The German neo-liberal class of lawmakers continue to push the “hate speech” agenda, which is really just the beginning of the German government (and eventually the entire European Union) censoring speech that they deem inappropriate in terms of their world view and agenda.
Who defines what “hate speech” is? Where does hate speech end, and full on government censorship begin? German lawmakers could never answer these questions, nor do they want to. They simply want to get the ball rolling on curbing dissenting voices, so as to have complete control of the media and social narrative.
Expecting Facebook to be judge, jury and executioner when defining “hate speech” is unrealistic, and sets a very dangerous precedent. It is also intrinsically anti-internet. The web was founded on freedom of expression. Germany lawmakers wish to break a core function of what makes the internet work.
Speaking at a party conference of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats (CDU), Volker Kauder suggested German politicians were running out of patience with efforts by social media companies to censor hate speech.
“I expect from big companies like Facebook that they adhere to laws. If they are not respected then we must think about new possibilities, fines for example.”
“They say there is too much. But a big auto manufacturer that produces millions of cars can’t say: ‘I produce so many cars that I can’t guarantee they are all secure.’ No, that is not on. I expect and demand from Facebook that laws are upheld.”
Very smart analogy by Mr. Kauder… comparing social media posts to building automobiles. We all know that building a car is exactly the same as composing a tweet.
Facebook declined immediate comment on Kauder’s remarks.
Germany is seen as a forerunner when it comes to forcing Facebook to step up efforts to police online hate speech, which has risen here following an influx of almost one million migrants, mainly from the Middle East, last year.
Politicians are also worried about how hate speech and fake news could sway public opinion ahead of elections next year in which Merkel will be running for a fourth term and facing an increasingly popular far right.
Last year, Justice Minister Heiko Maas set up a task force made up of representatives from Facebook, Google’s YouTube and Twitter as well as nonprofit groups to discuss ways to combat the rise in online hate speech.
The platform providers signed up to a voluntary code of conduct to take action to remove hate posts within 24 hours.
Results of a survey published in September by a group that monitors hate speech found Facebook removed about 46 percent of illegal content reported by users within 24 hours, significantly more than YouTube and Twitter which deleted just 10 percent and about 1 percent respectively.
Maas has repeatedly warned that he will propose legislation if the social media networks do not remove at least 70 percent of hate speech by March next year.
Kauder said Maas, a member of the Social Democrats, Merkel’s junior coalition partner, was being too easy on social media.
“We have a roundtable and now we must wait … but after the Christmas break is the end of the roundtables. We’ve sat at roundtables long enough. Now we want to see actions.”
News that Google, Microsoft, and Facebook will collaborate to censor their definition of terrorism on their collective networks signals Orwellian times to come. New EU legislation, hints at McCarthyism in America and Europe, and the proven collusion in between Silicon Valley and governments should signal a counter-revolution. Here’s a look at why.
A couple of years ago my colleagues and I helped uncovered a Ukraine “kill list” supported by NATO, the British Embassy in Ukraine, and by neo-Nazis bent on condemning pro-Russians in the Ukraine civil war. The so-called “Peacekeeper” movement was traced to NATO servers in 2015. Since that time we have all witnessed a dizzying barrage of lies, propaganda, and a controlled message of unprecedented scale. WikiLeaks revelations from the Clinton and Podesta files showed the world the depth of collusion, graft, and draconian measures on behalf of the elites in control of western society. Google and the others as tools of the security machine cannot be controverted. And now the same people who tried to buy the presidency of the United States, who fueled the Arab Spring, ISIL, the refugee crisis, the economic crisis, and endless war, they’re out to close the gates on a billion free people. Twitter’s blog post from yesterday gives us the underpublicized announcement.
“Facebook, Microsoft, Twitter, and YouTube are coming together to help curb the spread of terrorist content online. There is no place for content that promotes terrorism on our hosted consumer services. When alerted, we take swift action against this kind of content in accordance with our respective policies.”
For those users of these networks who are not so aware, this disguised censoring apparatus probably seems as harmless and positively idealistic as Google’s “Do no evil” dogma from bygone years. Disguised as an anti-terror collaboration, this latest Orwellian move by the establishment is nothing of the kind. WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange explains the extraordinary role of Google, Google Ideas, and other contravening evidence here, on the WikiLeaks site. For those who may remain unconvinced, Assange laid out how Google’s Eric Schmidt and Google Ideas Director Jared Cohen, helped plan for just such collaborations as we see today:
“Democratic states that have built coalitions of their militaries have the capacity to do the same with their connection technologies. . . . They offer a new way to exercise the duty to protect citizens around the world.”
Normally I would lay out all the evidence and analysis on these points here, but there is no necessity for this now. All the reader needs to understand is the underlying warning, some main characters in this power play, and the immediacy with which we should address this situation. Now I shall enumerate.
US President Barack Obama and German Chanellor Angela Merkel’s last meeting in Berlin opened several dark corridors. Advising President-elect Donald Trump to “adhere” was one provocative note, the forthcoming “Fake News” business another. But the most telling rhetoric came in the form of Obama revealing the ultimate misinformation and strategy. This segment tells us Merkel and Obama were in war mode with Russia all along:
“We work very closely together on the issue of annexation of Crimea and Russia’s attempt to actually conquer Ukraine. And actually they did so — conquered part of the territory. We tried to come to a peaceful settlement here on this.” (WH)
Some days after the Berlin meetup, the European Parliament passed two controversial pieces of legislation. First, the MEPs in Strassbourg paved the way for creating an EU Army. Second, the same parliamentarians voted in a so-called collective anti-propaganda legislation that would essentially allow these same leaders to track down and silence anyone with a view outside their definitions of normal. The fast forwarded strategy to control news and messaging is in fever pitch now, as Germany’s chancellor and America’s president warning of “Fake News”, and CNN along with other owned media repeat the propaganda. CBS Interactive chimed in to bolster the mainstream’s sagging credibility, and to foster the social media corporation cooperation we see today.
The danger is clear. The players are known. Ignorance of the facts will end in dire repressions of freedom and heightened crisis. I contribute to a dozen or more of the independent media sites already targeted. Sputnik, RT, NEO, Global Research, and some others feature my analysis or reports, and I am not nearly alone. Those of us with some prowess on Facebook and the other social media networks will also become targets, I have no doubt. For my part, I am not so concerned. I helped in a meaningful way to evangelize and to develop much of the social and tech landscape you see. I am horrified for the greater implications of these moves though. Facebook’s stockholders, Microsoft’s, Twitter’s, should weigh carefully the audience here. I want to end this report on a meaningful note. So here is my best plea for you to understand the lie before you.
Facebook, Microsoft, Twitter, and YouTube are pretending, and here is the perfect evidence. While these social corporations contend the coming moves against “extremism” are based in altruism and correctness, the truth is revealed in their past actions. The best example I can give is the case of one Nedā Āghā-Soltān. Some will recall the outrage over a YouTube video showing a young Iranian woman dying in front of the camera. Shot by a sniper, the beautiful young philosophy student bled to death before our eyes. The video depicted death in its horrific finality, injustice in its banal cruelty, and more importantly the indecency the Internet has come to represent. For my part the nightmarish and soul darkening vision of life draining from this woman troubled my sleep. Make no mistake, I have seen death many times before, but never catalogued so intrusively. In the end, despite a fairly vast outcry to remove the video, Google refused. The political aspects of Neda’s death took over, the viral nature of the death on Twitter and YouTube was actually promoted, for many robbing her of her last moments was a sin. Now few raise a voice at even the most horrific scenes, and this was by design.
