YouTube and Facebook have started using hashes to automatically remove extremist content.
Giant tech companies are banding together to stop extremism on the web.
YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, and Microsoft will begin sharing a common database to flag accounts and user profiles they deem as threats to global security.
In a joint statement, the companies in the collaboration said…
“We hope this collaboration will lead to greater efficiency as we continue to enforce our policies to help curb the pressing global issue of terrorist content online.”
The companies will share ‘hashes’, or unique digital fingerprints, assigned to extremist videos or photos which have been flagged or removed from their platforms.
While it’s well and good for private corporations to do what they want with their own platform, or even create an oligopoly that shares data between platforms… the slippery slope begins once the goal posts for “what is deemed extreme” gets wider and wider.
The fact that the EU is the major driving force behind this initiative should give everyone even more pause as to the true intentions of this collaboration.
Tech companies have long resisted outside intervention in how their sites should be policed, but have come under increasing pressure from Western governments to do more to remove extremist content following a wave of militant attacks.
YouTube and Facebook have begun to use hashes to automatically remove extremist content.
But many providers have relied until now mainly on users to flag content that violates terms of service. Flagged material is then individually reviewed by human editors who delete postings found to be in violation.
Twitter suspended 235,000 accounts between February and August this year and has expanded the teams reviewing reports of extremist content.
Each company will decide what image and video hashes to add to the database and matching content will not be automatically removed, they said.
The database will be up and running in early 2017 and more companies could be brought into the partnership.
The European Union set up an EU Internet Forum last year bringing together the internet companies, interior ministers and the EU Counter-Terrorism Coordinator to find ways of removing extremist content.
The Forum will meet again on Thursday, when ministers are expected to ask the companies about their efforts and helping to provide evidence to convict foreign fighters.
Is “remembering the Nazi Holocaust and where anti-Semitism can lead” a good thing? Unfortunately, thanks to people who constantly cite this horrible genocide in order to justify the illegal, immoral and anti-human behaviour of the Israeli state, one must answer, “it depends.”
Drawing attention to the Nazi Holocaust and anti-Semitism in Canada today often reinforces, rather than undermines, oppression and discrimination. This perverse reality was on display at two recent events in Toronto.
At a semi-annual Ryerson Student Union meeting, a Hillel member pushed a resolution calling on the union to promote Holocaust Education Week in conjunction with United Jewish Appeal-Toronto, which marked Israel’s 2014 slaughter in Gaza by adding $2.25 million to its annual aid to that wealthy country. The motion stated, “this week is not in dedication to anti-Zionist propaganda” and called for the week to focus “solely on the education of the Holocaust and not on other genocides.”
Objecting to this brazen attempt to use the decimation of European Jewry to protect an aggressive, apartheid state many students left the meeting. When quorum was lost before the vote, pro-Israel activists cried — wait for it — anti-Semitism.
“Tonight, I experienced true and evil anti-Semitism,” complained Tamar Lyons, vice-president of communications for Students Supporting Israel at Ryerson University, in a social media post republished by B’nai Brith. In it, the Emerson Fellow of StandWithUs, an organization that trains university students to advance Israel’s interests, bemoaned how “a Muslim student ‘goy-splained’ me.”
After the meeting, Lyons linked the purported anti-Jewish incident to the Ryerson Student Union endorsing the BDS movement two years earlier. She told the Canadian Jewish News it was “a direct result of [the] boycott, divestment and sanctions movement and the anti-Israel sentiment that’s so prevalent on campus.”
Taking place on the eve of an Ontario legislature vote to condemn BDS activism, the national director of B’nai Brith jumped on the Ryerson affair. “What starts with BDS does not end with BDS,” said Amanda Hohmann. “More often than not, BDS is simply a gateway drug to more blatant forms of anti-Semitism.”
(Yup, take a toke of that leftist–internationalist “pressure Israel to follow international law” bud and soon you’re longing for some Neo-Nazi ‘get-the-Jews’ smack.)
As B’nai Brith hyped the Ryerson affair, the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs pushed the Ontario legislature to pass a motion in support of the spurious “Ottawa Protocol on Combating Anti-Semitism” and to reject “the differential treatment of Israel, including the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement.”
Passed 49 to 5 (with 53 absent), motion sponsor Gila Martow told the legislature: “We would not be here supporting the Ku Klux Klan on our campuses, so why are we allowing [the] BDS movement and other anti-Jewish and anti-Israel organizations to have demonstrations and use our campuses, which are taxpayer-funded?”
In an interview with the Toronto Sun after the vote the Thornhill MPP described BDS as “psychological terrorism on the campuses….The motive behind BDS is to hurt the Jewish community by attacking Israel.”
The only MPP who spoke against the motion was the NDP’s Jagmeet Singh. But, even this defender of the right to criticize Israel spent much of his speech talking about how anti-Semitism “must be denounced.”
Notwithstanding the anti-Semitism hullabaloo, the BDS vote and Ryerson affair have little to do with combating anti-Jewishness. As is obvious to anybody who thinks about it for a second, comparing internationalist and social justice minded individuals to the KKK will elicit, not lessen, anti-Jewish animus. Similarly, labeling a non-violent movement “psychological terrorism” and writing about “Muslim goy-splaining” isn’t likely to endear Jewish groups to those concerned with Palestinian dispossession and building a just world.
The major Jewish organizations and trained Israeli nationalist activists scream anti-Semitism to protect Israel from censure, of course. But they also do so because few are willing to challenge them on it. As such, the anti-Semitism smears should be seen as a simple assertion of CIJA and B’nai Brith’s political, economic and cultural clout.
Possibly the best placed of any in the world, the Toronto Jewish community faces almost no discernable economic, social or cultural discrimination. Describing it as “the envy of the UJA federation world,” Alan Dershowitz told its 2014 Toronto Major Gifts dinner: “You mustnever be ashamed to use your power and strength. Never be afraid that people will say, ‘You’re too strong and powerful.’ Jews need power and strength. Without this strength — economically, morally, militarily — we can’t have peace.”
But, UJA-Toronto, CIJA, B’nai Brith, etc. aren’t seeking “peace.” Rather, they’re working to strengthen a Sparta-like, Jewish-supremacist state in the Middle East.
The Ryerson affair and vote at the provincial legislature reflect a Toronto Jewish establishment drunk with its power. But the sober reality of constantly justifying oppression by citing the Holocaust/anti-Semitism is that it undermines the power of that memory and is an insult to all those who suffered and died at the hands of the Nazis.
Long ago, anti-Semitism was an issue in America, very much so when I grew up. No longer. Today it’s in vogue to be Jewish.
As a Jew, I’m fiercely critical of Israeli ruthlessness, a state run by fascists, Zionist ideologues and religious fundamentalists. I intend no letup in my activism.
Unanimous Senate passage of the Anti-Semitism Awareness Act is a bone to Israel and AIPAC, its main US lobby. House passage followed by Obama signing it into law is virtually certain.
