Facebook purged more than 800 accounts earlier this week, continuing its scorched-earth campaign of eradicating dissent as Americans prepare to go to the polls. The social media platform is nicely settling into its role as official censor, working hand in glove with the imperialist Atlantic Council to silence all popular voices to the left and right of neoliberal orthodoxy. As the boundaries of acceptable political discourse narrow online, Big Tech has been drafted to do Big Brother's dirty work - the methodical dismantling of First Amendment protections using the smokescreen of private enterprise.
On Thursday, the social media platform issued a press release explaining that the offending pages were engaged in "coordinated inauthentic behavior" - self-promoting with fake accounts and circular links, a practice common to many news pages on Facebook - and even admitted that such behavior was "often indistinguishable from legitimate political debate." There was no explanation of how they distinguished the behavior of, say, a progressive antiwar blog from a Washington Post columnist, or why they would censor the former and not the latter.
Establishment media outlets like the New York Times eagerly parroted the press release, dismissing the purge victims as dishonest spammers preying on impressionable users, even opining that there was something awfully Russian about the whole business, as if the Kremlin had invented clickbait. But many of the deleted pages were genuine alt-media sites with hundreds of thousands, if not millions of followers - from AntiMedia and Free Thought Project on the Left to Nation in Distress and RightWingNews on the Right. Popular pages dedicated to exposing the horrors of the American police state like Cop Block and Police the Police also got the boot. When they took to Twitter to protest, many were removed from there as well - AntiMedia and Free Thought Project had their Twitter accounts suspended within hours of the Facebook purge, as did AntiMedia publisher Carey Weidler.
One Twitter user received a followup message thanking them for a report against AntiMedia they did not make, indicating there might be more going on here than meets the eye. The message is especially intriguing given recent admissions from Facebook that at least 90 million accounts may have been hacked. If certain entities are spoofing abuse reports in order to have pages deplatformed whose politics they disagree with - or actually hacking third parties in order to use their accounts to report those pages - users need to know (I have personally heard from a few others who received these messages - if this has happened to you please send me your story, with screenshots if possible).
I just got a notification that my “report” of @antimedia was successful, however, not only do I not recall reporting it, I don’t know of it at all - they aren’t on my block list, where anyone I’ve reported ends up - should I be CONcerned? pic.twitter.com/HDhOUyGDmD— Which Hunt-New (@jlcphotother) October 12, 2018
Facebook's press release states that "people will only share on Facebook if they feel safe and trust the connections they make here." Facebook has proven since the very early days that they are anything but trustworthy - from Mark Zuckerberg's disparaging assessment of his users as "dumb fuckers" to his eager collaboration with the NSA's PRISM program to the partnership with the pro-NATO Atlantic Council to the platform's ultimate admission that basically everyone's data has been compromised at this point. Anyone who "shares" on Facebook at this point is deliberately ignoring reams of proof that the platform is not "a place for friends."
While Facebook has always been in the pocket of the security state, its alliance with the Atlantic Council earlier this year ushered in an Orwellian new era. A press release gushed that the think tank, which boasts such esteemed warmongers as Henry Kissinger, Brent Scowcroft, and Condoleezza Rice on its Board, would serve as the "eyes and ears" of Facebook so the platform could play a "positive role" in ensuring democracy was practiced correctly in the future. Since then, its news feed has been cleansed of actual news and political writers have seen their audience numbers plummet as their posts are hidden for running afoul of proprietary algorithms.
In August, hundreds more accounts got the axe after cybersecurity firm FireEye linked them (very tenuously, in some cases) to Iran and Russia. The smoking gun? "Coordinated inauthentic behavior" geared toward "shaping a message favorable to Iran’s national interests." Anti-war activists were put on notice. One need only post "anti-Saudi, anti-Israeli, and pro-Palestinian themes" to have one's Facebook account - which Zuckerberg wants to see become an internet drivers' license - yanked for failure to toe the line.
As Americans, denial is our national pastime, and plenty of Facebook users will remain on the platform until they themselves are caught in the wrongthink dragnet. The use of "spam" as the rationale for removing these pages is no accident - like "hate speech," the term inspires a visceral negative reaction while lacking a definite meaning. "Spam" conjures up penis enlargement ads, misspelled offers for cheap prescription drugs, Nigerian money laundering scams. Spammers are less than human - often automated bots that seem to exist just to irritate us. We do not care what happens to spammers, any more than we care what happens to the "haters" we hear about in the news but have never met. The mainstream media encourages this mentality by smearing the deplatformed users as the equivalent of 2016's Russian trolls - worse, because they're essentially betraying their government by promoting wrongthink in their fellow Americans.
It doesn't take a genius to understand why the media establishment might be cheering on and enabling Big Tech's censorship of alternative voices. As the election approaches, the establishment is panicking because they have been unable to fully regain control of the discourse. Having long since jettisoned fact-checking and journalistic integrity in order to more effectively fearmonger, mainstream media lacks any concrete advantage over the competition, and more people than ever are turning to independent media for their news. As a result, the establishment has lost every single pitched information battle since the election. Kavanaugh's confirmation? The media wanted to see him strung up by the balls without so much as an indictment, let alone a trial, even though as a Bush minion he was effectively one of theirs, but he's now ensconced in the Supreme Court. The Helsinki summit? The media shrieked for a solid week that Trump had sold the nation out to Putin for a football and a pat on the head; missing evolutionary link John Brennan all but called for a military coup, but nothing happened. Both media events revealed just how impotent they have become regarding their ability to change the facts on the ground.
This is not to say they have no influence, however. The nation remains crippled by the military-industrial leeches sucking it dry through multiple wars, many undeclared. The media marches in lockstep cheering on every increase in military spending, every missile dropped on a Yemeni wedding party or Syrian child. Americans have become hyper-partisan even in our personal lives, a self-perpetuating feedback loop the media set off in 2016 with a dozen "Boyfriend/girlfriend/spouse like Trump? Dump that piece of shit!" articles, no doubt due for a revival with thoughtful meditations on how we should avoid family at Thanksgiving if they voted the wrong way a few weeks before. The establishment media and Big Tech are collaborating to foster this ugly with-us-or-against-us climate, forcing us to choose between a "blue wave" or "red wave" when both are repulsive tides of sewage, reassuring us all will be well if we just hold our noses and vote the party line.
Only independent media permits sanity and reality to intrude on the delusional fantasy fed us by the ruling class. Dismissing the victims of the latest Facebook purge as "spammers" is the cowardly act of a dying species. The New York Times, CNN, and the rest of the hagiographers of hegemony must join the rest of the dinosaurs.
(I originally covered the latest skirmish in the Great Deplatforming for RT here.)Add a comment
It’s almost election time, and lest you forget, American democracy has never been in greater peril. Not from inaccurate, insecure voting machines a schoolchild can hack; nor from bought-off candidates who leave voters cold; but from Russian agents probing the fabric of our society, looking for weaknesses. It is up to us, as patriotic Americans, to defend our beloved institutions against the Red Menace.
So writes Susan Landau, a "cybersecurity expert" (professional fearmonger) with funding links to Big Tech and the military-industrial complex, at least. Landau warns that the same Russians whose interference in the 2016 presidential election was never conclusively proven are burrowing further into American society, emboldened by the absence of a decisive response to their prior meddling.
Perhaps realizing that Americans are running low on fear – twenty years fighting a losing War on Terror have inured us to the threat of jihad, and it was only through appeals to Cold War-era pop culture that our Russophobia was so easily resuscitated – Landau plays dirty with the one card left in her propagandist’s deck. The Russians aren’t just targeting our “civil society” organizations; they want our boy scouts.
Such allegations are calculated for maximum emotional impact. Even the most avowedly liberal American parents feel a twinge of discomfort at the rapid pace of social change over the last decade, and the scouts – no longer boy scouts in our brave new world – have been ground zero for much of this change. America has morphed from a society that guardedly accepts sexual variation into a neurotically permissive society terrified of offending members of genders not yet invented. Facebook offers the user over 70 gender options, an all-you-can-be buffet of identity politics. To question this paradigm is considered intolerant.
By linking the gender-neutral Scouts with the Red Menace, Landau is offering progressive parents a "get out of bigotry free" card. It's OK to be uncomfortable with the queering of the Boy Scouts, as long as the Russians are behind it!
Almost exactly a year ago, she wrote a piece for Foreign Policy warning that the Russians were plotting an assault on our cherished civil institutions and that should they succeed in infiltrating them, they might…cause us to lose trust in our government! That threat clearly didn't galvanize the Resistance, because this year, she’s kicking things up a notch: it’s now “extremely likely” that Russians are targeting civil society groups, which are the only thing standing between us and abject barbarism.
Landau has no proof that Russians have captured our institutions, as gay scoutmasters or otherwise, but she won’t let that stand in the way of a good story. Lacking Russian examples, she claims Facebook turned a German town into refugee-attacking hatemongers and points to a spoofed text sent to undocumented supporters of Texas senate candidate Beto O’Rourke as something Russia “could” do. In an effort to bridge these logical chasms, she links to a Brookings Institute report that depicts Russian use of US social media platforms in terms normally used to describe thermonuclear war (“An attack on western critical infrastructure seems inevitable").
Like the January 2017 “Intelligence Community Assessment” from which she derives her certainty that Russians are infiltrating civil society organizations, Landau’s article treats Russian interference in the 2018 election as a foregone conclusion despite the lack of evidence, pointing to Microsoft’s claim that Russia “hacked” two conservative think tanks and two Democratic senate campaigns as proof that Putin has “our democracy” by the throat yet again.
Coverage of Microsoft’s “discovery” reads like a press release for its new AccountGuard initiative, seemingly designed to profit off candidates’ fears of Russian meddling while offering no proof of actual Russian involvement. The company also called for greater cooperation between corporations and the government, though as the first eager collaborator with the NSA’s Orwellian PRISM program way back in 2007, Microsoft could hardly cooperate any more than it already has.
The most disturbing outgrowth of the entire Russian bot narrative is the adoption of “sowing discord” as a new social sin, a crime worthy of de-platforming citizens from social media - or worse. The phrase is relatively new to the American lexicon, but one finds it in authoritarian countries like Saudi Arabia or Kazakhstan, where it is used as a catch-all charge to imprison journalists and activists whose work inconveniences the regime.
With McCarthyite organizations like PropOrNot collaborating with the mainstream media to smear independent journalists as useful idiots and traitors, the US doesn’t need Russians to sow discord. Years of dishonest divide-and-conquer media narratives have completely alienated us from our fellow man. Nothing - not even the threat of Boris and Natasha filling our children’s heads with gender theory around the campfire - can rescue our national solidarity. 2016’s status-quo candidate, Hillary Clinton, said as much when she denounced half the electorate as a “basket of deplorables" - and conservatives took that ball and ran with it, denouncing the Left as mentally ill “snowflakes” and violent Antifa goons.
