By Nicolas J S Davies
Source: Consortium News
The current debate over “fake news” has reminded me of a conversation I had several years ago with a former citizen of East Germany, now living in the United States. He explained that, in East Germany, everybody knew that what the media told them about their own country was a bunch of lies and propaganda. So they assumed that what the media told them about the West was just propaganda, too.
Now living in the U.S., he had come to realize that a lot of what the East German media said about life in the U.S. was actually true. There really are people living on the street, people with no access to healthcare, widespread poverty, a lack of social welfare and public services, and many other problems, as the East German media accurately reported, and as the Chinese government also noted in its latest report on human rights in the U.S.
My friend wished he and his countrymen had understood the difference between what their media told them about their country and what they reported about the West. Then they could have made more intelligent choices about which aspects of life in the West to adopt, instead of allowing Western experts to come in and impose the entire neoliberal model on their country.
In the West, of course, the state media of East Germany and other Communist countries were held up to ridicule. I remember hearing that people in the U.S.S.R. would open their newspapers in the morning and have a good laugh at the latest “fake news” in Pravda. But, as my German friend eventually understood, there was some truth amongst the propaganda, and the hidden danger of such a corrupted media system is that people end up not knowing what to believe, making informed democratic choices almost impossible.
In the end, people all over Eastern Europe were cornered into a false choice between two ideological systems that both came as top-down package deals, instead of being able to take charge of their own societies and democratically decide their own future.
In the U.S., we live under a two-party political system, not a one-party system as in East Germany, and our media reflect that. As each of our two main political parties and our media have fallen more totally under the sway of unbridled plutocratic interests, our mass media has devolved into a bifurcated version of what my friend observed in East Germany, triply corrupted by commercial interests, partisan bias and ideological and nationalist propaganda.
Down the Rabbit Hole
Since the 2016 election campaign, our political system seems to have devolved into something like the nonsense world of Lewis Carroll’s Alice In Wonderland, with Donald Trump as the Queen of Hearts, Hillary Clinton as Humpty Dumpty, the Republicans and Democrats as Tweedledum and Tweedledee, the election as the Caucus Race (which Lewis Carroll based on U.S. political caucuses) and the whipsawed American public as the permanently baffled Alice.
In Lewis Carroll’s Caucus Race, an assortment of creatures ran randomly around a racetrack with no start or finish line, until the Dodo called the race over, declared them all winners and told Alice (the public?) she had to give them all prizes.
In similar fashion, the 2016 election between two of the most unpopular presidential candidates in U.S. history seems to have no finish line, but to live on in round-the-clock campaigns to corral the public into one of its two camps. The artificial, top-down nature of both these campaigns should be a warning that, like the election campaigns they grew out of, they are designed to corral, control and direct masses of people, not to offer real solutions to any of the serious problems facing our country and the world.
On one hand, we have President Trump, Republican Congressional leaders, Breitbart, Fox News and Rush Limbaugh, spouting nonsense worthy of Lewis Carroll, even in major presidential speeches, while dismissing criticism as “fake news.”
The Trump camp will never acknowledge that only a quarter of voting-age Americans voted for him, nor that even less of us share his views or the interests he represents. In this corrupt two-party system, no effort or expense is spared to persuade the public that we must vote for one of the two major party presidential candidates, whether we agree with either of them or not. But that cuts both ways, leaving most of the public unrepresented no matter who wins, and depriving any new government of a genuine popular mandate.
But Republican leaders play a more straightforward winner-take-all game than the Democrats. So they will try to ride Trump’s victory and their Congressional majorities as far as they will take them on all fronts: more tax breaks for the wealthy and corporations; more draconian cuts in social spending; more privatization of healthcare, education and other public services; more detention and deportation of immigrants; a more aggressive police response to social problems and public protest; more destruction of the natural world and the climate; and more increases in a military budget that already broke post-WWII records under Bush and Obama, to fuel a more openly aggressive and dangerous war policy – in other words, more of all the things that most Americans would agree we have already had too much of.
On the other side, Democratic Party leaders and the CIA, supported by the New York Times, the Washington Post, CNN and MSNBC, have conjured up unproven charges that Russia stole the election for Trump as the heart of their campaign against him. In Trump, history has handed them a political opponent with a piñata of vulnerabilities, from unprecedented conflicts of interest to policies that benefit only his own wealthy class to willful ignorance of how almost everything he is responsible for as president really works.
And yet the cabal formerly known as the Clinton campaign shows little interest in pointing out that our new Emperor has no clothes on, let alone in seriously resisting his repressive, plutocratic policies, and is instead obsessed with convincing the public that a birthmark on his naked bum looks like a hammer and sickle.
A Saving Grace?
Paradoxically, if Trump really reduced tensions between the U.S. and Russia, as his hawkish Democratic opponents fear, that could be the saving grace of his entire presidency. George W. Bush’s and Barack Obama’s regime change wars, NATO expansion and the U.S.-backed coup in Ukraine have ignited a new Cold War that many respected scientists believe has raised the risk of human mass extinction to its highest level since the 1950s.
In the pursuit of false security based on post-Cold War triumphalism and a fleeting mirage of military supremacy, our corrupt leaders have jeopardized not just our security but our very existence, leaving us at two and a half minutes to midnight on the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists (BAS)’ Doomsday Clock.
As Jonathan Marshall at Consortiumnews.com reported on March 10, experts from the Federation of American Scientists, the Natural Resources Defense Council and MIT wrote in a recent BAS article that new “super-fuzes” installed on U.S. nuclear warheads since 2009 have significantly increased the danger of nuclear war by giving the U.S. the ability to destroy all Russia’s fixed land-based nuclear missiles with only a fraction of U.S. own weapons.