The measure has nothing to do with addressing a growing number of “religiously motivated hate crimes” – everything to do with targeting vitally needed Israeli criticism and BDS support, especially on college campuses.
The measure aims to “codify the definition as one adopted by the US State Department’s Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism.”
It disgracefully conflates justifiable criticism of Israel with attempts to “delegitimize” its status as a Jewish state, along with wanting it held accountable for crimes of war, against humanity and other human rights abuses.
America and Israel partner in each other’s high crimes. Each fascist regime supports the other.
The measure requires the Department of Education to redefine Title VI rules of alleged discrimination violations – to suppress pro-Palestinian activism on college campuses.
Is it anti-Semitic to criticize Israeli ruthlessness? At its core, Zionism is fundamentally racist, extremist, undemocratic and militant.
It espouses Jewish supremacy, exceptionalism and uniqueness as God’s “chosen people.” It relies on occupation, oppression, violence and dispossession.
It justifies Jewish ethnocracy based on structural inequalities. It rules by force, not coexistence. It chooses confrontation over diplomacy and the rule of law.
It’s viciously undemocratic, denying Arabs the same rights as Jews, committing slow-motion genocide against millions of Palestinians – with full US support and encouragement.
The Anti-Semitism Awareness Act is one of many examples of governance in America off-the-rails – a nation doing more harm to more people over a longer duration than any other in history.
Students nationwide should ignore the new measure aimed solely at supporting Israeli ruthlessness. The time for dissent and civil disobedience is now- needed more than any previous time in my memory.
Either we confront growing tyranny in America or face losing all fundamental rights – ruled by bipartisan tinpot officials infesting Washington.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. His new book as editor and contributor is titled Flashpoint in Ukraine: How the US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III.
Another shot fired in the war against “fake news”.
This repressive monarchy in Kuwait is using the pretense of “fake news” (thank you liberal left media) to punish citizens and critics of the emir.
The Middle East Eye is reporting that a Kuwaiti online activist was sentenced to 10 years in prison, an appeals court has ruled, for posting messages on Twitter that “insulted the emir” and “spreading false news” that endangered the country.
The AFP reported that “the court on Thursday confirmed the jail term against Waleed Fares handed down by a lower court in May.”
More from The Middle East Eye…
Fares was arrested in September 2015 for comments under the name “Gibrit Seyassi” about Kuwait’s emir and ruler, Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad Al Sabah, “offending the judiciary” and “accusing the attorney general and public prosecution of being biased”.
Fares said at his trial he had been beaten and threatened into a confession, according to a statement by the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI).
He was briefly released in October, when the appeals court suspended his jail sentence until its review.
Dozens of opposition politicians and activists have in recent years been arrested by the Kuwait authorities and sentenced to prison, mostly on charges of insulting the emir or undermining his authority.
The crackdown came after the emir dissolved an opposition-dominated parliament in 2012 sparking two years of mass street protests.
One should wonder where the universal surveillance system dubbed the ‘snoopers charter’ installed by Britain’s government is heading for eventually. Recently described by Edward Snowden in tweets as the “most intrusive and least accountable surveillance regime in the West” and its “a comprehensive record of your private activities, the activity log of your life,” – it should really make you ask that question.
We now have a good idea of what surveillance the British government is going to be conducting over its citizens from now on. But think for a minute. The last twelve months of online activity will be captured – what does this say about you? What does it look like? Does it reveal your political interests, subscriptions, social networks and how they relate to you, religious or medical concerns, even your most private sexual interests. And fantasies; fantasies that many people have that are never enacted, such as doing something evil or illegal – but searching the internet out of nothing more than inquisitiveness. How confusing would that be to the state or to one of the many tens of thousands of individuals in government departments not professionally trained to interpret all this data. Generally speaking what this surveillance system does is to map out who you really are like no other.
Before we consider where this system is potentially going, it should be understood what the government is capable of when it comes to creating an act and then abusing it. Let’s take the the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 (RIPA).
RIPA was primarily defined as a legal framework to combat serious crime and terrorism: “In the interests of national security (including terrorism), for the purpose of preventing or detecting crime or of preventing disorder, in the interests of the economic well-being of the United Kingdom, in the interests of public safety, for the purpose of protecting public health.” Four iterations later in 2003, 2006, 2010 and 2015 and the Act has widened out dramatically.
Soon after Theresa May at the Home Office got her knees under the table, the use of RIPA caused headlines such as: “Official complaint over police use of Ripa against journalists” (The Guardian ) and “BBC uses anti-terror spy powers to track down licence fee dodgers” (Daily Mail ).
Then we found that local councils were using this act designed to catch serious criminals and terrorists to hunt down non-payment of council tax. Indeed, 11 councils every day were conducting thousands of covert surveillance operations across the country for this purpose alone.
These same anti-terror laws were also used to target dog fouling and even underage sunbed users and parking fines.
In terms of actual terrorism, regardless of your political or judicial persuasion, you could argue why the killer of politician Jo Cox was not tried in Yorkshire for the crime of murder but tried in London for an act of terrorism. Interestingly, the judge in this case said: “It is evident from your internet searches that your inspiration is not love of country or your fellow citizens, it is an admiration for Nazis and similar anti-democratic white supremacist creeds. Our parents’ generation made huge sacrifices to defeat those ideas and values in the second world war. What you did … betrays those sacrifices.”
If ever there was a case for highlighting mission creep by the government, the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act defines it perfectly, the Terrorism Act 2000 seems to work in harmony, when it suits the government.
Back to the, where are the new surveillance laws going question. If the government now has total access to your entire life and you apply mission creep as in the proven example above, consider what China is currently testing right now.
From the Wall Street Journal :
“Hangzhou’s local government is piloting a “social credit” system the Communist Party has said it wants to roll out nationwide by 2020, a digital reboot of the methods of social control the regime uses to avert threats to its legitimacy. More than three dozen local governments across China are beginning to compile digital records of social and financial behavior to rate creditworthiness. A person can incur black marks for infractions such as fare cheating, jaywalking and violating family-planning rules. The effort echoes the dang’an, a system of dossiers the Communist party keeps on urban workers’ behaviour.
In time, Beijing expects to draw on bigger, combined data pools, including a person’s internet activity, according to interviews with some architects of the system and a review of government documents. Algorithms would use a range of data to calculate a citizen’s rating, which would then be used to determine all manner of activities, such as who gets loans, or faster treatment at government offices or access to luxury hotels.”
What China intends to do is collect data from multiple sources, incorporate government department data, social media and online activities, and combine them with academic achievement, volunteer work, financial expenditure, loans and tax data, online shopping habits and the like. The WSJ headline “China’s New Tool for Social Control: A Credit Rating for Everything” explained further:
“A credit-scoring service by Alibaba affiliate Ant Financial Services—one of eight companies approved to pilot commercial experiments with social-credit scoring—assigns ratings based on information such as when customers shop online, what they buy and what phone they use. If users opt in, the score can also consider education levels and legal records. Perks in the past for getting high marks have included express security screening at the Beijing airport, part of an Ant agreement with the airport.