As if Big Tech’s censorship wasn’t onerous enough, Landau implores Americans to censor themselves online so as not to contribute to the Russian discord-sowing operation. It’s the same line we were fed when the bogeyman was Islamic terrorism: They hate us for our freedom! So we’re going to take away your freedom in the hope they’ll go away! Or, in her words, “It’s time for Americans to change their behavior.” We’re supposed to keep our politics to ourselves, lest it get back to Putin that American civilization has its discontents.
Landau is right about one thing. It reflects poorly on American society that all that is needed to bring the whole house of cards down is for a few well-placed “wrongthink” social media posts to go viral. But this is less the fault of Russia than of America’s homegrown oligarchs, who have exploited the people so thoroughly that even the robust psychological defense mechanisms we’re taught as children to combat cognitive dissonance can only keep reality at bay for so long. Everyone has their breaking point, and America’s is fast approaching. Blame-the-Russians propaganda is the last gasp of an empire in decline, and even propagandists like Landau don’t believe it anymore. A propagandist with no audience is just a liar.
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While Big Tech is under much-deserved scrutiny for its monopolistic control over our online lives, one popular site often escapes criticism. Perhaps because its founder is merely a millionaire among billionaires; perhaps because it masquerades in scholarly drag as an "encyclopedia;" perhaps because journalists and researchers have become so lazy they cannot live without it; Wikipedia rarely comes in for the kind of criticism directed at Google, Facebook, and Twitter. This oversight is a big mistake. Wikipedia paints itself as a crowdsourced knowledge utopia, a beautiful democratic experiment allowing everyone with internet access to contribute to an egalitarian consensus-reality. Unfortunately, when something sounds too good to be true, it usually isn't. Not only is Wikipedia a mouthpiece for the Anglo-American ruling class - it's also a tool of character assassination deployed against anti-establishment figures. Increasingly controlled by a group of ideologically-motivated editors, Wikipedia has become little more than a tool for disseminating neoliberal imperialist propaganda and destroying the reputations of those who resist the status quo.
Progressive Radio Network has been investigating the "real" Wikipedia for months. My latest contribution is here, and more than a dozen articles on the subject are available on the PRN website, including this excellent piece by Richard Gale. Please send them to friends and family you suspect of being Wikipedophiles, especially if they're journalists, professors, or otherwise involved in shaping public opinion. It's not too late to get help.
(edit: just added another piece. Seriously if you need more evidence to quit relying on Wikipedia for your facts fix, I can't help you. Wikipedia is great for looking up the population numbers for Hanoi, or the birthday of David Bowie, but terrible for anything remotely controversial. As goes Croatia so goes the world.)Add a comment
If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. The American Empire doesn’t handle failure well, and their repeated failures to oust Syrian president Bashar al-Assad have driven them into a frenzy where good judgment and logic are a thing of the past. Russian military intelligence predicts a false-flag chemical attack in Idlib which will be pinned on the Assad regime and used to justify “retaliation” orders of magnitude greater than April’s Tomahawk tantrum. This time, if the words of the Wicked Witch of the UN are any indication, Iran and Russia will also be blamed. While the US has mostly abandoned hope for regime change in Syria, it will not look a gift horse in the mouth, and is gathering aircraft carriers and bombers to the region while pumping out tear-jerking propaganda about Idlib residents fearing for their lives. If the false flag fails, they can always send those bombers to Iran...
Such an attack is very much on the table, with the groundwork being laid in the pro-war press. John Bolton promised the MEK, a “corrupt, criminal cult” of Iranian exiles which bribed its way off the State Department’s list of terrorist organizations in 2012, regime change by 2019, and the clock is ticking. Attempts to foment a color revolution have failed repeatedly, because Iranians aren’t stupid and remember what happened the last time the US overthrew their government. But Benjamin Netanyahu has been baying for Iranian blood for almost three decades, and Bolton cares little for more clear-headed military personnel’s warnings that invading Iran would be a costly, unwinnable nightmare - Real Men Go To Tehran, as they used to say in the halcyon days of the Axis of Evil.
Prelude to War: Iranian Bots
The ruling class understands Americans are wary of another Middle Eastern war and must be convinced they're under attack. Hence the new bogeyman, just in time for Election 2018: Iranian Meddling. Twitter, Facebook, and Google took time out from deplatforming anti-establishment commentators to delete over a thousand accounts between them after cyber-security firm FireEye released a report detailing a far-reaching “Suspected Iranian Influence Operation.” With only “moderate confidence,” FireEye pointed to “coordinated inauthentic behavior” geared toward “shaping a message favorable to Iran’s national interests” as the smoking gun. Washed-up former intelligence operatives Ron Hosko and Larry Pfeiffer (ex-FBI and ex-CIA, respectively) smugly added that if we hadn’t let Russia get away with their (still unproven) interference in the 2016 election, Iran would never have been so emboldened as to pour $12,000 of cold, hard cash into this social media offensive in order to portray itself favorably to western audiences.
Facebook, eager to behave, took down 652 offending accounts before the government could even react to the news. FireEye’s report points accusingly to the accounts’ promotion of “anti-Saudi, anti-Israeli, and pro-Palestinian themes, as well as support for specific US policies favorable to Iran,” implying Facebook users should be suspicious of anyone else espousing these views (and warning Iranian and Palestinian sympathizers and other pro-peace activists to shut up, or they’re next). An important step in laying the groundwork for an unpopular war is to “other” and ultimately demonize the enemy, and FireEye’s suggestion that those with pro-Iranian views aren’t even real humans is classic wartime propaganda for the digital age. In addition to three groups of Iranian accounts, FireEye claims it caught some Russians “attempt[ing] to influence politics in Syria and the Ukraine.” This group “was linked to sources that Facebook said the US had linked to Russian military intelligence.” How many hops of truth distortion are too many for even the terminally credulous establishment media?
Perhaps anticipating users’ bewilderment - the offending accounts had broken no laws, were promoting no political candidates, and in many cases had not even bought ads - Zuckerberg explained around a mouth full of jackboot that “These were accounts that were misleading people about who they were and what they were doing. We ban this kind of behavior because authenticity matters. People need to be able to trust the connections they make on Facebook.” Lest users make the mistake of trusting Facebook, however, he added that the company would be “working more closely with law enforcement, security experts and other companies,” turning over more user data than ever in its quest to make privacy obsolete. When law enforcement calls on Facebook to create a backdoor in its Messenger program - thus defeating the purpose of “encrypted chat” - does anyone really expect Zuckerberg to stand fast for privacy rights?
Not to be outdone, Twitter deleted 770 accounts based on the FireEye report, noting that only 100 of these ostensibly Iranian accounts had misrepresented their location and not even all of these had shared “divisive social commentary,” while a single account had purchased $30 in ads. This means over 600 Twitter accounts were deleted for the crime of geography alone (collateral damage?). But Twitter has always gone above and beyond the call of duty, announcing in May that to promote “healthy” conversations it would begin de-ranking users for engaging in “suspicious behavior.” Users who tweeted at many accounts, had multiple complaints against them, or retweeted material tweeted by banned accounts were shadowbanned indefinitely as persona non grata. Since November, Twitter and Facebook have both been turning over information on users who post “divisive” content of the sort promoted by “Russia-linked accounts” to congressional investigators even though a creator of “Russian bot tracker” Hamilton68 admits the accounts his tool tracks are not necessarily bots, or even Russian - “some are legitimately passionate people,” as if passion is an un-American trait.
Last year, the FBI launched a Foreign Intelligence Task Force to work with US tech firms to combat “foreign influence actors.” With bots and their ilk operating all over the world, the decision to single out Russia and Iran has obvious foreign policy motivation (Bolton also claims that China and North Korea are up to no good on social media). All of this avoids naming the elephant in the room. Even though Israel meddles loudly and proudly in US elections, Facebook openly collaborates with Netanyahu’s government. Beyond removing posts and banning accounts, Facebook even turns over user information to Israeli authorities to facilitate prosecution of Palestinian activists for “incitement,” sometimes over nothing more than a “like” or a “share.” Adding insult to injury, Israel’s Ministry of Strategic Affairs has weaponized the diaspora’s ennui - often caused in no small part by young Jews’ discomfort with the crimes their government commits in their name - with the social media equivalent of a Predator drone. Act.IL is an app that allows the user to participate in the “brigading” (mass-reporting for spurious violations) of hapless strangers for “incitement” - supporting the BDS movement, say, or implying that Palestinians are human rather than a “lawn” to be “mowed.” In a rare case of instant karma, the app was found to be leaking users’ email addresses. A nation where the government and citizen “enforcers” are working together to silence dissent sounds like an authoritarian nightmare, but this is our “democratic” Middle Eastern ally.
Origins of Totalitarianism
Israel is the missing link that explains how “sowing discord” - an offense few Americans had ever heard of until 2016 - entered our national vocabulary. The modern “fake news” panic has its roots in the totalitarian tradition. Words like “inciting,” “fomenting,” and “sowing” “discord” and “subversion” are very versatile weapons in the hands of authoritarian regimes. This language was previously uncommon in the US, but its emergence became inevitable when the “new Pearl Harbor” of 9/11 opened the door to the creation of the modern American police state. Social media are now just extra bars on the cage - the tools we once believed could liberate us, during the promising early months of Occupy Wall Street and the Arab Spring, are now used to silence us. The US, following a blueprint for legal censorship set by post-WW2 Europe, is taking on the totalitarian trappings of China, of Burma, of the central Asian “stans” and of Saudi Arabia. Kazakhstan calls it “inciting national discord,” with the variations “ethnic discord” and “religious discord” applicable as needed to whatever activist, journalist, or trade unionist the regime needs to put on ice for a few years. It’s called “inciting religious hatred” or “ethnic hatred” in Azerbaijan, which also permanently bans 5 major media outlets for reasons of “national security.” Uzbekistan arrests journalists for “extremism.” China targets activists of all stripes for “inciting subversion.” Burma, which is cracking down hard on the press as it seeks to keep its Rohingya ethnic cleansing quiet, criminalizes “speech that is likely to cause fear or harm and incites classes or groups to commit offenses against each other.” Egypt detains lawyers, journalists and activists under charges of “propagating false news.” Saudi Arabia recently put a Shi’a religious leader to death for “sowing discord” and “undermining national unity.” American dissenters, this is your future.
I have already explained how the Great Deplatforming represents the triumph of the repressive concept of Hate Speech over Free Speech, and how this - not Trump blustering about that wall he’ll get around to building someday - is what fascism looks like. The US government uses friendly corporations as workarounds for the constitutional limits on its power. This technique was deployed against the Second Amendment in Citibank and Bank of America’s post-Parkland refusal to process financial transactions from firearm manufacturers, and is being deployed against the First Amendment here. Such corporate-state fascism is very effective, and the ruling class has seen fit to share it with the other “Five Eyes” intelligence partners, all of whom share information gathered by their Panopticon surveillance agencies. This week, ministers from the US, UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand met in Australia to condemn hostile nations who “sow discord, manipulate public discourse, bias the development of policy, or disrupt markets” through their manipulation of social media platforms; they also implored Big Tech to allow law enforcement “targeted” access to users’ encrypted data. Flexing the thuggish muscles of the world’s greatest carceral state, the group acknowledged “individual rights must be protected” (and presumably snickered before adding) “privacy is not absolute” and warning that encryption was being exploited by criminals.