Coupled with President Obama’s deployment of a formerly illegal ABM (anti-ballistic missile) system on Aegis missile destroyers and at bases in Eastern Europe, the authors wrote that this upgrade to U.S. nuclear warheads is “exactly what one would expect to see if a nuclear-armed state were planning to have the capacity to fight and win a nuclear war by disarming enemies with a surprise first strike.” They concluded that “Russian planners will almost surely see the advance in fuzing capability as empowering an increasingly feasible U.S. preemptive nuclear strike capability.”
In the case of a suspected Russian nuclear missile launch, the U.S. satellite-based early warning system can give President Trump 30 minutes to judge whether we are really facing a nuclear attack or not. But Russia’s land-based early warning system is not so generous. In the case of a suspected U.S. nuclear launch targeting Russia, President Putin would have as little as 7 to 13 minutes to decide whether Russia was really under nuclear attack and whether to retaliate.
In the midst of escalating tensions over Syria, Ukraine, Iran or some other new crisis, a realistic fear of a U.S. first strike could force a hasty decision by Russian officials and seal the fate of humanity. The BAS authors believe that this predicament leaves Russia little choice but to pre-delegate its nuclear launch authority to lower levels of command, increasing the risk of an accidental or mistaken launch of nuclear weapons.
In an epitome of understatement, they point out that, “Forcing this situation upon the Russian government seems likely to be detrimental to the security interests of the United States and its Western allies.”
While U.S. officials are largely silent about the dangers of these developments in U.S. nuclear weapons policy, President Putin has spoken frankly about them and expressed dismay that the U.S. has rejected every Russian offer of cooperation to reduce these risks. Talking to a group of journalists at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum in June 2016, he concluded, “I don’t know how this is all going to end. … What I do know is that we will need to defend ourselves.”
But despite the existential dangers of deteriorating relations with Russia, Democratic Party leaders have grasped the CIA’s unproven “assessments” that Russia may have tried to influence the outcome of the U.S. election as a lifeline by which to salvage their positions of power after their party’s electoral implosion.
Since the leadership of the Democratic Party was taken over by the corporate-backed Democratic Leadership Council (DLC) a generation ago, it has followed an unwritten rule that it must never accept responsibility for losing an election, nor respond to signs of public disaffection with any weakening of its commitment to pro-corporate, neoliberal policies. In its desperation to prevent the democratic reform of the Democratic Party, it is aggressively tarring nuclear-armed Russia with the same brush it used to tar and feather Ralph Nader after the 2000 election.
The mortal aversion of Democratic Party leaders to progressive reform suggests that they prize their own control of the party even above winning elections, the rational purpose of any political party. Their ugly smear campaign against Keith Ellison, the progressive candidate for Democratic National Committee (DNC) chair, mirrored the DNC’s corrupt campaign to undermine Sen. Bernie Sanders in the Democratic primaries and the DLC cabal’s bare-knuckles response to progressive challengers for the past 30 years.
For the DLC Democrats to snatch defeat from the jaws of the long-term victory that the country’s shifting demographics seem to guarantee their party requires a truly historic level of corruption.
Their unshakable commitment to fight tooth and nail for the interests of their wealthy campaign contributors over those of poorer, younger and darker-skinned voters in every election, every national, state and local party committee and on every issue, even as they pretend they are doing the exact opposite, could only be a viable political strategy in Lewis Carroll’s Wonderland. In the real world, their demonstrated disdain for the people from whose votes they derive their power is a strategy for political suicide.
Different Kind of Politics
These corrupt party leaders and their corporate media cheerleaders dare not remind us that Bernie Sanders’s candidacy for president inspired more enthusiasm and drew bigger crowds than Trump’s or Clinton’s, despite one eightieth of the early media promotion lavished on Trump by some corporate media and the fact that almost the entire Democratic Party establishment lined up against him.
For decades, DLC Democrats have run on vague messages about “values” to avoid being cornered into explicit progressive policy positions that might alienate their wealthy patrons. Sanders was greeted with open arms by younger voters ready for a renaissance of real politics based on actual policies that solve real problems, like universal healthcare, free college tuition, progressive taxation to pay for it all and a more cautious approach to U.S.-backed “regime change” in other countries.
By contrast, an analysis of campaign messaging by the Wesleyan Media Project found that “Clinton’s message was devoid of policy discussions” when compared to other recent presidential campaigns, including even Trump’s, and that this was a critical factor in her failure.
According to opinion polls, Bernie Sanders may now be the most popular politician in America. Polls consistently showed that Sanders was likely to beat Trump in the general election if the Democratic Party allowed him to get that far, but the DNC fundraising machine pulled out every trick in the book to make sure that didn’t happen. If truth be told, Sanders’s success was probably a more accurate reflection of the evolving political views of a majority of Americans in 2016 than the billion-dollar auction of the presidency between the Game Show King and the Queen of Chaos.
These two camps represent factions of the powerful interests that have controlled American politics for decades, from the military-industrial complex and the CIA to the dirty energy and for-profit “healthcare” industries, to say nothing of the commercial media industry itself, which covered this election all the way to the bank and for whom the show must go on and on and on … and on.
Lies of Both Sides.
Like the people of East Germany in the 1980s, we now face the challenge of a society in crisis, compounded by a treacherous media environment, with not just one, but two competing camps presenting us with false, self-serving interpretations of the multi-faceted crisis their corruption has spawned. While they compete for our trust, they share a common interest in insisting that one of the two mythological worldviews they have staked out must be right.
But as Cornel West recently told the students at my local high school in Miami in a Black History Month speech, “You don’t have to choose between the lies on one side and the lies on the other side.” So the question becomes where to turn for something other than lies, and how to recognize the truth when we stumble across it.
The paradox of our Internet age is that we nearly all have access to a wider range of media than ever before, yet we are still exposed and susceptible to corporate, partisan and ideological propaganda. In theory, we no longer have to be victims of for-profit media whose business models prioritize their profits over their duty to inform the public. But in reality, we do not form our views of the world as independently as we think we do.
This is easier to grasp in the case of commercial advertising than in the arena of political or ideological indoctrination. There is a well-known dictum in the business world that goes, “I know that half the money we spend on advertising is wasted. I just don’t know which half.” The flip-side of this is that the other half is not wasted.
So the advertising industry in the United States spends $220 billion per year, $700 for each man, woman and child in the country, to sell us products and services. And yet we still like to think that we make independent, rational choices about our spending, based on enlightened self-interest and cultivated tastes, not on the work of copywriters churning out pitches, images and jingles in ad agency cubicles.
One of the by-products of the mass monetization of American politics since the 1980s is that politics has become a profitable new arena for advertising, marketing and public relations firms. Its practitioners apply the techniques and experience they’ve developed in other areas to the world of politics, helping politicians and parties to convert the money they raise from wealthy campaign contributors into votes, and ultimately into power over all our lives. So we should be just as wary of political marketing and advertising as of the commercial variety. We should also be more humble in recognizing our own vulnerability to these profitable forms of persuasion and deception.
My copy of Alice in Wonderland has a quotation from James Joyce in the front of the book: “Wipe your glasses with what you know.” What we know is often our best protection against being misled by advertisers, politicians and pundits, if we will only remember what we know and trust it over the misinformation that surrounds us.
“Wiping our glasses with what we know” can provide a reality check on the current Russophobia campaign. We know very well that the U.S. and Russia possess the bulk of the world’s nuclear weapons, and that war between our two countries would likely mean death for ourselves and our families and the end of life as we know it for people everywhere.
We also know that it is our country and its allies, not Russia, that have launched invasions, military occupations, bombing campaigns, coups and drone wars against at least ten countries in the past 20 years, while Russia only recently become engaged in two of these conflict zones when its interests were directly impacted by our actions.
So we can see that the greatest danger in this relationship is not the threat of some unprovoked and unprecedented act of Russian aggression. The more real and serious danger is that a confrontation with Russia over one of the hot spots we have ignited will lead to an escalation of tensions in which a mistake, a misunderstanding, a miscalculation, a bluff called, a “red line” crossed or some other kind of failed brinksmanship will trigger a war that will escalate to the use of nuclear weapons, and from there to Armageddon.
Even with the lines of communication set up after the Cuban missile crisis and the stabilization of the Cold War balance of terror by the principle of Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD), we now know that we came very close to Armageddon many times, including simply by accident.
Instead of being corralled by either side in the “Russia did it” campaign, we should be urging our leaders to sit down and talk seriously with Russia’s leaders, to stop taking dangerous actions that exacerbate tensions, uncertainties and mutual isolation, and to return to serious negotiations to leave our children and grandchildren a peaceful world, free of nuclear weapons, where these dangers will no longer threaten them.
Amid lies and distortions on all sides, the corruption of politics and media by commercial interests and the billion dollars per year our government spends directly on public relations and propaganda, James Joyce’s advice can still serve us well. Make sure to wipe your glasses with what you know as you read or watch “news” from any source or listen to politicians of any party, and we may just find a way out of this rabbit hole before the roof crashes in on us.
Nicolas J S Davies is the author of Blood On Our Hands: the American Invasion and Destruction of Iraq. He also wrote the chapters on “Obama at War” in Grading the 44th President: a Report Card on Barack Obama’s First Term as a Progressive Leader.
By Thierry Meyssan
The West is currently going through an unprecedented systemic change – powerful forces are progressively orienting the totality of medias in a single direction. At the same time, the content of the medias is mutating– only last year, they were still logical, and tended towards objectivity. They offered one other mutual contradiction in a spirit of healthy competition. Now they act in gangs, basing their coherence on emotions, and becoming vicious when they are facing people they condemn.
The idea of an Entente between the medias is an extension of the experience of the International Consortium for Investigative Journalism (ICIJ), which does not unite the medias, but only individual journalists. It made itself famous by publishing information stolen from the accounts of two law firms in the British Virgin Islands, and from PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), the bank HSBC, and the Panamanian firm Mossack Fonseca. These revelations were mainly used to discredit the Russian and Chinese leaders, but also, once in a while, to shine some light on genuine offences committed by the Westerners. Above all, under the honourable pretext of the struggle against corruption, the violation of the confidentiality of lawyers and banks seriously damaged thousands of their honest clients without any reaction from public opinion.
Over a period of approximately forty years, we have been witnessing the progressive grouping of medias within certain international trusts. Currently, 14 groups share more than two thirds of the western Press (21st Century Fox, Bertelsmann, CBS Corporation, Comcast, Hearst Corporation, Lagardere Group, News Corp, Organizações Globo, Sony, Televisa, The Walt Disney Company, Time Warner, Viacom, Vivendi). From now on, the alliance operated by Google Media Lab and First Draft is forging links between these groups, which already enjoyed a dominant position. The presence in this Entente of the three most important Press agencies on the planet (Associated Press, Agence France-Presse, Reuters) guarantees it hegemonic power. This is without any doubt an «illicit entente», established not with the goal of price-setting, but mind-setting, the imposition of an already dominant thought.