“Especially for young people, your online behavior goes towards building up your online credit profile,” said Joe Tsai, Alibaba’s executive vice chairman, “and we want people to be aware of that so they know to behave themselves better.”
Planning documentation in a ZeroHedge article on the same subject described the credit system to “allow the trustworthy to roam everywhere under heaven while making it hard for the discredited to take a single step.” It even provides an over-arching infographic.
According to the WSJ/Zerohedge articles a “blacklisting system” has already been created. The purposes of this is to counterbalance the good behaviour credits.
The system is designed to automatically provide “green lanes” for faster access to government services for “well-behaved” citizens while levying travel bans and other punishments on those who get out of line. China’s judiciary has already created a blacklisting system that would tie into the national social-credit operation. Zhuang Daohe, a Hangzhou legal scholar, cites the example of a client, part-owner of a travel company, who now can’t buy tickets for planes or high-speed trains because a Hangzhou court put him on a blacklist after he lost a dispute with a landlord.
The blueprint to this system is really quite simple. Credits are given for perceived good behaviours and taken away by bad perceived behaviours. Well behaved citizens will get access to “Green Lanes” that gives faster and better government services and penalties for those with low scores include delays or higher barriers to obtaining loans for instance or being given access to leisure services.
Additional scrutiny will be implemented for those who are classified in more sensitive employment such as journalists, lawyers or teachers, but one can can see how wide this list might become. It’s all about control.
Think this is all too far-fetched for a democracy like Britain or America? Well, it is already happening – slowly. The government knows the theory of the panopticon. Its been using it for centuries. The panopticon is a type of institutional building designed by the English philosopher and social theorist Jeremy Bentham in the late 18th century. The concept of the design is to allow all (pan-) inmates of an institution to be observed (-opticon) by a single watchman without the inmates being able to tell whether or not they are being watched. Although it is physically impossible for the single watchman to observe all cells at once, the fact that the inmates cannot know when they are being watched means that all inmates must act as though they are watched at all times, effectively controlling their own behaviour constantly. Bentham’s design is being adapted as a government playbook for future civil rights and liberties.
Here’s how: Pew Research conducted over two and half years from 2014 (after the Snowden revelations) demonstrates how self censorship is already working in a big way. “Some 86% of internet users have taken steps online to remove or mask their digital footprints, but many say they would like to do more or are unaware of tools they could use. And 55% of internet users have taken steps to avoid observation by specific people, organizations or the government – 61% say they would like to do more to protect their privacy.” In addition 31% had taken at least one step to hide or shield their information from the government.
A study by the University of Oxford demonstrated some interesting results regarding recent changes in our internet activities. The study provides evidence of the “chilling effects” of Wikipedia users associated with online government surveillance, again after the Snowden revelations of 2013.
“Using an interdisciplinary research design, the study tests the hypothesis, based on chilling effects theory, that traffic to privacy-sensitive Wikipedia articles reduced after the mass surveillance revelations. The Article finds not only a statistically significant immediate decline in traffic for these Wikipedia articles after June 2013, but also a change in the overall secular trend in the view count traffic, suggesting not only immediate but also long-term chilling effects resulting from the NSA/GCHQ PRISM online surveillance revelations. These, and other results from the case study, offer compelling evidence for chilling effects associated with online surveillance.”
This study is among the first to demonstrate — using either Wikipedia data or web traffic data more generally — how government surveillance and similar actions may impact online activities, including access to information and knowledge online says it author Jon Penney.
Here is proof that the more people know they are being surveilled, the more they censor themselves. The government are becoming so intrusive that many now believe for self protection they are to be classed alongside hackers.
So as Bentham’s panopticon is redesigned for the digital age to instill anxiety in order that those in power continue their reign, everyone else is being forced to bow their heads for fear of being caught looking up. In the meantime, China’s new method of population control will, no doubt, be carefully monitored by our own government and who knows, may modify, adapt or even adopt it to control behaviour of its citizens (who just voted against the establishment by way of Brexit).
Our government had no intention of declaring its universal citizen surveillance systems (found to be illegal in courts both at home and abroad); and in an attempt to legally cover itself has railroaded through the Snoopers Charter in record time, willingly supported by an opposition in exchange for nothing more than a self centered exclusion clause for its own benefit. The government, after a few more years of unchallenged and weak opposition will continue to act as though it has some divine existential right to move Britain towards an authoritarian state where the thin veil of democracy is more rhetoric than reality and corporations seize complete control such as CETA’s rampant profiteering ambitions.
The Washington Post (11/24/16) last week published a front-page blockbuster that quickly went viral: Russia-promoted “fake news” had infiltrated the newsfeeds of 213 million Americans during the election, muddying the waters in a disinformation scheme to benefit Donald Trump. Craig Timberg’s story was based on a “report” from an anonymous group (or simply a person, it’s unclear) calling itself PropOrNot that blacklisted over 200 websites as agents or assets of the Russian state.
The obvious implication was that an elaborate Russian psyop had fooled the public into voting for Trump based on a torrent of misleading and false information posing as news. Everyone from Bloomberg’s Sahil Kupar to CNN’s to Robert Reich to Anne Navarro to MSNBC’s Joy Ann Reid tweeted out the story in breathless tones. Center for American Progress and Clinton advocate Neera Tanden even did her best Ron Paul YouTube commenter impression, exclaiming, “Wake up people.”
But the story didn’t stand up to the most basic scrutiny. Follow-up reporting cast major doubt on the Washington Post’s core claims and underlying logic, the two primary complaints being 1) the “research group” responsible for the meat of the story, PropOrNot, is an anonymous group of partisans (if more than one person is involved) who tweet like high schoolers, and 2) the list of supposed Russian media assets, because its criteria for Russian “fake news” encompasses “useful idiots,” includes entirely well-within-the-mainstream progressive and libertarian websites such as Truth-Out, Consortium News, TruthDig and Antiwar.com (several of whom are now considering lawsuits against PropOrNot for libel).
PropOrNot says their criteria for “Russian propaganda” is “behavioral” and “motivation-agnostic,” so even those who publish views that simply coincide with the Russian government’s, regardless of intent or actual links to Russia, are per se Kremlin assets—an absurd metric that casts a net so wide as to render the concept meaningless.
Glenn Greenwald and Ben Norton of The Intercept (11/26/16) called PropOrNot “amateur peddlers of primitive, shallow propagandistic clichés” who were “engaging in extremely dubious McCarthyite tactics about a wide range of critics and dissenters.” Fortune magazine’s Matthew Ingram (11/25/16) insisted the report had the “beginnings of a conspiracy theory, rather than a scientific analysis,” while AlterNet’s Max Blumenthal (11/26/16) lamented that “insiders have latched onto a McCarthyite campaign that calls for government investigations of a wide array of alternative media outlets.”
As Matt Taibbi wrote in Rolling Stone (11/28/16):
The vast majority of reporters would have needed to see something a lot more concrete than a half-assed theoretical paper from such a dicey source before denouncing 200 news organizations as traitors.