The Iranian Meddling affair is a perfect distraction from the real malfeasance at Facebook, where Zuckerberg is bringing back Stasi-style crowdsourced secret policing. The company is assigning “trust ratings” to users based in part on their willingness to report their friends for posting “fake news,” fostering a climate of distrust and fear meant to instill reflexive self-censorship. As in East Germany, the central authorities can’t possibly police everyone all of the time, and it is much more advantageous for them to outsource surveillance to the people, since one who cannot trust his neighbor will not unite with him to overthrow the state. Accordingly, Facebook admits that “some users” abuse Facebook’s reporting system, dubbing stories or users they don’t like “fake news” - but don’t worry about those miscreants, because Facebook compensates for their actions with thousands (!) of other measures that go into calculating the trust rating. No user can see his or her own report - that would be telling - so we’re encouraged to tread carefully to avoid running afoul of the ever-shifting Rules. Jordan Peterson, conservatism’s favorite intellectual, delivers his marching orders in a video he posted last week - “nothing is ever simple,” he pleads as he tells his fans that he’s reached an understanding with Zuckerberg, a “very straightforward person” who really just wants to keep his users safe from bad guys like ISIS recruiters. And Iran. Because they’re terrorists, you know?
The police state is no longer necessary when you have internalized the police. “Media censorship is a shift in the flow of information, while self-censorship is a shift in consciousness.” When the government has convinced citizens to do its job - reporting friends and neighbors for "hate speech," "sowing discord," and "incitement" on social media, for example - a free society is impossible.Add a comment
At some point last weekend, America decided its First Amendment was outdated - that Free Speech was no longer as important as protecting the vulnerable from the menace of Hate Speech. This decision came down from on high amidst a whirlwind of banning, deplatforming, and terminology-redefining, the product of years of collaboration between Big Tech and Big Government on how to break down the resistance to censorship that was so stubbornly encoded in this country's DNA. Infowars was merely the test case - a toe dipped in the public stream of consciousness to gauge the effectiveness of the propaganda we’re being fed. Outside the conservative media sphere, the response to Alex Jones’ un-personing - removed from YouTube, Facebook, Google, Apple, Spotify, Stitchr, MailChimp, LinkedIn, Vimeo, and finally Twitter in the course of a few days, a heavy blow the companies claim was not coordinated among themselves at all (wink, wink) - was tepid, with only a few brave commentators willing to bridge the partisan divide to defend his right to free speech on principle. Some reprehensible shills even cried that the censorship hadn’t gone far enough. Big Tech took the Left’s cowardice as a green light and turned their censorship ray on the other end of the political spectrum. Telesur, the Caracas-based network home to Abby Martin, was booted from Facebook yesterday, an act the media greeted with a deafening silence far more terrifying than all the anti-speech “liberals” baying for Jones’ blood.
Telesur and Martin were logical choices to launch Big Tech’s un-personing on the Left. Facebook’s “partner” in silencing dissent - er, fake news - is the Atlantic Council, whose board of directors reads like a who’s-who of western imperialism, with Henry Kissinger, Michael Chertoff, and Michael Hayden rubbing shoulders with CrowdStrike founder Dmitri Alperovitch, the man behind the Russiagate conspiracy theory. Martin figured prominently in the Russiagate intelligence community assessment, which devoted several pages to wringing its hands about her old RT show “Breaking the Set,” even though it had been off the air for years before the 2016 election; a woman-on-the-street piece she recorded last year that revealed the shocking bigotry of average Israeli citizens was banned in 28 countries on YouTube. Venezuela, of course, sits on the largest oil reserves in the western hemisphere and has long been on the war machine’s “to do” list (Venezuelanalysis.com was also dropped from Facebook, but later reinstated). Together, they represent everything that keeps the NATO-backed Atlantic Council awake at night.
For all the hundreds of articles weighing in on the Passion of Alex Jones, hardly anyone mentioned Telesur's disappearance - or the deletion of State Department whistleblower Peter van Buren, who was banned from Twitter for a relatively mild argument while all eyes were on Infowars; or the double vanishing act of Scott Horton and Daniel McAdams, two anti-war journalists whose Twitter accounts were yanked and then restored for defending van Buren. The narrative we are being fed is that Jones was out of line for his behavior - that questioning the facts of the Sandy Hook shooting is morally equivalent to yelling “fire” in a crowded theatre - so Big Tech made a Big Decision and silenced Infowars, in a precedent-setting move that won’t ever have sinister repercussions for anyone elsewhere on the political spectrum. Anyone capable of mustering a few scraps of historical context or even basic critical thinking understood that Jones was just the red-faced canary in the totalitarian coal mine, and that every alternative media content creator is now in peril. But the establishment media is telling us to move on - after all, Trump is attacking the press, and we have to stand with them!
Big Tech’s Big Crackdown was driven not by social media platforms themselves, but by establishment media and their backers, who see the writing on the wall as the lion’s share of Americans now get their news from Facebook and Google. When Jack Dorsey dragged his feet on censoring Infowars, dozens of articles from the Verge and Vox shrieked about Twitter’s “amorality,” but it was CNN that actually deployed a reporter to dig through Jones’ old tweets in search of something that violated the platform’s terms of service. Facebook, instructed by the Atlantic Council, has begun removing “misinformation that contributes to violence” - fake stories it "believes" (after consultation with local “threat intelligence agencies”) are “created or shared with the intent of causing violence or physical harm” - but even this Orwellian overstep would not disqualify Infowars. The tech platforms and their ruling class manipulators are belatedly realizing their control grid is still full of holes, and the establishment media - another tentacle on the same octopus - is offering up some almost-clever solutions in a bid to regain its masters' favor. Facebook could take a page from YouTube’s book and link to Wikipedia pages on the disputed topic (because Wikipedia is such an authoritative source)! They could draft a constitution (since they clearly respect the existing one so much)! Anything but positioning themselves as a neutral content platform like Twitter, enmeshed in “amoral, as well as regressive, terrible decision-making.”
The not-so-secret weapon in the new-media censorship wars is Hate Speech - a nebulous term whose meaning is constantly shifting to suit the whims of whoever is using it. Since the 2016 election, Hate has been the domestic bogeyman of choice, the enemy within while Russia plays the role of enemy without. The Southern Poverty Law Center, the Anti-Defamation League and other fearmongering groups tell us Hate is on the rise, that Hate Crimes have skyrocketed since Trump’s election, that Haters are being radicalized online at a breakneck pace - and that only drastic, even unconstitutional measures will stop the insanity. The establishment media have rushed to cover anything that looks remotely like a white supremacist gathering, often outnumbering the actual participants with their camerapeople and reporters. Only by exposing the Haters, they say, will America free itself of the scourge of white supremacy - clearly the #1 problem in a country where the national debt is 940% of GDP and most of us live paycheck to paycheck, falling asleep to the lullaby that we live in the richest nation in the world.
Hate speech is the ideal weapon for the deplatforming aggressive precisely because the term has no universally agreed-upon definition even as it provokes an emotional reaction. Nearly all of the platforms that banned Infowars cited “hate speech” as their rationale without claiming a specific example, though Facebook claimed Jones’ account was full of anti-Muslim and anti-trans bigotry. YouTube was the first to block Jones, making it impossible for those unfamiliar with his material to ascertain the truth of these claims. A political performance-artist who took a hard ideological swerve right with Trump’s candidacy, Jones has replaced much of the anti-police-state rhetoric that endeared him to his early audience with more typical conservative talking points, including a reprehensible knee-jerk Zionism that sets him in opposition to Islam. Still, a rational mind would be hard-pressed to classify his words as “hate” unless one radically redefined “hate.” Which is precisely the idea. Liberals, unaware of Infowars content, take Big Tech’s word that it is hateful and repugnant - he questioned Sandy Hook! - but don’t bother evaluating it for themselves because of their visceral aversion to anything deemed “hate speech,” and his relatively anodyne comments retroactively come to embody hate speech, since no one is sure what the term means anyway. Definition creep sets in, and overnight half the conservative media finds itself on the wrong end of Big Tech’s terms of service.
Twitter clone Gab, the favored platform of the alt-right ever since it welcomed victims of the 2016 “Twitter purges,” was threatened by Microsoft with the cancellation of its web domain last week because of two anti-Semitic posts made a month ago by Republican Senate candidate Patrick Little. Why Microsoft would take down the entire platform because of two objectionable tweets was never properly explained - certainly, the platform is home to plenty of other objectionable messages by less-well-known users. The threat may have been an effort to force Gab to betray the principles that originally attracted users like Little who’ve been expelled from other platforms - “free speech, individual liberty and the free flow of information online” - principles sure to attract more users as Twitter begins purging anew. Little removed the offending tweets, and Gab survived to offend another day. Meanwhile, PayPal has been quietly dropping users linked to the Southern Poverty Law Center's infamously inaccurate "hatewatch" list since last year.
Banning the “haters” is only the first step in Big Tech’s Big Crackdown. Google’s shadowy Jigsaw arm recently developed a tool called Perspective which aims to root out “hate speech” before it spreads. Built in collaboration with the New York Times and Wikipedia, Perspective uses “machine learning” to “spot abuse and harassment online,” analyzing the flow of online conversations in the hope of predicting (and preemptively redirecting) their trajectory. The tool could presumably be deployed against content creation on Big Tech platforms in real time, though the PR materials limit their discussion to its potential in moderating comments sections. A similar initiative is in development at the ADL, which is working with UC-Berkeley to develop an “online hate index” to “better understand the growing amount of hate on social media,” uncovering and identifying trends in “hate speech” across different platforms. The goal is a “community-based” definition of hate speech - but they never say whose community gets to do the defining. Given the ADL’s rabid demonization of anything with a whiff of criticizing Israel as "anti-Semitism," such a tool in their hands should worry political analysts and anyone who comments on world events.
Jigsaw is already looking beyond "hate speech" to influence real-world behavior. Its Redirect Method began as a beefed-up AdWords aimed at convincing potential ISIS recruits to think twice about joining the US/Israeli-backed terror group; the program is now being positioned as the perfect tool for countering the uniquely American specter of White Hate. Instead of merely pointing the hapless would-be terrorist to YouTube videos debunking ISIS propaganda, Redirect’s successor Moonshot follows up the ideological rebuttals with messages from “undercover social workers” embedded in extremist forums. The infiltrators “discreetly message potential recruits to dissuade them,” an act that takes on sinister implications considering the vast wealth of personally identifying information Google hoards on its users. Given that the program has no way of distinguishing between an individual looking to be radicalized and someone doing research for a film or journalistic piece, the privacy ramifications are - as with everything Google - disturbing. It is one thing to be concern-trolled by an online do-gooder; another entirely when the concern-troll is armed with your home address, your phone number, and your bank account information. A Wired article on the program also suggests that Google readily supplies the incriminating search data to authorities, dispelling any illusion of the tech giant’s concern for the well-being of wannabe extremists.
