who can give up essential
liberty to obtain a little temporary
safety, deserve neither liberty
-- Benjamin Franklin
"All governments lie and nothing
say should be believed."
"Power tends to corrupt, and
absolute power corrupts
absolutely. Great men
almost always bad men."
1. How the
web lost its way – and its founding principles
2. How the Brutalized
3. Corporations Spy on
Nonprofits with Impunity
4. Martin Amis on Hitler and
the nature of
5. We ended up with a Wall
Street presidency, a drone
This is a Nederlog of Monday,
August 25. It is a crisis log.
This is again a full crisis log with five items, all of which are
interesting to me.
1. How the web lost its way – and its founding principles
item is an article by Stuart Jeffries on The Guardian:
Actually, this is not a good
article and it doesn't answer its title. I have three quotes for you,
that about sum it up.
First, about the beginning of the internet. This is about Tim
Berners-Lee in 1990 (when I had a computer for slightly more than three
years, and was one of the few - and I got internet in 1996, although
this was slow and expensive then):
This sort of thing
was what he hoped would be made possible after the birth of the world
wide web at Cern in Geneva in December 1990. "It consisted of one web site and
which happened to be on the same computer," he recalls. The simple
setup demonstrated a profound concept: that any person could share
information with anyone else, anywhere. In this spirit, the web spread
quickly from the grassroots up.
Actually, that is still
mostly true: "that any
person could share information with anyone else, anywhere". There are some qualifications -
"anyone" needs a computer and some freedom, and to get in touch with "anyone" you need an internet address -
but the idea generally holds.
Second, nearly 25 years on, here is the result in Stuart Jefferies'
The world wide
web has increasingly facilitated the global spread of misogyny, the
hate crime of revenge porn, corporate and state surveillance, bullying,
racism, the life-ruining, time-wasting, Sisyphean digital servitude of
deleting spam, the existentially crushing spadework of fatuous
finessing of those lies, one's Facebook profiles. It has spread from
the grassroots up, from Berners-Lee's desktop to the world, has been
coterminous with lots of other intolerable things.
That is one way of
viewing it, but it is not my way, and I also don't think it is
a fair sum-up. Here are some of my reasons.
First, I have never been starry-eyed about the gifts and
motives of ordinary people, nor about the gifts and motives of ordinary
capitalist companies and CEOs. Both are - by my standards - mostly
ignorant and mostly driven by egoism, and that also was the case before
Second, although ordinary people and ordinary capitalist companies are
the most normal and frequent, they are not all there is, and
indeed the internet as it was conceived was not conceived by or
for ordinary people and ordinary capitalist companies.
(But I grant they have mostly taken it over, from the early 2000s
onwards: it was profitable.)
Third, Jeffries only sums up negative things, and does so in a
thoroughly indiscrimate way, where he starts with misogyny and revenge
"corporate and state
surveillance" third (?!);
and ends with spam and internet lying.
He doesn't even mention (mostly) positive things: The availability of
millions of books; the ease and speed of communicating with e-mail
(apart from its being stolen); the very much broader
information one has with fast internet (this really made a
difference for me, in and since 2009, when I acquired it); and the
availability of millions of films and videos.
I do not know why, except that Jeffries may have made many "choices"
automatically: I do not have an iPad or a cell-phone; I do not
have Facebook; I do not have a webcam and I do not do
Skype; I do not have an Xbox and I do not have Netflix
- and mostly those were my conscious choices, and indeed I do
not miss them at all, and in fact I am glad for not having them, and I
also will never have them.
Fourth, the main reasons why Facebook and iPad could take over internet
are the relative stupidity of most of their users: Html seems too
difficult for ordinary people, and that is why they do not make
their own sites but get one on Facebook (including censorship and
spying); and iPad prepackages most of the things ordinary people want,
and so doesn't make them think, which they anyway aren't very good at,
I am sorry to say, and generally seem to want to avoid.