We may have noticed that all the members of the Google Entente – without exception – have already, over the last six years, given unequivocal visions of the events that occurred in the Greater Middle East. And yet there had been no prior agreement between them, or at least, none of which we were aware. It is intriguing to note that five of the six international television channels which participated in the NATO propaganda cell are part of this Entente (Al-Jazeera, BBC, CNN, France24, Sky, but apparently not al-Arabiya).
In the United States, France and Germany, Google and First Draft assembled the medias present locally in the countries concerned, and others present on the international scale, to check the veracity of certain arguments. Besides the fact that we do not know who is hiding behind First Draft, and what political interests may have influenced a commercial company specialised in computer science to finance this initiative, the results achieved have little to do with a return to objectivity.
First of all because the allegations are not chosen for the place they occupy in the public debate, but because they have been quoted by individuals that the media Entente intends to vilify. We might imagine that these verifications enable us to get a little closer to the truth, but that is not the case at all – they reassure the citizen in the idea that the medias are honest, while the people they are condemning are not. This approach is not aimed at better understanding the world, but at beating down the people to be sacrificed.
Next, because an unwritten rule of this media Entente stipulates that only allegations from sources outside the Entente should be checked. The members agree not to use any critical faculty in the mutual appreciation of their work. They agree to reinforce the idea that the world is divided in two – «we» who tell the truth, and «the others» who are liars. This approach is damaging for the principle of pluralism, a precondition for democracy, and opens the way to a totalitarian society. This is not a new phenomenon, because we saw it at work during the coverage of the Arab Springs and the wars against Libya and Syria. But for the first time, it is aimed at a Western line of thought.
Finally, because the allegations that have been qualified as «false» will never be envisaged as errors, but always as lies. The point is to charge the «others» with Machiavellian intentions in order to discredit them. This approach damages the presumption of innocence.
That is why the functioning of the ICIJ and the Entente created by Google and First Draft violates the Munich Charter adopted by the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) (Title II, articles 2, 4, 5 and 9).
It is no coincidence that certain absurd legal actions have developed against the same targets as those in the sights of the media Entente. In the United States, the Hogan Law has been dragged out for use against the Trump team, despite the fact that this text has never, absolutely never, been applied since its promulgation two centuries ago. And in France, the Jolibois Law has been revived for use against the political tweets of Marine Le Pen, despite the fact that jurisprudence had limited the application of that law to the distribution of a few ultra-pornographic magazines lacking a plastic wrapping. Since the principle of the presumption of innocence for scapegoats has been eradicated, it is now possible to put anyone on trial for any legal pretext. Furthermore, the legal actions mounted against the Trump team and Marine Le Pen, in the name of the laws named above, should also be be brought against a great number of other people – but they are not.
Moreover, citizens no longer react when the media Entente itself broadcasts false allegations. Thus, in the United States, they imagined that the Russian secret services had a compromising dossier on Donald Trump and were blackmailing him. Or, in France, this Entente invented the idea that it is possible to employ a fictitious parliamentary assistant, and went on to accuse François Fillon.
In the United States, the large and small medias which are members of the Entente went after the President. They garnered their own information from the wire-tapping of the Trump team which had been illegally ordered by the Obama administration. They work in coordination with the magistrates, who are using them to block the actions of the present government. This is without doubt a Mafia system.
The same US and French medias are attacking two candidates for the French Presidential election – François Fillon and Marine Le Pen. To the general problem of the media Entente is added the false impression that these targets are victims of a Franco/French conspiracy, whereas in fact, the instigator is a US citizen. The French notice that their medias are rigged, wrongly interpret the conspiracy as being directed against the right wing, and continue erroneously seeking the manipulators in their own country.
In Germany, the Entente is not yet effective, and probably will not be until the general elections.
During Watergate, the medias claimed to represent a «Fourth Estate», after the Executive, the Legislative, and the Judiciary. They affirmed that the Press exercised a function of control over the government in the name of the People. We can ignore for a moment the fact that President Nixon was charged with a similar offense to that of President Obama – bugging his opponent. We know today that the Watergate source, «Deep Throat», far from being a «whistle-blower», was in reality the Director of the FBI, Mark Felt. The treatment of this affair was a battle between a part of the administration and the White House, in which the electors were manipulated by both sides at once.
The idea of a «Fourth Estate» supposes that we recognise the same legitimacy for the 14 corporate trusts which own the great majority of the Western medias as for the citizens. This is to affirm the substitution of an oligarchy for democracy.
The remains one point which needs clarification – how have the targets of the Entente been chosen? The only obvious link between Donald Trump, François Fillon and Marine Le Pen is that all three hope to re-establish contacts with Russia, and fight with her against the breeding ground of jihadism – the Muslim Brotherhood. Although François Fillon was the Prime Minister of the goverment implcated in these events, all three of them represent the train of thought which contests the dominant vision of the Arab Springs and the wars against Libya and against Syria.