Lest you believe the Great Deplatforming is really about “hate,” recall that Facebook also removed 32 pages it suspected of “inauthentic behavior” last weekend, pages devoted to the counter-protest against the Unite the Right 2 rally, pages populated mostly by anti-racist groups planning a big show of opposition to the white nationalist gathering that was supposed to be the very embodiment of “hate.” Why? They were suspected of having been created by Russian trolls. This is the Atlantic Council, after all - if you aren't losing sleep over the possibility of Russian "meddling" in the midterm elections, they're not doing their job. Israel’s Knesset just passed the first draft of a bill that would empower courts to order the removal of social media posts for “safety” reasons - not merely hide the posts from Israeli users, but remove them globally. This is a country that regularly arrests people based on their social media content, having criminalized such violations as “glorifying Palestinian martyrs” or “disclosing Israeli crimes.” Don’t think the deplatforming will stop with the perpetrators of “hate.”
Led by the Boston Globe, 300 newspapers have colluded in Sinclair-media-esque fashion to publish editorials in defense of a free press, as if Trump’s disparaging remarks about “fake news” represent the most significant threat to their ossified business model. The Globe published a poll indicating 48% of Republicans believe “the news media is the enemy of the American people” - but this is a situation for which the establishment media has only itself to blame. Decades of biased pro-corporate warmongering have taken their toll, and the average American has had their fill of lies. The best journalism has long since migrated online and away from the big legacy names, and social media platforms have assumed the role once held by the television. Meanwhile, Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg has threatened the entire old-media establishment with economic death if they do not work with his platform to “revitalize journalism.” It is difficult to tell whether establishment media or Big Tech poses a greater threat to press freedom - both are chillingly effective tools of control wielded by the ruling class against the people, and Zuckerberg’s idea of a “revitalized” journalism is the stuff of nightmares - but as the online platforms increasingly come to resemble establishment media with their unhealthy appetites for gatekeeping and censorship, it is clear that neither see themselves as friends to independent journalists.
Some have naively called for the government to step in and regulate Big Tech, reasoning that their platforms operate as monopolies and should be treated as such under the law. While it’s tempting to call in Big Brother to clip the wings of Twitter & co., such an act would trigger a slide down yet another slippery slope. Corporations are already the willing partner of the US government in enacting almost-laws that violate our pesky constitution - Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and the other tech platforms have been discussing the banning of Infowars in meetings with congresspeople for months. The Deep State knows it can't openly strip citizens of their First Amendment rights just yet, so Big Tech is deployed to do their dirty work. Once the government legally has its hands on social media, there is nothing stopping them from exerting even more control over these platforms, bringing full circle the process that began when the Pentagon’s Orwellian “LifeLog” project was scrapped and reanimated in the corporate sector as “the Facebook.” Fascism is characterized by an alliance at the highest level between corporations and the government, and further defined by heavy-handed censorship. This creeping fascism - not a mere figurehead like Trump - is the greatest threat to press freedom today.Add a comment
Sources close to the Ecuadorean embassy have been predicting Julian Assange’s expulsion from his safe-haven-turned-prison-cell for a few weeks now. Ecuadorean President Lenin Moreno seems to be fumbling to find a way to rescind the citizenship his predecessor granted the fugitive journalist without looking like a spineless tool of the American empire, declaring yesterday that Assange must "stop intervening in politics and self-determination of the country" else "measures will be taken." Trapped for more than six years in the embassy, where his plea for asylum has mutated into an open-ended prison sentence, Assange has been blocked from communicating with the outside world for the past 135 days, rendering Moreno's threats absurd. Held in indefinite seclusion and faced with imminent extradition to a country where he could face the death penalty, Assange has been all but forgotten by the media WikiLeaks empowered, many of whom have allowed establishment propaganda or petty interpersonal squabbles to confuse their moral responsibility toward a fellow truth-teller ensnared in an Orwellian nightmare. As Moreno tries to make nice with the US, Assange is poised to lose his political asylum, a development which would throw him to the wolves of Washington, ready to tear him to pieces for the unspeakable crime of publishing the truth.
Assange’s plight is indicative of a disturbing global shift away from freedom of the press, towards an oppressive climate marked by McCarthyite attacks on alternative media as enemy propaganda in a new Cold War, Left-cover censorship that uses the language of political correctness to bolster authoritarian ideologies, and controlled-opposition provocateurs infiltrating alternative media to falsely delineate the bounds of acceptable discourse. The campaign against dissident media voices has been operating at fever pitch since the 2016 US election revealed the control matrix of the ruling class was less than total, and social media censorship is rapidly engulfing anti-establishment voices on both sides of the political spectrum as the mainstream media clings desperately to relevance.
In February, UK courts upheld the bail-jumping charge that permits authorities to arrest Assange should he exit the embassy - jumping bail for rape charges that Swedish courts dropped over a year ago, charges based on accusations that were coerced and then recanted, as the basis for a case that was never prosecuted against a defendant who was never questioned. “Kafkaesque” was coined to describe circumstances like these. Despite the establishment’s record of using sex-crimes charges to discredit dissidents and the flimsy non-case against Assange, some enemies still opt to smear him with the “rapist” epithet. Others cling to the threadbare Russiagate narrative, which casts him as a Russian dupe or willing Russian agent for publishing leaked documents revealing the corruption at the center of the Democratic Party. Still others, grasping at straws, point to what they call his support for Trump - despite his characterization of the 2016 election as a choice between cholera and gonorrhea - as proof he has gone full fascist, an ironic accusation to make against the victim of a fascist police state. What unites Assange’s enemies is their reliance on shooting the messenger, a propaganda technique that is the establishment’s last best defense against a message too powerful to suppress.
Wikileaks is much more than its founder - its power comes from the leakers, not from Assange's own writing, or from some special knack he has for getting the story. If the US and UK governments do silence him - whether through extradition and imprisonment or an indefinite extension of the absurd legal limbo in which he is allowed internet access only if he does not "speak about politics" - WikiLeaks will continue to publish the world’s secrets. By setting up a decentralized, ultra-resilient platform for whistleblowers to share their secrets anonymously, he caused a seismic shift in the relationship between the oppressed and their oppressors, and that shift cannot be reversed. The threat inherent in Assange as a free man lies not in what has been published, but in what can be, and how. As Facebook and Twitter tighten the screws of censorship - anti-war journalists Peter Van Buren and Janice Kortkamp have been booted off Twitter, and even 9/11 Truth proponent turned Trump lapdog Alex Jones has been barred from most popular platforms - visionary anti-establishment techno-savants like Assange will be central figures in the mass movement toward secure social media platforms when those platforms emerge, fueled by an understanding that strong ideals and technical expertise are both essential if techno-dissidents are to shift the paradigm away from Deep State control of the internet.
Government persecution of Assange is to be expected - WikiLeaks keeps the ruling class up at night worrying their misdeeds might be smeared across the morning's headlines - but his lack of support among fellow journalists is reprehensible. Whatever flaws Assange the person may possess are far outweighed by the good WikiLeaks has done for the world. In the media sphere, there is no downside to more information being available, especially free of charge. The patchwork of baseless smears and personal insults that has enveloped Assange since his internet connection was severed is pathetic and speaks volumes more about his detractors, kicking a man when he's down, than about him. Reports from visitors to the embassy suggest his physical and mental condition is deteriorating rapidly, reports met with derision from a vocal cadre of establishment lackeys calling themselves journalists on Twitter. But below even these sadistic pigs are the spineless appeasers who maintain their silence as Assange is smeared and deprived of his rights, cowards who sigh with relief every time the dogs of war sink their teeth into someone else. The radio silence that followed then-CIA chief Mike Pompeo's condemnation of WikiLeaks as a "hostile non-state intelligence service" - an ominous term he invented to lay the groundwork for whatever clandestine indictments US courts are cooking up after WikiLeaks embarrassed the CIA by releasing Vault 7 - reflected appalling cowardice on the part of the establishment wing of the Fourth Estate, which must have quivered with pleasure as the chubby Rapture-botherer compared WikiLeaks unfavorably to so-called "legitimate news organizations like the New York Times and the Washington Post." Any journalist who falls for such naked divide-and-conquer rhetoric should hang up their laptop.
The Russia Excuse
Because of the outsize role it played in the 2016 US election, WikiLeaks found itself at the center of Russiagate, the only conspiracy theory considered acceptable in mainstream American society. A month after the election, anonymous Ukrainian website PropOrNot declared - on the front page of the Washington Post, no less - that over 200 popular anti-establishment media outlets on both Left and Right were actually mouthpieces for Russian propaganda. PropOrNot begged the US government to investigate WikiLeaks and 200 of its fellows as traitors, accusations WaPo was forced to wrap in a disclaimer after several of those outlets threatened libel lawsuits. The witch hunt was on - anti-war, anti-capitalist, anti-Big Government, anti-police state views were all nefarious heads on the same Russian hydra. If you were on that list and you didn’t work for the Russians, you were a useful idiot, being fed information by Russian operatives so smooth you had no idea they worked for the Kremlin. It became fashionable to smear one's opponent as a Russian bot when losing internet arguments, and Sky News infamously dragged a British retiree and a Syrian-Australian scientist onto an interview program to essentially take a live Turing test. The narrative was ludicrous, but found fertile ground in the imagination of traumatized Clinton voters, who’d been assured at every turn their victory was certain. Even two years on, in the absence of any concrete proof of Russian collusion, a devoted core of believers keep the Russiagate faith, fanning the flames with a cultic fervor as the rest of Democratic voters despair of ever again winning an election.
The Russiagaters aren’t done with WikiLeaks. The Democratic National Committee, watching progressive voters jump ship in droves after leaked documents proved its primaries were rigged against Bernie Sanders, fell back on its shoot-the-messenger playbook, naming the Trump campaign, Russia, and WikiLeaks in a lawsuit that would be adorably delusional if not for its chilling implications for a free press. The suit claims that by publishing the stolen documents, Wikileaks stole the DNC’s trade secrets - the same defense, incidentally, used by Scientology when it filed its own suit against WikiLeaks in the organization's early days. Were the argument to stand, it would silence journalists who seek to publish leaked documents even when the journalists did not steal those documents themselves - dealing a major blow to investigative reporting. Pulitzer-winning exposés like the Pentagon papers or the more recent Panama papers would be impossible to write without the leaked or stolen documents provided by whistleblowers, who commit the minor crime of theft to expose the monstrous crimes of governments and corporations. The lawsuit also implicates WikiLeaks in illegal “wiretapping” - since the “trade secrets” were transmitted over the internet, and WikiLeaks must have known they’d been obtained illegally - and ties itself in knots creatively interpreting RICO statutes. If all journalists publishing whistleblower reports could be hit with RICO suits, such reporting would take on a whole new level of peril. The icing on the cake is the copyright violation charge - the DNC’s documents, after all, were copyrighted material, which WikiLeaks was not licensed to publish! The lawsuit is absurd, but its content was never meant to be taken seriously as an indictment of the elusive Trump-Russia collusion. It was meant to shut WikiLeaks up - and to silence any investigative journalists who would follow in Assange's footsteps.
The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention called for Assange’s release in 2016 in a report that criticized excesses by both the Swedish and UK governments and refuted the notion that he is in the Ecuadorian embassy of his own free will, facing no threat of extradition to the United States. The group recommended both countries “ensure the right of free movement of Mr. Assange and accord him an enforceable right to compensation” as they are in violation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Sweden, which had never before been found to detain a person arbitrarily by the UN WGAD, dropped its seven-year “preliminary investigation” into the rape allegations last May - an investigation the UK government had bullied them into prolonging for four of those years, reminding Swedish authorities it was “not just another extradition.” Assange has served over three times the maximum jail sentence for bail-jumping in the UK, but Judge Emma Arbuthnot upheld the warrant for his arrest in February, dismissing his concerns about extradition and the increasingly dire state of his health. Former Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa denounced his successor's indefinite blocking of Assange's visitors and internet access as "torture" and called Moreno a "wolf in sheep's clothing" for jettisoning his leftist campaign platform to serve the interests of US empire over those of his own country.
US Guts First Amendment
Right now, the most urgent danger Assange faces is US extradition. The Trump regime, having pulled an about-face from Candidate Trump’s “love” of WikiLeaks, has made it a “priority” to arrest Assange, and a UK arrest would soon see him on a plane headed to face the same DC judge who locked up Chelsea Manning for life - a sentence that was only commuted, incidentally, because Assange told Barack Obama he’d turn himself in in exchange for a pardon for Manning. Obama couldn’t quite bring himself to pardon Manning, and the commutation “compromise” gave Assange a loophole to avoid facing the hanging judges in the capital. John Pilger and the Courage Foundation are campaigning for Assange’s safe release to Australia with a guarantee that he will not be extradited by the United States, even though the word of the US under Trump means less than ever (the regime's reneging on the Iran nuclear deal having nibbled away at what few shreds remained after the deadly bait-and-switches that disarmed and then disemboweled Saddam Hussein and Muammar Gaddafi). The idea of US extradition should be ludicrous, given that Assange has neither entered the US nor committed any crimes against it, but merely publishing stolen documents has increasingly been codified as a crime in the post-9/11 US.
The Obama administration prosecuted more whistleblowers under the Espionage Act than all previous presidents combined, part of a comprehensive attack on press freedom that saw legal protections for journalists and their sources eviscerated. Not to be outdone, Trump AG Jeff Sessions announced last year that his Justice Department was pursuing three times as many leak investigations as Obama’s and that they would be reviewing the department’s press policies to make it easier to prosecute such leaks. When the Intercept and Freedom of the Press Foundation published Justice Department documents detailing the department's press policies, they glossed over the real story - that press protections don’t apply to a journalist who is “believed to be a spy or…part of a news organization associated with a foreign intelligence service or otherwise acting on behalf of a foreign power.” Another reason for casting WikiLeaks and other alternative media as Russian stooges becomes abundantly clear. Obama’s Justice Department used the Espionage Act, a WWI-era law meant to prosecute spies, as a weapon in its war on whistleblowers; Trump’s goons are just taking this strategy to its logical conclusion.
One should expect obfuscation and misleading coverage from the Intercept, whose star journalist Glenn Greenwald has not yet released 95% of the Snowden files he was entrusted to curate in 2013. eBay billionaire Pierre Omidyar's platform, which rose to prominence because of its monopoly on the Snowden material, has always acted in Omidyar's interest first and journalism's last. During Obama's presidency, Omidyar visited the White House more often than the CEOs of Google, Facebook, or Amazon, rendering invalid the notion of the Intercept as anti-establishment. In launching parent company First Look Media, Omidyar essentially paid $250 million to acquire control of Greenwald and Laura Poitras, the two journalists in possession of the Snowden documents, and now owns those documents, which allegedly include the juicy details of PayPal's business relationship with the NSA and its function within the agency's unconstitutional spying programs. Omidyar has made no secret of his antipathy towards leakers, and he clearly does not intend to release any more of the Snowden material if it can be avoided.
With the anti-leaker bias at the core of the Intercept exposed, it should shock no one that the outlet was responsible for last year’s arrest of leaker Reality Winner. What appeared to be sloppy opsec may have been deliberate betrayal - the journalists who bungled Winner’s leak were also involved in outing CIA whistleblower John Kiriakou, who exposed the agency’s torture program. When the Intercept publishes factually inaccurate polemics against WikiLeaks, it is not an anomalous act by an otherwise pro-transparency media platform, but a blow against the authentic competitor it wants to replace with its own controlled opposition. Micah Lee, who has called the WikiLeaks founder a "rapist, liar, & ally to fascists" as well as a "Putin fanboy," is a Russiagate true believer who convinced the Freedom of the Press Foundation to cut off Wikileaks’ funding before penning the least fact-based smear yet to emerge from the Intercept. The irony is rich, considering that the FPF was formed to circumvent the banking blockade on donations to WikiLeaks in the fallout from the Cablegate leaks. But Omidyar now funds the FPF, whose ranks have swelled to 15 members, many of whom are affiliated with the Intercept. There, they take turns hammering at Assange with baseless smears and innuendos (most recently Xeni Jardin's attempts to link Assange to Cambridge Analytica, as well as her deliberate mischaracterization of his Twitter DMs as death threats) in between shilling for terrorist movie stars the White Helmets and fanning the dying embers of Russiagate. Greenwald has much to answer for beyond merely dragging his feet in releasing Snowden’s material, though he recently ventured a lukewarm defense of Assange as press-freedom poster-boy.
The Ukrainian Connection
Omidyar joined USAID and other CIA-backed NGOs in funding the 2014 Euromaidan revolution, which replaced democratically-elected Ukrainian president Victor Yanukovych with a coalition of far-right neo-Nazi goons backed by the US State Department and led by Arseniy Yatsenyuk (later Petro Poroshenko). The Ukrainian government is known for targeting dissident journalists both inside and outside its borders, outsourcing such thought-policing to amateur “security researchers” via open-source surveillance tools to devastating effect. Within the government, it created the Orwellian-sounding Ministry of Information Policy in 2015, ostensibly to combat Russian propaganda by manufacturing its own, and designated all journalists who opposed the regime as “collaborators” - fair game for retaliation, be it harassment, arrest, or murder. Anonymous website Mirotvorets doxxed thousands of “terrorists” operating in the eastern separatist regions of Donetsk and Donbas - a list that grew to include over a thousand journalists whose only crime was receiving credentials from the contested regions - and encouraged patriotic Ukrainians to snitch on pro-Russian elements in their midst while threatening pro-Russian elements with death if they did not rat out their friends. Many journalists received death threats; some were attacked in the streets; some, like Pavel Sheremet, were killed. The attackers were not government goon squads, but propagandized Ukrainian civilians who believed they were doing their patriotic duty by attacking “traitors.”
As the US becomes more hostile to journalists, it’s impossible to ignore the Ukrainian blueprint for the future. Demonizing/scapegoating of Russia? check. Spinning of contested events? check. Anonymous blacklist(s) of dissident journalists (PropOrNot, Mirotvorets)? check. PropOrNot did not inspire ordinary American citizens to physically attack dissident journalists, but by smearing them as traitors, it established a subconscious association that can be drawn upon or amplified in the future. European Values followed up on the slanders last year with an exhaustive list of 2000+ names of politicians and media figures who had appeared on RT, dismissing them all categorically as Kremlin operatives - names running the gamut from UKIP’s Nigel Farage to the Libertarian Party’s Gary Johnson to John Sununu, a relatively obscure figure from the first Bush administration. George Eliason described years ago how Ukrainian intelligence has outsourced the persecution of dissident journalists to civilians in a series of terrifying articles that read like a dystopian nightmare - vigilante citizens armed with NSA surveillance technology acting out their personal vendettas on law-abiding citizens who have no idea they’re being targeted - and he has documented extensively the role these shadowy figures played in the 2016 election. They did such a good job, in fact, that they’ve been rewarded with the highest prize a propagandist could ask for - the ability to determine truth and falsehood on the world’s largest social media platform. The Atlantic Council, a pro-NATO think tank funded by Ukrainian billionaires, multinational banks, weapons contractors, and other supra-governmental entities, has joined Facebook's fight against “fake news.” The truth has left the building.
The persecution of Assange is just one piece of a coordinated effort at press suppression that reaches around the globe. The Department of Homeland Security is currently compiling a master list of “journalists and media influencers” - people who have committed no crime other than publishing. The agency plans to track over 290,000 news sources globally, in over 100 languages that will be instantly translated to English. Browsable by “location, beat, and type of influencer,” the database will also have profiles of each “influencer” including their contact information, previous writings, and “sentiment.” Applications closed four months ago, so it’s presumably in development now. They really don’t want another WikiLeaks, or a proper alternative to Facebook/Twitter, or - worse - a Deep-State-free Google.
The DHS database facilitates the rise of a Mirotvorets for every country - a police state’s wet dream - as well as a valuable information trove to be sold to foreign governments frustrated with their own unruly press. There is no understating the potential abuses, especially at a time when (according to the latest RSF report) hostility toward journalists is on the rise worldwide. Egypt and Turkey are accusing journalists of terrorism and even imprisoning those who don’t display loyalty toward their governments; Philippines president Rodrigo Duterte has told reporters they “are not exempted from assassination;” Czech president Milos Zeman has called for journalists to be “liquidated” and recently brandished a prop AK47 labeled “journalists.” Serbian PM Aleksandar Vucic followed the examples of the US, UK and Ukraine, using state media to intimidate independent journalists and accusing them of “treachery” and being foreign spies. Countless regimes were called out by the RSF report for publicly insulting the press. Germany has used the specter of “fake news” to pass one of the most restrictive anti-free-speech laws in the EU, fining social networks if they don’t remove “hate speech” quickly enough after it’s reported. Given that country’s notoriously broad definition of “hate speech” - octogenarian “Nazi grandma” Ursula Haverbeck is serving a 14-month sentence for “holocaust denial” for calling Auschwitz a labor camp - German journalists are especially screwed.
The #Unity4J campaign is a nexus of activists from all corners of the ideological arena working together to uphold the cause of press freedom around the world. This is not just about Julian Assange, but about one of the fundamental rights of humankind. Freedom of the press is crucial to maintaining government transparency - if there is one thing WikiLeaks has taught us, it is that governments are prone to the most evil acts when they believe no one is capable of holding them accountable. Actions are being planned around the world in the event that Assange is expelled from the embassy and extradited. If you can’t support his release, don’t expect anyone to show up when they come for you, because they will not stop with imprisoning him, or Kiriakou, Manning, Winner, and the endless list of whistleblowers punished for the crimes they exposed. It doesn’t matter if you think that Assange is a cad, or that he said something mean on Twitter, or that he went off the deep end during the 2016 election (you’d go off the deep end too if you had spent the last five years in legal limbo in a foreign embassy with only the occasional glimpse of sunlight to remind you what planet you're on, and one can hardly accuse him of supporting a candidate he likened to an STD). Assange committed no crime, yet he rots in solitary confinement. Such inhumane treatment of an individual who has done so much for the cause of transparency and truth is unconscionable. Safe passage must be arranged to a country where he will be safe from US extradition. Publishing the truth - forcing the powerful to answer for their crimes - should not be a capital offense.
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It’s been nearly a week since Trump sold America’s birthright to Comrade Putin, making the once-great United States a Russian colony as payment for a dozen Russian hackers’ efforts in winning him the presidency. Six days we have had nothing to eat but borscht and sadness, while our former president, clad in nothing but a spiked collar and chaps, is paraded around on a leash from press conference to press conference, barking like a dog.
That was the story in the establishment media, at least, which offered the American people five days of unprecedented hysteria, flinging around terms like “treason” as they frantically tortured their thesauruses to the brink of death trying to impress upon the people the urgency of the situation. After flogging the “treason” narrative to within an inch of its life, with nothing to show for it but strained vocal cords and declining ratings, they abruptly switched gears, returning to the well-worn territory of what Hillary Clinton used to call “bimbo eruptions” - a recording from Trump’s lawyer involving payments to a Playboy Playmate to keep quiet about her past assignations with the commander-in-chief.
The Helsinki hysteria shone a spotlight on the utter impotence of the establishment media and their Deep State controllers to make their delusions reality. Never before has there been such a gaping chasm visible between the media’s “truth” and the facts on the ground. Pundits compared the summit to Pearl Harbor and 9/11, with some even reaching for the brass ring of the Holocaust by likening it to Kristallnacht, while polls revealed the American people really didn’t care.
Worse, it laid bare the collusion between the media and their Deep State handlers - the central dissemination point for the headlines, down to the same phrases, that led to every outlet claiming Trump had “thrown the Intelligence Community under the bus” by refusing to embrace the Russia-hacked-our-democracy narrative during his press conference with Putin. Leaving aside the sudden ubiquity of “Intelligence Community” in our national discourse - as if this network of spies and murderous thugs is Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood - no one seriously believes every pundit came up with “throws under the bus” as the proper way of describing that press conference.
The same central control was apparent in the unanimous condemnations of Putin - that he murders journalists, breaks international agreements, uses banned chemical weapons, kills women and children in Syria, and, of course, meddles in elections. For every single establishment pundit to exhibit such a breathtaking lack of insight into their own government’s misdeeds is highly unlikely. Many of these same talking heads remarked in horror on Sinclair Broadcasting's Orwellian "prepared statement" issuing forth from the mouths of hundreds of stations' anchors at once. Et tu, Anderson Cooper?
The media frenzy was geared toward sparking a popular revolt, with tensions already running high from the previous media frenzy about family separation at the border (though only one MSNBC segment seemed to recall that they should still care about that, and belatedly included some footage of kids behind a fence wrapped in Mylar blankets). Rachel Maddow, armed with the crocodile tears that served her so well during the family-separation fracas, exhorted her faithful cultists to do something. Meanwhile, national-security neanderthal John Brennan all but called for a coup, condemning the president for the unspeakable “high crimes and misdemeanors” of seeking to improve relations with the world’s second-largest nuclear power. He called on Pompeo and Bolton, the two biggest warmongers in a Trump administration bristling with warmongers, to resign in protest. This would have been a grand slam for world peace, but alas, it was not to be. Even those two realize what a has-been Brennan is.
Congress wasted no time jumping on the Treason bandwagon, led by Chuck Schumer conjuring the spectre of the KGB, Marco Rubio as neocon point-man (one imagines Barbara Bush rolling in her grave at his usurpation of Jeb's rightful role) proposing locked-and-loaded sanctions in case of future "meddling," and John McCain, still desperate to take the rest of the world with him before he finally kicks a long-overdue bucket, condemning the “disgraceful” display of two heads of state trying to come to an agreement about matters of mutual interest. The Pentagon has invested a lot of time and money in positioning Russia as Public Enemy #1, and for Trump to put his foot in it by making nice with Putin might diminish the size of their weapons contracts - or the willingness of the American people to tolerate more than half of every tax dollar disappearing down an unaccountable hole. Peace? Eh, who needs it. Cash, motherfucker.
Trump’s grip on his long-elusive spine was only temporary, and he held another press conference upon returning home to reiterate his trust in the intelligence agencies that have made no secret of their utter loathing for him since day one. When the lights went out at the climactic moment, it became clear for anyone who still hadn’t gotten the message who was running the show here (and Trump, to his credit, actually joked about it). The Intelligence Community believes it is God, and it hath smote Trump good. Smelling blood in the water, the media redoubled their shrieking for several days, and…crickets. On to the Playmates.
Sacha Baron Cohen’s latest series, “Who is America,” targeted Ted Koppel for one segment. Koppel cut the interview short after smelling a rat and expressed his high-minded concern that Cohen’s antics would hurt Americans’ trust in reporters. But after a week of the entire media establishment screaming that the sky is falling while the heavens remain firmly in place, Cohen is clearly the least of their problems. At least he’s funny.
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On the eve of Trump’s historic meeting with Vladimir Putin - with Russia-US relations at their worst since the fall of the USSR - Grand Inquisitor Robert Mueller handed down 12 indictments of Russian military intelligence operatives accused of participating in the 2016 hacks of the DNC, DCC and Clinton presidential campaign. This is it, we’re supposed to think. The proof we’ve all been waiting for - that Russia hacked the election. It's not quite the holy grail of Collusion, but it's red meat to the starving faithful. It is now the skeptics’ turn to wipe the egg off our faces.
US courts will indict a ham sandwich, goes the proverb. Mueller indicted 13 Russians linked to the “troll farm” Internet Research Agency in February, hoping that they wouldn’t bother to appear in court, not being bound by US law or having anything to gain by participating in his show trial. But a few sent their lawyers and demanded discovery, which would have forced Mueller to reveal the evidence he had against them. Finding his own indictments riddled with errors - one of the companies named didn’t even exist at the time of the election - Mueller quietly backpedaled. Score one for the Russians.
But this time he has evidence, right? Surely he wouldn’t make that mistake again. And this time it’s Russian military operatives, not some two-bit troll-farmers! The indictment accuses them of spear-phishing Democratic staffers and using those login credentials to access the party’s servers, stealing the famous documents and leaking them to the public through Wikileaks and DCLeaks (though they seem unsure whether DCLeaks is a person or a website). Isn’t this what we’ve all been waiting for?
Perhaps it would be, if the FBI had actually encountered the servers firsthand. Government investigators (from both the FBI and the DHS, which also wanted in on the action) never even laid eyes on the “hacked” servers belonging to the DNC and DCCC, instead relying on the assessment of a computer security firm headed by a Russian expat with an ax to grind against his former government. Dmitri Alperovitch’s CrowdStrike specializes in attributing malware attacks to state actors - a no-no in the computer security industry, and something he was discouraged from doing by former employer McAfee (whose founder has personally commented on the lack of evidence implicating Russia in the DNC hack). Alperovitch launched CrowdStrike to offer his attribution services to clients like the US government which might care more about blaming a hack on a government than finding out how to protect against such hacks in the first place.
The DNC hired CrowdStrike to find evidence that Russia was behind the hack on its servers. CrowdStrike dutifully found (produced, embellished) that evidence. When the FBI came knocking, the Democrats had no interest in getting a second opinion about who’d been rooting around in their digital underwear drawer, and Alperovitch certainly didn’t want some upstart security expert revealing his business model was hideously flawed. Fortunately, James Comey’s FBI was sympathetic to the Democrats’ concerns and took CrowdStrike’s assessment as valid legal proof as if its own agents had poked through those servers themselves.
If this dubious information, sourced from an unaccountable third party never placed under oath with numerous reasons to lie or at least mislead, was used as evidential basis for any indictment, that indictment cannot stand up in court. The foundations of Mueller’s case collapse on even the most cursory scrutiny (that article refers to the original 13 indictments, but unless a clean chain of evidence was used to generate the latest 12, its conclusions remain applicable). CrowdStrike delivers geopolitically-actionable conclusions swaddled in just enough technical jargon to dissuade observers from looking too closely. It’s a perfect dance partner for the Deep State hawks who want war with Russia, whether it’s another 50 years of cold war or (and this is what they jerk off to at night) a hot, sexy, nuclear war, a proper World War 3, something they could tell the kids about (if they hadn’t nuked humanity off the planet).
(A footnote to the whole affair is that whoever "hacked" the DNC and DCCC merely leaked secure information and internal communications that revealed the extent of Democratic Party corruption, and the notion of "hacking the election" is something of a misnomer as no voting machines were tampered with; sure, it would have been nice to get a bipartisan view, with the Republican Party's dirty laundry hung out for all to see, but exposing the crimes of others is not the same as committing them oneself. Indeed, one viable alternate explanation of the DNC hacks is that a disgruntled Party worker leaked the documents himself, frustrated with the unfair treatment Bernie Sanders was receiving at the hands of Clinton's minions within the Party.)
Congress is in the process of handing Trump authorization to deploy “usable nukes” in a theatre of war that is rapidly expanding to cover the entire globe (and now space, because when you’re printing money with no basis in reality, the sky is literally the limit). There’s no reason to use nukes in Afghanistan, the poorest country in Asia, nor even in Iran, since it’s too close to Israel to risk decades of fallout and radiation sickness for the guys pushing the whole regional conflict. The nukes are for Russia, for when the next false flag “chemical attack” in Syria (that Russian intelligence is already warning us about, if we would actually listen to them this time instead of continuing to fund the terrorists responsible for the last one) inevitably touches off a hot war with Russia.
Trump’s meeting with Putin has the potential to put the WW3 genie back in the bottle, to remove fingers from triggers on both sides. Russia has been developing new weapons at a pace unseen since the Soviet years, now that the US has been poking a stick in their geopolitical eye for 4 years over Ukraine, but the US cannot afford a prolonged arms race - we are already throwing more than half of every tax dollar at the Pentagon just to maintain the aging arms infrastructure we have. Most of that money is going toward waging the insanely destructive, strategically self-defeating don’t-call-them-wars in Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Libya - and paying the contractors the military must hire as they run out of indigent youth willing to risk their lives to pay for college, and equipping the monstrously wasteful aircraft carriers that have become little more than sitting ducks in the wake of Russian and Chinese advances in missile technology. Trump’s meeting with Putin could set the two countries back on a peaceful path. This is unacceptable for the war machine.
Americans are sick of Russiagate, but desperate times call for desperate measures. There’s nothing new in the information that led to these indictments - Mueller long ago despaired of coming up with actual proof that Russians “hacked” the 2016 election, hence his more recent diversions into Trump and Cohen’s personal finances, Stormy Daniels’ panties, and the byzantine financial dealings of Trump Inc. But only by hysterically hammering away at the Russia-Hacked-Our-Democracy narrative can the establishment hope to raise popular opposition to the Trump-Putin summit. Democrats, taking a break from shedding crocodile tears for separated migrant families, have demanded Trump call off the meeting until Putin says he’s Very Very Sorry and Won’t Do It Again. Panic reigns as peace threatens to break out.
Trump’s meeting with Putin could set the two countries back on the path to peace and sanity, or irrevocably on the road to the war the military-industrial-intelligence complex is salivating for. The media establishment has long known Trump’s primary vulnerability was his outsize ego, and used accusations of Russian puppetry to manipulate him into antagonizing the country he’d campaigned on easing relations with. One hopes that by now, after two years of superhuman restraint from Russia as the US’s disgusting and illegal military adventures in Syria racked up Russian casualties - and no such restraint from certain unelected factions of the US government - Trump might be more willing to take up a dialogue with the Russian president. Certainly, they should be able to bond over their demonization in the American press.
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Crying Migrant Child has ascended to the photojournalism hall of fame alongside the iconic Vietnamese Napalm Girl and Tiananmen Square Man. Unwittingly conscripted to the front lines of the Resistance, she was chosen to represent the morally unconscionable (this week) separation of undocumented children from their parents. As the establishment appeals to cheap sentimentality to distract from its own much more horrific treatment of children around the globe and pin another catastrophe on its favorite presidential scapegoat, it does not matter that Crying Migrant Child is still with her mother, who with one illegal entry already on her record has only escaped felony charges through the miracle of a government that bit off more than it could chew with a zero-tolerance border policy enacted more for theatrics than law enforcement. It is immaterial that Mom paid $6000 to smuggle the two of them into the country when more than half of Americans can't even scrape together a tenth of that amount for an emergency expense. Americans have not evolved beyond knee-jerk emotional reactions to the perceived suffering of children and small animals, which - properly deployed - can distract from any number of more distant atrocities. Crying Migrant Child is not mere fake news - in all her innocent duplicity, pressed into the service of a propaganda narrative, she is the perfect poster child for this made-to-order controversy.
It is no surprise to see the thousands of doe-eyed migrant Children detained in recent months deployed as a weapon by the Resistance, used to bludgeon the Trump administration into relaxing its border policy. Democrats who've knighted themselves Protectors of the Child hold a stubbornly ahistorical view of Trump’s immigration policy, choosing to ignore its roots in the legislation of his predecessors, and maintain a convenient amnesia regarding the words of their own leaders - Pelosi, Schumer, Feinstein, both Clintons, even Barack Obama have all voiced the same ideas the Resistance now finds so repulsive in the mouth of Trump. Why is Rachel Maddow only now rustling up crocodile tears from the depths of her freeze-dried soul for the migrant children locked in detention facilities? Surely she felt some pangs of conscience when some kids detained under the Obama administration were mistakenly released into the custody of human traffickers? Surely her viewers have seen human beings cry before and recognize Maddow's sick pantomime of human sadness for the crass emotional manipulation it is? The Trump immigration controversy is not about the plight of the Children, or the morality of separating families, or the utility of borders in a globalized world. The Resistance's concern for Central American migrants has clear limits. One cannot discuss the political context of this refugee crisis, the fact that the US is to blame for turning nations like Honduras and El Salvador into violent exporters of desperate humanity, or the strident Defenders of the Children lose interest. They’re here to virtue-signal, not to learn history. Blame Trump or GTFO.
Cause and Effect
Honduras held the dubious distinction of murder capital of the world for four years following the 2009 coup that ousted President Manuel Zelaya, a reformer who presided over a 10% decline in poverty nationwide but ran afoul of powerful corporate interests when he tried to raise the country’s minimum wage and called for a vote to reform the constitution. The UN and OAS condemned the coup while Hillary Clinton’s State Department called for immediate elections to legitimize its plotters, who’d learned their trade at the notorious School for the Americas. The new regime unleashed a torrent of repression, tanked the economy with the standard SoA neoliberal Friedmanism, and scared the murder rate up to 169 per 100000 people, sparking a wave of refugees which has been crashing on our borders ever since. The country has continued to deteriorate since the coup, though it is no longer the murder capital of the world, thanks to another US-backed conflict - this one in Syria.
Nicaragua, too, was recently plunged into violent upheaval, with the National Endowment for Democracy up to its old tricks coopting opposition movements, arming death squads, and sowing chaos to unseat the popular leader who presided over a drop in crime and rise in economic fortunes over the last decade. Until two months ago, Nicaragua’s good fortunes presented a stark contrast to neighbor El Salvador, whose MS-13 woes were largely created by the US when we deported thousands of gang members in 1989 to a country ravaged by more than a decade of civil war. The corrupt and violent right-wing government which emerged from that war sicced the military on the gangs in a policy called mano dura which accomplished little beyond strengthening the gangs and pushing up the death toll. El Salvador has mostly doubled down on these failed enforcement policies since then, with the brief respite of a two-year gang truce followed by a rehash of mano dura. El Salvador's homicide rate is 60 per 100000, while Nicaragua's is just 6 per 100000, but the US is working to change that - one look at the coverage of Nicaragua by the western media establishment, united against President Daniel Ortega, reveals who now controls the “opposition” movement, however genuine its origins may have been. Americans can expect a wave of Nicaraguan refugees to join their Salvadoran cousins at our borders soon.
Guatemala, whose own civil war lasted 36 years following the US overthrow of democratically-elected president Jacopo Arbenz in 1954, is also experiencing a resurgence of violence and consequent spike in migration, with a 71% increase in deportations to that country from the US this year. It is home to the highest percentage of chronically malnourished children in the region - 44% as of 2009. Even Costa Rica - dubbed “the Switzerland of Central America” for its stability - has experienced a rise in homicides due to drug-related violence, which the newly-elected president has promised to combat with a police crackdown and stronger asset-forfeiture laws (because those work so well), ensuring the cycle of violence and corruption will continue as it has elsewhere in Central America, producing a reliable stream of refugees.
The nasty truth at the heart of the current controversy is that Trump is damned if he does, damned if he doesn’t with regard to separating migrant kids from their parents. This is not about the children - they are merely weapons in the war against Trump. If he houses them separately, he’s a monster for splitting up families. If he houses them together, he’s allowing contact between children and unrelated adults who may have criminal histories, creating the potential for abuse. Trump's executive order halting the family-separation policy almost immediately came under fire for leaving kids vulnerable to abuse by other detainees and has also been criticized for failing to provide for the reunion of already-separated families. No matter what Trump does here, he can’t win, unless he points out the hypocrisy of his enemies for their extremely narrow selection of which children they care about, and their refusal to consider the historical context of the refugee crisis - which he won’t, because with neocon dinosaurs like Bolton and Pompeo at his side, he’s gone all-in with the US war machine and its attendant crimes against humanity. Democrats and Republicans are locked in battle for who can occupy a more repugnant position, both using migrant kids as a political football to advance their preferred version of immigration reform and both failing miserably. Americans love immigrants, except when they’re moving to their neighborhoods.
Out of Sight, Out of Mind
Those on the Left who actually care about the fate of children, or human beings in general, have been watching in horror as the US arms and directs the Saudi Arabian genocide of the Houthis in Yemen. Already the poorest country in the Middle East before its government fell during the Arab Spring, Yemen’s population is now facing the largest cholera epidemic in history and a famine that threatens 18 million lives, both artificially created by the Saudi assault. The US has intervened - on the side of the Saudis, who couldn’t wage this war without American support. By selling them hundreds of billions of dollars in weapons and guidance systems, training their troops, and even filling out their ranks on the ground, the Trump administration has facilitated the worst humanitarian crisis of the 21st century. No White Helmets have materialized in Yemen to package propaganda narratives for American viewers, even as the Red Cross and other aid groups are forced to evacuate the areas where they are most needed. Last week, Saudi coalition forces began their assault on Hodeidah, the port that supplies 90% of the vital food aid to Houthi-controlled areas, despite international humanitarian outcry. The destruction of Hodeidah would place 10 million people on the brink of starvation, in addition to the 8 million already at critical risk, according to the UN.
The Houthi genocide has gone largely uncovered by US media, since the Saudis are supposed to be our allies and their penchant for bombing wedding parties and cholera hospitals and using chemical weapons on civilians is unspinnable. When they do cover the conflict, it’s to wring their hands about how “complicated” the issue is, or take a page from Netanyahu’s bloodstained playbook and blame Iran. Horrifying images of starved Yemeni infants do occasionally surface on establishment media - babies so malnourished they don’t even look human, dead before their first birthday because military contractors want a return on their investment. The number of children suffering moderate malnutrition doubled just a year after the start of the war, reaching 1.3 million in 2016, according to the World Food Program. UNICEF says 320000 children face “severe acute malnutrition”. Imagine how many Yemeni kids could be fed with the $6000 that smuggled Crying Migrant Child and her mother across the US border, or - better yet - the $15 million raised by RAICES after ProPublica released an audio file of crying children purporting to originate from a youth detention center. Children are dying every 10 minutes in Yemen, but Rachel Maddow reserves her cloying pantomime of human sadness for the comparatively privileged border-crossers of the Americas. Out of sight, out of mind - American exceptionalism is alive and well and dictating our foreign policy.
It isn’t just Yemen, of course - children are suffering and dying all over the Middle East because of US foreign policy, which is less a policy than a direct pipeline from taxpayers’ wallets into the pockets of arms manufacturers. Neither Right nor Left seem to care anymore about the undeclared wars that are bankrupting the country financially and morally - gone are the days when thousands of people took to the streets to protest Bush’s invasion of Iraq, even though the Trump regime is dropping an insane 121 bombs per day while amateur-hour Bush could only manage 24. “Collateral damage” has mushroomed as more attacks are conducted remotely, with less than 10% of these bombs hitting their targets, ensuring a plentiful supply of America-hating survivors among the family members of the dead in years to come. Our soldiers may as well be playing video games for all they care.