Almost everyone outside of the Washington Post who critically examined the list concluded it was at best shoddy and ill-considered, and at worst a deliberate attempt to encourage a chilling effect on Russia-related reporting. That a group of Cold Warrior hacks would publish such a blacklist is not a surprise; that one of the most established names in American news would uncritically parrot it was. Its reporting, writing-up and referencing is a prime example of how fake real news on real fake news spreads without question.
USA Today (11/25/16), Gizmodo (11/25/16), PBS (11/25/16), The Daily Beast (11/25/16), Slate (11/25/16), AP (11/25/16) The Verge (11/25/16) and NPR (11/25/16) all uncritically wrote up the Post’s most incendiary claims with little or minimal pushback. Gizmodo was so giddy its original headline had to be changed from “Research Confirms That Russia Played a Major Role in Spreading Fake News” to “Research Suggests That Russia Played a Major Role in Spreading Fake News,” presumably after some polite commenters pointed out that the research “confirmed” nothing of the sort.
“Um ‘stories planted or promoted by the Russian disinformation campaign were viewed 213 million times,’” New York Times deputy Washington editor Jonathan Weisman (11/24/16) tweeted out to the tune of 2,800 retweets. But the report didn’t show this at all. There was no methodology provided, nor was there any consideration by Weisman that that “213 million” figure of Russian “fake news” included, for example, the third-most popular news site in the United States, the Drudge Report.
Drudge not only has no funding or backing from Putin, but predates his administration by several years. But because Drudge occasionally publishes stories that make the US look bad in relation to Russia, and because PropOrNot’s “useful idiots” criterion is “motivation-agnostic,” its entire footprint has become a “Russian disinformation campaign.” Did Weisman know this? Did he care?
As reports debunking or discrediting The List came out, the story continued to spread. Joy Ann Reid (Daily Beast, 11/27/16) alluded to the PropOrNot story to bolster her claim that there was an “alarming consensus of experts” that Russia interfered in the US election by “pumping of fake news and propaganda into the country’s digital bloodstream,” despite no such consensus existing. On Monday, Business Insider (11/28/16) insisted that PropOrNot’s “methods uncover some connections that merit consideration,” while citing only two examples and ignoring all of the major objections advanced by Greenwald, Taibbi et al. Rachel Maddow’s popular blog (MSNBC, 11/28/16) added another breathless write-up hours later, repeating the catchy talking point that “it was like Russia was running a super PAC for Trump’s campaign.”
Despite respected media critics taking the report to task, the Post’s spurious claims are being cemented as conventional wisdom, all the while the writer of the story and his editor refuse to answer direct criticism or reveal who this anonymous person or persons is. What are their motives? Who are their funders? Why is “useful idiot” being propped up by a major news outlet as a useful distinction? Why weren’t those on the blacklist asked to comment? Despite numerous inquiries by The Intercept, Rolling Stone and The Nation (11/28/16), all these questions remain unanswered.
One would think reports on “fake news” would themselves be held to the highest possible editorial standards, if not out of some instinctual desire to avoid high doses of irony and cognitive dissonance, at least to shield against charges of blatant hypocrisy. But increasingly, as the moral panic surrounding “fake news” reaches fever pitch, the standards of skepticism and sourcing employed by some of our most trusted news sources have inversely sunk to tabloid levels.
Adam Johnson is a contributing analyst for FAIR.org. You can follow him on Twitter at @AdamJohnsonNYC.
The group Roots Action has a petition up calling for a retraction of the blacklist story: “Tell the Washington Post: Smearing Is Not Reporting.”
A few weeks prior to the November 8 Presidential vote, I began the draft of an essay expecting a future attack by the government on the First Amendment citing President Obama’s most recent mellifluous verbal assault on free speech as HRC’s campaign speeches indicated that protecting a diversity of opinion would not be a top priority in her Administration.
Now in retrospect, it appears that Obama and HRC were both, most likely in the loop and knew what was coming as they prepared the way with subtle (and not so subtle) references to taming that messy, wild, wild west otherwise known as the world wide web.
As a reminder, during the 2008 Presidential campaign, Barack Obama was touted as a Constitutional scholar explaining that “I taught the Constitution for ten years. I believe in the Constitution and I will obey the Constitution of the United States.” During that campaign, he pledged to end warrantless surveillance (Fourth Amendment), detention without habeas corpus or trial (Fifth Amendment), torture (Eighth Amendment), and excessive executive branch secrecy and not engage in an offensive war without Congressional approval (both Article 1, Section 8).
That the President failed in those pledges is not surprising just as he promised the most open and transparent Administration ever in American history luring the Dem-Libs into eight years of somnolent rapture. Instead, the President used the Espionage Act for his Administration’s aggressive prosecution of more whistleblowers than all other Presidents combined and its pursuit of longer jail sentences than any other President. There is also the President’s disregard for the Rule of Law with his publicly declared, predetermined guilt of Chelsea Manning in 2011.
During a visit to the White House Frontiers Conference in Pittsburgh on October 13th, the President, known for his smooth, glib reassurances so successful at placating the public, suggested that “we are going to have to rebuild within this wild-wild-west-of-information flow some sort of curating function that people agree to” and that “democracy requires citizens to be able to sift through lies and distortions” and further that “those that we have to discard, because they just don’t have any basis in anything that’s actually happening in the world.” The President continued that “there has to be some sort of way in which we can sort through information that passes some basic truthiness tests.”
The President’s statement does not adequately capture what democracy requires of its citizens and reads more like what George Orwell epitomized as ‘political speech’ deliberately meant to confuse and demean citizen awareness. What Obama failed to acknowledge is that every American has a right, an obligation as an engaged citizen to determine for themselves what is a lie, distortion or truth; that ‘fake news’ is in the eye of the beholder and what a citizen believes and what they do not believe is their business and requires no justification to the government or anyone else. Most importantly, it was the President’s obligation to say that with a tremendous divergence of opinion on the www, some of it wacky, some of it conspiratorial, some of it incredibly incisive and intelligent and important – all of it is protected by the First Amendment.
To briefly parse the President’s words, most of which are painfully obvious, suggestions of a “curating function” as in some official government entity assigned for the purpose of “protecting” (“ added) the public interest and “some sort of way… sort through information that passes some truthiness test” are presented in the President’s usual folksy, innocuous dialectic used to serve the public pablum while a further shredding of their Constitutional rights slips by under their nose.
Fast forward to Thanksgiving Day, when most Americans were still slicing the turkey, the Washington Post found it the right time to publish a partisan-related article entitled “Russian propaganda effort helped spread ‘fake news’ during election, experts say” written by Craig Timberg.
What is especially curious about the timing is that Timberg’s article and the Propornot report were released within weeks of the imminent inauguration of a new President and that new President-elect’s name is included as one of the ‘bad guys’ according to Propornot’s YYYcampaignYYY. (see below)
One of the many problems with this article, besides the problematic First Amendment issues and journalistic standards of objectivity that Timberg’s reportage entails, is the weirdly anonymous nature of unnamed, non partisan ‘independent researchers’ (aka ‘concerned American citizens”). Timberg cited two tiers of ‘researchers’ who claimed that a “sophisticated Russian propaganda campaign” disseminating ‘fake news’ had found solace within the ranks of two hundred on line websites including “botnets” and “paid trolls” are “undermining faith in US democracy” and “embarrassed” Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton (HRC).
With a faux solemnity of protecting the nation at a time of great peril, the Post article assumes the validity of the ‘flood of fake news this election season’ as a given, with no critical analysis identifying what flood of fake news? How did that tsunami of ‘fake news’ get by me? Immediately, Mr. Timberg embraced the ‘fake news’ concept with no question as to its ‘truthiness” and accepted the fallacious notion that the Russians were required to provide necessary background information with which to create ‘fake news.’ Apparently the Post, Timberg and his secret grifters believe that none of the contributing writers of those two hundred websites, labeled by Timberg as “routine peddlers of Russian propaganda,” have the brains or initiative to create and research their own commentaries without being directed by some surreptitious foreign power.
Obviously, the issue is that any online article that dares question Obama or HRC’s proclivity for disastrous foreign policy entanglements or any disagreement with the established order’s agenda has been designated as a purveyor of ‘fake news’ generated by Russia.
The ‘researchers,’ according to Timberg, claimed to use “internet analytics tools to trace the origins of particular tweets and mapped the connections among social media accounts that consistently delivered synchronized messages” and that “exact phrases or sentences were echoed by sites and social-media accounts in rapid succession, signaling membership in connected networks controlled by a single entity.”
Citing RT News and Sputnik as sources, what Timberg is suggesting is that a US online website specifically used verbatim language from RT or Sputnik in the text of an article – yet no examples, not one illustration of such journalistic defilement was provided.
Timberg and the Post had a journalistic duty to specifically identify the “origin of particular tweets” and follow that tweet to show exactly how that tweet ‘consistently delivered synchronized messages.” Further, the Post had an obligation to specifically demonstrate how ‘exact phrases or sentences were echoed .. in rapid succession” and ended up “signaling members in connected networks controlled by a single entity.”
Instead Timberg failed to conduct his own examination of what the “researchers” had claimed and did exactly what he was claiming the websites did which was to mindlessly publish someone else’s allegations without verification.
The fact that Timberg recited what he was told by the ‘researchers’ indicates he is willing to accept ‘fake news’ without checking his informant’s information – which proves the point that ‘fake news’ begins with those pointing the finger at others.
A closer reading of Timberg’s article however informs that, according to unnamed ‘researchers’, RT, Sputnik and other Russian sites used social media to ‘amplify’ stories already circulating on line and were able to identify ‘trending’ topics that “sometimes prompted coverage from mainstream American news organizations.” Sounds like the Russian media committed the grievous error of getting the jump on the asleep-at-the-wheel MSM.
Also the ‘researchers’ complained that “The speed and coordination of these efforts allowed Russian-backed phony news to outcompete traditional news organizations for audience.” Got that? “Outcompete traditional news organizations”. Again, MSM with egg on their face.
Of special interest was Timberg’s mention of “Propornot,” a group which, according to the Post, is a ‘nonpartisan collection of researchers with foreign policy, military and technology backgrounds” whose report would show the ‘startling reach and effectiveness of Russian propaganda campaigns.”
So while Propornot website has a list of two hundred websites and a list of nineteen chosen for special attention, no identifying evidence or proof is presented other than wild accusations and unsubstantiated fact-free assertions that any of these websites are ‘peddlers’ for Russian propaganda.
All this agitation might stir some real concern and downright intimidation if it were anything but sheer hogwash. None of Timberg’s assertions pan out as the nineteen websites selected by Propornot were not vetted as described above in this essay; that is connecting website text with text submitted by Russian spooks.
Upon visiting the Propornot website, the public is greeted with an eerily sparse home page reminiscent of something from post-WWII Russian KGB and a very bizarre introduction to “Your Friendly Neighborhood Propaganda Identification Service, Since 2016!” and no identified participants except comedian and satirist Samantha Bee, hostess for TBS’s late night news comedy program Full Front. Bee, who apparently agreed to be the face of Propornot is accompanied by two fully masked men who claim to be Russian hackers. Now right away, Bee’s presence confirms this is all a spoof, Timberg was tricked and this is all a Samantha Bee publicity stunt.
Except it is not. The Propornot Team calls on a disreputable Congress and a lame duck Obama Administration to investigate Russian manipulation of the US political process and whether the American public was deprived of information to vote in an ‘informed manner’. In other words, another attempt to scapegoat HRC’s rejection at the polls.
Perhaps the most malevolent element of Propornot is the YYYcampaignYYY where the general public is encouraged to cross the Rubicon to a fully totalitarian state by not only identifying Russian propaganda outlets but also those known ‘sympathizers.’
In addition, YYYcampaignYYY makes the point that no matter whether a citizen is knowingly directed or not but continues to ‘echo Russian propaganda,” their “willingness to uncritically echo Russian propaganda makes them a tool of the Russian state.” The threat here is that with Russia declared an ‘enemy” of the US, a citizen may be committing treason.
If there is any doubt whether the Timberg article and Propornot itself is a partisan effort, the YYY implication is that anyone “echoing a Russian propaganda line” such as those who speak “how wonderful, powerful, innocent and righteous Russia and Russia’s friends are: Putin, Donald Trump, al-Bashar Assad, Syria, Iran, China, radical political parties” will be considered tools of Russia as compared with those who speak “how terrible, weak, aggressive, and corrupt the opponents of Russia are: the US, Obama, HRC, the EU, Angela Merkel, NATO, Ukraine, Jewish people, US allies, MSM and Democrats” will be considered enemies of the State. Anyone with such information is encouraged to ‘come tell us at Propornot about it.’
Consider that Propornot’s YYYcampaignYYY identified President Elect Trump as one of the ‘bad guys’ who is, in certain circles, considered to be entirely too amenable to Putin while HRC and the Democrats who created the unprovoked attacks on Putin are the “good guys.’
Exactly what is the Deep State telling us?
Renee Parsons has been a member of the ACLU’s Florida State Board of Directors and president of the ACLU Treasure Coast Chapter. She has been an elected public official in Colorado, an environmental lobbyist and staff member of the US House of Representatives in Washington DC. She can be found on Twitter @reneedove31
Under the cover of battling “fake news,” the mainstream U.S. news media and officialdom are taking aim at journalistic skepticism when it is directed at the pronouncements of the U.S. government and its allies.
One might have hoped that the alarm about “fake news” would remind major U.S. news outlets, such as The Washington Post and The New York Times, about the value of journalistic skepticism. However, instead, it seems to have done the opposite.
The idea of questioning the claims by the West’s officialdom now brings calumny down upon the heads of those who dare do it. “Truth” is being redefined as whatever the U.S. government, NATO and other Western interests say is true. Disagreement with the West’s “group thinks,” no matter how fact-based the dissent is, becomes “fake news.”
