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Nederlog

February 21, 2015
Crisis: The (British) media, Greece*2, Wars, Spying, Ordinary men
  "They who can give up essential 
   liberty to obtain a little temporary
   safety, deserve neither liberty
   nor safety."
 
   -- Benjamin Franklin
   "All governments lie and nothing
   they say should be believed.
"
   -- I.F. Stone
   "Power tends to corrupt, and   
   absolute power corrupts
   absolutely. Great men are        
   almost always bad men."
   -- Lord Acton
















Prev- crisis -Next

Sections
Introduction

1. Peter Oborne’s resignation shows that the media
     shouldn’t just serve the rich

2. 'Gun to Greece's Head Pulled Away' As Tentative Deal
     Struck in Brussels

3. Greece Capitulates On Bailout, Reaches Four Month Deal
4. Our Wars, Our Victims
5. Worst Spying In World History – Worse Than Any
     Dystopian Novel – Is Occurring RIGHT NOW
Introduction:

This is a Nederlog of Saturday, February 21, 2015.

This is a crisis log. There are 5 items with 5 dotted links: Item 1 is (mostly) about (especially) the British media; item 2 and item 3 are somewhat different opinions on Greece; item 4 is about wars, and about the fairly craxy ideas ordinary men tend to follow when in war; and item 5 is about the fact that
the spying is worse than ever and anywhere, but also seems more or less
accepted by the majority (in part because those who accept it believe that
they themselves will never be prosecuted or persecuted for holding any
non-majority opinion - and who cares for intellectuals?).

1.
Peter Oborne’s resignation shows that the media shouldn’t just serve the rich

The first item today is an article by Owen Jones on The Guardian:

I thought (and think) the title rather odd (I will explain) but it seems to be what Owen Jones intended it to be, judged by the subtitle or summary, that is as follows:
By resigning from the Telegraph over its links with HSBC, Oborne has done us a huge service. Too often the media works against democracy
First, I should say I have not put up much about the HSBC (unlike The Guardian), and also not about Peter Oborne. As to the HSBC: I have only
so much volume and so much health. As to Oborne: I don't rate the Daily Telegraph highly, and rarely saw it.

Second, about the title: It seems odd to me to say "
that the media shouldn’t just serve the rich" and nearly as odd to say that "the media works against democracy".

Clearly - or so I am inclined to think - the tasks of the media are to inform the public about anything the public may be interested in, and about all major things that effect some considerable part of the public's concerns. Also clearly,
there are facts, and papers should report the facts, but there also is considerable room for interpretation.

Then again the ideas of the last paragraph may be oldfashioned, for Owen Jones starts his article as follows:
By and large, Britain does not have a free press. Our media is not run by the government, and nor does it engage in widespread censorship. Instead, the media is run by a tiny group of politically motivated moguls, themselves in league with other private interests through advertising or personal networks. Journalists from non-privileged backgrounds are filtered out through unpaid internships and expensive post-graduate qualifications, ensuring the media is a closed shop for the well-to-do. According to a report published by the Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission last August, over half of the top 100 media professionals are privately educated. News coverage all too often reflects the priorities, concerns and prejudices of this tiny sliver of the British population. Rather than being a means to hold the powerful to account and fairly report issues, the media is the ultimate political lobbyist for our elite.
I say. Also, I accept most  of this, although it seems to me that the basic changes are not educational (for this was roughly the same 35 or 50 years ago) but are in (1) "the media is run by a tiny group of politically motivated moguls" and in (2) their control of the editors is much larger than it used to be, and extends to politics, morals and opinions.

There is also this:
The media polices the boundaries of acceptable debate in Britain, helping to ensure that the national conversation is on the terms most favourable to those with wealth and power. According to the opinion polls, most Britons want public ownership of rail and energy, higher taxes on the rich and a statutory living wage. Yet despite the fact such policies are political common sense among the public, they are ignored or actively opposed by almost all media outlets. If you are one of the very few commentators with a media platform that advocates them, you are treated as chronically naive, or as a dinosaur who isn’t aware of their own extinction. Support for privatisation, untrammelled free markets, lower taxes on the rich – all of this is treated almost as objective truth.
Yes, and especially the second half: There is a kind of dictatorship - it seems - by the stupid, the prejudiced and the eager servants of the rich that brandishes anybody who is against them as ... stupid, prejudiced or eager servants of the poor (or what not).

2. 'Gun to Greece's Head Pulled Away' As Tentative Deal Struck in Brussels

The next item is an article by Jon Queally on Common Dreams:
This starts as follows:
The newly-elected Syriza government of Greece and its creditors from the 19-nation Eurozone have reportedly reached a draft deal for a loan extension to the country for another four months.

