July 28, 2013
Crisis: U.S. Journalism, Consumerism, Snowden, Hypocrisy
  "Those who sacrifice liberty for
   security deserve neither."
   -- Benjamin Franklin [1]
    "All governments lie and nothing
    they say should be believed.
   -- I.F. Stone.

Prev- crisis -Next

1. The Sky Darkens for American Journalism
The Brief, Tragic Reign of Consumerism
3. Edward Snowden's not the story
4. The Price of Hypocrisy
5. Personal

About ME/CFS


It still is the case that sleeping remains quite difficult for me. This also makes my life rather difficult, at the moment.

Sleeping did improve, some, lately, but I do not know whether it lasts. (It's mostly pains of various kinds that keep me awake or wake me up: eyes, arms, legs. It's not "nerves".)

Presently it is 24.5 degrees Celsius where I am, in my house in Amsterdam, which is a bit better than last week, but still too hot for me.

The present file deals with what looks like the sad plight of American real journalism; the reign of consumerism; Snowden's not being the real story; and the price of hypocrisy.

1. The Sky Darkens for American Journalism

This is a good piece, written by a lawyer, Chase Madar. I found it on Common Dreams, but the original seems to have appeared on Al-Jazeera:
It is mostly about the Bradley Manning, and it is not optimistic. Here is the outline:

The most serious of the charges against Manning is the capital offense of "aiding the enemy.” (Team Obama has made it clear it won’t seek the death penalty, but a life sentence is possible.) The enemy that the prosecution has in mind is not Wikileaks or the global public but Al Qaeda; because this group had access to the internet, the logic goes, they could read Manning’s disclosures just like everyone else.

The government does not have to prove Manning’s conscious intent to help Al Qaeda, but must only meet the squishier standard of proving the defendant had "specific knowledge” that the terrorists might benefit from his cache of documents.

If this charge sticks, it will be a serious blow to American journalism, as it puts all kinds of confidential informants at risk of being capital cases.
Note that the charge is going to be decided by a military court, and that very few journalists (or "journalists") will be in attendance.

Note also that the charge is hardly sane: I might be convicted on these grounds, like my father and grandfather were in 1941, by Dutch judges, who never faced anything for collaborating with the enemy, for this was during WW II, and my father and grandfather were in the Dutch resistance.

But it will probably pass, and that will probably effectively kill American journalism - not straight away, of course, and also not totally, and certainly not in its aspects of flattering their consumers, and of distracting them from thinking about real items, but partially and successively, and on the basis of arguments like the one quoted: 'In our opinion, your opinions serve "terrorists", so since we are the government, you should shut up if you do not want to disappear, forever, without facing a public court -for we, the authorities of the state, meanwhile have that authority.'

There is considerably more under the last dotted link.

2.  The Brief, Tragic Reign of Consumerism

This is a somewhat good piece, that suffers from a bad introduction and a bad ending, but has a decent middle part. It is by Richard Heinberg, and I found it on Common Dreams, but originally it is on the Post Carbon Institute Blog:

As I said, it does not start well:
You and I consume; we are consumers. The global economy is set up to enable us to do what we innately want to do—buy, use, discard, and buy some more. If we do our job well, the economy thrives; if for some reason we fail at our task, the economy falters. The model of economic existence just described is reinforced in the business pages of every newspaper, and in the daily reportage of nearly every broadcast and web-based financial news service, and it has a familiar name: consumerism.
This is a confusion of terms: A simple short visit to the Wikipedia would have shown "consumerism" has several distinct meanings, and even supplies one that Heinberg should have used:
"Consumerism" is the selfish and frivolous collecting of products, or economic materialism.
Likewise, the ending is no good: We are supposed to look forward to the institutionalization of the Gross National Happiness, instead of the Gross National Product, which to me is just vague bullshit.

But the middle part is reasonably OK, and indeed concerned with how it got to be as it is, and this part mentions several good books, by Stuart Ewen, Thorstein Veblen, Scott Nearing, Harrison Brown, and E.F. Schumacher, among others, and while I do not think anything like a final analysis can be inferred from any or all of these, they do make sense and help.

So overall this is a somewhat good piece.

3. Edward Snowden's not the story. The fate of the internet is

The same holds for the following paper, by John Naughton, in the Guardian:
This starts as follows:
Repeat after me: Edward Snowden is not the story. The story is what he has revealed about the hidden wiring of our networked world. This insight seems to have escaped most of the world's mainstream media, for reasons that escape me (..)
It is true Naughton gives some explanations, but he misses the best: That modern journalists are "journalists" only, for the most part: They've sold out their independence, and write to amuse and distract, rather than inform.

Then again, he does something useful, namely providing a list of what Snowden has achieved:

Without him, we would not know how the National Security Agency (NSA) had been able to access the emails, Facebook accounts and videos of citizens across the world; or how it had secretly acquired the phone records of millions of Americans; or how, through a secret court, it has been able to bend nine US internet companies to its demands for access to their users' data.

Similarly, without Snowden, we would not be debating whether the US government should have turned surveillance into a huge, privatised business, offering data-mining contracts to private contractors such as Booz Allen Hamilton and, in the process, high-level security clearance to thousands of people who shouldn't have it. Nor would there be – finally – a serious debate between Europe (excluding the UK, which in these matters is just an overseas franchise of the US) and the United States about where the proper balance between freedom and security lies.