So, we have the case of Washington Post columnist David Ignatius having a starry-eyed interview with Richard Stengel, the State Department’s Undersecretary for Public Diplomacy, the principal arm of U.S. government propaganda.
Entitled “The truth is losing,” the column laments that the official narratives as deigned by the State Department and The Washington Post are losing traction with Americans and the world’s public.
Stengel, a former managing editor at Time magazine, seems to take aim at Russia’s RT network’s slogan, “question more,” as some sinister message seeking to inject cynicism toward the West’s official narratives.
“They’re not trying to say that their version of events is the true one. They’re saying: ‘Everybody’s lying! Nobody’s telling you the truth!’,” Stengel said. “They don’t have a candidate, per se. But they want to undermine faith in democracy, faith in the West.”
Typical of these recent mainstream tirades about this vague Russian menace, Ignatius’s column doesn’t provide any specifics regarding how RT and other Russian media outlets are carrying out this assault on the purity of Western information. It’s enough to just toss around pejorative phrases supporting an Orwellian solution, which is to stamp out or marginalize alternative and independent journalism, not just Russian.
Ignatius writes: “Stengel poses an urgent question for journalists, technologists and, more broadly, everyone living in free societies or aspiring to do so. How do we protect the essential resource of democracy — the truth — from the toxin of lies that surrounds it? It’s like a virus or food poisoning. It needs to be controlled. But how?
“Stengel argues that the U.S. government should sometimes protect citizens by exposing ‘weaponized information, false information’ that is polluting the ecosystem. But ultimately, the defense of truth must be independent of a government that many people mistrust. ‘There are inherent dangers in having the government be the verifier of last resort,’ he argues.”
By the way, Stengel is not the fount of truth-telling, as he and Ignatius like to pretend. Early in the Ukraine crisis, Stengel delivered a rant against RT that was full of inaccuracies or what you might call “fake news.”
Yet, what Stengel and various mainstream media outlets appear to be arguing for is the creation of a “Ministry of Truth” managed by mainstream U.S. media outlets and enforced by Google, Facebook and other technology platforms.
In other words, once these supposedly responsible outlets decide what the “truth” is, then questioning that narrative will earn you “virtual” expulsion from the marketplace of ideas, possibly eliminated via algorithms of major search engines or marked with a special app to warn readers not to believe what you say, a sort of yellow Star of David for the Internet age.
And then there’s the possibility of more direct (and old-fashioned) government enforcement by launching FBI investigations into media outlets that won’t toe the official line. (All of these “solutions” have been advocated in recent weeks.)
On the other hand, if you do toe the official line that comes from Stengel’s public diplomacy shop, you stand to get rewarded with government financial support. Stengel disclosed in his interview with Ignatius that his office funds “investigative” journalism projects.
“How should citizens who want a fact-based world combat this assault on truth?” Ignatius asks, adding: “Stengel has approved State Department programs that teach investigative reporting and empower truth-tellers.”
After reading Ignatius’s column on Wednesday, I submitted a question to the State Department asking for details on this “journalism” and “truth-telling” funding that is coming from the U.S. government’s top propaganda shop, but I have not received an answer.
But we do know that the U.S. government has been investing tens of millions of dollars in various media programs to undergird Washington’s desired narratives.
For instance, in May 2015, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) issued a fact sheet summarizing its work financing friendly journalists around the world, including “journalism education, media business development, capacity building for supportive institutions, and strengthening legal-regulatory environments for free media.”
USAID estimated its budget for “media strengthening programs in over 30 countries” at $40 million annually, including aiding “independent media organizations and bloggers in over a dozen countries,” In Ukraine before the 2014 coup ousting elected President Viktor Yanukovych and installing a fiercely anti-Russian and U.S.-backed regime, USAID offered training in “mobile phone and website security,” skills that would have been quite helpful to the coup plotters.
USAID, working with currency speculator George Soros’s Open Society, also has funded the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project, which engages in “investigative journalism” that usually goes after governments that have fallen into disfavor with the United States and then are singled out for accusations of corruption. The USAID-funded OCCRP collaborates with Bellingcat, an online investigative website founded by blogger Eliot Higgins.
Higgins has spread misinformation on the Internet, including discredited claims implicating the Syrian government in the sarin attack in 2013 and directing an Australian TV news crew to what appeared to be the wrong location for a video of a BUK anti-aircraft battery as it supposedly made its getaway to Russia after the shoot-down of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 in 2014.
Despite his dubious record of accuracy, Higgins has gained mainstream acclaim, in part, because his “findings” always match up with the propaganda theme that the U.S. government and its Western allies are peddling. Higgins is now associated with the Atlantic Council, a pro-NATO think tank which is partially funded by the U.S. State Department.
Beyond funding from the State Department and USAID, tens of millions of dollars more are flowing through the U.S.-government-funded National Endowment for Democracy, which was started in 1983 under the guiding hand of CIA Director William Casey.
NED became a slush fund to help finance what became known, inside the Reagan administration, as “perception management,” the art of controlling the perceptions of domestic and foreign populations.
The Emergence of StratCom
Last year, as the New Cold War heated up, NATO created the Strategic Communications Command in Latvia to further wage information warfare against Russia and individuals who were contesting the West’s narratives.
As veteran war correspondent Don North reported in 2015 regarding this new StratCom, “the U.S. government has come to view the control and manipulation of information as a ‘soft power’ weapon, merging psychological operations, propaganda and public affairs under the catch phrase ‘strategic communications.’
“This attitude has led to treating psy-ops — manipulative techniques for influencing a target population’s state of mind and surreptitiously shaping people’s perceptions — as just a normal part of U.S. and NATO’s information policy.”
Now, the European Parliament and the U.S. Congress are moving to up the ante, passing new legislation to escalate “information warfare.”
On Wednesday, U.S. congressional negotiators approved $160 million to combat what they deem foreign propaganda and the alleged Russian campaign to spread “fake news.” The measure is part of the National Defense Authorization Act and gives the State Department the power to identify “propaganda” and counter it.
This bipartisan stampede into an Orwellian future for the American people and the world’s population follows a shoddily sourced Washington Post article that relied on a new anonymous group that identified some 200 Internet sites, including some of the most prominent American independent sources of news, as part of a Russian propaganda network.
Typical of this new McCarthyism, the report lacked evidence that any such network actually exists but instead targeted cases where American journalists expressed skepticism about claims from Western officialdom.
Consortiumnews.com was included on the list apparently because we have critically analyzed some of the claims and allegations regarding the crises in Syria and Ukraine, rather than simply accept the dominant Western “group thinks.”
Also on the “black list” were such quality journalism sites as Counterpunch, Truth-out, Truthdig, Naked Capitalism and ZeroHedge along with many political sites ranging across the ideological spectrum.
The Fake-News Express
Normally such an unfounded conspiracy theory would be ignored, but – because The Washington Post treated the incredible allegations as credible – the smear has taken on a life of its own, reprised by cable networks and republished by major newspapers.