By Sophie Monk and Joni Cohen
Source: The Fifth Column
Depression is political. As mental health service funding is steadily cut and suicide and substance abuse statistics rise, it is becoming increasingly obvious that depression is a condition of the political situation under which we live. In a UK context, austerity has mobilised a technique of responsibilisation functioning at every level of society to justify the catastrophic fallout of the regime, from healthcare to unemployment. Mark Fisher has written resonantly in his essay Good for Nothing about how as a generation we suffer from a kind of collective imposter syndrome, convinced simultaneously of our complete lack of worth and that any recognition of our worth is mistakenly given. And yet the message constantly reinforced by the ruling classes is that the class system our parents were born into and lived through has dissolved, making way for a world of frictionless social mobility, where the only blockages to success are from within ourselves. We are stuck in a tragic cycle of unfulfillable desires produced by capital; we are “a population that has all its life been sent the message that it is good for nothing [and] is simultaneously told that it can do anything it wants to do.”
And so we find ourselves in a situation where a huge majority of the people we know and love are engaged in fraught attempts to cope with chronic and severe depression. This community to which we refer also tends to understand itself as engaged in an antagonistic relationship with capital, the state, and other forms of social power. Taking Fisher’s key propositions on both how it feels to be depressed and where depression comes from as our reference points, we want to formulate an understanding of the relationship between depression and radical praxis that can be directly applied within our organising communities.
For those of us who suffer from depression, organising can be hard. It is also inevitable that once struggle reaches a certain fever pitch, violence and traumatic backlash follows, and we become painfully aware of the manifold ways in which we are policed, surveilled and disciplined. At this point, continuing to fulfil one’s action points, attend regular meetings, and put oneself through further confrontations with the state can feel as impossible as going to the job centre, or turning up at your 9 to 5. It’s a basic point, but the important thing to acknowledge here is that depression is incapacitating, and that we must learn to live within our capacities or risk worsening our conditions.
According to a report by the Health and Social Care Information Centre, the number of anti-depressants prescribed to people in England doubled between 2006 and 2016. While so many of us share this experience of medicating with prescription drugs, it is astonishing how little we actually talk about the ways in which this chemical intervention affects our bodies, emotions, and even our struggle.
There exists a dogma on the left that anti-depressants form part of a technique of politico-pharmacological control invested in the mass suppression of the negative and antagonistic affect necessary for struggle or revolution. In other words, psychiatry is thought to play a role in pacifying the masses, chemically inducing consent and tolerance of our conditions.
We believe this approach fundamentally ignores many important aspects of being on anti-depressant medication, and also misinterprets the affects required by anti-capitalist struggle. Certainly, the experiences of chronic fatigue and a general restricting of the range and intensity of emotional experience can lead us to invest less of ourselves in revolutionary politics. But the demand for radicals to always be immediately and fully emotionally present in anti-capitalist struggle is strangely purist and misses the key point that, at times, a reprieve from the highs and lows of depression can actually provide us with the emotional distance required to participate at all. To share from our own personal experiences: while physical confrontation with the police has in the past quickly become unbearably traumatic and overwhelming, the dulling of the senses by SSRIs has in actual fact proved advantageous to dealing strategically with situations as they escalate. This represents a possibility of a weaponisation of the collective depression that we suffer; using the medication that we require because of our conditions, to in fact enable us to struggle against those conditions. We should develop a more nuanced thinking of pharmaceuticals and resist conflating them entirely with the grimy fingers of corporate power.
This article is first and foremost a set of propositions for how to approach radical anti-capitalist praxis in an age of mass depression. And yet, these notes are not the first of their kind, but emerge from and in response to a long melancholic tradition of understanding mental illness. This Adornoian approach, which Rosi Braidotti has attributed to the “melancholy brigade”, forecloses the possibility of joy in struggle, arguing instead for the nobility of depression, figuring depression as a state of enlightenment akin to accessing the radical truth of one’s lived conditions, rather than a state that is induced by them, with the possibility of amelioration.
We want to move away from this anti-psychiatric position and instead embrace a paradigm of mental illness that acknowledges the relation between individual pathology and social conditions. Depression often feels like a terrible, unmoveable weight, pushing down, crushing the air out of us – a literally depressing sensation. But this is not to say that there are not different techniques for coping and managing its effects, nor that we shouldn’t endeavour to find them. To take this point a step further, we want to argue that it is the responsibility of radical communities to foster ecologies of care in which both the dictates of formal psychiatry and the anti-psychiatric melancholy brigade are circumvented. In practice this may look like the setting up of medication cooperatives and voluntary crisis teams, as well as collectively enjoying social activities and downtime, which is fundamental to the reproduction of our struggle.
Mental illness accessibility strategies in political organising, insofar as they are implemented at all, follow a logic of an add-on, as opposed to a fundamental restructuring of the way we organise. We drop out of organising for periods of time, take breaks to heal, and this is finally being accepted as valid and needed. But nonetheless it is expected that the activism machine will keep on ticking along without us and its progress must remain unhindered by the mental illness that its participants suffer. This logic fundamentally misunderstands the role that depression can and should play in our radical praxis. We need to recognise that mental illness is not simply the state that prevents us from struggling effectively, but rather is the position and condition from which we collectively struggle. Struggle doesn’t happen in a stratum of health that we intermittently drop out of into a nether world and eventually (hopefully) return to, but struggle must be located within the realm of illness. We must transform our organising to be such that it aims at therapeutic goals simultaneous to and embedded in its more traditionally political goals. Organising must be self-sustaining and as such must be a life-producing and therapeutic praxis that incorporates depression rather than abjecting it.