Fifth, I would say that what changed the web most is that it was made
accessible to the ordinary and the stupid, and the ordinary and the
stupid are the large majority, and want ordinary and
stupid things, in the easiest possible ways, and without much
thought or tinkering. And now they are getting them. (And no, I do not
think that can be undone. But it is false to judge the internet only by
the majority, that indeed doesn't program, doesn't even know html, and
that just doesn't want to be bothered by what they regard as technical
Finally, here is Stuart Jeffries' sum-up (and I would be quite
amazed to learn that he knows how to program and write his own website
(...) given the
ruthless success of capitalism, a betting man wouldn't put his money on
a guy like Berners-Lee, who isn't in this for money. When his invention
went live in Geneva all those years ago, he didn't envisage his open
web would become a system of semi-closed platforms that restrict access
to their users. Nor did he envisage that his invention would facilitate
surveillance on a scale beyond the imaginings of Orwell.
At its inception the world wide web seemed to promise an escape from
corporate and governmental powers, an egalitarian free-for-all. Now? It
has increasingly become a sophisticated extension of them. The hopes
once nurtured by the man who invented the web have been not so much
abandoned as betrayed.
No, I don't think so.
I do think the internet has become much larger than
Berner-Lee envisaged, and probably quite different, and indeed it also
has been made common, cheap and rather sleazy, at least for a large
part, but again these are, in my eyes, the inevitable effects
of ordinary people getting access, and of capitalist
firms trying to make money, and indeed succeeding quite well.
What Jeffries seems to have missed completely is that the surveillance
that now is going on, that is completely at variance with all laws on
privacy, can be mostly stopped if either the internet
is encrypted or the law were to be maintained by the
governments which break in systematically in the interest of their
spying on everyone (and indeed it is best stopped by doing both, though
I do not see this happening easily).
the Brutalized Become Brutal
item is an article by Chris Hedges on Truthdig:
Here is its second
Our terror is
delivered to the wretched of the earth with industrial weapons. It is,
to us, invisible. We do not stand over the decapitated and eviscerated
bodies left behind on city and village streets by our missiles, drones
and fighter jets. We do not listen to the wails and shrieks of parents
embracing the shattered bodies of their children. We do not see the
survivors of air attacks bury their mothers, fathers, brothers and
sisters. We are not conscious of the long night of collective
humiliation, repression and powerlessness that characterizes existence
in Israel’s occupied territories, Iraq and Afghanistan. We do not see
the boiling anger that war and injustice turn into a caldron of hate
over time. We are not aware of the very natural lust for revenge
against those who carry out or symbolize this oppression. We see only
the final pyrotechnics of terror, the shocking moment when the rage
erupts into an inchoate fury and the murder of innocents. And,
willfully ignorant, we do not understand our own complicity. We
self-righteously condemn the killers as subhuman savages who deserve
more of the violence that created them. This is a recipe for endless
Yes, indeed - but thus
it has been always, the last 5000 years of civilization, in
which there were very many major wars and hundreds of millions
needlessly and often cruelly killed.
Also, one difference between Chris Hedges and most men is that Hedges
has been a war reporter for a long time: He certainly knows what he is
writing about, but indeed most people do not.
This is from the start of the second page:
Browning in his book “Ordinary Men” tells of a German reserve
police battalion that was recruited to carry out mass executions of
Jews in World War II. Browning’s book echoed the findings of the
Milgram, who concluded that “men are led to kill with little
difficulty.” Browning, like Milgram, illustrates how easily we become
killers. This is a painful truth. It is difficult to accept.
Yes, indeed - and you should
read Browning and Milgram. Especially Browning makes it quite clear
that ordinary human beings can be easily changed into mass murderers:
men" he studied, who definitely were ordinary men for the
most part, and were also not strongly committed Nazis, killed on
average over 160 civilians, who had done them absolutely nothing.
(Also, Browning makes it clear that the one person who protested doing
this was let off without punish-
ment, though this may have been mostly accidental.)
Hedges article ends with a consideration of how this might stop:
To break this
cycle we have to examine ourselves and halt the indiscriminant violence
that sustains our occupations.
Unfortunately, that never
happened, nowhere - and I mean on a massive scale, for
it certainly happened with some individuals, but these were always in a
minority and were usually not listened to.
Spy on Nonprofits with Impunity
item is an article by Ralph Nader (<-
Wikipedia) on his site:
This starts as
Here’s a dirty little
secret you won’t see in the daily papers: corporations conduct
espionage against US nonprofit organizations without fear of being
brought to justice.