The specifics of the agreement, and the conditions imposed on Greece, have not yet been fully revealed to the public, but according to Mark Weisbrot, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR)in Washington, DC, the deal represents a "significant retreat" by the so-called troika and "shows that their austerity program, which has failed miserably, is no longer politically enforceable."  
I say. I do not know whether to believe Mark Weisbrot because, although I know of no reason to suspect him, I have read quite a few comments the last week that promised very large leftist changes - somehow, in ways never clearly articulated - that would be caused by the very recently elected leftist Greek government.

There is more in the article. There is also this, a slightly different view of the same subject on another site:


3.
Greece Capitulates On Bailout, Reaches Four Month Deal

The next item is an article by Yves Smith on Nakedcapitalism:
This starts as follows:

Syriza folded on its position of not taking bailout funds. From the Wall Street Journal:

Greece’s new left-wing government backed down from its plans to throw out the bailout program the country signed with its international creditors, striking a tenuous deal with the rest of the eurozone to extend the program by four months.

But now the two sides will launch what may be even tougher negotiations over how to keep the Greek government financed in the years to come, while at the same time reviving the depressed Greek economy. Those discussions could break down at any time, pushing the ministers back into high-stakes talks on what to do about Greece.

That seems more like it, also because Yves Smith (and some others on Nakedcapitalism) argued from the beginning as I did: It will be very difficult
for Greece to make major changes.

And one might also say that the Greeks, by backing "
down from its plans to throw out the bailout program the country signed" (by earlier governments, to be sure), bought themselves time until the end of June, and may try to come up with better or other plans.

The article also contains this:

From the Financial Times:

The decision to request an extension of the current programme is a significant U-turn for Alexis Tsipras, the Greece prime minister, who had promised in his election campaign to kill the existing bailout.

In addition, it includes no reduction of Greece’s sovereign debt levels, another campaign promise.
There is considerably more in the article, but it does not contain any reference to the fact (that I take to be a fact because I have read it repeatedly, but indeed that is all I know) that the Greek neo-fascists Golden Dawn scored third in the elections that gave the power to Syriza.

In any case, my own take is that the most sympathetic interpretation for this capitulation on the bailout is that it bought the Greek government almost four months of time, and that
the Greek government also had little choice given the
reactions from the other European nations, coupled to the popularity of neo-
fascism in the current Greece.

4. Our Wars, Our Victims  

The next item is an article by Charles Simic on The New York Review of Books:
This starts as follows:
Since we rarely see real images of our wars today and have to fall back on simulated ones in Hollywood movies that make us look good, I wonder what Americans would say if they were shown graphic footage of the results of US drone attacks, some of the many wedding parties or funerals we mistook for gatherings of terrorists and reduced to “bug splats,” in the parlance of those dispatching our missiles. The idea that wiping out a bunch of innocents along with a few bad guys will make us safer at home and not make us more enemies everywhere is nuts, and so is the argument that the atrocities we find appalling in others are acceptable when perpetrated by us.
I agree for the most part (and insist that the fact that "we rarely see real images of our wars today" is quite sick, and shows most of the media are
quite rotten), but I don't quite agree with the last part, in which it is argued
that it is "
nuts" - that is: crazy, mad, insane - to argue
that the atrocities we find appalling in others are acceptable when perpetrated by us.
More precisely, while this is or may be "nuts" according to George Orwell, Charles Simic, and myself, it certainly is not "nuts" according to the majority
of those engaging in any war. (And: "The first victim of war is truth.")

But Charles Simic really believes this (which is - in a way - a tribute to his intelligence):
What has always amazed me about countries at war is the way the killing of the innocent in foreign lands is ignored. People who wouldn’t step on an ant at home have no interest in finding out what horrors their country is perpetrating abroad. This heartless attitude becomes even more offensive when one thinks back to those terrified people in New York running through fire and smoke from the collapsing towers. In the days after the attacks, our pundits and politicians clamored for a quick and brutal retaliation that would not be overly concerned with distinguishing the innocent from the guilty. In other words, let’s just start bombing the bastards and not worry about who gets killed—or about the likelihood that the bombed might want to have their own revenge one day.
I agree - but I have not been thus "amazed".

This may have several reasons, and one part is certainly my own family history: my parents and grandparents were among the very few who went into resistance against the Nazis when these had occupied Holland, and were much punished for this, in the war, because my father and grandfather were arrested and convicted, by collaborating Dutch judges, who were never punished, as almost any Nazi-collaborator was never punished in Holland, to concentration camp imprisonment as "political terrorists", which my grandfather did not survive, and also after the war, because my parents remained (real!) communists and were therefore discriminated as "traitors" (and regularly by Dutchmen who had  collaborated with the Nazis, also: "Such, such were the joys").