We are desensitized to nearly everything now. Few even know what to believe, so most believe whatever is shown them, at least on some passive level. The life draining from a young student, a man holding his child, the baby’s skull blown apart – it’s just one more dead child – heaped onto a mountain of dead children in far off places. Gaza running red with blood, the Donbass children riddled with shrapnel, dethroned leaders hung, make believe villains with bayonets stabbed into their rectums in Libya, laughing hyena presidential candidates bragging about murdering – and right now the Silicon Valley stock market is going to protect us? No, my friends, the gatekeepers are shutting down democracy, or at least trying to. When the purpose serves them, the next step will finally stun the world into recognition. I only hope we can stop them before.
Following public backlash, legal threats, and sustained mocking, the Washington Post has added an editor’s note distancing the newspaper from a shadowy website called PropOrNot which they had preciously endorsed as “experts” on “fake news” and “Russian propaganda.”
In an ironically fake news article about “fake news” by Craig Timberg the Washington Post claimed that Russian propaganda helped Donald Trump win the US presidential election. A large part of the basis for the piece was centered on evidence the paper presented that was gleaned from an aggressively anonymous website called PropOrNot, which lists over 200 websites that they accuse of peddling what they call Russian propaganda, and other false narratives. Popular news websites on all sides of the political spectrum are listed, including The Drudge Report, Zero Hedge, TruthOut, Sputnik News, and WikiLeaks.
The Washington Post has now added the following editor’s note to the article:
“The Washington Post on Nov. 24 published a story on the work of four sets of researchers who have examined what they say are Russian propaganda efforts to undermine American democracy and interests. One of them was PropOrNot, a group that insists on public anonymity, which issued a report identifying more than 200 websites that, in its view, wittingly or unwittingly published or echoed Russian propaganda. A number of those sites have objected to being included on PropOrNot’s list, and some of the sites, as well as others not on the list, have publicly challenged the group’s methodology and conclusions. The Post, which did not name any of the sites, does not itself vouch for the validity of PropOrNot’s findings regarding any individual media outlet, nor did the article purport to do so. Since publication of The Post’s story, PropOrNot has removed some sites from its list.”
After the publication of its article, the Post was slapped with a letter from Naked Capitalism, one of the websites listed, demanding a full retraction and threatening a defamation lawsuit. “You did not provide even a single example of ‘fake news’ allegedly distributed or promoted by Naked Capitalism or indeed any of the 200 sites on the PropOrNot blacklist,” the attorney representing the website, Jim Moody wrote.
“You provided no discussion or assessment of the credentials or backgrounds of these so-called ‘researchers’ (Clint Watts, Andrew Weisburd, and J.M. Berger and the ‘team’ at PropOrNot), and no discussion or analysis of the methodology, protocol or algorithms such ‘researchers’ may or may not have followed.”
While declaring that the entities behind the PropOrNot operation were “experts,” the Post refused to name them. Though their motives remain unknown, the organization previously promoted a Ukrainian hacker group on their Twitter feed.
Interestingly, a bill was introduced November 22, just two days before the Post published the November 24 article in question, which would allow lawmakers to crack down on websites deemed to be “Russian propaganda” or “fake news.” Tucked neatly inside the Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2017, the bill appears to be aimed at cracking down on free speech.
“It is easy to see how this law, if passed by the Senate and signed by the President, could be used to target, threaten, or eliminate so-called ‘fake news’ websites, a list which has been used to arbitrarily define any website, or blog, that does not share the mainstream media’s proclivity to serve as the Public Relations arm of a given administration,” Global Research reported.
The bill must now pass through the Senate, but a top aide to Rand Paul has informed Sputnik News that the Senator is currently holding the bill for a variety of reasons.
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.
Stuart Allen died on November 22, 2016. I learned of his death by way of an email from Laurel Krause, whose sister Allison was gunned down by the National Guard on May 4, 1970, just after the noon hour during a demonstration against the U.S. incursion into Cambodia during the Vietnam War.
Stuart Allen would not like to be called a hero, although he certainly was one. Stuart was both an audio and video expert, with degrees in both fields and worked out of his lab and business in New Jersey that offers expert analyses of that kind of data. Stuart often worked for law enforcement, including the Justice Department and the FBI.
In 2010, both Stuart and another forensic audio expert, Tom Owen, provided information at the request of the Cleveland Plain Dealer (“New analysis of 40-year old recording of Kent State shootings reveals that Ohio Guard was given an order to prepare to fire,” May 9, 2010) about a new analysis of the famous Strubbe tape, a recording of the events that led up to the death of four students and the wounding of nine others during a demonstration against the U.S. incursion into Cambodia.
The tape that Stuart analyzed, and the results with which Tom Owen concurred, yielded dramatic new information. Using state-of-the-art forensic audio tools, one of which was developed by the Soviet KGB prior to the disintegration of the Soviet Union, Stuart found that a sequence of orders was given to the National Guardsmen as they reached the top of Blanket Hill on the campus of Kent State University, turned in unison, and fired 67 times at unarmed student demonstrators below the hill.
These are the words that shed new light on the history of that horrific day and gave new meaning to the search for the historic truth about the events of that day.
“Guard”… “All right, prepare to fire!”… “Get down!”… and finally “Guard!”…is followed by the fusillade of lethal bullets. It took seventeen seconds for those words to change history forever.
Alan Canfora, one of the students wounded as a result of the Guard’s gunfire, located the tape in 2007 in a Yale University archive and called the two audio experts’ findings a “major development.”
Barry Levine, a Kent State student whose girlfriend, Allison Krause, was killed in the volley of gunfire, said, when informed of the tape’s new analysis, “How do you spell bombshell?”
I interviewed Stuart Allen on two occasions while working with an issue related to the new analysis of the tape with fellow writer and author of Four Dead In Ohio (1995), William A. Gordon.
I was taken at how unassuming Stuart Allen was as we talked about the contents of the new analysis of the Strubbe tape. Stuart wanted only to make a contribution based on his scientific expertise so that history would record the exact words uttered on that fateful day in May 1970 in Ohio. He donated a significant amount of time to the analysis of the tape and its presentation. He donated his expertise to educate those interested in what history actually will ultimately record about that day that took place over 46 years ago. Stuart emphasized how important he felt about getting that history right.
In Albert Camus’ novel, The Plague (1947), a character in a scene that can only be described as existential, struggles to get a simple description correct as a writer, and after torturous revisions of his narrative, and when he is satisfied with his simple offering, exclaims, “Hats off, gentlemen [sic]!” thinking of how his writing will be greeted.
There was nothing affected about Stuart Allen as there was with Camus’ struggling character, but the revelation of “Hats off, gentlemen and gentle persons!” is perhaps one of the best ways to honor Stuart Allen and his work!
Howard Lisnoff is a freelance writer.