“Battle Royale 2: Requiem” (2003) is an under-appreciated yet boldly provocative sequel taking place three years after the events of the first Battle Royale. The protagonists of the previous film have joined other survivors of past Battle Royales to form a terror cell known as Wild 7. After a major bomb attack, a new class of high-schoolers kidnapped by the government are forced to raid Wild 7’s island hideout and assassinate the group within 72 hours. Battle Royale 2 was director Kinji Fukasaku’s final project, who died of cancer shortly after filming began. The majority of the the film was directed by his son Kenta Fukasaku who wrote the screenplays for both films.
Watch the film with English subtitles here.
By Eric Zuesse
Source: Strategic Culture Foundation
The «deep state» is the aristocracy and its agents. Wikispooks defines it as follows:
The deep state (loosely synonymous with the shadow government or permanent government) is in contrast to the public structures which appear to be directing individual nation states. The deep state is an intensely secretive, informal, fluid network of deep politicians who conspire to amplify their influence over national governments through a variety of deep state milieux. The term «deep state» derives from the Turkish »derin devlet», which emerged after the 1996 Susurluk incident so dramatically unmasked the Turkish deep state.
Their article is so honest that it continues from there, directly to:
The official narrative of deep states used to be that they simply do not exist. This position was modified in the last few years to the claim that they don’t exist here. In 2013 the New York Times defined the deep state as «a hard-to-perceive level of government or super-control that exists regardless of elections and that may thwart popular movements or radical change. Some have said that Egypt is being manipulated by its deep state».  Since the Times (like the rest of the commercially-controlled media) is more or less a under the control of the deep state, such a mention is very interesting.
However, one of the deep state’s many agents, Marc Ambinder, came out with a book in 2013, Deep State: Inside the Government Secrecy Industry, much praised by others of the deep state’s agents, such as Martha Raddatz, Jeremy Scahill, and Peter Bergen; and it pretends that the ‘deep state’ is only within the official government, not above it and controlling it — not what has been called by some «the money power,» and by others «the aristocracy» (or the «oligarchy» as it was termed — though even that, only indirectly — by the only people who have scientifically established that it exists in America and controls this country: to acknowledge publicly that the U.S. is controlled by an «aristocracy» is prohibited in scholarly publications; it’s too ‘radical’ a truth to allow in print; it is samizdat).
On its third page, Ambinder’s piece of propaganda make clear what he means by ‘deep state’:
This book is about government secrets — how they are created, why they get leaked, and what the government is currently hiding. We will delve into the key elements of the American secrecy apparatus, based on research and unprecedented access to lawmakers, intelligence agency heads, White House officials, and program managers. …
That piece of trash failed even to discuss George W. Bush’s lies in which Bush stated during 2002 and 2003 that he possessed conclusive proof that Saddam Hussein was reconstituting his WMD (weapons of mass destruction) program — what America’s aristocratically controlled ‘news’ media attributed instead to ‘failures of intelligence’ by the Bush Administration — which had supposedly caused the Bush regime to invade Iraq in 2003. That was supposedly an enormous ‘failure of intelligence’, but Ambinder’s book ignored it entirely — and yet there are still suckers who buy that and the aristocracy’s other propaganda (and so who misunderstand even such a basic concept as «the deep state» or «the aristocracy»).
One of the biggest indicators that one is reading propaganda from the deep state is that the government’s lies are not being called »lies» (unless the deep state is losing control over the government, which rarely happens). Instead, they are called by such phrases as ‘failures of intelligence’. But what about when the people who control the government misrepresent what their ‘intelligence’ actually shows and doesn’t show? Lying is attributed, in the ‘news’ media, only to the aristocracy’s enemies. After all: the aristocracy’s enemies can be acknowledged to exist, even if the existence of an aristocracy isn’t being acknowledged.
Another mouthpiece of the deep state is (like virtually all magazines) The Nation magazine, which headlined on 17 February 2017, «What Is the Deep State? Even if we assume the concept is valid, surely it’s not useful to think of the competing interests it represents as monolithic.» Their propagandist, Greg Grandin, asked «What is the ‘deep state’?» and he ignored what wikispooks said, and he asserted, instead, «The problem with the phrase ‘deep state’ is that it is used to suggest that dishonorable individuals are subverting the virtuous state for their private ambitions.» Aside from propagandist Grandin’s having merely assumed there ‘the virtuous state’, which might not even exist at all, in this country, or perhaps in any other, he was trying to, as he said, get «beyond the binds of conspiracy theory,» as if any hierarchical social structure, corporate or otherwise, doesn’t necessarily and routinely function by means of conspiracies — some of which are nothing more than entirely acceptable competitive strategies, often entirely legal. He wants to get beyond accepting that reality? Why would anyone wish to read such absurd, anti-factual, writings as that? Why would anyone hire such deceptive writers as that? Perhaps the answer to the latter question (which raises the problem here to being one about the aristocracy, since this is about the ‘news’ media, which in every aristocratically controlled country are controlled by its aristocracy) is that only writers such as that will pump their propaganda, and will hide such realities as are here being discussed (and, via links, documented).
Nothing that’s alleged here is denying that there are divisions within the aristocracy (or «deep state»). Nothing is alleging that the aristocracy are «monolithic.» It’s instead asserting that, to the extent the aristocracy are united around a particular objective, that given objective will likely become instituted, both legally and otherwise, by the government — and that, otherwise, it simply won’t be instituted at all. This is what the only scientific analysis that has ever been done of whether or not the U.S. is controlled by an aristocracy found definitely to be the case in the U.S.