Yes, that means using a
great array of spycraft and snoopery, including planned electronic
surveillance, wiretapping, information warfare, infiltration, dumpster
diving and so much more.
The evidence abounds.
For example, six years
ago, based on extensive documentary evidence, James Ridgeway reported
in Mother Jones on a major corporate espionage scheme by Dow
Chemical focused on Greenpeace and other environmental and food
Greenpeace was running a
potent campaign against Dow’s use of chlorine to manufacture paper and
plastics. Dow grew worried and eventually desperate.
You'll have to check
out Nader's site for the details, but they are convincing. Here is the
Using this information,
Greenpeace filed a lawsuit
against Dow Chemical, Dow’s PR firms Ketchum and Dezenhall Resources,
and others, alleging trespass on Greenpeace’s property, invasion of
privacy by intrusion, and theft of confidential documents.
Yesterday, the D.C. Court of
Greenpeace’s lawsuit. In her decision, Judge Anna Blackburne-Rigsby
notes that “However Greenpeace’s factual allegations may be regarded,”
its “legal arguments cannot prevail as a matter of law” because “the
common law torts alleged by Greenpeace are simply ill-suited as
I do not know whether
the judge was blackmailed or corrupted, but certainly she judged as if
she is in the pocket of big business, which is where most of the U.S.
law is supposed to be anyway, according to its critics.
Note this seems
especially true of U.S. law: the evidence from Europe is a bit
better, in the sense that some of the legal cases that were about
spying have been settled, against the spies. In the U.S. that rarely
happens, and indeed the cases usually do not even reach the courts.
Nader also quotes
found that “Many of the world’s largest corporations and their trade
associations – including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Walmart,
Monsanto, Bank of America, Dow Chemical, Kraft, Coca-Cola, Chevron,
Burger King, McDonald’s, Shell, BP, BAE, Sasol, Brown & Williamson
and E.ON – have been linked to espionage or planned espionage against
nonprofit organizations, activists and whistleblowers.”
For they can do the
spying; they have big money; and - this is crucial - neither the U.S.
government nor the U.S. legislature does anything to prevent
them, and indeed they dismiss nearly all cases "on technical grounds"
but dismissed they are).
Here is Nader:
Here’s why you should
This is a serious matter
of civil liberties.
The citizen’s right to
privacy and free speech should not be violated by personal spying
merely because a citizen disagrees with the actions or ideas of a giant
Our democracy can’t
function properly if corporations may spy and snoop on nonprofits with
impunity. This espionage is a despicable means of degrading the
effectiveness of nonprofit watchdogs and activists. Many of the
espionage tactics employed appear illegal and are certainly immoral.
Powerful corporations spy
on each other as well, sometimes with the help of former NSA and FBI
I agree - but the
only way to stop this, given that the American legislature for the most
part seems corrupt or is secretly blackmailed, is by enforcing encryption,
it would seem to me (and Edward Snowden).
Amis on Hitler and the nature of evil
item is an article by Martin Ames, extracted from his latest book about
I have not read his
book, but I have read reviews, that generally were not praising. Also,
I have read rather a lot about WW II, in part because my father and
grandfather were imprisoned in German concentration camps in 1941,
which my grandfather did not survive, and because my mother also was in
the resistance (which few Dutchmen were, which is one reason over
1% of the Dutch population at the time was murdered "for being of
the wrong race").
Martin Amis says he
does not understand Hitler, which probably is true, altough he writes:
In moods and mentalities,
it seems, Volk and Führer partook of the same troubled
Danubian brew. On the one hand, the people, with their peculiar
“despair of politics” (as Hugh Trevor-Roper has put it), their eager
fatalism, their wallowing in petulance and perversity, what Haffner
calls their “resentful dimness” and their “heated readiness to hate”,
their refusal of moderation and, in adversity, of all consolation,
their ethos of zero-sum (of all or nothing, of Sein oder Nichtsein),
and their embrace of the irrational and hysterical. And on the other
hand the leader, who indulged these tendencies on the stage of global
Incidentally, "Sein oder Nichtsein" = "being or not being".
And I must say that I
find this incomprehension of Hitler, his policies and the very many he
misled, a bit odd, especially in view of the facts that human
history is full of mass murders, that were only limited by techniques,
from the Greeks, who exterminated the males of cities they defeated,
and sold women and children as slaves, by way of Atilla the Hun, the
murders of the Protestants in France, the Thirty Years War, the thousands
of years of human slavery, to the mass murder of the Jews by Hitler.
