This is another crisis file, with three crisis items. There could have been more, but I saw
nothing that I have not dealt with in the crisis series, in the last 7 months also.
It seems as if there are fewer crisis files related to the NSA, though
this may be a fluke, or may be because most await Obama's speech
tomorrow (of which I do not expect anything important as regards
changing the facts), or else because Glenn Greenwald publishes less,
and does not publish in the Guardian anymore.
Anyway - here are the crisis items, that today are delivered a bit
earlier than on most days.
press freedom is under international scrutiny –
and with good
To start with, an
article by Thomas Hughes, who is Executive Director of Article 19,
which is an international human rights organization, in the Guardian:
This starts as follows:
I agree - and indeed the
last statement is fairly weak. Then again, by now one should also ask
whether "the British press" wants to be a free press.
This week, the World
Association of Newspapers and News Publishers has dispatched a
delegation of editors and publishers from as far apart as Pakistan,
Canada, Denmark and Uruguay. Its mission is not to some far-off nation
or dictatorship, but to the UK. The mission was originally motivated by concerns over the royal charter
and the planned new system for press regulation. The delegation's
agenda quickly expanded to include an examination of the hostile
response to the Guardian's reporting on the Snowden leaks, which in many
ways is far more worrying.
There has been
considerable controversy over press regulation in England and Wales.
Although effective self-regulation should always be the preferred
method of press regulation, other models are compatible with
international law provided they include adequate safeguards for press
freedom. For example, Denmark, Ireland and Finland all have regulatory
mechanisms premised on legislation that provide effective support for a
robust and independent press.
The current system has
failed to ensure the accountability and transparency of the press.
The answer is certainly "Yes!" for the Guardian, but this seems to me
to be one of the few - most papers seem to follow the conformist and
collaborative roles, that indeed also may allow them to continue to
exist, even if that is only as a "press" that seeks to amuse,
advertise, and pass on the government's approved news.
Part of the reason for that is the bad position of most parts of the
printed press, it seems mainly for lack of advertisements, but also
involved, such as a switch to conservatism as an ideology, and also as
desirable in most "journalists", and the giving up of even
the idea of investigative journalism (which also tends to be costly).
There is also this, amidst a reasonable amount of specifics:
Yes, indeed - and the
odd thing, at least judging by the past, such as the last quarter of
the previous century, is that most papers these days have followed the
rather than the Guardian. Some of the reasons for this I sketched above.
reporting of the Snowden leaks in its paper and online revealed mass surveillance of the digital communications of millions
of people by the security services, including GCHQ. Through its
serious-minded, public-interest journalism, the Guardian has initiated
an important debate about the appropriate balance between national
security and individual liberties.
Rather than addressing
the issue at the heart of the scandal (secret state spying on the
public) the government, no doubt embarrassed, has sought to shoot the
messenger. The hostility shown towards the Guardian has been almost
palpable. The paper has faced censorship, harassment and the threat of
And it ends thus:
In fact, I fear the appearance
of Article 19 will cause little changes and also little news. I hope
am mistaken about this, but I suspect I am not.
It is indeed "unprecedented" that an international press freedom mission
should be sent to the UK – their own words, not mine. Such
delegations are typically found addressing concerns in some of the most
challenging environments for journalism around the globe, where the
anti-censorship organisation Article 19 usually focuses its efforts.
The mere appearance of
such a group on British soil should sound alarm bells. Whether it does
remains to be seen. Along with other free-expression groups, I will
meet with the delegation this week. My message will be clear: the long
tradition of the UK's commitment to fundamental rights and freedoms
appears to be in danger. Every effort must be made to preserve it.
2. Interview with Ai Weiwei: 'My Virtual
Life Has Become My
Next, an article by the Spiegel
This is from the
beginning - and here is a Wikipedia link to Ai Weiwei:
China is looking pretty strong and powerful these days.
Ai: That only
makes it more dangerous. If a master, a wise and experienced man,
wields a great weapon, that's beautiful. He can serve peace with it.
But if someone's emotions are imbalanced, even if he has the best
equipment, he will still mean danger. Modern technology requires calm.
You shouldn't trust anyone with a car who has no knowledge about
vehicles or roads.
Yes, indeed - but
also seems to be the case elsewhere: Most people "have become the tools
of their tools" (Thoreau),
to a much larger extent than before, in a very small time
also (some 10-13 years) and also with a much greater danger
than before, because they also do not understand
the tools they use, nor indeed the dangers that others, such as the NSA
or GCHQ in the West, may use the tools they use secretively to
people who use the tools.
This bit continues as follows:
China's political leadership doesn't have its feelings under control?
Ai: The whole
system -- not just the political leadership, the military too, the
whole power structure, our education system, the whole of society -- is
suffering from being cut off from the free flow of information. That's
why the country can't face up to open competition -- unless it resorts
to measures like North Korea.
I do not have much
knowledge about China, nor about the flow of information, and I suppose
this is the same for nearly all Westerners. However, I did read a good
part of Chinese philosophy, and also know a lot about Marxism, and have
read some good recent writings on China, e.g. by Jung Chang and by Simon
Leys (Pierre Ryckmans), so I suppose in fact I know a bit more than
In any case, I
observe that Mao Zedong has been dead for 37 years now, and while China
is still a one-party communist state, which is not good, it
certainly has done a lot better than it did under Mao or his immediate
Then again, it has
done better mostly economically, and not or less in most other fields,
and it also seems as if it is still in transition from communism to
something else - which transition is mostly inhibited by its leaders,
but who also are not able to stop it.
Here is the last bit from
wrong with China's education system? According to the OECD's most
recent Pisa study, an international ranking of education systems,
students in Shanghai are the world's best in arithmetic, natural
sciences and in reading.
Ai: I think our
system is hollow and empty. Let's talk about humanity, individualism,
imagination and creativity -- those are the values a society is built
on. What education are we getting, what dreams do we dream? I deal with
students every day -- from China, Germany, the United States, Hong Kong
and Taiwan. And I've noticed that the Chinese students are the least
trained in having a sense of aesthetics. They lack any ability to sense
what is beautiful or what is proper. They can be learned and skillful,
but they lack the ability to make their own free judgment.
I do think it is
important that "students
in Shanghai are the world's best in arithmetic, natural sciences and in
reading", and this
certainly is a considerable advance. Then again, I suppose I agree with
Weiwei that Chinese students in large part "lack the ability to make their own free
judgment", which must be
mostly due to their living in a dictatorial one-party system, as did
their parents and grandparents, that recommends and teaches to avoid
all choices that oppose or may oppose the party line.
Anyway - the above
was quoted from the very beginning of the interview, and there is a lot
more, that you can read yourself.
3. NSA Spying On
“Metadata” Is As Bad As Listening to the Content of Our Phone Calls …
Next, an article by and on
This starts as
follows, with the colors and links as in the original:
Why Spying On Metadata Is Even MORE Intrusive than Listening
The government has sought
to reassure us that it is only tracking “metadata” such as the time and
place of the calls, and not the content of the calls.
There is substantial
evidence from top whistleblowers that the government is
recording the content of our call … word-for-word.
And former CIA deputy
director – and White House NSA spying panel member – Mike Morrell says
But even accepting the
government’s claims at face value, technology experts say that
“metadata” can be more
than the content of your actual phone calls.
The answer to the
blue question this starts with is: Because metadata enables the
tracking of all your contacts, and thus all of your
social life and all the things you do with other people
and all your doings on the net, with and without others, and
merely looking at the contents of your mails doesn't do any of these
There is a lot more
information in the article that clarifies this.