(And, of course, that’s also the reason why this momentous study was ignored by America’s ‘news’ media, except for the first news-report on it, mine at the obscure site Common Dreams, which had 414 reader-comments within just its first four months, and then the UPI’s report on it, which, like mine, was widely distributed to the major ‘news’ media and rejected by them all — UPI’s report was published only by UPI itself, and elicited only two reader-comments there. Then came the New Yorker’s pooh-poohing the study, by alleging «the politicians all know this, and we know it, too. The only debate is about how far this process has gone, and whether we should refer to it as oligarchy or as something else.» Their propagandist ignored the researchers’ having noted, in their paper, that though their findings were extremely inconsistent with America’s being a democracy, the problem was almost certainly being understated in their findings: «The failure of theories of Majoritarian Electoral Democracy is all the more striking because it goes against the likely effects of the limitations of our data,» and, especially, «our ‘affluent’ proxy is admittedly imperfect,» and so, «interest groups and economic elites actually wield more policy influence than our estimates indicate.»
In fact, their «elite» had consisted not of the top 0.1% as compared to the bottom 50%, but instead of the top 10% as compared to the bottom 50%, and all empirical evidence shows that the more narrowly one defines «the aristocracy,» the more lopsidedly dominant is the ‘elite’s relative impact upon public policies. Then, a month after the press-release on their study was issued, the co-authors were so disappointed with the paltry coverage of it that had occurred in America’s ‘news’ media, so that they submitted, to the Washington Post, a reply to their study’s academic critics, «Critics argued with our analysis of U.S. political inequality. Here are 5 ways they’re wrong.» It was promptly published online-only, as obscurely as possible, so that there are also — as of the present date — only two reader-comments to that public exposure. This is typical news-suppression in America: essentially total suppression of samizdat information — not merely suppression of the officially top-secret information, such as propagandists like Ambinder focus upon. It’s deeper than the state: it is the deep state, including far more than just the official government.)
Another matter that America’s press has covered-up is the extreme extent to which the only scientific analysis of whether America is a democracy or instead an aristocracy, had found it to be an aristocracy; so, here in closing will be directly quoted the least-obscurantist statement of this fact, in the study itself:
The picture changes markedly when all three independent variables are included in the multivariate Model 4 and are tested against each other. The estimated impact of average citizens’ preferences drops precipitously, to a non-significant, near-zero level. Clearly the median citizen or «median voter» at the heart of theories of Majoritarian Electoral Democracy does not do well when put up against economic elites and organized interest groups. The chief predictions of pure theories of Majoritarian Electoral Democracy can be decisively rejected. Not only do ordinary citizens not have uniquely substantial power over policy decisions; they have little or no independent influence on policy at all.
By contrast, economic elites are estimated to have a quite substantial, highly significant, independent impact on policy.
They weren’t allowed to say «aristocracy», nor even directly to say «oligarchy», but they were allowed to say this. So: now, you’ve seen it. But the secret is still a secret; what’s samizdat, stays samizdat (so long as the government isn’t overthrown and replaced — and maybe even after the existing regime does become replaced).
By Jesselyn Radack
Source: Expose Facts
It is the leakiest of times in the Executive Branch. Last week, Wikileaks published a massive and, by all accounts genuine, trove of documents revealing that the CIA has been stockpiling, and lost control of, hacking tools it uses against targets. Particularly noteworthy were the revelations that the CIA developed a tool to hack Samsung TVs and turn them into recording devices and that the CIA worked to infiltrate both Apple and Google smart phone operating systems since it could not break encryption. No one in government has challenged the authenticity of the documents disclosed.
We do not know the identity of the source or sources, nor can we be 100% certain of his or her motivations. Wikileaks writes that the source sent a statement that policy questions “urgently need to be debated in public, including whether the CIA’s hacking capabilities exceed its mandated powers and the problem of public oversight of the agency” and that the source “wishes to initiate a public debate about the security, creation, use, proliferation and democratic control of cyber-weapons.”
The FBI has already begun hunting down the source as part of a criminal leak investigation. Historically, the criminal justice system has been a particularly inept judge of who is a whistleblower. Moreover, it has allowed the use of the pernicious Espionage Act—an arcane law meant to go after spies—to go after whistleblowers who reveal information the public interest. My client, former NSA senior official Thomas Drake, was prosecuted under the Espionage Act, only to later be widely recognized as a whistleblower. There is no public interest defense to Espionage Act charges, and courts have ruled that a whistleblower’s motive, however salutary, is irrelevant to determining guilt.
The Intelligence Community is an equally bad judge of who is a whistleblower, and has a vested interest in giving no positive reinforcement to those who air its dirty laundry. The Intelligence Community reflexively claims that anyone who makes public secret information is not a whistleblower. Former NSA and CIA Director General Michael V. Hayden speculated that the recent leaks are to be blamed on young millennials harboring some disrespect for the venerable intelligence agencies responsible for mass surveillance and torture. Not only is his speculation speculative, but it’s proven wrong by the fact that whistleblowers who go to the press span the generational spectrum from Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg to mid-career and senior level public servants like CIA torture whistleblower John Kiriakou and NSA whistleblower Thomas Drake to early-career millennials like Army whistleblower Chelsea Manning and NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden. The lawbreaker does not get to decide who is a whistleblower.
Not all leaks of information are whistleblowing, and the word “whistleblower” is a loaded term, so whether or not the Vault 7 source conceives of him or herself as a whistleblower is not a particularly pertinent inquiry. The label “whistleblower” does not convey some mythical power or goodness, or some “moral narcissism,” a term used to describe me when I blew the whistle. Rather, whether an action is whistleblowing depends on whether or not the information disclosed is in the public interest and reveals fraud, waste, abuse, illegality or dangers to public health and safety. Even if some of the information revealed does not qualify, it should be remembered that whistleblowers are often faulted with being over- or under-inclusive with their disclosures. Again, it is the quality of the information, not the quantity, nor the character of the source.
Already, the information in the Vault 7 documents revealed that the Intelligence Community has misled the American people. In the wake of Snowden’s revelations, the Intelligence Community committed to avoid the stockpiling of technological vulnerabilities, publicly claiming that its bias was toward “disclosing them” so as to better protect everyone’s privacy. However, the Vault 7 documents reveal just the opposite: not only has the CIA been stockpiling exploits, it has been aggressively working to undermine our Internet security. Even assuming the CIA is using its hacking tools against the right targets, a pause-worthy presumption given the agency’s checkered history, the CIA has empowered the rest of the hacker world and foreign adversaries by hoarding vulnerabilities, and thereby undermined the privacy rights of all Americans and millions of innocent people around the world. Democracy depends on an informed citizenry, and journalistic sources—whether they call themselves whistleblowers or not—are a critical component when the government uses national security as justification to keep so much of its activities hidden from public view.
As we learn more about the Vault 7 source and the disclosures, our focus should be on the substance of the disclosures. Historically, the government’s reflexive instinct is to shoot the messenger, pathologize the whistleblower, and drill down on his or her motives, while the transparency community holds its breath that he or she will turn out to be pure as the driven snow. But that’s all deflection from plumbing the much more difficult questions, which are: Should the CIA be allowed to conduct these activities, and should it be doing so in secret without any public oversight?
These are questions we would not even be asking without the Vault 7 source.
By Paul Buchheit
Source: Information Clearing House
America has always been great for the richest 1%, and it’s rapidly becoming greater. Confirmation comes from recent work by Thomas Piketty, Emmanuel Saez, and Gabriel Zucman; and from the 2015-2016 Credit Suisse Global Wealth Databooks (GWD). The data relevant to this report is summarized here.
The Richest 1% Extracted Wealth from Every Other Segment of Society
These multi-millionaires effectively shifted nearly $4 trillion in wealth away from the rest of the nation to themselves in 2016. While there’s no need to offer condolences to the rest of the top 10%, who still have an average net worth of $1.3 million, nearly half of the wealth transfer ($1.94 trillion) came from the nation’s poorest 90% — the middle and lower classes, according to Piketty and Saez and Zucman. That’s over $17,000 in housing and savings per lower-to-middle-class household lost to the super-rich.
Put another way, the average 1% household took an additional $3 million of our national wealth in one year while education and infrastructure went largely unfunded.
It Gets Worse: Each MIDDLE-CLASS Household Lost $35,000 to the 1%
According to Piketty and Saez and Zucman, the true middle class is “the group of adults with income between the median and the 90th percentile.” This group of 50 million households lost $1.76 trillion of their wealth in 2016, or over $35,000 each. That’s a $35,000 decline in housing and financial assets, with possibly increased debt, for every middle-class household.
Housing Wealth for the 90% Has Been Converted into Investment Wealth for the Plutocrats
In the 1980s, the corporate equities owned by the richest .01% made up about 1.2 percent of total household wealth (Figure 8 here).
Housing was 12 times greater than super-rich stock holdings back then. Now they’re nearly equal. The home values of 112,000,000 households have been reduced to just over 5 percent of total wealth, while the stocks and securities of the richest 12,000 households are approaching 5 percent of total wealth. Our homes have turned to dust, and the plutocrats have turned the dust into gold.
Even the Wages of the Poorest Americans Have Been Transferred to the Plutocrats
As Piketty, Saez, and Zucman note, the richest 1% and the poorest 50% “have basically switched their income shares.” They explain, “We observe a complete collapse of the bottom 50% income share in the US between 1978 and 2015, from 20% to 12% of total income, while the top 1% income share rose from 11% to 20%.”
Making America Great for 1% of Us
In his book, Glass House: The 1% Economy and the Shattering of the All-American Town, Brian Alexander describes today’s America through the lens of his hometown of Lancaster, Ohio, which had been a leading glasswares manufacturer. But the town started falling apart in the 1980s. A major glasswares company was bought up with borrowed money by private equity firms, which then cut jobs and wages, allowed manufacturing facilities to fall into disrepair, stopped contributing to pensions, moved company headquarters out of state, and demanded tax breaks to keep the glassware plant in Lancaster.
Capitalism as usual. Yet 59 percent of Lancaster’s county voted for Trump. Alexander explains that the people of Lancaster “remained captured by an ultra-conservative, anti-tax philosophy that prevented them from raising funds to repair the crumbling streets..”
Delusions persist about the power of the market and the dangers of governing ourselves. The business media has conditioned us to fear the words ‘social’ and ‘public,’ as if they connote evil or ineptitude or anti-Americanism. But the public good depends on cooperation. Society fosters individual accomplishment, not the other way around.
The obscene transfer of wealth and income to the plutocrats won’t end until we demand a return to the Commons, where we work as a society rather than allow predatory plutocratic individuals to control us. There are 112 million households in America that are giving thousands of their hard-earned dollars to the 1%, and we have finally begun to fight back, together, as a massive force of Americans who refuse to let the theft continue.
Paul Buchheit is a writer for progressive publications, and the founder and developer of social justice and educational websites, including: UsAgainstGreed.org, PayUpNow.org, and RappingHistory.org. This article was first published at Common Dreams
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