Palestinian youth organizer Daoud Ghoul was among 14 Palestinians seized overnight by Israeli occupation forces, one week after his release from Israeli prison. Ghoul, 33, is the director of youth programs for the Health Work Committees and the Kanaan Network of Palestinian civil society organizations. He has been subject for over two years to repeated Israeli harassment and intimidation. His home was raided at 4:00 am and his personal belongings and electronics confiscated; he is currently being held at the Moskobiyeh interrogation center in Jerusalem.
On Sunday, 27 November, Ghoul was released after serving an 18-month sentence, accused by the Israeli occupation of affiliation with a “prohibited organization,” the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. After a visit to Brussels, Belgium in November 2014 in which he presented before the European Parliament about Israeli ethnic cleansing of Palestinians in Jerusalem, threats to Palestinian life in the city, and attacks on Palestinian health workers, he was banned from his home city of Jerusalem by an Israeli military order. He was then banned from the West Bank and from international travel, and was forced to move to Haifa from his hometown of Silwan in East Jerusalem. On 15 June 2015, he was seized by occupation military forces one month after his HWC Jerusalem office was forcibly closed by the occupation military.
After serving his 18 month sentence ordered against him by a military court, Ghoul was welcomed last Sunday by his friends and family and by supporters around the world who had long demanded his release. The sudden re-arrest of Daoud Ghoul one week after his release recalls similar cases like that of student Bahaa al-Najjar, released from administrative detention in early November only to once again be imprisoned without charge or trial one week later, or Bilal Kayed, ordered to six months in administrative detention without charge or trial immediately following the expiration of his 14.5-year sentence.
Ghoul’s case is also similar to those of other youth activists persecuted by the Israeli occupation, as well as part of the ongoing attacks on Palestinians in Jerusalem, including mass arrests, harsh sentencing of children and the stripping of Jerusalem IDs of Palestinian Legislative Council members.
Ghoul was among six young Palestinians, many former prisoners, arrested in Jerusalem last night. All of their computers and mobile phones were confiscated and Amjad Abu Assab said that the pretext of “incitement via social media” was cited in at least some of the cases. Among those arrested were Uday Abu Saad and Mohammed Salah of Shuafat refugee camp, Jihad Amira and Amin Hamad from Sur Baher, and Saleh Muhaisen from the village of Issawiya, in addition to Ghoul.
Three more Palestinians from Qabatiya, south of Jenin, Mahmoud Abu Ein, Louay Ziad Zakarneh and Musa Abdel-Salam Kamil, were seized by occupation forces, as were Bilal Anas Abu Eid and Munir Hussein Briggah of al-Khalil. More Palestinian young people were arrested in Jericho and in Beit Fajar, south of Bethlehem.
Israel Appoints Eyal Karim as the Israeli Army Chief Rabbi in Spite of His Response to Allow Soldiers Raping Palestinian Women
Brig. Gen. Eyal Karim officially took his position as chief rabbi of the IDF Thursday evening after a change of command ceremony at the IDF headquarters in Tel Aviv attended by Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot.
During the ceremony, the chief of staff said, “The appointment of chief rabbi of the IDF is an extremely significant event in the army. Unfortunately, the ceremony took place a week late,” added Eisenkot. “I was convinced months ago that we are choosing Rabbi Eyal Karim for the job. He is the most fitting and appropriate choice for command and rabbinic authority in the IDF. I had no doubts.”
Following his official promotion, Karim spoke at length, saying, “During this journey of thousands of years, Israel drew its strength and spirit from the Torah—all its laws, values and morality. These are the foundation stones of the Jewish people. David Ben-Gurion, who asked Rabbi Goren to be chief rabbi, understood that the army has to address a wide range of people without creating a split in the army. He understood that there had to be a way for all soldiers to have a fulfilling service in the IDF together.”
Comments Karim made in 2003 when he was a civilian resurfaced after his appointment. In a column called “Ask the Rabbi” at Kipa.co.il, a popular Hebrew-language website catering to religious Jews, Karim responded to a number of anonymous letters inquiring about specificities of Jewish religious law, including a question about rape in times of war.
“Is it allowed nowadays for an IDF [Israeli army] soldier, for example, to rape girls during battle, or is such a thing forbidden?” Karim was asked. He answered: “Even though fraternizing with a gentile woman is a very serious matter, it was permitted during wartime … the Torah permitted the individual to satisfy the evil urge.”
Karim’s comments first attracted notice in 2012, when dissident Israeli journalist Yossi Gurvitz first published them in English at +972 Magazine. Gurvitz says that when he asked the military to comment on Karim’s statements, he was rebuked by an army spokesperson and told that his query “disrespects the IDF, the State of Israel and the Jewish religion.”
The Journalist, David Shenn, noted recently that “the army is hardly the only sector of Israeli society from which sexual assaults emanate. But rape culture in the military is especially disconcerting, as its soldiers have access to deadly weapons and the license to use them. And now its chief rabbi is a man who once gave Jewish soldiers sanction to rape Palestinian women until he was shamed into retracting it.”
Karim’s defenders insist that his comments on rape were misunderstood and that he couldn’t possibly have permitted sexual assaults against Palestinian women. But threats of rape have been wielded by Israeli occupation forces against Palestinians.
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 email@example.com. 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.
“No ambition to oppress them”?
Recently, I’ve been reading Overthrow: America’s Century of Regime Change from Hawaii to Iraq, a book by veteran New York Times correspondent Stephen Kinzer, which focuses on US-backed coups from 1893 (Hawaii) to Iraq (2003). In the book, Kinzer devotes only fourteen pages to Puerto Rico, a small island nation controlled by the murderous empire of the United States. On page 94, he declares that “most Puerto Ricans” understand that the US, despite colonial “misdeeds,” harbors “no ambition to oppress them.” He goes on to say that most want to continue ties with the US and that colonial rule has been “relatively benign,” meaning it was partially beneficial to islanders. In his view, this hasn’t led to a “violent backlash” because of US efforts to take “direct political responsibility” to govern the island, and even floats the idea that there could be a reasonable case that US control over the island has made it “better off”! Kinzer ends optimistically, saying that “a happy end to the long story” would not only take away stigma of US citizens from “ruling another people” but would tell them that “toppling of foreign regimes need not end badly.” Such words, like this, reek of apologism for imperialism and existing US colonialism in Puerto Rico. In this article, using quotes from Kinzer’s own book, I plan to prove that US rule in the island nation has not been “relatively benign,” but that the US imperialists should not be seen as engaging in “nice” oppression, with “no ambition,” of Puerto Rico’s citizens.