But the unpleasant truth is that the mainstream U.S. news media is now engaged in its own fake-news campaign about “fake news.” It’s publishing bogus claims invented by a disreputable and secretive outfit that just recently popped up on the Internet. If that isn’t “fake news,” I don’t know what is.
Yet, despite the Post’s clear violations of normal journalistic practices, surely, no one there will pay a price, anymore than there was accountability for the Post reporting as flat fact that Iraq was hiding WMD in 2002-2003. Fred Hiatt, the editorial-page editor most responsible for that catastrophic “group think,” is still in the same job today.
Two nights ago, MSNBC’s Chris Matthews featured the spurious Washington Post article in a segment that – like similar rehashes –didn’t bother to get responses from the journalists being slandered.
I found that ironic since Matthews repeatedly scolds journalists for their failure to look skeptically at U.S. government claims about Iraq possessing WMD as justification for the disastrous Iraq War. However, now Matthews joins in smearing journalists who have applied skepticism to U.S. and Western propaganda claims about Syria and/or Ukraine.
While the U.S. Congress and the European Parliament begin to take action to shut down or isolate dissident sources of information – all in the name of “democracy” – a potentially greater danger is that mainstream U.S. news outlets are already teaming up with technology companies, such as Google and Facebook, to impose their own determinations about “truth” on the Internet.
Or, as Ignatius puts it in his column reflecting Undersecretary for Public Diplomacy Stengel’s thinking, “The best hope may be the global companies that have created the social-media platforms.
“‘They see this information war as an existential threat,’ says Stengel. … The real challenge for global tech giants is to restore the currency of truth. Perhaps “machine learning” [presumably a reference to algorithms] can identify falsehoods and expose every argument that uses them. Perhaps someday, a human-machine process will create what Stengel describes as a ‘global ombudsman for information.’”
Ministry of Truth
An organization of some 30 mainstream media companies already exists, including not only The Washington Post and The New York Times but also the Atlantic Council-connected Bellingcat, as the emerging arbiters – or ombudsmen – for truth, something Orwell described less flatteringly as a “Ministry of Truth.”
The New York Times has even editorialized in support of Internet censorship, using the hysteria over “fake news” to justify the marginalization or disappearance of dissident news sites.
It now appears that this 1984-ish “MiniTrue” will especially target journalistic skepticism when applied to U.S. government and mainstream media “group thinks.”
Yet, in my four decades-plus in professional journalism, I always understood that skepticism was a universal journalistic principle, one that should be applied in all cases, whether a Republican or a Democrat is in the White House or whether some foreign leader is popular or demonized.
As we have seen in recent years, failure to ask tough questions and to challenge dubious claims from government officials and mainstream media outlets can get lots of people killed, both U.S. soldiers and citizens of countries invaded or destabilized by outsiders.
To show skepticism is not the threat to democracy that Undersecretary Stengel and columnist Ignatius appear to think it is.
Whether you like or dislike RT’s broadcasts – or more likely have never seen one – a journalist really can’t question its slogan: “question more.” Questioning is the essence of journalism and, for that matter, democracy.
[In protest of the Post’s smearing of independent journalists, RootsAction has undertaken a petition drive, which can be found here.]
Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s.
The House of Representatives has passed an intelligence bill aimed at tackling what Washington claims is political interference by Russia on a global level.
The 93-page bill, passed by the House in a 390-30 vote on Wednesday, calls for setting up a new, interagency panel to suppress Russia’s alleged attempts to “exert covert influence over peoples and governments,” The Washington Post reported.
The draft legislation goes on to state that the panel would be tasked with “countering active measures by Russia to exert covert influence, including exposing falsehoods, agents of influence, corruption, human rights abuses, terrorism and assassinations carried out by the security services or political elites of the Russian Federation or their proxies.”
The bill could be seen in direct opposition to President-elect Donald Trump’s plan to strengthen relations with Moscow.
In addition to thwarting Russia’s alleged interference, the bill also outlines funding for efforts to foil attacks and deny terrorists safe harbor in Iraq, Syria, North Africa, and other locations. It aims to strengthen counter-intelligence and address threats from adversaries in cyberspace, space and at sea.
It also updates whistleblower procedures in the intelligence community and requires a declassification review of intelligence reports on detainees transferred out of Guantanamo Bay by President Barack Obama and former President George W. Bush.
The Senate is expected to vote on the bill before the end of the year.
Also Wednesday, the six Democrats on the Senate Intelligence Committee sent a letter to President Obama, seeking declassification of information about Russia’s alleged meddling in the US presidential election.
“We believe there is additional information concerning the Russian government and the US election that should be declassified and released to the public,” they wrote in the letter. “We are conveying specifics through classified channels.”
Moscow has dismissed claims that it meddled in the US presidential election as “nonsense,” with President Vladimir Putin calling the accusation an attempt to distract American voters from domestic issues.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov recently told Italian newspaper Corriere della sera that there is still no proof of Moscow’s alleged meddling in the US presidential elections, calling the accusations “myth-making with a goal to solve the short-term political objectives.”
“No promised ‘evidence’ of interference in the electoral process has been presented neither to the American, nor to the international public,” Lavrov said.
Donald Trump has set off a new controversy with a signature early morning tweet. Trump lashed out at those who burn American flags and said that they should be punished for their actions. The problem is that this question was already answered by the Supreme Court, which found that such acts (while despicable) are constitutionally protected under the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.
Early this morning, Trump went on Twitter to say: “Nobody should be allowed to burn the American flag – if they do, there must be consequences – perhaps loss of citizenship or year in jail!”
I have long been critical of those who burn our flag, which I view as a symbol of our constitutional freedoms and the sacrifice of generations to preserve this Republic. However, there are many things that people say or do that I find disturbing or insulting. That does not alter the fact that they are protected expressions of free speech.
President-Elect Trump does not appear to see it that way. Yet, both the Constitution and the Supreme Court stand in the way of punitive measures for flag burners. Having said that, Trump’s view has been shared by various justices in history including such liberal icons as Chief Justice Earl Warren in his dissenting opinion in Street v. New York, 394 U.S. 576 (1969). Likewise, Hillary Clinton supported such a law in 2005.
Nevertheless, in the United States, the destruction of the flag is a protected form of free speech. In Texas v. Johnson, 491 U.S. 397 (1989), the Supreme Court voted 5-4 that flag burning was protected speech under the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. It is considered one of the core cases defining free speech in the United States. Brennan was joined by Marshall, Blackmun, Scalia, and Kennedy (Kennedy wrote a concurrence). I agree with the decision as did conservatives like Scalia, who Trump has expressed great admiration for. Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote a powerful concurrence where he famously stated:
Justice Kennedy wrote a concurrence with Brennan’s opinion. Kennedy wrote:For we are presented with a clear and simple statute to be judged against a pure command of the Constitution. The outcome can be laid at no door but ours. The hard fact is that sometimes we must make decisions we do not like. We make them because they are right, right in the sense that the law and the Constitution, as we see them, compel the result. And so great is our commitment to the process that, except in the rare case, we do not pause to express distaste for the result, perhaps for fear of undermining a valued principle that dictates the decision. This is one of those rare cases.