Pentagon policy is increasingly to tag all dead adults as “combatants” after the fact, a dirty trick we learned from Israel, another "ally" with a blank check to mow down children who were born in the wrong place at the wrong time. If a drone bomb wipes out an Arab village and no one is around to hear their screams, was a war crime committed? US media says no, and Democrats are just as guilty as Republicans of enabling these atrocities. Just 7 of the 47 Democratic senators voted against the latest $82 billion increase in the “defense” budget, belying the sincerity of their anti-Trump rhetoric, since who would hand him $716 billion to blow up defenseless civilians halfway around the world if they really thought he was the Tangerine Antichrist unless they were a bunch of cynical, bloodthirsty sociopaths?
Just as the Resistance categorically refuses to connect US policy in Central America with the refugee crisis at our southern border, so do they fail to connect US policy in the Middle East with the refugee crisis in Europe. Seven US representatives drafted a letter to Defense Secretary Mattis imploring him to stop the Saudi assault on Hodeidah, perhaps emboldened by the toothless resolution they passed last year that condemned Saudi targeting of Yemeni civilians but accomplished little else (a Senate resolution that would have ended US military support for the Saudi offensive was shot down in a 55-44 vote in March). Perhaps Congress was merely caught off guard when reminded of their duty to authorize such foreign military adventures - Trump never asked permission for the illegal missile strike he launched on Syria before the latest "gas attack" could be investigated. Nor did he seek congressional permission to strike Syria last year after photographs ostensibly depicting gassed children convinced him to discard his plan to abandon regime change in the country. Yemen and Syria, of course, are both on Trump's list of countries from which emigration and most travel are banned, as are Libya and Somalia, also decimated by US bombs. Photographs of dead children can only inspire so much compassion, apparently.
Meet the New Boss, Same as the Old Boss
There has been no meaningful anti-war movement since Bush left the White House. Obama and Clinton put a kinder, gentler face on the suffering they inflicted on the Middle East and Afghanistan, couching their destruction in humanitarian rhetoric to set it apart from Bush's belligerent us-vs.-them imperialism. Like the war in Yemen, Trump’s immigration policies are rooted in the actions of his predecessor; for this reason, establishment critiques of Trump are deliberately devoid of context. Those who would beatify Obama while condemning Trump as Orange Hitler forget that immigrants’ rights groups mocked Obama as the “deporter in chief” with good reason - in 2013, deportations reached a record high of 434015, numbers unmatched even by Trump’s 2017 high of 105736. In 2012, funding for immigration enforcement was $18 billion, 24% higher than funding for the FBI, DEA, Secret Service, US Marshals, and BATF combined. While the Trump administration has overseen an increase in apprehensions of aliens qua aliens (as opposed to aliens arrested for another crime), Obama’s first term was marked by similar policies, including the imposition of quotas, incentivizing agents to hunt down illegal immigrants Blade Runner-style in the country’s interior, violating the rights of citizens and non-citizens alike. His administration deported a record 2.4 million people, 40% of whom were guilty of nothing beyond their illegal presence in the US. His bestselling 2006 propaganda tract Audacity of Hope even mentions the "flush of patriotic resentment" he supposedly felt upon seeing Mexican flags waving at immigrant demonstrations. No wonder the establishment Resistance is so vehemently ahistorical.
Under Trump, Democrats have discovered a visceral loathing for ICE, even though the agency assumed its current form under Obama. This time, they've found a worthy target. ICE was created by the Homeland Security Act of 2002 as part of Bush’s sinister post-9/11 police state buildup. The agency raids homes and workplaces, terrorizing the undocumented who are committing no crime beyond their presence in the country, and sets up roadblocks where agents demand proof of citizenship in “show us your papers” routines straight out of the Third Reich. While ICE’s stated mission is enforcing immigration law within US borders, the agency now employs 20000 agents in 48 countries, and detains over 100000 people per year - more than all other federal law enforcement agencies combined. This is mission creep on a grand scale. More recently, ICE has decided its job is “protecting our nation’s children from sexual predators around the globe,” a nauseating nugget of hypocrisy from an agency that only investigated 3% of the 1224 reports of child sexual abuse its Inspector General received during the Obama years. The agency continues to place migrant children in facilities with horrific track records; one of these, Shiloh Treatment Center, is being sued for forcibly drugging its child detainees, while others have renamed themselves after kids turned up dead on their watch. While scaling back bureaucracy is never easy, ICE is a branch that should be pruned, ideally as a prelude to dissolving the entire Department of Homeland Security police-state apparatus and returning the component agencies to independent functioning. Returning Border Patrol agents to the task of patrolling the border (instead of an absurd 100-miles-from-the-border grey area that encompasses two-thirds of the country’s populated areas and facilitates abuses like roadblock papers checks) and streamlining the legal immigration process would make much of the police state obsolete by eliminating the official rationale for policies that are frequently turned against legal American citizens.
It was not Bush and his merry band of neocons but Bill Clinton who passed the law that lay the groundwork for the DHS and its militarization of immigration policy. Passed in 1996, the IIRIRA was just one piece of Clinton’s ideological bodyslam of the Overton Window to the Right, along with the welfare “reform” that made it much more difficult to climb out of poverty, the criminal justice “reform” that has consigned hundreds of thousands of low-level drug offenders to lengthy prison sentences (and also made it difficult if not impossible for them to climb out of poverty), and neoliberal wet-dream NAFTA that devastated the US economy. Clinton’s “tough on crime” and “tough on immigration” stances helped distance the Democratic Party from the progressive Left; it has inched Rightward ever since, to the point that the most notorious Republican neocons defected to the Clinton campaign in 2016 rather than vote Trump. The anti-Trump “Resistance”’s violent allergy to historical context is largely due to Democratic responsibility for Trump's immigration policy. The Right has delighted in flooding social media with clips of Democratic establishment luminaries espousing the same policies they now decry in Trump, but even they don’t transcend the surface hypocrisy, since they’re just as guilty of using illegal immigrants as a political football - in their case as a scapegoat for the economic tribulations of working-class Americans. Indeed, Trump’s 2016 campaign initially focused on illegal immigration as its signature issue when preliminary polling revealed it was the #1 issue among likely Republican voters.
Alarm bells should ring the second an elected official in the country with the world’s largest per-capita prison population starts acting concerned about detention facilities separating children from their parents. It goes without saying that this is the result when a nation imprisons non-violent drug offenders for years at a time, as the US does under the policies which have turned a generation of mostly black men into fodder for the prison-industrial complex. Yet not one of the newly-sentimental lawmakers calling on the Trump administration to #reunitethe2300 migrant kids separated from their parents has said a word about the 2.7 million kids barred from seeing their parents outside brief, heavily-restricted visiting hours because those parents got caught with a few joints. Why are Facebook users only now donating $15 million to RAICES to pay bail for non-citizens when so many of their fellow Americans have languished behind bars, sometimes for years, for want of a couple hundred dollars? The recent marijuana referendums in such unlikely states as Oklahoma are proof that Americans don’t actually want to see their fellows jailed for nonviolent drug offenses.
The migrant controversy should serve as an entry point into a larger discussion about the morality of separating families in the name of a war on drugs that has proven so alarmingly ineffective that more Americans now die of opiate overdoses than any other cause. The kiss of death for any American policy is to declare it a “war on” something - whether it’s Drugs, Poverty, or Terror, our opponent always gains the upper hand - but with Central America also suffering the fallout from this particular “war,” there’s no time like the present to end it. ICE's mission-creep, too, has been largely under the aegis of drug interdiction, as if any more proof was needed that the war on drugs is merely a Trojan horse deployed to usurp national sovereignty and expand the US police state outside its nominal borders.
There's No Virtue Like No Virtue
The gold medal for hypocrisy goes to Laura Bush, waxing lachrymose about how children who’ve been “interned” are twice as likely to suffer cardiovascular disease than their non-interned peers. One wonders where her concern for detainees was during her husband’s presidency, when his CIA ran a shadowy network of “black site” prisons where sadistic creeps like Gina Haspel learned to express themselves creatively through torture away from the prying eyes of international human rights law. At least the children in US detention centers are alive, and thus better off than the hundreds of thousands of dead Iraqi and Afghan kids weighing on the Bushes' consciences. Yet liberals blinded by Trump Derangement Syndrome have forgiven and forgotten that family for their crimes against humanity, obediently following the establishment media’s two-minutes-hate directive against the current occupant of the White House.
"Never Forget" that Bush signed the law blamed for much of the migrant crisis - a bill supposedly aimed at curtailing human trafficking that ended the rapid deportation of unaccompanied minors arriving from Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador. Obama’s DACA virtue-signaling merely exacerbated the problem he had tried to keep under wraps as unaccompanied minors piled up at the border, their numbers doubling in 2012 and again in 2013. His administration first denied the existence of the new detention centers they built in response to the migrant flood, then forbid photography of them; finally, it compounded its mess by instituting what has become known as “catch and release 2.0” which discouraged the detention of illegal aliens not otherwise engaged in criminal activity. Like Trump’s decision to drop the charges against the parents separated from their children under the new zero-tolerance policy, this decision had less to do with morality than a lack of resources - Obama asked for $3.7 billion from Congress to deal with the migrant wave and instead got stern moralizing lectures about bailouts from the Republican-controlled congress that had suddenly developed a sense of fiscal responsibility. Ironically, given the Bush law’s original intention to counter human trafficking, an unknown number of children ended up in the hands of “sponsors” who turned out to be traffickers. Trump has also prohibited photography in detention centers, citing the privacy concerns of detainees, though given the American government's utter lack of respect for its own citizens' privacy, this excuse does not stand up to scrutiny.
Trump hasn’t helped his case by blaming “Democrats” for the laws he’s supposedly following - his immigration policy is built on solid bipartisan precedent and he would be wise to emphasize its adherence to the status quo. However, his executive order halting family separations seemingly negated the much-vaunted zero-tolerance policy, as a West Texas jurisdiction dropped most illegal immigration charges against parents separated from their children pending the emergence of a coherent new policy, while cabinet members have appeared in the media pushing at least three separate lines: the separation policy is a deterrent (John Kelly) / there is no deliberate separation policy (Nielsen) / the separation policy predates Trump (Trump). Many children crossing the border arrive alone, and it’s uncertain how many other kids are traveling with unrelated adults hoping to avoid arrest by using them as human (legal) shields, but the lack of coherent leadership from Trump's administration ensures the latter practice will continue. The legislative “solutions” drawn up by Feinstein et.al - so sloppily written that they exonerate anyone committing a federal crime, so long as they're accompanied by a child - expose the shoddiness of our entire legislative structure, which relies on rushed 11th-hour lawmaking to pass unpopular and unconstitutional legislation by rolling it into massive, unwieldy bills pertaining to essential governmental functions.
TL;DR? Our government runs on hypocrisy, corruption, and violence barely concealed beneath a crumbling facade of moral superiority. Someone should tell the refugees fleeing the corporate-authoritarian kleptocracies and incipient narco-states of Central America that they’re running out of the frying pan and into the fire.Add a comment
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