On May 12, 1898, seven US warships appeared off the coast of San Juan. They soon began their bombardment, firing over 1,300 shells, met by a Spanish response of about 400 shells, killed a dozen people and one US soldier.1 The small island nation of Puerto Rico comprises of an island 3,515 square miles across, called Borinquen by many native residents, three inhabited islands (Vieques, Cuelbra, and Mona), and 140 other small reefs, islands, and atolls. For over 400 years, the island was an established Spanish colony (1493-1898), with the indigenous Taino nation pushed into forced labor as part of the encomienda system. It was not until the early nineteenth century that Puerto Rico would be integrated into the international capitalist economy.2
The island, which exported commodities such as coffee and tobacco, became a sugar colony, supported by the country’s Creole elite, with 276 sugar plantations dotting the island’s landscape.3 As the sugar industry thrived, thousands of white wage laborers and enslaved blacks suffered in the “sugar haciendas,” or plantations, concentrated near Ponce, Guayama, and Mayaguez.4 The number of enslaved black laborers, who were mistreated, abused, and overworked despite “favorable” laws, reached into the tens of thousands, numbering 17,890 in 1828.5 They were chosen over wage laborers as more profitable for the sugar industry.6 It would not be until 1873 that slavery would be abolished in the Spanish empire, but the exploitation would not end, continuing under the system of apprenticeship, for example.7
About two months before the US warships arrived, Puerto Rico had elected a new government. The Spanish, likely in a measure to stave off revolt, had offered the Puerto Ricans political autonomy.8 They didn’t want rebellions like the Lares Uprising (Grito de Lares) in 1868 or the Attempted Coup of Yauco (Intentona de Yauco) in 1897 which were strongly pro-independence and opposed to Spanish colonial rule. On March 27, 1898, Luis Munoz Rivera’s Liberal Fusion Party was elected in a legislative body, created with agreement from the “liberal” Spanish government, of the island’s autonomous government.9 However, this would not last. On July 25, US marines from the Glouchester gunboat waded ashore, raising a US flag above a customs house after a short exchange of firearms.10
As Kinzer puts it, after the US flag fluttered in the breeze above the customs house, the “United States effectively took control of Puerto Rico” with every institution of Spanish colonial control, and the autonomous Liberal Fusion Party government, would quickly disappear. The objective of the US imperialists like Theodore “Teddy” Roosevelt, who declared that “Puerto Rico is not forgotten [in this war] and we mean to have it” came to be true, with US trade routes protected and a naval base established on the island.11 While some Puerto Ricans welcomed the US presence, this quickly changed, as the US seizure of the island nation became “legal” with the Treaty of Paris.12
The imposition of US imperialism on Puerto Rico began in 1898 as the island was declared a colony. Luis Munoz Rivera, the former leader of the island before the US arrived, declared that “we are witnessing a spectacle of terrible assimilation… our present condition is that of serfs attached to conquered territory.”13 The “individual freedom” that was promised, was not delivered upon, with the US instead engaging in exploitation which, as Martinquis revolutionary Frantz Fanon said about all colonizers, was part of a spiral of “domination, exploitation and looting.”14
The bank on the island was transferred to US investors, who printed Puerto Rican dollars, pegged to the US dollar, replacing the Spanish peso. Other banks were established on the island by investors such as the American Colonial Bank, which opened in 1899. As a result, new taxes were imposed. The following years, as US military troops remained in place as an occupying force, the US Congress passed the Foraker Act which put the Puerto Rican assembly under direct US control.15 As the people of the island nation had “no liberty, no rights, no protection,” as civil rights campaigner Julio Henna once put it, four US corporations took over land on the island for mass production and farming.16 This was reinforced by one of Insular Cases, which some say established “political apartheid,” Downes v. Bidwell (1901) in which the Supreme Court held that Puerto Rico wasn’t a foreign country, allowing Congress to treat it like a dependent colonial possession.
In later years, the island nation forced “permanent uncertainty” in its political status. In 1910, foreign banks began foreclosing on land in Puerto Rico, and the island became an official protectorate in 1913 with the existing naval bases reinforcing economic and ideological interests.17 By World War I, with the imposition of US citizenship with the Jones Act, 18,000 Puerto Ricans were conscripted to fight in the forces of empire as 200 Puerto Ricans were arrested for refusing to participate. Such imposition did not end there. From 1920 to 1923, Moncho Reyes ruled as the Governor on the island, declaring English as the only official language, not Spanish, and that the US flag is the only one to be flown across the island. He was only forced out by corruption scandals. This was accompanied the Balzac v. Porto Rico (1922) case, in which the Supreme Court said that provisions of the US constitution did not apply to a “territory” that was not a US state. In the following years, more and more of the island was controlled by US corporations, including 80% of the farms, and half of the arable land!
By the 1930s, medicine went to war on the island’s inhabitants. In 1931, Dr. Cornelius P. Rhoads injected patients on the island with live cancer cells, with thirteen people dying. He bragged about killing them, calling for a “tidal wave or something to totally exterminate the population” and saying that the island’s inhabitants were “the dirtiest, laziest, most degenerate and thievish race of men ever inhabiting this sphere.” He went on to head the US Army’s Biological Weapons division, serve on the Atomic Energy Commission, and sent memos to US military leaders expressing the opinion that Puerto Rican supporters of independence should be “eradicated” with the use of germ bombs! This was only a prelude, in a sense.
Henry Laughlin, superintendent of the US Eugenics Record Office, pushed the Model Eugenical Sterilization Law, targeting “socially inadequate” people for sterilization in 30 US states and Puerto Rico. On the island itself, in 1936, Law 116 entered into force by making sterilization legal and free for women, with no alternative plan of birth control, backed by the International Planned Parenthood Federation18, the Puerto Rican government, and Human Betterment Association. It was voluntary, only in theory, with employer discrimination and a dearth of other options giving women the incentive to participate, coupled with the veneer of being “feminist” and sometimes a lack of informed consent. This was done after scientists conducted research experiments on Puerto Rican women who had taken birth control pills, with a high amount of estrogen. Such an approach was rejected by the Catholic Church, which supported sterilization instead. By the 1970s, this horrendous practice ended, with more than one-third of Puerto Rico’s female population of childbearing age undergoing the procedure.19
At the same time, repression of the island’s spirit and feelings for independence intensified. On October 24, 1935, police at the campus of the University of Puerto Rico confronted nationalists, resulting in the death of four nationalists and one police officer, in what has been called the Rios Piedras massacre, what police chief E. Francis Riggs declared was part of his “war to the death against all Puerto Ricans.” In response to this action, the nationalist party called for a boycott to all actions held while Puerto Rico was a part of the United States.
The nationalist party continued its actions on the island. On March 21, 1937, it peacefully marched to Ponce. As they requested a permit, it was denied, and as they continued the action, police cordoned off unarmed demonstrators, then firing upon them from multiple directions, killing a total of 21 and wounding 140-200 people, in what has been called the Ponce Massacre. As “hysteria and near civil war swept the island” with nationalists arrested and hunted on sight, 23 nationalists and four police officers were arrested for participation in the massacre, with the ACLU even investigating the matter, finding that the protesters were not armed and had been surrounded by the police.
As the years passed, the US strengthened its hold on the island. By 1940, 80% of the country’s arable land was US-owned. In 1939, the US began bombing on the island of Culebra (which it later fully occupied until protests in the 1970s forced it to move operations to Vieques), and two years later, it began the occupation of Vieques, an island of 7,000 inhabitants. As William Blum, a renowned critic of US foreign policy, writes, from 1940 to 2000, the Puerto Rican island of Vieques, had to endure years of “target practices and war games” which included dropping depleted uranium and napalm.20 This led to the island’s drinking water to be reportedly poisoned and resulted in the land being “contaminated by radioactivity.”