Though symbols often are what we ourselves make of them, the flag is constant in expressing beliefs Americans share, beliefs in law and peace and that freedom which sustains the human spirit. The case here today forces recognition of the costs to which those beliefs commit us. It is poignant but fundamental that the flag protects those who hold it in contempt.
Congress has shown the same opposition to the decision as Trump. It passed the 1989 Flag Protection Act to make it a federal crime to desecrate the flag. That law was struck down in United States v. Eichman, 496 U.S. 310 (1990). The Court ruled that “the Government may not prohibit the expression of an idea simply because society finds the idea itself offensive or disagreeable.”
Various congressional members have also sought to pass a constitutional amendment on flag desecration but the proposed amendment has failed in the Senate. It has been ten years since the last serious effort has been made for an amendment on the issue. Trump aides might argue that he was not questioning the legitimacy of the decision but supporting a constitutional amendment.
I understand Trump’s anger and I indeed share it when I see the flag burned. However, you do not protect the flag by diminishing the very thing is represented: our constitutional freedoms.
Of course, while Trump cannot change the meaning of the Constitution, he can change the make up of the Court (or support a Flag-Desecration Amendment). Ironically, by replacing Scalia with someone who does not hold as strong a belief in First Amendment rights, he could shift the vote toward a reversal of the 1989 precedent. I hope that that is not the case. It could place this country on a slippery slope of criminalized speech. I prefer to live in a country where tweets and protests are both given ample protection.
Your crime, as it were, need not be substantiated with evidence; the mere fact you publicly revealed your anti-Establishment thought convicted you.
One of the most remarkable ironies of The Washington Post’s recent evidence-free fabrication of purported “Russian propaganda” websites (including this site) is how closely it mimics the worst excesses of the USSR’s Stalinist era.
One episode is especially relevant to the totalitarian tactics of The Washington Post’s evidence-free accusation. Solzhenitsyn tells the story of one poor fellow who made the mistake of recounting a dream he’d had the previous night to his co-workers.
In his dream, Stalin had come to some harm. In Solzhenitsyn’s account, the fellow was remorseful about the dream.
Alas, mere remorse couldn’t possibly save him. He was promptly arrested for “anti-Soviet thoughts” and given a tenner in the Gulag–a tenner being a ten-year sentence in a Siberian labor camp.
The Washington Post’s accusation is based on a “behavioral analysis”–in other words, publicly sharing “anti-Soviet thoughts”–in our era, the equivalent is sharing anti-Establishment thoughts.
Your crime, as it were, need not be substantiated with evidence; the mere fact you publicly revealed your anti-Establishment thought convicted you.
This is the Corporate Media’s Gulag of the Mind. We’ll tell you what’s “true” and what is correct to think and believe. Any deviation from the party line is a threat and must be discredited, marginalized or suppressed.
Where is the Post’s hard evidence of Russian ties or Russian influence? There isn’t any–but like Stalin’s henchmen, the Post has no need for evidence: merely going public with an anti-Establishment thought “proves” one’s guilt in the kangaroo court of America’s corporate media (a.k.a. mainstream media or MSM).
While The Washington Post is owned by billionaire Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, the vast majority of what we read, watch and hear is controlled by a handful of corporations loaded with cash and connections to the ruling elite.
This concentration of media control creates the illusion of choice— the same elite-propaganda spin is everywhere you look; our “choice” of “approved” (i.e. corporate) media is roughly the same as that offered the Soviet citizenry in the old USSR.
This is why the billionaire/corporate media is so desperate to discredit the non-corporate media: if an alternative to the corporate media’s elite-propaganda catches on, the corporate media will lose its audience, its advert revenues and a substantial measure of its influence.
The cornered elite-propaganda beast is lashing out, undermining its waning credibility with every attack on an independent free press. As I noted in a recent conversation with Max Keiser, democracy requires the citizenry to sort out who benefits from whatever narrative is being pushed.
That’s what terrifies the elite-propaganda mainstream media: the status quo narrative they’ve spewed for years doesn’t benefit the bottom 95% — rather, it actively impoverishes and disempowers the bottom 95%–and the citizenry is slowly awakening to this reality.
So for goodness sakes, if you have an anti-elitist dream, keep it to yourself or you’ll end up on the ruling elite’s “enemies list.”
The final irony in all this: the real enemy of democracy and freedom of the press is The Washington Post and the rest of the billionaire/corporate media. The only way to escape the Corporate Media’s Gulag of the Mind is to stop watching their TV channels, turn off their radio stations and stop reading their print/digital propaganda–except of course if you have a taste for dark humor.
Check out both of my new books, Inequality and the Collapse of Privilege ($3.95 Kindle, $8.95 print) and Why Our Status Quo Failed and Is Beyond Reform ($3.95 Kindle, $8.95 print). For more, please visit the OTM essentials website.
Britain’s intelligence services have officially been given the most wide-ranging and privacy-invading mass surveillance powers in the world, according to critics, after the Investigatory Powers Act became law on Tuesday.
The legislation, dubbed the ‘snooper’s charter,’ authorizes the government to hack into devices, networks and services in bulk, and allows for large databases of personal information on UK citizens to be maintained.
It requires internet, phone and communication app companies to store customers’ records for 12 months and allow authorities to access them on demand.
That data could be anything from internet search history, calls made or messages sent, and will be available to a wide range of agencies, including the Department for Work and Pensions as well as the Food Standards Agency.
Security agencies will also be able to force companies to decrypt data, effectively placing limits on the use of end-to-end encryption.
Home Secretary Amber Rudd has hailed the legislation as “world-leading,” saying it provides “unprecedented transparency and substantial privacy protection.”
The Home Office says the “landmark” law “sets out and governs the powers available to the police, security and intelligence agencies to gather and access electronic communications.”
In a statement, the department said the law “brings together and updates existing powers while radically overhauling how they are authorized and overseen.”
Not all the powers available in the act will be rolled out immediately. Some require testing so will not be ready for some time, the Home Office says.
The legislation has been divisive since it was first published, and was opposed by tens of thousands of people in a recent petition.
Civil liberties group Liberty told the Independent the law served as a “beacon for despots everywhere.”
“It’s a sad day for our democracy as this bill, with its eye-wateringly intrusive powers and flimsy safeguards, becomes law,” said Bella Sankey, the group’s policy director.
“The government has a duty to protect us, but these measures won’t do the job. Instead they open every detail of every citizen’s online life up to state eyes, drowning the authorities in data and putting innocent people’s personal information at massive risk.
“This new law is world-leading – but only as a beacon for despots everywhere. The campaign for a surveillance law fit for the digital age continues, and must now move to the courts.”
Privacy campaigners say the law will provide an international standard to authoritarian regimes around the world to justify their own intrusive surveillance powers, and could be a breach of human rights.