These are Naughton's assessments, but they are fair, it seems to me. Also, he priovides another listing of the things people should be thinking about - and here I only list the highlights as you can find the rest under the last dotted link:
The first is that the days of the internet as a truly global network are numbered. (..)
Second, the issue of internet governance is about to become very contentious. (..)
Third, as Evgeny Morozov has pointed out, the Obama administration's "internet freedom agenda" has been exposed as patronising cant.
I agree, but I do not have much of an idea about what should replace the internet - although I pleaded quite a few years ago for a separation of the commercial and the non-commercial net.

But that idea - that was not answered, taken up or followed at all, to my knowledge - as well is mostly worthless if it still allows that your data are being snooped by secret services.

4. The Price of Hypocrisy

Finally, I arrive at a fairly long article by Evgeny Morozov that's referenced above, and that appeared in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung: This has good and bad sides, and among the bad sides is that I have to take quite a number of judgments Morozov makes on faith, without knowing who he is. I will skip these.

But there are good bits as well, and the following is one of them:
This is today’s America in full splendor: what cannot be accomplished through controversial legislation will be accomplished through privatization, only with far less oversight and public control. From privately-run healthcare providers to privately-run prisons to privately-run militias dispatched to war zones, this is the public-private partnership model on which much of American infrastructure operates these days. Communications is no exception. Decentralization is liberating only if there’s no powerful actor that can rip off the benefits after the network has been put in place. If such an actor exists – like NSA in this case – decentralization is a mere shibboleth. Those in power get more of what they want quicker – and pay less for the privilege.
I jump several bits, notions and ideas, and arrive at:
Fifth, the once powerful myth that there exists a separate, virtual space where one can have more privacy and independence from social and political institutions is dead.
I doubt it - people are stupid, on average - but it is true this never was true and it did get hit by Snowden's revelations.

Again I jump several bits and points, and arrive at something Morozov derives from the fact that anything electrical can be put a sensor into, which then can be tapped:
All these objects are capable of generating a data trail. Collect information from several such objects, put it together and – functionally at least– you can generate the same inferences and predictions that NSA generates by watching our email communications or phone records. In other words, NSA can figure out where you are by monitoring your cellphone – or by getting data from your smart shoes or your smart umbrella.
And so on - for as I said: Anything electrical can be put a sensor into. A good part further, Morozov (mostly) rightly observes:
Policymakers who think that laws can stop this commodificaton of information are deluding themselves. Such commodification is not happening against the wishes of ordinary citizens but because this is what ordinary citizen-consumer want. Look no further than Google’s email and Amazon’s Kindle to see that no one is forced to use them: people do it willingly.
It depends on the laws and the punishments, but basically Morozov is right: One important reason this happens and can happen is that most of the people want it, and "Against stupidity even the Gods battle in vain" (Schiller) - and indeed, stupid wants, without regard for premisses or consequences, is just the great strength of those who exploit them cynically for their own benefits.

Then Morozov has a suggestion, sort of:
We can no longer treat the “Internet” as just another domain – like, say, “the economy” or the “environment” – and hope that we can develop a set of competencies around it. Rather, we need more topical domains - “privacy” or “subjectivity” to overtake the domain of the network. Forget an ambiguous goal like “Internet freedom” – it’s an illusion and it’s not worth pursuing. What we must focus on is creating environments where actual freedom can still be nurtured and preserved.
As I said, I argued myself for two internets: A commercial and a non-commercial, but I agree the distinction is worth little if both can be searched by the NSA. Then again, I do not see how to make this suggestion more specific, and indeed how to legalize this, for that will be necessary - but it is already too late for the internet as is.

And a further problem is that the internet can't be put on hold anymore, for then most things quickly collapse, while it grew without control and without laws, and is thoroughly international, whereas all effective law is national, for only national law has a police-force to maintain it.

So, in brief... I am not optimistic

5. Personal

Finally, I mention that there is an earlier file today, that briefly deals with the fact the Danish site has passed the 1,000,000-th visitor mark, and that gives my latest mB12-protocol, that is less fargoing than earlier ones.
[1] Here it is necessary to insist, with Aristotle, that the governors do not rule, or at least, should not rule: The laws rule, and the government, if good, is part of its executive power. Here I quote Aristotle from my More on stupidity, the rule of law, and Glenn Greenwald:
It is more proper that law should govern than any one of the citizens: upon the same principle, if it is advantageous to place the supreme power in some particular persons, they should be appointed to be only guardians, and the servants of the laws.
(And I note the whole file I quote from is quite pertinent.)

About ME/CFS (that I prefer to call M.E.: The "/CFS" is added to facilitate search machines) which is a disease I have since 1.1.1979:
1. Anthony Komaroff

Ten discoveries about the biology of CFS(pdf)

3. Hillary Johnson

The Why  (currently not available)

4. Consensus (many M.D.s) Canadian Consensus Government Report on ME (pdf - version 2003)
5. Consensus (many M.D.s) Canadian Consensus Government Report on ME (pdf - version 2011)
6. Eleanor Stein

Clinical Guidelines for Psychiatrists (pdf)

7. William Clifford The Ethics of Belief
8. Malcolm Hooper Magical Medicine (pdf)
Maarten Maartensz
Resources about ME/CFS
(more resources, by many)

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