Even as US military officials outrageously said that they could only have a bombing range on that island since one on the East Coast would be too close to population centers, President Bill Clinton promised that the US would stop using the bombing range in 2005.21 With international pressure and local protests, the bombing range stopped being used in 2003, but was accompanied by the closing of the Roosevelt Roads naval facility, the following year, almost to make residents “regret” their decision. Still, this was another victory against the empire. Such bombing on Vieques and Culebra islands was not the only imposition. From 1948 to 1957, Law 53, also called Le Ley de Mondonza or “gag law,” made it illegal to support or say anything construed as pro-independence, with a penalty of ten years in prison.
As the Cold War started, by arrogant imperialists who didn’t want to have friendly relationships with the Soviets after World War II, the imperialists began their “charm offensive” to the world stage. US leaders were recognizing that “ruling an impoverished colony in the Caribbean made the United States look bad.”22 Of course, they could only say this, feeling assured that those in the Puerto Rican government, like Luis Munoz Martin, the “Father of Modern Puerto Rico,” were accommodationist to US imperial power, even pushing for Law 53 and by the 1950s, at least, was clearly a symbol of an organ of the machine of colonial control.
In the UN, the US government attempted to stifle criticism of US colonial control by working on changing the country to a commonwealth. Diplomats saw the island helping in the anti-communist Korean War as a vital “political association” which respects individuality and culture of the island, and declaring that the occupation was legal. As the diplomats frankly admitted, declaring colonial control of the island nation as “free choice” of the residents would head off attacks “by those who have charged the United States government with imperialism and colonial exploitation.” While the “Soviet bloc” argued correctly that self-government didn’t exist in Puerto Rico, diplomats claimed they had a “strong case” of moving Puerto Rico from the list of non-self-governing territories (discussed more in the following paragraph), even as they felt difficulties would arise in the “usual anti-colonial propaganda by Iron Curtain countries,” along with other factors.
This veneer was first reinforced by the Constitutional Referendum in 1952, which approved a constitution proposed in 1950 by the US Congress, stripped of social democratic measures before it was approved, after negotiation with the accommodationist leaders on the island, including Governor Marin. Not surprisingly, independence was never offered as an option, showing that the motive of the US could have been to douse revolutionary feelings. The second reinforcement was on November 27, 1953, when the US imperialists achieved a victory which allowed “approval” of the commonwealth status of the island. The passing of Resolution 748, in the UN’s General Assembly, after a push of US hegemony, made it clear that the US was given sanction to determine the “status of territories under its sovereignty.” Years later, the US imperialists have tried to soften the push for independence by allowing multiple plebiscites on the island to “decide” its fate, but none of these considered that the island is a colony and needs to have self-determination, as asserted in UN General Assembly resolution 1514, described later in this article.
This may be the basis of Kinzer’s claim that colonialism in Puerto Rico has been “benign” and that US imperialists had “no ambition” to oppress the island’s inhabitants. Some may even think the idea the island is under “self-rule” or a change in its status, means that neocolonialism is in place. These are both incorrect. For neocolonialism to be present, the island would have to be under indirect colonial control. Such domination, unlike direct colonial control of the past keeping people politically and economically exploited, often used by Britain, France, and the United States, would require formal recognition of political independence even with domination by political, economic, social, military, and other means.23
This “norm” of neocolonialism, which exists under imperial rivalry, and assists profitable enterprises, is not the case in Puerto Rico.24 This is because the island is not formally an independent political entity. As recently as October 2016, the Supreme Court held that while the island nation functioned as a separate sovereign entity for certain purposes, the authority to govern the island derives from the US Constitution, saying that the US Congress still has the supreme authority over the island.25
This is buttressed by the case of United States v. Sanchez in 1993, in which a US Court of Appeals which said that Congress may unilaterally repeal the constitution of Puerto Rico, and a congressional committee report in 1997 declaring that the island is “subject to the supremacy of the Federal Constitution and laws passed by Congress,” even including the rescinding of the current “commonwealth” status! Hence, while the current government in Puerto Rico is, officially, a separate political entity from the United States, the US is still the imperial overlord of the island. By extension, this means that the officially deemed US “territories” in Guam, American Samoa, US Virgin Islands, and Northern Marinas Islands are colonies, along with arguably Hawaii.26 Hence, for these “territories,” colonialism, rather than neocolonialism, is at work, a subset of imperialism.
Efforts by US imperialists to repress or weaken resistance was abundantly clear. The FBI, the secret “internal” police of the murderous empire, spent forty years (1936-1976) working to repress, disrupt, and surveil the independence movement (“independentista”) in Puerto Rico. This included surveillance of renowned nationalist leader Pedro Albizu Campos from 1936 until his death in 1965.27 Specifically, the FBI kept files, illegally, on 140,000 pro-independence individuals! Even Governor Marin, the founder of the Popular Democratic Party, and later pliant puppet leader, was originally under surveillance until the FBI changed its mind, trying to protect him from threats. Years later, FBI director Louis J. Freeh admitted that his agency engaged in “egregious illegal activity, maybe criminal action” and violated the civil rights of those on the island. This suppression was only part of the story. The island’s police, FBI, and US Army intelligence had dossiers on 100,000 Puerto Ricans, 75,000 who were under “political” surveillance. Apart from the police provocateurs who assassinated independentistas,15,000 Puerto Ricans (of the 75,000) had extensive police files for political activity.
There were other forms of US domination. In 1976, the US put in place Section 936 of the internal revenue code, which allowed US companies to operate on the island without paying any corporate taxes. This was released years later when there was a huge pharmaceutical boom on the island, and the provision was replaced by Section 30A, which had similar language, in 2006. In 1979, Jimmy Carter, trying to engage in a “significant humanitarian gesture” mainly to fend off criticism of the United States, commuted the sentences of four Puerto Rican nationalists who participated in the 1950 and 1954 actions, described in the next paragraph, saying they had served enough time in prison.28
Clearly, the FBI’s brutal streak did not end, with surveillance of Puerto Rican independence activists still occurring in 1995. Ten years later, in 2005, the FBI murdered a Puerto Rican independence leader named Ojeda Rios in a shootout.29 This outraged many islanders. The following year, the FBI engaged in violent raids on the island. And two years later, an FBI/NYPD anti-terrorism task force targeted three independentistas living in the US mainland, currently, handing them subpoenas.30 This clearly shows that the crackdown on independentistas has not ended in the slightest.
Such impositions were not met without resistance. In 1934, sugar workers went on strike, and gained a few wage concessions, one of the victories for the small island nation. Two years later, on February 23, 1936, Riggs, on the island to protect colonial investments, was killed by nationalist Elias Beauchamp, accompanied by Hiram Rosado, who were, in turn, murdered by police, within hours and without trial! This killing was one of the times that Puerto Ricans would engage in what Fanon called “counterviolence” and recognized that the “colonized men liberates himself in and through violence.”31 Flash forward to 1950. On October 30, there were uprisings in Ponce, Jayuya, Utado, Naranjito, and elsewhere, led by Campos. These uprisings were brutally crushed, some by National Guardsmen flying planes and firing down upon the crowd as ordered by Governor Martin, a reliable US puppet leader.32 The revolutionary spirit would not die. In 1950, two Puerto Rican nationalists struck at the heart of the empire: they attempted to kill President Truman.33 While the action was not successful, there was no doubt that the anti-colonial struggle by Puerto Ricans was connected to that of other peoples as Campos said before being arrested in 1950:
… it’s not easy to give a speech when we have our mother laying in bed and an assassin waiting to take your life… The assassin is the power of the United States of North America. One cannot give a speech while the newborn of our country are dying of hunger; while the adolescents of our homeland are being poisoned with the worst virus of them all, the virus of slavery… They must go to the United States to be the slaves of the economic powers, of the tyrants of our country… One cannot easily give a speech when this tyrant has the power to tear the sons right out of the hearts of Puerto Rico mothers to send to Korea, or into hell, to kill, to be the murderers of innocent Koreans, or to die covering a front for the Yankee enemies of our country, for them to return insane to their own people or for them to return mutilated beyond recognition… It’s not easy… We have called together here those who want the union of our brothers, of our Latin American brothers, and, very specially, the Cubans, all the people of the Antilles, the Haitians, the Dominicans, for all of them who love the independence of Puerto Rico as their very own, because as long as Puerto Rico is not free, every single one of those nations feels mutilated.
