias as reliable scholarly sources, and take college courses on line rather than in classrooms with actual fellow students and actual live-in-the-present teachers. While we are this way, and if we continue to be this way, we do not and we will not actually know what is happening to ourselves and to others

June 15, 2013 at 8:50 a.m. Recommended12

Hans Nepomuk in Los Angeles, Ca Los Angeles, CA

This all sounds like children's games played by adults, for fun and profit. This sounds like "The rime of the Ancient Mariner" prosified. I think good philosophy must have more on its mind

Steve Bolger New York City

That is exactly what it is. We pay tax, the government pays an entity of the Bush family empire call Booz Allen Hamilton to do the work, Carlyle Group owns that, and the Bush family and Carlyle have a mutually beneficial arrangement that gives Carlyle top level access to everything the snoop empire dreams of for further contracts to supply it

June 15, 2013 at 10:45 a.m. Recommended9

zb bc

You really don't have to look this far for deception. Its called Capitalism. Not only are American Businesses manipulating our minds to get us to buy their junk most of which is poison either to our self or our environment, but they use addictive additives to make the manipulation all the more powerful

ann san pedro, ca

The naivete of people who think this just popped up from nowhere is astounding.

Since the invention of an almost unaccountable secret government over 60 years ago we have lived in a surveillance state.

Many have taken it too far. Hoover used it for personal power. Nixon used it for personal power. It has been part of our government for a long time and is part of our national infrastructure. It didn't start with the Patriot Act. It just got bigger

Laird Wilcox Kansas

Many of these firms are doing much, much more than gathering intelligence for government agencies, they are feeding them the information they want them to have and some of them are freely sharing information with Israeli intelligence. They are not disinterested parties or neutral professionals going about their tasks with no dog in the fight. They are part of a large covert apparatus.

For one thing, they have to gin up enough of a threat for us to obsess about to keep themselves employed. What they would like least of all is for a situation to develop where they are no longer viewed as necessary. They have every interest in keeping conflict going and in exaggerating the threat of domestic terrorism. Like any other business, unless they can create a demand for their product they are soon out of existence

For another, many of them have obvious political interests in the direction our country takes on various issues, particularly as they relate to Israel and the Middle East. What is needed is a detailed investigation into the nature, composition and activities of these firms. Penetrating the security curtain surrounding them would be a difficult task, however. They have created a structure and a climate that allows them to act with almost no oversight

It's a particularly dangerous thing for our country when our security and intelligence apparatus is not in direct control of the American people and works to pursue private interests. This is not a small matter

Architect, NL

Useful article. Thanks

That people only present information that is welcome to them (Chris, NYC) because they "know" their cause to be just, well we knew that. In a way you are an example of that yourself, because you leave out the possibility that Stratfor might also manipulate foes of the American people (to which you probably would not object because these foes are holding false opinions to start with, right?)

That people actually make up information to support their "just" cause, because the ends justify the means (most religions do this), well we knew that too

That people make up FALSE information, attribute it to somebody else and subsequently "uncover" the falsehood, was a complication I was not consciously aware of

The only advice I can give if this happens to you: admit the falsehood right away. Both parties mentioned above are easily recognizable because they will start defending the falsehood

C. Whiting Madison, WI

This is one of the most intriguing and concerning articles I have read in a major newspaper. I actually find it astonishing that it sits here next to pieces by David Brooks et. al. Nicely reported, Mr. Ludlow

June 15, 2013 at 7:47 a.m. Recommended52

Luce Indonesia

What I don't like about all the Wiki-type exposers is that they only want to expose the US. Is this because Daniel Ellsburg already proved to the world that the US government can not and will not kill you for exposing its doings? (If you are on their payroll they can imprison you.) Meanwhile all the governments that do kill people for that and for much less can continue to do it, and can keep improving their game with the info released by the hackers premature releases of information, which often seem to be done at least partly out of the desire for publicity, which, again, can easiest be found in the US

June 15, 2013 at 7:47 a.m. Recommended3

Matthew Cross Detroit

These are U.S. citizens blowing the whistle on what the U.S. government is doing. That is their first responsibility as citizens, to their own nation. I can talk all day about all the horrible things Russia or Colombia are doing, but since I'm not from those countries, it carries little weight. Our attention should be on where I live, since I can have a much greater impact, and it's my county. Besides, you must concede that the U.S. is the greatest world power in history. Our influence around the globe, militarily and commercially (those usually work hand in hand), is beyond anything that any previous country/empire/imperial power has enjoyed. That certainly adds to our responsibility as citizens to hold our own government accountable, since what happens here often has a much greater impact on the rest of the world

June 15, 2013 at 9:21 a.m. Recommended16

Mike Hihn Boise, ID

Edward Snowden has more details on our surveillance than the intelligence oversight subcommittee -- per an interview with the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Oversight Committee, now on the NPR website. To be fair, she does not make that conclusion in the interview, but see how little even she is allowed to know

How can Congress possibly meet its Constitutional check and balance over the Executive?

NPR link: http://tinyurl.com/k9taeew

John Northern California

I love the way the NYTimes is consistently about ten to fifteen years behind smart people. Next you'll realize Obama's Nobel "Peace" Prize was entirely a PC effort, too

Bill Benton San Francisco

Excellent piece. Thanks, Peter Ludlow and NY Times

Also thanks, Wikileaks, Jeremy Hammond, and all the other hackers who have brought to light things that the forces of evil want to keep hidden.

Sunlight is the best disinfectant -- leaking should not be a crime. But covering up government theft and malfeasance and incompetence should be

www.youtube.com/tra1776 www.billbenton.webs.com

Doug France

I wonder why Great Britain has stepped in the Snowden affair? It is disappointing to see that the lapdog policies of GB haven't changed since Tony Blair led his nation into the Iraq disaster

rturkington Virginia

Excellent writing and research. I only wish there was 1000 more just like you, as intent on sharing what is really going on behind the scenes, as there are those who do their best to deceive. Please keep on doing what far too few do these days-tell the American people the truth

SpecialAgent, A New York City

This is probably the most important and provocative essay on contemporary philosophy ever written in America. And it has 39 comments? Share widely, defend reality and consciousness. Defend freedom of mind

Philip Thrift, Addison, Texas

Ironically, it is only the federal government through laws that can protect individual persons (that's us) from corporations' use of our data. An example is the health care law, which would prevent the private insurance industry from using individuals' data to deny or strip them of coverage. In the Tea-Party/Republican nirvana of a limited federal government, the strongest corporations would be the masters of our data and the controllers of our lives

June 15, 2013 at 7:21 a.m. Recommended23

pieceofcake, konstanz germany

In case you have missed it - the American surveillance state had arrived - ever since I booked something on the Internet and suddenly all these travel-ads appeared

So please - as a wiser man suggested: The internet is "the Surveillance State" - and much better in "surveillance" than the American government ever could be

The American government is just like us - we have to go begging to google or facebook that they hand over some of the data they have on us - while American cooperations get it for free!

And I tell you that's the real scandal!

edbrooklyn, Brooklyn

This piece should be read in the context of the recent announcement by the Pentagon that it declares the current war zone or battlefield to be the entire earth, which means they include the United States as well. (I do recognize that part of Ludlow's wider point is that, the problem is not just the Pentagon or NSA, it's numerous private companies that are the militant forces here). Truly strange that many people say we should "just trust" these agencies and private companies, even though not only did Director of National Intelligence James Clapper just lie to Congress this year about spying on US citizens, but also --- as Ludlow points out --- these entities have as their express goal carrying out PsyOps (falsehood, lies, propaganda, mind games) on the American people and the press. NPR just reported on plans by these agencies and companies to plant fake "honeypot" documents for concerned citizens to find --- so as to trap them. (NPR neglected to mention the discredit-the-messenger part that Ludlow focuses on here.) "Defense Department Trying To Plug Leaks Before They Happen" NPR June 14, 2013 at 3pm. Numerous people have already been or are currently being threatened with undeserved prison sentences for trying to get the truth out to the public: Thomas Drake, Barrett Brown ( freebarrettbrown dot org ), Jeremy Hammond ( freejeremy dot net ), and Bradley Manning ( bradleymanning dot org )

sdavidc9, Cornwall Bridge, Connecticut

Agent provocateurs are as old as political forces who believe that the ends justify the means. Hacking is only a way of catching them. Propaganda and Big Lies predate computers, as did the East German Stasi. Computers and the Internet make this sort of thing cheaper while also increasing exponentially the amount of communication that must be monitored

Plato had something much more pervasive and fundamental in mind. The lowest level of the cave was the province of advertising and salesmanship in general, and the sort of negative campaigns and character assassination disclosed by the noble hackers is just one type of this unreality, and by far not the most pervasive or even the most dangerous. The alternate univese of Fox is not maintained by these sorts of secret manipulations of public opinion, and is philosophically both more interesting and more important

June 15, 2013 at 2:01 a.m. Recommended4

Kevin M. Gallagher, Amherst, MA

It's important to note that much of what we know about Team Themis, and in turn the shady corners of the the private intelligence contracting industry, is owed to the investigative journalist Barrett Brown and his crowd-sourced wiki Project PM. He was a pioneer as far as researching stories found in the leaked e-mails from HBGary and Stratfor. Now he's been indicted three times, and sits in a Texas prison awaiting trial, looking at up to 105 years maximum

I definitely think the heavy-handed treatment and excessive prosecution in his case is a retaliatory punishment for his journalism digging into these firms that are involved in surveillance. The government is going after him the same way they do with any whistleblower or hacktivist that they don't like or agree with. It's crazy

Worst of all, one of the charges he's facing a LOT of time for equates to sharing a link (to Stratfor data). Which of you feels it's reasonable to charge someone w/ identity theft and fraud for pasting a hyperlink? It's absurd, as if they expect us to check every link that the content doesn't contain anything illegal and then hold us responsible for whatever the receiver does with it.

Know what else, BB was looking into Booz Allen Hamilton, the employer of NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, before he got arrested. He recorded a phone call w/ their Vice President in which he lied about their involvement w/ HBGary in the Team Themis affair.

Continued

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Last modified: March, 01, 2020