Then again, it may also have to do with the fact that around age 21 I had found this quotation by Orwell, that I have quoted quite a few times:
"Actions are held to be good or bad, not on their own merits but according to who does them, and there is almost no outrage - torture, the use of hostages, forced labour, mass deportations, imprisonments without trial, forgery, assassination, the bombing of civilians, which does not change its moral colour when it is committed by 'our' side." (The Collected Essays, Journalism and Letters of George Orwell, vol 3, p. 419, written in May 1945.)
That is: Orwell considered it typical for ordinary people, if they are part of a war, to judge other people not (anymore) by what they do, but to judge what they do in terms of what party (nation, religion, race) they belong to.

I agree with Orwell. That is, I think it quite deplorable that ordinary people, when involved in war, stop judging others by what they do, and start judging others in terms of what party (etc.) they belong to, but I think that is a fact (for
most, though not for all), and it is also one fact that distinguishes the truly
intelligent who keep reasoning for themselves from the rest, who either are
not capable or not willing to keep reasoning rationally.

This theme also occurs in the last item:

5. Worst Spying In World History – Worse Than Any Dystopian Novel – Is Occurring RIGHT NOW

The last item for today is an article by Washington's Blog on his site:
This is as follows (colors in the original):

NSA Spying Worse than Stasi or Nazi Germany, J. Edgar Hoover … Or Orwell’s 1984

We noted in 2012 that Americans are the most spied upon people in world history.

Top NSA officials previously said that we’ve got a “police state” … like J. Edgar Hoover – or the Stasi – on “super steroids”.

Spying by the NSA is also worse than in Nazi German:

The tyrants in Nazi Germany, Stalinist Russia and Stasi Eastern Europe would have liked to easedrop on every communication and every transaction of every citizen.  But in the world before the internet, smart phones, electronic medical records and digital credit card transactions, much of what happened behind closed doors remained private.

Indeed, a former lieutenant colonel for the East German Stasi said the NSA’s spy capabilities would have been “a dream come true” for the Stasi.

NSA contractor Edward Snowden said in 2013 that NSA spying was worse than in Orwell’s book 1984.

We noted at the time that the NSA is spying on us through our computers, phones, cars, buses, streetlights, at airports and on the street, via mobile scanners and drones, through our smart meters, and in many other ways.

And we learned that same year that the NSA is laughing at all of us for carrying powerful spying devices around in our pockets. And see this.

A security expert said the same year:

We have to assume that the NSA has EVERYONE who uses electronic communications under CONSTANT surveillance.

What’s happened since these statements were made?  Spying has only gotten worse. The government is doing everything it can to completely destroy privacy.

Postscript:  Nothing has changed … and it will keep on getting worse and worse unless we the people stand up for our rights against those who want to take our freedom away.

In fact, this seems a reaction to the SIM heist I reviewed yesterday.

But it seems correct, and underlines that what the NSA, the GCHQ etc. are after
is not so much information about "terrorists" as to get all information about anyone, so as to find out who needs to be controlled, arrested etc. for holding opinions that do not square with the government's opinions, or indeed also, when the person lives in another country, whether he or she is fit for being droned.

Also, I want to make another point, that is not often made: "
we the people" who are supposed to "stand up for our rights against those who want to take our freedom away" are a minority. Indeed, a minority of the intelligent, for the most part, but thereby indeed a minority.

The reasons are in part innate: Half of the people gets born with an IQ that is as most 100, and is in part planned: Most of the people do not get much good information anymore about many things that do concern them, and thus it seems as if more than half of the people believe many things that are false or implausible, and that are much against their own interests, but that are believed by them anyway, because they are told by nice looking, sympathetic seeming, widely liked journalists in the mass media, and seem plausible in the lights of what these mostly none-too-intelligent persons believe they know.

Speaking for myself, I don't mind much, for both my parents and myself have hardly ever had any major opinion of ourselves,
about almost any subject also, that was sure to get any majority vote. And I also know that my whole family had IQs that were at least better than 96 out of 100, which for a good part explains this fact.

But Real Democrats, and especially those who believe that everyone - you, Hitler, Einstein, and Goebbels, for example - is of the same value (which for some 25 years was believed by nearly all Dutchmen, or at least: that is what they publicly said they believed) must feel somewhat - well: disconsolate.


That is, if they have not yet been convinced by Wolf Blitzer and his very many likes in the mass media that stupidity and conformity are by far the safest. [1]
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Note
[1] There is considerable more in ordinary men in my Philosophical Dictionary, but this seems to be not popular.


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