By the 1950s, the Puerto Rican Nationalist Party was starting to fade from the political landscape. By the 1960s, it was being replaced by armed revolutionary groups, like the Los Macheteras, with the latter engaging in counterviolence. In 1954, this was proven to be true when Campos led a group of 37 nationalists who fired on Congressmen from the house balcony, with many taken into custody after a two-hour gun battle.34 Campos would die years later, in 1965, after being tear gassed, tortured, and beaten in prison.35
By the 1960s, the equation was changing. Between 1955 and 1960, seventy-seven newly independent nations had been admitted to the UN, which formed an alliance to push for the adoption of resolution 1514 in the General Assembly in 1960. The resolution, initially proposed by Nikita S. Khrushchev of the USSR, declared that the “colonial situation in all its forms and manifestations” had to be remedied, with eighty-nine countries voting in favor. There were only nine abstentions (and no votes against) by the U.K., US, Western-backed apartheid South Africa, Portugal, Spain, Belgium, France, Australia, and the Dominican Republic, then controlled by the US-backed Rafael Trujillo. The latter was assassinated in 1961, with the CIA, without consent of the State Department, giving the assassins rifles and other firearms, as noted in pages 70-85 of the Rockefeller Commission’s report in 1975.
In the US, with the development of the “New Left”, social movements began to gain steam. The Young Lords Party, originally a gang in Chicago, re-organized itself as a pro-Puerto Rican organization, in 1968, that took a strong anti-imperialist position. In their principles, they argued that they had been colonized for five hundred years, first by Spain, then the United States, making them the “slaves of the gringo” and rejecting Puerto Rican rulers who were “puppets of the oppressor… who keep our communities peaceful for business,” instead of pushing for a socialist society, and ultimately against machismo, a fundamentally feminist position.
Like the Black Panthers, they supported armed self-defense and had free breakfast programs to support the community while increasing their base of support. In 1969, the Black Panthers reached out to them, the Brown Berets fighting for Chicano liberation, and anti-racist Young Patriots who tried to support young, white migrants who came from Appalachia, to create the first “rainbow coalition.” The name of the coalition was later taken by black opportunist Jesse Jackson, Jr. in a failed effort to run for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination and push for political reforms. Years later, the Lords changed their name to the Puerto Rican Revolutionary Workers Organization (PRRWO), pushed for a revolutionary party, and fell apart in 1975 after FBI disruption, infighting and other factors.
The Puerto Ricans are not alone. Starting in 1972, the UN Special Committee on Decolonization (The Committee of 24) condemned the status of Puerto Rico, recognizing that the Commonwealth status is untenable, with US investors getting preferential treatment, and that the island should be independent from the supposedly “benign empire” of the United States. Due to the more than 33 resolutions calling for Puerto Rico’s independence by the Committee of 24 since 1972, building off of resolution 1514, it has been tarred by the US. In 1968, only five years into its existence, US diplomats declared that the Committee had become “anti-Western” because it criticized US imperialism and supported “independentistas” in Puerto Rico. Such criticism didn’t stop the Committee. Recently, the Committee concluded that the US violated Puerto Rico’s right to self-determination to be an independent nation. Specifically, representatives from Cuba, Nicaragua, Ecuador, and Iran have talked about independence for the island nation and relinquishing US colonial rule, with some witnesses talking about how the island was illegally taken and under corporate control. Latin America clearly did not abandon the island. Nicolas Maduro of Venezuela, former Argentine President Cristina Kirchner, and Raul Castro of Cuba have all supported the island’s independence.
Other organizations that have argued for independence include the Non-Aligned Movement and the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) founded by Latin American states in Carcas, Venezuela in 2011. Clearly, the Democratic and Republican parties, along with the island’s two major political parties (The Popular Democratic Party and the New Progressive Party) do not support independence.36 The island’s governors, under the constitution of the Puerto Rican “commonwealth,” five from the Popular Democratic Party (Luis Muñoz Marín, Roberto Sánchez Vilella, Rafael Hernández Colón, Sila Calderón, and Aníbal Salvador Acevedo Vilá) who want to maintain the current status of the island, five from the New Progressive Party (Luis A. Ferré, Carlos Romero Barceló, Pedro Rosselló, Luis Fortuño, Alejandro García Padilla, and newly elected Ricky Rosselló), who want the island to be a US state, have stayed within acceptable bourgeois opinion. While some may be liberal and others conservative, through all eleven of the governors, there has been concentration of corporate power on the island and maintenance of the colonial relationship. While some could claim the referendum in 2012 “solved” the status of the island, less than half supported statehood, with most, instead, wanting a change to the status quo.
In 1975, when Cuba pushed to give special status for the island for the Puerto Rican independence movement, the US balked with anger. Such a response is predictable. Deep down, the imperialists of the US are afraid of Puerto Rican independence. If the country became independent, it is possible that Vieques couldn’t become a bombing range again, the US couldn’t store nuclear weapons there, plan for strikes on Cuba, use the island to intercept “enemy” signals, and so on.37 Even some diplomats tried to say that if the island is separated from the US, the residents would be jeopardizing their “paramount interests in economic, social, education… [and] political matters.” This is reflexively talking about what US and foreign capitalists would lose, instead of referring to the real needs of Puerto Ricans.
The question remains: where do we stand now? Undoubtedly, the coverage of the island by the bourgeois media focuses on “unpayable debt.” The island is, as writer Nelson Denis argued (with likely feminist implications), the “battered spouse of the Caribbean.” An article last fall by Linda Backiel, in the Monthly Review, is vital in explaining the current situation. She writes that the dire straits of the island, $73 billion of debt, is not a surprise, since it has been “sacked by colonial powers for half of a millennium.” She goes on to say that IMF officials were paid $400,000 to make recommendations about the island’s economic crisis, which is ridiculous considering that the island has no access to financing from the World Bank, IMF, or elsewhere because it is a colony. Backiel adds that Article VI, section 8 of the island’s constitution, payment of interest and debt is the first priority, coupled with the country “running on bonds” held by US banks such as Morgan Stanley, JP Morgan, and Bank of America, along with numerous venture and hedge funds.
She then writes that “the vultures are circling” the small island nation, with the island in crisis, even as human misery caused by colonialism is ignored and over 45% of the people live below the poverty line, with the country seeming on the verge of economic collapse. If this occurs, it could threaten the “propaganda value” of the island and its economy, destroyed in part by the collaboration of the pro-statehood New Progressive Party and US Congress, leaving the Popular Democratic Party to “clean up” the mess. She closes by saying “in the battle between soul and capital, who will win? Until the people of Puerto Rico organize to defend their soul; it is not even a stalemate: Black is playing with nothing but pawns.” Other accounts affirm this assessment of the situation in Puerto Rico.38
In the most recent election cycle, the island’s precarious state got some play. Bernie Sanders, the “nice” imperialist running for the Democratic nomination, declared in June of this year that the US cannot “continue a colonial-like relationship with the people of Puerto Rico,” and saying he would offer it three options: becoming a state, enhancing its territorial rights, or becoming an independent country, which is no different than the previous plebiscites ordered by the US government.39 Predictably, he didn’t mention Resolution 1514, the efforts of the Committee of 24, or actions by Puerto Ricans to engage in counterviolence, instead posing himself as a “savior” of the island, an act of racist and imperialist positioning.
Jill Stein of the Green Party had a similar statement on the subject; however, she more clearly called out colonial exploitation, even calling for a bailout of the island.40
What Vladimir Lenin wrote in 1917 in his book, Imperialism: The Highest Stage of Capitalism is relevant here, as related to the island’s debt and plans for “restructuring.” Lenin writes that concentration of production leads to monopoly especially in the US, which was described, even then, as an “advanced country of modern capitalism.”41 In the island nation, the spreading of monopoly, specifically of “monopolist combines of big capitalists” or “gigantic monopolist combines” into every sphere of life would likely get a boost under a Trump administration.42 If he follows his cost-benefit formulation of “solving” the world’s problems, he would support debt restructuring, but let the “bondholders take a hit.” Even if this sounds “anti-business,” it is likely that his plan, whatever that is, would move away from the populist rhetoric and benefit the same economic actors, reinforcing the “world system of colonial oppression” manifested in capitalism, with “world marauders” like the United States “armed to the teeth.”43 It is also possible the newly-elected Puerto Rico Governor Rosselló will clash with Trump, but what happens in that realm remains to be seen.
At the present, Puerto Rico stands at a crossroads. US control of the island, which has never enjoyed real sovereignty, arguably led to a colonial mentality where Puerto Ricans feel they cannot engage in true self-rule, despite a strong nationalist sentiment. As a result, due to economic dependence on the US, and 25% unemployment, many are not supportive of independence from the US. These feelings are reinforced by existing assimilation showing that people haven’t been decolonized, with the possible compromise of Puerto Rican strong identity and culture. With the advent of neoliberal policies on the island, accommodationist Puerto Rican leaders, as described earlier, and blatant efforts to tamp down demands for independence, it hasn’t got any better.
According to the most recent report by the military establishment in September, there are 142 military personnel, 7,598 reservists, and 1,922 civilian personnel, coming to a total of 9,662!44 Such personnel are clearly used as a way of asserting colonial dominance. Still, Puerto Ricans have not remained silent, with continuing resistance to colonial rule. One example of this would be the student strikes which shut down the university system in the country and were repressed brutally. Either the status quo of neoliberal and capitalist exploitation can remain, or there can be a challenge and destruction to the existing colonial system, ending over 520 years of colonial rule (1493-2016) by the Spanish, then the United States. That is the choice at hand.
There is no doubt that Puerto Rico should be freed from colonial shackles of the murderous empire and its corporate clients. Negotiation may lead to a situation of neocolonialism, like in a number of African countries, where a national bourgeoisie on the island is subservient to the US, not changing the existing relationship between the US and the island nation. While the Puerto Rican people ultimately have to decide their fate, it is clear that decolonization, when part of a real liberation struggle, is “always a violent event,” as Fanon put it, where the colonized masses engage in violence, such as guerrilla warfare, to push for the demolition of the colonial system and allow for the emergence of a new nation.45 In the current economic situation, such counterviolence, which undermines the role of the US as “barons of international capitalism” and demands the independence of island from the imperial behemoth, could erupt once again.46
As one stands in solidarity with Puerto Rico in resisting “a monster where the flaws, sickness and inhumanity of Europe have reached frightening proportions,” what Fanon wrote in 1961 is apt to this island nation at the crossroads: “we must shake off the great mantle of night which has enveloped upon us, and reach for the light. The new day which is dawning must find us determined, enlightened and resolute.”47
- Stephen Kinzer, Overthrow: America’s History of Regime Change from Hawaii to Iraq (New York: Henry Holt & Company, 2006), 45. [↩]
- Francisco Scarano, “The Origins of Plantation Growth in Puerto Rico,” Caribbean Slave Society and Economy (ed. Hilary Beckles and Verene Shepherd, New York: The New Press, 1991), 57-59. [↩]
- Scarano, 56-58. [↩]
- Scarano, 58-60, 61, 63-64, 66. [↩]
- Scarano, 62-65. [↩]
- Howard Zinn, A People’s History of the United States: 1492 to Present (New York: HarperCollins, 2003, Fifth Edition), 532. This was not done without resistance in Puerto Rico, in terms of slave revolts, in the 1520s and 1530s. [↩]
- Scarano, 66. French abolition of slavery in its colonies in 1794 (while re-established in Haiti in 1802 by Napoleon in failed attempt to stop revolution, which succeeded in 1804 after twelve years) set off panic among Puerto Rican planters. [↩]
- Kinzer, 44. [↩]
- Ibid. [↩]
- Kinzer, 45. [↩]
- Kinzer, 44 [↩]
- Kinzer, 45, 46, 48, 70, 80; Zinn, 312, 408; Ziaudin Sardar and Merryl Wyn Davies, Why Do People Hate America? (New York: The Disinformation Company, 2002), 43. [↩]
- Kinzer, 91. [↩]
- Frantz Fanon, The Wretched of the Earth (New York: Grove Press, 2004 reprint, originally published in 1961, 14. [↩]
- Kinzer, 91-92. [↩]
- Kinzer, 92. [↩]
- Kinzer, 92, 104, 107, 108, 215, 300. [↩]
- Anti-abortion activists have even used this to criticize Planned Parenthood, with a lawyer for such a group, Casey Mattox, writing that Planned Parenthood worked with the government of Puerto Rico to sterilize women, which was not voluntary, and was a major part of the island’s sterilization program. Of course, Mattox uses it to argue against contraceptive use instead of developing it into a criticism of US imperialism.