Besides, there is
another question, that I do not know Amis addresses, which is this. I
am quite willing to grant that Hitler, Himmler and Goebbels, for
example, were insane, in some sense - although I do not quite know
precisely in which sense, though it certainly seems to be rather insane
- to me, though perhaps less so to prominent GOP politicians - to want
to exterminate millions on the grounds of their being racially inferior
(which anyway you take it is a crazy notion).
But that is not
the question, which is much rather: Why did so many millions of ordinary
Germans follow Hitler,
Himmler and Goebbels, and indeed did their murderings for them, often
quite enthusiastically also? Were they also insane?
I think not,
and a good part of the explanation are that the preceding WW I; the
gross unfairness of the Versailles Treaty, ably but unsuccessfully
attacked by Keynes;
and the consequent more than ten years of deep misery and suffering for
most Germans, go rather a long way towards explaining why the Germans
did elect Hitler. The rest is also quite painful, but can again be
explained, in part at least, by totalitarianism
(which forces many to do things they would not do if only they
themselves or their immediare superiors were to decide).
So for me - a child
of one of the few Dutch families that did actively resist Nazism, and
indeed were heavily punished for doing so - it seems less difficult to
explain than it is for Martin Amis, but indeed I also never believed
that most men were good, or noble, or rational, or intelligent, whereas
I do believe that men who are not good, not noble, not rational and not
intelligent, which is what the majority are, can be made to
believe crazy things quite easily, and also act on them. (This holds
for both religion
Next, Amis quotes Primo Levi
cannot, what is more one must not, understand what happened, because to
understand is almost to justify. Let me explain: ‘understanding’ a
proposal or human behaviour means to ‘contain’ it, contain its author,
put oneself in his place, identify with him. Now, no normal human being
will ever be able to identify with Hitler, Himmler, Goebbels, Eichmann,
and endless others. This dismays us, and at the same time gives us a
sense of relief, because perhaps it is desirable that their words (and
also, unfortunately, their deeds) cannot be comprehensible to us. They
are non-human words and deeds, really counter-human ... [T]here is no
rationality in the Nazi hatred; it is a hate that is not in us; it is
outside man ...
No. First, to
understand does not mean, also not "almost", "to justify". I
understand many things I strongly disagree with. Also, understanding
someone or something does not involve putting oneself in his
place, and certainly not "identify"ing with him. Second, we do not need
to understand "Hitler,
Himmler, Goebbels, Eichmann"
etc.: We need to understand why their crazy ideas were adopted by millions
of others, who for the most part were ordinary men
and women, and were acted out by them.
And totalitarianism, poverty, exploitation, ignorance and
lack of intelligence go quite far, I'd say, as indeed they explain many
other atrocities - if not fully, then at least quite well.
ended up with a Wall Street presidency, a drone
item is an article by Thomas Frank, who interviewed Cornel West (<-
This is West's answer
to the first question:
No, the thing is he posed
as a progressive and turned out to be counterfeit. We ended up with a
Wall Street presidency, a drone presidency, a national security
presidency. The torturers go free. The Wall Street executives go free.
The war crimes in the Middle East, especially now in Gaza, the war
criminals go free. And yet, you know, he acted as if he was both a
progressive and as if he was concerned about the issues of serious
injustice and inequality and it turned out that he’s just another
neoliberal centrist with a smile and with a nice rhetorical flair. And
that’s a very sad moment in the history of the nation because we
are—we’re an empire in decline. Our culture is in increasing decay. Our
school systems are in deep trouble. Our political system is
dysfunctional. Our leaders are more and more bought off with legalized
bribery and normalized corruption in Congress and too much of our civil
life. You would think that we needed somebody—a Lincoln-like figure who
could revive some democratic spirit and democratic possibility.
I think that is about
right. There is a lot more in the article, though I should say that I
did not know - my bad - that West is a philosopher, and I disagree with
him on Christianity and socialism (and some other things).
 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
if good, is part of its executive power. Here I quote Aristotle from my
More on stupidity, the rule of law, and Glenn
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
from is quite pertinent.)
(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: