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Obama Aides Indicate He May Tell Truth September 15, 2013

Posted by rogerhollander in Barack Obama, Humor.
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s_500_politicalfilm_files_wordpress_com_0_uncle-barack-he-watchesUncle Barack by Political Film Blog

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September 15, 2013, http://www.opednews.com/

 

(Washington) In a radical departure from official White House policy, unnamed sources within the Executive have suggested that President Barack Obama may be preparing to utter true statements, sometime in the short term.

 

Uncharacteristically candid revelations hint that bypassing the wall of secrecy and over classification of intelligence may be necessary to sway skeptical Americans. Polls of the President’s truthfulness have fluctuated from 62% trustworthiness in 2009 to 0.62% today, a difference of two levels of magnitude.   Individuals who trust the President’s statements are largely confined to state mental health facilities, making interviews difficult to obtain prior to publication.

 

The estate of President Richard Nixon weighed in on the matter, coming to the defense of the President.   “When the president does it, that means it is not illegal,” said a Nixon spokesman.   President Obama, hoping that Americans’ recollections of the disgraced Nixon have faded, after nearly half a century of revisionism, welcomed the move as a legal defense against charges of perjury, lying to congress, propaganda, deception and fabricating false flag terrorism in the Syrian conflict.

 

Asked why America was so intent on aiding and abetting the Al Qaeda offshoot Al Nusra Front, which is technically designated a terrorist organization by the US, the president responded, “You’re off the script.”

 

A scuffle in the White House press room led to one journalist being removed by black clad security personnel without explanation.   Off the record, several of the reporters present recall hearing gunfire shortly afterward, although none could give any more detail.

 

In lighter news, America’s beloved freedom fighters have liberated a second Christian village in Syria, and have promised not to behead any of the infidels who refuse to convert to Sunni Islam.   The President praised this development as a positive sign that the Syrian Jihadists are coming out of their 7th century mindsets and perhaps moving forward into the 8th or even 9th.   Mr. Obama said that such historical progress cannot pass without a moment of reflection and congratulation to the heroic Syrian rebels.

 

Obama’s Director of Imperial Marketing, whom some of the journalists present suspected of being a DARPA developed robot drone in humanoid form, said, “East Asia has always been at war with Oceania.”

 

Cryptic news indeed, as the reporters struggled to identify the two warring nations on their SmartPhones.   Obama’s Marketing Director then pointed to Youtube as proof that, “Syria bad. We good. Syria bad.   We good,” repeating the phrase for several minutes until a group of technicians entered the press briefing to remove the Director in mid utterance.   Such odd behavior led some to question the spokesman’ humanity, leading to a new raft of conspiracy theories floated out across the web.

 

The administration, sensing a probable public relations imbroglio went into damage control mode.   The President appeared on a large video teleconference screen, staring down at the journalists in a formidable posture.

 

“Oceania has always been at war with East Asia,” said Mr. Obama.   “That is your top headline story, and so you be sure to type it out correctly.”

 

The visibly shaken press corps dutifully nodded in unison.

 

The President continued, “Our administration is only capable of telling the truth.   Write that down.”

 

The President issued his directives, and we are happy to report that God has smiled on our glorious land, an exceptional land of happiness and joy.   All is well, as it always is in our land of greatest freedom where our beloved President looks out for us, and would never lie to us.   Such joy it brings to report this good news to you, dear readers.   Enjoy your wonderful day of supreme elation, knowing that we are right and just and good.   President Obama has made that quite clear.

 

 
Author of HELL OF A DEAL: A Supernatural Satire, a tale of Hollywood’s accommodation with torture and (more…)

Orwell’s 1984 Solution to Criminalize War: “If There was Hope, it must Lie in the Proles” August 28, 2012

Posted by rogerhollander in Art, Literature and Culture, Revolution, War.
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Roger’s note: It is no dramatic discovery that the vast majority of Americans (and people everywhere around the globe) hate and oppose not only warfare, but the legalized theft of human rights and human labor and the destruction of the biosphere that is perpetuated by every government of every capitalist state and largely bolstered by the mass media and the political culture.  Change (the accomplished dissimulator Obama notwithstanding) will not come via electing leaders in contests where the option for peace and justice are never represented.  From the Paris Commune to the Russian Revolution to the successful overturning of oligarchic capital rule in places like Cuba and Nicaragua, it was the common people who took things into their own hands.  Although in each of the cases the humanistic revolutionary goals were corrupted by a combination of internal and external pressures, nevertheless, our guide for future humanistic revolution lies with these historic victories.  Today’s Arab Spring and the Occupation movement are the heirs of the previous popular uprisings.

by Prof. James F. Tracy
Global Research, August 26, 2012
“The greatest obstacle to discovery is not ignorance-it is the illusion of knowledge.”-Daniel Boorstin

In George Orwell’s 1984 the Outer Party comprised a mere thirteen percent of the population and was subject to the ideological filters in play at the Ministry of Truth and the broader bureaucratic structure. A specific language and way of thinking were closely adhered to. Given their political import, Outer Party members were the most heavily indoctrinated and controlled inhabitants of Oceania. The majority Proles who constituted the remainder of the population was of little consequence so long as their political awareness remained underdeveloped.
While its members withstood more austere conditions, 1984‘s Outer Party is roughly tantamount to those who in our society are the well-informed, college-educated professionals; those whose duty it is to adhere to the ready-made opinion available in the major agenda setting journalistic outlets such as the New York Times, Washington Post, and National Public Radio, where news is carefully selected, crafted, and presented. Such information is then disseminated to the masses via actors in summary capsule form on cable and broadcast television platforms.


 

Mystified by its own credentials, surrounded by peers who conceive of reality along similar lines, and underscored by the corporate media’s overwhelming tide of disinformation, much of today’s professional class is impervious to “rumors” and “conspiracy theories” that all too often captivate the sordid masses—from unreasonable suspicion over mysterious terrorist attacks to the poorly-informed questions surrounding their leader’s hidden background. Much like the expert officials and agenda setting outlets they look to for prepared interpretations of the world, the opinion leading class’ constituents understand themselves as above all well informed, similarly disinterested and unmoved by groundless passion.
In fact, the programming necessary to attain such a degree of self-assuredness often tends to distance one from reality. For example, revulsion towards war in the United States has historically tended to run strongest among those who have escaped the heavy indoctrination of the professional class—those members of the non-or semi-skilled, working class majority. As historian Howard Zinn observes,
“[I]n surveys of public opinion during the [Vietnam War], it was inevitably shown that people with the highest education—college graduates—were the most supportive of the war. People who had not graduated from high school were the ones most against the war. This is a surprising figure because most people thought the anti-war movement consisted of intellectuals and students and college professors. While those people were most visible in the anti-war movement, public opinion against the war was concentrated in the least educated classes.”
Recent public opinion indicators point to the enduring nature of antiwar sentiment. For example, a recent poll by the Pew Research Center for People and the Press shows that on March 19, 2011, one week before President Obama announced the NATO bombing of Libya, 77% of the US public opposed the destruction of the country’s air defenses. Polling one year later revealed a 62% majority against NATO “bombing Syrian military forces to protect anti-government groups in Syria,” even though almost the same percentage (64%) admitted to having heard “little” or “nothing at all” on “recent political violence in Syria.”
May we thus safely conclude that a majority of the population despite ceaseless propaganda still recognizes how war remains the supreme crime and the greatest demarcation between master and slave? “If there was hope, it must lie in the Proles,” Orwell wrote, “because only there, in those swarming disregarded masses, eighty-five percent of the population of Oceania, could the force to destroy the Party ever be generated.”

James Tracy is Associate Professor of Media Studies at Florida Atlantic University. He blogs at memorygap.org.

 
James F. Tracy is a frequent contributor to Global Research. Global Research Articles by James F. Tracy

Orwellian: NSA Can’t Say If It Spies On You Because It Would Violate Your Privacy June 21, 2012

Posted by rogerhollander in Civil Liberties, Democracy.
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06.21.12 – 11:02 AM, www.commondreams.org

 

by Abby Zimet

Surveillance experts at the National Security Agency won’t tell two members of the Senate’s intelligence oversight committee how many Americans’ emails and phone calls they’re poking into without a warrant as part of its sweeping counterterrorism powers because such a review “would itself violate the privacy of U.S. persons” – and besides, figuring that out is “beyond the capacity” of the NSA. Think Orwell’s doublethiink.