- Some have argued that feminists on the US mainland too often framed the discussion around the idea that “Puerto Rican women are victimized and need to be saved,” denying the action of Puerto Rican feminists in support of the measure, and deny the possibility of “Puerto Rican feminist agency” (see pages 31-34 of Laura Briggs’s “Discourses of ‘Forced Sterilization’ in Puerto Rico: The Problem with the Speaking Subaltern”). Be that as it may, parts of this argument come very close to apology for US imperial and colonial action, such as imposed sterilization. Saying this does not deny that Puerto Rican women didn’t act in their best interests and engaged in sterilization in order to improve their own conditions. However, as said in the article, women had little choice but to engage in this procedure, so they didn’t even have “agency,” a word also used to throw off certain analysis, especially of a radical kind, or free choice to engage in all possible birth control measures if they wished to do so. [↩]
- William Blum, Rogue State (Monroe, ME: Common Courage Press, 2000), 98. [↩]
- Blum-Ibid. [↩]
- Kinzer, 92-93. [↩]
- Jack Woodis, Introduction to Neo-Colonialism:The New Imperialism in Asia, Africa, & Latin America (New York: International Publishers, 1969, second printing, originally published in 1967), 13, 16, 28, 32-33, 43-47, 49, 58, 61, 68-69. [↩]
- Woddis, 50, 68-69. [↩]
- The Court’s majority opinion, written by “liberal” Justice Elena Kagan, declared in flowery words that the colonial relationship is “unique” and built on the “island’s evolution into a constitutional democracy exercising local self-rule,” while admitting that the US Congress stripped the Puerto Rican constitution of social democratic qualities before it was approved since US colonies are “not sovereigns distinct from the United States” as noted on pages 2, 3, 10-11, 15 of the decision. Even Stephen Breyer, who accepted that federal power was the governing authority over US states and colonies, posited the “self-rule” argument, claiming that the island was self-ruling, citing numerous sources including the horrid Resolution 748. The dissenting opinion of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg did not not challenge, fundamentally, the court’s ruling, only saying that the matter warrants attention to future cases. Clarence Thomas had a similar opinion, only saying that he felt the decision would be a negative precedent on law governing indigenous peoples in the United States.
- The US also controls uninhabited islands in the Pacific including Baker Island, Howland Island, Jarvis Island, Johnston Atoll, Kingman Reef, Midway Atoll, Navassa Island, Palmyra Atoll, and Wake Island. They could be effectively considered part of the US colonial system.
- The FBI began its close attention on the island in 1936 when a local US attorney said that Campos was publishing articles insulting the US and giving “public speeches in favor of independence.” His influence was so widely recognized that when he refused to go to his parole officer, the Roosevelt administration didn’t order him back to prison for fear that there would be unrest on the island.
- In September 1999, Bill Clinton would commute the sentences of eleven Puerto Rican nationalists, which sparked anger among police officers, numerous leading Democrats, and numerous Republicans. Not surprisingly, Hillary Clinton opposed this move, expressing her opposition.
- See articles on this from Democracy Now!, USA Today, Associated Press, and Socialist Worker just for examples of differing reactions among those on the internet. [↩]
- From 1936 to 1995, the FBI generated 1.5 to 1.8 million pages on Puerto Rican independence activists! [↩]
- Fanon, 44, 47. [↩]
- Sardar and Davies, 96. [↩]
- Chronicle of America (Mount Kisco, NY: Chronicle Publications, 1988), 755, 758. The surviving man from this action, who was not killed in a gun battle with police officers, was sentenced to life imprisonment instead of being killed. [↩]
- Chronicle of America, 765. [↩]
- Laura Briggs, wrote in her article, as mentioned in an earlier footnote, that Campos was opposed to radicals who pushed for birth control on the island (along with independence), started by the Puerto Rican Socialist Party, and other efforts. This, in and of itself, would not be surprising, as machismo is widely cemented in many Latin American societies and reflected itself in liberation struggles. Despite this major flaw, it still worth recognizing his struggle in resisting US colonialism on the island nation of Puerto Rico, making him a hero to many. [↩]
- Politically, the Republicans would likely oppose statehood due to the large number of Puerto Ricans voting for the Democratic Party in presidential elections. [↩]
- In 1977, some diplomats claimed that the US could not place nuclear weapons on the island if it became a state. Whether this is actually true is not known.
- See articles on The Real News, The Hill, Democracy Now!, Telesur English, Mother Jones, Common Dreams, and Dissident Voice, of course
- Sanders is also on record for rejecting the neoliberal debt restructuring in place. However, due to his imperialist stance on foreign policy, there is no guarantee his debt restructuring would be any better overall.
- The Green Party of the United States has a plank on their platform declaring that the people of the island have the right to self-determination and independence, release of Puerto Rican political prisoners, environmental cleanup of Vieques, that the island’s debt is “unpayable” and that decolonization had to be supported as the “first step for the Puerto Rican people to live in a democracy.” Even the Communist Party USA, a political party that became rightist after the Hungarian “Revolution” in 1956 and with its call for a left-liberal inclusive coalition against the right-wing in the US instead of actively organizing people for socialism, declared in its 2006 “Road to Socialism” that the island nation composes an “oppressed national minority” who are mostly working class, dependent on the US, and says there needs to be a “free and independent Puerto Rico.” This is even further left, strangely enough, then the Socialist Party USA. In their recent platform, the party only calls for Guam, Puerto Rico, indigenous nations, and D.C. to have congressional representation, the similar to a position held by the Democratic Party. [↩]
- Vladimir Lenin, Imperialism: The Highest Stage of Capitalism (New York: International Publishers, 1972 reprint of 1939 English translation, originally published in 1917), 16-17, 20, 22, 32. [↩]
- Lenin, 25, 28, 31, 35, 58, 60, 62, 82. [↩]
- Lenin, 10-11. [↩]
- The “Military and Civilian Personnel by Service/Agency by State/Country (Updated Quarterly)” excel spreadsheet report from September 2016 is used here. That’s around the same number of personnel in the state of Delaware, which isn’t a colony in the slightest (although it is occupied indigenous land), which is telling. [↩]
- Fanon, 1, 10, 26, 30. [↩]
- Fanon, 38. [↩]
- Fanon, 235-237. [↩]
Lori Kearns is the health policy advisor to Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont).
She’s been making the rounds in recent weeks telling single payer supporters that Senator Sanders will not introduce his single payer bill into the Senate next year.
Because party unity is more important than single payer.
Sanders apparently believes that single payer will get in the way of electing a Democratic Senate in 2018.
Wouldn’t want to confront Democratic Senate candidates with the deaths of their constituents due to Obamacare, would you?
One reason why Sanders soared during the primary was his constant refrain that we need to cover every American with a single payer health care system.
This resonated with the American people, with polls showing that three-fifths of Americans — including a majority of those who want the Obamacare repealed, and even 41 percent of Republicans — favoring a “federally funded healthcare program providing insurance for all Americans.”
Translate — single payer.
Everybody in. Nobody out.
If Sanders believes it, where is the bill?
Why won’t Sanders re-introduce it in the upcoming session?
Because he is now in the Democratic leadership in the Senate — handpicked by Wall Street favorite incoming Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-New York.)
And if the Democrats say no, Sanders says no.
Call it death by Democrat.
And death by Obamacare.
High deductibles and co-pays.
Twenty nine million Americans still uninsured.
And more than 28,000 preventable deaths a year due to lack of health insurance.
All under Obamacare.
And Sanders won’t introduce his single payer bill because the Democrats tell him not to?
During the battle over Obamacare on the Hill in 2009, I asked Sanders why he was supporting Obamacare when he stood for single payer.
Sanders was a student of the difference — Obamacare controlled by the health insurance companies and written by their lobbyists — single payer a public system that cuts the health insurance companies out of the game.
Sanders looked at me, snarled, told me not to lecture him and walked away.
Goodbye single payer. Hello Chuck Schumer.
Russell Mokhiber is the editor of the Corporate Crime Reporter.