“Political language… is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.”

Orwell, 9/11, Emmanuel Goldstein and WikiLeaks September 10, 2011

Posted by rogerhollander in Civil Liberties, Democracy, War.
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Roger’s note: the excerpt from Orwell’s 1984 toward the end of this article is, to say the least, uncanny in its prophetic foresight into today’s world.  Read that if you read nothing else in this post.

Saturday, Sep 10, 2011 06:11 ET, www.salon.com

By Glenn Greenwald

 

A strikingly good piece of investigative journalism from Associated Press finds that accusations about the damage done by WikiLeaks’ latest release are — yet again — wildly overstated and without any factual basis.  These most recent warnings have centered on WikiLeaks’ exposure of diplomatic sources whom the released cables indicated should be “strictly protected.”  While unable to examine all of the names in the cables, AP focused on the ones “the State Department seemed to categorize as most risky.”  It found that many of them are “comfortable with their names in the open and no one fearing death.”

In particular, many of these super-secret sources were “already dead, their names cited as sensitive in the context of long-resolved conflicts or situations” while “some have publicly written or testified at hearings about the supposedly confidential information they provided the U.S. government.”  Like the Pentagon before them, even the State Department  — which has “been scouring the documents since last year to find examples where sources are exposed and inform them that they may be ‘outed'” — is unable to provide any substantiation for its shrill, public denunciations of WikiLeaks and its “dire” warnings about the “grave danger” caused by publication of these cables:

The total damage appears limited and the State Department has steadfastly refused to describe any situation in which they’ve felt a source’s life was in danger. They say a handful of people had to be relocated away from danger but won’t provide any details on those few cases.

 

None of this is to say that all criticisms of WikiLeaks are unwarranted; I criticized the accidental release of sources’ names as part of the Afghan War documents and assigned them some blame for failure to secure the cables.  Nor is it to say that it’s implausible that, at some point, someone may be harmed by release of the unredated cables.  The point here is that, yet again, the fear-mongering frenzy issued by the U.S. Government against one of its Enemies Du Jour was blindly ingested and then disseminated by the standard cadre of government-loyal “journalists” and the authority-revering pundits who listen to them.  No matter how many times that happens, the lesson is never learned, because there is no desire to learn it.

For three reasons, AP’s findings are anything but surprising.  First, that the U.S. Government declares something Very Secret hardly means it is; this is a secrecy-obsessed government that reflexively declares even the most banal matters to be “sensitive” and off-limits to the public, as proven by the release of hundreds of thousands of “secret” documents that reveal nothing.  Second, there is an established history of extremely exaggerated government and media claims about the harm done by WikiLeaks releases; that’s why, when examining the events last week that prompted the release of the unredacted cables, I wrote: “Serious caution is warranted in making claims about the damage caused by publication of these cables.”

Third, and most important for present purposes, this is what the U.S. government and its media-servants do; it’s their modus operandi.  Whomever the government wants to demonize at any given moment is subjected to this same process.  On a moment’s notice, the full propaganda system is activated against the New Enemy, indiscriminate accusations are unleashed, personal foibles are exposed, collective hatred among all Decent People is mandated, and it then instantly becomes heretical to question the caricature of evil that has been manufactured.

That’s how dictators and other assorted miscreants with whom the U.S. was tightly allied for years or even decades are overnight converted into The Root of All Evil, The Supreme Villain who Must be Vanquished (Saddam, Osama bin Laden, Gadaffi, Mubarak).  Americans who were perfectly content to have their government in bed with these individuals suddenly stand up and demand, on cue, that no expense be spared to eradicate them.  Often, the demonization campaign contains some truth — the nation’s long-time-friends-converted-overnight-into-Enemies really have committed atrocious acts or, as a new innovation of Nixonian tactics aimed at Daniel Ellsberg, even harbored some creepy porn (!) — but the ritual of collective hatred renders any facts a mere accident.  Once everyone’s contempt is successfully directed toward the Chosen Enemy, it matters little what they actually did or did not do: such a profound menace are they to all that is Good that exaggerations or even lies about their bad acts are ennobled, in service of a Good Cause; conversely, to question the demonization or object to what is done to them is, by definition, to side with Evil.

Directing all this passionate hatred toward the state’s identified Enemy and their Evil Acts has an added benefit: the resulting mass contempt, by design, distracts all attention away from of the evil committed by those stirring that passion.  Thus do we all stomp our feet in righteous fury over the potential, speculative harm caused by WikiLeaks while steadfastly ignoring the actual, massive death and destruction on the part of our own leaders which WikiLeaks reveals (just as dramatic tales and anniversary rituals about bin Laden’s act a full decade ago still cause us to overlook and acquiesce to the massive amount of violence, aggression and bloodshed our own leaders continue to bring to the world).  Just yell Saddam’s rape rooms or display the iconic photograph of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed or claim that WikiLeaks has endangered hundreds of innocents and made “diplomacy” impossible or suddenly feign outrage over Mubarak’s internal repression and everything — the past, our own actions, facts — all fade away in a cloud of righteous collective hatred, directed outward, away from ourselves and our government.

This is nothing more than a slightly less raucous rendition of Orwell’s Emmanuel Goldstein/Two-Minute-Hate ritual.  In Orwell’s 1984, Goldstein is the shadowy, possibly-fictitious-but-possibly-real former Party official whose betrayals of the State, ongoing treason, and array of other incomprehensibly evil acts make him, in the lore of State propaganda, the Prime Villain, the Root of all Evil, whom Good Citizens blame for all societal evils and on whom they exclusively focus their rage.  His image is regularly paraded before the citizenry during a Two Minute Hate Session, accompanied by an authoritative narration of his evil, and mass, inebriating rage results (see the video version here).  The ultimate benefit of this ritual is it enables the citizenry to ignore their own plight and the violence and oppression of their own government (political parties use a similar process — endless focus on marginal, hated figures in the other party — to keep fear levels high and party loyalty strong).  Thus can the debate over whether Julian Assange should be executed or merely imprisoned for life resume among all good people.

Speaking of Emmanuel Goldstein, he was the putative “author” of the Party manual published at length in 1984 that describes the Party’s means of control and manipulation, entitled “The Theory and Practice of Oligarchical Collectivism.”  In the chapter entitled “War Is Peace,” one finds what is easily the best essay for the 10-year-anniversary religious observance of 9/11 upon which we are about to embark:

In one combination or another, these three super-states are permanently at war, and have been so for the past twenty-five years. War, however, is no longer the desperate, annihilating struggle that it was in the early decades of the twentieth century. . . .

This is not to say that either the conduct of war, or the prevailing attitude towards it, has become less bloodthirsty or more chivalrous. On the contrary, war hysteria is continuous and universal in all countries, and such acts as raping, looting, the slaughter of children, the reduction of whole populations to slavery, and reprisals against prisoners which extend even to boiling and burying alive, are looked upon as normal, and, when they are committed by one’s own side and not by the enemy, meritorious.

But in a physical sense war involves very small numbers of people, mostly highly-trained specialists, and causes comparatively few casualties. The fighting, when there is any, takes place on the vague frontiers whose whereabouts the average man can only guess at, or round the Floating Fortresses which guard strategic spots on the sea lanes. . . .

To understand the nature of the present war — for in spite of the regrouping which occurs every few years, it is always the same war — one must realize in the first place that it is impossible for it to be decisive. . . . The primary aim of modern warfare (in accordance with the principles of doublethink, this aim is simultaneously recognized and not recognized by the directing brains of the Inner Party) is to use up the products of the machine without raising the general standard of living.

What is concerned here is not the morale of masses, whose attitude is unimportant so long as they are kept steadily at work, but the morale of the Party itself. Even the humblest Party member is expected to be competent, industrious, and even intelligent within narrow limits, but it is also necessary that he should be a credulous and ignorant fanatic whose prevailing moods are fear, hatred, adulation, and orgiastic triumph. In other words it is necessary that he should have the mentality appropriate to a state of war. It does not matter whether the war is actually happening, and, since no decisive victory is possible, it does not matter whether the war is going well or badly. All that is needed is that a state of war should exist.

The splitting of the intelligence which the Party requires of its members, and which is more easily achieved in an atmosphere of war, is now almost universal, but the higher up the ranks one goes, the more marked it becomes. It is precisely in the Inner Party that war hysteria and hatred of the enemy are strongest. In his capacity as an administrator, it is often necessary for a member of the Inner Party to know that this or that item of war news is untruthful, and he may often be aware that the entire war is spurious and is either not happening or is being waged for purposes quite other than the declared ones: but such knowledge is easily neutralized by the technique of doublethink. Meanwhile no Inner Party member wavers for an instant in his mystical belief that the war is real, and that it is bound to end victoriously, with Oceania the undisputed master of the entire world. . . .

War prisoners apart, the average citizen of Oceania never sets eyes on a citizen of either Eurasia or Eastasia, and he is forbidden the knowledge of foreign languages. If he were allowed contact with foreigners he would discover that they are creatures similar to himself and that most of what he has been told about them is lies. The sealed world in which he lives would be broken, and the fear, hatred, and self-righteousness on which his morale depends might evaporate. . .

The war, therefore, if we judge it by the standards of previous wars, is merely an imposture. It is like the battles between certain ruminant animals whose horns are set at such an angle that they are incapable of hurting one another. But though it is unreal it is not meaningless. It eats up the surplus of consumable goods, and it helps to preserve the special mental atmosphere that a hierarchical society needs. War, it will be seen, is now a purely internal affair. . . .

In the past, the ruling groups of all countries, although they might recognize their common interest and therefore limit the destructiveness of war, did fight against one another, and the victor always plundered the vanquished. In our own day they are not fighting against one another at all. The war is waged by each ruling group against its own subjects, and the object of the war is not to make or prevent conquests of territory, but to keep the structure of society intact.

 

There are certainly people with genuine power who understand exactly how this process works and are conscious of the propaganda it entails, and there are many ordinary citizens, paying only casual attention to political matters, who blindly ingest it.  But it is the high-ranking Inner Party members — the D.C. cadre of think tank “scholars,” government and academic functionaries, and journalists and pundits who fancy themselves sophisticated political junkies and insiders — who are the True Believers.  They cling to institutions of political power and officialdom, plant their careers, self-esteem, self-importance and social circles in its belly, and are thus the most incentivized to believe in its Rightness and Goodness and the least able to critically assess it.  Intoxicated with supreme loyalty to the organs of political power and societal institutions which support it, they become its most ardent, faithful evangelizers.  The more they gather together in their insular royal court realm, the more they reinforce each other’s trite convictions.

These pseudo-sophisticated, pseudo-intellectual nationalists may “know that this or that item of war news is untruthful” or may even know that the entire “war is being waged for purposes quite other than the declared ones.”  But no matter: they are Washington’s most loyal denizens and thus “never waver for an instant in their mystical belief that the war is real” or in the propaganda that sustains it.  At the heart of this propaganda — and of their worldview — is the unquestioning conviction about the unmitigated evil of the State’s designated Enemies, and of their own Good.  Observe how WikiLekas is now discussed, and especially observe the waves of self-praising moralizing over this next several days, to see this dynamic in all its glory.

A prime aim of the growing Surveillance State August 19, 2011

Posted by rogerhollander in Civil Liberties, Media.
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Roger’s note: Orwell becomes more relevant by the minute.

Friday, Aug 19, 2011 07:20 ET, www.salon.com

By Glenn Greenwald

Several weeks ago, a New York Times article by Noam Cohen examined the case of Aaron Swartz, the 24-year-old copyright reform advocate who was arrested in July, after allegedly downloading academic articles that had been placed behind a paywall, thus making them available for free online.  Swartz is now being prosecuted by the DOJ with obscene over-zealousness.  Despite not profiting (or trying to profit) in any way — the motive was making academic discourse available to the world for free — he’s charged with “felony counts including wire fraud, computer fraud, unlawfully obtaining information from a protected computer and recklessly damaging a protected computer” and “could face up to 35 years in prison and $1 million in fines.”

The NYT article explored similarities between Swartz and Bradley Manning, another young activist being severely punished for alleged acts of freeing information without any profit to himself; the article quoted me as follows:

For Glenn Greenwald . . . it also makes sense that a young generation would view the Internet in political terms.

“How information is able to be distributed over the Internet, it is the free speech battle of our times,” he said in interview. “It can seem a technical, legalistic movement if you don’t think about it that way.”

He said that point was illustrated by his experience with WikiLeaks — and by how the Internet became a battleground as the site was attacked by hackers and as large companies tried to isolate WikiLeaks. Looking at that experience and the Swartz case, he said, “clearly the government knows that this is the prime battle, the front line for political control.

This is the point I emphasize whenever I talk about why topics such as the sprawling Surveillance State and the attempted criminalization of WikiLeaks and whistleblowing are so vital.  The free flow of information and communications enabled by new technologies — as protest movements in the Middle East and a wave of serious leaks over the last year have demonstrated — is a uniquely potent weapon in challenging entrenched government power and other powerful factions.  And that is precisely why those in power — those devoted to preservation of the prevailing social order — are so increasingly fixated on seizing control of it and snuffing out its potential for subverting that order: they are well aware of, and are petrified by, its power, and want to ensure that the ability to dictate how it is used, and toward what ends, remains exclusively in their hands.

The Western World has long righteously denounced China for its attempts to control the Internet as a means of maintaining social order.  It even more vocally condemned Arab regimes such as the one in Egypt for shutting down Internet and cell phone service in order to disrupts protests.

But, in the wake of recent riots in London and throughout Britain — a serious upheaval to be sure, but far less disruptive than what happened in the Middle East this year, or what happens routinely in China — the instant reaction of Prime Minister David Cameron was a scheme to force telecoms to allow his government the power to limit the use of Internet and social networking sites.  Earlier this week, when San Francisco residents gathered in the BART subway system to protest the shooting by BART police of a 45-year-old man, city officials shut down underground cell phone service entirely for hours; that, in turn, led to hacking reprisals against BART by the hacker collective known as “Anonymous.”  As the San-Fransisco-based Electronic Frontier Foundation put it on its website: “BART officials are showing themselves to be of a mind with the former president of Egypt, Hosni Mubarak.”  Those efforts in Britain and San Fransisco are obviously not yet on the same scale as those in other places, but it illustrates how authorities react to social disorder: with an instinctive desire to control communication technologies and the flow of information.

The emergence of entities like WikiLeaks (which single-handedley jeopardizes pervasive government and corporate secrecy) and Anonymous (which has repeatedly targeted entities that seek to impede the free flow of communication and information) underscores the way in which this conflict is a genuine “war.”  The U.S. Government’s efforts to destroy WikiLeaks and harass its supporters have been well-documented.  Meanwhile, the U.S. seeks to expand its own power to launch devastating cyber attacks: there is ample evidence suggesting its involvement in the Stuxnet attacks on Iran, as well as reason to believe that some government agency was responsible for the sophisticated cyber-attack that knocked WikiLeaks off U.S. servers (attacks the U.S. Government tellingly never condemned, let alone investigated).  Yet simultaneously, the DOJ and other Western law enforcement agencies have pursued Anonymous with extreme vigor.  That is the definition of a war over Internet control: the government wants the unilateral power to cyber-attack and shut down those who pose a threat ot it, while destroying those who resists those efforts.

There have literally been so many efforts over the past several years to heighten surveillance powers and other means of control over the Internet that it’s very difficult to chronicle them all.  In August of last year, the UAE and Saudi Arabian governments triggered much outrage when they barred the use of Blackberries on the ground that they could not effectively monitor their communications (needless to say, the U.S. condemned the Saudi and UAE schemes). But a month later, the Obama administration unveilled a plan to “require all services that enable communications — including encrypted e-mail transmitters like BlackBerry, social networking Web sites like Facebook and software that allows direct ‘peer to peer’ messaging like Skype” to enable “back door” government access.

This year, the Obama administration began demanding greater power to obtain Internet records without a court order.  Meanwhile, the Chairwoman of the DNC, Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, is sponsoring a truly pernicious bill that would force Internet providers “to keep logs of their customers’ activities for one year.”  And a whole slew of sleazy, revolving-door functionaries from the public/private consortium that is the National Security State — epitomized by former Bush DNI and current Booz Allen executive Adm. Michael McConnell — are expoiting fear-mongering hysteria over cyber-attacks to justify incredibly dangerous (and profitable) Internet controls.  As The Washington Post‘s Dana Priest and William Arkin reported in their “Top Secret America” series last year: “Every day, collection systems at the National Security Agency intercept and store 1.7 billion e-mails, phone calls and other types of communications.”  That is a sprawling, out-of-control Surveillance State.

One must add to all of these developments the growing attempts to stifle meaningful dissent of any kind — especially civil disobedience — through intimidation and excessive punishment.  The cruel and degrading treatment of Bradley Manning, the attempted criminalization of WikiLeaks, the unprecedentedly harsh war on whistleblowers: these are all grounded in the recognition that the technology itself cannot be stopped, but making horrific examples out of those who effectively oppose powerful factions can chill others from doing so.  What I tried to convey in my NYT interview was that the common thread in the Swartz and Manning persecutions — as well similar cases such as the two-year prison term for non-violent climate change protester Tim DeChristopher, the FBI’s ongoing investigation of pro-Palestinian peace activists, and even the vindictive harassment of White House/DADT protester Dan Choi — is the growing efforts to punish and criminalize non-violent protests, as a means of creating a climate of fear that will deter similar dissent.

It is not hard to understand why the fears driving these actions are particularly acute now.  The last year has seen an incredible amount of social upheaval, not just in the Arab world but increasingly in the West.  The Guardian today documented the significant role which poverty and opportunity deprivation played in the British riots.  Austerity misery — coming soon to the U.S. — has sparked serious upheavals in numerous Western nations.  Even if one takes as pessimistic a view as possible of an apathetic, meek, complacent American populace, it’s simply inevitable that some similar form of disorder is in the U.S.’s future as well.  As but one example, just consider this extraordinary indicia of pervasive American discontent, from a Gallup finding yesterday (click on image to enlarge):

The intensely angry “town hall” political protests from last August, though wildly misdirected at health care reform, gave a glimpse of the brewing societal anger and economic anxiety; even Tea Party politicians are now being angrily harangued by furious citizens over growing joblessness and loss of opportunity as Wall Street prospers and Endless Wars continue.  This situation — exploding wealth inequality combined with harsh austerity, little hope for improvement and a growing sense of irreversible national decline — cannot possibly be sustained for long without some serious social unrest.  As Yale Professor David Bromwich put it in his extraordinarily thorough analysis of the “continuities” in what he calls “the Bush-Obama presidency”:

The usual turn from unsatisfying wars abroad to happier domestic conditions, however, no longer seems tenable. In these August days, Americans are rubbing their eyes, still wondering what has befallen us with the president’s “debt deal” — a shifting of tectonic plates beneath the economy of a sort Dick Cheney might have dreamed of, but which Barack Obama and the House Republicans together brought to fruition. A redistribution of wealth and power more than three decades in the making has now been carved into the system and given the stamp of permanence.

Only a Democratic president, and only one associated in the public mind (however wrongly) with the fortunes of the poor, could have accomplished such a reversal with such sickening completeness.

Economic suffering and anxiety — and anger over it and the flamboyant prosperity of the elites who caused it — is only going to worsen.  So, too, will the refusal of the Western citizenry to meekly accept their predicament. As that happens, who it is who controls the Internet and the flow of information and communications takes on greater importance.  Those who are devoted to preserving the current system of prerogatives certainly know that, and that is what explains this obsession with expanding the Surveillance State and secrecy powers, maintaining control over the dissemination of information, and harshly punishing those who threaten it.  That’s also why there are few conflicts, if there are any, of greater import than this one.

The Real Bill Ayers December 6, 2008

Posted by rogerhollander in Barack Obama, John McCain, Political Commentary, U.S. Election 2008.
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Published: December 5, 2008
New York Times

Chicago

IN the recently concluded presidential race, I was unwillingly thrust upon the stage and asked to play a role in a profoundly dishonest drama. I refused, and here’s why.

Unable to challenge the content of Barack Obama’s campaign, his opponents invented a narrative about a young politician who emerged from nowhere, a man of charm, intelligence and skill, but with an exotic background and a strange name. The refrain was a question: “What do we really know about this man?”

Secondary characters in the narrative included an African-American preacher with a fiery style, a Palestinian scholar and an “unrepentant domestic terrorist.” Linking the candidate with these supposedly shadowy characters, and ferreting out every imagined secret tie and dark affiliation, became big news.

I was cast in the “unrepentant terrorist” role; I felt at times like the enemy projected onto a large screen in the “Two Minutes Hate” scene from George Orwell’s “1984,” when the faithful gathered in a frenzy of fear and loathing.

With the mainstream news media and the blogosphere caught in the pre-election excitement, I saw no viable path to a rational discussion. Rather than step clumsily into the sound-bite culture, I turned away whenever the microphones were thrust into my face. I sat it out.

Now that the election is over, I want to say as plainly as I can that the character invented to serve this drama wasn’t me, not even close. Here are the facts:

I never killed or injured anyone. I did join the civil rights movement in the mid-1960s, and later resisted the draft and was arrested in nonviolent demonstrations. I became a full-time antiwar organizer for Students for a Democratic Society. In 1970, I co-founded the Weather Underground, an organization that was created after an accidental explosion that claimed the lives of three of our comrades in Greenwich Village. The Weather Underground went on to take responsibility for placing several small bombs in empty offices — the ones at the Pentagon and the United States Capitol were the most notorious — as an illegal and unpopular war consumed the nation.

The Weather Underground crossed lines of legality, of propriety and perhaps even of common sense. Our effectiveness can be — and still is being — debated. We did carry out symbolic acts of extreme vandalism directed at monuments to war and racism, and the attacks on property, never on people, were meant to respect human life and convey outrage and determination to end the Vietnam war.

Peaceful protests had failed to stop the war. So we issued a screaming response. But it was not terrorism; we were not engaged in a campaign to kill and injure people indiscriminately, spreading fear and suffering for political ends.

I cannot imagine engaging in actions of that kind today. And for the past 40 years, I’ve been teaching and writing about the unique value and potential of every human life, and the need to realize that potential through education.

I have regrets, of course — including mistakes of excess and failures of imagination, posturing and posing, inflated and heated rhetoric, blind sectarianism and a lot else. No one can reach my age with their eyes even partly open and not have hundreds of regrets. The responsibility for the risks we posed to others in some of our most extreme actions in those underground years never leaves my thoughts for long.

The antiwar movement in all its commitment, all its sacrifice and determination, could not stop the violence unleashed against Vietnam. And therein lies cause for real regret.

We — the broad “we” — wrote letters, marched, talked to young men at induction centers, surrounded the Pentagon and lay down in front of troop trains. Yet we were inadequate to end the killing of three million Vietnamese and almost 60,000 Americans during a 10-year war.

The dishonesty of the narrative about Mr. Obama during the campaign went a step further with its assumption that if you can place two people in the same room at the same time, or if you can show that they held a conversation, shared a cup of coffee, took the bus downtown together or had any of a thousand other associations, then you have demonstrated that they share ideas, policies, outlook, influences and, especially, responsibility for each other’s behavior. There is a long and sad history of guilt by association in our political culture, and at crucial times we’ve been unable to rise above it.

President-elect Obama and I sat on a board together; we lived in the same diverse and yet close-knit community; we sometimes passed in the bookstore. We didn’t pal around, and I had nothing to do with his positions. I knew him as well as thousands of others did, and like millions of others, I wish I knew him better.

Demonization, guilt by association, and the politics of fear did not triumph, not this time. Let’s hope they never will again. And let’s hope we might now assert that in our wildly diverse society, talking and listening to the widest range of people is not a sin, but a virtue.

 

William Ayers, a professor of education at the University of Illinois at Chicago, is the author of “Fugitive Days” and a co-author of the forthcoming “Race Course.”

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